Dear Sophie: What is a diversity green card and how do I apply for one?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I started a tech company about two years ago, and ever since I’ve dreamed of expanding my company in the United States.

I would love to have a green card. Someone mentioned that I should apply for a diversity green card. Would you please provide me with more details about it and how to apply?

— Technical in Tanzania

Dear Technical,

As a startup founder from Tanzania, you have several immigration options available to you, including the Diversity Immigrant Visa (green card) Program.

My law partner, Anita Koumriqian, and I recently discussed the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) on a podcast episode. Take a listen for how to apply and tips for applying. Each year, the U.S. Department of State, which oversees the DV Program, reserves 50,000 green cards for individuals born in countries that have low rates of immigration to the United States. The State Department publishes instructions each year, which includes the countries whose natives are eligible to register for the annual diversity lottery. Here is the latest version.

How does the diversity lottery work?

You must register online in the fall — usually from early October through early November — for the annual random lottery by completing the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form (DS-5501). There is no cost to register for the lottery, but be aware that you will be automatically disqualified if you register yourself more than once, and incomplete forms will not be accepted.

Once you complete the online registration form, you will get a confirmation number. Do not lose this number! It is the only way to access the online system that will tell you whether you were selected in the lottery and are eligible to submit a green card application. In May, registrants can log into the online system to find out whether they’ve been selected. No notification will be sent by email or snail mail; checking online by entering your confirmation code is the only way to find out. After you enter your confirmation code online, you will receive a diversity visa number, which you will use to determine when you can file your green card application.

#africa, #column, #dear-sophie, #diversity, #ec-column, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #lawyers, #nigeria, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #tanzania, #tc, #u-s-department-of-state, #united-states, #verified-experts


Blendoor data lets you know if companies are living up to diversity pledges

Many companies talk the talk when it comes to diversity, but it’s harder to know if a firm is actually going the extra mile to hire more qualified people from underrepresented groups, or if they just make noise about it. Blendoor, a six-year-old startup, wants to put data to work on the problem by giving companies a score based on publicly available data to let the world know just how diverse a company actually is.

Blendoor founder and CEO Stephanie Lampkin says that when she launched the company, it was more focused on finding qualified diverse candidates by mitigating unconscious bias in the hiring process. That involved removing name, age, gender or any other indications that could potentially create bias and just let the person’s work record stand on its own. She said that the startup targeted companies that had made public DEI pledges as a natural place to start.

As the company directed its efforts in this direction, however, Lampkin says that it quickly became apparent that the public positioning of a company, and how it directed its hiring resources, were often two different things, and she decided to switch focus. “So we decided to create an index, a credit score, and we pulled in a ton of data from their diversity reports, their EEO One forms if they publish them and all of this buzz around different pledges and investments and partnerships, etc.,” Lampkin told me.

She then took this data and structured it, normalized it and built an algorithm that could dynamically score companies much the same way that our credit rating or security scorecards work and make that information public.

She said the George Floyd killing was a turning point for her and the company. “When George Floyd [was killed] and I saw this resurgence of the diversity pledge, I decided that I don’t want to play in this diversity theater anymore and just be another check-the-box-solution that companies are using to demonstrate that they care,” she said.

She added, “So we decided to double down on BlendScore and in doing so hold companies accountable for all of these big financial commitments that they’re making in order to track the deployment of that capital, but also the downstream effects in terms of their hiring, retention, promotion rates, compensation equality, etc.”

That culminated in a report the company recent published looking at the data and finding that companies’ public stance doesn’t always match its public face, especially with pledges following Floyd’s death. “My initial purpose was to demonstrate if there is a negative correlation between pledges and performance — and the only area where we found that to be true was with Black employees versus Black Lives Matter pledges.” She says that everywhere else there was pretty consistent positive correlation around companies that said they wanted to improve in areas like gender diversity and pay equality, and those that were actually doing that.

In terms of making money, Lampkin says that she wants to focus on helping companies with governance when it comes to diversity pledges, especially for public companies, which will have to answer to a variety of constituencies, from investors to consumers. She also believes that their approach to measuring diversity will also increasingly have an impact on who wants to work at a company and the ability to attract the best talent.

She says that if people are insisting on making diversity a political stance, she’s going to focus on diversity as a fiduciary responsibility. While it may be good for society as a natural byproduct of that, some companies only see it through that governance lens, and if that’s the case, she intends to work that angle.

“I’m doubling down on ESG and fiduciary responsibility. No more talk about what’s good for a society. [It doesn’t matter] what you believe is good for society. This is now about risk management and ESG,” she said.

So far the company has 13 employees and she reports she’s raised about $1.7 million. She acknowledges raising money is a challenge, especially for a Black woman founder. It’s worth noting that fewer than 100 Black women have ever raised more than $1 million as of last year.

“It’s been really challenging. We’ve had to just survive off revenue, and think in part it’s because we sit at the intersection of social activism and for-profit venture, when a lot of investors are like Marc Andreessen they don’t see a path [for Stakeholder Capitalism], but I think that’s changing and the investor community claims to be on board for more impact investing, so we’ll see.”

#blendoor, #diversity, #diversity-and-inclusion, #esg, #governance, #startups, #stephanie-lampkin, #tc, #techcrunch-include


4 women in engineering discuss harassment, isolation and perseverence

Women engineers often face workplace and career challenges that their male colleagues don’t because they remain a minority in the profession: Depending on how you count, women make up just 13% to 25% of engineering jobs. That inequity leads to a power imbalance, which can lead to toxic working environments.

One of the more infamous and egregious examples is Susan Fowler’s experience at Uber. In a blog post in February 2017, she described her boss coming on to her in a company chat channel on her first day on the job. She later wrote a book, “Whistleblower,” that described her time at the company in detail.

Fowler’s ordeal cast a spotlight on the harassment women engineers have to deal with in the workplace. In a profession that tends to be male-dominated, behavior ranges from blatant examples, like what happened to Fowler, to ongoing daily microaggressions.

Four female engineers spoke with me about their challenges:

  • Tammy Butow, principal software reliability engineer (SRE) at Gremlin
  • Rona Chong, software engineer at Grove Collaborative
  • Ana Medina, senior chaos engineer at Gremlin
  • Yury Roa, SRE technical program manager at ADL Digital Labs in Bogota, Colombia

It’s worth noting that Fowler was also an SRE who worked on the same team as Medina (who was later part of a $10 million discrimination lawsuit against Uber). It shows just how small of a world we are talking about. While not everyone faced that level of harassment, they each described daily challenges, some of which wore them down. But they also showed a strong determination to overcome whatever obstacles came their way.

Feeling isolated

One of the primary issues these women faced throughout their careers is a feeling of isolation due to their underrepresentation. They say that can sometimes lead to self-doubt and an inkling that you don’t belong that can be difficult to overcome. Medina says that there have been times when, intentionally or not, male engineers made her feel unwelcome.

“One part that was really hard for me was those microaggressions on a daily basis, and that affects your work ethic, wanting to show up, wanting to try your best. And not only does that damage your own self-esteem, but your esteem [in terms of] growing as an engineer,” Medina explained.

Roa says that isolation can lead to impostor syndrome. That’s why it’s so important to have more women in these roles: to serve as mentors, role models and peers.

“One barrier for us related to being the only woman in the room is that [it can lead to] impostor syndrome because it is common when you are the only woman or one of few, it can be really challenging for us. So we need to gain confidence, and in these cases, it is very important to have role models and leadership that includes women,” Roa said.

Chong agrees it is essential to know that others have been in the same position — and found a way through.

“The fact that people talk authentically about their own jobs and challenges and how they’ve overcome that, that’s been really helpful for me to continue seeing myself in the tech industry,” she said. “There have been points where I’ve questioned whether I should Ieave, but then having that support around you to have people to talk to you personally and see as examples, I think it has really helped me.”

Butow described being interviewed for an article early in her career after she won an award for a mobile application she wrote.  When the article was published, she was aghast to discover it had been headlined, “Not just another pretty face…”

“I was like, that’s the title?! I was so excited to share the article with my mom, and then I wasn’t. I spent so much time writing the code and obviously my face had nothing to do with it. … So there’s just little things like that where people call it a paper cut or something like that, but it’s just lots of little microaggressions.”

Pushing through

In spite of all that, a common thread among these women was a strong desire to show that they have the technical skill to get past these moments of doubt to thrive in their professions.

Butow said she has been battling these kinds of misperceptions since she was a teenager but never let it stop her. “I just tried to not let it bother me, but mostly because I also have a background in skateboarding. It’s the same thing, right? You go to a skate park and people would say, ‘Oh, can you even do a trick?’ and I was like, ‘Watch me.’ You know, I [would] just do it. … So a lot of that happens in lots of different types of places in the world and you just have to, I don’t know, I just always push through, like I’m just going to do it anyway.”

Chong says she doesn’t give in to discouraging feelings, adding that having other women to talk to helped push her through those times.

“As much as I like to persevere and I don’t like giving up, actually there have been points where I considered quitting, but having visibility into other people’s experiences, knowing that you’re not the only one who’s experienced that, and seeing that they’ve found better environments for themselves and that they eventually worked through it, and having those people tell you that they believe in you, that probably stopped me from leaving when I [might] have otherwise,” she said.

Women helping women

Chong’s experience is not unique, but the more diverse your teams are, the more people who come from underrepresented groups can support one another. Butow recruited her at one point, and she says that was a huge moment for her.

“I think that there is a network effect where we know other women and we try to bring them in and we expand on that. So we can kind of create the change or we feel the change we want to see, and we get to make our situation more comfortable,” Chong said.

Medina says that she is motivated to help bring Latinx and Black people into tech, with a focus on attracting girls and young women. She has worked with a group called Technolachicas, which produced a series of commercials with the Televisa Foundation. They filmed six videos, three in English and three in Spanish, with the goal of showing young girls how to pursue a STEM career.

“Each commercial talks about how we got our career started with an audience persona of a girl younger than 18, an adult influencer and a parent — people that are really crucial to the development of anyone under 18,” she said. “How is it that these people can actually empower someone to look at STEM and to pursue a career in STEM?”

Butow says it’s about lifting people up. “What we’re trying to do is sharing our story and hoping to inspire other women. It’s super important to have those role models. There’s a lot of research that shows that that’s actually the most important thing is just visibility of role models that you can relate to,” she said.

The ultimate goal? Having enough support in the workplace that they’re able to concentrate on being the best engineers they can be — without all of the obstruction.

#developer, #diversity, #diversity-and-inclusion, #labor, #racism, #sexism, #software-engineer, #startups, #susan-fowler, #uber


Google shares its $2M Black Founders Fund among 30 European startups

Google has selected 30 startups to receive a share of its $2M Black Founders Fund in Europe, providing these companies with a spot of cash, some valuable cloud services, and a bit of good old-fashioned networking among the Google crew.

The fund was announced last fall as part of a company-wide effort towards “building a more equitable future for everyone,” alongside grants and new sponsorships. Over 800 companies applied and Google interviewed 100 of them, ultimately winnowing that down to the 30 announced today.

Each company will receive “up to” $100K in non-dilutive funding, and up to $120K in Ads grants and $100K in Cloud credits. (I’ve asked Google for more details on how the fund was divided, and if any company received this full amount. I’ll update if I hear back.)

They’ll also get access to Google’s entrepreneurial network, tech support, and some other assets that don’t have hard numbers associated with them.

All the startups are led by black founders, and 40 percent by women of color. One of the latter is Nancy de Fays, co-founder of LINE, which makes these cool battery-hub combos for the MacBook “Pro” that add a ton of ports and battery life and look sweet to boot. I’ve learned a lot chatting with her at trade shows, and regret that I do most of my work at a desktop so I don’t have an excuse to use one of the company’s gadgets.

In response to being selected for Google funding, de Fays penned a blog post exhorting corporations to throw their weight around in favor of social change, and for startups to lead the way in diversity and equity.

