ReadySet, a diversity, equity and inclusion startup led by Project Include founding member Y-Vonne Hutchinson, has raised its first, and perhaps last, round of funding from Indie.vc.
“We were lucky enough to close our round right as the coronavirus was hitting and then shifted our business to doing remote stuff that offered connection,” Hutchinson told TechCrunch.
For the last five years, ReadySet has been sustaining itself off of revenue, and in the last year saw about $1 million in annual revenue. ReadySet makes money by offering consulting services to companies looking to create more inclusive workplaces and cultures. ReadySet has worked with companies like Salesforce, Airbnb, Amazon, GitHub, UCSF Health, Mailchimp, Medium and many others.
“We’ve been profitable the entire time we’ve been in business,” Hutchinson said. “But we wanted to be able to maximize our impact beyond in-person training services and doing stuff that felt a little more like product development that didn’t necessitate immediate revenue.”
ReadySet decided to take funding from Indie.vc because of the firm’s focus on startups that are profit-driven, she said. She also “didn’t want to give up a huge chunk of ownership in a firm I built from scratch.”
Indie.vc doesn’t take any equity upfront. If a startup in its portfolio raises additional money or sells, Indie.vc converts its investment to equity at a percentage decided on by the company. If the company never sells or never raises another round, Indie.vc gets a share of the company’s revenue until the firm makes 5x its investment.
“They weren’t interested in taking a big chunk of the business but were instead interested in helping us get more profitable,” she said. “For me, as a founder that has not been in the VC space, it’s been hard to be seen as a real entrepreneur.”
Indie.vc aims to be the last outside financing founders ever need to take. For Hutchinson, she said that could be the case.
“I don’t want to be the kind of founder that chases the next round,” she said. “I want to smartly leverage the funding and continue our profitability and do it at scale. I think some founders get stuck doing that and then don’t focus on the product.”
In light of these trying times amid the COVID-19 pandemic, ReadySet is investing more heavily in remote training offerings.
“We’re really sort of looking for ways we can resource companies trying to rethink digital interaction,” she said. “I also think a lot of people or some people think this is a blip on the radar and we’ll go back to normal. We don’t think that is necessarily going to happen.”
Despite these rocky times where many tech companies are laying off staff members and putting some on furlough, Hutchinson said some companies have doubled down on what they’re doing in terms of workplace culture.
In past recessions, where diversity, equity and inclusion has been seen as a ” ‘nice to have,’ there is an existential threat that has changed the way we live and the way we have to show up at work,” Hutchinson said.
People are now isolated or needing to take care of family, she says. Perhaps they’re drinking more and/or working through grief, loss and death — all of which are traumatic, she said.
“All of those issues actually implicate DE&I,” Hutchinson said. “We’re used to siloing it, but in reality, DE&I speaks to how people show up, how they feel included, how we support people and now, more than ever, that’s really important.”
Hutchinson says her clients are asking her more about mental health, belonging, childcare and bringing compassion into these trying times.
“A lot of tech companies don’t necessarily have strong management cultures,” she said. “Those gaps are now becoming really obvious to people. I think we’re all in a place where we’re trying to figure out how we adjust to what’s going on now. It’s about so much more than work right now. I would encourage companies, even if they don’t consider that to be DE&I, to think about how they’re treating their employees.”