Why Diversity is Key to High Performing Companies Big and Small with Notion Capital and Topia (Video + Transcript)

Jos White, Founder at Notion Capital, interviews Brynne Kennedy, CEO and Founder at Topia at SaaStr Europe earlier this year.

After raising over 100 million, Brynne has built Topia to 200 employees with 8 offices globally. She talks about her early days at Topia, how she has continued to make diversity a core value of her business and ways diversity has helped her team outperform. This is a great watch for those working in HR or HR tech looking to increase diversity in their teams.

Also, if you didn’t attend SaaStr Europa, we’re having it again in 2019. Don’t miss out on the chance to get your tickets. 🙂

Transcript

Founder @ Notion Capital | Jos White

Founder & CEO @ Topia | Brynne Kennedy

Jos White: My name is Jos White. I’m a founding partner at Notion Capital. I’m an entrepreneur turned investor. I’ve founded three tech companies. The most recent one was called Message Labs which was a very early SaaS business which did antivirus and antispam in the cloud which we sold successfully to Symantec in 2008. I then set up Notion with three other guys to focus on what we know which is the emerging software as a service opportunity. We’re now at Notion we’re on our third fund which is about 150 million dollars. We have a team of 16 people in London we invest across Europe mainly at the series A stage and we still focus on SaaS but we also focus on B2B marketplaces and hardware software models. So where we’ve kept our roots in SAS but we we we focus across more broadly across enterprise tech now so Topia here was one of my investments from fund to we led the seed round and we’ve continued to support the business and definitely one of the most exciting businesses in our portfolio. So we’re excited to have Brynne up here to talk about diversity.

Brynne Kennedy: Hi everyone, my name is Brynne Kennedy. I’m the founder and CEO of Topia. Topia is a modern H.R. platform for global mobility and what global mobility is it’s really anything related to the movement of an employee so movement to a different office for a project a relocation a movement to a new role it’s a 33 billion dollar category that we created and six years into the company we have about one hundred and ten large enterprise customers two hundred people and eight offices globally and we’ve raised about 100 million dollars. You know that’s what every always wants to hear about.

Jos White: Thanks Brynne. So we’re going to talk about diversity. We’re going to talk about diversity within the workplace within business and specifically within tech. And I think just just to make this sort of obvious comment the the numbers for diversity in tech and more broadly are extremely stark. So if you look at the average percentage of VC dollars that have gone to female founded businesses over the last 10 years it’s about 4 percent if you look at the Fortune 500 more broadly. Percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are white males. So there’s a massive disparity in terms of diversity in business I think it’s probably even greater within tech. And yet all the evidence would suggest that more diverse teams make better decisions drive better innovation are more interesting places to work and overall create more successful companies and yet there is this massive disconnect between that the diversity numbers and the evidence that suggests that a more diverse organization is a more successful organization. So I think we want to just try and dig into that a little bit and try and explore ways for how companies can think about that and to think about how they can take their companies how you can take your companies on a journey towards better diversity and inclusion and thereby making your businesses more more successful.

Jos White: So, Brynne as a as a female founder who’s raised more than a hundred million dollars, who’s managing a company of around 200 people, who’s raised money from all over the world, who also manages a business runs a business Topia here which enables mobility which is you know a close relation to diversity. She has a really interesting lens on the subject. So I think it’s great to have Brynne hair and hopefully we can get into her into an interesting conversation. So Brynne I’m just going back to the early days of Topia. What was your experience of getting the company set up and raising your first funding round and just overall kind of laying down those foundations as a as a female founder in a while that as I said 96 percent of that money goes to male founders. How was that experience?

