Project Include Names Companies and VCs in First Diversity and Inclusion Cohort

Eric Wingerter

11 Startups and 15 Venture Capital Firms will Set Diversity & Inclusion Metrics, Test Strategies, and Share Results

OAKLAND, CA (DATE) Eleven tech startups and 15 venture capital firms have been selected by Project Include to participate in an inaugural contingent to test best practices to build diverse and inclusive cultures. Known as Startup Include and VC Include respectively, the contingency represent the first steps in the Project Include initiative, which launched last month as a first-of-its-kind roadmap to promote comprehensive cultural change at tech companies and VC firms.

“The recommendations of Project Include were steeped in the best available research and tech experience, and we designed them to be actionable, effective and measurable to accelerate diversity and inclusion in tech,” said Ellen Pao, investor, entrepreneur and startup advisor. “Now we are incredibly excited to road test those recommendations with a group of companies working together to compare notes and share experiences real time.”

“People of color will soon be the majority in the US, and the new economy will look a lot different,” said Monique Woodard, Venture Partner at 500 Startups, which has joined VC Include. “Diversity isn’t going to be a ‘nice to have’; it’s going to be imperative to our success as investors and the success of our portfolio companies. This initiative helps us find the data and act on it in a way that will make us more inclusive and thus more successful on both sides of the table.”

The companies selected include: Airbnb, Asana, Clef, Managed by Q, Patreon, Periscope Data, Prek12Plaza, Puppet, Truss, Twilio, and Upserve. The venture capital firms include: 500 Startups, Blackbird, Cross Culture, Designer Fund, Homebrew, Impact, Kapor Capital, Lowercase, Lucas Point, Precursor, Reach, Scale, Trimantium, True, and Upfront.

“I’m thrilled to have Kapor Capital join VC Include,” said Freada Kapor Klein, Partner at Kapor Capital and Founder of the Level Playing Field Institute. “More than three-quarters of our portfolio companies have already signed our Founders Commitment to be proactive about creating inclusive workplace cultures. Their experiences will be an important part of this initiative and findings as well.”

More than 100 companies applied to become members of the inaugural cohort, and were selected based on a variety of criteria, including size, sector, geography, and commitment from the top.

“Startup Include is exciting because it ties to our vision for Asana building a diverse team,” said Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder and CEO of Asana. “We share their values of inclusivity, comprehensiveness, and accountability. As a company, we strive to be the change we want to see in the workplace. And the workplace we want to see in this world is radically inclusive.”

“The CEOs of each of these companies are personally committed to driving change and inclusivity over the next seven months, making it much more than just a pledge. That’s what makes Startup Include so unique and exciting,” said Tracy Chou, entrepreneur and formerly a Software Engineer at Pinterest. “We are driving change from the top down in a way that will be measuring intersectionality and inclusivity in a comprehensive way across the company.”

The Project Include Team specifically sought out smaller companies, between 25 and 2,500 employees, to join the initial contingent.

“We believe we can maximize impact by working with startups at a younger stage, rather than with larger, more established companies,” said Erica Joy Baker, Senior Engineer at Slack Technologies. “It’s a big challenge to retrofit an existing culture, so we’re working with companies to build in principles of diversity and inclusion from the start.”

Project Include plans to publicly release the aggregated data and findings from the contingency at periodic intervals, to help the entire tech ecosystem benefit from the findings of what is working and what isn’t.

“Transparency has been a cornerstone of our recommendations from the start,” said Y-Vonne Hutchinson, founder of ReadySet. “We are going to test our recommendations and fine tune them as we learn more. At the same time our model allows CEOs to share experiences and learn from each other as they begin to put the recommendations into practice.”

In addition to the best available research, Project Include recommendations were based on the real life experiences of its eight founders in the tech sector.

“Together, the Project Include founders bring 150 years of collective experience to this initiative, and we are an incredibly diverse team,” said Laura I. Gomez, Founder and CEO at Atipica. “Inclusivity goes far beyond just gender. The specific experiences of women of color in tech have shaped our understanding of the problem and inform our solutions.”

The ten companies represent a range of tech sectors, from consumer platform and crowdfunding to enterprise software and big data.

“We very specifically included a number of impact companies in this initial contingency–companies whose products are helping to create change,” said bethanye McKinney Blount, Co-Founder and CEO at Cathy Labs. “We believe that diversity and inclusion will result in better products and technologies that themselves, in turn, will be an important part of diversifying the ecosystem.”

“I don’t think the tech industry has seen a diversity initiative quite like this before,” said Susan Wu, entrepreneur and angel investor. “It’s research-based and metrics-driven, and as a team we’re ready to pivot our recommendations based on empirical evidence. I’m excited we have both startups and VC funds committed to these programs — these communities need to work together to drive change.”


