In today’s episode, we have an incredible team, building data driven solutions to power Diversity, Equity and Inclusion change. It's practical, real and focused. This is going to be a great episode, I'm pleased to welcome Jason Thompson, and Justus Thompson co-founders of CAPE inclusion.
Here’s a closer look at the episode:
Justus LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/justus-thompson-he-him-his-02ab64101/
Jason LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thompso4/
CAPE Inclusion LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/capeinclusion/
CAPE Inclusion Twitter: https://twitter.com/capeinclusion
CAPE Inclusion Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/capeinclusion
CAPE Inclusion Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/capeinclusion/
We tend to be creatures of habit. We've just always done it this way, right? People just think, oh, diversity, you do mandatory diversity training, right? Diversity, let's do recruitment. And, you know, because I've done this for a while, I paused about 15 years ago, you know, a lot of this stuff doesn't work. And the data shows like one time trainings don't work. And so we stopped doing those, like 10-15 years ago, because it only makes sense. I mean, like, why would I think I'm going to teach you about microaggression and assume it lasts for the rest of your life, like one training, net 45 minute period. Like, that doesn't make any sense. But that's what we've been doing. And then I think we've worked on some assumptions that, oh, if I just train you, you'll stop doing this. Well, the reason we call it unconscious bias is you don't know that you don't you're doing it. And one time training on unconscious bias doesn't break those habits.
This is Found in the Rockies, a podcast about the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region, featuring the founders, funders and contributors, and most importantly, the stories of what they're building. I'm Les Craig from Next Frontier Capital. And on today's show, we have an incredible team, building data driven solutions to power Diversity, Equity and Inclusion change. It's practical, real and focused. This is going to be a great episode, I'm pleased to welcome Jason Thompson, and Justus Thompson co-founders of CAPE inclusion. Hi, Jason and Justus, welcome to the show.
Hey, thanks for having us. I guess I'm Jason just so people know.
Speaking of your names. It's rare that we have co founders with this same last name, any significance to that in terms of the two of you.
We our Father, and so Jason is the dad and Justus was the son. There's actually a funny story there because we're both dyslexic. And so Justus, His names is spelled j ust us, because shortly after he was born, there were a few complications. So they ended up dragging up my wife, you know, and then I had forgotten to ask her how to spell Justus. And so because I'm dyslexic, I was like, the only two words I can spell is just and us. And that's why it's was because I had to fill out the birth certificate and Justus on the certificate as well. So
Incredible, what an opening. I don't know that we'll ever talk about birth certificates in the first three minutes of any other show. It's terrific. Well, well, Justus, tell it tell me a little bit about kind of your your background and history. Why don't we kick it off with that? And maybe it's kind of a unique opening, because you typically we asked to tell people stories, but your story kind of began with your dad at the beginning of your life. So yeah. Why don't you start there?
Yeah, it's one of those kinds of very unique, I think, founder journeys where my founder journey and like my, you know, kind of tackling the problem of what CAPE Inclusion does started when I was born, right. That's kind of the crazy part. So Jason, obviously, is my father who has been working in diversity inclusion for 25 years. And what that meant was that dinner room conversations were about issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I think most people don't realize it's been around for 25 years. So our dinner room conversation was, hey, had so and so say this, how would you guys respond, and him basically kind of testing our responses on what you would say. So I feel like I've been kind of in training for, for this company for 25 years. And that's, I think, one of the reasons it just felt so natural to fall into what we're doing.
That's, that's incredible. And, and Jason for you, take us back like 25 years and just maybe tell our listeners, I mean, your background and experience is absolutely incredible. I'd love to hear kind of the professional journey from you know, of your career as spanning multiple roles in leadership and in diversity inclusion.
You know, what's kind of interesting is, um, I got my first job in diversity at the University of Wyoming, which is unusual, because I don't think most people think of diversity and think University of Wyoming, but I went to the University of Wyoming, I dropped out and they actually had a diversity office and the Director of Diversity, somehow found me and took me under her wing, she thought it had some potential and gave me a job which I desperately needed. And she was what sounds weird. She's the only person who ever asked me how my grades were. My parents never asked me they just didn't they, you know, they weren't very well educated and things like that. And, and then after I graduated from college, I was hired as the coordinator of the Multicultural Resource Center, they called it, it's like, almost 30 years ago now. And I worked for her. She's my mentor, Dolores Cardona; Dr. Dolores Cardona, I should say, and then from there, you know, bounced around a little bit but ended up at the School of Pharmacy for the University of Colorado Health Science Center. And I was recruited away to help launch a diversity program for Integris health which was a large nonprofit hospital system in the state of Oklahoma. And then we decided we wanted to come back to Colorado. So the US Olympic Committee was looking for a diversity director. They were just launching their program. So I ended up at the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, helped launch their program. And then the basis of our business
in Colorado, Colorado Springs, right.
