MIT Sloan Fellows MBA Program
Building a DEI-Driven Entrepreneurial Landscape
It is no small vision. Entrepreneurship guru and Juli Founder/CEO Bettina Hein, SF ’08 and her spouse Andreas Goeldi, SF ’08—a venture capital investor and successful serial entrepreneur—have embarked on an ambitious mission to help create 5,000 jobs in new enterprises that thrive on diversity of leadership and inclusivity of culture. After first-hand experiences of inherent gender bias in the global startup ecosystem, the duo developed a fierce passion for advancing DEI in entrepreneurship.
“What a woman says is always questioned,” says Hein. “In a past venture, for example, my female CFO—who had a track record raising hundreds of millions of dollars—and I were pitching to a boardroom full of male investors. When she and I spoke, the investors balked. When Andreas, who was part of the team, then presented the same strategy, they all thought it was brilliant. Such instances made me determined to change the dynamic and ensure that entrepreneurs who are not white and male can turn their great ideas into successful businesses.”
One of Hein’s early initiatives on this front was SheEOs, a networking group for women founders and CEOs of high-growth startups in the Boston area. All SheEOs members are building scalable, investor-financeable enterprises, and they meet monthly to discuss issues such as challenges with employees, investors, stock grants, and boards of directors. For more than a decade, this group of approximately 200 women has provided a safe, confidential environment for female entrepreneurs to air business and personal strategies for success in industries predominantly led by white males. Hein also works to promote policies that support those objectives as a board member of the Center for American Entrepreneurship, a nonpartisan research, policy, and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
“The number of women-owned businesses has increased quite a bit globally over the past few years,” Hein says, “but data show that women predominantly start businesses out of necessity rather than because they happened to have an idea they wanted to pursue. And fewer than 20 percent of all startups are minority owned. We must keep asking, ‘Why is that, and what is the antidote?’ For Andreas and me, a big part of the answer is creating new networking and financing structures that are welcoming to ethnically and gender-diverse entrepreneurs.”
Demonstrating value and values
On the funding side, Goeldi recently joined the investor ranks as a partner at btov, a European venture capital fund. “I know from our personal experience how hard it is for women and people of color to get capital,” he says. “Now I can do my part to help right these wrongs.” One of Goeldi’s recent funding opportunities was Ledgy, an ownership-intelligence software platform. “The CEO is a woman of color, and the staff is more that 50 percent minority. As an investor, my personal mission is to help this type of company thrive.”
Hein’s latest venture, the digital health company Juli, is a case study in how the principles she and Goeldi espouse can be realized. “By thinking globally, I was able to build a dream team across 13 time zones that is 50 percent female and 50 percent people of color,” says Hein. “Andreas and I believe that the work we are doing now demonstrates our point—people from every background are capable of starting and leading successful enterprises. Our life’s goal is to prove that societies will flourish as we expand access to opportunities and resources that historically have been reserved for a small subset of the world’s population.”