How Fast 50 raises the bar even higher with diversity

It’s about being able to recognize oneself in it. If you see a little difference on stage every year, you can quickly think as a member of an under-represented group: This is not a place for me. So just decide not to sign up.

While they are there, says entrepreneur and investor Janneke Niessen, who has worked through CapitalT for more than 10 years for greater inclusiveness in the tech sector. “I honestly do not understand how one manages to invest only in the same target group of white men over and over again.

If we look at our agreement flow, it is extremely diverse. But we are making an effort. And then it’s about more than just man / woman, also ethnicity, background or age. So it’s really about diversity in the broadest sense of the word. ‘

And, she emphasizes once again: “Without any admission of quality. Really zero. We still invest only in the very best entrepreneurs. I just think we’re looking a little harder than most. ‘

Symbolic capital

She receives support from the business incubator Ruben Bravewho has been involved in all kinds of internet initiatives in the Netherlands since the 1990s, and who recently conducted an exploration for the Ministry of Economy and Climate in diversity in the start-up world, where they interviewed more than 250 entrepreneurs from all kinds of backgrounds.

“On the one hand, this showed that there is still a lot of stigma and stereotyping, as well as certain exclusionary mechanisms. In short, not all entrepreneurs are taken equally seriously. In addition, it seems to be not only the case when it comes to financial capital, but also social capital, in other words: accessing promising networks that can help you build a business. And it’s also about symbolic capital. In other words: get honorable visibility for what you do. ‘

He sees an important role for initiatives such as Deloitte Technology Fast 50a business competition that not only presents itself as a ranking of fast-growing tech companies, but also increasingly develops into a strong network for all (former) participants.

“In fact, from personal experience, I can emphasize its importance,” Brave continues. ‘One of my first start-ups was nominated twice as a Rising Star at the beginning of this century. It gave me a lot of business and in the end I was able to sell that business. So I know exactly how important those kinds of competitions and networks are to be able to give visibility to under-represented groups in a serious way. ‘

Diversity and inclusivity: This year’s theme

Diversity and spaciousness have been chosen as the main theme for this year’s competition. And it has to do not only with the social attention of the subject, says Ivo Meij† ‘We’ve actually seen for a number of years that they often come from the same corner when signing up for Fast 50 and Rising Stars.

In fact, we all believe that things can be done differently, better. Therefore, we asked Ruben and Janneke to think with us about how to change it. Because it’s actually completely wild that more than 90% of white men end up on stage, so we want to do more for target groups, which we usually have a little more difficulty reaching.

Also because we often hear how amazing a scene this is. Not only to introduce you to investors, but also to build a network. And of course for your whole team, who usually find it a great outing to really feel the pride of the company. ‘

Diversity in the jury

It is therefore also important that someone like Janneke Niessen sits on the jury, says Brave. ‘Diversity among your participants starts with diversity in your jury. It may be a little complicated, but the bottom line is that you are using subconscious knowledge. It is only when you see it in front of you that you realize how important it is. And depending on your background, you are able to apply the unconscious knowledge.

That is why diversity in the jury is so important. Because then other qualities are immediately seen in the participants. Things like empathy and perseverance. If you start mentioning such qualities more often, you get an attractive movement for companies other than just the standard companies. ‘

Inspirational stories for recognition

According to Brave, it is especially important to keep telling inspirational stories, ‘so that people can identify with them’. He even throws a few pieces out of his sleeve. such of Mona Lisa Goswamichemist from India who – in short – as a PhD student at the Dutch university discovered how wasteful we are with expensive equipment, and as a result created Spark 904, which now, among other things, allows SMEs to accelerate their innovation.

Or that of Sofia Nabila Echadlica virtual gamer who first hacked and after she was caught one ethical hacker became. ‘There she got Shell as her biggest customer, came to Holland, where she founded the now fast-growing consulting firm UNA collective, as well as the cyber security company Athenorm intelligence and Gender Equality Impact, a company that offers data-driven tools that help fight prejudice in the world recruitment process. Her story is almost like a movie. It shows nicely that you can achieve a lot through the different perspective, from a gamer and a hacker. Very inspiring.’

Brave even advocates a ‘Inspirational story category ‘ to consider on Fast 50. Realistic or not, Niessen says he recognizes much in his prayer. ‘We try to look very data-driven at the teams we invest in,’ she says.

‘In the model we use for this, it appearsgravel“very important. In other words: a combination of determination, courage, passion and perseverance. And that quality is often seen in people who need more. They are not the ones who write their idea on a napkin and thus already bring in millions. It is the people who have to fight harder for their idea. ‘

The importance of diversity

The importance of diversity has been known for some time. That’s how we know it Harvard research that cognitive diversity leads to faster problem solving. And McKinsey showed that firms with a more diverse workforce make better decisions more quickly and, as a result – in the long run – achieve better financial results. HR guru Josh Bersin also showed that diversity in the workplace leads to more innovation, and that inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market.

Diversity bonus

‘We are therefore not in favor of companies with, for example, only women, or people with a migration background,’ says Niessen. ‘It’s all about that mix.’ The “diversity bonus”, as it is also called, complements Brave.

‘We also always ask the participants in Rising Star’, says Niessen. “It’s not always the teams like it. Sometimes they really sink through the ice. Two years ago we had an entrepreneur who said the subject was really important.” But they just don’t apply. “It was an entrepreneur who ‘already employed maybe 100 people. Well, then you have not fully understood it yet. And then we asked some further questions about it.’

A diverse team also creates access to other social capital, she adds. And as a newcomer, you have to keep an eye on that from the start, she emphasizes. ‘Because if you do it right in the beginning, it’s a lot easier than if you’re already very big and then have to fix it.’

What is needed for diversity among applicants?

But then the key question is: what exactly do they think is needed to increase diversity among applicants? ‘I think we should explicitly ask about it more often in companies where Fast 50 may not yet be known,’ says Niessen. “Give them a little more push. Then you can Imposter syndrome break through that they think they do not deserve it ‘.

You always keep a group that thinks the whole thing is nonsense, she says. ‘But we should focus on the group that cares about the subject. There are also more and more from the over-represented groups who want it to change and see why it is important. It’s not about lower the rodbut only because to raise the bar† By making sure everyone has equal opportunities, you get even more talent to stand out. ‘

Diversity and inclusiveness lead to more innovation and better results

‘It is to raise the bar“Absolutely,” Brave confirms, too. “It’s not just about wanting to do something good. I truly believe that social equality comes through economic equality. And that diversity and inclusiveness lead to more innovation and better results. So do not put it aside, but make it a variable if you look at the overall quality of a company.

‘We want to appeal to as many people as possible. That they feel heard and would like to participate in this network ‘, says Meij. ‘Because we’re really seen companies in this network grow faster than others. Precisely because they can use the entire network. And if you manage to make that group more diverse, you can also learn more from each other. ‘

Important work, Brave emphasizes once again. In terms of diversity, many companies still have a lot of work to do. If you can make a competition like Fast 50 more diverse, it creates trust. Then more entrepreneurs will come out of their shell and they will sign up too. Then they no longer need Ruben Brave, but it will happen automatically. Because then they see the added value ‘.

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