Yeah, Colorado Springs, exactly. Yeah. While there I invented a way to measure diversity. The US Olympic team is very complicated, just in the context of it's the only nonprofit Olympic team in the world. And then every sport you see on TV is an independent nonprofit. It was clumsy and complicated, and the CEO came, to me and he said, Hey, Jason, how are we going to measure this thing, like, we got to have a way to measure this. And then I started messing around with data and trying to figure it out. And I came up with a technique that they still use to this day, in fact, and then a magazine was a Profiles In Diversity, I think, was either 2016 or 17, named as the number one innovation and diversity. And so people kept approaching me, like, Hey, you got to monetize this thing you should try this as a business it’s good idea. Like you should do some of that. And I really never did much with it. And then Justus graduated from college, and I, you know, jumped around, but spent time at TechStars actually had launched their diversity program. And Justus was like, Hey, I think I could do this. And this was shortly after he graduated. And the rest is history. You know, of course, everything's a struggle for a startup after that point. But kind of what brings us to today and this part.
Unbelievable, I mean, it's so fun to the fact that your background, Jason touches so much of our region between Wyoming and then Colorado, I mean, we've had multiple guests, actually, we've had guests that have, are graduates of the University of Wyoming on the show. We've had multiple people from TechStars on the show Natty Zola was on the show most recently, former former director, yeah, so really fun, how many places you touched. And then so Justus you take us to take us to pick us up where you graduate from college, tell us about where you went to school, what you what you were studying what you're interested in, and then and then what then what
I think that's kind of the perfect handoff is, it was funny, I was in college, I really fell in love with behavioral science and sociology had a minor in Criminal Justice, and sociology, with a major in psychology and behavioral science. So really, when I was there really found a love for statistics, I was actually approached by our provost, because I was pretty vocal on campus to actually start our diversity, equity and inclusion program for for the campus. And so after I left, they turned what was started out as like a small group into a university council into a full time position, so they now have a full position staff member directly from that asked from the provost, which was great. I graduated and really wanted to be a lawyer, and then just was like, okay, like, Let's go talk to some lawyers See, see what they're doing. See what they liked. This was a similar timeline of I think, a year after Jason had had won the award. And we were getting these comments. And after talking to all these lawyers, the consensus was I hate being a lawyer. And the only ones who like their job, weren't lawyers, they were not using it for their legal
Right, it’s like Boy, is this boring and terrible, and hourly. So let's do something else.
Exactly. So after that, I was like, Okay, I'm, I don't think I'm gonna go the law school route. But was really passionate, what I had done at university, and obviously been around all of this work, since I was young and, and just kind of, you know, told my dad one day, and we really got to monetize this. We had a, another company that had basically tried to lightly take essentially his work and flip it and use it. And I was like, man, we got to do this for you. It's your work. It's your, it's your stuff. I think there's a huge opportunity for you, and I'm ready to learn and figure it out, which was shortly after he had gotten his TechStars job. And when that was the first time honestly, we had ever been introduced to kind of the VC world, we didn't even know it was possible to get funding on an idea. And I mean, I think we had a lot more proof. Now, I know that a lot of early startups, right, like we already had proved that people would buy this, it had won awards. And so that's how we started we didn't we didn't know a lot. That is also what led me to take an associate role at the TechStars Western Union program, so I knew we couldn't get in. And so I did the next best thing and I worked as an associate, I learned a lot of the things that that I needed to get into TechStars essentially six months later when we got into TechStars Chicago and was able to learn a lot from that. I think you know, the big thing was just jumping in right you got to start somewhere and that just ended up being a really good place for us to learn was you know, we couldn't get in but we could be you know, I had time so I did this and and was an associate at the same time.
And Jason also, I just realized we missed this because it's an important detail of this whole evolution. You didn't just have an entire career in diversity inclusion, you also wrote the book on it. Diversity, diversity and Inclusion Matters. So we'll give you a little plug there. We'll put the link to the book in the show notes. But tell us tell us about that. Tell us about the book.
Yeah, appreciate that, you know, kind of what happened was, Wiley Publishing actually approached me to write the book. So it kind of got around that people kept asking me like, Hey, what are some tips. I'm trying to launch a diversity program. And I've launched four different diversity programs and four different industries. And so we're kind of I get calls all the time, people are like, Hey, I just got the job. I've never done diversity for what should I do, like, help me and then. So the book is kind of a very practical kind of how to launch a diversity program. And CAPE is actually chapters one through five. So CAPE is an acronym. So our company is called CAPE inclusion. But CAPE stands for Collect, Analyze, Plan, and Execute. And what I found is most people were starting their diversity programs with a plan because that's what we were told, like, oh, you should have a diversity plan. And so typically, that creates a problem. And the problem, what happens is, for example, recently, we met with with a company, she said, same scenario, I just got this job, never done diversity before they had a Diversity Committee, and they decided to do recruitment. And I was like, Well, how do you know, you have a recruitment problem? You know, do you know recruitment is an issue for your company? And she said, I guess I'm thought of that. And I was like, Yeah, that's the problem. That's why these things fail, you should collect the data and see, because they were a very visible company. And I was like, your problem isn't that people of color and women aren't applying, it's that they're not being hired. That's actually selection bias. So if you create a recruitment program, you're never gonna get outcomes, because that's not the actual problem. And you know, the book basically lays that out are our work and our company lines that and just helps people figure out, Where is the actual problem, and therefore you have a solution that works, because I think a lot of what we see people call it “diversity fatigue”, and there's all kinds of other things. And it's partly because they've created a problem, or they created a program based on an assumption without actually knowing what the problem is, which sounds super fundamental. But I think generally, that's how people do diversity inclusion is just based on assumptions, Hey, we should do this, or we think that's the problem. And they don't pause and go, Okay, we should define the problem for sure. And use data to figure this out.
