Words Founders Factory
December 13th 2022 / 10 min read
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical to innovation. To uncover opportunities in technology, it’s important to elevate perspectives from a wide range of backgrounds, particularly those voices which are typically underrepresented.
We have committed to publishing an annual update of our work around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), reviewing initiatives and processes we put in place last year, as well as highlighting any new initiatives and work streams we’ve launched this year to take further steps forward. This includes:
Investment data for our Venture Studio and Accelerator
Hiring data for our Operations team
Details of our newly-launched employee board
Learnings from our global working taskforce
As in the past, our aim in sharing our journey publicly is to show how our efforts have impacted our team, and the founders that we work with, and above all to share our learnings in the hope that those reading it find it helpful when looking to enact change in their own organisations.
You can read our 2021 DEI update here
In early 2021, we began automating the tracking of data of the founders we were hiring to build businesses in our Venture Studio, the teams we were investing in for our Accelerator, and individuals we were hiring in our Operations team. One key change we implemented last year was moving from assumption-based to self-reported tracking, as well as broadening the different pillars which we were using to define diversity.
Ethnicity47% Non-white applicants 67% Non-white at final and 16% black (affirmative action working!)
Gender27% female applicants25% at final interview (we are not keeping to our commitments!)
Response rate = 21/27 (78%)
At IC (21 companies)—11 mixed or female (52%) / 6 female led (29%)
Approved (11 companies)—5 mixed or female (45%) / 4 female led (36%)
At IC (21 companies)—6 non-white (29%) / 2 Asian (10%) / 2 Black-African (10%)
Approved (11 companies)—3 non-white (27%) / 1 Asian (9%) / 1 Black-African (9%)
This year, we started putting in place new data tracking processes, to ensure we are aware of diversity shortfalls at the top of the funnel in real-time too, and can therefore quickly even out gaps via sourcing efforts. In addition, we continued with efforts to support underrepresented founders with access to funding, particular Black founders and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Creating an open space of diverse perspectives, identities, and backgrounds is crucial to all our achievements at Founders Factory. We’re proud to be a gender-equal team, with over 50% of us identifying as women. However, we’re conscious that in many other areas, there is much room for improvement - for example, as the breadth of our team’s nationalities expands, ethnic diversity remains rather low. This will be a pivotal focus next year as we look forward to geographical expansion and growth in our team, making this a great opportunity to bring a new diversity of experiences and profiles to Founders Factory.
We had a response rate of 71% to our 2022 D&I census (41 out of a possible 58 responses). The data showed the following about our team:
Gender17 Men, 19 Women, 0 other (but we did have this as an option)
Nationality25 British, 10 International (American, Canadian, Romanian, Irish, Filipino, Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian), 6 Dual nationality
Sexual Orientation37 Heterosexual, 1 Homosexual, 1 Bisexual, 1 Other, 1 Prefer not to say
Highest level of education25 BA degree (or equiv), 12 MA degree (or equiv), 3 Professional qual, 1 A levels
Ethnicity6 Asian / British Asian (Bangladesh, Indian, Chinese, Other), 22 White English / British, 11 White Other, 1 Arab, 1 Hispanic
Disability6 members of our ops team identified having a disability (including mental health condition or learning difference)
Beyond tracking our hiring and investment data, we’ve launched and continued running a number of initiatives and work streams across the organisation with the explicit goal of driving diversity, equity, and inclusion. These include:
Global working taskforce
We’re at an exciting point of expansion at Founders Factory. With new vehicles launched already in Germany and Southeast Asia, and new partnerships impending in other regions, our once-London focused team is now increasingly distributed. This is hugely important from a talent perspective: we’re no longer bound by hiring geographically, and instead can source from a much wider, more diverse pool of talent who bring novel experiences and backgrounds to the table.
We’re already enabling this new form of work through certain hybrid working policies:
Employees can work remotely for up to three days a week (unless in pre-agreed circumstances or when roles are specifically outside the UK)
Employees are entitled to work up to five weeks abroad
In certain circumstances, employees can request “digital nomad remote working”, to be based abroad for longer periods. This is currently under experimentation—so watch this space!
At the same time, we’re aware of the challenges that come with a globally distributed team. That’s why we launched our Global Working Task Force—an employee-led initiative to ‘identify and implement best practices for creating an inclusive and empowering work environment for everyone, regardless of geography & timezone’.
Key outcomes of the task force so far include:
Implementing the aforementioned extended working from abroad policy
Creating hybrid meeting and event etiquette
Experimenting with new tools and services (such as Gather)
This year saw the launch of our Employee Board, comprised of individuals across different functions of the team who would act as cultural ambassadors for the organisation. The aim is twofold:
To collect feedback from the team more regularly about people initiatives that we were rolling out for the team
To empower the board to play a bigger role in our culture. We wanted to encourage the idea across the team that we’re building the FF culture together.
The hope is that as a collective, we could drive more meaningful cultural change across the business. The board aims to meet monthly, usually in a hybrid format. Key discussion topics so far have included progression, employee-led initiatives, cultures of sharing, and team integration.
We launched a partnership with edtech unicorn Multiverse. By helping our corporate partners allocate their apprenticeship levy (which as companies of a certain size, they’re obliged to contribute to), we’re helping provide fully-funded professional development opportunities to startups from our portfolio.
