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🇬🇧 | My Startup Story: Kate Pljaskovová, Fair HQ

Introducing the young Founder and CEO of an early stage startup Fair HQ. Kate Pljaskovová and her team have a clear goal: the platform helps companies embed diversity and inclusion into their practices and behaviours through data & scientific evidence.
To kick things off, can you tell us a little about you and your business journey?

Kate: Fair HQ is my 4th startup in 7 years and I think I finally know what I’m doing. I started working in tech as a Head of HR when I was 19 – I helped to scale the company from 6 to 150 employees. It was a lot of fun! Then I moved to Berlin to learn how to understand customers needs and build successful products. I ended up in Silicon Valley doing just that too. That’s where I switched from working for a startup to trying to build one on my own. First attempt was Liwely – imagine digital fitbit for mental health. When I moved to London I found a new Co-Founder and pivoted Liwely to help companies measure & improve mental health of their staff. I left after 2 years when my Co-Founder tried to push me out of the business. Inspired by my endless negotiations with him I started a negotiation business called She Wins teaching women to negotiate at work. We thought more than 1,800 women in the span of 8 months in companies like Deliveroo, Sky, PWC or Dell. When pandemic hit and most workshops were moved or cancelled, I decided to focus more on the systemic issues of inequality and started Fair HQ. 

Now you're creating more diverse & inclusive companies through tech in London. Do you remember the first time you thought of the idea for Fair HQ?

Kate: Fair HQ is very much an evolution of learnings from my 3 previous companies. We had an amazing success with She Wins, but at some point I realized that teaching women negotiation skills will not solve the systemic issues such as the gender pay gap we wanted to solve, or at least not fast enough, so I started to think how we can convince companies to make the change within their process & behaviours and than Fair HQ was born. 

Your company helps organizations become more diverse and inclusive. Can you tell us a bit more about your mission and why is this an important topic?

Kate: Fair HQ exists as a company because meritocracy doesn’t, at least not yet. Women, people of color, people with disabilities and many other minority groups just don’t have the access to the same opportunities and they need to cross many more barriers to get them. So our mission is to help to close this equality gap and we’ve decided to start working with companies as loads of societal change in the past actually happened through places of work. 

Most companies, at least in the UK and US, understand that investing in Diversity and Inclusion is an important step on becoming a more successful and sustainable company. Us companies have only been spending 8 Billion dollars a year on just diversity training since 2003. Problem is that most of these initiatives were tick box exercises and they actually didn’t improve anything. So the issue is how to actually achieve meaningful and long lasting change in D&I and that’s where we come with Fair HQ. We help companies understand how they’re doing in terms of their processes, minority representation, behaviours that impact D&I and then help them build and implement evidence based strategy while measuring impact of each change they embed into their business. We basically turn a "touchy feely" topic like D&I into an effective process that everyone can run internally, let it be HR, D&I champion or founders themselves. We’re currently working with startups, scaleups & VC in the UK. 

Recently, your project managed to obtain an investment of 14.5 million crowns from the British fund Forward Partners. Tell us what's the next step in the future?

Kate: There’s a lot of exciting things happening in the near future. We’re currently in private beta and soon to open up to more companies, which is super exciting. While we have lots of runway we want to raise a proper Seed soon to accelerate our product vision and to start also serving companies in the US, which are already lining up. 

What is the hardest part of running a tech startup?

Kate: Running a remote team during a global pandemic. I’m doing my best and I think we’ve done an incredible job as a team considering the fact that we never met in person. But it is tough and we really look forward to our team retreats. We have our first one planned in Portugal in June, so let’s hope that this time we will be able to do it. 

If you were to choose one moment in your career you are particularly proud of, what would it be?

Kate: It’s happening just now.

Finally, what advice would you give to all the startup enthusiasts?

Kate: That’s such a tough question, but I would say what helped me the most was to surround myself with a very supportive group of people that I can learn from. The founders’ community I’m part of in the UK has been the most amazing source of inspiration and advice for me in the last 4 years. I also found some friends for life and even my future husband there, so pretty good deal. 🙂

In the startup world, relations between investors and founders are always important. Kate is going to share experiences from her perspective at Founders Virtual session. Join an online event for all founders of technology startups with global ambition! It’s starting on March 30. from 5 p.m. Get tickets here.

Adri Lejsková
Marketing Specialist at CzechCrunch Shine
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