Why we became the world’s first software company with a 50/50 shareholder gender balance

"Businesses with diversity at their core perform better", explains EnterpriseAlumni co-founder James Sinclair

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This week my cofounder and I announced that we have completed our third funding round bringing our financing to $12m …. and the shareholder gender balance is 50:50.

That’s both the founding team and the investor shareholders we have sharing the journey with us.

Whilst companies in other sectors have achieved this, to date no tech company at venture stage has managed to do so. But it was very important to us both. Why?

From my (male) perspective, we preach a technology platform to help companies be more inclusive and diverse – our software is the market leader powering the corporate alumni networks of some of the world’s largest companies.

HSBC, Wells Fargo, Pearson, P&G, Nestle. All giants with forward thinking people agendas.

What does EnterpriseAlumni do?

Our software has many key functions that enable corporates to promote and protect their brand – recruitment, business development, cost cutting – but focusing on people and recruitment: our platform helps our customers to find the right people for the right job with the right skills and at the right time.

And from the perspective of the alumni we collectively serve, helping them to better engage with their former employers and find opportunities that suits them.

“Gender equality is not a buzzword – it’s at the very fabric of our culture.”

This includes women returners who may have taken time off to raise a family. Veterans who have taken a career break to serve in the military.

And retirees who, having decided to exit the workforce, realise they’d actually like to work but part time versus full time.

We also help our customers extend their special interest groups that range from Women in Finance to Running Club and LGBT.

When an employee leaves, he or she likely still retains an interest in the groups they have been part of whilst employed but until now, there’s been no way to extend that relationship.

Our platform solves that problem.

Diverse businesses perform better!

It’s important that the vision we sell to our customers matches the culture and vision of our organization. Under our roof, gender equality is not a buzzword – it’s at the very fabric of our culture.

And our goal of a gender balanced share ownership structure made complete sense from my perspective – both personally and professionally.

Because the data is irrefutable that businesses with diversity at their core perform better and because we like to practice what we preach.

And as is often reported, 12% of vc money goes to diverse teams, 2% of investment into start-ups is female despite 38% of founders being female.

7-20% of angel investors are women depending on which side of the Atlantic you look at. In the US, 75% of US venture firms don’t have female partners. And 78% of tech start-up founders said they had no plans to promote diversity and inclusion.

We want to be different.

We had to take a broader type of investment. Instead of solely seeking venture investment as would be expected for a business like ours, we sought men and women who wanted to not only be part of our business – but also were able to write big cheques.

“78% of tech start-up founders said they had no plans to promote diversity and inclusion.”

To show that men invest. But so do women. That venture funds invest in men – and also in women. That diverse founding teams can share the founder equity equally and dilute equally. That our shareholders could represent a gender balanced group of voices typically not found in tech.

Gender balanced ownership structure – a model for the future

We were lucky to have support from Angel Academe, who invested 4 times their record raise to date from their syndicate – and women’s wealth management firm Addidi introduced many of the women we needed.

Between them they helped us find many of the women we needed, introducing us to the women we would resonate with too.

Women like Julia Ross, one of Australia’s most successful women having IPO’d her company. Like Aileen Getty, whose foundation supports endeavours focused on building fairer communities.

And men like outgoing SAP SuccessFactors President Mike Ettling and Lord Mevyn Davies, co-author of the UK government’s report on gender equality on boards who understand our business and supports our mission.

And finally, three funds who knew this would be the harder path but supported us all the way: Backed, Pentland and B&Y.

Our gender balanced mission is just one way we could be part of a change – but it’s a start.

And it is, we hope, a model for the future.

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