On June 23, Berkeley startups will pitch their ideas for supporting equity, inclusion and diversity

The Berkeley Ventures, Berkeley Values Learning Lab and Pitch Competition is an initiative of the Berkeley Startup Cluster.

Credit: TechEquity Collaborative

This story is brought to you by the Berkeley Startup Cluster.

The confluence of the coronavirus pandemic and America’s racial reckoning has heralded a new kind of awareness around equity, inclusion and belonging — including in the workplace. We are seeing a shift towards a new paradigm, where employees and business leaders at both startups and established companies are making changes to support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). 

To honor homegrown equity and inclusion efforts, the Berkeley Startup Cluster — a partnership of the City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab and local business organizations with a mission to make Berkeley a more vibrant, accessible and equitable place for startups to launch and grow — launched the Berkeley Ventures, Berkeley Values (BV2) Learning Lab and Pitch Competition last month. The event series aims to help Berkeley startups and innovation companies inform, cultivate, and pitch their ideas for equity and inclusion

What next

Join the Berkeley Startup Cluster on June 23, 4 – 5:30 p.m., for fast-paced, Shark Tank-style pitches. Pitch for Equity: Berkeley Innovators’ Ideas and Initiatives for Inclusion will incorporate learnings and takeaways from the Berkeley Ventures, Berkeley Values Learning Lab. 

Judges will provide real-time feedback to pitch contestants and select winners that most intentionally advance equity and inclusion. Cash prizes will be awarded: The fate of the Audience Choice award recipient is in your hands!

See more about the Berkeley Ventures, Berkeley Values Learning Lab & Pitch Competition.

The series kicked off on May 18 when a panel of leading DEI experts discussed ways to advance equity through company culture and products. Some key recommendations shared included:

  • Give staff ownership of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging goals. Even if financial resources are limited, early-stage companies can foster a culture of inclusion by giving each person on the team an opportunity to take ownership of diversity, equity, and belonging goals.  
  • Counter expediency bias. Contrary to conventional startup wisdom, ‘slow down’. Go off script and pose questions that honor different perspectives. Leverage the power of design thinking to introduce diverse perspectives and people into business practices. 
  • When fundraising, think about who’s money you are taking. Are your values and views aligned with those of your investors, and will they stay aligned as your company grows? 
  • Pay attention to who isn’t doing well and which employees are leaving. “Work from home” eroded work-life boundaries and the collective trauma of the last 15 months has been experienced unevenly. As many employees have a deficit in capacity and wellness, ask: How can we think intentionally about repair? Senior leadership should model hybrid workplace/return to work best practices.
  • Do not let guilt about your privilege hold you back. Leverage your privilege to uplift someone. What are the “micro affirmations” (small acts of uplifting voices, accomplishments, and experiences) you can do to interrupt bias? 

Following the kickoff, the Learning Lab went into full swing with a cohort of 14 Berkeley-based startups and innovation companies. The participants have had a chance to learn and engage with one another in a casual, peer-based setting, attend a variety of interactive workshops and trainings, and access 1-1 coaching and mentorship on a range of DEI topics relevant to hiring, organizational culture, product design, and pitching.  

Members of the Berkeley Ventures, Berkeley Values Learning Lab cohort attending the ‘DEI is Culture, Culture is DEI’ session hosted by Kym Cadle, founder of Pure Ambition Consulting. Credit: Pure Ambition and TechEquity Collaborative

Learning Lab participants have a number of innovative ideas for catalyzing equitable development: 

  • RePicture generates fun and productive opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to learn about STEM through concrete examples of projects — and the people undertaking them, 
  • LaunchParty connects underrepresented entrepreneurs with capital and helps bring more diverse ideas to market through its crowdfunding platform,
  • Geopogo democratizes the design process by giving members of the public a chance to envision yet-to-be-built physical spaces using 3D visualization tools, 
  • Kiwibot builds delivery robots that serve communities at risk, address food insecurity and overcome challenges of accessibility, and
  • Many others such as Chinook Therapeutics, Opus 12 or Wild Earth want to make sure they are casting a wide net with their search for talent and that their products are serving a diverse range of customers equitably.
Inclusion in Action: RePicture’s STEM Exploration Summer Program for Students and Young Professionals. Credit: RePicture

After having only a few weeks to refine their ideas, Learning Lab participants that are “pitch-ready” (and seeking to make their DEI initiatives public) will gear up for the culminating pitch competition on June 23, open to the public. 

This story was written and paid for by the Berkeley Startup Cluster, a partnership of the City of Berkeley, UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, Berkeley Chamber and Downtown Berkeley Association whose mission is to make Berkeley a more vibrant, accessible and equitable place for startups to launch and grow. Additional BV2event series sponsors include Bayer and Wareham Development.