For one, this is helping close the digital skills gap that is currently the source of billions of dollars in lost revenue around the world. Equally, we’re hoping to drive diversity in tech by providing these fully-funded opportunities to those who wouldn’t ordinarily have access to them.
We’re also offering this same opportunity to our Operations Team, launching four different programs for employees to upskill across topics including data literacy and project management.
Power To Underrepresented Founders
Ed Kandel and Michelle Wilk on our investment team continued their series of Power To Underrepresented Founders initiatives, with two editions held this year (four in total), focusing on supporting Black and LGBTQ+ founders. These events have resulted in over 500 meetings held between founders and VCs, and three term sheets issued so far.
On top of access to funding, all founders who applied to each edition received access to FF’s team of expert operators via a series of intimate masterclasses. This is a key differentiator to other events, recognising that supporting founders should start much earlier than at the point of fundraising—with support on marketing, product, data science, and commercial partnerships.
Going forward, we’re considering new formats for this initiative that can create opportunities for founders. Stay tuned for something in the new year…
Women Who Build—we launched this new community in partnership with firstminute capital, to bring together ambitious technical leaders and founders. Our first event was held in May, a panel featuring Livia van Strydonck (Chief Product Architect at Lendable), Catherine Nisson (co-founder of Renude), Cecilia De Conto (Lead Engineer/Venture CTO at BCG Digital Ventures), and Cat Jones (founder/CEO of Byway), hosted by Lynn Anderson Clark (CEO & co-founder of The Know)
Introduction of quarterly updates—this gives employees across the company a chance to highlight what they’ve been working on over the past quarter, helping foster inclusion at all levels. This comes on top of a rotating topics format in our weekly meetings, where one team takes over the meeting to present a deep dive
International Women's Day lunch—to mark IWD, we hosted a roundtable with our CEO Henry Lane Fox with all employees who identify as women. This gave employees a chance to speak to their experiences as women in the organisation, and voice any concerns and challenges they faced. Actions from this were subsequently shared with the whole company.
Gender neutral family leave policy—we continue to offer a gender neutral family leave policy, offering leave to primary and secondary caregivers, a shared parental leave policy, as well as policies for surrogacy and adoption. We’ve also codified return to work practices.
Religious holiday leave—all employees are encouraged to take leave around religious holidays that aren’t covered by UK bank holidays
Playfair’s Female Founder Office Hours—our Investment Team continues to take part in Playfair’s Female Founder Office Hours, providing female founders with support with pitching, funding and access to investors, no warm introductions needed
Slack status update –we’ve introduced a new status update on Slack for those days any employee’s not feeling 100%—whether it be mental health, period pains, grief, or other reasons—allowing other team members to be conscious and sensitive to their situation
Relaunching our Future Founders programme
Last year we ran the Future Founders Programme as a model test in our Mission Studio, to see how we can better support marginalised founders and build businesses with them in our Studio. Taking the learnings and shortfalls of the programme, we will be launching a second version in 2023. The aim remains the same—to create an exciting and useful community for the best underrepresented entrepreneurs, operators, builders and thinkers; and to attract high calibre minoritised groups of founders and operators to lead and operate our Mission Studio ventures.
The added benefits will be:
Regular masterclasses from FF Ops team (venture design, fundraising, product, growth, engineering)
Join underrepresented founders email group
Network with underrepresented founders on a Slack group
Be invited to monthly cohort gatherings facilitated by FF (using gather.around)
Discuss ideas, opportunities, news & market trends
Share content, knowledge and insights
General networking & discussion
Find collaborators, co-founders & hires
Be the first to hear of our Mission Studio focus areas
Be the first to hear of active founder opportunities across FF
Private Zoom calls w/ guest speakers
Invite to all FF Fireside Chats
Have the exclusive chance to book in bimonthly office hours with FF Teams (Venture, Talent, Product Design & Growth)
DEI Lunch & Learns
Q1: How to build an inclusive culture(Intro to D&I, The business and moral case, The role of bias)
Q2: The influence of unconscious bias(Defining bias, Understanding bias, Mitigating bias
Q3: Creating fairness at work(Psychological safety, inappropriate behaviour in the workplace (harassment and bullying), How to tackle inappropriate behaviour)
These 60 min sessions will be hybrid, and are designed to raise awareness and equip our team with everyday tools to help mitigate bias and contribute towards an inclusive culture. We'll also be uploading the slides and follow-up material to Notion for anyone not able to attend in person.
With new expansions and partnerships on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for us to create and foster broad opportunities aligned with our commitments.
We’re encouraged by the progress we continue to make, and by the amazing culture our team works daily to uphold. On the individual level, we’ll continue to nurture this sensibility toward DEI, ensuring each of us makes conscious efforts to support our collective goals. More broadly, inequality in the tech ecosystem remains a great challenge, and we’re sensitive to the severe pressure put on many from the cost-of-living crisis. In striving to create greater opportunity and visibility at the top of the pipeline – building up programs and communities for underrepresented founders – we hope to give access to more diverse applicants from the outset.
We’re constantly striving to improve our initiatives and processes. If you have any responses or feedback on what we’re currently doing, or should be doing, feel free to comment below or email Farah at email@example.com
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