January 20, 2023 + Anja Peter
5 Min read
At MTIP, we strive to create value for our investors and portfolio companies while remaining fully aware of our responsibility towards both society and the environment. Thus, we are proud of the fact that we include environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in our investment lifecycle and engage in investments that provide a meaningful impact to the healthcare system. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have become important aspects for companies because they help create a more fair and equal society, which can lead to a variety of benefits for both the company and society as a whole. An extensive Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy represents one pillar of MTIP’s larger ESG compliance policy. We have talked to Caroline Noublanche, CEO of our portfolio company Apricity, about her company’s DEI effort
Please share with us what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why they’re important.
Being a woman and an entrepreneur, I’ve been faced very early in my career with some kind of discrimination because I’ve always worked in a very tech environment which is a male-dominant world. So it happened to me at the very beginning of my career that I just started my first company and people were turning to my sales director thinking that he was the CEO and I was his intern. I think that as a woman, you have to prove yourself and you have to show your value a little bit more. When it comes to wanting to be an entrepreneur and a mum, I’ve also made some choices where I have worked till the last day of my pregnancy, gave birth, and started working again one week after for both of my pregnancies. That’s why I’m very attached to promoting women in the workforce. I’m very proud that at Apricity, the purpose of the company is to help women and couples to conceive. In terms of employees, 60% of our workforce is composed of women, not just only in very common professions for women. We also have engineers, data scientists, software developers, doctors… talented staff who are women. We also have 50% of the senior management of Apricity which is composed of women. I would say that equity is super important to us. We consider us very rich in terms of diversity. At Apricity, we have an overall of 60 employees, coming from 15 different nationalities. As you can hear from this delicious accent, I’m French. The company actually started in the UK and we just recently launched in Spain. Having different perspectives internationally is very rich because it comes with different ways of working. But we also have people coming from different professional backgrounds like doctors, people coming from healthcare, software development, and business. When you want to work together, you have to really make sure that people understand each other. I give you an example. At the beginning when I used to say “We are a startup”, people in the tech team were super excited about being a startup. For them it means it’s cool, active, very dynamic. For the healthcare team, it meant that we were at risk and that the company had no cash to pay them. It’s very interesting to see that just a word can be interpreted differently. In terms of our customers, we have started working with corporate customers and large corporations who we have explained that they can support their employees in their very difficult moment in their life. Very soon we have made sure that it’s not just the heterosexual couples, but also solo mothers and same sex couples. That’s another way of making sure that we support inclusion and diversity by offering treatments to all people, regardless of their marital status and sexual orientation.
You already mentioned that working in a diverse environment has some challenges. Are there any other challenging aspects of working in a diverse environment?
We have started a company based in two countries. We have the product/ tech team being in Paris and we have the sales and care team being in the UK. There was also this aspect of not only being different in the way of approaching things, but also having to communicate and understand each other. Recently, we’ve acquired a company in Spain. They come from a different background: They are an app provider, an app for people who are trying to conceive. The team was mostly based in Spain, but they also have a development team based in Bulgaria. When we had to handle the acquisition, we discovered the differences in terms of legal aspects. They had approximately 50 business angels and we needed to have a power of attorney from each one of the shareholders that needed to be signed in front of a notary. These are things that you don’t anticipate. You just think coming from Paris you will do all of that through DocuSign and it will be super fast. It’s a different way of working. We also realized when entering Spain that the rules and especially the regulations that apply to healthcare providers can differ from one region to another. So it’s not exactly the same in Madrid, Catalonia, Andalusia etc. and you have to take that into account in your development at all stages.
How would you handle an employee who consistently made offensive comments about a coworker’s race or gender?
I never encountered that at Apricity but we have two people in the company who are transitioning from one sex to another. One time, one of them presented at a conference and people in the audience asked if it was a he or she and you’re like: “You have one of the most talented person on earth talking about this topic to you and sharing incredible piece of research and the only question you have is this one?!“ It’s quite disappointing. We try to accompany people in what they want to do. We have these two people transitioning and we are happy to help. Coming from an older generation, it’s sometimes difficult to make sure which gender-specific pronoun to use when they have started the process. So we try to be respectful, mindful and be present for them.
In what ways has MTIP been a good D&I leader to Apricity?
What will I mention mostly is the first phase of getting to know each other. I think that we met because of Magdalena Plotczyk (Investment Associate at MTIP), who reached out to me and she had researched the whole field of women’s health and said “That’s really something that we (MTIP) want to invest in that’s super important for us to be present.“ A lot of funds actually mention that but not all do it and invest. So MTIP was really supportive of this category (FemTech) since women’s health is an under-researched and under-funded area. In the selection process, we were asked to fill out an ESG questionnaire as our due diligence and we could see it was truly important for MTIP to make a difference and not to be just there to support with money but also to support for a better world and to make a change. MTIP is represented by Danchen Zhao as one of the board members and Magdalena Plotzyck has the observer seat. Our board of directors consists now of 50% women and that’s great especially for a topic like ours which is really related to women. It’s important to have people who understand what we are talking about around the table and that was really different when we were in touch with other investors which were run by males in their 60s and where the directors were mostly men. It was a little bit the case at MTIP, but you could see that both Danchen and Magdalena had a say in making this investment happen and were conveying the right and important messages.
Besides Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, what else do you consider an important aspect that is embedded in Apricity’s DNA?
I think the purpose of the company is becoming more and more important for candidates and employees and we have the chance with Apricity to create lives. I think it’s a meaningful impact and a meaningful purpose for the company. To date, we have around 92 babies that have been born. We have their pictures on our walls. It makes our day whenever we have a new birth to celebrate. But we also try to live with the world that is around us. For example, at our off-site seminar where we regroup the whole company in Barcelona last October, we did a Climate Fresk workshop. It’s a 3-hour workshop where they actually make you think about climate change, its origin and consequences. Then you have to think how your own business can be more environment-friendly, what you can do personally and what you can do as a team. Now we have just started an initiative based on this workshop to be more climate conscious.
Apricity is a virtual fertility clinic that has reimagined the fertility journey by combining technology and artificial intelligence with personalised care and medical expertise. Its digital solution is designed to improve the fertility experience and maximise chances of conception. It achieves this by providing access to world-class fertility advisors and a fully-customised treatment journey for patients, all easily navigated through a mobile app. Apricity’s mission is to help you create life – and live yours.
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