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Tech companies: Stop conflating privilege with potential



Tech companies: Stop conflating privilege with potential

The number of low-income students attending college is increasing: According to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center, the total share of undergraduate college students who come from low-income families increased from 12% in 1996 to 20% in 2016. However, only 11% of students in the bottom income quartile complete their degrees within six years, compared to 58% for those in the top quartile.

This discrepancy should make you pause. Why are so many low-income students making it to college but not to degree completion, and thus, not reaching their full potential in the workforce? One short answer encompasses the issue: a lack of unique and targeted support and resources. And, in the tech sector specifically, this lack of support stems from a problematic ecosystem that often assumes privilege and affluence in its students and future employees.

These assumptions (subconscious or not) perpetuate a tech industry that fails to access a critical and fruitful talent pool by wrongfully and consistently disqualifying low-income students from the educational and career opportunities that open doors.

It’s clear that the tech education-to-career pipeline fails low-income students before degree completion and entrance into one of the highest-paid sectors in our economy –– but we aren’t talking about it. Socioeconomic status must be part of the “diversity” conversation –– it is underreported and underdiscussed.

What does it mean to conflate privilege with potential?

Like in many industries, tech recruitment (from internships to full-time jobs) happens well before graduation. High-potential low-income students often don’t fit into the “ideal candidate” archetype sought by this recruitment structure, which overvalues and rewards characteristics that are often a better indicator of privilege than talent or potential. How does that happen, and how can we stop it?

If you ask hiring managers what skills might be necessary to succeed in the tech industry, they may say that they’re looking for new candidates who:

  • Have great problem-solving skills.
  • Have demonstrated time-management skills.
  • Are hardworking.
  • Are resilient and willing to persevere through tricky problems.
  • Are adaptable.

These skills can come from many different experiences –– for example, a student working a full- or part-time job while pursuing a technical degree gains a strong work ethic, time-management prowess and resilience. A first-generation student navigating the college experience on their own without the benefit of family knowledge or social networks likely obtains impressive problem-solving skills. Although these are subjective, they are incredibly valuable skills for succeeding in tech.

However, in recruitment practices, these demonstrated skills are rarely part of the equation and are inequitably overshadowed by things like:

  • Privileged high school experiences (including test prep, high-quality advising, access to higher-level math courses) that open doors to attending a prestigious college/university, and the many opportunities and supports that come with it.
  • The financial wherewithal and time (i.e., not having to work to support oneself or ability to work fewer hours) to participate in campus clubs and networks, attend hackathons, and/or attend conferences or networking events on weekends and evenings.
  • The up-front cash and knowledge needed to navigate travel for an in-person job interview or relocate for an internship.
  • Test scores, GPA and other quantitative measures that are heavily influenced by privilege, such as access to expensive test prep courses, rigorous math preparation before college and, most of all, the freedom to focus solely on academics afforded to those that do not have to work to support themselves and their families.
  • Awards and recognitions predicated on many of the above factors, as well as social capital.

Unlike the first set, these criteria are considered markers of “potential.” However, attaining these markers requires a certain degree of privilege and affluence unavailable to most students. All of these experiences take time and energy that keep one from attending to their family, to the job that’s paying for their education and to other important responsibilities outside the classroom. Many of these experiences require independent money; most of these experiences favor extracurricular networks, prior knowledge and preparatory privilege.

This is an enormous missed opportunity with dire consequences. The tech industry must decouple event attendance, awards and where one went to school from one’s actual ability to succeed in the industry. They are not one and the same, and if we continue to conflate privilege with potential, we are going to fail to access this community of high-potential students, leaving us with an ongoing talent shortage and a less diverse tech sector.

Now what?

How can tech course-correct to ensure that low-income students are uniquely supported throughout their entire tech journey?

Level the playing field for low-income recruits

More than half of college students report experiencing housing insecurity. To put it bluntly: Acing your computer science exam is hard when you can’t pay your rent, and completing an assignment is nearly impossible if you don’t have a fast internet connection.

To address these barriers (both new and longstanding) we must understand them, and then invest in resources that break them down.

First, support and invest in organizations that work to fill these gaps for students from low-income backgrounds. Second, level the playing field for all new recruits –– if you’re a decision-maker or HR representative at a tech company, ensure you’re supplying all interns and new hires with door-to-door support for relocation and onboarding.

Don’t assume students have the credit or family funding to cover these costs upfront and wait weeks for reimbursement. This enables candidates to show up as their best selves.

