By Hayley Ostrin & Grace Bowers
The CEO and Co-Founder of Kanarys, Inc., Mandy Price, worked at Barnes & Thornburg LLP’s Dallas office as a Corporate Partner before moving into the start-up scene. After earning her B.B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, Mandy earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School. Mandy is the recipient of a multitude of awards including the National Bar Association’s “40 Under 40 Nation’s Best Advocates,” ABA Young Lawyers Division National 2014 Outstanding Young Lawyer, and was named one of the Texas legal profession’s 20 “Winning Women” by Texas Lawyer.
Mandy, you are launching a brand new technology company, Kanarys. Did you have a technology background before starting the company, and if not, are there any tips you have for lawyers or entrepreneurs who don’t have a background in technology for getting into the field?
No, I did not have a background in technology before launching Kanarys. There are many non-technical founders that have started, run and sold successful companies. You are never going to know everything that you need to know to run a business, so it is important to have a great team around you that can fill in those holes and areas of expertise that you do not possess. I think having a dedicated, passionate and talented team is the most important component you need when starting a new company.
You started your career at a big law firm. What lessons from this experience have you applied in building and launching your own company?
Big law taught me a lot of important project management skills. I also learned a lot about the challenges organizations face on the diversity and inclusion front.
What challenges, if any, have you experienced entering this field and starting your own company?
The challenges we have experienced are the same challenges all start-ups face. Obtaining funding to build out our product and prove “proof of concept” was initially very difficult. In addition, leaving a job that helped pay the bills has definitely been a struggle. Fortunately, my husband is 100% committed to ensuring Kanarys succeeds, which is why he left his job to add his unique expertise to the team. We have a lot of long hours in our home – but it is all worth it, because we believe Kanarys is the future of the workplace.
What is your inspiration for starting the company?
I left my job as a corporate attorney to start Kanarys, because I wanted to be part of a real solution. I was tired of talking about D&I challenges and wanted to help companies better focus on diversity, equity and inclusion as a business innovation strategy, and not just nice buzz words or check-the-box initiatives. Research on human behavior tells us that ultimately, everyone just wants a sense of belonging. With Kanarys, we are building a workplace where everyone belongs.
Many people consider technology law to be focused on topics such as cybersecurity and data privacy. Can you expand on why combining tech, law, and inclusivity and diversity practices is beneficial?
Technology is all about innovation and Kanarys helps broker the diversity, equity and inclusion that companies must have in order to innovate and grow. There have been many studies that have tied diverse teams to innovation. I have referenced and included links to two such studies below:
- Deloitte published “Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?” in which they tied diversity and inclusion to better business performance (83%), responsiveness to customer needs (31%), and team collaboration (42%).
- Center for Talent Innovation published “Innovation, Diversity, and Market Growth” which found that publicly traded companies with 2D diversity (exhibiting both inherent and acquired diversity) were 70% more likely to capture a new market, 75% more likely to see ideas actually become productized, and 158% more likely to understand their target end-users and innovate effectively if one or more members on the team represent the user’s demographic.
At a high-level, how does Kanarys’ technology function?
Kanarys is the first and only data-driven, crowd sourced platform that fosters collaboration between employers and employees and provides actionable insights around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Kanarys uses a data-driven approach and partners with companies to collect and analyze relevant DEI data so they can make informed decisions and drive change to make real progress on DEI.
What is Kanarys’ value-add to other companies — speed, efficiency, cost-effectiveness? What other benefits will Kanarys’ technology brings to the table?
Through the use of predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, Kanarys is able to identify patterns and outlier groups by population following an employee engagement pulse survey. Then, for each identified population, the platform can predict what outcomes, if any, are likely based on the responses, including heightened or decreased risk of retention or recruitment of such population groups.
Will Kanarys help employers prevent legal liability or is it structured to provide more day-to-day benefits?
Both; Kanarys provides resources on “best practices” and Kanarys also provides our Company Partners with access to real-time data and daily data insights and reports, so they can focus on implementing solutions to deal with current issues.
A year from launch, what achievements do you hope Kanarys will be celebrating?
The treatment and tracking of DEI issues like all other business metrics.
What advice to you have for people just starting their careers (law students or young lawyers) who are interested in technology?
Technology is a great tool that can be used in just about every facet of life. It is important that we use technology responsibly and think about ways technology can be used to address social justice issues plaguing our society; however, we have to constantly think about how technology can be manipulated by bad actors and what protections should be put in place to guard against unforeseen consequences.
How do you define “diversity” and “inclusivity”?
Diversity is demographics and inclusion is creating an environment where everyone feels they belong.