Yeah, you're right. It seems it seems like it would be common sense. But, I mean, what do you think the challenge is? Like, why? Why aren't people kind of recognizing that that fundamental kind of step in solving the problem or why haven't they as as, as D and I, you know, efforts have evolved over the years?
Yeah, that's a good question. And I think it's it speaks to, we tend to be creatures of habit. We've just always done it this way, right? People just think, oh, diversity, you do mandatory diversity training, right? Diversity, let's do recruitment. And, you know, because I've done this for a while, I paused about 15 years ago, you know, a lot of this stuff doesn't work. And the data shows like one time trainings don't work. And so we stopped doing those, like 10-15 years ago, because it only makes sense. I mean, like, why would I think I'm going to teach you about microaggression and assume it lasts for the rest of your life, like one training, net 45 minute period. Like, that doesn't make any sense. But that's what we've been doing. And then I think we've worked on some assumptions that, oh, if I just train you, you'll stop doing this. Well, the reason we call it unconscious bias is you don't know that you don't you're doing it. And one time training on unconscious bias doesn't break those habits. Alright, a lot of it just is systemic. We don't think about it, we just keep repeating it. We do it because it's easy. And so I can see why diversity programs struggle. People just do what they've done before. And I think it's hard to do things differently. Like it's hard to get people to accept no, there's a different way to do this. Because it's habit, right? We're used to habit. This is comfortable. I've always done it this way. Let's keep doing it. And we're now pushing back on the law. those assumptions ago, no mandatory training doesn't work. Believe me, no one wants to hear that. Like I've been saying that for years.
What do you mean, it doesn't work? What else can we do?
Exactly. And I think also, it was like, Oh, you're racist. Because if you if you say it doesn't work, it means you're racist. Right? Somebody wants to say that out loud. No, it's It's nonsensical to think a one I always tell people, I can't make you racist in 45 minutes. Therefore, I can't undo racism in 45 minutes, right?
Right. Yours, right. What is there also, Justus, what I'd love to get your take on on the challenge in the space as well, because I think this is something that has been increasingly important for us as a society as as a business community. But I'm curious, like, if you if you also perceive like, is there a mismatch in expectations and what's reasonable and achievable for companies as it relates to like specific roles and specific job types? I mean, is there problems that exist there as well?
Yeah, I think they're, I mean, I think there's a lot I think there, every diversity practitioner will tell you that there are a lot of a lot of issues. For me, I think the one that comes up, there are a couple that come up a lot, I think one is that there's not a tangible ROI. So what I mean by that is you'll do a program. And some of these programs are fantastic. I remember talking to someone at a very big tech organization who was telling me about how she created a program to identify managers and train them for promotion. And that, you know, the people in this group and the whole organization was really recognizing the value checked in with her about 12 months later, in, they had cut the program. And they had cut the program, because she didn't have the ROI to prove it was working, that it was increasing or addressing a problem. And so that's one of the big issues. It's obvious. It's one that that we seek to solve. And it's one of the things that when I was at the dinner room conversation growing up, you know, Jason would have the same issues like he would talk about these these programs or things that were going on. But it was hard to get people to buy in or understand why it was set up in a particular way. Even though he had created the data to prove it. Sometimes it would even take so long to get the data or it would be the person you're getting from the data actually has a bias and doesn't want to be impeached in this and essentially proven that. Oh, actually, I'm from the HR data department. We don't have any people of color. So if I give you the data I've just essentially incriminated myself. So I think part of that comes down to this very human aspect of it, right? Nobody wants to intentionally be racist or discriminatory. So it comes down to kind of that that's why we call it implicit bias. Right? So it's kind of we need to not only remain in this, I like to call it a brave space of, you know, yeah, we're going to find out some things that may make you uncomfortable. But we need to make sure we're present in that moment. But also make sure we have the data and the ROI to prove that, oh, wow, we're doing this and we're engaging in this conversation. We're doing this initiative, because we see people of color, don't get promoted at the same rate as their white peers. We've identified that as a problem. That's why we're choosing to do this and six months later, or 12 months later, we can show that it's actually having the desired impact. And I think that there's a disconnect there that people really seem to get the problem nowadays, they really understand that this is what we need. But there's a disconnect between the data and even if they understand the data, there's sometimes a disconnect between getting it easily that there are just so many blockers oftentimes in the organization.
Yeah, for sure. And I want to I definitely I love this, I really want to highlight this, this data centric approach that CAPE Inclusion takes because I think it's brilliant. And I remember when I kind of got the get the demo and the breakdown, I was like, wow, this is a really powerful way to look at the world. I definitely want to go there. But first, I'd love Justus to kind of understand. So from TechStar associate, to going into TechStars with this idea, and sort of carrying this forward. Tell us about your experience in TechStars. And tell us about kind of like the zero to one kind of launch of this idea and sort of the formation into into a technical a tech company.
Yeah, so I think that's a great point. So shortly after Jason gave me the okay. He was like, okay, yeah, let's go ahead and try this. We kind of got together and we put together our first MVP. So the first MVP was was kind of very basic, it was in Tableau. But we were able to put it in front of a group of chief diversity officers. And actually Jason created the group we put it in front of her was one of the founding members, and that was the sports symposium. Is that right? Jason?