We buy values and standards more than we buy the product itself. We buy ideals of life more than the actual features. Putting the these two parameters in the equation – the capability of big corps to shout loud, and consumers’ receptiveness to brands values and messages – it does make sense to me that to drive such a society change, big companies should voice and convey strong messages.

Founders need to build diverse teams without falling into compassion fatigue. They must show empathy and respect and bring onboard the best talents. Period. They need to be outspoken about their values, convey a strong, global mindset and build their organisation around them. And if they find themselves scoring low on diversity along the way, they should question themselves on the why and act on it without doing charity.

It’s something of a counterpoint to the idea, also commonly expressed these days, that companies should be mission-focused and objective.

Here are the other 29 companies that Google will be giving a boost to (descriptions taken from the blog post):

  • Afrocenchix – Afrocenchix formulate, manufacture, and sell safe, effective products for afro and curly hair.
  • AudioMob – AudioMob provides non-intrusive audio ads within mobile games.
  • Augmize – Augmize builds risk models for property and casualty insurers using interpretable machine learning.
  • Axela Innovation – Axela Innovations created a smart platform that joins up care services and puts the person receiving care at the center of the process.
  • Bosque – Bosque is the first tech-enabled, direct-to-consumer plant brand in Europe with digitized inventory, AR tech, and on-demand access to vetted plant experts.
  • Circuit Mind Limited – Circuit Mind is building intelligent software that fully automates the design of electronic circuit systems.
  • Clustdoc – Clustdoc is client onboarding automation software used by organizations and teams around the world.
  • Contingent – Contingent is an AI platform that proactively predicts, monitors, and manages supplier risk.
  • Define – Define is a legal technology company that optimizes the contract drafting and reviewing process for lawyers, serving the world’s largest banks and consulting companies.
  • Freyda – Freyda is digitizing the asset management industry by helping funds and service providers to become hyper-efficient in how they approach their data capture from documents.
  • Heex Technologies – Heex Technologies provides AI-powered software and web services to development teams in data-intensive fields such as autonomous driving.
  • HomeHero – HomeHero is an operating system for the house, making running a home simple and easy.
  • Hutch Logistics – Hutch Logistics is a fulfilment and operating system for e-commerce brands.
  • iknowa – iknowa is an end-to-end building and renovation platform for property owners and tradespeople.
  • Kami – Kami empowers parents during family planning, pregnancy and childhood, allowing them to adapt and thrive through even the most difficult transitions.
  • Kwara – Kwara makes building wealth together frictionless, by turning analog credit unions in emerging markets into modern digital banks.
  • Lalaland – Lalaland uses AI to create synthetic humans for fashion eCommerce brands to increase diversity in retail.
  • Modularity Grid – Modularity Grid is an AI platform that makes energy systems more efficient and resilient.
  • Movemeback – Movemeback (often referred to as “the Linkedin of Africa”) is a global social professional platform, connecting people to opportunities, insights, and people they don’t have access to.
  • Playbrush – Playbrush is the innovation leader in oral care, growing smart toothbrush subscriptions to foster better mouth and body health.
  • Remote Coach – Remote Coach is a platform providing technology for personal trainers and fitness influencers to digitize and grow their businesses.
  • Robin AI – Robin AI uses a combination of human and artificial intelligence to read and edit contracts.
  • Scoodle – Scoodle is a platform for education influencers. Everyone has something they want to learn and something they can teach—we bring both sides together.
  • Suvera – Suvera delivers a virtual care clinic for patients with long-term conditions in the UK.
  • Syrona Health – Syrona is a digital health Company providing tracking, treatment, and management solutions for people with chronic gynecological conditions.
  • Tradein – Tradein is a real-time scoring and prediction of business payment behavior and solvency.
  • Vanilla Steel – Vanilla Steel offers a digital auctions platform for excess steel that provides sellers a simple inventory management process for excess material.
  • Wild Radish – Wild Radish enables people who love food and cooking to engage in Michelin-quality, unique, cooking and dining experiences at home.
  • Xtramile – Xtramile is a data-driven platform that delivers the right job to the right candidate anywhere online.

Feels like we’ll be hearing from most of these folks again. You can find out more about Google’s startup programs here.

#diversity, #funding, #fundings-exits, #google, #line, #linedock, #tc


Dear Sophie: How does International Entrepreneur Parole work for startup founder immigration?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I’ve been hearing a lot about International Entrepreneur Parole lately. I’m wondering if both my co-founder, who is currently on an H-1B that we’re in the process of transferring to our startup, and an employee on STEM OPT, who we’re making a co-founder, would be eligible to apply. How does parole work and how long does it take?

Also, we are close to securing $200,000 in investments. Do we have to raise another $50,000 to sponsor someone for parole?

— Looking for Answers in Los Altos

Dear Looking,

Thanks for reaching out to me with your International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) questions! What makes IEP so exciting is its flexibility: Up to three co-founders of a startup can self-petition for IEP, which means they don’t need an employer sponsor. Unlike an H-1B or another work visa, this is great because the applicant can be the boss of the company. Moreover, if your startup has raised less than $250,000, your team can still qualify for IEP by submitting evidence of your startup’s potential for rapid growth and job creation. Take a listen to my podcast episode on IEP, which goes over the process for applying and answers some of the most frequently asked questions that I receive.

If your co-founders pursue IEP, I highly recommend, as usual, that they work with an immigration attorney. It’s especially important here because the stakes are so high for your company and because this is a new program, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officers have little experience reviewing IEP applications. Additionally, your startup’s fundraising falls short of $250,000 from U.S. investors, so you’ll need strong legal arguments about your qualifications.

How new is this program? Well, it already has a lot of history. Even though IEP has been available since 2017, the previous administration had unsuccessfully tried to eliminate it. Only recently did the Department of Homeland Security withdraw the proposal to rescind the IEP program, which has been available since 2017, and the the Biden administration announced it would fully implement it.

A 2020 Congressional Research Report on “Immigration Parole” noted that USCIS had received 28 IEP applications from the time it began them through February 10, 2020. Of those, only one was approved, 22 were denied, three were withdrawn and two were pending.

We don’t know exactly how long USCIS will take to make a determination on IEP applications — and USCIS said in a recent stakeholder meeting that there is no processing time yet. My law firm is in the process of submitting several applications on behalf of clients and hope to have decisions soon. We’ll keep you posted!

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

How parole works

The secretary of Homeland Security and agencies within Homeland Security, including USCIS and Customs and Border Patrol, have the ability to grant parole, which allows entry to and a temporary stay in the United States. Parole has traditionally been granted for urgent humanitarian reasons, such as to persecuted refugees or those seeking medical treatment in the U.S., or to serve a public benefit, such as providing disaster assistance, cooperating with law enforcement or testifying at a trial.

Created by the Obama administration after Congress failed to create a startup visa, IEP allows entrepreneurs who provide a “significant public benefit” by creating jobs for American workers and expanding the U.S. economy to temporarily stay in the U.S. to grow their startup. If USCIS approves an IEP application, the entrepreneur will receive a parole document that is valid initially for 30 months.

Parole is not a non-immigrant (temporary) visa status, which means your co-founders cannot simply file to change their status from an H-1B or F-1 to IEP while living in the U.S. To be granted parole, your founders must leave the U.S. and reenter and get a stamp by a border officer to be “paroled” into the U.S.

If an entrepreneur is approved for IEP, then their spouse and dependent children (unmarried and under 21 years) are also eligible for parole during that same period. Once they arrive in the U.S., spouses are eligible to file for a work permit that would allow them to get a job or start their own business.

IEP eligibility requirements

To qualify for IEP, each of your co-founders will need to show that:

  • Your startup is a U.S. corporation that is less than five years old.
  • They have at least a 10% ownership stake in the startup.
  • They are central to and play an active role in the startup. I recommend that your co-founders have a C-suite title, such as chief executive officer, chief operations officer or chief technology officer, and/or a senior-level title, such as president.
  • Your startup has received at least $250,000 from qualified U.S. investors or at least $100,000 in grants or awards from federal, state or local governments.

If your startup has only received $200,000, your co-founders will need to provide compelling evidence of your company’s potential for rapid growth and job creation, such as its users or customers, revenue, social impact, far reaching or national scope, or positive local or regional effects. Your attorney can support you with these legal arguments.

To extend IEP for another 30 months, your co-founders will need to show that:

  • They continue to play a central and active role with the company.
  • They have at least a 5% ownership stake.

And one of the following:

  • Your startup has received at least $500,000 from qualified investments and/or qualified government grants or awards.
  • Your startup has created at least five full-time jobs with the startup entity during the initial parole period.
  • Your startup has at least $500,000 in annual revenue in the United States and averaged 20% in annual revenue growth during the initial parole period.

If your startup entity partially meets funding, job creation or annual revenue criteria, your co-founders must provide compelling evidence that the startup entity continues to show substantial potential for rapid growth and job creation with the support of your attorney.

Although there is no wage requirement under the IEP program (like there is for H-1B visa), each of your co-founders will need to have a household income that is greater than 400% of the federal poverty line for their household size as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services. For example, based on today’s requirements, a family of four would need to have a household income of more than $106,000.

My hope is that by the time your co-founders are ready to extend their IEP, there will already be new laws in place for a startup visa and green card pathway for startup founders. I was honored to work on this draft legislation with Jeff Farrah of the National Venture Capital Association, and hopefully we’ll see some announcements soon!

Good luck!


Have a question for Sophie? Ask it here. We reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity and/or space.

The information provided in “Dear Sophie” is general information and not legal advice. For more information on the limitations of “Dear Sophie,” please view our full disclaimer. You can contact Sophie directly at Alcorn Immigration Law.

Sophie’s podcast, Immigration Law for Tech Startups, is available on all major platforms. If you’d like to be a guest, she’s accepting applications!

#column, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #international-entrepreneur-rule, #labor, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startup-visa, #startups, #verified-experts


Synctera raises $33M Series A to pair fintechs with banks

Synctera, which aims to serve as a matchmaker for community banks and fintechs, has raised $33 million in a Series A round of funding led by Fin VC.

The raise comes just under six months after the fintech raised $12.4 million in a seed round of funding.

New investors Mastercard and Gaingels also participated in the latest round, which included follow-on investments from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Diagram Ventures, SciFi Ventures and Scribble Ventures. Several angel investors put money in the Series A including Omri Dahan, Marqeta’s Chief Revenue Officer, Feedzai Chairman and CEO Nuno Sebastiao and Greenlight co-founder and CEO Tim Sheehan. 

Alongside the Series A, Synctera is also announcing its commitment to the new Cap Table Coalition – which includes funding from Gaingels, Neythri Futures Fund, Plexo Capital and over 20 angels – alongside other startups by allocating 10% of all funding rounds to “traditionally marginalized,” or underrepresented, investors via an SPV. (Fellow fintech Finix led the initiative earlier this year before forming this coalition but more on that later).

“This has exposed us to find great folks who we otherwise might not have known,” said Synctera’s co-founder and CEO Peter Hazlehurst. “That’s why we pledge to reserve 10% of this round and all future rounds to diverse investors.”

In a nutshell, San Francisco-based Synctera has developed a platform designed to help facilitate partnership banking. It was founded on the premise that some community banks and credit unions are actually turning down deals with young fintechs because the relationships can be too complicated or time-consuming to manage. Synctera’s goal is to connect community banks and fintechs to streamline the process with its “Banking-as-a-Service” (BaaS) platform.

TechCrunch recently caught up with Hazlehurst, who most recently served as former head of Uber Money and previously also led development of Google Wallet and products related to its payments system.

Put simply, Synctera wants to make it easier for community banks and fintechs to partner with each other. It examines banks’ needs and then sets them up with a fintech that is best suited to meet those needs. It claims to “do the work for both parties,” managing the partnership from its back-end platform, while dealing with issues like regulatory compliance, which can be a deterrent for some companies. The process of managing, reconciling and billing banks can result in “a lot of operational overhead and complexity,” according to the company.

