Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are top of mind for employers, and Kanarys aims to be the technology platform for companies that want to measure their DEI platform and implement changes.
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Dallas-based Kanarys gathers data and provides specific and actionable insights to help diagnose, prioritize and optimize DEI efforts in the workplace.
Mandy Price and Star Carter started the company in 2018 after careers in law. Price was representing private equity firms, working on diversity committees and women’s task forces, and experienced many of the DEI challenges herself, she told Crunchbase News.
“Companies should use the same rigor and strategy to measure their DEI that they use for other processes to measure and analyze their policy and procedures,” Price said. “They can then use those assessments to establish a benchmark and shine a light on experiences.”
Most organizations are well-intended and well-meaning, but typically focus on celebrations rather than adopting a strategy of assessing workforce data to foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment, she added. In addition, there is often fear of retaliation and retribution when providing feedback, so Kanarys takes on that duty by deploying a safe feedback mechanism for employees to share experiences.
The company closed a $3 million seed round led by Zeal Capital Partners with participation by Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Morgan Stanley, 100 Black Angels Fund, Segal Ventures and Jigsaw Ventures. Kanarys has raised $4.6 million to date, which includes $1.6 million in angel and pre-seed investment.
Kanarys will use the funding to further advance its product features, and to build out its technology and business development teams, as well as accelerate sales and marketing efforts. Price expects to bring on approximately eight more people by the third quarter of 2021 to join the already 20-person team.
The company is currently measuring DEI insights on approximately 1,000 U.S. companies through verified employee reviews, company policies and organizational data, making it the largest DEI data-driven platform of its kind in the country, Price said.
Since launching the platform in 2019, the company has grown its user-base by 2,000 percent, and its customers include Fortune 500 brands. Although the global pandemic reduced business, the company’s inbound leads since July grew four times over 2019, led by the Black Lives Matter movement last summer.
“DEI is usually one of the first things on the chopping block when budgets go to zero, but the events that occurred in the summer renewed focus on social justice,” Price said. “Companies see it is imperative to be invested in DEI and have long-term strategies.”
DEI in venture capital
Nasir Qadree, founder and managing partner of Zeal Capital Partners, a venture capital firm focused on inclusive investing, was introduced to the company through a mutual friend and said Kanarys “checks every box.”
When doing its due diligence, Qadree also said the Zeal Capital team couldn’t find a competitor that was performing the kind of data and analytic platforms that Kanarys was doing.
“Once we met Mandy, we saw her as an early-stage founder with market fit, and it was a no-brainer after the first meeting,” Qadree said in an interview. “Kanarys has the opportunity to build on top of the tailwinds–U.S. companies have committed $8 billion to DEI. Now we have to ensure that it is sustainable over time.”
This new investment also puts Price and Carter in a unique group: They are among only 93 Black women who have raised over $1 million in funding, according to ProjectDiane, which tracks publicly announced funding of Black and Latina woman-founded businesses. Price and Qadree believe this investment represents a positive shift in equitable venture capital funding.
The data speaks for itself in terms of companies started on the coasts receiving a majority of the venture capital funding, while the startups in the middle of the country fight over the rest. At the same time, under 2 percent of woman-led startups receive funding, and 1 percent goes to people of color, Qadree said.
Meanwhile, Price said she hopes to see people understand the barriers that exist for people of color and create a system that is fair and positive.
“You should be able to source from the best companies and talent, but if people in your company all look the same, there is something wrong with your process and systems,” she said.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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