Recently, the world has witnessed a shift as millions fight for diversity and inclusion in the classroom, workplace, and communities across the country, but people of color have suffered in their communities for decades and long-term change is necessary. Several companies have implemented updated policies to support and protect minorities in the workplace. Similarly, startup initiatives and companies are on the rise to help implement fundamental values and spark conversations across the world.
For example, Michael Ogunsanya cofounded a startup company in 2018 that works to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. The company known as MindStand Technologies uses artificial intelligence to identify hate speech, sexual harassment, and various of forms of discrimination in the workplace. As an African-American male in a demanding field, Ogunsanya has experienced unfair treatment many times before. “I co-founded MindStand after experiencing workplace discrimination firsthand. I saw leaders in HR and DEI fail to understand the “why” and “how” of an inclusive work culture,” Ogunsanya said. Instead of standing by silently, Ogunsanya decided to create a startup company that works to solve this problem.
Therefore, in order to assure other minority employees don’t experience the same challenges in the workplace, MindStand Technologies was launched. “MindStand has developed an artificial intelligence platform to help companies foster inclusive online communities,” Ogunsanya said. The startup is working to guarantee minority employees are represented and comfortable at their 9 to 5.
The prototype of MindStand was first created in 2018 during the University of Maryland’s Bitcamp hackathon. The startup integrates into companies to provide a full and clear depiction of their culture. According to Ogunsanya, MindStand works with companies that own their own data. The company has the power to understand positive and negative language that is communicated via text. The startup is essential as remote learning thrives in the workplace. “Our platform integrates in your community tools to help you better understand your remote work experience,” Ogunsanya said. “Whether you are a startup using slack to collaborate or a corporate enterprise that uses Microsoft 365 to coordinate workflows, MindStand integrates company-wide into your community to paint a comprehensive, and actionable picture of your culture,” Ogunsanya said.
Most importantly, MindStand focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion – key values that are essential to upholding a constructive work environment. Ogunsanya says starting the startup was not easy but it was worth it. “A common saying is “expect your deployments to take three times as long to complete” building a SaaS company as a first-time founder requires patience and planning,” Ogunsanya said.
While building a startup company that helps improve the workplace, Ogunsanya participated in the 2021 MIW Pitch Competition. In addition, Ogunsanya participated in the 2019 MIW Pitch Competition and took home the grand price. He says the company has made drastic changes over the past two years. “In 2019 MindStand was focused on onboarding universities and had a more basic conversation analysis. Since then, we have built upon our IP and are helping companies foster inclusive work environments,” Ogunsanya said. Nevertheless, this year was another winning year for the vital startup company. Ogunsanya says he practiced his pitch multiple times and worked alongside his pitch coach, McKeever (Mac) Conwell. “I knew if I paced myself and told stories about MindStand’s vision, I would do well,” Ogunsanya said.
Ogunsanya preparation didn’t go unnoticed. “Michael from MindStand presented very well. He has an innovative idea that is very relevant to what Fearless has been seeing and experiencing in workplace culture. It’s an innovative idea that has potential. He has done research to validate the value proposition and has some traction. His technology is important to Fearless and members of Baltimore Tracks as we all work towards more diverse and equitable hiring practices,” LaToya Staten (Fearless Strategic Projects and Specialist, 2021 MIW Pitch Judge).
MindStand took home the 2021 MIW Grand prize of 10,000 dollars and Ogunsanya says he was thrilled. “We will use the prize money to grow MindStand’s marketing reach by developing case studies on early customer success and MindStand’s use cases,” Ogunsanya said.
Are you a Founder or Co-Founder of Color headquartered in Washington DC, Maryland, or Northern Virginia? The application for the MIW 2022 pitch competition is available now at the link below.
MIW 2022 Pitch Competition Application: https://www.minorityinnovationweekend.org/news/miw-2022-impc/
Minority Innovation Weekend (MIW) 2021 presented by Fearless (fearless.tech) is a technology and innovation conference that will occur on Saturday October 2, 2021. MIW 2021 will cover:
- Tech Startup Fundamentals,
- Cybersecurity Technology Innovation,
- Healthcare Technology Innovation, and
- Environmental Technology Innovation.
MIW 2021 is online and FREE so register for MIW 2021 at https://hopin.com/events/minority-innovation-weekend-2021.