DISC: Diversity Inclusion Sports Consortium is what I created.
Yeah. So Jason created that we were able to present to them. And the overwhelming response that we got was, first, are you taking investment? And second, why can't we do this ourselves? And so, you know, we, we were able to essentially know that we had a great idea. But it needed to be worked on.
So that's good validation, when people want to invest.
Yeah, exactly. So that that was that was great. We were super excited about it. And then that's when you know, Jason was working at TechStars was able to understand that, like, there was a lot I didn't know, there was enough that we both knew that. Okay, there's some more here that we need to understand. And so that's when I ended up, you know, reaching out to TechStars, work TechStars, Western Union. And Joseph and Ethan, who were the MD and the PM at the time, sat me down and talked with me, and I told them, You know, I was running this business and really wanted to learn more, it was really committed to, you know, helping the program and doing whatever, and they, you know, took a chance on me. And that allowed me to be really close to the program. And I think the biggest thing that I got out of my first time as being an associate was number one, how hard it is to be a founder. Being around all those other founders and helping them with the issues that come up day to day gave me a very real lens of what it meant to be a founder. And luckily, you know, that grew group of founders that I was a part of, also about a lot of founders of color, which I still rely on to this day. Curu, the guys from Curu are one, Adam and David, give them a little shout out. And there was Biz there with Derekus, there was a bunch of people that I lean on today, right. And I remember having very hard conversations with them. And I remember one in particular, you know, out who it was, but there was one day a founder was crying, and he was a founder of color. And I was like, Hey, man, what's going on, and we kind of went to a room. And we just kind of talked about how hard it is to be a black founder trying to raise capital. And this was back in, you know, 2019, before the events of George Floyd. And it was, it was just so hard. And he wasn't the only it wasn't all the time, I had that conversation with other founders of color. So I think that was such a great foundation that we got at CAPE that would have been harder, I think, to come by just naturally in in the ecosystem. But after that, I think I met an angel there, which was great, that ended up giving us the kind of the seed money, we needed to take this to the next level. After that, we were able to build more of a more of a product on our own proprietary software. And then we're able to get into TechStars, Chicago. And so it was able to get in a TechStars Chicago, right after we got out of TechStars Chicago, we signed our first four customers - paid, which I knew from, you know, being a part of that first TechStars, as an associate, and a company is very rare to get betas that are paid for. Right? It's, it's kind of crazy. But, you know, then six months later, we were able to prove out that our software really works, right? Essentially, our customers saw a 20 percentage point increase in their target diversity areas in less than six months. And so what that means is, all of a sudden, they went from being, let's say, 19%, diverse for women, to all of a sudden being 29% diverse in just six months in, that's when we really understood that we had something really, really special here. And then after that we've been off to the races since but that was really where it started was a tableau document that we were able to put in front of some chief diversity officers said we needed funding and then had to figure that out, like, how do we even get funding? What is funding? How do we take it? What are the vehicles? What does it mean? And how do we need to set up the company. So I think it's been quite a long journey, but it's been, you know, TechStars was really helpful and giving us some of the foundation pieces that we needed.
Incredible, and and Jason, as you're sort of watching this evolve, and Justus is landing these customers, and you've got this success. What do you think? I mean, both as a as a parent and as a co-founder?
Yeah, you know, it's funny, because a family business is kind of almost frowned on, as you know, for a lot of times with startups, but I think it's been fun to watch Justus grow, you know, because you you see somebody as your kid, and then all sudden you’re partners you know, and it's a different conversation that you have. And it's weird, because he calls me Jason. And you know, you always wanted to be a dad, I like being called Dad. But you know, you have to really, you know, it was that was probably the hardest part. Probably the first six months is like, Why do you call me Jason? Like, that's not my name? You know, I'm Dad.
Yeah, dad, dad doesn't work in the boardroom. Right. It just doesn’t sound right.
So he was very like, like, that was the rule. You know, I gotta call you Jason. So. But I mean, that's been fun to watch. He's grown up a lot. And I always tell people, like if they have questions about the finances, that I can't answer any of that. And some of that is probably maybe my dad laziness. Like, I know, Justus has that. But I think Justus can do this. You know, he's, he's done the work to figure out how to raise. I mean, we're not there yet. We're still trying to raise we're still struggling. And honestly, it's, you know, it goes, it's hard. But what's been fun, though, you know, you get to watch a kid grow up and do some amazing things and see him in spaces where, you know, he's the lead, and he's making decisions. And that part's been a lot of fun. Actually, a lot of fun.