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah it’s been a really incredible and interesting journey. So just for context I actually founded Topia which previously was called MoveGuides when I was in business school in London at London Business School and that was in 2012. So I actually raised the first angel round and closed at the week I graduated from business school which is not something that I would recommend to anyone for your stress levels but it was a great way to start the company. So initially I just never really thought about it. I never thought about being a female founder. I never thought about diversity intentionally. I just thought that I had a really big problem that I wanted to solve. That was a compelling business and I guess over the years it’s become more of an intentional thought for me. And in terms of building the company and there’s a couple of reasons for that. So as I’ve built the company as I’ve raised more and more money first off I started to read the statistics. So it’s actually 4 percent of companies that are female led have have raised the money but just 2 percent of actual V.C. dollars go to female led companies which is actually really pretty horrific if you think about that and really shocking. So for me as I’ve grown the company more and more women frankly and you know all types of minorities have come to me. They come in to interview every day and say wow we’re so inspired to work for a diverse company we’re so inspired to work for a female CEO. I actually have c suite executives that have said to me I’m male who say I’m excited to work for a female CEO because I’ve never had that opportunity in my career. So that has been really powerful for me in terms of being an example for people and talking I guess more publicly about diversity as a competitive advantage in recruitment and in in company building success. The area where it’s ostensibly most challenging to be a minority founder is in fundraising and those statistics are the proof of that. I was able to really successfully navigate I think three major challenges as I’ve raised money. So firstly I founded our company in the UK. I lived there for seven years. I just moved back to the Valley a year ago.

Brynne Kennedy: So I raised about 70 of the 100 million dollars while living in the UK. So that was the first thing because people in California think it’s pretty odd when European Cup founders come to pitched to them they’re like Why do you have to leave Palo Alto like you live in England. And so that was the first thing. The second thing is we have created a new category. So when I started this business six years ago no one had heard of global mobility. They were like You mean corporate relocation this back office thing. And so I really was pounding the drum on the category and then the third thing is I didn’t look like everyone else in the valley. And so that was rare because often people invest through patterns. And so I had like three things against me when I was raising money and I used to drive up and down one to one in San Francisco and here you know some pretty crazy comments like Why would you ever leave Palo Alto. You know have you ever. Can you name a woman who’s built a billion dollar enterprise company and I’d be like Well no but that doesn’t mean that I can’t. And you know where someone’s going to. So that was all really interesting and I think there’s two ways that I really navigated that one was by having a really bold and compelling vision. So this is true for anyone starting a company. But I think women are often less comfortable with having a really bold shoot for the stars multi-billion dollar compelling vision than men are. So I have that I have that from day one. Jos can probably attest to the fact that sometimes my board actually brands me in the opposite way. And that’s a real really important piece.

Jos White: Brynne definitely has always had a huge vision. I think it’s about you know actually turning mobility into competitive advantage you know we always talk about one of the key roles of a CEO is to get the right people in the right places. That brings company is really there to try and use technology to make that process much much easier. So to really transform mobility from a sort of an annoying task that you have to do to actually something that could be a competitive advantage because you can move your people more easily and actually create more diverse teams at the same time. And I think that as Brynne said I think that having a really big vision is sometimes not as easy or doesn’t come as naturally to a female founder or a founder who’s actually from one of the underrepresented groups across the spectrum. And I think part of the reason for that is there just aren’t enough examples of female founders particularly in enterprise software but female founders who’ve gone on to build billion dollar companies say maybe without that precedent female founders feel that they can’t communicate such a big vision because no one’s done it before. But you know I think that that is putting yourself into a sort of pigeon hole where you know to me people are people and actually in some ways if you’re from an under represented group of your female female founder we’re trying to back people that can create outliers. And if you’re an outlier in terms of your background I think you’re going to stand out and it’s more likely that you’re gonna create an outlier in terms of the outcome for your business. I you know I’m sure I still have my unconscious bias and I think everybody does try and guard against. But to me you know on a level playing field a female found a beat some male found that because of that outlier point that just different. And therefore we’re trying to find things that are different in the world of investing and so you know that’s something that really appeals to me about backing a female founder.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah. I think the example point is really really important. And that’s one of the things that really drives me is when people come in and they talk about that. My view is we need more female CEOs of public companies we need more female founders that build billion dollar companies that go public. We need I’m American so we need a female president we need female politicians. We need female bankers. We need all of these things to set examples that it is possible for girls to grow up you know young and see these examples in the market. And we just don’t have a lot of that today. Like when I was a kid there wasn’t even the dialogue that exists today. And it’s really powerful that it does today. So just going back to the fundraising point the first thing that was very helpful I think for my success in fundraising was the bold vision. The second thing was the power of networks and mentors. And this is true for anyone raising money. But again I think it can be a little bit harder for underrepresented founders. So you know these like introductions from people who they know and who they trust so that there is a social proof dynamic and there’s a validation dynamic.

