Mandy Price and her team at Kanarys—a tech platform that helps companies prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion to strengthen workplace culture—had a landmark year in 2020.
The Black and female-founded startup was chosen for the inaugural Google for Startups Accelerator: Black Founders. They also were a recipient of Google for Startups’ Black Founders Fund, as well as a winner of the Rise of the Rest Seed Fund Virtual Tour. And last month, the startup won the Innovation in Talent and Diversity award from D CEO and Dallas Innovates’ The Innovation Awards 2021 due to it cultivating talent in North Texas.
CEO Price, a Harvard Law School grad, co-founded Kanarys in 2019 with law school colleague Star Carter. Just over a year later, the company has grown more than 2,000 percent in users and counts companies such as Yum Brands, the Dallas Mavericks, and Neiman Marcus among its clients.
That’s garnered attention in the investment community in a year where DEI programs are top of mind in corporate America. In January, the CEO announced Kanarys’ latest infusion of funding: $3 million in seed investment, bringing the DEI startup’s total amount raised to about $4.6 million.
The DEI technology startup raises a “historic” $3 million round
With the raise, co-founders Price and Star find themselves among just 25 Black women founders who’ve raised at least $4.6 million in venture capital. They’re also two of only 93 Black women who have raised over $1 million in funding, the startup says.
Kanarys will use the funding for advanced product features, hiring, and marketing efforts to accelerate growth.
“There’s a sense of urgency among corporations and organizations to do better by their employees,” says Nasir Qadree, founder of Zeal Capital Partners, which led the “historic” $3 million round.
Qadree says the Kanarys founders are making real change with their use of advanced technology and data to help corporations measure and analyze the impact of their DEI initiatives. That can lead to lead to “improved workplaces and enhanced outcomes,” he said in a statement.
Kanarys uses data to make diversity, equity, and inclusion insights actionable
Kanarys, which measures DEI insights on some 1,000 U.S. companies through verified employee reviews, company policies, and organizational data, says that makes it the largest DEI data-driven platform of its kind in the U.S.
Price wants to build a world that’s transparent and accountable—one that gives everyone a chance make their voice heard. With Kanary’s platform, company leaders have the data and metrics needed to make informed decisions when it comes to DEI to create a workplace that is inclusive for every employee.
The COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement highlighted the inequities in our society, Price says, causing more companies to step up when it comes to supporting employees.
Kanarys is here to help.
Meet the Kanarys Co-Founder
Mandy Price was featured in Dallas Innovates’ Future 50 in Dallas-Fort Worth in the 2021 edition of our annual magazine. Price, who has chalked up other recent personal accolades, was named a UN Day Global Leadership recipient and Dallas Startup Week’s Rising Entrepreneur in 2020. In January, Price was named to Mayor Eric Johnson’s 15-member Task Force on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
We talk with the CEO about Kanarys’ top 2020 developments, biggest challenges, and what’s on the horizon in 2021. Here’s the takeaway.
On how Kanarys helps companies create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace:
The Kanarys platform gives company leaders the data and metrics needed to make informed decisions when it comes to DEI to help create a workplace that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive for every employee. We’re working to build a world where there is transparency, accountability, and data when it comes to D&I, leaving no room to hide behind the notion that “D&I is subjective.” Through transparency and accountability, the Kanarys platform provides a feedback mechanism for companies to continuously improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion. Kanarys provides benchmarks for companies based on their industry, making it very clear where they fall behind in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion—and also provides actionable insights for companies on where they can improve.
Additionally, Kanarys.com offers an opportunity for every employee in the country to make their voice heard, and the platform helps build the bridge between employers and employees which helps create actionable changes within a workplace. Kanarys was built knowing that change starts from within and if business leaders across the U.S. commit to doing the work, we will finally see an inclusive workplace and a more equitable society – where everyone feels free to be their full selves. Kanarys is changing the face of DEI, so that we can all work where we belong.
You’ve updated your platform’s dashboard. What’s new?
