How this Seattle startup is helping shift HR diversity efforts from ‘touchy-feely’ to data driven

Included co-founders, from left to right: Chandan Golla, Laura Close and Raghu Gollamudi. (Included Photo)

The news: Seattle startup Included raised a $1.9 million pre-seed round from FlyingFish, SignalFire and Ascend.

Putting data in DEI: In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, companies nationwide pledged to better support racial and ethnic diversity throughout their operations. Their own employees, customers and regulators have likewise demanded measurable improvements. But businesses often struggle to reach those goals.

Included is offering a potential solution. The startup aims to fold data into every aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, from the hiring process to retention and promotions to compensation to an overall inclusion score for a company.

“The history of the entire space has been very touchy-feely and so every single thing we are doing is 100% data-based and data-driven,” said Laura Close, co-founder and chief business development officer.

“So when we talk about inclusivity, we are not talking about workshops or trainings anymore — although we support companies that choose that tactic and we enable that through our platform — but we are delivering data-based measurements so that companies can make choices and strategies.”

Founders: Included CEO and co-founder Raghu Gollamudi in 2016 launched Integris Software, a privacy tech company where he was chief technology officer. Atlanta-based OneTrust Data Discovery acquired Integris last year for an undisclosed sum. Earlier in his career, Gollamudi was a principal development lead at Microsoft for nine years.

Chandan Golla, Included’s third co-founder and chief product officer, was vice president of products at Integris, and worked at eBay for more than a decade.

Close worked with Gollamudi as his executive coach and her background includes career consulting and work with labor organizations.

Included has 15 employees and contractors and expects to double that over the coming year.

The tech: The Included platform can take employee information from existing HR tools that a company is using and analyze it to provide DEI stats and prompt corrective actions. In the hiring process, for example, the platform can evaluate the overall diversity of a candidate pool as well as that of the interview panel. If the panel lacks balanced representation, Included suggests in real time other employees to swap in.

Included has initially focused on hiring and will be adding other HR areas over the coming months.

Cost: Businesses with 200-to-800 employees pay an annual fee of $5,000 annually. The cost for companies with 1,500 or more employees starts at $10,000.

Customers: Included launched in January. Its customers so far are six tech startups, including Amperity, Remitly and Nintex. The company is aiming for 100 customers by the end of 2022. Its target market is businesses with 1,000-to-10,000 employees.

Employees as customers: The current exodus of employees from the workforce — dubbed the Great Resignation — is making employers reconsider their treatment of workers.

Gollamudi said one fix is treating employees more like customers and segmenting them into groups not just by title and salary, but considering their diversity features. Segmentation allows a company to better figure out its employees’ needs in the DEI landscape and cater to them. Included is a tool that can help with that work, he said.

Competition: Large corporations such as Microsoft, Amazon and others have internal HR teams tackling DEI — but still have been hit with lawsuits and accusations of discrimination. Now there’s a growing interest in external DEI tech, as GeekWire has reported. Others in the space include Seattle area startup Diversity Window.

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Startups Dei Diversity and inclusion Diversity equity and inclusion (dei) Funding Included Startups