How This African-American Women-Led Tech Startup Raised Nearly $600K In Funding

Dominique Fluker
Written by Dominique Fluker
African-American women-led
Mandy Price. PHOTO COURTESY OF MANDY PRICE

About 0.2% of $100 billion in venture funding goes to African American women founders, which doesn’t give them the opportunity to create a scalable business.

However, Kanarys, Inc., the first social enterprise technology platform that aims to foster collaboration between companies and employees on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, was able to secure $575K in its first round of funding, which ended this month.

Kanarys’ co-founders, Mandy Price and Star Carter, who serves as Kanarys’ Chief Operating Officer, attended Harvard Law School together but left their careers as corporate attorneys to work towards building the “sense of belonging” that research demonstrates everyone needs to be most productive.  Studies show that less than 30% of underrepresented employees feel connected or heard in the workplace, costing companies as much as $144,000 per employee in attrition costs annually.

“We started Kanarys to change those statistics and workplace culture,” said Carter. “By relying on company-specific data and analytics, rather than solely on online reviews or just a gut feeling, organizations can use Kanarys to make informed strategic decisions to tackle equity and workplace fairness issues.”

The Kanarys platform went live today for corporate early adopters and will enable their employees to anonymously share ratings, reviews and feedback on DEI to help companies address potential issues.  Employees will also be able to rate their company on five key metrics and subsequently answer a series of DEI-focused questions that includes AI and machine learning technologies. Data analytics collected from reviews and surveys will be made available via a company dashboard for corporate early adopters so leaders can make informed decisions about how to improve the culture directly based on employee feedback and input.

An African-American women-led startup boosting workplace diversity

I spoke with founder, Mandy Price about her journey to tech entrepreneurship from being a successful attorney and why Kanarys’ is important for workplace diversity and inclusion.

Fluker: Share your career journey. Why did you transition from being an attorney to Co-Founder and CEO of Kanarys?

Price: My career as a corporate attorney is what sparked the idea for Kanarys. Lack of diversity and inclusion is something I experienced first-hand as an African-American female attorney. I had achieved what I set out to do in my professional life: attend a top-tier, Ivy League law school, rise the ranks of a top law firm, and enjoy accolades, and yet, at times, I still often felt like an outsider. I remember on one occasion sitting in a meeting with a client, when one of my fellow partners referred to me as the firm’s “diverse” partner.  It was clear to me at that moment, that I was neither valued or seen as a full member of the team. Instead, I had been relegated to a “token.”

After 12 years as an attorney, I realized I wanted to change the workplace once and for all. I co-founded Kanarys to help companies create workplace cultures where everyone belongs.

Fluker: Kanarys, Inc., is a technology company that is using data and analytics to address diversity and inclusion issues in the workplace. What inspired you to start Kanarys?

Price: From my own corporate experience and in talking with hundreds of other underrepresented professionals, I observed that despite many well-meaning diversity initiatives in corporate America, those initiatives tend to be superficial and don’t translate into collaborative, inclusive dialogues that also support the business. In fact, a recent study shows that less than 30% of people of color reported a sense of belonging in their workplace. This is a problem for both employees and companies because those same employees end up leaving, resulting in attrition costs of approximately $144,000 per employee, annually.

As we started Kanarys, we realized that inclusive cultures don’t just happen – they’re intentional. And by re-aligning our collective focus to value inclusion and equity, along with diversity, employees become more engaged, more productive, and ultimately, more valuable to a company’s bottom line – which is also backed up by research.  

Fluker: Recently, Kanarys Inc. secured $575K in its first round of funding. How does the company plan to leverage this round of funding?

Price: We are thrilled to have been able to raise $575,000, considering that less than 0.2% of $100 billion in venture funding goes to African American women founders. We are using the funds to build out the technology platform that we believe will be a cornerstone of diversity initiatives at large and small U.S. companies and hire additional data analysts and other team members as we expand the platform. Our platform launches for select company Beta users in early February.

Fluker: How does the Kanarys, social enterprise technology platform work? What diversity and inclusion issues is your company solving?

Price: There are several components to our platform, built for both employees and corporate partners, to foster true collaboration and improve their workplace. The Kanarys website features dashboards with data analytics about various company policies – including diversity initiatives, maternity/paternity leave, company perks, and other topics. Companies are also ranked on diversity, equity and inclusion with their competitors in their industry. Employees are able to anonymously rate their employers in five DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) areas, and also answer a series of DEI survey questions that incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning, about their employer. What is particularly unique is that we are able to identify trends and potential issues and provide that information to our corporate partners so they can make the necessary changes to better foster diversity and inclusion in their workplace.

We are launching our Beta phase for corporate early adopters in early February and the site will go live nationwide this summer. We encourage everyone to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.

Fluker: What more needs to be done to achieve diversity and inclusion in the workplace? 

Price: While it’s good to strive to make the workplace diverse, let’s recognize that diversity is more than a numbers game. Diversity and inclusion are strengthened when a company builds dialogue and collaboration at all organizational levels, and further allows employees methods for airing ideas without repercussions. For us to genuinely benefit from the complex melting pot of backgrounds, ideologies and personal experiences that our world has to offer, we must get intentional about inclusion and not just a diversity check box.

Fluker: How do you see Kanarys expanding in the next 3-5 years? 

Price: As we grow, we hope to continue to expand our internal team to help address the unique needs of our users.  Additionally, we would love to expand globally because we are strong believers that although diversity and inclusion may have different meanings across different cultures, the importance of creating a culture where everyone belongs is universal.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

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About Dominique Fluker

I am a San Francisco Bay Area social strategist, currently executing digital strategies at WeWork. Being a Bay Area native and semi-New Yorker, I've always experienced the best of both worlds. However, attending Sarah Lawrence College expanded my worldview and intensified my work ethic even more. Transitioning from a career in public relations to social media marketing, provided the exciting opportunity to bring digital campaigns into fruition for high profiled clients as well as exploring the interconnectivity of culture and communication through social media to garner brand extension and awareness. I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion within the workplace and dedicated to encouraging millennial women of color to make an impact within their organizations. Learn more about me here: http://www.werquedominique.com