By the time Ekow Sanni-Thomas left the corporate world after 11 years, he had seen how easy it is for companies to turn their backs on Black employees.
This is a problem that I have dealt with throughout my career, not just lack of diversity but also companies with false reputations.
The idea for his startup, Inside Voices, an online platform for diverse workers to submit anonymous reviews of their employers, was sparked by his negative experience at his last job. It is similar to other review sites, but it is designed to share the perspectives of underrepresented employees.
Sanni-Thomas says transparency is a way to give workers of color the knowledge they need to find a job.
Two years ago, companies pledged billions of dollars to anti-racist causes and set goals to recruit and retain Black talent, as a result of the global reckoning with racism and police violence. Many consultants, professors, and employees claim that diversity efforts have failed in the corporate world.
Sanni- Thomas said that companies are able to get away with this because there is no transparency. Inside Voices intends to come in that location.
Some of the challenges other review websites face are addressed by Inside Voices.
Sanni-Thomas said he was focused on designing the website to give relevant information to black and brown employees. Users submit anonymous reviews, answering questions that diversity experts have created, such as "How do you feel about this statement: I would recommend my company to a person of color?"
Sanni-Thomas said that Inside Voices has 5,000 user reviews from major companies.
Sanni-Thomas has made intentional choices as a CEO to ensure that the foundation of Inside Voices remained aligned with his mission since he left his job.
He took the extra time to find contractors of color to build his website. He decided to use his savings account to fund the initial product out of his one savings account. Black entrepreneurs owned 10% of companies in the US in 2020, but only 3% of venture-capital funding went to them.
Users rolled in slowly. Sanni- Thomas finally found his footing when he used TikTok and LinkedIn. Sanni-Thomas has over 30,000 followers on TikTok and is an influential voice about diversity on the #careertok.
Sanni-Thomas said that there is nothing for organic growth like TikTok, particularly when you have a $0 marketing budget. It all changed when I started using TikTok and LinkedIn.
Sanni- Thomas is going into his first round of VC funding after having two versions of his product.
Sanni-Thomas said that a career as a Black employee in the corporate world is like a game of Snakes and Ladders, where ladders help you get to your goal.
He said there was a lot more snakes than ladders.
Sanni- Thomas realized that dealing with racism in the workplace was taking a toll on his mental health when he started his career. He felt like he was not doing enough.
He said that he wished he had been a little bit nicer to himself.
Sanni-Thomas emphasized his own privilege as a man with a British accent and savings in the bank as a factor in getting Inside Voices off the ground. He said that black women were being discriminated against with a regularity and ferocity that would stop most people from trying.
He wants to make sure that the fight against discrimination against Black women is at the center of his mission.
He said that he was not just out to build a company, but to build a company.