Exploring Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Haas Students Speak Out

“We’re two guys from Mexico, but that’s where the similarity ends,” reported Manuel Sescosse (FTMBA ’15) and Patrick Menendez (FTMBA ’15). The co-founders of Altia Salud (Health) were panelists for a recent Exploring Diversity in Entrepreneurship event at the Fall Diversity Workshop.

Although Manuel and Patrick share a common vision and passion for improving the health of their fellow citizens, they bring different strengths and working styles to their venture. They offered valuable advice on finding technical and other co-founders.

Part of Altia’s recipe for success is in getting to know people as individuals and understanding their behavior. “Build a relationship with potential co-founders…truly a relationship. Don’t just show up at an event and say that you need a tech person or that you’re targeting a specific gender,” advises Manuel.

Patrick offered a powerful example of how to incorporate diversity, from his time as part of an all-male consulting cohort at Bain. Rather than recruit carbon copies of themselves, he and his team organized an outreach program to educate women on what life as an analyst was actually like and why it was a solid career choice. As a result of the program started in 2012, five of the seven analyst hires in the most recent recruiting cycle were women.

Darnell Kemp (EWMBA ’15) and Co-Founder & President of DreamFunded, offered a diversity perspective from the world of startup finance. “I guarantee that when I walk into a room of investors, it doesn’t look like this room and it doesn’t look like me.” He shared insights into diversity challenges, including an example of telemarketers who use emails with different ethnically-associated names to get initial meetings.

An audience member summed up the importance of diversity with her question, “How can a company serve my needs if they don’t have someone even remotely like me?”  Indeed.