OneTech launches entrepreneur incubator for diverse founders

  • There has been a renewed focus on diversity in tech In light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • UK diversity organization OneTech has launched a new entrepreneur incubator and accountability groups with JP Morgan Chase to force change in the industry.
  • Since it was founded in late 2018, OneTech says it has supported 360 founders, 68% of whom are women and 91% are BAME. As of June 2020, the 180 businesses it has backed have raised a total of £13.6 million and created 130 jobs, it says.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement and the inequalities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on diversity in tech. 

But while many companies and execs have spoken out about the problem, few have succeeded in overhauling the status quo and bringing about meaningful change in the wider tech industry.

One organization hoping to change that is tech diversity group OneTech, which has just launched new D&I initiatives with JP Morgan Chase aimed at increasing representation in the UK’s tech ecosystem.

The core of OneTech’s new program is an entrepreneur incubator targeted at helping underrepresented entrepreneurs transition from the idea stage to investment readiness, alongside new accountability groups that will provide BAME and female founders with peer-to-peer support.

OneTech intends to provide intense support for more than 250 entrepreneurs and 120 businesses through these initiatives.

Since its founding in October 2018, OneTech says it has engaged over 1,000 founders and directly supported 360 people, of whom 68% are women and 91% are BAME. As of June 2020, OneTech says that the 180 businesses it has backed have raised £13.6m and created 130 jobs.

Hang Ho, head of global philanthropy EMEA and LATAM for JPMorgan Chase, says that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the systemic barriers to opportunity for underrepresented groups.

“Today’s inflection point can be used as an opportunity for business to collaborate with government and nonprofit organizations in order to drive real change by improving access to training, resilient careers and capital,” she said.

But, while COVID-19 has accelerated the push for diversity, it has also exacerbated inequalities, said Emma Obanye, OneTech entrepreneur in residence. 

“Early-stage funding is being slashed, there are a lot of angel investors that are probably not going to make any checks this year,” she says. “So, how can we help and support these entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and actually get back to the fundamentals?”

A lot more needs to be done by investors to educate themselves and widen their network, added Obanye.

“In order to change the ecosystem, it needs to be tackled from all fronts, not just the investor side, but also the entrepreneur side and where people look to source entrepreneurs,” she says.

Earlier in September, non-profit organization Diversity VC, supported by OneTech and D&I platform Diversio, launched a new diversity standard for venture capital funds to provide an industry benchmark for diversity and inclusion best practices.

But, Obanye says, founders should also look to other funding options, as venture investment is not the right route for everyone.

“A lot of later-stage support is always focused on investment readiness,” she says. “We’ve decided, actually, investment is not for everyone. As an entrepreneur who’s gone through that, I realized the second time round that it really wasn’t for me.”

With the renewed focus on diversity, companies also need to ensure they are doing more than just paying lip service, Obanye says. A critical part of this is having data, which is where the government could also do a lot more, she adds. 

“You can’t see the women or people of color, unless you start tracking that data,” she says. “From a policy perspective, that’s the one thing that they [the government] could do to illuminate this problem even more.”

The UK government ran a consultation on ethnicity pay gap reporting that closed in January 2019, but it is yet to respond to these recommendations amid COVID-19 and Brexit-related delays. 

Sheree Atcheson, the diversity, equity, and inclusion director at employee success platform Peakon, has previously told Business Insider that the lack of ethnicity data is holding many companies back from implementing effective D&I strategies.

“A lot of organizations are now in the positions where they’ve realized that they captured for example gender data, but nothing else, so then you haven’t got an intersectional approach,” she said.

She added: “When you do that kind of reporting, it will unearth the fact that, even if you have increased, for example, your overall gender representation, but actually when you look at women of color it hasn’t moved at all, so your focus has benefited white women only.”

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