Diversity connectors for Start-ups (2016-2017)
Pilot Action of Intercutural Cities
Diversity Connectors for Start-ups: the Art of Mixing is a two-year pilot project which explored existing good practice amongst incubators, cities, corporate and philanthropic funders to inform the design of diversity connectors.
Micro, small and medium sized enterprises are generating most new jobs in many European cities and many of these enterprises are owned by people from under-represented groups. The growth and sustainability of micro start-ups are a priority for many cities. Many European cities build incubators to help these start-ups, and studies show that those participating in these incubators are more likely to grow and become sustainable. The incubators tend to recruit only mainstream start-ups, in the high tech, high value-add, and high potential growth industries.
Some European cities are also hosting incubators for under-represented start-ups. They provide specific services for these start-ups such as personal development skills to raise self-confidence, growth willingness of entrepreneurs, and provide cultural training and professional development skills, such as learning the business language, and specific legal requirements.
Objectives of the project
This pilot project aimed to reconfigure incubators to become diversity connectors, workspaces where under-represented and mainstream start-ups share workspaces and service provision. These diversity connectors provide general services such as technical training, access to potential funders, meeting spaces etc., as well as specific services for under-represented start-ups. They speed up the learning curve for under-represented start-ups while providing expert knowledge of untapped markets to mainstream start-ups. On the one hand, under-represented start-ups learn from mainstream start-ups, have better access to finance and gain access to new and established business networks. On the other hand, mainstream start-ups will gain from interacting with under-represented start-ups, which see the world from a different perspective, cater to different markets, and have access to different skills.
Through the Diversity Connectors for Start-ups: The Art of Mixing project, participating Inter-Cultural Cities (ICCs), incubators and corporate and philanthropic funders attended workshops and carried out site visits to incubators in European cities which have experience in this area. Recorded interviews with experts and good practice examples from participants and others have been produced. A set of guidance on how to reshape and/or design incubators to become diversity connectors has also been published.