Starting a business is an endeavor fraught with risk, and those that survive those tough first years often struggle to take things to the next level. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ founders face an especially uneven playing field when it comes to business success, encountering additional challenges when seeking funding, guidance, and access to professional networks. In an effort to accelerate inclusive innovation in technology, the New York office of consulting firm McKinsey & Company founded InNYC, a program focused on supporting underrepresented founders in their journey to success.
The program began by screening applicant tech startups headed by underrepresented founders, with a group of nine finalists making it to its inaugural “cohort pitch day,” which resulted in the selection of three startups, all founded by women of color. The three startups, Canela Media, a streaming platform focused on Hispanic audiences; Goalsetter, an investing, saving, and financial education app for families; and Landit, a diversity-focused career development platform, were connected with McKinsey professionals and over the course of a 12-week engagement received operational guidance, financial advisory, strategic resources, and access to larger professional networks.
According to Parvathy Menon, a McKinsey engagement manager who led the firm’s work with the first group of three startups, underrepresented founders often have difficulties making deals, building networks, and securing corporate sponsorships, despite leading viable tech businesses that are poised to make a difference in their communities.
“It truly showed how much factors like race and gender skew the playing field in a way that is hard to comprehend on a daily basis,” she says. “So not only did we work on a wide variety of business challenges, but we were there with them through real emotional highs and lows.”
Access to McKinsey’s global experience has helped these founders make major decisions and break through longstanding challenges quickly, providing a focus on long-term growth and playbooks to effectively scale up their businesses, helping them pursue growth with the kind of support many startups can only dream of receiving. The success of InNYC’s inaugural cohort has the firm working to refine and improve the program even further, leading them to open applications for 2023’s program for another round of startups.