CircleUp’s Call to Action

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All,

I want to follow up on my email this weekend about the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tony McDade. These atrocities are only some of the more recent acts of race-related hate and violence. There have been more than any of us can know. The sadness, pain, and fear that our communities are expressing now is the culmination of both explicit and implicit prejudice that millions of people experience every single day.

Over the past few days, my own frustration, anger and disappointment have only grown. How can we fix this deeply broken system that claims to provide liberty, equality, and justice for all? I felt unsure of how to help as this all started to unfold 3 days ago. Since then, my confusion has lessened. I have more conviction today that action, and support, of any kind is better than letting this moment pass.

I want to start with what we are doing internally. We have always been an organization that prides itself on equality and inclusion — in our hiring processes, professional advancement decisions, and our team culture. We strive to live by our value of “Do It Right.” I believe that is not enough. We will take further steps because further steps are needed. The pervasive nature of racism — in all towns, in all organizations, in all political parties, in all ages, in all sectors — has made it clear to me that we must come together to take concrete action.

Effective this week, here is what we are doing internally:

— We will provide anti-racism/bias training: We will bring in a third party to help conduct company-wide anti-racism/bias training. We have never had a reported case of racism or bias in our 8+ years as a company. I don’t think that matters; it’s not just about what is said, but what is left unsaid. We must be proactive in fighting racism and bias. More to come on these details.

— We will encourage time off: We are giving all employees time off to conduct peaceful protests. We do not support rioting and looting, but most demonstrators are protesting peacefully, and exhibiting immense bravery. We strongly support peaceful demonstrations, which have been a powerful catalyst for political, social and cultural change throughout history. Recent events have made clear that we still need far more change. It will take a united front to break down the barriers of systemic racism that have endured for centuries. I encourage those of you who participate to take appropriate protective measures given COVID-19. There are other ways to contribute to the demonstrations too — you can make signs, or you can provide food, water or other supplies to those who are marching.

— We will support your voice: We had a team member ask if she can post on social media condemning the recent events. We strongly encourage you to speak up. Let your voice be heard. Amplify the voices of those already shouting, and speak for those who can’t.

  • One way to do this: Contact your congressperson (look them up HERE) by calling them (numbers HERE) and ask them to co-sponsor Ayanna Pressley & Ilhan Omar’s police brutality resolution.

SCRIPT: “Hello, my name is [insert name]. I’m a constituent from [insert state], zip code [insert zip code]. I don’t need a response. I am concerned about police brutality in our country and I strongly encourage congressperson [insert last name] to vote on the police brutality resolution introduced by reps Omar & Pressley. Thank you for your hard work.”

— We will provide educational resources: We must educate ourselves, our friends, and our families on what it means to be anti-racist. What we learn and teach now is the knowledge that the next generation will inherit. We can’t just advocate for equality, for safety, for inclusion — we must all understand what it feels like to not be born with those basic rights. Today, they are treated as privileges, not rights. Here are just a few of the resources we’ve collected. We will compile these and others in a shared doc so please send across any recommendations.

Detailed guides for antiracism resources

Resources for families

Other

  • Better Allies newsletter: provides 5 actions we as individuals & teams can take each week to foster a more inclusive workplace
  • Campaign Zero: a comprehensive package of urgent policy solutions

— We will have all-hands discussions on the topic: These topics are uncomfortable. Because they are uncomfortable, people tend not to talk about them. Because there is less discussion, there is less action, and the problems persist. At our core, we are an organization who believes that transparency will bring light to the world — it will illuminate inequalities that would otherwise persist in the darkness of silence. Bringing data to inherently biased industries is one way we’re doing this. But we must also try to talk about the hardest topics. We must proactively provide a safe space for our teammates to bring light to their own experiences and perspectives. We are organizing multiple all-hands and small group discussions on this topic.

— We will continuously monitor and evaluate our hiring process: We will work to make sure our hiring process more effectively targets underrepresented candidates. We will reeducate ourselves on best practices and adjust our norms accordingly. We commit to discussing our efforts to diversify employee demographics on a bi-annual basis.

— We will expand our Diversity Committee to include external participation: We already have an internal D&I taskforce. We will broaden our existing D&I initiatives by starting a Diversity Committee made up of members across the CircleUp community to make sure diverse perspectives within and outside the company are heard. The Committee will hold us accountable with respect to how we operate as a business, and will seek out opportunities to both combat inequality and promote diversity within CircleUp, with our partners, and across our broader networks. We have an opportunity to effect change across an entire industry. And we will.

There are also actions we are taking externally. Our mission is to help entrepreneurs thrive by giving them the capital and resources they need. At the root of our mission is a commitment to provide equal opportunity for all entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. That commitment has never been more important than right now.

Here are some of the external actions we are taking:

— We will use Helio to help underrepresented entrepreneurs: We will continue harnessing our technology to combat the implicit bias, and social exclusion, that exists in private investing. We are using data — not networks, not heuristics — to objectively find and support businesses that are often overlooked by traditional VC. We will leverage Helio to shine a light on the disparity in capital and resources between entrepreneurs of different backgrounds. Data can work as a great equalizer to help us identify underserved entrepreneurs that are building something truly special — and often catering to underserved consumers.

— We will leverage our network: When I step back and think about the resources we have to partake in this fight, I realize our weapon is that we have a broad and deep network. Broad because we are connected to each other — hundreds of entrepreneurs that are each connected to tens or hundreds more. Deep because each of those consumer companies touch thousands, and in some cases millions, of people. You will see us post this on social media and we’ve encouraged other consumer entrepreneurs to do the same.

  • We stand together. We support anti-racism. We support police reform. This is not a time for silence. #BlackLivesMatter #EntrepreneursEndingRacism #GeorgeFloyd

The above is not enough. I know that. I feel afraid, helpless, and inadequate that my suggestions will be mocked, publicly or privately. I do not intend to be virtue signaling, and I know I am taking on risk of being accused of exactly that. I believe that perfect is the enemy of good, and I believe that waiting until we have the perfect answer to combat racism in our country will lead us to silence and paralysis. Do not wait for your individual call to action to be perfect. Speak up now. Act now.

There is more to come. We want your suggestions on what more we can do. We want to echo your voice and support your actions.

Ryan Caldbeck
Founder & CEO CircleUp

Founder and Executive Chairman @CircleUp. Follow me on Twitter @ryan_caldbeck

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