Invest in college students to invest in diversity

The tech sector tends to invest in the start of the tech pipeline ­­–– companies concentrate 66% of their philanthropic funding on K–12 programs, compared to 3% on college-level programs.

K-12 investments are important but need follow-through at the higher education level to yield the talent we need. We must ensure students are completing their degrees (and support them throughout their journey to doing so) –– this will yield immediate returns in the form of ready tech talent and more diverse minds contributing to the tech innovations that elevate us all.

What does this mean in practice? Here’s one example: If you hire a new employee who is still in their senior year, cover their spring term. Invest in your future employees; give them the space to focus on the final, high-level classes that will better prepare them for the job, rather than leaving them to worry about paying tuition, rent and other expenses during those critical last few months.

The current population of students graduating with computing degrees, and the tech sector as a whole, does not mirror our diverse society –– not only in race and gender, but also in socioeconomic status. And that’s because the tech industry continues to conflate privilege with potential.

The result is a homogeneous tech sector creating critical technologies that don’t serve everyone equally. It’s past time to uniquely support and invest in low-income students throughout the entire tech pipeline.

Source: Tech


Dashworks is a search engine for your company’s sprawling internal knowledge



As a company grows, the amount of important information employees need to keep track of inevitably grows right along with it. And, as your tech stack gets more complicated, that information ends up split up across more places — buried in Slack threads, tucked into Jira tickets, pushed as files on Dropbox, etc.

Dashworks is a startup aiming to be the go-to place for all of that internal knowledge. Part landing page and part search engine, it hooks into dozens of different enterprise services and gives you one hub to find what you need.

On the landing page front, Dashworks is built to be your work laptop’s homepage. It’s got support for broadcasting company wide announcements, building out FAQs, and sharing bookmarks for the things you often need and can never find — your handbooks, your OKRs, your org charts, etc.

More impressive, though, is its cross-tool search. With backgrounds in natural language processing at companies like Facebook and Cresta, co-founders Prasad Kawthekar and Praty Sharma are building a tool that allow you to ask Dashworks questions and have them answered from the knowledge it’s gathered across all of those aforementioned Slack threads, or Jira tickets, or Dropbox files. It’ll give you a search results page of relevant files across the services you’ve hooked in — but if it thinks it knows the answer to your question, it’ll just bubble that answer right to the top of the page, Google Snippets style.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Right now Dashworks can hook into over 30 different popular services, including Airtable, Asana, Confluence, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, Intercom, Jira, Notion, Slack, Salesforce, Trello, and a whole bunch more — with more on the way, prioritized by demand.

Giving another company access to all of those services and the knowledge within might be unsettling — something the Dashworks team seems quite aware of. Kawthekar tells me that their product is SOC-2 certified, that all respective data is wiped from their servers if you choose to disconnect a service, and that, for teams that are equipped to host the tool themselves, they offer a fully on-prem version.

This week Dashworks is announcing that it raised a $4M round led by Point72 ventures, backed by South Park Commons, Combine Fund, Garuda Ventures, GOAT Capital, Unpopular Ventures, and Starling Ventures. Also backing the round is a number of angels, including Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear and Gusto co-founders Josh Reeves and Tomer London. The company was also a part of Y Combinator’s W20 class.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Source: Tech

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Daily Crunch: Google will offer G Suite legacy edition users a ‘no-cost option’



To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 28, 2022! It’s nearly blizzard o’clock where I am, so please enjoy the following newsletter as my final missive before hunkering down. In happier and better news, TechCrunch Early Stage is coming up in just a few months and not only am I hype about it, I’ll hopefully be there IRL. See you soon! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Google invests up to $1B in Airtel: With a $700 million investment and $300 million in “multi-year commercial agreements” with Airtel, and Indian telco, Google has made its second major bet on Indian infra. Recall that Google also put money into Jio, another Indian telco. The deal underscores the importance of the country in the future of technology revenues.
  • What’s ahead for Europe: On the heels of news that European startups had an outsized 2021 when it came to fundraising, TechCrunch explored what’s ahead for the continent. Some expect a slowdown from peak activity, while others anticipate further acceleration. Regardless of which perspective you favor, European venture investment is expected to remain elevated for some time to come.
  • Zapp raises $200M: And speaking of European startups, Zapp, the U.K.-based quick-convenience delivery startup, just raised a massive Series B. The company previously raised $100 million, meaning that this round was big in absolute and comparative terms. As we see some consolidation in the fast-delivery space, this deal caught our eye.


