Earlier this month, Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of crowdfunding giant, Indiegogo, shared her thoughts about importance of diversity at Y Combinator’s Startup Day. Forbes reported that Although she addressed 90% of males, Ringelmann stressed how diversity will help startups achieve ultimate success.
The media outlet caught up with Ringelmann afterwards to discuss the topic a little further. When asked if Indiegogo’s diversity philosophy, she shared,”We’re a company that’s here to serve the entire world, so we want our employee base to reflect the world’s population as much as possible.
“For us to serve the world and create an equal-opportunity funding platform we need to be an equal-opportunity workplace and have a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. No, it’s not going to change overnight, but we started from a really good place and I think we’ll continue to improve on it.
Also noting although other companies look up to Indiegogo and have yet to achieve as much diversity, Ringelmann stated, “I’m interested in unpacking the root drivers of our diversity statistics. We’re still just 100 people, so it’s not statistically significant, but my hypothesis — and a lot of this is from anecdotal evidence — really there are three reasons we’ve done pretty well on the diversity front. The first is simply our mission. We exist to democratize access to capital. Equal opportunity is in our ethos. When you have a very bold mission like that, you attract all kinds of people that agree with that.
“The second thing is related to that, but it’s really in the brand. Maybe that’s another way of saying the same thing. We’re an equal-opportunity funding platform, and we believe in open, we believe in inclusion. That’s who we are in terms of how we build our product. We ooze it. My cofounders and I believe it in our heart of hearts as people. That’s why we’re working at Indiegogo. And I think that message then is a very powerful message to people who are considering getting into technology or joining companies, especially top talent who can pick wherever they want to work.
“And then the third reason is whenever you are looking at where you want to work, you can’t actually know how it’s going to be until you arrive there, but you look for signs of how it could be based on what you can see from the outside. I do know I’ve had a lot of female employees who came to me after they joined Indiegogo and said a reason they joined — not the only reason, but a reason, a contributing factor — was because we had a female founder.
“We all have biases, we all have limited networks, and when you’re growing as a startup you rely on your networks to source leads for candidates, and the more diverse your networks are to start, the more diverse your outreach will be to attract candidates. I have a theory that the more diverse you are at the beginning, the easier it will be to remain diverse as you grow. Because you don’t have all the systems in place to broadcast your entire company to the entire world, you rely on your limited networks, so the key is to diversify the people who are there in the beginning so you have a diversity of limited networks to go to, if that makes sense.
“And I do my part. Whenever I’m invited to speak at a women in technology conference, I try my best to do that, because I think it’s important to inspire more women to go into technology and entrepreneurship, so if I can be part of that decision making process, I want to be. Plus there’s a lot of potential customers there! And we’ve hired a lot of people out of those. I spoke at Lesbians Who Tech, and we hired a person from that. I spoke at Women 2.0 and we got applications from that. So there have been proactive efforts to make sure we’re reaching out to diverse populations with the resources that we had, and as we expand more we’ll be able to invest more into the sophistication of our talent-acquisition strategies.”
In regards to any “biases” she’s trying to correct, Ringelmann explained, “One thing we’re very focused on is education. Using the internet to raise money is still a new experience for a lot of people. We’ve learned that when people see campaigns for a project or idea similar to a project or idea they want to start, it’s inspiring to them and helps them get over that confidence hump to get going and give it a go. So we’re doing a lot of work around helping people find the campaigns similar to theirs so they get the confidence to give it a try, as well as using data science to unpack all the insights and correlations that map to success. We know for a fact that campaigns with a video raise 150% more on average than campaigns that don’t. Same things with campaigns with team members — they raise 80% or 90% more than campaigns by an individual person.”
She then added, “So that’s how we use data science to educate people. Some people have started many many companies, and some people, this is the first time they’ve ever started something. We have to reach both populations.”