Brynne Kennedy: And so it’s incredibly important as a founder to build those networks and to educate people on your idea and your tenacity. So that then they can make introductions for you and vouch for you. That’s harder if it’s halfway around the world. It’s harder if you didn’t go to college with those people. It’s harder if those people don’t naturally you know want to go to the bar with you or play golf with you. And so it’s really really important to invest in that. I mean I spent months and months and months before every funding round and especially in the early days like literally coffee shop hopping like meetings so so many people telling them about the company having dinners with people before I ever talked to an investor because my goal was that every introduction that I got very intentionally would be from someone who was an insider in those networks and could make those introductions directly right.

Jos White: Thanks. So you have about 200 people at Topia which is kind of extraordinary even to think about that. But what’s been looking at that kind of growth from a people’s perspective. What’s been your approach to diversity as you’ve kind of built and scaled your own team at Topia.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah it’s a great question and we’re incredibly proud of the fact that we of the 200 people that we have today we cover about 30 different nationalities. We have eight offices with two here in Europe London and Estonia. We have an office in Melbourne and Australia. Now we have a handful in the US so we’re very very global and we’ve always been very global in our ethos is the nature of what we do and then largely our company is 50 50. So my c suite is half women and half men and the majority of the company is half and half and that’s pretty much across functions. It’s very very proud of that. So initially I think it was very organic. It was initially very very much in our DNA to be diverse. As I said I founded the company in London. I’m American. I was an expat. We do something that is fundamentally about mobility between borders and I am female. So naturally we attracted people across the company across the investment base across the customer base that really had an affinity for that. So we were saying earlier actually on our board today six years later we don’t have anyone that is you know in the US context just in an American white male we have many different nationalities and many different backgrounds on the board and the investor base and that’s the same at the company. So I think the takeaway here is it’s important to build diversity into your DNA and your company and you can do that in many many different ways. People have different profiles as founders but you can do things early on like making it a priority to recruit diverse people into your founding team or into your early leadership team because that has really immense trickle down effects in the DNA of the company.

Brynne Kennedy: And then you can codify that which we did in your company values. So our first company value is be be global citizens and we talk about that in nationality and socioeconomic background in gender in sexuality. That’s literally what it says under the value as a global citizen is that we welcome everyone to the company and we seek to operate above borders and we respect people’s differences around the world. And so that’s always been a really really core part of who we are as you scale like gets a little bit more complicated because different markets have different things and you have pressure to fill roles and all this sort of thing. But the way that we’ve approached that very intentionally is I really encourage my leaders to look at a diverse candidate pool when they’re recruiting for a candidate. And we really pushed the recruiters to do that as well. And you’d be shocked how much pushback there is from recruiters because it makes their job harder. If they have to present to you a balanced applicant pool. So I’m often like Nope try again. There’s no one diverse in this pool and the recruiter will be like there’s no female CFO or there is no I don’t like it. There definitely is. So let’s try again. And so you kind of have to really have that commitment to go through that dialogue at many many different times in many different points in the company. The other thing actually just to note in this kind of brings it back to what we do is we’ve also always been very intentional about giving people opportunities between offices.

Brynne Kennedy: So we’ve initially we flew everyone from around the world for training in London because we thought it was so important that people could see each other they could like sense you know our international identity many some people had never been to the U.K. some people a number of the US that we had recruited but for the most part we recruited people that really shared that value of being a global citizen through studying abroad living abroad having an interest in travel like displaying that in some way. And then we made a big effort to give people opportunities to interact physically and to spend time across different offices right.

Jos White: And yeah. And my experience of bit being on the Topia board and then working with that with the exact team is that slightly differently to some of the less diverse teams that I’m that I’m working with. I think it you can see how it it makes for a more stimulating and a more varied and just generally a more kind of productive dialogue and discussion. You know it’s not it’s not always comfortable because I think we’re most comfortable with people who are like ourselves. But I think better results come from it. So you almost kind of need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because you’re going to be more challenged from different perspectives and different viewpoints. And I think that very much comes out top here. And I think that’s one of the things that’s making the company successful.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah it’s interesting. And that’s actually what the research says is that diverse teams outperform teams that are that are not diverse statistically like in all studies. However it’s harder to manage a diverse team and add in speed and velocity can often be challenging because you come to a better outcome. But when there’s more of a diversity of views it can sometimes be hard to come to an outcome. And we definitely see that. So it’s been a very intentional it continues to be a very intentional conversation about how we manage this. My head of product lives in Estonia as an example. First all it’s 10 hours ahead of San Francisco where I live. So that’s rather difficult from a time zone perspective. Secondly you know Americans tend to make decisions in a pretty hierarchical kind of top down quick way like I go into a meeting I’m like What are the five things we’re going to cover how do we get out of here in 30 minutes we’re gonna make a decision that’s not how many Nordic cultures make decisions. So my Estonia team tends to be much more consensus driven and you know some of us Americans are like why is this taking so long. Let’s move on. And he’s like Why are you not including everyone in the decision so. But ultimately you know you meet halfway and you know in this example you get more input from people to ultimately make a better decision for the company great.

