With a new name and brand, MESH/Diversity is now building its client base, aided by a changing attitude among corporations toward diversity and inclusion, or D&I.
The New Brunswick and Toronto-based company launched as Enkidu more than a year ago to provide an online platform that companies or organizations can use to assess whether their culture meets modern D&I standards.
The co-founders – CEO Michael Wright and Chief Diversity Officer Leeno Karumanchery– have found that their market has evolved to their advantage, but they needed a better name and brand to capitalize on it.
“I think that what we’re seeing in the industry is that there’s a real increased focus and urgency around diversity and inclusion,” said Wright in an interview last week. “We’re happy with the growth we saw in 2018 knowing it’s just a pre-cursor for what’s in store for 2019.”
The company has developed a Software-as-a-Service platform that helps organizations and their staff or members develop an inclusive culture. That can mean changing personal behaviour to ensure all team members feel comfortable and poised to succeed. It can also mean adjusting a company’s hiring process to welcome people who will work well with a diverse workforce and show the flexibility needed to change culture.
Wright himself has made a career out of being a Toronto-based business development executive for New Brunswick-based companies. That includes almost five years as Senior Vice-President of Operations with Brovada, the Rothesay, NB-based company that provided integration software for the insurance industry. It was purchased by Towers Watson for $15 million in 2015.
Wright said MESH/Diversity has been growing but decided it could do better than the name Enkidu (a character from Mesopotamian mythology), which customers found hard to pronounce and remember.
As MESH/Diversity, the company has been taking on clients, such as Toronto sales platform OSL, Saint John-based airline software maker Intelisys, and the University of Charleston. The company has also been adding to its roster of those partners which add the MESH platform to their online offerings, including Habitat for Humanity and Extend A Family.
Karumanchery said customers want the product because D&I policies go beyond simply hiring more women and minorities. He should know. He is recognized as an international expert in diversity and delivers regular speeches on the topic around the world. The MESH/Diversity platform helps companies assess the attitudes and open-mindedness of employees and candidates for new positions. That helps to shape corporate culture on an ongoing basis, he said.
Wright said the company made connections in 2018 and he feels confident he will be able to transform many of them into paying customers. Organizations are not just adopting diversity programs because it’s the right thing to do, he said, but because they realize it is a key strategic component to achieving growth in today’s world.
MESH/Diversity has increased its staff to seven and plans to double staff this year. It recently added Vice-President of Business Development Al Sturgeon, a veteran of Salesforce and former Entrepreneur-in-Residence with regional accelerator PropelICT. Mesh/Diversity previously received funding from the Saint John investment group East Valley Ventures, but Wright said it has no immediate plans to raise more money. For now, the goal is to grow by taking on more clients.
“D&I is going to become more and more in the mainstream,” said Wright. “For us, we see this as a very, very exciting year. But we see it also as a big and exciting year for DNI.”