When we launched Sixth Sense – our open innovation platform for scaling start-ups – there was one message in particular that I was keen to get out there. We’re looking for diverse founders to join us – those from underrepresented communities. Of course, this makes good business sense. But for me, it’s personal.
I am the adoptive father to a black girl. When I look at the stats I’m worried – only 2% of venture capital is given to female-owned companies and less than 1% goes to black-owned companies. Where does this leave my daughter when she grows up, the math isn’t great.
Hidden bias is a dangerous thing and it’s so common – we all have some sort of it. We hire people that look like us without even thinking. As a leader, you’ve got to understand your limitations, and act. As head of Sixth Sense, I’m in a position to do something about it, so I must try.
My personal reasons for acting are just one side of the story. It’s a proven fact that diverse organisations are more innovative. If you have a homogeneous group, everyone agrees with each other. There is no dissent, there’s no opinion, no discussion. If you create a body of diverse people, that tends to bring you better innovation and better results because you tend to address things from a different angle.
The stats are pretty persuasive here too. Boston Consulting Group found that for every dollar of investment raised, start-ups with at least one female founder produced 78 cents in revenue compared with 31 cents by all-male run start-ups. Meanwhile, companies with racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to perform at a higher level and have increased ROI.
When you look at the manufacturing landscape, there seems to be a ceiling for people from underrepresented communities. We need to change that. Gone are the days when you could say ‘we couldn’t find a qualified women or person of colour.’ Nowadays that’s a cop out. We have got to work harder to find a diverse line-up of qualified candidates.
It’s in our interest to change things. Of course, we launched the platform to supercharge scaling start-ups, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t expect them to supercharge us in return. Hexagon is a company that embraces innovation but mature companies like ours and constant innovation have a hard time mixing – it’s difficult to be experimental. But if you bring a dynamic group of people together, share your resources and tools, you’ll hopefully get dynamic outputs. Diversity is key to that.
So we want to hear from you and see if we can create something transformative together. As well as create space for the next generation of diverse founders and leaders. It’s a double win.