Janice Omadeke sees a technology industry that can be far more diverse — and her startup The Mentor Method is raising $550,000 in seed funding to bring its inclusion methods to a wider market.
The Mentor Method charges startups and larger companies between $2,500 and $25,000 to design diversity and inclusion programs, pair company employees with mentors and mentees and build a pipeline of qualified job candidates from a diversity of backgrounds. The goal would be to build a more diverse company over the long term, and not just a temporary program, Omadeke said.
“My vision is to create a world where diversity and inclusion isn’t such a hurdle for companies to jump over,” Omadeke said, adding that diverse companies are more successful and innovative. “We are saving them time and we are saving them money and we are helping them use their employees as champions for change.”
The money will go toward building out The Mentor Method’s software platform and to hire a chief technology officer, according to Omadeke. The company will simultaneously be reaching out to more large companies to build its client base. It currently counts the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership as one, although Omadeke declined to name others.
Omadeke founded The Mentor Method at the end of 2015, but didn’t start operations until early 2016. She was previously a creative design manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers and a lead graphic designer at BAE Systems.
The company originally was geared toward selling mentor services to mentees, but Omadeke flipped the business model to sell diversity services to larger companies because it greatly increased the size and scope of the potential impact. And it comes at a time when tech companies are coming under more and more scrutiny for their diversity practices, or lack thereof.
The Mentor Method, based out of the District location of tech incubator Seed Spot, recently won $5,000 as part of the incubator’s most recent demo day.
But what sets The Mentor Method apart from other similar services? Omadeke said companies routinely pay more for less personalized services, and that her startup can offer better matches with better candidates — which saves companies money in hiring and training people several times for the same position.
“You can hire as many diverse candidates as you want but if those candidates do not feel included than those companies have already lost,” Omadeke said.
The company has also built partnerships with training company General Assembly, George Washington University and George Mason University, among others, giving the startup access to mentees and mentors alike. Some of its mentors include employees at Social Tables, Optoro and Hilton Worldwide.
The Mentor Method has also gathered some impressive advisers, including Stephanie Breedlove, the co-founder of Care.com’s HomePay program, Sibyl Edwards, co-founder of WeTogether and Black Female Founders, and Jennifer Ives, senior vice president of software and security at 3Pillar Global.
Ultimately Omadeke sees a market ripe for a new entry that can provide a better suite of services for lower costs that can help change a company’s culture over the long term.
“Maybe they don’t have a Stanford degree but they have that grit. Maybe they didn’t go to an Ivy but they have the same technical competencies,” Omadeke said. “I want to ensure pedigree isn’t always the first thing an employer looks at.”