Startups pitch ways to fight workplace bias, harassment and discrimination

OAKLAND — Before attending Harvard Business School, Rahkeem Morris once was a high school dropout in a single-parent household in Albany, New York. He worked three part-time jobs, including at a Taco Bell, to support himself and his family.

He returned to high school and graduated at age 20. And then Morris excelled: He graduated magna cum laude from Cornell, worked at GE and Google, and now studies at Harvard Business School.

He also founded a startup called Aday Technologies, focused on better scheduling for workers with multiple hourly shifts and eliminating the need for last-minute calls from managers to immediately come into work.

“Some days, it fuels me,” said Morris about his early troubles. “But some days, I’m just glad I got out.”

At the People Operations Tech competition hosted at the Kapor Center in downtown Oakland on Thursday, Morris was more the norm than the exception. Kapor Center and its venture capital arm Kapor Capital — known for their advocacy to increase diversity in Silicon Valley — hosted the competition for the third year. Ten startups pitched ideas focused on eliminating workplace bias, discrimination and harassment to a panel of judges, who then decided how to give out $100,000 in prize money.

In light of the sexual harassment revelations shaking Hollywood, Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley, judges and founders felt a new sense of gravity when discussing the issue. Several startups’ presentations showed slides highlighting news headlines about those accused of sexual harassment and assault, leaving no doubt what problem they are trying to fix.

“It’s easier (for startups) to now pitch their solutions because there’s no need to convince this is a problem,” said Toni Schneider, a co-founder of True Ventures and a judge of the competition. “Everybody in this competition is in the right moment.”

Schneider said he was impressed by Morris and …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business

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