Inclusive Entrepreneurship Gives Startups a Competitive Edge

At Rev1, a big part of our focus on helping entrepreneurs build great companies is helping entrepreneurs build great teams.

We are intentional about diversity and inclusion. That’s because companies with diverse founders, leaders, mentors, and teams achieve better financial results than their peers.

Our client engaged companies are 50 percent diverse*; that’s 4X the industry average. It’s exciting to see the impact as startups leverage inclusion and diversity to create competitive advantage.

*We define diverse as companies founded or led by women, minorities, or veterans.

Inclusive Diversity Delivers Sales and Marketing Advantages

Consider ScriptDrop, a prescription delivery and medicine reminder service that can help pharmacies reduce prescription abandonment. ScriptDrop was founded by Nick Potts and Larry Scott, two experts in the pharmacy industry who earned their chops at CoverMyMeds.

“When we started, we had a 50/50 balance,” said Potts. “I’m white, and Larry is black. When we brought on Amanda (Way), we looked at each other and said, wow, we really are a diverse company out of the gate.”

Scaling a startup is all about breaking into new markets and signing up new customers. As reported by Deloitte, companies with greater racial diversity brought in 15 times more sales revenue than firms with lower diversity.

I asked Larry, Amanda, and Nick to offer some tips on expanding inclusion to enter markets and grow sales.

“I’m not a white guy,” said Scott. “I have more friends who aren’t white that I can refer to this company. It’s the same with Amanda and her female friends. There are places to look to, groups here in Columbus that are all about expanding diversity. They have get-togethers that are opportunities to see who’s out there. Instead of sitting behind a desk, get out there or invite these groups into your organization to let people know that your company is interested in diversity.”

Local grassroots organizations such as i.c. stars, <BLK Hack>, Bunker Labs, OSU’s REACH for Commercialization, Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA), and Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD) offer great opportunities to plug in and get to know people who are different. Diversity begets diversity.

“People hire from their networks,” Potts said. “I grew up in Nashville and went to inner-city schools. I didn’t go to some prep school for white kids. Most of my friends were black and Hispanic. Getting involved at the one-one-on level made me more empathetic. We are more alike than different.”

There has been a lot written and reported lately about the lack of diversity within the high-tech industry. Research identifies selection bias—from preconceived ideas of what a successful entrepreneur looks like to unconsciously associating women and minorities with less credibility—as a limiting factor.

“Women can be labeled as emotional and hard to deal with,” Way said. “Never shy away from that. The best leaders are empathetic and connect with people. That’s a skill set that women have. What you need in an organization is a leader who connects on the human level. Doing away with labels helps a company focus on that.”

ScriptDrop is working on prescription delivery with two national chains. “For such a young company that’s a very big deal,” said Potts, whose recent LinkedIn post on diversity started a conversation. “We are focused on doing our jobs with confidence, knowing that the company that we are building reflects the diversity of our market. That allows us to get an edge.”

Rev1’s Network is 30% Diverse; We Want to Do More

Mentors help entrepreneurs broaden their thinking, challenge assumptions, and manage through critical challenges. Expertise and experience matters. Entrepreneurs gain from mentors who are different from them, as well as from people who look and behave the same.

Beth Filipkowski, director of Human Resources at 2Checkout and Rev1 mentor, brings a unique perspective on diversity—the blending of multiple different cultures resulting from an acquisition.

“We were purchased by a private equity firm and now have team members in Eastern Europe, London, and throughout other parts of the U.S. as well as a large group here in Columbus,” she said. “We know that cultural diversity builds a competitive advantage, and it comes with different countries, different approaches to work, different time zones, and more.”

Whether via Skype or in person, Filipkowski encourages employees to connect face-to-face to become more unified and to feel like everyone is part of something bigger than just their own responsibilities.

“We’ve been putting together more collaborative work opportunities, even encouraging employees from here to fly out to Bucharest and encouraging others to come and visit Columbus. There is nothing better for building relationships with coworkers from other countries.”

Filipkowski is learning too, including adopting a performance management system from Romania. “I find that I flourish in an environment where I wear many hats,” she said. “That’s what excites me about having the opportunity to provide my expertise to startups, helping entrepreneurs think more about talent and inclusion early in the process.”

We are committed to increasing inclusion and the diversity of the Rev1 Network. If you are a female or minority leader who would like to offer mentoring or expert services to entrepreneurs, contact us.

Expanding Inclusion by Meeting People Where They Are

We’ve dug in deep and published a white paper on the challenges and opportunities for accelerating startup success here in Ohio by developing a more inclusive high-growth startup community and ecosystem.

How does your organization use inclusion as a competitive tool?