The company says it’s built a “diverse” marketplace of banks and fintech companies so that it can apply a “personalized touch to each match” and make sure that the parties “align on geography, brand ethos, and desired business goals.”

So far, Synctera has signed three banks with plans to sign on three more this month. The startup has already paired Coastal Community Bank – a local bank serving the greater Puget Sound community – with One, a new digital banking platform, and Ellevest, a new fintech. 

By using Synctera’s platform, the company claims, banks can more freely allow their fintech counterparts to offer FDIC-insured mobile checking, debit cards, savings accounts or innovations in payments to their prospective customers, the company claims. They can also make more money doing so, Hazlehurst said, by bringing in more revenue beyond interchange fees.

“Like most small businesses, community banks have been hit hard by COVID-19,” he added. “We hope to further diversify community banks’ revenue streams.”

Banks can also more easily manage multiple relationships with various fintechs as the companies agree to adopt Synctera’s tech stack, the company claims.

“We build a single dashboard for a bank, so there’s a consolidated position across all fintechs,” Hazlehurst told me at the time of the company’s last raise. “It’s all about visibility for the bank.”

Currently Synctera has about 50 employees, including about two dozen engineers, most of whom are located in Canada, Hazlehurst said. The company plans to ramp up to 160 employees by year’s end with a focus on engineering, sales, marketing and customer success staff.

Looking ahead, Hazlehurst predicts that the fourth quarter will be “all about support for small business fintechs.”

“We want to create a neobank for gig economy workers, and want to add lending as a service,” he said. “But our next big phase is to onboard a lot of fintechs, and learn from them.”

Logan Allin, managing general partner and founder at Fin VC, believes that Banking-as-a-Service in general will transform legacy national and regional banks, credit unions, fintecs, corporate tech and retailers alike “as these players either seek to vertically integrate financial services or accelerate their digitization process.”

Synctera, he adds, has taken an approach with its tech stack that allows for integration with legacy community banks and their respective cores. This, Allin believes, will help ensure a “cloud native and scalable model” and made it an attractive investment. (Fin VC has also backed the likes of other fintechs such as Pipe and SoFi).

“Synctera’s peers are simply abstracting bank cores and serving as ‘API wrappers’ in a kludgy short-term approach and having come from the legacy bank and modern fintech worlds, we recognized that these players had not built sufficiently strong bridges across the ecosystem,” Allin told TechCrunch.

For his part, Finix Founder Richie Serna is thrilled that other startups are following his lead in the pledge to make their cap tables more diverse.

“After Finix announced our special purpose vehicle for Black and Latinx investors, the response was overwhelmingly positive,” he told TechCrunch. “Startups in every sector and at every stage have asked us how to recreate our SPV. In response, we started the Cap Table Coalition to make it as easy as possible for more high-growth startups, like Synctera, to take control over their cap tables,” said Richie Serna, CEO and co-founder of Finix. “We see this as an inflection point that will completely upend how the VC world functions.”

Meanwhile, Synctera is not the only player trying to help banks and fintechs forge partnerships. Last week, TechCrunch reported on Visa said it has expanded its Visa Fintech Partner Connect program, which is designed to help financial institutions quickly connect with a “vetted and curated” set of technology providers. 

#api, #articles, #bank, #banking-as-a-service, #canada, #diversity, #economy, #fdic, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #finix, #fintech, #founder, #funding, #fundings-exits, #google, #greenlight, #head, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #marqeta, #mastercard, #peter-hazlehurst, #player, #plexo-capital, #recent-funding, #richie-serna, #san-francisco, #startup, #startups, #uber, #venture-capital


The exit effect: 4 ways IPOs and acquisitions drive positive change across the global ecosystem

For many VCs, the exit is the endgame; you cash in and move on. But as we know, the startup world is evolving, and that means the impact of investment is no longer limited to how much money is made.

As investors, we’re looking further into what each investment means to human beings, at interlinking our mission with our money. And yet, one of the events that generates the most momentum for long-term impact — the successful exit of a portfolio company — is not being harnessed.

When leveraged properly, an exit can be the beginning of a firm’s true impact, especially when we’re talking about giving all founders equal opportunities and empowering the best ideas. The investment sphere is slowly shaking off its “America first” approach as foreign products take the world by storm and international businesses become the norm.

When leveraged properly, an exit can be the beginning of a firm’s true impact, especially when we’re talking about giving all founders equal opportunities and empowering the best ideas.

Investors will be driving forces in enabling the highest-potential companies to build products that countries everywhere will benefit from — no matter where they were conceived. The way they play the game can transform the industry into one in which a founder from across the ocean has as much of a chance to change the world as one from next door.

We know the basics of how to do this with cash: Investing in underrepresented founders is a necessary first step. But who’s talking about the power of exits to change the playing field for diverse founders? We must consider the psychological motivation of seeing a huge buyout on other entrepreneurs, what that startup’s ex-team members go on to build, and what the achievements of one citizen does for that nation’s reputation.

Last year, 41 venture-backed companies saw a billion-dollar exit, totaling over $100 billion, the highest numbers in a decade. We have an unprecedented amount of clout to do something with those power moves and four ways to turn them into a domino effect.

1. Competitor effect

When a foreign entrepreneur raises money from U.S. firms and sells to a U.S. company, other immigrants see that. Regardless of how groundbreaking their product idea might be, immigrant Americans will always be more wary of putting their eggs into the entrepreneurship basket, at least as long as 93% of all VC money continues to be controlled by white men.

This, despite research suggesting that immigrants contribute 40% more to innovation than local inventors.

What these foreign entrepreneurs most need is confidence, role models and success stories proving other people who look like them have made it, especially when those founders are making waves in the same industry as them.

So a big, well-publicized exit will create momentum in the industry for other foreign founders to give fuel to their venture and seek to take it to the next stage. Not only that, it will instill more self-assurance when it comes to fundraising, and investors will value that.

I was inspired to write this column after Returnly, a fintech founded by a fellow immigrant from Spain based in San Francisco — which, for full transparency, I invested in as an angel investor, and then for Series B and C via my fund — was acquired for $300 million by Affirm.

While there was undoubtedly a personal financial gain worth celebrating, the success of a foreign founder who persevered against the odds in such a competitive ecosystem as Silicon Valley, raised large rounds from U.S.-based investors, and was finally acquired by a U.S. company served as a moment of inspiration for other diverse founders around the world. We saw this in the amount of media attention it received in both business and mainstream press in Spain and the floods of connect requests and congratulations that followed on LinkedIn.

The impact of an exit is greater when it shows foreign entrepreneurs that there are globally minded organizations helping startups like theirs get equal access to funding. That means having VC firms that spotlight international entrepreneurship and foster global expert networks.

As investors, we can maximize the impact of our exits in the industry by highlighting the foreign origins of our founders in a big way when it comes to promoting the exit, including narrating the challenges and opportunities they encountered on their journey. We can use the victory to drive the point home to our fellow investors that diverse and international entrepreneurship is an undervalued gem. We can personally take the win to boost our brand as one that empowers foreign entrepreneurs in that niche, attracting more to seek funding with us in a positive reinforcement cycle.

2. Wealth effect

The windfall from a big exit puts all previous investors in a privileged position, and it’s unlikely that money will sit around for long. They’ll look to reinvest in other high-potential companies — probably ones that look a lot like the one that was just sold.

But in addition to those investors multiplying the positive impact in their own portfolio, they will rally other investors to behave in a similar way.

Each exit — good or bad — sets a precedent for that niche and that type of company. Other investors will follow suit if they sense that one of their peers is onto a cash cow. Because foreign and ethnic minority founders are still underrepresented in startup funding, it makes this field less competitive while harboring huge potential. VCs who have an eye out for unique opportunities will spot when an investor has made a hefty profit from an unconventional startup, especially if they continue to invest in others in that same field.

To help this along, angels and VCs who’ve been behind a recent exit and are reinvesting in similar founders should publicize those knock-on investments, explaining how their previous success motivated them to support similar ventures. They can also be vocal within their network about their decision to raise up certain entrepreneurs because they’ve seen it works.

Returnly’s founder recently offered to put some of his earnings back into our fund, enabling more foreign entrepreneurs like himself to access capital. If as investors we foster meaningful relationships with our funders and truly care about empowering diverse entrepreneurs, we’ll see more of that wealth circle back into our mission.

3. Team effect

The PayPal Mafia is a set of former PayPal executives and employees — such as Elon Musk, a South African, and Peter Thiel, a German American — who have gone on to seriously disrupt not one but multiple industries across tech. Among the companies they’ve founded are YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp and Tesla, and they’ve even been named U.S. ambassadors. That’s just one company. Imagine what other diverse and driven teams can do with the influx of cash and inspiration that comes with a big exit. There will be a ripple effect of team members eager to start out on their own who feel empowered by the success of someone who believed in them.

Their ventures will be more likely to “pass it on” when it comes to giving equal opportunities to people regardless of origin and will generate more jobs for people with their mission. Take Thiel, who has to date backed over 40 companies in Europe alone.

As VCs, we can capitalize on this team effect by keeping our eye on any spinoff ventures that arise and supporting them when possible (with experience and contacts, if not with capital). But beyond this, you can also consider encouraging these people to join the investment sphere, maybe even within your firm. Many successful startup founders and executives go on to become investors — the PayPal Mafia has contributed to some of the most notorious funds out there today. The origin story of these former team members will make them more prone to supporting underrepresented founders they can get behind. In turn, new entrepreneurs will draw more value from their personal experiences.

4. Reputation effect

Although Returnly is headquartered in San Francisco, its founder is Spanish and many of its employees were based in Spain.

That means that the impact of Returnly’s exit will be felt on the other side of the Atlantic as well as among co-nationals in the United States. The same is true of other notable sales, like AlienVault, which was founded in Spain and had multiple offices there. AlienVault was acquired by U.S. telecommunications giant AT&T for $900 million. Or IPOs — earlier this month, the Spanish-origin payments company Flywire filed for an IPO that could value the company at $3 billion. One startup’s success boosts the reputation of its entire team, and with it other founders and talent with their same country of origin, background, education and drive.

It follows that investors and other stakeholders will be more inclined to back opportunities among founders from the same home country if it says something about the mission, expertise and culture they bring to their startup.

At the same time, growing startups will be more interested in hiring the talent of evidently successful teams. That doesn’t just mean hiring more foreign experts in the United States, but seeking to outsource farther afield. We’re already becoming far more comfortable with remote teams, and it’s more capital-efficient for one half of the team to be working while the other half sleeps. But founders will always gravitate more to countries where local talent and innovation is already seen to be thriving. Open up that conversation with your portfolio companies.

VCs have the power to change an industry forever, to connect startup ecosystems across continents and to see startups expand worldwide. But this is about staying relevant as an investor as much as it’s about ensuring this next stage in the startup world is a positive one.

Investors who don’t recognize that the future of startups is global and diverse in nature won’t be in sync with the best opportunities — and won’t be selected by the best founders. Rather than trying to play catchup, help build that ecosystem.

#angel-investor, #column, #diversity, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #private-equity, #spain, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital


What the ‘nonpolitical’ startup leader teaches us about company culture

All eyes have recently been on Basecamp, which lost about a third of its workforce at the end of last month after banning “societal and political discussions” at work. Late last year, Coinbase was embroiled in a similar controversy after its CEO declared that political activism at work is a distraction, leading to a smaller but still significant employee exodus.

Before that, controversies erupted at Google, Facebook and other prominent tech firms, leading to virtual employee walkouts and work stoppages. We continue to see headlines that highlight tech company employee revolts over management edicts or perceived policy failures.

These company meltdowns reflect a societal change, and those in the startup community ought to take notice. The strife may be attributable to changing generational expectations in some cases, or an excess of “tech bro” culture in others, but the reality is that things have changed.

“Don’t discuss politics at work” used to be a standard expectation. But employee expectations have shifted, and leaders have to recognize and respond to that.

A generation ago, it was standard policy to keep politics out of work. Today, it’s virtually impossible to separate the political from the personal, and employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, which includes their backgrounds and belief systems.

