Diversity isn’t about good intentions it's about action.
The UK startup ecosystem needs to do more to support diverse communities; fewer than 24% of VCs are from ethnic backgrounds, only 1p of every pound invested goes to female founders and over 48% of diverse founders are ineligible for government grants. We are miles behind progress.
However, over the past three years, at YSYS we've provided access to opportunities in tech for over 10,000 diverse individuals through our employment and entrepreneurial programmes. This has been made possible by the collective effort of our team, partners, members, and allies, who have been committed to campaigning against the exclusion of diverse communities within the startup ecosystem.
We believe in advocating on behalf of diverse communities to ensure their voices are heard, by creating campaigns that influence policies and change narratives where it matters the most. By telling the powerful stories of the community we support, we mobilise allies across the UK to create impactful change from the bottom up.
Time to do more: Launching our Community Advocates membership model
With the launch of our new Community Advocates membership model, we will be helping our allies take action and create opportunities for overlooked groups.
Whether you’re a founder, an organisation or a supporter, we invite you to join us on this mission. With your contribution together we'll be able to amplify the voices of diverse communities and advocate for a startup ecosystem that is fair, inclusive, and accessible.
By joining us you will be:
1) Raising awareness of issues that impact diverse founders and talent - we conduct surveys and contribute to roundtable consultations and advocacy campaigns, working with other organisations to bring about a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible startup community.
2) Helping transform conversations about diverse founders and talent - sharing their stories, including the challenges they face within their career and entrepreneurial journey. We believe it is vital that our communities own their voices and are at the heart of this conversation.
3) Create space where people can connect with diverse founders and talent - though our programmes TalentDoor and FoundersDoor, encouraging authentic relationships to grow and curating a #payitforward culture.
Learn more about our campaign here. Below are some of YSYS previous and current campaigns:
Where Are The Faces
With our community, we wrote an Open Letter to Sadiq Khan regarding the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK Trade Mission’, highlighting the lack of black female founders on the cohort, and its failure to reflect the true diversity of London’s tech ecosystem.
Whilst women are often underrepresented when it comes to entrepreneurship, evidence shows that the position is even worse for black women - only 0.2% of black female founders received funding in 2016 according to Project Dianne.
We provided a list of recommendations for the next ‘Silicon Valley Comes to the UK Trade Mission’ from working with community groups to conducting research - you can view the full list of recommendations here.
As a result, our Community Advocates were invited to meet with the Deputy Mayor of London Rajesh Agrawal at City Hall to put forward their suggestions, facilitated by Natalie Campbell, LEP Board Member. This led to the launch of the first Diverse Entrepreneurs Summit, at City Hall with Sadiq Khan.
"Really positive meeting with the most amazingly talented black women entrepreneurs of London. Let us not forget, one letter can change the world" - Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business.
Future Fund Community Response
Following the recent announcement by the UK government of a support package for startups, concerns have been voiced by our community centered around its failure to cater to diverse founders. Sadly, part of this support package — the £500m Future Fund — by design only heightens systemic barriers that exist within the investment community, which is dominated by privileged white males (39% of London’s VC firms don’t have any women on their investment teams, according to Diversity VC).
With our Community Advocates, we outlined recommendations for The Treasury to consider when launching the Future Fund in May. You can view the full list of recommendations here.
You can read the trajectory of the campaign here. The Treasury has since developed a Diversity Action Plan, which involves becoming a signatory of The Investing in Women Code and has committed to capturing diversity data of applicants. You can read their commitments here,