“0 to 1 Diversity meets the digital age” (Blog 11)

With just two more weeks to go with StartupDelta in this form, we would like to share some thoughts with you. Over the last 18 months we have been surrounded by innovative minds, disruptors, out of the box thinkers and people with a “can do” mentality. People with ambition and the will to change. For us it showed what the startup mindset has to offer. A new digital generation is coming up, which could have a big impact on politics, society and economy.

At the beginning of this week, the Fortune Most Powerful Women came together in London. We were present at what turned out to be very special event, small scale with leading women across the world who are holding multiple board positions at corporates or universities. Or women who have leading positions in the UN, Saudi Arabia or European investors in startups and founders. Innovative thinkers with a great sense of urgency and with a drive for change.

A very diverse and multidisciplinary group too, with many angles coming from many different backgrounds and ages joining the debates. Topics like the Brexit – being defined as the biggest risk management operation in European economics and politics in decades, with possible historical global consequences -were discussed, as well as the consequences of the rapid changes brought forward by technologies and the impact on society and economy in Africa, Asia or Europe. A wealth of views, solutions and contributions crossed the tables in very open and personal discussions.

It also opens your eyes on the fact that still not everyone is involved in where the future is being created. When you are used to being surrounded by a 80% male white Caucasian working environment, such an all female event is an enlightening and powerful experience. Also for the few men who were present there, this was an eye opener. It just showcases that if you can diversify and balance your workforce with other backgrounds and gender equality, you introduce many more perspectives on challenges and can trigger more out of the box solutions. You involve other majority groups in developing new concepts and in decision making. You can truly go from 0 to 1. Female role can pave the way for others. Like Christine Lagarde, Sheryl Sandberg, Ginny Rometty, Angela Merkel, Ursula Burns, Meg Whitman, Gillian Tans and also a female US President or female UN Secretary-General are within reach.

Digitisation and diversity have a lot in common. It is clear that digitisation brings about a completely new way of thinking and interacting. Computational thinking is in fact creating creative solutions to challenges from a wealth of options. This is what the internet is displaying to all of us on a daily basis. It opens up sources of information, applications and networks like never before. Startups have tapped into these qualities straight from the beginning. It is about sharing ideas and connecting fast; challenging existing concepts, experimenting, hailing opportunities and being able to continuously reinvent yourself, your organisation or company. It is in essence a horizontal movement, which doesn’t recognise borders or old-fashioned authority. A movement that both questions existing values and societal positions, as creates new ones. The internet community is a community which is looking for its own peers across the globe and organises its own like minded crowd via social media. It attracts people who want to organise their own life and their own purpose in life. In small or in bigger things.

It is a community which chooses a lifestyle that is lean & mean, agile and gets smarter every day. It is a community which welcomes or should welcome variety and diversity, because this is the secret of its success. And it operates in an environment which for a large part is still based on historical hierarchy, linear & slow decision making processes and vested interests or outlooks on societal structures.

Society is at a turning point, because digitisation and the digital startup mind set brings on a new kind of democracy and literacy. A kind where responsibility and involvement is taken to all levels and backgrounds. What once the impact of book printing was on democratising exclusive knowledge, digitisation offers the building blocks to free the mind from the past and to organise your own future.

This is why it is so important to involve all layers of society in digitisation and teach all children digital skills and coding at schools. Black, white, Male, female, Rich and poor. It is not only about the jobs of the future, but it also gives generations the power to shape their own lives. Book printing only had such an influence on society, because through education people learned to read and to apply the knowledge. It offered them new positions in society, because they were able to create these positions.

Digitisation is playing a similar role. But it can only play its full role and realise its full potential if people have digital literacy, when they can use digital skills and further develop it as part of their lives. This society shouldn’t allow a division between digital have’s and have not’s. Digital inclusion should be part of our society and economy. That is again the true diverse basis of going from 0 to 1.

With Codepact, StartupDelta aims to give a boost with corporates and many other parties to offer children coding lessons. And the book Project Prep from Niki Smit and Janneke Niessen inspires girls in the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK to start their own IT career. Because it is fun, creative and just as much for girls as it is for boys. Giving way to the full potential of coding and digital skills, and offering it to all children everywhere, is of course introducing this into the curriculum.

The big elephant in the digital space is the question why globally there are still so few women or for instance ethic minorities in Europe involved in the startup world. The success of Silicon Valley is based on migration and ethic diversity. No doubt and no further proof needed looking at the facts and figures. Over 50% working in the valley has a migrant background. At the same the boards of the large corporates are also getting uncomfortable with having a lack of women in their organisations, especially on the higher levels. Corporates like Facebook, Salesforce, Xerox have diversity strategies implemented, especially with a war on talent ging on. Mark Zuckerberg spends huge amounts of his fortune on equality.

Tunnel visions and old fashioned lineair ways of thinking based on successes of the past create their own Kodak moments. Diversity and managing diversity goes hand in hand with the digital age, and the startup mind set. Horizontal thinking; sharing, joining, inspiring and involving other visions, ideas and interests will create new solutions and open up new worlds. Let’s tap into that! Not only for the Netherlands, the UK or Europe, but across the globe. Going from 0 to 1, in the true meaning of the concept.

Next week we will have another week packed with innovation and change makers. We will be attending the Innovation Quarter event; going to Twente and meeting Boyan Slat. Also we will present our Corporate and Startups programme at the Wayra event for corporates and startups in London and presenting the concept of the EU Startup Visa in Brussels to all member states. On Friday at the Industrial Technologies Conference in Amsterdam we will present how to build a startup ecosystem. No time to waste!

 

Neelie Kroes Special Envoy StartupDelta

Sigrid Johannisse Director StartupDelta