I wanted to share what I’ve been learning about diversity, what’s happening with The Pitch and a few thoughts about the wider startup ecosystem.
Sorry it’s taken so long to comment. We’ve been taking the time to talk to members of The Pitch community about the changes we need to make.
The immediate changes
The Pitch is a meritocratic process. We’re working hard to build our network. That means a diverse group of entrepreneurs take part in every stage of the competition.
But what can we do to help reduce inequality in the opportunities available to these founders? And what changes do we need to make to our organisation?
Three things are immediately obvious – and it pains me that I didn’t pick up on them already.
We’ll stop using the terms “BAME”, “BME” etc. Our judging panel and mentors need to be more representative of our community. And our community needs to be more involved in developing the programme – we’ll aim to build a better product for everyone.
That’s the easy stuff.
Developing The Pitch programme
Getting investment is a key issue for women and founders from minority backgrounds. The Pitch aims to give entrepreneurs a kick-ass pitch AND the platform to use it. I hope that we can make a difference by doing more to connect people with investors and showcase their work.
Each specialist boot camp will be judged by investors. Startups will be scored in five categories and the top 100 pitches will be showcased on our site with their overall score and details. This isn’t a list based on who’s got the best PR team or most plaudits; it should provide a transparent and meritocratic view of the best startups in the country.
We’re launching an online community for alumni and will introduce vetted partners and investors, so there’s another route to making connections.
The wider startup ecosystem
It’s heartbreaking to know that the female and Black founders that get to The Pitch Final on merit face significantly higher barriers to getting investment.
Too many investors rely on referrals. This entrenches inequality by keeping opportunities in existing networks.
Many more apply different standards or ask different questions based on the background of the people pitching. More often than not this is because of unconscious bias and pattern matching.
Not only is this deeply unfair, but it’s created a huge unmet opportunity.
Building networks and finding more transparent ways to evaluate opportunities are crucial to removing the inequity in investment. I implore investors to start thinking about how startups they’ve backed were able to reach them.
The Pitch community
Thanks to the founders that took the time to talk to me about this. It’s helped me understand the situation and where we can start making changes. Bear with us. We’ll keep talking, learning and improving what we do.
We’re looking for investors that want to judge our pitching events. We want judges and mentors that come from minority backgrounds. It would be great to hear more feedback about what we’re doing too.