That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that. And Justus, tell us about kind of the raise history. I mean, you went through TechStars was it there was there was a fun? Was it Upscale? That's yeah,
Yeah. Upscale Ventures, which I cannot speak highly enough about. So I think, you know, I think one of the hardest things as a founder is, you know, it's it this day, just oftentimes, like if someone believes in you, it just having that person who's like, yeah, I get the business, but the business will change, right, where we're going to pivot. But finding that investor that believes in the founders and believes in what they're going after, so Javier from Upscales Venture and the whole group there was just fantastic. I met them at TechStars Western Union shortly after that, I kept up my my conversation with him. And you know, it pitched him a couple of times, but uh, you know, didn't want to ask for money. I wasn't at the stage where I was as comfortable as asking for money. I just kind of it was weird. I'd never it was weird to ask asking people for money to start this idea. But I remember the first time I asked him, I pitched him a couple of times to get his feedback on on the pitch deck. And I was like, would you ever be, you know, interested, and I was like, I've been waiting, he said, I've been waiting for you to ask me this. He's like, I'm definitely in, let's meet with the other people and figure it out. And I think, since then, he has been the absolute rock of our company in a lot of ways of helping us, you know, figure a lot of stuff out and in putting money when we needed it, right to help us get to where we needed to be. But that was kind of so we got out of TechStars, we got out of as associate I, that was the summer of 2020, raised a small amount from from the Upscale group, then we got into TechStars, which was the 120. Shortly after that, Javier put in another note, to help us essentially, you know, execute on those contracts that we signed, in, then he put in one, the end of last year, ahead of a round that we were trying to raise, you know, we had essentially $250,000 committed that we weren't expecting, we weren't trying to raise, but a fund essentially approached us and said, you know, we want to put in $250,000 were associated with with a with a corporate organization, so we can't lead. But we will definitely, you know, put in the money if you're able to pull this together. So we approached, you know, Javier about doing that. He said, Yeah, for sure, I'll definitely do that. But I'm not, you know, an official fund. And so they need an official fund, we may need to do you know, something else. So we had kind of gotten that situated, some VCs had gotten wind of it, and also wanted to put money in one of the stipulations that, you know, that group wanted to do is they also wanted to want to lead, so we had to switch kind of the terms and go through that, and end up falling apart, it just ended up not happening, they ended up kind of, you know, speaking with some of our customers and not investing, which was, which was rough, I think, you know, it's you try to protect your, your customers as much as possible. And so we felt like we were in pretty serious conversations. So that that was really hard. And so essentially, when your lead backs out, the round falls apart, right? So there was a moment that we were like, We don't know what we're going to do, because we were kind of counting on this money. And that's where Javier stepped up big. And I think this is why angels are just so important to the startup community. When stuff like this happens, it's usually your angels and the people who really believe in you that step up. And I mean, we proved him, right, he put in another, you know, around 40,000. And then shortly after that, we signed a $225,000 3 year agreement with one of our bigger customers. So, you know, it shows that, you know, it's happening and it moves, and now we're back on kind of the fundraising grind again, and we're trying to raise right now, but that's kind of the journey in a roundabout way of how we kind of ended up and how funding has been going.
Well, you know, I really appreciate you sharing that with with our listeners, because I think, you know, it's it's sometimes easy to think when you're on the outside, you know, when you're a founder, maybe first time founder, you know, just thinking, you know, why is it so hard for me? The reality is, it's hard for everybody, right? I mean, it is not it is not a game of of, you know, simplicity and easy, like it's a constant struggle of complexity. And I really appreciate you sharing that Justus, because I think it's something you know, all early stage founders need to really understand. This is the reality, right?
Yeah. It seems more normal. I think, you know, the more the more I share that story, the more people come up to me and say, yep, have something very similar, where we were had the term sheet, and then we're ready to sign and had wire instructions. And then, you know, investor backs out for whatever reason. And that's hard to deal with. I think, you know, there's the there's the ramifications for your company, but there's, you know, the mental ramifications and the emotional ramifications of what that means, as a founder, right to try not to hold yourself responsible for something that is really out of your control that you know, there's nothing you could have done that and make it go a different way.
For sure. Yeah. I mean, it happened to me happen to me as a founder has not happened to me as an investor, but just to say it, so so. So about two years in now. Justus Tell me a little bit about kind of where you are today and what what's getting you excited and what's you know, what's getting you out of bed in the morning?
Yeah, you know, what I'm super excited about is the impact we're able to create for for our customers like that is meat for me, I think, for me, like this company is just different than I think, than I've seen other founders just for how close it is to my heart. I mean, part of the reason I started this is because I got to sit at the dinner room table and hear the pain points for 25 years from my dad. And so when I see the impact I understand and can see the relief on these, you know, chief diversity of practitioners faces of like, oh my gosh, I can finally breathe and the things that I've been saying. I'm not crazy. Like I've been telling In the organization they need to meet, they need to look at this specific group, or they need to look at promotion thing to look at this. And for them to finally have the data. It's something that I know that hasn't existed in the field before, to really have that kind of concrete data to say like, this isn't just how employees are feeling. This is how they're actually being treated. And so to me, I think that's been that's what gets me up in the morning. And also, what's super exciting is to see a lot of companies honestly are frustrated right now with with what they're currently doing in diversity, with the lack of ROI, that they're like, Okay, that what we're doing seems great. But I keep getting raked over the coals for my diversity numbers. And what we help them understand is that it's nuanced. We don't change the diversity numbers, but we help them understand well, actually, these three departments got better and this department continues to be bad. And so they can actually address this specific issue, because usually, it's one or two problem childs, and it's not the entire organization. So it helps them zoom in and just right size, the ocean, which I'm super excited about. And we can tell customers are excited about right? Like, we're, we're talking with some pretty big names right now and look at closing some, some really, really big deals that even international deals that I think will will not only change, you know, CAPE Inclusion’s, projectory, but probably the trajectory for for like regions of the world, if we're able to kind of bring these things to fruition. So I'm super, super excited about kind of all the impact we're about to drive.