  • Are charter cities the future for African tech growth? TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor has a great piece up on the site noting that “African cities have the fastest global urban growth rate,” which is leading to overcrowding. Some folks think that “charter cities offer a solution.” Special economic zones of all types have been tried before – will they offer African tech a faster route forward?
  • Personalized learning is hot: Our in-house edtech expert Natasah Mascarenhas has a great piece out today on personalized learning startups – Learnfully, Wayfinder, Empowerly, and others – that are taking the lessons of remote schooling to heart and working to make products that work better for our kids. It’s an encouraging, fascinating story.
  • Rise wants to remake team calendaring: There is no shortage of apps in the market to help individuals and teams work together. But we might not need as many as we have. That’s why Rise is making me think. The team calendaring app just raised a few million, and could replace a few tools that myself and friends use. I wonder if the solution to the Tool Overload of 2022 is tools that do less, intentionally.
  • Canvas wants non-tech folks to be able to squeeze answers from data: Developers are in short supply, so no-code tools that allow folks who don’t sling code to do their own building are blowing up. Similarly, a general dearth of data science talent in the market is creating space for tools like Canvas, which “is going all in with a spreadsheet-like interface for non-technical teams to access the information they need without bothering data teams,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Zigbang buys Samsung IoT business: The IoT promises of yesteryear are coming true, and not. Samsara recently went public on the back of its IoT business. That was a win for the category. That Zigbang, a South Korean proptech startup, is buying Samsung’s IoT unit feels slightly less bullish.
  • Series F-tw? Once upon a time I would have mocked a Series F as indication that the company in question had failed to go public. But that was then. Today Series Fs are not that rare. Indian B2B marketplace Moglix just raised one, which doubled its valuation to $2.6 billion. Tiger co-led the $250 million round.

And if you are looking down the barrel of a blizzard, TechCrunch’s Equity podcast has your downtime covered. Enjoy!

European, North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

Image Credits: Bet_Noire (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Northern Light Venture Capital’s He Huang says the Chinese robotics market is overheated: Per the investor, robotics in China is “riddled with speculation and overvalued companies,” calling the situation a bubble. It’s worth noting that China’s central government is working to retool where its tech investment dollars flow.
  • Robinhood goes down, back up: This morning, in the wake of the company’s lackluster earnings report, TechCrunch dug through why Robinhood’s stock sold off in after-hours, pre-market, and early trading sessions yesterday and today. And then Robinhood turned around and gained ample ground during the rest of the day. It’s a weird market moment, but good news for the U.S. fintech all the same.
  • Google to allow legacy G Suite users to move to free accounts: After angering techies still using the “G Suite legacy free edition” by announcing that it was ending the program and requiring payment, the search giant has decided to ”offer more options to existing users,” TechCrunch reports. Somewhere inside of Google, a business decision just met the market and was flipped on its head. Makes you wonder who is calling the shots over there, and if they previously worked for McKinsey.

TechCrunch Experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

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Source: Tech

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3 experiments for early-stage founders seeking product-market fit



At Human Ventures, we have a fund for pre-seed and seed-stage investments, a venture studio and an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

Through this work, we’ve discovered a lot about how different founders fulfill their journey of customer discovery and product-market fit. One of the largest challenges for pre-seed and seed stage founders is determining where to start: There are a million things to do. What should you do at each stage?

We interviewed three founders from our portfolio, all of whom ran discovery experiments to find their product-market fit at different stages of their company’s development.

Here’s what they had to share:

Pre-MVP/customer discovery phase: Tiny Organics

Tiny Organics is a plant-based baby and toddler food company on a mission to shape childrens’ palates so they’ll choose and love vegetables from their earliest days. The company raised $11 million in their Series A in 2021 and is growing at over 500% annually.

Founders Sofia Laurell and Betsy Fore joined our venture studio as EIRs and went through a six-week discovery sprint. As Sofia explains, they knew they wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier and threw a lot of initial ideas at the wall from the Finnish baby box 2.0 (Sofia is Finnish) to an easier way to create Instagrammable baby pictures.

They went through multiple exercises to test the viability of new parents’ most pressing and urgent needs:

  • Conduct a “Start with Why” exercise
  • Define the “Jobs to be Done”
  • Create a lean canvas for each (viable) concept
  • Define the user journeys
  • Conduct user surveys using platforms like and 1Q (instant survey tool)
  • Identify and define their customer personas
  • Conduct customer interviews and synthesize them
  • Construct concept prototypes

They also met prospective customers, conducting a focus group of 10-15 moms. When the founders asked them to text them what they were feeding their children along with pictures for a week, they realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus sparking the idea for Tiny Organics.

Source: Tech

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