Political and societal topics impact the everyday lives of employees and the world is more connected than ever. Startup leaders shouldn’t declare a political void — especially if they’re striving for a diverse and inclusive workforce. We’ve seen what happens when we don’t discuss these issues — systemic racism and workplace discrimination are allowed to go unchecked.

I’m the CEO and founder of a growing tech company, and also served as an HR executive at several Fortune 500 companies, which means I’ve seen all sides of the issues at play here.

That gives me some insight on the cultural problems gripping many tech businesses — and some thoughts on solutions. While companies have every right to create rules and policies on employee conduct and internal use of technology, leaders get better results when they approach these issues intentionally and transparently. As we’ve seen with Basecamp and others, banning political activities and discussions outright can result in unintended consequences.

How to change policies without all the drama

It’s impossible to know exactly what caused some of the recent tech company exoduses unless you were there. But most of us have experienced toxic workplace cultures, and having studied the issue extensively as an HR professional and then as a founder, my educated guess is that the recent employee actions that attracted negative media attention are symptoms of a situation that has been simmering for a long time.

If you’re a startup leader who wants to avoid similar controversies, how can you create or change policies without all the drama? Here are some tips to consider:

  • Look in the mirror and analyze culture. People who found successful companies build a culture whether they consciously set out to do that or not. One explanation for cultural growing pains at startups is that many companies unconsciously create a monoculture populated by employees of similar backgrounds, skill sets, attitudes and life experiences. As the company grows, you bring in people with different backgrounds and perspectives to join the group and strengthen the business. But it’s important to remember that company culture and policies need to evolve and mature as the organization grows as well, or conflict will inevitably arise. Leaders can avoid that by being thoughtful about every aspect of the policies they create and adjusting the culture to support all employees, not just those who started on Day One.
  • Get help as your company scales. CEOs set the tone, and for an early-stage startup, policies tend to be less formal and arise directly from company values. But as the organization matures, you may need to codify practices, such as how you handle time off, parental leave and pay structures. Just as you’d turn to the board for financial advice, it’s best to turn to HR and employee relations experts for workplace guidance. Get counsel from HR on how to avoid unintended consequences and communicate changes appropriately. Depending on what kind of policies you’re putting in place, it might also be a good idea to get input from employees.
  • Use employee feedback to understand impact. It’s important to understand what’s going on in your organization before you make policy changes and take other actions that shape the company culture. Collecting employee feedback through surveys and open discussions will allow you to gain visibility into employee priorities and concerns and proceed with greater transparency and decisiveness. Consulting employees before making changes, and even after a policy change, will help you build trust and see if adjustments are needed. Some decisions must be made without staff input; workplaces are not democratic. If possible, try to understand where employees stand so you can better anticipate the impact. One caveat is to not take silence as approval. Just because employees stay after a controversial policy change doesn’t mean they are necessarily OK with it. Many startups put employees in golden handcuffs with benefits or stock options so attractive they “put up with it” for the future payoff. Anonymous surveys will help you understand the sentiment.
  • Don’t capitalize on employee policies for press: It’s not unusual for tech company leaders to publicly issue policy changes to create controversy. Just recently, Coinbase announced a new compensation policy that eliminates negotiations, a decision that is attracting scrutiny. Generally speaking, this practice isn’t necessarily a bad thing; some leaders have used their platforms to change calcified industry standards for the better. But leaders owe it to their teams to be judicious about publicly announcing new policies that affect staff. Employees shouldn’t be used as a pawn to garner press coverage. Employees want changes and programs that are driven by authenticity and what is right for the company, not changes spurred by the news of the week. With Basecamp, the company created an employee-run DEI committee when it was the “thing to do,” but the CEO disbanded it as soon as it became uncomfortable. This type of performative employee support is a surefire way to deteriorate employee confidence and morale. Be thoughtful about decisions and be prepared to stick through it even if challenges arise.

Addressing systemic problems requires a systemic approach

“Don’t discuss politics at work” used to be a standard expectation. But employee expectations have shifted, and leaders have to recognize and respond to that. There is more value to be gleaned from encouraging employees to fully be themselves at work, which helps create an inclusive environment, but it’s also important to know you can’t drop these commitments the minute they become inconvenient.

While startup founders play a leading role, it is also on employees and everyone within the startup community to call out bias or inappropriate behaviors in the workforce and at the leadership level. The reality is that most employees at startups are highly skilled in a job market that values technical talent, putting them in a privileged position to take a risk, speak up or just leave when an organization’s culture is toxic or discriminatory. Their voice and actions will speak volumes for millions of workers who don’t have the ability to walk out the door and risk losing their livelihood — and their next paycheck.

The good news is that several Basecamp employees tried to make a change by suggesting a group focused on diversity. When that effort was shut down, they used their feet to send a message. To drive change, those in positions of privilege and power mustn’t stay silent as bystanders — they have to take a stand for others who aren’t in the position to do so themselves. If all of us harness our privilege to support others who are more vulnerable, we will inevitably create more equitable, welcoming workplaces for everyone.

The turmoil some tech companies are experiencing really comes down to culture and ego. We need to recognize that the old-school “no politics” rule led to situations where systemic racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry festered unchecked. We have an obligation to do better.

Company leaders who acknowledge the direct impact politics can have on employees, engage in open discussions with staff and approach policy changes in a way that reflects the organization’s core values can thrive, even in a divisive political climate.

#basecamp, #column, #diversity, #human-resource-management, #opinion, #startup-company, #startups, #tc


Dear Sophie: Any unique immigration strategies for quick hiring?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I do recruitment for tech startups. With a surge of VC investing, many startups are urgently hiring.

Which visas offer the quickest options for international talent? Are there any unique strategies that you would recommend we explore?

— Maverick in Milpitas

Dear Maverick,

Thanks for reaching out with your questions! We’re seeing the same urgent hiring demand from startups. In my columns, you’ll find a lot of materials to support you regarding the most common options. However, in a recent podcast episode, I discussed a handful of very specialized — and rarely used — temporary work visas that in most situations offer an expedited way to bring international talent to the United States to live and work. The eligibility requirements for these work visas are very specific, but if any prospective candidates qualify, these visas are great, quick options for the startups you work with.

The quickest option for employers is to hire international talent already in the U.S. because many consulates still remain closed to routine visa processing due to the pandemic. What’s more, travel restrictions have been imposed on India and remain in place for Brazil, the U.K., Ireland, 26 other countries in Europe, China and Iran. However, there are some exceptions in the national interest. As always, I recommend consulting with an experienced immigration attorney.

Here are a few uncommon visas and strategies that can offer quick options for startups to recruit international talent:

#column, #dear-sophie, #diversity, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration, #immigration-law, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #verified-experts


Collab Capital closes $50 million debut fund to back Black founders

A decade before investing outside of San Francisco and New York became trendy, entrepreneurs Jewel Burks, Justin Dawkins and Barry Givens were betting on Atlanta. Each experienced first-hand the biases that disproportionately hurts Black founders – while also being living proof of the wave of Black innovation and opportunity in their city.

Last year, the trio saw opportunity in that disconnect and launched Collab Capital, a firm designed to invest explicitly in Black founders. It debuted with $2 million in capital and a massive end target: $50 million. Today, the firm announced that it has met that goal, with backers such as Apple, Goldman Sachs, Google, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mailchimp, and PayPal, making it one of the largest funds closed from an entirely Black-led firm solely committed to Black founders.

“We really wanted to build a fund that was appropriate for the opportunity that we see [in Black founders],” Burks said. “And honestly I would say, it’s a small fund out there relative to the number of Black-led companies out there that are looking and seeking funding.”

With the new fund, Collab Capital plans to invest in 50 companies over a three-to-five-year period with check sizes between $500,000 and $750,000. The firm has also reserved up to $2 million per investment for follow-on bets. It is targeting ownership between 10% to 15% in each deal. To date, Collab Capital has backed six companies in the healthcare, edtech, and future of work spaces, including Music Tech Works and Hairbrella.

Internally, the team plans to stay based in Atlanta. Burks, who founded Atlanta-based PartPic, a TC Battlefield company that sold to Amazon, said that reinvesting in the community has always been a part of Collab Capital’s intention. Case in point? The firm’s first three deals were in Atlanta. As Zoom investing became more popular in the wake of the coronavirus, the team invested in startups from Kansas City, Washington, D.C., and Miami, as well.

“We’re excited to be able to support founders anywhere in the United States, but we’re really focused on cities that have a high concentration of Black innovators and a lower concentration of capital,” she said.

The world before June

While part of Collab’s focus is avoiding coastal cities, network matters. The firm’s ability to secure heavyweight investors such as Apple and PayPal gives it a key signal that validates its bet on Black founders.

Burks thinks part of the reason that investors might be more intentional about backing firms such as hers is the result of the racial injustice that was highlighted in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black people at the hands of police.

After Floyd and Taylor were murdered, there was a global movement spearheaded by Black Lives Matter in response to police brutality and racism in the United States. Burks says that Collab Capital had only raised a few million at that time, but then witnessed “a shift in the hearts and minds of capital allocators.”

Burks noted that when Collab Capital was first raising its fund, potential investors told them to have a “wider perspective” on what kinds of entrepreneurs to back. Some thought they should create a fund around underrepresented founders or multicultural founders. With general VC volatility in the early months of the pandemic, Collab Capital saw some of its LPs pull back or delay commitments.

“We were very adamant that the most important thing we wanted to solve was the funding gap for Black founders, so we were not willing to broaden the spectrum there because we saw that there were so many firms out there for diverse founders, and even in some of those, Black founders were still marginalized.”

While the majority of venture dollars are still managed by white men, Black-led venture capital firms are having quite the year. Collab Capital’s news is preceded by Harlem Capital, which closed a $134 million seed fund earlier this year, Cleo Capital, which set a $20 million target for Fund II, and MaC VC landing $103 million for its inaugural fund.

Beyond a broader understanding of the importance of diversity in tech, Burks pointed to Zoom as a value unlock.

“If you’d asked me a year ago [if] I think we’d be successful in raising $50 million over Zoom meetings, I would have said absolutely not,” she said. “But you can build meaningful relationships with people and not even have to be in person. That’s a big surprise — and, oh, the realization that you don’t have to travel so much.”

#apple, #atlanta, #collab-capital, #diversity, #jewel-burks, #paypal, #tc


Canvas lands $20M so tech’s biggest companies can find diverse talent

Ben Herman and Adam Gefkovicz launched Jumpstart in 2017 with a clear mission: to make the world more equitable via a more fair and balanced hiring process.

The company released its “Diversity Recruitment Platform” in July of 2018 with the aim of helping people earlier in their careers get a “jumpstart” via technology.

Over the years, the startup’s mission has evolved beyond helping college grads to helping all employees — regardless of career stage — get a fair shot at jobs. And it’s doing that by teaming up with hundreds of companies — such as Airbnb, Bloomberg, Coinbase, Samsung, Lyft, Pinterest, Plaid, Roblox, Audible, Headspace and Stripe — to help them hire a more diverse pool of candidates.

Demand has accelerated exponentially, and the San Francisco-based startup saw its revenue grow “3x” in 2020 compared to 2019, although execs declined to provide hard figures. Considering its broadened focus, Jumpstart has rebranded to Canvas and announced today that it has closed on $20 million in funding. Early Stripe employee and angel investor Lachy Groom and Sequoia Capital co-led the round, which included participation from Four Rivers Capital. The raise brings Canvas’ total raised to $32.5 million.

“We knew we were only scratching the surface of our vision, and knew we had a solution that could reimagine diversity hiring for everyone,” said co-founder and CEO Ben Herman. “You know how everyone has a CRM? We believe every company should have a DRP, which is a diversity recruitment platform. That’s the category we want to create and we want to be the largest in that space.”

No doubt that the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder helped, well jumpstart, the company’s efforts. Canvas is able to sell its offering as more companies “are being held accountable for their promises of equity and hiring diverse talent,” Herman said.