Jos White: So Topia is as we’ve said earlier Topia enables companies to move that people around the world more easily with a kind of digital platform that kind of makes that whole process much much easier than a than a kind of manual process that we’ve probably all been through. So Brynne is regularly talking to the heads of H.R. or CEOs as CFO is about the mobility strategy and how that kind of feeds into the whole strategy for diversity and inclusion. So what have you what have you learned from talking to the world’s largest companies about their approach to mobility and how they’re thinking about that in relation to. Because it seems like it’s closely related to the subject of diversity.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah it is and it’s really interesting because as I just said at the beginning I have this unique lens because I have my CEO hat which I wear to build the best company that I can high growth technology company diverse and then I have my I’m selling to customers hat where I talked to them about how they can leverage global mobility to build more diverse teams and create more shareholder value. And these are the biggest companies in the world and in France we have AXA and Alstom and Schneider Electric and L’Oreal and Teo you know big big public companies that are complex and global and are grappling with this issue.

Brynne Kennedy: And the reality is that global mobility is so when people spend time in different offices there is a direct correlation to the amount of time that you’ve spent across a global organization. And the leaders the path to the C suite so globe mobility really feeds the leadership pipeline. But there’s a lot of selection biases in who companies select to spend time in other offices.

Brynne Kennedy: So seventy one percent of women say that they want to have experiences working abroad or working in different offices except just 20 percent of the mobile population at multinational firms is female. The implication here is that there is unconscious biases around managers just assuming that a female or a mother or something like that might not want to go to a certain country or mine.

Brynne Kennedy: I want to spend time abroad and that is really problematic because of the correlation and the path to the C suite. And so what we talk to customers about a lot is you need to remove unconscious biases in the selection for recruiting the selection for mobility experiences so that you can build more more of a diverse pipeline to have more of a diverse c suite or more diverse leaders in your organization over time. And so we see actually a lot of interest in this topic from public companies around the world and they use that topic data sets and suite to actually track the different elements of diversity within their mobile employees and then how that correlates to diversity within their leadership pipeline which is really cutting edge in the H.R. industry H.R. technology industry today and you’re really fascinating to see people talking about right.

Jos White: Thanks Brynne. So I think another kind of piece of diversity and inclusion is to actually um make people feel included and make people feel kind of recognized within the organization. I think that the stats are that if someone’s going to leave then they normally leave within the first three months. So it kind of gets into the whole kind of culture of an organization and that sort of feeling feeling of inclusion. What uh what kind of approaches or strategies have you seen or have you used to try to kind of push that sense of inclusion forward so that you know everybody does feel recognized within the within the company.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah it’s a good question. I think you know building companies and building cultures is for the most part it comes from the DNA of the founder but you also need to codify that and approach it very intentionally. And for me that starts with the values and I was like the last person who was into values previously like I was an investment banker before this I used to roll my eyes when at Lehman they would be like be courageous and it’s like well you weren’t courageous and destroyed the economy and you know we were all like why does it take courage on the wall. And so. But as I when I became a founder I realized that it really is the manifestation of the DNA of the company and that does drive the decisions that you make in terms of who you hire. The processes that you run the benefits that you offer et cetera. So we’ve spent up done two rounds of values and they’re very core to who we are today they are be global citizens collaborate radically learn relentlessly make bold bets and never ever give up. And everyone can say them and it rolls right off the tongue so that then translates into who we hire from a values alignment perspective. As I said we put a big emphasis on people who display interest or experiences in diversity and in having time spent in other places.

