Techstars Seattle 2018 Diversity Update: Getting Better, With Your Help

A year ago I shared my frustration about failing to recruit a more diverse group of founders to Techstars Seattle. In that post, I also asked for help from anyone who had experience or connections to share that could help me do better this year.

The response was overwhelming. I was introduced to so many great people, had so many powerful conversations, and learned so much about the likely root causes of my poor performance that I came to this year’s recruiting effort with a completely revamped approach. I just didn’t know if it would work.

Today we announced the Techstars Seattle class of 2018, and I’m happy to report that our mix of founders is meaningfully more representative of the amazing range of human experience that drives our culture and economy forward.

We were more successful with some communities than with others: this year’s class includes three women CEOs, and two African American CEOs (out of a 10-company class). And — thanks in part to the strong global leadership of the Canadian government — we also have founders who emigrated to North America from countries like Jordan, Iran and Pakistan, adding welcome perspective for those born and raised here.

But while we’ve inched closer to a class that mirrors the richness of our broader society, we fell short of our goals in a few important areas. First and most obviously, in a gender-balanced world, having 30% women leaders is still 20% short of full representation. And in a country that’s nearly 20% Latinx, we made no meaningful progress in attracting Latinx founders.

Most important of all, we haven’t yet proven the real point: that diverse founding teams build stronger companies. Our promise to founders is that being a part of the Techstars network will meaningfully increase their odds of success as entrepreneurs. Being admitted to a Techstars program is just a first step on a much longer journey. Their journey with us, and the fulfillment of our promise to them, has only just begun.

I want to thank all of the incredible people from many different startup communities who responded to my request for help. I have learned so much from you, not just about the needs of your communities, but more importantly about the ways I need to change my own behavior in order to earn and deserve your trust. I still have much to learn on this front, but I couldn’t have begun without your help, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the risk you took in reaching out.

So much more to do…