Over the last year, we have significantly improved the dashboard and reporting features on the Kanarys platform so our clients can see all of their DEI data and insights in a clear and visual manner. These dashboards highlight important aspects of DEI, like intersectionality, so DEI leaders can see what challenges and also what opportunities exist for all employees.
The Kanarys platform collects both subjective and objective data around DEI and utilizes assessments, organizational data, and analysis on company policies to track a company’s DEI efforts. This combination allows us to take into account an employee’s lived experiences as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace – with the latter two often forgotten when it comes to a company’s approach to DEI. Kanarys provides deep insight into not only the experiences of underrepresented professionals but also information on the demographics at the board and leadership levels at the company. We also look at a wide range of DEI metrics like which companies recruit at HBCUs and HSIs or which cover gender-transition insurance, and we pair those with anonymous but verified employee reviews.
Our updated dashboard gives companies a detailed depiction of their diversity, equity, and inclusion as it is experienced throughout the organization. This way, company leaders can get actionable data quickly, intervene impactfully, and hold the organization accountable to industry benchmarks.
Tell us about some of your strategic partnerships.
Just recently, Kanarys announced our strategic partnerships with several leading advocacy organizations including National Urban League, Prospanica, Ascend, Black IDEA Coalition, INROADS, and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). These organizations have been among the national leaders of diversity initiatives for decades, and with their in-depth knowledge, they form Kanarys’ founding partner organizations. The partnership allows organizations to utilize the platform, give a voice to their underrepresented members, and utilize the data uncovered by Kanarys to influence workplaces everywhere.
On the impact of the pandemic and social unrest:
When COVID-19 hit, many companies reduced their D&I budgets and a number of D&I employees were laid off. These professionals are typically who we worked with, which made it difficult for us to help companies implement the Kanarys platform. Because of this, we shifted our focus on individual users sharing their experiences of how their company handled COVID.
However, when George Floyd was killed and our world found a renewed focus on Black Lives Matter, we shifted our focus back to B2B to help companies take the next step to create a more equitable workplace and address DEI issues from within. Many companies were unsure of what to do or where to go next, which is why Kanarys focused on bringing businesses onto our platform and providing more free resources for them to utilize. The Kanarys platform helps businesses hold themselves accountable to their long-term commitments, as well as provides tangible, strategic guidance on executing a real DEI plan.
Overall, the pandemic has caused Kanarys, and the rest of the world, to think about how to create change in our workplaces. This pandemic has made DEI issues even more apparent as COVID-19 and the recent Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted the inequities in our society. We believe that after the pandemic there will be a continued focus on DEI, causing more companies to step up when it comes to supporting their employees, and we’ll be there to help them.
On workplace culture in difficult times:
Our management team at Kanarys has worked to create a culture of acceptance and positivity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have worked to normalize the feelings of stress and anxiety by making sure our employees know that it is okay to feel overwhelmed, tired, or sad during this time. Perfection is not the expectation as we understand the challenges and benefits of working from home for each individual. We’re here to support our team, and we have established regular team check ins to make sure their mental health is being prioritized.
At Kanarys, we’ve created an “open door” policy by letting our team know we are here to talk through any issue and have stressed the importance of self care, while providing mental health resources. We know everyone needs empathy and compassion right now, so we’ve also granted paid time off for employees as needed to allow them to prioritize their mental health and well-being.
As a team, we have maintained our culture through regular communication, largely through video conferences – both for team building activities and work related discussions. However, we did learn that video conferencing is not always equitable, as many employees may not want to share their home life or what they look like outside of work. We quickly learned to not require that cameras are on during meetings and to ensure everyone has a chance to speak up, as it can often be difficult to do so on video calls. We also share personal news and accomplishments on internal channels to continue building our culture online.
While this time has been extremely difficult for us all, there is no doubt that our company will come out of this pandemic much stronger and more resilient than before.
On what’s next:
Over the next several months, we plan to release new product features that will further our efforts to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace for every employee. These features will benefit both employees and companies, allowing users to take a closer look at the DEI policies. We’re hopeful that our next product updates will make a larger impact on the work we are doing to create a workplace where everyone belongs.
A version was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue. The story was updated with additional information on the company’s seed funding on Feb. 6, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.
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