Brynne Kennedy: And then it translates into kind of the the activities and the processes that you have in the company. So for us we we haven’t rolled it out yet but we’ve looked heavily at our benefits and we’ve talked a lot about anything a man gets a woman gets anything a traditional family gets a you know a homosexual family gets anything a married person gets a single person gets like maybe someone has maternity leave maybe someone who’s single and 40 adopts a child and they should have an equal amount of leave. And so we’ve really tried to say OK if you’re talking about global citizens and all the different types of people in the world like what does that mean for benefits and how do we blow up this notion of a traditional employee a traditional family and put that into our benefits. So that’s kind of one element of inclusion. And then we also have really tried to highlight this idea of bring your whole self to work. So like Who are you. What did you do this weekend.

Brynne Kennedy: You know what do you want to wear a sweater I was joking with Jos earlier actually when I bought this dress I was shopping with another female founder in the valley and I was like I can’t buy this it’s going to scare the entrepreneurs like the engineers there’s ruffles on it and the shop woman was like well their hoodies kind of scare me so why don’t you buy the dress. So I did. And so that that’s just kind of like a funny example of this. But we’ve really tried to think about that and then we have also talked about things like affinity groups where people that have different interests can come together and can talk about things we have slacked channels around that. And I think that’s just really really important part of it.

Jos White: Yeah. And I think just to add to that in my experience is is to to make sure that the managers in an organization not just the executive team but the managers at every level actually buy in to the concept of diversity so they’re not just saying it because they think that they should be saying it but they’re saying it because they actually understand why the company cares about it. Because not just because it’s the right thing to do but that you know the way that we’re represented demographically in a country in the world should probably be the way that we’re represented in the company. And so that’s that’s that’s something that that people should understand that it’s the right thing to do but also just as importantly that there’s so much evidence now that diversity will create a happier healthier and more successful workplace. There was a big report by McKinsey recently that said that organizations which are at the upper quartile in terms of diversity and inclusion are something like 30 or 40 percent more likely to be successful against their peers. And I think that the the the evidence in Silicon Valley is that female backed companies return twice as much capital as male pack companies in the world of V.C.. So there’s an amazing evidence. So I think to get every manager in the company to buy into why we’re doing this rather than just lip service to it so they can represent diversity in the organization and they can drive it out. And I think that’s one of the best ways of making it sustainable and making it kind of at the core of an organization’s culture.

Jos White: Um so something I wanted to talk about is is unconscious bias set. So obviously you know unconscious bias is a is a very hot topic right now in Silicon Valley and I think across that the tech sector Um it’s definitely something that I think uh kind of holds up progress towards better diversity and inclusion. I think often we don’t even realize that we’re doing it which is what makes it unconscious. But it would seem to me that um trying to take a more data driven approach to you know what kind of candidate are we looking for in terms of the facts and the data how are we going to actually what’s our decision making criteria for this role in terms of the data and the facts and and trying to approach it in that more objective data driven way which seems to be a way of maybe trying to move away from the unconscious bias issue but what do you think about that.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah I think in theory that is the case. And they just taking a step back if you look at the technology ecosystem right now really the conversation around diversity and inclusion has gone from sort of an H.R. compliance issue to an actual strategic imperative.

Brynne Kennedy: So most data our systems today that are broad are expected to be able to have some sort of functionality or some sort of answer for how they’re thinking about diversity and in the employee population there’s a report by Gartner that talks about this that came out pretty recently. And so we have our piece of that. But the question is in it unless you have diverse product teams building those products there is a question and a possibility that the algorithms that actually drive the selection of those candidates may have biases embedded in their code. Right. So it can be a very downstream situation. So I think the way that I would think about it is yes we need to get to a world where candidate selection whether it’s for a full time role it’s for a gig economy member being a part of a team or it’s for a mobile experience has no biases in it and it’s fully data driven. But in order to get there we as humans need to make an intentional effort to build diversity into our teams. Otherwise we’ll just perpetuate this issue through the products that we build in the algorithms that we write.