“Hiring diverse teams is not only a matter of corporate social responsibility,” he added. “Diversity and inclusion are a competitive advantage and strategic priority for every company in today’s landscape. We believe representation is a huge part of what we stand for. So we want everyone to be able to create their own canvas, and to be able to paint their own picture.”

Canvas describes its SaaS offering as a “fully virtual” recruiting platform that is based on self-reported data. About 87% of candidates on its platform disclose their demographic information (which it says is 7x the industry standard), according to the startup. Canvas also says it gives companies the ability to narrow down the priority groups and talent it wants to focus on by filtering over 75+ self-reported candidate data points.

The startup claims that it’s different from others in the space for that reason, among other features.

“Unlike other solutions that might utilize inferred data that could be inaccurate or illegal, Canvas helps create a more accurate data set to identify diverse candidates, helping to solve the core problem of talent discovery,” Herman said. 

It also — unlike some diversity hiring platforms — does not rely on artificial intelligence, a fact that Herman is actually proud of.

“We don’t believe that AI is the future. It’s not about getting someone’s gender or ethnicity based off of their name, or to inform the hiring decision without candidates knowing,” Herman told TechCrunch. “It’s all about how to empower talent to self-identify…We want to enable the talent to own their data, and truly be able to represent themselves in unique ways. That’s not leveraging AI.”

Canvas also gives companies a way to design, promote and run events, such as webinars, aimed at hiring diverse talent.

The startup also wants to get to a place where companies are working together “to complete the diversity data gap.”

“The problem is about accessibility, and so we want to give equal access to anyone and everyone — from all companies to all candidates,” Herman said. “And so that is really the most important part of what we are creating — the ability for companies to share data.”

So, how does it measure its own success? Canvas claims that 56% of all hires on the Canvas platform are made from underrepresented groups (URGs), and that it helps employers achieve a 30% reduction in time to hire.

Herman is not your typical startup founder, having dropped out of high school and starting his own recruitment agency at the age of 21. His tenacity is one of the things that attracted Sequoia partner and Canvas board member Mike Vernal to back the company.

“When we first met Ben, it was clear that he was…a natural-born talent scout,” Vernal told TechCrunch. “He thought there was a better way for the industry to work — one where companies and recruiters were more collaborative and used technology to build stronger, more diverse teams.”

Since its initial investment in the company, Vernal believes building diverse teams has never been more important.

“Those teams create better products, make stronger business decisions, and it’s just the right thing to do,” he said. “We believe companies can do a better job sourcing underrepresented talent using Canvas than on their own.” 

Canvas plans to use its new capital to expand the product into other industries and verticals beyond technology and continue to address the recruiting process for later stages of people’s careers. The company currently has 70 employees and expects to have 100 by the end of 2021.

As mentioned above, hiring diverse talent is becoming a bigger priority for big tech companies (such as HP) and startups alike. Earlier this year, diverse hiring startup SeekOut raised $65 million. The company has built out a database with hundreds of millions of profiles using its AI-powered talent search engine and “deep interactive analytics.”

#artificial-intelligence, #board-member, #canvas, #coinbase, #diversity, #economy, #employment, #funding, #fundings-exits, #hiring, #human-resource-management, #jumpstart, #lachy-groom, #lyft, #mike-vernal, #pinterest, #recent-funding, #recruitment, #san-francisco, #search-engine, #sequoia-capital, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #talent, #tc, #venture-capital


In the race for tech talent, the US should look to Mexico

The global tech sector is booming, and as technologies like cloud and AI accelerate their growth, the demand for tech talent outpaces supply globally. Specifically, the U.S. tech sector has seen unprecedented growth in recent years, with four tech firms reaching a $1 trillion market cap by the beginning of 2020 — all of which have seen double-digit growth since achieving a 13-digit valuation pre-pandemic.

One of the major factors in the growth and adoption of tech in the U.S. is the increasing focus on software as a service and broader digital transformations across industry sectors, which have accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, there is an insatiable appetite for quality tech talent in the U.S., with projections showing an 11% increase by 2029 from 2019 numbers, which amounts to over half a million new jobs.

Given that the U.S. produces only about 65,000 computer science graduates, there is a vast deficit in the tech talent market, which materialized as over 900,000 unfilled IT and related positions in 2019 alone. The problem is so vast that more than 80% of U.S. employers stated that recruiting for tech talent is a top business challenge, according to a survey by top HR consulting firm Robert Half.

Demand increasing for Mexican tech talent

Mexico’s tech talent can help to fill the gaps left in a hypercompetitive U.S. market for tech workers. Unlike the U.S., 20% of Mexican college graduates have relevant engineering degrees, amounting to over 110,000 per year, far surpassing the U.S. in technical talent. Investors and tech firms have noticed and are increasing operations in Mexico.

20% of Mexican college graduates have relevant engineering degrees, amounting to over 110,000 per year, far surpassing the U.S. in technical talent.

Some have referred to the cities of Monterrey and Guadalajara as the “Silicon Valley of Latin America,” and while their tech sectors are also seeing tremendous growth, the pace falls short of Mexico’s talent production, leading to a surplus of highly trained and capable individuals in the tech sector. The cost of higher education in Mexico is far less than in the U.S., so we’re likely to see that talent surplus grow in the coming years.

Under current conditions, the U.S. has an incredible opportunity to capitalize on the surplus of tech talent in Mexico. Because tech jobs are more scarce than in the U.S., the cost of talent in Mexico is considerably less than in the U.S. or in Canada. In general, talent in Mexico can be two to three times cheaper than in the U.S. while still delivering outstanding quality and specialized experience.

More so than other Latin American countries, Mexico has the experience and economy to support a robust tech talent export ecosystem. In fact, Mexico City’s concentrated market is larger than the sum total of every other Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. Specifically, Mexico’s IT outsourcing industry has been growing at an annual rate of 10%-15% and is now considered the third-largest exporter of IT services.

What’s more, the U.S./Mexico relationship is seeing a refresh after several tumultuous years. With Mexico ranked No. 1 among U.S. trade partners, the political and economic mechanisms for investments and partnerships are in place. Technology leaders such as Cisco and Intel have already set up shop in Mexico, demonstrating confidence in the country’s ability to support tech and economic growth.

The benefits of proximity

Mexico provides a number of benefits that make drawing from its talent surplus easier and more efficient. For one, Mexico’s time zones align with those in the U.S., enabling real-time collaboration at times that work best for both parties. Compare this to the time difference in India, which is over 12 hours ahead of California’s Silicon Valley.

Beyond the time difference, there are also many cultural similarities that make working with Mexico the clear choice for IT outsourcing. For example, the U.S. is home to more than 41 million native Spanish speakers, and plus over 12 million bilingual Spanish speakers, making the U.S. the second-largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico. While difficult to quantify, the number of consumer and cultural exports from Mexico to the U.S. also helps to build familiarity and solidarity between the two countries, which can only improve an already healthy relationship.

New geopolitical considerations favor U.S.-Mexico ties

The steady progression of America’s tech sector is now seen as a strategic priority at the federal level. Meanwhile, public and private sector decision-makers are more interested than ever in conducting business under favorable trade treaty terms with friendly governments amid a new climate of geopolitical uncertainty.

As the U.S. tech sector continues its explosive growth, technology companies in the U.S. will need to seek alternative means to supplement its in-demand tech workforce. Rather than turning to countries undergoing increased regulatory scrutiny, or distant talent bases requiring significant business travel, business leaders are looking to geographically close, diplomatically friendly nations. U.S. companies are finding Mexico’s status as a key business partner and strategic ally to be a massive value driver.

By 2030, the middle-class population in Mexico is expected to reach 95 million, placing it in the top 10 countries with the highest share of global middle-class consumption. As the middle class rises, so will companies to meet their consumer needs, and, as such, Mexico’s own tech sector will grow and require significantly more tech talent, reducing or potentially eliminating Mexico’s talent surplus.

This is evidenced by the uptick in Mexico-based technology companies, such as Mexican used-car startup Kavak, which recently hit a $4 billion valuation. Amid an exciting backdrop of skyrocketing tech valuations and potential, the U.S. tech sector should look to Mexico as a key growth market and technology partner. The time is now for the U.S. to tap into the surplus of quality tech talent in Mexico.

#column, #diversity, #immigration-law, #labor, #latin-america, #mexico, #opinion, #silicon-valley, #startups, #technology, #united-states


HP outlines ambitious diversity goals

HP today announced a series of ambitious goals aimed at driving “a more diverse, equitable and inclusive” tech industry.

The tech giant, of course, is not the first company to have made strong claims about its intentions around diversity. As former TC reporter Megan Rose Dickey reported extensively, diversity and inclusion as an idea has been on the agenda of tech companies for years now. 

HP Chief Diversity Officer Lesley Slaton Brown says diversity and inclusion is something that the company has been focused on since its 1939 inception. Today, HP has roughly 50,000 employees globally with 31% of its leadership roles and 22% of its technical roles currently held by women – numbers that appear to be higher than most industry averages.

In order to further improve these numbers, HP announced three goals that Slaton Brown says the company is determined to achieve by 2030: 50/50 gender equality in HP leadership (defined as director level and up); greater than 30% technical women and women in engineering; and meet or exceed labor market representation for racial/ethnic minorities. 

I talked with Slaton Brown to get more details on the goals themselves, how the company plans to achieve them and what it plans to do to hold itself accountable. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

TC:  Tell me more about the genesis of these goals and what HP has done up until now to achieve more equality – whether it be with regard to gender, race or ethnicity – within the company?

Slaton Brown: It’s foundationally something that we’ve always been focused on. We’re now at a place where I think going into COVID and quarantine last year and the impact that the George Floyd murder had on us as a nation really allowed us to do the double click down into racial equality and the systemic and structural discrimination that exists. 

From that, we were able to then stand up our Racial Equality and Social Justice Task Force. One of our goals has been to increase the representation of Black and African Americans in particular at HP. And also look at what we would need to do to increase the opportunity of Black and African American suppliers and vendors who work with and partner with HP. And then ultimately, how can we impact the communities locally and nationally – whether it’s from policy and legislation to working with municipalities in order to provide bias training and things like that. So all of that was stood up, and now a year later, we’ve made some great progress. 

HP Chief Diversity Officer Lesley Slaton Brown / HP

We have also launched our Human Rights Initiative. We’re looking at standing up for equal and human rights. We’re really focused on how we go after climate action and human rights.

TC: It sounds like that you are committing to a variety of things in terms of more balance among leadership and technical talent in terms of gender, for one. So it’s not just about race. But I’d like to hear more specifics on these particular goals and what you have done historically to work toward greater diversity and inclusion.

Slaton Brown: When we separated in 2015 from HP Co. We were very intentional about creating a diverse board of directors, first and foremost. And so today when I think about our board composition, we’re made up of I think it’s about 45% women, 35% ethnic minorities and over 60% total minorities with just our board of directors alone. We’re one of the most diverse boards in the tech industry. Now why is that important? The importance of building or standing up a board of directors is because they help with the vision of the company and help guide the strategy for the company.

That was one of the first things we did, and when I came into this role at that time, my goal was to embed diversity, equity and inclusion into everything that we do. 

TC: How are you holding yourselves accountable?

Slaton Brown: We’re really talking about answering all the way up to the board of directors on what we’re doing – our dashboards, our matrices that we pulled together will go to our board of directors to say, ‘Here’s what we said we’re going to do, how are we tracking, and then ultimately what was the impact.’ And so that’s what we’re building today. I consider that the infrastructure. So from the board of directors down cascading to your executive leadership team, ensuring that we have a strong narrative built.

By having this goal, we can then drive the actions, the programs, and then the implementation through our infrastructure and an ecosystem to achieve those goals. That includes things like working with organizations like the Society of Women Engineers, the Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Asian Engineers. And not only working with them, but building and investing in them so that we build the partnership in order to get to that pipeline.