That's very exciting. And Jason from, you know, having been somebody that has spent his entire career in this industry, take us a little bit more down the road of what Justus just alluded to, in terms of the it's more of this micro problem versus like this macro ocean level problem like I because I love I love the approach like the detailed approach. Can you kind of take us into that data model a little bit more? A little bit? More? descriptively? Maybe with an example?
Yeah, probably a good example is, when I worked at the Olympics, the head of HR came back and said, Jason, our goal should be 30% diversity, but like, in three years, right? And I was able to show mathematically, that was impossible. And the reasons it's impossible is that I always tell people, diversity is constrained by who leaves, and no company wants high turnover. So for us to get the 30% at that time turnover, like 10%. And that was the goal. And I was like, Well, if you keep it at 10%, there's no way because people have to leave. And even if you hire more people that just changed the numerator and denominator, right doesn't change anything. And so people are setting goals they can't actually achieve. And that's the frustration point is, oh, we look the same. Or I'll hear all that. And I hear this all time. If you're committed to diversity, your leadership team should be diverse. That is true. But it also means you need turnover at the leadership level, which most companies don't want, right? If you think about it, if you can name a company that has high turnover at the leadership, something's wrong, like get off the ship, the leader is right, right now, you know, and so, but that's has to happen for you to have quick diversity of the leadership team. So what happens is people set these goals they can’t achieve. And so what we did is just figured out the math, like what's actually achievable. And if you set those that are achievable, you'll know where you're at. And you also know, for example, you could have a situation where you look the same two years in a row, like your leadership looks the same. And people think, Oh, that's terrible is like, no, it's pretty typical, actually. Or, if you have, you know, 10 leaders and two women leave, right, that's 20%. But if you replace them with women, that data looks the same two years in a row. That doesn't mean you didn't do anything, that actually means you were actually 100% effective. You lost two women and replaced them with two women, right? Like from a diversity perspective, that would mean you're actually doing good. What's interesting is most diversity officers and organizations did not know how present that data. They just knew to 20% gender diversity or 30%. They didn't know what the nuances and so what we figured out is, there's actually leverage you manage, right, who gets promoted, who gets terminated, etc. And if you manage those, which is what we do, and show people how to manage it, you get outcomes, but more importantly, you get an outcome that is actually realistic. And I think the reason people are overwhelmed with diversity is they're trying to boil the ocean, right? They think, Oh, we got to fix everything diversity at the same time. And you can't, you can't do all equity at the same time. Like you're just you just don't have enough resources. You know, you don't actually have most companies are so big, you can't actually impact every single hire, right? If you're a large company 1,000 hires a year, and you have one diversity officer, there's no way. But what you can do is empower leaders and know how they're what they need to manage what's expected, what's actually achievable. You know, because I remember, like, sometimes people set these goals like, oh, we should be 50% gender diverse, because half the world is women. And well, that's true. But if you're an engineering company, and you're hiring, electrical engineers 20% would actually be reasonable. But a lot of people think, Oh, we, if we present 18% gender diverse looks like failure, because they don't put it into context, right? They're trying to boil the ocean. And so that's what I figured out. I've been doing this for years, like Yeah, it wasn't that I'm failing. It's that I don't understand data. And so When I started thinking about what's the right data, what are the metrics, but even in the Olympics, I remember the way I created the tables for them. I remember seeing at one point, you know, USA volleyball, I love volleyball, actually, you know, we literally have one of the best women's teams in the world. And there was a point where there are no women coaching, that women's team, like literally the number one team in the world for women. 70% of the athletes are women. And not one woman coaching not one woman on the sideline where you're playing for the championship.
How does that happen?
Exactly? I thought about it touched our percent in the date. And then people like, okay, yeah, this is so blatantly apparent, what are we doing? Right. And so I think that has been our kind of what differentiates us is because we started looking at, okay, there's some fundamental flaws in how we do diversity. But more importantly, here's the solutions. Here's how we should be doing it. Here's the data we should be tracking. Here's how we get outcomes. And here's how we set goals that are actually achievable.
I mean, you know, you hear the approach, you understand the model. I mean, it's, it's really brilliant, what Justus why, like, if you're a diversity and inclusion officer, and you're listening to this, like, what's the friction? Like? Why wouldn't? why would why wouldn't somebody adopt this platform immediately? Like, what's hard about that? Because to me, it's, it's just seems such a such a clear approach and solution to you know, one of our most pressing challenges in the business world today.
