Dr Uma Valeti
Co-Founder and CEO
LOCATION: San Francisco, USA
FUNDING (TO DATE): $22+M
A business built on diversity and inclusion
A founding principle of the company is to have a ‘big tent’, a company where we have talented people coming from various parts of the world, from various cultural backgrounds and of various genders. Diversity of talent brings diversity of thought. This diversity is evident in all areas of the culture company, from investors to partners and advisers to our team.
Ownership and feedback
One of the things that we talk about a lot in the company is having an ownership mindset. I want each team member to know they are an owner, think as an owner and act as an owner of Memphis Meats. If a team member sees an area that can be improved, I want them to share that view right away. In order to have those kinds of conversations, though, one needs to feel comfortable to speak candidly. We work hard to make sure that Memphis Meats fosters such an environment. We have weekly group meetings such as our All Hands meetings which may take many formats incl an informal team lunch or small group informal fireside chats with the CEO. Whatever the format may be, we get together on a weekly basis. This builds a sense of community for the team and fosters communication.
As a team, we talk about feedback as a gift. That’s a phrase that everybody in the company knows. We collectively acknowledge that not everybody will know how to give feedback at some point or another. In this instance, the conversation becomes about encouragement: everyone is encouraged to approach the concept of feedback with the mindset of candor and compassion. When we remind each other of that mindset, it really helps to build safe channels of communication, and our sense of community as a team.
We also make sure that feedback is a two way street. We make sure that managers are also sharing their experiences, and feeding back to their teams.
Team Activities and the Pep Squad
Recently, we conducted a broad survey across the whole company – about 65 questions in total. Instead of doing the survey independently, we agreed: Let’s all do this together!
The survey became a team activity. We settled in the company’s kitchen (located in the centre of our office space), sat down, shared food and completed the survey in fellowship.
We gathered feedback, then and there, and held a discussion regarding our achievements and the areas we wanted to develop. One outcome of that discussion was the Pep Squad, a people engagement program. This exercise was incredibly helpful for our team of 30-plus people. They each got a fair say in the company, and our newly-formed Pep Squad is now charged with working on preserving the strengths we have and improving on the areas for development.
One area of particular development for us is maintaining clear communication. It’s one of the easiest things to do; and one of the easiest to forget! As a startups, we’re all growing fast and tackling technically-challenging hurdles. Feedback and clear communication helps us achieve our objectives.
How do you build an effective D&I programme? It’s a complex subject. But what has become clear is that if you build a D&I programme just for the sake of building one, it won’t be effective.
A D&I program needs to begin with the startup or company’s leaders. They need to ask, how are we really going to benefit from adding diversity to this organisation? For me, it was important from the moment I founded Memphis Meats.
But diversity doesn’t mean you have to compromise. I still want to work with the brightest, most-skilled people for the job. It’s about leading by example, building a high-achieving culture and letting people perform to the best of their abilities.
Memphis Meats is a visionary company. As a team, we need the best talent to bring that vision to life and we make sure that everybody on the team feels part of that vision. To do pioneering work, the following three aspects are most important to the Memphis Meats paradigm: people, process and product. We know that our people are the most important factor in that paradigm. Our people determine the processes, our people determine the product. Because we are pioneering new technologies, we do not compromise on performance. Our people are always going to be performing at a very high level and being a diverse and inclusive team allows us to do so.