Diversity of thought and experience is what great societies are built upon and within. This is seen in every facet of our existence. Diversity, cooperation, curiosity and mutual understanding are the foundation for leading more fulfilled lives and the path to better companies, better education, better relationships, better health, better outcomes. The only way we build a thriving, abundant world is by engaging with each other authentically, listening to and learning from each other, and making changes that reflect the needs of all people. A society in which systems work for some and not others is a society that doesn’t work.
We, like you, have witnessed the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement that has captured the attention of people around the world. We recognize that ending the current system is not simply a matter of empathizing with Black people. We need to do more. White privilege is a white challenge that forces those who are comfortable and often blind to our beliefs and systems to understand the suffering that has been imposed for our comfort. We need to take responsibility and concrete steps toward dismantling this system that has done so much damage. As one of Canada’s largest and most active venture capital firms, we at Real are asking ourselves what more we can do to support Black people in particular and foster greater opportunity and inclusivity within the tech community.
Real has always played an integral role in developing the Canadian tech ecosystem. As such, we believe that it is our responsibility and privilege to make a significant impact on its evolution. To that end, we are committing to the following actions:
- Track and analyze our metrics: We will be tracking and measuring the diversity of the founders with whom we meet and in whose companies we invest, working to ensure that our pipeline and portfolio, as well as our team, are representative of the diverse community in which we live.
- Recognize that the solution starts within us: All Real employees will be undergoing unconscious bias training on an ongoing basis.
- Launch the Representation Matters Series: This is a new series that Real has been developing with Phil. G. Joseph, in which Black entrepreneurs and investors will be interviewed. We are committing to use our network and presence in order to amplify their stories and insights.
- Support relevant groups: We will continue to support organizations that are focused on improving diversity in the Canadian tech ecosystem.
Our diversity scorecard
We recognize that if you want to change something, you need to measure it on an ongoing basis. While we have been tracking the percent of our portfolio companies that have a woman co-founder (which has risen dramatically over the past several years to almost 50%), we have not been tracking the ethnic diversity of our founders. This is going to change.
Diversity is a key ingredient for the success of globally-ambitious startups. We are committed to setting goals and tracking our results so that we can help build a portfolio and tech community that are representative of Canadian diversity.
Unconscious bias training
In 2019, our team started a journey into Conscious Leadership, which has helped our company to become more mindful, collaborative and operationally effective. One of the results of this training was the widespread recognition of our unconscious biases and the importance of taking action to shift from our long-held beliefs (or “stories”) about concepts, people or groups to separating story from fact.
As part of our commitment to diversity and conscious leadership, every member of the Real team will participate in an ongoing series of unconscious bias workshops. Bias is a part of the human condition and does not disappear with the flick of a switch. It requires a commitment to ongoing work and reflection. As VCs, it is our job to make judgments. We recognize that the best investment decisions result from focusing on facts and recognizing any biases we may have about founders and their abilities.
Creating a platform for underrepresented voices
Real Ventures was founded on the belief that the best founders and companies can only flourish in a thriving, collaborative tech ecosystem. While Canadian tech communities are diverse relative to other hubs around the world, we still have a long way to go to remove the hurdles that will enable the best ideas, skills and people to rise to the top.
Real is launching a new interview series entitled: “Representation Matters: Interviews with Black entrepreneurs and investors” in partnership with Phil G. Joseph, a newcomer to the tech ecosystem with a background in healthcare and a passion for Black-focused diversity initiatives. The series intends to create space and support for Black voices to be heard. The first of these interviews will be published this summer. We strongly believe that things can truly change when people are given a strong platform from which to be heard. We hope this will inspire Black founders and highlight their successes for all to see.
Concrete actions for the ecosystem
There are also many other initiatives that Real supports — either as a firm or through individual contributions of our team members. Here are some that we want to highlight and urge others to contribute toward:
- Diversity & Inclusion Small Council (DISC): This group of investors gathers every few weeks to provide pitch feedback to underrepresented founders.
- Scale Without Borders: an organization that welcomes newcomer (immigrant) entrepreneurs to Canada.
- Black Academic Scholarship Fund (BASF): a non-profit organization founded in 1991 that awards academic scholarships for black scholars in Montreal
- DESTA: the Black Youth Network for Little Burgundy in Montreal whose mission is to establish resources to address barriers to success in education, employability, and entrepreneurship for Black youth.
- Black Professionals In Tech Network (BPTN): a global network working to bridge the talent gap in the tech industry by providing Black technical and business professionals with access to senior executive sponsorship, skill development and a strong peer network to support their career growth
- Black Community Resource Center: a resource-based organization that strengthens community capacity by providing professional support to organizations and individuals in need. The Centre is committed to helping visible minority youth rekindle their dreams, and achieve their full potential.
As a team, we are both dismayed by the racism underlying so many of our systems and heartened by the momentum that is building to change this. We as a community need to continue to push harder, reflect deeper, and take responsibility for our part in both the current state of things and the better future we believe in.
We are proud to be part of the vibrant and ambitious Canadian tech ecosystem and are committed to doing our part to foster more equal representation in our community. That starts with each of us, individually, doing the work to accept responsibility for our own behaviours and the part that we play in the system. Only then can we shift toward taking new and better actions. We also urge every one of us to keep reading, learning and listening to the voices owning this movement, and to support, with our money and time, the many incredible organizations and people that are leading the charge toward creating a better world.
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