The tech startup world has a problem. It's diversity.
Walk into a startup accelerator and you can generally count on one hand the females or minorities in the room. Some of the most notable accelerators — Y Combinator and 500 Startups — have identified the same problem. What is going on?
Breaking down the problem
This is a complex problem to breakdown. STEM education and downright discrimination are logical places to start. But perhaps, there is something subtle going on as well. Hiring at startups is based on relationships.
I personally met my co-founder, Maya Tobias, through grad school — a safe environment in which you build trust before you build a business.
Power of trust
Trust is paramount in the startup world where the assets of a company are the few key employees and their synergistic output. To be sure, one bad early hire can sink a startup. So hiring (or trusting) someone from outside one’s network is risky business. Venture capitalists, the suppliers of capital to startups, take the logic of forming relationships to get funding quite seriously.
Bottom line: startup founders are more likely to hire people through their networks. And their networks tend to be homogenous.
Reframing the question
So let's reframe the question: how can we make startup founders’ networks less homogenous? Or, how can we get startup founders to form relationships with diverse talent? A preliminary answer: startup job fairs focused on diverse hiring.
Startup job fairs
On January 28th, Localwise is co-hosting the Berkeley Startup Job Fair to introduce high-growth startups to diverse talent. The event is hosted by NextSpace and put on in partnership with Berkeley’s Economic Development Office, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, Women Who Code, #YesWeCode, and many other awesome non-profits.
Truth be told, the Berkeley Startup Job Fair is an experiment. Like any good experiment, we’ll track data and see if the event helped more diverse talent get hired by startups. We are positive about one thing — if you are looking for the top startup & technology companies hiring now, you need to be at this event.
I am not claiming that one job fair (or even 1,000 job fairs) solves the diversity in tech problem. I am claiming that it is a step in the right direction. A step that is anchored in action instead of talk. We’ll leave the talking to the diverse talent and participating startups at the Berkeley Startup Job Fair.