TC: Can you be more specific in terms of what you mean by meeting or exceeding labor market representation?

Slaton Brown: I can see where that would be confusing. First, what it doesn’t mean is trying to match the demographics of the overall population, but rather to the labor market in the tech industry. For example, we’re at nearly 4% of having African Americans in a leadership position. Our goal is to achieve hiring at or more than 6% by 2025.

TC: What if you’re not getting enough women or minorities to apply for these leadership and technical roles? Would you rule out qualified white males, for example?

Slaton Brown: We are standing up for equal human rights. What we’re focusing on is also accelerating our gender, racial equality and social justice efforts. Part of that is looking at how do we increase our pipeline? And, how do we increase the talent pool? 

I would submit there is not a shortage of talent. It’s about how do you get to the talent? It has traditionally been through top tier schools such as Stanford and MIT. But you know what? Smart people and great talent are everywhere. People are sometimes financially challenged and so they may go the community college route, and then they might move into some of the top tier schools. That’s one means in addition to HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities).

For example, we’ve stood up a very good program in the HBCU space to ensure that students that have not traditionally had the opportunity to compete for certain positions have that opportunity and not only have that opportunity, but have the ability to travel to HP sites to see where they would be likely interning. Our goal is to have a 100% conversion rate in terms of converting interns into full-time hires based off of performance, of course. And so it is a holistic or an end-to-end approach.

Okay, so now you’ve made these goals for women and for ethnic minorities and the white guy might say, ‘I’m left out.’ I think the interesting thing about that is that within the tech industry, the white male is the majority. What we’re doing at HP is building a powerful culture of inclusion and belonging. So we’re still getting white guys, but we’re also getting very talented women, and US ethnic minorities, as well, in addition to veterans and people with disabilities. 

It’s about where you go, how you show up as a brand of choice – which is a goal of ours: to be a destination of choice for the underrepresented group – and  then how you welcome them. It’s the attraction, the hiring, the retention, the investment you make in their learning and development, and then in promotion, as well. And so those are some of the things that we’re doing.

TC: What are other ways you are fighting for human rights?

Slaton Brown: This announcement is around how we’re doubling down on our workforce, workforce empowerment, and that is about how we do things is just as important as what we do. And that’s about respecting human rights, and making it a priority. Our commitment to our supply chain workers is to ensure that our vendors are not contributing to the modern day slavery, or bringing in people with degrees and education and then bringing them into a system that charges them charges them ginormous fees and takes their passport.

We want to ensure that we create an environment, and create visibility and a resilient supply chain to ensure that that doesn’t happen, that we respect human rights, and that our manufacturing suppliers are contributing to that, as well.

TC:  In press materials, the company claimed to be the first Fortune 100 tech company to commit to gender parity in leadership.” Hopefully you’ll be setting an example and others will follow.

Slaton Brown: Well, it’s a huge goal and so some of the strategies and best practices that we’ve put in place really is not just about bringing women in as a checkbox exercise for us, but to really establish a new standard.

Our goal and our vision is to become the most sustainable and just tech company in the world. And so we can’t just say that we have to do it. And that’s what I love about the culture of HP – it’s moving from the talk, and really showing the actions in which we’re going to get to that place of being sustainable and just by 2030.

#diversity, #hiring, #hp, #personnel, #talent, #tc


Dear Sophie: What’s happening with visa application receipt notices?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

Our startup employs several individuals who are on work visas or have employment authorization. Many of them have been waiting for quite a while for the government to tell them their applications have been received.

Why? When will things be back on track? We have a few employees who are waiting for green cards, and a few F-1 visa holders who will be extending their OPT to STEM OPT.

Is there anything we can do?

— Patient in Pasadena

Dear Patient,

Thanks for your questions. Last September, an increase in applications submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) amid COVID-19-related staff reductions created a substantial backlog and subsequent delay in USCIS sending out receipt notices.

My law firm partner, Anita Koumriqian, and I provided an update on receipt notices on a recent podcast. Dedicating an entire episode to receipt notices was unthinkable a year ago because applicants usually received receipt notices within one to three weeks after USCIS received their application.

For those who don’t know, USCIS sends a letter called a receipt notice to applicants when it receives an application. The receipt notice — also known as a Notice of Action or Form I-797 — contains information about:

  • Whether the application was accepted, in which case you will be notified of how it will be processed, or rejected if it was not filed appropriately, such as not using the latest form or forgetting to check a box on the application form.
  • A receipt number, which can be used to check the status of your case either online or by phone.
  • The date your application was received, which for most green card applications is the priority date. (Priority dates for the EB-2 and EB-3 green cards are when the Labor Department received the PERM Labor Certification application.) A priority date determines your place in line for a green card number to become available based on the green card category and the green card candidate’s country of birth.

What caused the backlog?

Before the pandemic, applicants would typically be notified in less than one month after USCIS received their application. Currently, applicants are receiving their receipt notice as long as eight to nine weeks after USCIS received their application, and sometimes longer.

As I mentioned earlier, coronavirus-related staffing reductions at USCIS coupled with a substantial jump in the number of applications submitted prompted huge delays that began in September. Application submissions surged primarily due to:


Deadline extended: Apply to Startup Battlefield at TC Disrupt 2021

When you’re head-down and nose to the grindstone — I’m looking at all you hard-working early-stage startup founders — it’s easy to miss a deadline for an outstanding opportunity. Case in point: competing in Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021 in September.

We want every game-changing, innovative startup — from anywhere around the world — to have a shot at massive exposure to investors, media and other influential unicorn-makers. The $100,000 in equity-free prizemoney would be nice, too, right? That’s why we’re extending our application deadline for another full week.

It won’t cost you a thing to apply or to participate, so don’t let this trajectory-changing opportunity slip past you. Apply to Startup Battlefield here before May 27 at 11:59 pm (PT).

The TechCrunch editorial team will vet every application and ultimately choose roughly 20 startups to go head-to-head. Each team receives weeks of free, rigorous coaching from our seasoned Battlefield team. Your pitch, presentation skills and business model will reach new heights of excellence. You’ll also be ready to deftly handle all the questions you’ll receive from our expert VC judges.

Startup Battlefield plays out over several rounds, with the field progressively narrowing. Each time you make the cut, you’ll repeat your pitch-and-answer session to a new set of judges. All that training, prep and focus leads to a final showdown and one last grab for the brass ring. And then it’s up to the judges to decide which stand-out startup wins the championship and that huge check.

While only one startup wins the money and the title, every team that competes benefits from standing in a global spotlight. Sean Huang, co-founder of Matidor, competed in Startup Battlefield at Disrupt 2020. His team was one of the five finalists. Here’s what he said about his experience:

“Going through Startup Battlefield helped us simplify and improve our pitch. It helped us not only with brand messaging, but also to win other pitch competitions after Battlefield. By pitching in the finals, we booked a demo with one of the final panelists.

We received inbound investment interest from 12 Tier-1 investors, and eight potential key clients came to our website for a demo session. We also received an endorsement letter for our Y Combinator application from a fellow Battlefield participant, with whom we formed a great connection.”

You’re head down and focused — that’s why we’re giving you a one-week extension. So, stop, look up and grab this opportunity to take your startup to whole new levels. Get your nose off that grindstone and apply to Startup Battlefield here before May 27 at 11:59 pm (PT).

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt 2021? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

#diversity, #early-stage, #founder-stories, #tc, #techcrunch-disrupt-2021


The gaming industry needs more than just coders

While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on countless businesses across the globe, the $118 billion gaming industry not only survived, it thrived, with 55% of American consumers turning to gaming for entertainment, stress relief, relaxation and a connection to the outside world amid lockdowns.

This drove a 20% boost in gaming sales globally and created nearly 20,000 jobs in 2020 alone. And it’s not expected to stop any time soon: According to research company IBISWorld, the industry is set to grow again in 2021, adding to the year-over-year growth the industry has seen in the preceding half-decade.

This is great news for the growing gaming industry and especially those looking to score a job at a company developing the next blockbuster. The unemployment rate is already near zero for those with gaming development and design skills, which means there is an unprecedented opportunity to join the field.

The unemployment rate is already near zero for those with gaming development and design skills, which means there is an unprecedented opportunity to join the field.

Gamesmith, a digital community dedicated to the gaming industry, currently has more than 5,750 open jobs posted on its site, with roles in design, engineering and animation leading the way. In other words, if you never considered a career in the gaming industry — or thought that your skill set wouldn’t translate — this expanding job market needs employees from all types of backgrounds. Chances are one of your interests — besides gaming, of course — can act as a conduit into finding a career.

One career path for those with art skills — particularly with a talent for digital art tools like Autodesk Maya and Adobe Photoshop — is animation. An animator can do any number of jobs at a gaming company or studio, from building immersive landscapes and cities to modeling what a certain character will look like to designing user interfaces and navigational components. There is significant growth here, too: According to a recent study, most sectors of the animation industry are growing 2% to 3% year over year. According to Gamesmith, the average 30-year-old female artist or animator makes a salary of just under $90,000 a year.

If you’re a whiz with words and witty dialogue, then you might consider applying for a job as a writer at a studio. Writers are responsible for writing everything from the profanity-laced shouts heard in the background in the Grand Theft Auto series to the long speeches in epic adventures like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Employers are looking for writers with a flair for crafting stories and understanding characters, so even if you’re not a career writer, highlight the work you’ve done that fits in the mold of what game publishers are looking for.

One of the most important segments of the industry — and one of the fastest-growing — is developing and designing the gaming experiences themselves. The job market for these roles is predicted to grow by 9.3% between 2016 and 2026, according to the New England Institute of Technology, and the breadth of jobs in this wing of the industry range from level designers to lead designer and developers.

Gamesmith calculated that these jobs account for 16% of the available openings, but make up only 5% of all applications. While you will need at least a computer science degree and an understanding of the fundamentals of programming to land one of these jobs, the payoff for the time spent hitting the books is worth it. Gamesmith estimates that the average 28-year-old male engineer earns a salary north of $100,000.

Even if you don’t have any of these skills to help design a game from the ground up, there are still plenty of ways to break into the industry. No matter how good a game is, it will only be a success if people know about it, so the marketing and promotions teams at studios play a crucial role in making sure that consumers purchase the latest release and that it gets written about. If you have great communication skills and can work through people’s problems, companies always need customer service representatives.

Across all sectors of the gaming world, companies are looking to diversify their workforce and move away from an image as a job sector solely populated by white men in their early to mid-30s. Gamesmith research found that currently 74% of the industry’s workforce is male and 64% is white.

But that is changing. While in 2020, only 24% of studios invested moderate resources into diversity initiatives, out of those studios that did invest those resources, 96% reported at least moderately successful results and improvements to company culture. It may seem slow, but there does seem to be a recognition that the gaming industry needs a more diverse workforce as a way not just to bring more equity to their offices, but to make better games in the future and make the industry look more like the people who play games.

“Diversity isn’t a nicety; it’s a necessity if the industry is going to grow, thrive and truly reflect the tens of millions of people who play games every day in this country,” said Jo Twist, the CEO of the U.K.-based gaming trade association Ukie. “A diverse industry that draws on myriad cultures, lifestyles and experiences will lead to more creative and inclusive games that capture the imagination of players and drive our sector forward.”

Between the push to diversify the industry and a slew of new opportunities in the field, the key takeaway is that there are a wide range of possible careers in the industry and, even if you don’t think they do, your skills probably translate into one of the many roles that a gaming company needs to fill. Avid gamers know that you’re not going to beat a game the first time you turn on your console. So hone your skills, build up your experience and continue your quest to land a job in the industry of your dreams.

#animation, #artist, #column, #digital-media, #diversity, #diversity-and-inclusion, #engineer, #entertainment, #gamer, #opinion, #tc, #video-game, #video-gaming, #writer


Don’t wait for legislation banning NDAs: Write ethical policies now

Companies across the United States should be closely following the California State Legislature hearings on the “Silenced No More Act,” which would prevent the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) to silence employees from speaking up about all forms of discrimination and harassment.

