10 May 2016

Is diversity something to be tackled, confronted or embraced?

By Anna Hyde

How diverse are we? Ok, so this question wasn’t aimed at me, more at BGV, and the startups that come onto our accelerator programme.  However, I am probably not the best example to hold up as a reflection of our diversity – I am white, middle class, heterosexual, and have what I’m starting to see as a disconcertingly posh voice.  I am a woman though – does that count? I find it depressing that it should count at all, seeing as this supposedly diversifying characteristic happens to be shared by half of the people on this planet.

BGV does focus on diversity – we want to make sure that our accelerator isn’t a club for a particularly type of person, from a particular type of background.  But I struggle with the question of how we “tackle” diversity – it brings to mind an issue that needs to be wrestled with and overcome, whereas I think it’s something that needs to be confronted and embraced. The only way in which we can try and make sure that BGV is open to all, is to stay true to our values –  those of honesty, openness and being truly founder friendly.

28% of founders in our portfolio are female – that’s not a great percentage, but four of our eight cohorts have had 41% or more of the teams with female founders.  We are aiming to make it 50% for every cohort.  Our youngest founder has been 15 years old, the oldest has been 66. We wholly embrace the need for parents to be able to bring their kids into the office when childcare is scarce, and we try and make sure we have prayer spaces available in our office whenever needed.  Our founders might come from the best universities and top consultancies, or they might have no formal qualifications and credentials – it doesn’t matter to us, because we care more about their deep understanding of the problem and their ambition to solve it for millions of people.

I spent six years working in law firms – which I think might be some of the least diverse workplaces in existence – where most people were also white, middle-class, having studied at a handful of universities and starting their career in law at the age of 24.  Over the last year at BGV I have met such a plethora of interesting, varied people, with different skills and interests – it’s been truly eye opening, and a much happier, supportive environment in which to spend each day.  I can only hope for more diversity in the BGV cohorts, as with diversity in people and experiences, brings diversity of ideas and new innovations that will solve some of the toughest challenges we face in society today.

We’re embracing diversity at BGV.  We specifically encourage applications from women, ethnic minorities, and people who never thought they wanted to start a business, but they’ve got this crazy idea that just might change the world.

__________

Applications for our autumn programme are now open. If you’d like to talk to us about your idea or find out more about the programme then come along to one of our Q&A events on 18th May or 23rd May.