Richy Ugwu, founder of unea and founding member of 2hearts, relies on a diverse team and a diverse group of shareholders at his technology startup unea. In this interview, he talks about the obstacles in implementing more diversity in companies.
I’m Richy Ugwu – founder and entrepreneur with more than ten years of experience in the digital economy. During this time, I have (co-)founded four companies in the data, media and software sectors: Roq.ad, Retail Media Group (RMG), INTERSPORT Marketing Services (IMS) and currently unea – before entrepreneurship I was a consultant at Roland Berger and at Groupon. I am also a founding member of 2hearts, a platform that finds mentors for people with a migration background. I studied economics and business administration in Heidelberg, St. Gallen and HEC Paris.
All sectors (companies, politics, administrations, urban planning, etc.) need binding goals for diversity in order to establish it at all levels.
For me, diversity means variety and differences in opinions, origin, gender and many other dimensions. For me, diversity in the team is an essential factor for the successful development of a company. But diversity is an effort for everyone – bringing people with different opinions, views etc. into your team can often mean tension – people therefore tend to conform to what you know. Awareness of this “conformity bias” is essential. The issue affects me in two dimensions: 1. as someone who often has to fight for a place in the face of resistance, and 2. as an entrepreneur, ensuring that my companies are diverse on as many levels as possible – from shareholders to the engineering team.
We have people from all different nations working for us. In the tech sector, however, this has not been a peculiarity for a long time. When it comes to women in the IT sector, things look far less good for us – as is unfortunately the case in most IT companies. But diversity is an essential goal for us at all levels, so we work proactively on it and try to balance it out accordingly with the rest of the team.
It is important to recruit diversely right from the start. A diverse group of shareholders increases the chances of more diversity in the team because you can recruit from completely different networks. However, I have to be honest and say that we paid for diversity in the shareholder base with somewhat lower investment sums per shareholder. Wealth in Germany is simply still very homogeneously distributed for the most part. So, access to investment opportunities should also be better distributed.
The diversity discussion in Germany doesn’t go far enough for me. It’s not so much about
whether my father is from Nigeria or Korea. It’s about my socioeconomic background and
status. Where I went to school in Berlin – in Wedding or Mitte, for example – influences my
career more than the fact from which country my parents come from. Inequality has more to do with education and socioeconomic status than with ethnicity.