The legislation was introduced in response to the stunning claims brought forward by former Pinterest employees alleging a pattern of racial and gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation. They courageously called attention to the hypocrisy of Pinterest’s aspirational comments on social issues even though the company had required them to sign NDAs.

As attorneys who work with shareholders to hold companies accountable for this misconduct, these allegations have deeply impacted our work. They formed the basis of an ongoing shareholder derivative lawsuit that a state pension fund we represent brought against Pinterest’s board of directors and top executives for participating in and otherwise protecting powerful executives who are alleged to have discriminated against Pinterest employees.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light.

The Silenced No More Act would extend existing laws that limit the use of NDAs. Such laws are important because NDAs are intended to protect executives by keeping their harassment, discrimination and retaliation under wraps. That NDAs chill the voices of employees who have already been victimized makes them even more toxic. NDAs cause women to fear reprisal from the company, sometimes even incorporating financial penalty clauses, long after their individual claims have been resolved.

The Silenced No More Act should pass swiftly and be a model for other states, but this is what all companies throughout the country should be doing on their own, rather than waiting for legislation to drag an ethical NDA policy out of them.

Failure to recognize this necessity will lead to future corporate scandals as multiple accounts of the same type of misconduct in the workplace come to light. It will continue to uphold an unsustainable corporate system where executives in positions of power assume they will be protected no matter how unlawful their behavior toward others in the workplace.

We have seen from our investigations the compounding impacts of NDAs and how they allow problems to fester over years.

The two of us, working with others and on behalf of Alphabet shareholders, were part of the team that led a groundbreaking $310 million settlement with the tech company that led to historic diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) reforms at the company. That settlement was the result of a shareholder derivative lawsuit where stockholders alleged that executives and board members violated their fiduciary duties by enabling a double standard that allowed executives to sexually harass and discriminate against women without consequence.

In that case, we believe Alphabet’s “culture of concealment” was driven in large part by the silencing effects of NDAs.

The duration of misconduct, enabled by NDAs, goes far beyond Alphabet and Pinterest. There is no shortage of #MeToo scandals at powerful companies, many with presences in California, that were exacerbated by muzzling NDAs. Weinstein Company, Wynn Resorts, NBC and 21st Century Fox are prominent examples of companies that first tried to keep allegations quiet through the use of NDAs and later faced a firestorm of allegations from former employees.

Fortunately, the landscape surrounding discrimination and harassment in the workplace is changing. Shareholders, workers, customers and other key business stakeholders are becoming more active in demanding that companies stop protecting harassers.

All of this should send a message to boards and C-suite executives that they must set the tone from the top and they are far better off being proactive than reactive. That means actively creating a company culture where DEI is a foundational component — not an afterthought. It also means intentionally prioritizing transparency and proactively doing away with policies that are antithetical to that goal, like NDAs that are intentionally designed to suppress the voices of employees.

The public and shareholders want to be associated with companies that do right by their employees. Business should recognize this change from a culture of compliance to one of equity and inclusion and embrace this new reality by stopping the practice of requiring complainants to enter into NDAs and fostering a culture of inclusion and accountability.

#california, #column, #diversity, #labor, #labor-rights, #law, #ndas, #opinion, #pinterest, #sexual-harassment, #startups, #venture-capital


Dear Sophie: Does it make sense to sponsor immigrant talent to work remotely?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

My startup is in big-time hiring mode. All of our employees are currently working remotely and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future — even after the pandemic ends. We are considering individuals who are living outside of the U.S. for a few of the positions we are looking to fill.

Does it make sense to sponsor them for a visa to work remotely from somewhere in the United States?

— Selective in Silicon Valley

Dear Selective,

Thanks for reaching out — I’m always happy to hear about another fast-growing startup! If some of your leadership team is also abroad, check out the recent announcement about the new International Entrepreneur Parole program for founders.

It can make great business sense to sponsor international talent for a visa even if the position involves working remotely from a location inside the U.S. With the right legal setup, your team can work from home in Silicon Valley, nearby in California, or in another state where the cost of living is not quite as high. We’ve received this question from many employers, and many of our clients are proceeding with sponsoring international talent with visas and green cards for work-from-home positions.

I discussed this and other issues related to recruiting and work trends with Katie Lampert for my podcast. Lampert leads the talent acquisition and infrastructure group at General Catalyst, a VC firm that invests in seed to growth-stage startups in the U.S. and abroad. She advises companies in the General Catalyst portfolio on all things talent-related, including establishing company culture, creating a company’s infrastructure for recruiting and retaining talent, and planning for the future.

“Recruiting is going to be more global, which is exciting,” Lampert said during our discussion. “This will have a really positive effect on cultural diversity in the workforce. Studies show that a more diverse workforce leads to greater financial success.”

In fact, the latest McKinsey & Co. report on diversity, “Diversity wins: How inclusion matters,” found that companies with ethnically and culturally diverse executive teams are 36% more likely to achieve above-average profitability than companies with less diverse teams. McKinsey has issued three reports on diversity, and with each subsequent report, the business case for ethnic and cultural diversity and gender diversity in corporate leadership has grown stronger.

In addition to boosting profitability, bringing international talent to the United States to join your startup offers a host of other benefits as well.

#column, #dear-sophie, #diversity, #ec-column, #ec-future-of-work, #employment-law, #executive, #green-card, #h-1b-visa, #immigration-law, #lawyers, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #technology, #verified-experts


Dear Sophie: How does the International Entrepreneur Parole program work?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

Extra Crunch members receive access to weekly “Dear Sophie” columns; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.

Dear Sophie,

I’m the founder of an early-stage, two-year-old fintech startup. We really want to move to San Francisco to be near our lead investor.

I heard International Entrepreneur Parole is back. What is it, and how can I apply?

— Joyous in Johannesburg

Dear Joyous,

Today for the first time, international startup founders can sigh a breath of relief because there is new hope for immigration! This hope comes in the form of a little-known pathway to live and work legally in the United States. This pathway is now possible because, effective today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) withdrew the proposed rule to remove the International Entrepreneur Parole Program. This development is FANTASTIC for startup founders everywhere!

DHS believes that “qualified entrepreneurs who would substantially benefit the United States by growing new businesses and creating jobs for U.S. workers” should be able to benefit from “all viable” immigration options. The National Venture Capital Association is “thrilled” at the news, and so am I!

A composite image of immigration law attorney Sophie Alcorn in front of a background with a TechCrunch logo.

Image Credits: Joanna Buniak / Sophie Alcorn (opens in a new window)

International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) allows founders to request a 30-month immigration status, with the possibility of a 30-month extension as well. Spouses of those with IEP can qualify for work permits. There’s no limit to the variety of fields in which startups can qualify — we’ve had interest from founders in everything from autonomous drone delivery to AI for law enforcement; anticancer drug discovery to satellites.

To qualify, you need to show that:


Hustle Fund wants to help spawn a new generation of angel investors

Kara Penn is the mother of four daughters and owner of Mission Spark, a management and strategy consulting company.

And now, thanks to Hustle Fund, she is also an angel investor.

Hustle Fund is coming out of stealth today with Angel Squad, a new initiative aimed at making angel investing more accessible to more people. To more people like Colorado-based Penn.

We believe that in order to increase diversity in the startup ecosystem, one thing that we must do is increase diversity — whether it be in regard to gender, race or geography — amongst angel investors,” said Hustle Fund co-founder and general partner Elizabeth Yin.

Via Angel Squad, Hustle Fund specifically aims to build an inclusive investor community, make minimum check sizes low and accessible (think as little as $1,000), provide “angel education” and give investors a way to invest alongside Hustle Fund.

“There’s been this misnomer, or at least I had this incorrect assumption that in order to become an angel investor, you have to be super rich and write $25,000 checks,” Yin told TechCrunch. “But the reality is actually in Silicon Valley, there are all these people running around investing $1,000 checks…and that’s something that’s a lot more accessible than then most people might think. And, part of the value of having this group is then we can accumulate a bunch of smaller checks to then write one larger check for a company.”

So far, Penn has invested in five startups across a range of sectors including real estate, food, apparel and finance. 

She describes herself as “a complete novice” in angel investing, and so far, she’s loving the experience.

I love Hustle Fund’s perspective that great hustlers can look like anyone and come from anywhere,” Penn told TechCrunch. “I’ve enjoyed being in a supportive community with differing levels of expertise, but where every question is welcomed.”

The experience is also broadening her exposure to technology and AI, the collection and use of data and the creation of new marketplaces in ways she never would have been exposed to before.

“As someone whose own company focuses exclusively on strategy in social impact organizations, I am also looking for how founders identify and bring to market creative solutions to complex problems, as well as exposure to a network of innovative people looking to solve hard issues in smart ways,” Penn said. “This exposure is helping me begin to think about applications of these approaches to difficult social problems.”

For some context, Hustle Fund is a venture firm founded by Elizabeth Yin and Eric Bahn, two former 500 Startups partners, with the goal of investing in pre-seed software startups. The firm has traditionally operated by investing $25,000 in a company, usually with a minimum-viable product, and then works with the team to help them grow. It does around 50 investments per year, according to its website. 

It recently closed on $33.6 million for a new fund.

“One of the things most important to us is this bigger mission of wanting to change the way the startup ecosystem is,” Yin said. “I noticed both as an entrepreneur and while running an accelerator, if you have a certain resume, went to certain schools, or were a certain race or gender, you have advantages in starting a company and getting funding. For many people, if you don’t tick those boxes, it can be very challenging. That’s why we’re investing in a lot of founders from all walks of life.”

Hustle Fund Venture Partner Brian Nichols had started a syndicate of Lyft alumni on AngelList. After doing a few deals, he opened up the syndicate to people outside of AngelList.

“I found there was a wide range of people looking to diversify into private markets, from all over the world with all types of backgrounds,” he said. “Hustle Fund and I had similar taste in companies I was investing in and I built a relationship with them in co-investments.”

Today, he’s helping run the fund’s Angel Squad initiative. So far, it has had two cohorts with over 150 investors total and true to the fund’s mission, those investors have been more diverse than typical angel syndicates: 46% of the members are female, 9% are underrepresented minorities and 32% are people who work outside of tech with professional roles such as lawyers, doctors and artists. Just one-third are based in Silicon Valley.

Every week, Angel Squad hosts an event which ranges from networking to a peek behind the curtain at opportunities at Hustle Fund is considering investing in to talking through why or why not to take a meeting with a founder.

“Imagine starting from zero, and if you could skip a bunch of steps and have Elizabeth (Yin) tell you how to do this before you lose a bunch of money in the process of evaluating a startup,” Nichols told TechCrunch. “Angel Squad is exactly what I wish had existed three or four years ago when I became interested in investing.”

Silicon Valley, Yin acknowledges, can be intimidating but the reality is that no one is an expert in everything.

“We’re trying to cultivate an environment where people are very kind — we have a no asshole rule, and that is a safe space where people can learn and feel like they can ask questions, and not have to know everything about angel investing. The reality is most people don’t. And we want to bring new people into this system.”

Besides not being an a-hole, other criteria in becoming a Squad Member include being able to add value and being an accredited investor.

“With rounds as competitive as they are today, we are looking for people who want to be actively supportive of the portfolio companies we’re investing in,” Nichols said. “Every person who wants to join the program is interviewed by someone from our team, who asks questions such as ‘What can you help a founder with?’ We are not looking for passive capital. That’s not super helpful at this point in the ecosystem.

#angel-investing, #angel-investors, #angellist, #co-founder, #colorado, #diversity, #elizabeth-yin, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #eric-bahn, #finance, #food, #funding, #hustle-fund, #investment, #lyft, #minimum-viable-product, #money, #pennsylvania, #private-equity, #real-estate, #silicon-valley, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #venture-capitalists


Indy VC firm Sixty8 Capital launches $20M fund aimed at underrepresented founders

It is clear that Black, women, Latinx and LGBTQ+ startup founders face an uphill battle when it comes to getting a share of the VC investment pie in Silicon Valley. Perhaps that’s why Sixty8 Capital, a firm based in Indianapolis, Indiana, smack dab in the middle of the country, has chosen to launch a new $20 million fund aimed at providing early stage funding for underrepresented founders.