Startups include:

  • Airbnb: Airbnb is a trusted online community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world.

  • Asana: Asana makes a fast-growing work tracking app for teams, so they can spend less time manually tracking work and more time on getting more done and achieving results. Other collaboration apps like files (Dropbox, Box) and messaging (Slack, HipChat) integrate with Asana to help teams track their work better together. Asana is one of Fast Company’s 2016 Most Innovative Companies.

  • Clef: Clef is using two-factor authentication to build a secure standard of identity for businesses to replace passwords, allowing users to have an authentic and personal relationship with the technology they use. Our core values and our employee handbook guide our strategies and individual actions so that we create a company whose character is as radical as its product.

  • Managed by Q: The platform for office management that makes it easy to run an office, just raised $25M from Google Ventures and Kapor Capital for a total of over $40M in funding.

  • Patreon: Patreon is changing the way art is valued. We provide creators the platform to foster their community of fans while getting an ongoing revenue stream to keep making awesome things.

  • Periscope Data: Periscope Data is a platform for data analysts that lets you run, save and share analyses of billions of data rows in seconds.

  • Puppet: The leading platform for delivering and operating constantly modern software – no matter where it runs.

  • Prek12Plaza: Closing the achievement gap for at-risk students.

  • Truss: Tech consultancy using infrastructure and operations expertise to solve complex engineering problems. Truss was part of the core team that saved

  • Twilio: Developers and businesses use Twilio to make communications relevant and contextual by embedding messaging, voice, and video capabilities directly into their software applications.

  • Upserve: One of the largest and fastest­-growing companies in the restaurant technology space, over 6,000 restaurants use Upserve to manage more than 20 million meals per month, unlocking the power of their menu, workforce and guest habits to help optimize every decision.


VCs include:

  • 500 Startups: A global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator based in Silicon Valley founded by Dave McClure and Christine Tsai. 500 Startups has invested in 1,500 startups that come from 60+ countries with a team of 125 people in 20+ countries speaking over 25 languages.

  • Blackbird Ventures and Startmate Accelerator: Australian VC fund and accelerator investing in technology companies that want to be the best in the world, not just the best in Australia. We love backing founders from diverse backgrounds who are doing their life’s work.

  • Cross Culture Ventures: Global VC firm founded by Troy Carter, Marlon Nichols and Trevor Thomas. Investing in technology companies that “fuel shifts in cultural trends and consumer behaviors within an increasingly diverse global marketplace.”

  • Designer Fund: The first seed-stage fund focused on startups founded by designers. It builds and educates design teams at partner companies, connects experienced designers with top startups for new career opportunities, and produces events and resources to share best practices with the design community.

  • Homebrew: Seed stage venture capital fund, co-founded by Satya Patel and Hunter Walk, providing capital and operational assistance to entrepreneurs enabling the Bottom Up Economy.

  • Impact Investment Group: A multi-asset impact funds manager. Launching Giant Leap — Australia’s first VC Fund which is 100% dedicated to investing in exceptional, rapidly scaling, impact businesses.

  • Kapor Capital: Founded by Mitch Kapor and Freada Klein Kapor and based in Oakland. “At Kapor Capital we believe in the power of transformative ideas and diverse teams. We are an Oakland-based fund that understands that startup companies have the ability to transform entire industries and to address urgent social needs as they do so.”

  • Lowercase Capital: Founded by Chris Sacca. “We invest in startups, acquire later stage companies, and advise businesses and funds of all sizes on strategy and execution.”

  • Lucas Point Ventures: Active investor in and advisor to early stage companies. The majority of portfolio companies have women founders or co-founders and CEOs.

  • Precursor Ventures: Charles Hudson’s “pre-seed” fund “investing in strong teams in the business to business and business to consumer software markets.”

  • Reach Capital: Co-founded by Jennifer Carolan and Shauntel Poulson. “Seeding the most inspirational, uplifting and engaging educational tools which help educators and families realize children’s full potential.“

  • Scale Investors: Scale is an Australian female focused Angel network. 100 Scale Angels have invested almost $5m in 10 women led businesses since 2013. Trimantium: Based in Asia Pacific,

  • Trimantium Capital: An impact investor in technology businesses ready for high-growth in large markets. They build innovative and profitable businesses that also change the world by empowering consumers, creating choice, building awareness and generating wellness.

  • True Ventures: Co-founded by Jon Callaghan and Phil Black in 2005. “We invest in entrepreneurship that encompasses all walks of life, and believe in the democratization of innovation as a powerful force for global good.”

  • Upfront Ventures: The largest and longest-running VC firm in Southern California, investing in businesses that are technology led and coming from various backgrounds across technology sectors as entrepreneurs, operators, and investors.