Today we announced a significant milestone in Diversio’s journey. After more than three years of bootstrapping, we’ve raised our first round of institutional capital. It also marks a personal milestone as I reflect on the journey that’s taken a simple idea – using data and metrics to improve the work lives of underrepresented employees – to a fully-realized platform impacting hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide.
Growing the company from nothing to a multinational operation has sometimes (if I’m honest, oftentimes) created tunnel vision: mapping out priorities, hiring new team members, iterating on the product. But moments like these present an opportunity to reflect on how much we’ve accomplished in a short period of time, something that for me inspires awe, humility and gratitude for the team members who are making our vision happen.
Creating a more diverse and inclusive world is a never-ending journey without a clear destination. But the tangible, measurable change our clients are making, and the lives of the employees affected by that, is what keeps me driven and inspired each day.
With all of this in mind, I thought it was worth sharing some background on how Diversio came about, what has kept us motivated to continue pushing forward and innovating when so many people didn’t initially believe, and what my vision is for the future of a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive global work environment.
Our story began in 2018 with the realization that “diversity” and “inclusion” had become buzzwords with little action behind them. The real light bulb came from conversations with CEOs who didn’t doubt that D&I would help their company do better, but didn’t know how to do it. They lacked data, metrics and the tools they needed to translate their commitments into actions.
Early on, we met with many investors who believed in Anya and I, and certainly supported the mission. But the skepticism that D&I lip service would become anything more than that was too strong. We struggled to raise venture financing and decided to go it alone.
The next three years have been a complete whirlwind. Our earliest clients came from unexpected places such as Young Presidents Organization, Canada Learning Code and OLX Group. We brought on organizations large and small from sectors as diverse as energy, construction, technology and private equity. Some were based in North America, some in Europe, and several were multinational.
These early adopters provided the capital we needed to build our technology platform and invest in AI. Equally important, they took action and provided feedback that helped us build a tool that would work at real-world companies. We launched our MVP in 2019 and v2 the next year. By early 2020, we had a growing roster of clients whose employees were starting to report significant change.
Headwinds & Tailwinds
Flash forward to March 2020. It is surreal to think that so much of Diversio’s history took place in a pandemic; like many others, we found both challenges and opportunities. We continued to grow, bringing on more full-time staff as revenue allowed it. Economic shutdowns caused us to experience the challenge of maintaining an inclusive workplace in a frightening environment while scaling a company with no capital. We took our own medicine and piloted many of the solutions we recommend, from flexible hours to mental health supports and mentorship programs. Some didn’t work, but enough did that we powered through and grew faster than we ever had before.
We also experienced the gut-wrenching horror of George Floyd’s murder and the emotion wrapped up in the Black Lives Matter movement, and subsequently saw a wave of corporate commitments ripple across the globe. Some of the greatest unsung heroes were the HR managers and practitioners who seized the moment to translate their company’s D&I goals into long-term actions: collecting data, setting targets, and implementing solutions.
I watched with pride as our team worked hand-in-hand with our clients to set-up tracking and feedback mechanisms. I watched with admiration as our clients took transformational action, such as tying 20% of Executive compensation to inclusion. I watched with satisfaction as employee feedback validated that our recommendations (and more importantly, our clients’ consistent efforts) – were having an effect.
As the expression goes, some of the best things happen when you aren’t looking. We planned to continue bootstrapping our business and set up offices in New York and London, UK. In mid-2021, we connected with the folks at First Round Capital, whom I was aware of thanks to their seminal work on diversity performance in startups. I was inspired by partner Meka Asonye’s passion and believed a partnership with FRC would help us grow faster, reach more clients, and accumulate the data that is so sorely lacking in D&I.
First Round’s first rounds are typically much smaller than ours (6.5M USD), but with the conviction of the entire FRC team, we are excited to put this capital to work. With support from participating investors Golden Ventures and Chandaria Family Holdings, we will be able to drive more change, faster. Which means better work lives and greater opportunities for employees around the world.
As for what’s next, we will continue to build a world-class product, client experience, and team. We recognize that we are creating a new category and that carries an obligation to share information and thought leadership. With that in mind, we will be publishing more and more content in partnership with allies like the 30% Club, Diversity VC, the University of Waterloo and the Turing Institute.
For me, I’m most excited about building out our community of “inclusion guru’s” and working with clients around the world. I would remiss if I didn’t say that the key to achieving this vision is a passionate and committed team. If that sounds like you – we’re hiring! 😊