The fund’s investors include The Indiana Next Level Fund, 50 South Capital, Bank of America, Eli Lilly and Company, First Internet Bank and the Central Indiana Community Foundation. It’s working with another Indy based VC firm, Allos Ventures, and Paul Ehlinger from Allos will be a venture partner at Sixty8.

“With this fund, what we’ll get to do is really start to empower people of color, women and other diverse communities by putting capital directly into their hands. Being able to invest directly into companies that are building amazing solutions that just so happen to be founded by diverse people. So that is why we launched Sixty8. I think there’s a unique opportunity we can address, and I’m really excited to have an impact both in our community in Indiana, but also around the Midwest and parts of the South as well,” Kelli Jones, managing partner at the firm explained.

Jones told me that she grew up in Indianapolis, and after moving to New York and later LA to work at the intersection of music, tech and entertainment, she returned to Indy in 2016 to begin helping Black people in the community where she grew up get trained to get decent jobs both in and out of tech. That led to the development of a startup incubator focused on Black founders and later a pitch competition.

She said at that point, it was clear the founders she was working with needed access to capital to have a chance to grow the businesses they were starting as part of the incubator and pitch competition, and the idea of an early stage fund began to take shape. She said that Indiana is known for B2B SaaS and she wanted to tap into that energy.

“You know we’re known as B2B SaaS and we’ve had some amazing exits here with ExactTarget and Salesforce and Angie’s List and Interactive Intelligence and Genesys, and so we’ve had a lot of really amazing things happening in the tech realm locally, but there’s not a lot of conversations being had around diversity and seeing more people of color and women and LGBTQ founders,” Jones told me.

The plan is to provide seed, pre-seed and maybe piggyback on an occasional A round with investments that range between $250,000 and $500,000 per company. She says that there is a ready pipeline from her other ventures including the incubator and pitch competitions and she is also plugged into the community where there is lots of startup energy.

She says that they wanted to set up a fund not only to address issues of diversity and having diverse people making decisions on investments, but also based on a strategy where the firm was able to invest in companies that may not always be perceived as typical venture backed business targets.

The first investment is with a B2B SaaS company called Qualifi, which uses AI to help companies with high volume hiring loads get through the qualification round much faster, taking from 7-10 days down to 3 or less, Jones told me.

The name of the firm hails back to 1968, a time in history when there was a lot of protest bubbling up around the country and calls for more equality for people of color, women and Gay rights. Jones says they had a different name when the firm first launched in 2019, but this seemed so much more appropriate for a company focused on empowering diverse groups.

“It feels like we’re still marching and trying to survive the same way we were in 1968 during the Civil Rights [movement] where we lost big leaders, and where the fire in everyone was just so big. We were fighting for women’s rights and Latino rights and Black rights and there was just so much happening, and it seems like in 2021 like we really still are in that same space,” she said.

#diversity, #indianapolis, #startups, #venture-capital


This founder raised millions to build Fair, a neobank for immigrants

Fair, a multilingual digital bank and financial services platform, is launching to the public after raising $20 million in 40 days earlier this year.

Founder Khalid Parekh raised the capital primarily from the very demographic that Houston-based Fair aims to serve: from a group consisting of a number of immigrants, many of whom were first-time investors.

“There was not a single check from a VC or bank or from a family office,” Parekh told TechCrunch. “Ninety percent of our investors are minorities or are immigrants like myself that believed in the concept of Fair.”

One could say that it’s also fitting that Fair’s headquarters are in Houston, which at the time of the last census was the most ethnically diverse city in the United States.

Parekh is not your traditional fintech founder. He doesn’t have banking or financial services experience, although he does have experience founding and running a successful company: AMSYS Group, which is valued at nearly $350 million. His mission with Fair is largely personal. Upon arriving in the U.S. from India with just $100 in his pocket 22 years ago, he struggled to not only get a loan but also to open a bank account. 

Image Credits: Founder and CEO Khalid Parekh / Fair

“I was an engineer by background, but was very confused with the American banking system. There is not a lot of help for immigrants who don’t understand it well,” Parekh recalls. “My biggest challenge was sending money back home. There was just a lack of welcome.”

In 2020, he used his own cash to build out the technology behind Fair, which is designed to be an option to those who are new to the country, have no credit or need access to interest-free loans. Fair operates with Coastal Community Bank as its sponsor bank. Parekh’s goal with Fair is to provide “ethical, transparent banking” – to anyone – via a membership model that eliminates all banking fees. Members can pay a one-time membership fee of $99 (paid in full or in installments) to have access to all of Fair’s online banking and financial services.

“Another challenge that I saw is that there were hardly any options for insurance and retirement services for immigrants and low-income people,” Parekh said. “All big institutions catered to people with a lot of money. But we want to create an institution where we are fair to everybody, regardless of religion, race, color, net worth or how much is in their bank account. We want everyone to be treated the same.”

Over the past year, the nation has seen a surge of neobanks emerge aimed at specific demographics, including Greenwood, First Boulevard and Cheese. Welcome Technologies is also aimed at serving the immigrant population. 

Fair aims to differentiate itself, according to Parekh, by offering interest-free lending, as well as the ability to invest, get insurance and plan for retirement in one platform that is available in English, Arabic and Spanish (with more languages to come). Ultimately, his goal in Fair is to help address the “longstanding racial income inequalities and widening wealth disparities in the U.S.” He won’t get a salary for his role as CEO.

Among Fair’s features are free international transfer, early access to paycheck funds, “instant, interest-free” microloans — essentially buy now, pay later at the register — an annual dividend account, debit card accounts for kids and interest-free loans for home, auto and business that are equity-based. Those equity-based loans are Sharia compliant, meaning that it’s not kosher to take interest. They also comply with Jewish law.

Instead, if a member wants to buy a home, they can put 20% down, and Fair will provide 80% via an LLC, of which the member and bank will be co-owners.

“The members will have the option of buying out our shares on whatever schedule they wish,” Parekh said.

In partnership with Avibra, Fair is offering free supplemental life, accident medical and AD&D insurance to all members as part of its banking services.

Fair aims to practice socially responsible investing (SRI), an approach to investing that reduces exposure to companies that are deemed to have a negative social impact. The fintech also practices ESG investing, which measures the sustainability of an investment and its overall impact in three specific categories: environmental, social and corporate governance. And, it’s also working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and World Relief, and will donate 2.5% of profits to refugee missions globally, as well as racial economic empowerment initiatives.

Among Fair’s advisors are Manolo Sánchez, a director at Fannie Mae and Stewart Information Systems and former chair & CEO of BBVA Compass, and Samuel Golden, managing director at management consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal and founder of A&M’s Financial Industry practice.

#apps, #bank, #banking, #diversity, #economy, #engineer, #fair, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #houston, #india, #ing-group, #money, #neobank, #online-banking, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #tc, #united-states


Emergence Capital cofounder Jason Green on transitioning out of the firm, and what’s next

Succession is a major issue for many venture firms. Institutional investors, founders — even reporters — often get attached to individual members of a team, and when one of those individuals, particularly a firm cofounder, decides to hang up his cleats, it can be tricky for the rest of the partnership if it hasn’t planned far enough ahead.

For its part, Emergence, a highly successful enterprise-focused venture firm, has been thinking about succession for at least the last decade, suggests Jason Green, who cofounded the outfit with Gordon Ritter and Brian Jacobs in the winter of 2002. While Jacobs spun out a few years ago to cofound a seed-stage fund called Moai Capital, Green says been very focused on hiring the right younger investors who Emergence expects will one day steward the firm.

Certainly, that planning seems to be paying off. Emergence’s institutional investors just committed $950 million collectively to the firm, which yesterday announced it had closed two new funds. And they did this even though Green, who has enjoyed the highest profile of the team, let them know he is ready to move on to new endeavors. We talked with Green about that decision, and what’s he’s planning next, earlier this week. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.

TC: A lot of your peers are starting to segue out of their longtime venture roles, but a lot are sticking around. What was the impetus for you?

JG: Well, I’m not leaving; I would say I’m transitioning to a different role. I’m still on eight boards and going to be actively involved in mentoring. But it’s the kind of thing we planned when we started the firm. We wanted to build an enduring franchise and grow from within and ultimately have the founders kind of step aside and let the next generation take over. Gordon is obviously still fully engaged, but it felt like the right time [for me to do this]. The firm is in such a great position, and you know, for me personally, I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve achieved a lot — probably more than I expected, frankly — and I’m interested in having an impact in some other ways going forward.

TC: What’s the plan?

JG: I started a family foundation that’s going to be doing philanthropic work in a few areas of interest — climate change, ending mass incarceration, working on homelessness, working on educational opportunities for disadvantaged youth. I’m also excited to become an LP in emerging funds run by diverse managers. I’ve [invested in] half a dozen teams with African American leads or female leads or Latino leads, but while our industry has made some progress over the last, whatever, 10 to 15 years, it’s not nearly enough.

When I think about how slow it is to hire somebody and groom them from within — generally that’s the way we’ve done it in Emergence — the only way to really accelerate [the creation of more] firms that are started and led by diverse folks who are likely to invest in diverse founders [is to actively help them] and that’s somewhere where I think I can move the needle. I’ve been at three venture firms and started one from scratch, so for me, in some ways I feel even more confident [in] coaching and mentoring other emerging managers than I do entrepreneurs.

TC: Are you modeling this transition after anyone you know and admire?

JG:  A guy who has been a mentor of mine for many years is Russ Carson, who started [the private equity firm] Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe. He has kind of become a role model of what I’d like to do for the next phase of my career. He’s on the boards of Rockefeller University and funded charter schools and been really impactful in the community.

I definitely have interest in supporting the local community in the Bay Area, but I also think some of these [areas I’ll be focusing on] are almost global in scope, and part of [leaving Emergence] is having the freedom to just be curious and learn about things as I go and then figure out where where I can make a difference and have some fun along the way.

TC: Did you and Gordon arm wrestle over who’d get to bounce first? 

JG: [Laughs.] Yeah, we’re around the same age. I think the difference is that I’ve been in the venture business 30 years and he’s been in the business 15 years; he really started in the venture business with Emergence and I think he’s totally jazzed to stay totally in the game for the foreseeable future [whereas] I’m reading to shift from hunting to farming.

TC: Any advice for other firms that are contemplating how to handle succession?

JG: We hired somebody every couple of years and we made the decision not to hire multiple people at the same level. We basically said, Everybody that we hire in this firm can be successful long term here, and your job is to make other people around you successful. That’s the best way of ensuring your own success.’ And so there was this shared sense of success and failure that I think that we institutionalize in the firm.

At a lot of firms, it’s a little bit more of an eat-what-you- kill kind of mentality. I think in the venture business that’s a little bit misplaced, because there’s so much luck involved in the business. You never know which partner is going to have that big home run. It can take 10 years to actually figure out what were the big wins [in a fund] so you’re going to judge somebody based on the deals they’ve done in the first two years or three years of the business? So we tend to focus a lot more on the inputs than the outputs because the outputs are very variable and have a lot of uncertainty associated with them, but the inputs you can control and, I mean, this is a long term game. It’s a marathon.

TC: What fun thing are going to pick up now that you’ll maybe have more time? 

JG: I’m trying to squeeze as much time as I can with my kids, who are juniors and senior in high school right now. They’ll be off to college soon and spending time with them is a priority, for sure. Health and wellness is also important and  something that tends to take a backseat given how busy we all are, so that’s going to become more of a priority. But also just building and spending time with great friends and hopefully having more opportunities to create some great memories. I have no doubt my plate will be full.

#box, #diversity, #emergence-capital, #jason-green, #limited-partner, #philanthropy, #saas, #succession, #tc, #veeva, #venture-capital, #zoom