Project Include, from left to right: Erica Joy Baker, Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, bethanye McKinney Blount, Freada Kapor Klein, and Laura Gómez. Not pictured: Susan Wu. Photo Credit: Ashleigh Richelle.

Project Include: Moving from Words to Action

Freada Kapor Klein
Jun 9, 2016 · 5 min read

Thank you for your overwhelming response to Project Include and our work to improve diversity in tech. Over 1,000 people have signed up to help, two dozen venture capitalists asked to join our efforts, and over 100 startup CEOs have asked to participate in Project Include. We’ve had support from dozens of countries and six continents (no one yet from Antarctica).

Inspired, we want to marshall your efforts to show how to lead a diversity movement by example, demonstrating what’s possible with concentrated effort from committed CEOs. Today, we’re launching two targeted programs to accelerate diversity efforts with the goal of making a meaningful impact over the next seven months.

First, we’re launching Startup Include[1] to convert interest in our recommendations into measurable, meaningful results that reflect our shared values of comprehensiveness, inclusivity beyond gender, and metrics.

It is much harder to fix problems once they’re ingrained in company culture — and the problems become more difficult to address and resolve. We had to reject some applicants, because we were unwilling to water down our requirements or extend our timeline, and they were unwilling to commit to them, their HR or legal teams were too focused on legal risks and downsides, and/or they were focused on more of a PR boost than meaningful change. A few larger companies we talked with were reluctant to address more than gender, unwilling to take on risk, and/or slow to make decisions.

In parallel, we’re launching VC Include[2] to promote accountability and metrics that are inclusive, comprehensive, and comparable across tech. We selected 15 VC firms based on their top leaders committing to participate and encourage their portfolio companies to join Startup Include and to report our metrics.

We are encouraged by the commitment these 11 CEOs and their teams have shown to make a difference in their companies over the next 7 months. To build Project Include, we spent five months crafting recommendations based on our 150 cumulative years of tech experience. Project Include looks forward to adding the learnings of these startups based on their experiences and our combined learnings over the next seven months. We are excited that we’ll also have the data from potentially thousands of portfolio companies from these 15 leading VC firms.

These programs will help create an industry-wide standard for metrics that is more transparent (i.e. more comprehensive, more intersectional, and more frequent) than the few numbers currently shared by some companies once a year. We’d also like to show people what is possible when CEOs drive change top down, especially for year-to-year changes. Finally, we want to show VCs what diversity can look like and the impact it can have on a company’s financial results.

Ultimately, we want this to be a positive and collaborative effort — no shaming, just showing what data-driven progress can look like. And if/when we see success, we plan to scale our efforts across the industry.

Between Startup Include and VC Include, thousands of companies are impacted (through the attention of their VCs) and hundreds of thousands of employees might have more diverse, inclusive and welcoming work environments.

Freada Kapor Klein[3], Erica Joy Baker, bethanye McKinney Blount, Tracy Chou, Laura I. Gómez, Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Ellen Pao[4], and Susan Wu


[1] Startup Include commitment:

We would have three meetings over 7 months: the first would be to agree on specific metrics to measure around diversity. The second would be three months later as a checkpoint conversation on what’s working, what’s not working so we can learn from each other. The last meeting would be three months later to discuss final metric results and talk about how the companies that had the biggest jump in results did it. In between, we’d have a shared email (or Slack?) group to ask for advice, share issues, give advice. It would all be confidential and a safe place to look for help.

After six months we would share anonymized ranges of results:

  • range of results for the top 25%
  • range of results for the middle 50%
  • range of results for the bottom 25%

We would share the names of the top 25% companies, but no specifics would be visible other than the range results. This way, companies that do really well get recognition, but companies that don’t aren’t penalized.

We believe we can help other companies make progress faster by working together and sharing semi-anonymous results. We’ll work collaboratively with the startups that join to define the best practices around metrics, reporting, and setting the industry standards. We want to reward the startups that are committing, above all, and to provide them with a supportive cohort of peers to improve their performance.

[2] VC Include commitment:

  1. Recommending your portfolio companies with 25 to 2,500 employees sign up to the Startup Include Program (details above in [1])
  2. Instilling a commitment in your companies to manage and report diversity metrics according to Project Include best practices, and
  3. Allowing Project Include to collect these metrics for each company as part of your portfolio review.
  4. As a VC Include partner, report metrics on your own portfolio, on a yearly basis, according to our recommended guidelines: % share of underrepresented groups in portfolio company CEOs, founding teams, boards, VC firm managing partners, VC firm investing partners, VC firm supporting partners, and VC firm staff.

These metrics would be shared with the group and eventually with the public in an aggregated way (Project Include would collect them and share the results in ranges). If we have enough participants, we may share by quartile.

[3] Startup Include has 4 Kapor Capital companies (Asana, Managed by Q, PreK12Plaza, and Twilio), and several funds where we co-invest and/or are LPs. Project Include and Kapor Capital view this overlap as a positive step as it signals that the entire tech ecosystem has to change for there to be a change in the demographics of who gets funded as an entrepreneur, as well as who gets hired and promoted, and who leads large tech companies. Kapor Capital’s experience demonstrates that one’s lived experience is a key lens through which one makes decisions about who to fund, what type of company to start, and who to hire.

[4] Ellen has an angel investment in Periscope Data.

Project Include

Give everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech.

Project Include

Give everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech.

Freada Kapor Klein

Written by

Founder of Level Playing Field Institute, investor in social impact startups, dog devotee

Project Include

Give everyone a fair chance to succeed in tech.