Diversity nonprofit splits from local venture capital group

Rose and Bussgang didn’t have a playbook for solving Boston’s tech diversity issues, but they decided to help more black and Latino candidates get tech jobs at the city’s innovation companies. .

That year they started a program through NEVCA, the Boston venture capital community’s trade association called Hack.Diversity, which provides people of color with fellowships with local tech companies.

Six years later, Hack.Diversity has grown so rapidly that it has now spun off from NEVCA into a non-profit. In its first year, Hack.Diversity placed 16 fellows at five companies for nine months. This year, the program has 130 fellows at nearly 30 companies, including local tech giants Wayfair, Rapid7 and Toast.

Last month, Rose left NEVCA to take on the role of president of Hack.Diversity, and she plans to expand the organization’s model across the country. It’s a major move for someone who almost didn’t take Bussgang’s advice.

As a black woman who had just taken over as head of the trade group that represents Boston startups and VCs, she didn’t want her first priority to be addressing the industry’s failure to hire more people of color. .

“I was afraid of being labeled as this black woman who was going to come in and only knew how to focus on diversity,” Rose said.

But she was acutely aware that if she did nothing, underrepresented communities would continue to be overlooked and marginalized.

“I know firsthand how it feels,” Rose said. “Part of my mission was how do I change the narrative of what it means to build a career in Boston as a person of color?”

Jody Rose, president of Hack.Diversity, a program she started in 2016.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Hack.Diversity helps businesses find potential job candidates who often fall through their recruiting cracks, such as those attending two-year colleges, public schools, and coding boot camps. Companies pay to participate, and that money covers about 70% of the cost of the program.

“We said from the start, this is not charity,” Bussgang said. “This is a strategic talent initiative…Companies pay because they get value out of it.”

Hack.Diversity also provides feedback to help companies understand if they are creating a fair environment. Some have since changed the wording of job descriptions, removed the requirement for a bachelor’s degree or made their interview process more inclusive, Rose said.

Rose points to the program’s unique model, which demands accountability from participating companies, as well as the high rate at which students end up being hired after their scholarship. Since its inception, Hack.Diversity has helped 250 Black and Latinx scholars get hired as software engineers, data analysts or IT professionals, a number that is expected to grow to nearly 400 by the end of the year. year.

It helps that over the past two years, companies have become more serious about their diversity efforts.

“George Floyd is murdered and demand has exploded,” Rose said. “Companies we weren’t working with were like, ‘Can we work with you?’ Since then, we have a waiting list of companies.

Under Rose’s leadership, NEVCA also experienced a significant period of growth, doubling its number of corporate members to 80 since 2017.

Now that Hack.Diversity is a non-profit organization, it can raise money to fund its own expansion. (Previously, it operated on NEVCA’s balance sheet and could only raise funds through the organization’s partnership with the Boston Foundation.) About 12 NEVCA employees will transition to the nonprofit, leaving three at NEVCA.

Ari Glantz, who started working at NEVCA a few months before Rose, is the organization’s new executive director. Rose will remain involved, as Hack.Diversity will operate as the philanthropic arm of the trade association, located in the same office at 50 Milk St. in Boston.

Good that she is proud of the impact Hack.Diversity has had on Boston, Rose said she knows “it’s a long game.”

“It’s not a challenge to apply a patch and expect there to be a major change in the next year or two,” she said. “There is still a lot of work to do.”

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.

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