Diversity and Sustainability in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
Last Monday, June 28, 2021, Katrina Logie moderated a panel discussion on a very relevant topic for this generation, sustainability and diversity in terms of the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
As a young university student studying diversity and growing up in an age with a huge emphasis on how to create a more sustainable world for future generations, here were my four biggest takeaways from this discourse, with minimal spoilers!;)
Diversify your leadership
Both Jenny Fielding, Managing Director of Techstars NYC, and Katrin Bacic, CSO of Wayra Germany, emphasized the importance of diversifying your leadership. Diversity in your leadership causes a trickle down effect: if those choosing who to invest in are diverse in gender, racial background and culture, they will have connections to diverse startups. Jenny mentions that although she has a vast range of connections among female entrepreneurs, her male counterparts did not. Lucy Cooper, European Innovation Lead at Accenture says “you cannot have change without representation”.
Diversifying leadership will create a more diverse network, thus increasing innovation. Katrin explains to us that although her investors are 95% male, they set specific intentions of having 1/3 of the startups they invest in founded by females. They are intentionally diversifying their network to ensure that all communities are involved.
As mentioned before, it is important to diversify your leadership, which will in turn diversify the startups that are being invested in. However, not all companies have taken the initiative to do so, thus it can be quite intimidating to come into a white cisgender male dominated culture as a woman, person of color, and/or nonbinary entrepreneur. This is where the importance of mentorship comes into play. Micro-aggressions can play at you hard, breaking you down to the point of giving up, but mentorship can help to prevent the burnout. Andy Davis, through 10×10, a UK-based group of Black founders and VCs, helps to offer support to Black founders. He mentions the importance of being a supportive and encouraging voice, that something as simple as being there can help prevent this burnout. Communities within communities are immensely important!
Sustainability and innovation are not mutually exclusive
Katrin, with an extensive background in corporate business, explains that the collaboration between startups and corporations can increase innovation. Startups have new, innovative ideas that can inspire corporations to veer outside their traditional structure, allowing for more sustainable ideas to emerge. Lucy Cooper walks us through the many sustainability projects that she is partnered with that help to increase innovation in her company. Increasing diversity and making sustainability a priority allows entrepreneurs to open their minds to more ideas and concepts.
As Adeo Ressi, CEO of the Founder Institute, tells us “if you are not working towards making the planet a better place, you are working to make it a worse place”.