Yeah, you know, I think there's a lot of reasons, right, that someone might potentially say no to anything, but I think a big part of it is the human component. I think sometimes what happens is a lot of times, number one, diversity, the diversity position, chief diversity officers Head of Diversity, usually are understaffed, and under resourced, which means sometimes it's hard for them to sign off on things. And the second part is, a lot of times it's kind of that fear, the subconscious fear of like, you know, the our data is very different in the in the fact that we show reality of what's really going on. And that can be intimidating. And we've seen some leaders that are like, I don't want to look bad. I don't want to look because they know the numbers don't, don't reflect well. I think what I love about our platform is that it almost flips that on its head, that then when we start working with companies, the leaders that were immediately the most apprehensive, love it the most, because they're like, this is equitable. For example, we had a chief technical officer that we were working with, who initially kind of had some reservations about partnering with us. But you know, we pass through and got on and we sat down and talk with them and said, Okay, here's what it is. He was like, Wait, my market availability isn’t 50%? We said, No, we all your entire department is made up of engineers, your mark availability is closer to 30%. He's like, Oh, that makes that makes sense. And he was only at, you know, 11%. But 11%. And trying to get to 50 is a lot different than 11% and trying to get to 30 or 28. Right. And he loved it because it was practical. It's not just here's your diversity number. Now we're gonna roast you. It was like, We came alongside him and said, Okay, so this number isn't what we what we want. But when we look at it, we have an awesome opportunity to actually impact or change number, when we look at your hires, you make 100, we make 100 hires a year, and you're only hiring about 10 Women only 10%. So essentially, we're only talking about maybe hiring 20 more of the hires you already make to get us on the right track. And his eyes lit up, he was like, finally, I know what I'm supposed to do. I've been sitting at all of these trainings, but no one's actually told me what to do. And so we checked in with him, you know, six months later, in his numbers looked fantastic. He had increased representation of women, we had engineers coming up to us and saying, I have never worked with this many women in an engineering department in my entire career, they've been working for 20 years. And that was the magic of it becomes such an ownership and so and so uplifting from the human aspect of, yeah, man, we're not here to grill you. We understand that there that we all have blind spots. What we're here to do is to help you understand those blind spots, and just address them. We're not here to grill anybody. And I think when they start to see that and buy in the re-sign is really easy. Really the hardest part is getting them on you read the first on that first year. But we're seeing kind of a big trend right now a push towards this type of software that's really kind of helping people to dive into the data before they start that plan.
Sorry. Just to piggyback on that real quick. I think one of the things too, we do diversity differently. And so a lot of times if you're a diversity officer, and it's your first time doing it, it's risk, like we're saying no, don't do, don't do traditional trainings. And we're not against trainings, we actually recommend trainings, but we think of it differently, so that the training is tailored to the actual problem. So we'll look at okay, what are the forms of bias? What kind of bias do you have? That's the kind of training because it's tailored then I know when I'm sitting in the room, as the lead engineer, I'm thinking okay, yeah, we haven't heard a woman in, you know, three years, I have gender bias now I know why I’m in the room, the data shows it. And then we can also say yes, six months later, after we did the training, and we offered some metrics and some other things we see change. Everyone all sudden, it aligns now. But initially, it's hard for us because it's not traditional. Like, if you think about it, if you have to make a choice between what I know and how people have always done it, or do I take a risk and try something no one's done before. This is my first time in this job. I'm the most senior person in this, that feels a lot like risk to people. And so that's usually it takes them a minute to form to take that kind of challenge. Or think about it differently and take the risk and say, Okay, I've never had this job before. And I'm going to put the company in a situation I've never been in before they're looking to me to do the right thing. I can feel their pressure, you know, I can understand why they have some hesitancy you know, but I think what's helping us now is the combination of the book that we have the book, basically, it has all these principles in it. And the data, all of a sudden it helps them align, right, those two things, I think it really starts to come where people can better make sense of it.
For sure. So I'm hearing and you guys read the book. Let's read it. If you're listening to this podcast, we'll put the link there. Definitely.
I mean, a funny comment about the book is that we have actually had several diversity officers who got jobs, call us up and like, yeah, I used chapters one through six to get the job. And the interview process. Brilliant. It's like one of the best sales tactics ever. Like they just call it like, yeah, read the book. When can we start because I literally use the book to get the job. So it's been phenomenal. And that's all something I'm really excited about in the upcoming year as well.
Yeah, that's terrific. And it's also available on Audible. That's where I downloaded it. Yeah, yeah. So it's not it's totally accessible. And it's not that it's not super long, either. It's not a it's not a huge undertaking, but it's kind of kind of just right. So
yeah, I think it's super practical. I think that's one thing people say about me, everything I do is very practical. And I don't do much very, I guess I don't think very deeply. So nothing's theoretical. Like it when you read the book, you'll see everything is just like, yeah, like very practical. Yeah, there's no, we believe diversity is good. I don't there's none of that conversation. And I do think you know, that's why a lot of diversity officers have struggled is we've always talked about it theoretically, diversity is important. Right? Well, great. What am I supposed to do on day 10 of the job? Great. I know, it's important. But I got to start, you know, or we need CEO commitment. Well, great. What is CEO commitment mean? What does the CEO supposed to do? Like on a very practical level? And that's kind of what I start laying out in the book is, you know, if you don't tell them what to do, they don't know what to do they know it's important. But they don't always know because they've never had a diversity program, either. So how are they supposed to support you?
Right, and it's like, it's so easy to say, as a CEO, I am committed to diversity and inclusion we are we as a company are committed to it. But it's like, saying it doesn't do anything. So I'd love to end with Justus. You alluded to this a little bit earlier, but you got you you're either considering fundraising or probably by the time this episode drops, you'll be you'll be fundraising. I’d love just for maybe for some of our investor audience out there to understand how you're thinking about that. And more important than that, and this is something I'd like both of you to give a shot at is what can the VC community do, to better support founders of color? And perhaps more generally, diversity? I'd love to get both your opinions on that.
