The Story Behind Crescendo
The Big Problem: Tech Isn’t Inclusive
Attend any big tech conference and more often than not, you will be hard pressed to find women or people of colour in the event line up. Even with things like inclusion initiatives, diversity continues to be a number or a quota that organizations aim to achieve. Undoubtedly, we’re still in the early days of building inclusion into tech culture and companies are not yet measuring its impact the same way they measure their financial or even sales growth.
Inclusion requires thought and conscious effort.
Consider the story of Faiza, a young mother and a woman of colour working in tech. With inflexible hours and the need to travel for work, for upward mobility, she chose to opt out of working in tech. This story is not unique. There are many others like her, who have opted to stop working in tech due to systemic biases.
According to a survey conducted by The Elephant in The Valley, 66% of women interviewed felt that they were excluded from key networking and social activities because of gender. These social gatherings are often a precursor to upward mobility in careers, something that minorities have a hard time to begin with. We can continue to hire underrepresented groups in entry level positions but it will not impact inclusion in a significant manner until we make a conscious effort to include all of these folks, by empathizing with their unique situations and needs, and move together.
We’ve talked about the business case for diversity endlessly, but the results aren’t coming. The problem is that in order for businesses to see the value of diversity, their workplace needs to be inclusive enough to create psychological safety for people to share their diverse (potentially conflicting) perspectives.
Technology is changing the way people and employees learn and communicate with each other, providing the perfect opportunity to make a difference. The following trends created this opportunity for change:
With systems like Slack, Microsoft Teams, the progression of AI/computing power, and the vast amount of content online, there are numerous opportunities available to educate and train employees about inclusion.
Social media has created filter bubbles around everyone, and because of that it is very hard to consistently see/learn from diverse perspectives. While there is more information available than ever before, our social circles dictate the types of information we consume.
Research into psychological nudging, and embedded micro-learning content has shown that small moments of learning can drive employee development. It is appropriate when the learner needs help doing something specific or references a snippet of content. Micro-learning is short and to the point, based on a topic or problem, and easily searched by asking a question or entering keywords.
Crescendo’s founding team met around a table on Next 36 selection weekend. We started discussing things we were all passionate about and it turned out we had all experienced some form of negative, exclusionary workplace culture. We bonded over the issue at hand and decided to change it.
Meet our 3 co-founders.
Sage Franch, CTO
Sage is a developer, educator, and a champion for diversity and inclusion. Her passion for D&I started with her experiences as a young woman in tech, where she faced sexism and stereotyping. Recognizing the importance of diverse representation, Sage launched Trendy Techie in 2014 and used the platform to share her perspective and mentor young women in their early tech careers. This January, after four years as a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft, Sage decided to leave the corporate world to co-found Crescendo.
Stefan Kollenberg, CMO
Having spent his entire career as a marketer in early stage startups, Stefan witnessed and experienced the bro culture in tech first-hand. After seeing the effect an ageist, racist, and sexist work environment had on him, his colleagues, and the company; he decided to leave his job to co-found Crescendo.
He is a vocal advocate for diversity and inclusion and is one of the organizers behind Bridge Builders discussion groups - a community of tech professionals that have witnessed or experienced discrimination in the workplace, and are building a safe space to share, address, and learn from these instances to make a positive change.
Daniel ‘Tuba’ D’Souza, CEO
Growing up as a South Asian person in white-dominated schools and workplaces, Tuba spent a number of years coming to terms with his cultural identity. He has experienced systemic biases but has also recognized how he has been a part of the problem.
In his previous workplace, Tuba had the opportunity to work with his best friend who was the only female in an otherwise male dominated workplace. He saw first-hand the impact that his unconscious bias had on her and took it upon himself to learn how to be a better ally.
Crescendo sends employees personalized diversity & inclusion training within Slack. Our focus is on cultivating empathy by sharing content that highlights real stories of people dealing with bias and exclusion and sharing actionable tips that employees can easily implement in their life.
To come up with the product, we spoke to over a 100 HR professionals, D&I advocates, employees, consultants, and founders to understand why these problems are still occurring.
Through our research, we found that companies are spending a lot of money on D&I training, but it isn’t working due to one of the following reasons:
Consultants come in for a day and employees don’t learn that way any more
The training happens once a year, and people go about their lives forgeting the lessons soon after the workshop ends.
Templated workshops aren’t relatable and real stories resonate more with people
The impact of D&I training is hard to measure and isn’t measured with the same rigor as other KPIs
Generic online training that employees just click through but don’t absorb
With Crescendo, we aim to address each pain point that HR, employees, and D&I advocates have brought up during our research.
The Future of Crescendo
We were awarded a $30k DMZ Grant on International Women’s Day and just won the Next 36 Oustanding Venture Award for 2018. Moving forward, we've secured an additional $240k in funding and will be launching our product to our initial batch of pilot customers in September. Together with our team and customer feedback, we will continue to improve the tech workplaces across North America.
We recognize the fact that diversity and inclusion is a journey, so let’s get started together.