Jos White: Yeah. No because you would have thought that AI machine learning would be a way of really removing kind of human based bias. But at the same time if the algorithms of feeding off historical data which kind of reinforces those biases then we’ve kind of we’re just perpetuating the same the same problem right. So so whether you can get data sets from the most progressive and the best performing companies in terms of diversity and then you can train the algorithm based on those more advanced organizations and maybe that would be a way of addressing it. But there is always the issue of you know the data set that you’re using and you know the risk of the data set itself being big being biased so it’s kind of a you’re getting into quite a complicated subject.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah I mean I think it’s just kind of like logic right. So if you’re building products for people to use whether they’re in the enterprise or they’re in the consumer space like by definition a lot of those users are going to be not white men like they’re gonna be women they’re gonna be people of minorities like they that users reflect the society that you sell to. And so to then have a product team that does are an engineering team that doesn’t reflect that is rather odd. Right. And so for us we sell to H.R. many H.R.. Leaders are women you know not as many as probably you would naturally think but many are women and one of the greatest privileges of my job is that I get to meet with incredible S.A. Toros all the time at large companies and are they are really really impressive and often female. And so for us we we thought like we need to have a product team that reflects our users and understands some of the differences and maybe how they would use software and I would encourage anyone who’s building any product that has a diverse user base which I think is probably most products that people build to think about building their teams as a reflection of their user. Otherwise you may build functionality that users don’t adopt or users don’t necessarily relate to.

Jos White: Yeah. And I think that’s that’s probably thinking that through that’s probably why enterprise software or B2B tech companies are further behind in terms of moving towards a more greater diversity and inclusion because it’s even more of a you know the buying customer not so much a night job but more generally is even more of a kind of white male dominated market. So I think again that holds up the progress towards towards greater diversity. But I think that you know you need to be more intentional and you need to try and kind of set the right example and get people to understand that the value in it but actually if you look at if you look at the consumer side the consumer companies are selling into the consumer market which Rep. so much more diverse demographics so maybe they’ve got that great a motivation to make sure that they’re matching you know that the team internally with the market that they’re selling to whereas you know I think enterprise software in the B2B markets generally are probably a little bit further behind on that on that journey.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah. But it is you know that’s a good point. But even in the H.R. space like where you would think you know given that that’s generally the function where there’s a greater proportion of female leaders. I mean most big H.R. technology companies that you can think of right now that are public are founded by men.

Brynne Kennedy: I mean Larry Ellison Dave Duffield as maybe you can go through all of these Cornerstone OnDemand like and so we have this annual h our tech conference and they do this like women in H.R. tech thing and people are and customers are always like. It’s incredible to buy software from a female founder like it’s so inspiring to see a female founder in the H.R. space. Like what. Like that’s kind of weird but it’s just like endemic in the enterprise software space that I think it’s a really incredible opportunity to think about how do I build teams how do I found companies with unique expertise that I may have as it goes toward the user and being able to build products appropriate for them.

Jos White: And do you think just if you look at Silicon Valley and if you look at the the great examples of of of amazingly successful female exacts they’re often not actually that the CEO you know if you look at Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Meyer at Google you know there are examples of this sort of number two figure which maybe is is part of the problem in terms of female founders of founders from underrepresented groups not having that example of actually a CEO that strikes out and really builds a you know one of those outlier businesses and I think the more we see that than the more that’s recycled and the more that belief starts to get ingrained.

Brynne Kennedy: Yeah I think that’s actually a really really big issue and I think that’s where the example point comes through. So I think the specific point is not CEO its founder. So like the founders job is to have an incredible vision to convince people to put in relentless effort at below market rates in their early days to create something that is fundamentally irrational because if you’re creating a big enough company generally most of the world thinks you’re insane. Generally the company does the category doesn’t quite exist yet and generally 9 out of 10 people when you know you talk to them Are you fundraise slam the door in your face for for lack of a metaphor. And so it’s like that’s a unique profile that is very different than having a CEO or having a CEO who comes in at a different stage and it is great that today we have many more women in leadership positions in the C suite than we did five and 10 years ago but we still have very very very few examples of female founders who have founded a company who have scaled that company and who have grow in that company to a billion dollar valuation in some type of liquidity event. I mean I think Katrina Lake is kind of the only one and that is in a in a fashion consumer business. So when the enterprise space there is very very very few. And so the problem with that is it has a downstream impact to then the funding markets because these often admittedly invest based on patterns. And so when they don’t have examples and they don’t have patterns of other women doing that then that unconscious bias becomes bigger and bigger in the fundraising cycles. So I think that it’s really really important for women to start companies have bold visions believe in those visions talk about those visions and really change this mentality.