Yeah, I mean, we could have a whole episode just talking about that, for sure.
I'm sure we could.
Yeah, I think I think there are a lot of things. But I think, you know, two things just popped in my head, that are that are super practical. I think that's kind of that's our MO, it's very practical. Theoretically. It'd be great if everyone invested in more people of color. But But how do we do that? Right? And I think there are two things very practically VCs can do. One is look at the questions that you ask and try to standardize those. Because what I found, and what I've found talking to other people of color, is that oftentimes, and women, we oftentimes get asked only risk questions. Well, how are you going to address this problem the market? Or how are you going to do this? Versus opportunity? And if you just simply outline how many of those questions are asked in each meeting, and you track that, all of a sudden, you're making sure they're getting a similar experience, right? That I'm not only asking, and remember, this is implicit. So if it's happening, there's nothing wrong with it happening. It's worse to not know it’s happening and let it go. So I think there needs to be some vulnerability about about doing that. And the second thing is, you know, you got to be serious about it. And what I mean by that is, I can't tell you how many VCs took meetings or felt like took meetings with people of color, myself included, and other of my friends and other co-founders, after the events of joy, George Floyd,and just to say, Oh, look, we took meetings with this many people of color, but never invested in people of color. And so I think that what well, on the surface seems like Oh, but we're reaching out to, if you have no intention of investing, it's outside of your investment criteria, just let us know. Because otherwise, you're wasting my time on an opportunity that I could be using on other investors who may be interested, or working on the business. And so it's actually extremely detrimental to founders that you have no intention of listing to meet with the founder, just say, Oh, see, I'm meeting with this founder of color. So I make sure you know, I meet with this community, if they're not in your vertical, and you have no intention of investing, just don't meet with them to begin with. It's such a waste of time. And sometimes I feel like I waste a lot of my time fundraising, trying to chase down people who really have no intention. But they've said they're committed to diversity, so they're taking the meeting. And I'd rather just not take the meeting, because it's actually not helping, it's hurting.
Yeah, that Well, I appreciate you sharing that. And it's so true, because that is your most valuable asset, right. Your time as a founder. So yeah.
Yeah, yeah. And, you know, go ahead. Yes, I don't I don't mean to cut you off there. If I did. No, go ahead. I think the only thing I would add here is, it's important to be intentional. And watch your data, like you can tell I just love data, I think data is important. And I think you should have, as an investor, be very transparent, and have this uncomfortable conversation about well, how many people of color have we invested in? How many women have we invested in? Right? How many people from the LGBTQ community? Like there's a lot of very difficult questions, and the data will push you to answer that. Because, you know, Justus makes a good point, a lot of times, it feels like you're just taking a meeting because you feel guilty. No one needs guilt. What we needed to be will be intentional, that says, look, I think there's bias in how I invest. I've looked at my data and saw that, one of the solutions, maybe maybe I'm asking people different questions. And the one piece that will never go away is it's inherently full of risk. Like the risks that investing in our company versus me, it's really all the same, like as an investor that's inherent. So if you find that when it comes to risk, you're less apt to take that risk with women or people of color, the one thing that’ll tell you is data. And when you see that data, if you feel uncomfortable, like Yeah, it's, and unfortunately, we know, nationwide, women and people of color get about less than two or 3% of all the investment. So it has to be something I mean, that disparate kind of number tells us something else is going on. And I think as a VC, you should probably track that data and say, Okay, there's an uncomfortable truth, I've got to start asking myself. But the other piece is, there's also opportunity. Like that also means we're missing, because we know basically nine out of 10 companies fail. And if you're putting 97% of all your investment in the same demographic and getting that kind of return, just simple, you know, investment strategy, you would say, Well, I probably should diversify and be very intentional about my diversify, because there's got to be other founders out there who potentially could be equally successful, if not more so, if I just looked at my data and became very intentional.
It's great advice, practical, and straightforward, as I would expect. Yeah, that's, yeah. That's terrific. Well, Justus, Jason, such a great episode. So so thankful to have you both on the show, as an amazing father and son team on on just an incredible mission. And we're excited to follow you. We're excited to see what you do as you as you move forward and really work to change something that is much needed in our world. So thank you for all you do. Justus, why don't you tell us where our where our audience can find more about you both, and CAPE Inclusion online?
Yeah, so we're at CAPE Inclusion.com. And you can reach Jason or myself at contact at CAPE conclusion.com. Or you can go to LinkedIn and message us there. We have CAPE inclusion, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, all the normal social media. So we'd love to, we'd love to chat with anybody and including if you're a diversity professional, you know, we love we love hearing from those folks as well. So
don't forget to read Jason's book.
Yeah, appreciate that. Diversity and Inclusion Matters. But more importantly, just want to say we appreciate the kindness of you having us on on your show. That means a lot to us, you know. And I think you asked what people can do. And I think this is one things you can do is just say, You know what, I have this podcast, come on the show and let me help you get the word out. That was so kind of you and it's much appreciated. So
Thank you. Thank you both. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Found in the Rockies. You can find links in the show notes or go to nextfrontiercapital.com to get transcripts, links, and contact information for today's guests. If you like what you heard and want more, please don't forget to rate review and subscribe to get notified as our new episodes drop every two weeks. We'll see you next time.