As part of a new initiative announced Thursday, startups looking for funding from Oakland-based Kapor Capital first must prove they’re committed to diversity in the workplace by signing a four-point pledge.
The “Founders’ Commitment” states that companies must establish diversity and inclusion goals, invest in recruiting and hiring, organize volunteer opportunities where employees can engage with underrepresented communities, and participate in educational sessions hosted by Kapor.
USA Today called the pledge a “first-of-its-kind step.” It comes at a time when Bay Area venture capital firms and technology companies are under fire for their marked lack of diversity. Last year’s gender bias trial that pit Ellen Pao against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers sparked a heated debate in Silicon Valley, even though she ultimately lost the case. Under pressure from critics, companies including Google, Microsoft and Intel have started releasing their ethnic and gender diversity statistics, but as Fortune reports, many continue to employ a largely white, male workforce.
Kapor partner Freada Kapor Klein says her goal is to prompt startups to hire inclusively from day one, instead of retrofitting the company to meet diversity standards at a later stage. Each company will have a different plan they must adhere to, depending on their specific needs, she said.
“This isn’t a check-the-box exercise,” Klein said. “This is something that’s been carefully thought through and tuned to be a strategic business advantage, as well as the right thing to do.”
While all new companies must sign, existing portfolio companies have the option to opt in. Klein says nearly two-thirds already have. Companies that have made the pledge include Bitly, Hopscotch and Accredible.
Freada, who founded the Level Playing Field Institute, has long been committed to improving diversity in the technology sector. Last year she and husband Mitch Kapor announced plans to invest $40 million in initiatives designed to help women and minorities become entrepreneurs, USA Today reported.
Photo: Kapor Capital Partners Freada Kapor Klein and Mitch Kapor. (Courtesy Kapor Capital)