Jos White: Well said.

Brynne Kennedy: And by the way just just to give you a little plug you did not fall in that bucket Jos was the first first. I mean literally when everyone else thought I was crazy and I ran into Jos at a at an angel investors office and he’s like oh how’s it going. I was like Well not so good because most people are afraid of this business in the UK and just like well why don’t we get breakfast. And you were the first investor and the second and the third and the fourth rounds as well.

Jos White: I had to say that I’m just a last question as I’m interested in the whole idea of target. So do you think do you think companies should set targets for the diversity and inclusion we actually have a notion we came up with this idea for every event that we run should be 50 50. So that should be at least 50 percent represented by female founders or other other members of underrepresented groups. And we coined this hashtag 50 50 and say whether it’s office hours or whether it’s uh.

Jos White: And um some kind of white paper event or um a marketing activity or whatever it is a notion that we could be running on our own or in collaboration with another company that we’re now running this kind of 50 50 hashtag and we’re determined to stick to that from now on. And I know that Mark sister wrote an interesting blog post about how upfront ventures now put in that term sheet that they want the companies they invest in to sign up to a diversity and inclusion program and what he means by that is it that he he wants them to better demonstrate that for every executive. I think it’s any management row that they include at least one person from and under represented group in the recruitment process and they can demonstrate that which is not you wouldn’t have thought is that complicated to do and as you put it in that term sheet. So it’s just little things like that like the 50/50 thing it notion I think it’s really made us think about things differently. And I think it’s been really kind of refreshing. I think the Marxist idea I think a lot of these CEOs have now adopted that and it was kind of interesting that he kind of pioneered that but what do you think of having kind of target so you know more of that more of that approach.

Brynne Kennedy: So I think I applaud the effort but I think rather controversially the interesting thread with all of these is there are all initiatives created by men. So I think there is very very very few myself included women who are founders that would ever want that. Right. Because the last thing in the world you want as a woman would like working super hard against all odds is to be thought of as a token board member a token investment or a token B.S. partner. Like I want to be a founder who creates a great company and a great category that is standard standalone right. I want to be on boards because I know the enterprise software market or my domain. I don’t want to be there because there’s a quota. And so what I prefer to focus on is removing the bias and having a drive toward fairness. Like don’t do the deal at the bar at midnight where a woman might be uncomfortable like tech teach the team unconscious bias training like don’t ask the woman when she’s going to have kids and make her feel uncomfortable in the meeting when you would never ask a man that question. And like focus on supporting and creating really really incredible examples that will have downstream impacts to other women building great companies and sitting on a lot of boards or running Fortune 500 companies or whatever the whatever the core Larry is.

Jos White: Yeah no I think that’s a that’s a good point and I would never dare to patronize you print. I think I was talking about it more at the top end of the funnel because I think often it’s just people struggling to kind of get on the radar and get into a process at all. And then I think you need to exist on your own merits. But I think if we can do better at the top end of the funnel then it would seem to be a good step in the right direction towards actually greater better you know a more diverse and more inclusive.

Brynne Kennedy: Well for sure and I think like there’s been some really interesting initiatives to not necessarily use quotas but targets like the 30 percent Club in the UK where the Footsie one hundred a number of fits you went a hundred CEOs signed up to aim for 30 percent female representation on their board and many of us who are involved were adamantly against some other countries models where they mandated 50 50 because then you sort of maybe need to make different decisions. So I think part of the funnel issue though is just creating an environment that is accessible and comfortable to females and you know there’s little things about that like I promise you you never want to go to another fundraising meeting when you sit there and someone’s like Well tell me any other woman who’s ever done this. You’re just like what. Like I never want to talk to any of you ever again and this is so uncomfortable or when they say you know so you’re 30 when are you going to have a child and how do I deal with that.

Brynne Kennedy: I’m like How do you have children and work. Like I don’t know I’m not gonna ask you that. And so that is I think there’s just behavioral things that can be really tweak that can make a really really big impact to make the this sort of environment more comfortable and welcoming.

Jos White:  All right. Thanks Brynne. Well that was really fun. Good to chat. I hope that was interesting for everybody. I’m being told to wrap up but thank you very much everybody. Thank you Brynne.

Published on December 16, 2018

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