DivInc Brings Diversity to the Tech Industry and Shares the “How” and “Why” With Charity Charge TV
Did someone say diversity? This facet of the American workforce is a prevalent issue and practically inescapable among discussion with the ever-debating millennial generation who recognize its absence in their places of employment. We thought this topic would best be tackled through live discussion, and deemed it worthy of featuring on CCTV episode 2.
Dan Austin from DivInc is an expert on diversity in the tech industry and topped our list of social entrepreneurs with the potential to debunk diversity in the workplace. As episode 2 took off, Austin told his host Stephen Garten that, “Diversity in the tech sector is abysmal.” He went on to say how women and ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans and Latinos, are vastly underrepresented. He told the audience that DivInc is a nonprofit organization focused on “championing diversity in the tech sector.” Austin cofounded DivInc after the idea surfaced in March 2016, with help from his partners, Dana Callendar, Preston James, and Ashley Jennings.
During the live conversation, Garten addressed the booming startup sector and attributed the increase in the number of startups to the internet and to the accelerator programs who are also expanding in number and working to facilitate the needs of new ventures. Austin told Garten how DivInc provides comprehensive programming to new ventures. He mentioned how their first role is to help startups address questions like: How does product evolvement work? What’s my revenue model? What do I need to know about intellectual property law?
Beyond facilitating the basic needs of a new and diverse startup, DivInc serves as a way for entrepreneurs to access a network of advisors who are situated to help them grow and scale their businesses. Austin said the final resource that DivInc provides is assistance in gaining access to venture capital. On this, he noted, “We kinda see ourselves largely as a conduit. Companies do the hard work and we’re bridging that gap to resources in the community AND bridging the gap to individuals and companies that can help them.”
Garten broadly addressed social responsibility and mentioned that a lot of (startup) companies on a macro level are the product of affluent people from good backgrounds. This provoked Austin to share some staggering statistics on the outright lack of diversity in the private sector and in the tech industry. He told the audience how women make up 48% of the private sector and only about 35% of the tech industry. He continued by saying that African Americans and latinos each makeup about 14% of the private sector and only about 7% each of the tech industry. He culminated his statistics by highlighting that of the tech startups that receive venture capital, only 15% had executive positions filled by women, and only 3% have a latino CEO.
The number that prompted Garten to halt the conversation was one from Austin that described how of all the venture capital that is given to new companies, only 1% of the funds are given to companies started by African Americans. As Garten presented the pressing question of “why?” he got the quick response of “unconscious biases.” Garten pressed on suggesting that, “Venture capitalists seem to always have a boss to please.” Austin did not disagree but expanded on that idea saying:
The VC model in many ways is flawed. It’s not so much that venture capitalists feel a pressure to invest in companies that they think are going to please their limited partner from a profile standpoint- it’s more, quite frankly, an absence of pressure from the limited partners to weigh in and put pressure on the venture capitalist to look for diverse companies
Throughout this second episode, it was apparent that DivInc seeks to promote diversity and provide support for any company who is building from the ground up. The nonprofit has three pathways within their accelerator which involve being an “on-ramp” for companies pursuing positions in for-profit accelerator programs, providing the accelerator themselves, and offering resources to companies looking to bootstrap.
Reverting back to the question of “why?” with regards to the need for diversity in the workforce, Austin gives evidence for diverse companies that outcompete their less diverse competitors and tells how there is a driving social aspect- economic growth and job creation. As the episode concluded, Garten told viewers that he sees diversity in the workplace as a “win-win.” With the potential to strengthen the economy, create happier work environments, and help companies make better decisions, why would any startup begin without setting their sights on the formation of a diverse company? We are grateful to Dan Austin for making the “how” and “why” of diverse startups so apparent and fun to learn about.