How Company Ventures Builds A Diverse Talent Pipeline for their Portfolio Companies
Company Ventures is an early-stage venture firm with a focus on supporting values-driven founders. We met with Lindsay Siegel, the Head of Impact at Company Ventures to discuss their approach to creating diverse talent pipelines for their portfolio companies.
Since the founding of Grand Central Tech, their flagship residency program for early-stage teams, Company has focused on bringing together the next-generation workforce with next-generation founders. By being both future and impact-focused, Company did not overlook the fact that public university students were not typically prioritized as rising talent in the tech startup scene. They have found that these trends exacerbate gaps in economic mobility and wealth accumulation between private and public university students. At the same time, their portfolio companies were engaging in conversations about how to build a startup culture and recruit talent. Particularly, in their North Star Program — an initiative that builds leadership capacity in founders so they can articulate and operationalize their vision, ethics, values, and commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Company knew that by focusing both on the workforce as well as startup culture, they would be addressing both sides of the market, increasing access to internships for underrepresented students as well as ensuring that managers and founders are equipped to manage that talent well.
In 2017, Company and CUNY (The City University of New York), the largest urban university system in the United States, launched a 2-month paid summer internship program that provided dozens of students with the opportunity to work in the tech sector, while also offering Company’s community of startups access to top-level diverse talent.
If your venture firm is considering creating a diverse pipeline, below are four areas worth keeping in mind:
1. Grounding in a commitment to building a more equitable future.
Lindsay noted how their partnership with CUNY was born out of a commitment to build a more equitable and sustainable future, by providing on-ramps for public university students who are too often overlooked by the tech industry. Through her experience, Lindsay has found that the talent and drive of public university students, match, if not exceeds, the talent found at private colleges.
2. Do outreach and develop relationships with the continuing education, workforce programs, as well as target academic departments inside public universities.
For the launch of their Internship Program, Lindsay leveraged close ties with the leadership and staff at CUNY’s Continuing Education and Workforce programs. They also reached out to specific tech initiatives in the school such as CUNY Tech Prep, and various academic departments who were also looking to implement high-quality internship programs. It was the close partnerships with the right programs and departments which made it possible to orchestrate the clearinghouse of vetted talent that Company was able to receive.
3. Provide tools and support for founders, so they have the capacity to effectively recruit and manage diverse talent.
As part of their North Star Program, Company was already offering tools and information to help founders establish their startup culture, values, and mission. These conversations include diversity and inclusivity in the recruiting process, reaching beyond the limits of their networks, as well as establishing a corporate culture that fostered a sense of belonging. These discussions dovetailed with the Internship Program, giving founders real-time lessons on inclusion. One of the specific areas that Company focused on was helping founders understand other proxies beyond name-brand education or professional pedigree that tend to filter out capable but non-traditional candidates. Company also created a simple and streamlined application process that did not filter by GPA, as they have found that this is not always a good indication of an intern’s ability to be successful in a startup environment.
4. Support students to ensure their path to long-term success beyond.
Company’s long-term vision is to support a more diverse workforce, therefore they put a lot of thought into ensuring that the experience provides a launchpad for the interns’ careers. In addition to the opportunity to be paid to work at a tech startup, they worked with their community to ensure that students gained valuable work experience and received weekly mentorship, professional development, and networking opportunities. While most students do end up moving into other tech opportunities, they have also found that as much as 30% of students continued on with the companies that they were placed in during their Internship Program.