Australian venture capital firms partner to write moral code of conduct for startup community

- June 22, 2018 2 MIN READ

A number of Australian venture capital firms have banded together to draft a moral code of conduct for the local startup community.

Working in partnership with Valerie Aurora, a diversity and inclusion expert and cofounder of the Ada Initiative, an organisation that produced codes of conduct and anti-harassment policies to support women in tech, Blackbird Ventures, Airtree Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Rampersand, Blue Sky Venture Capital, and Startmate have written and adopted the code.

Introducing the code, Blackbird partner Sam Wong wrote, “We know that a code of conduct does not by itself ensure a healthy culture. But we do believe that a code of conduct has a role to play in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for marginalised groups.

“It is useful because it clearly articulates to all members of an organisation or community what standards of behaviour are expected.”

The group pointed out that the code “is not merely aspirational”, as it sets out how reports can be made and what actions may be taken; Square Peg and Blackbird, for example, have established committees to handle violations of the code.

The group has noted that it does not want reporting to be mandatory for anyone, as mandatory reporting can end up creating a less safe environment than one in which people can use their own judgement to decide when to report.

However, the group noted that it expects people in positions of power to be “especially conscientious in reporting any violations they see” – with the consent of the marginalised person involved – “as they are less vulnerable to retaliation or pressure than people with less power”.

With reports of bad behaviour in the global tech community rife, Rampersand cofounder Paul Naphtali said the fact Australia was relatively late to embrace innovation and technology gives the country a “very powerful opportunity” to learn from other ecosystems to “craft and design the community that is best in class”.

“We believe inclusion and diversity sits at the core of the ecosystem we want to be part of,” he said.

“It would be wonderful to have an inclusive and welcoming community organically, the harsh reality is it requires attention — discussion, education, nurturing and clear guidelines.

“Expectations and boundaries need to clear, and processes outlined, particularly in situations where behaviours fall outside of the acceptable boundaries. The starting principle is we accept what we are willing to walk past, and we as a fund and as a community are saying we will not walk past bad behaviour.”

The firms are calling for community input on the code here.

Image: City of Melbourne/ That Startup Show / Photographer Wren Steiner