6 April 2018 Weekly

Startups mind the gender pay gap

PLUS: Self storage – Superfood skincare – Virtual childcare – Bootleg fast food

Fintech firms escape gender pay gap reporting.

On Wednesday, the deadline passed for UK companies with 250 or more employees to report their gender pay differences.

Many of the responses were disheartening. Eight in 10 companies pay men more than women. On average across the country, women earn 9.8% less than men per hour. For financial firms, the discrepancy is even greater: Barclays, RBS and Lloyd’s banks have all reported that their female employees are paid at least 35% less than male staff.

Many startups weren’t required to report their figures. Some have decided to anyway: challenger bank Starling filed figures on the government’s portal, reporting that the hourly median rate of their female employees is 48.9% lower than their male staff (similar to Barclays). The fledgling bank – which is unusual in the industry by virtue of having a female CEO – has acknowledged the need to close the gap in a blog post, and outlined the improvements it’s made so far.

Meanwhile, competitor Atom Bank reported a 31.6% gap. ‘While this is lower than the industry average this is still not where Atom want to be, and we see an urgent need to address systemic diversity issues in the financial services and technology industries – primarily through grassroots STEM education,’ Anne-Marie Lister, Atom’s Head of People Experience says. Monzo, a startup bank that prides itself on transparency, says it will voluntarily release a statement on its own gender pay differences in the coming weeks. It’s likely to be substantial, with 77% of the (typically well-paid) technical roles at the company taken by men.

Many fintech firms are focusing efforts on fine-tuning recruiting processes. Dan Atkinson, chief people officer at a fourth startup bank, Tandem, says: ‘Our principle is simply “best person for the job”, however you firstly need to ensure you attract a diverse candidate pipeline by being visible in the right places.’ Meanwhile, international payments platform Currencycloud has implemented a blind CV policy, removing names and gender indicators from prospective candidates’ CVs. Starling says it requires all new management hires to undergo sensitivity training upon joining the company.

Self storage is big business in the US.

Recent figures show that one in 11 Americans fork out for self-storage units. The industry as a whole is worth about £27bn – which is massive compared to the £540m turnover the UK’s self-storage industry reported in 2016.

As would be expected, a number of small US brands are trying to tap into this lucrative space. Networking and jobs platform AngelList has more than 120 self-storage startups listed on its site, a large portion of which are based in the US. They’re challenging incumbents like Storagemart or Cubesmart by offering ‘value-add’ services, such as picking up and delivering items (Clutter, Makespace), or finding space that can be adapted for self storage. One of these, Neighbor, which allows users to advertise spare space in their homes to store other people’s stuff (riffing on Airbnb’s concept), raised £1.8m in seed funding last week.

Food you can smear on your face.

Skincare brand Youth to the People has just landed funding from Strand Equity – an investment firm with a portfolio stuffed full of food and drink brands.

The undisclosed investment round underlines the increasing crossover between the food and drink, wellness and beauty sectors.

LA-based Youth to the People has created creams and serums based around ‘superfood’ ingredients, including goji berries, prickly pears and spinach.

Other brands creating skincare products based on health-food ingredients include First Aid Beauty, which uses coconut, ginger and turmeric in its potions. UK brand Nip and Fab, meanwhile, has created a range of products using kale.

On the flip side, some food companies are launching products that claim beauty-boosting properties. Moon Juice and Nue Co both sell ingestible powders to improve the appearance of skin. Meanwhile, Dirty Lemon has a range of drinks containing the likes of collagen and magnesium.

The app that will let you enter your kid’s imagination.

Future Tech Now, an immersive technologies show hosted in London this week, wants to prove that AR and VR can be used for much, much more than gaming and one-off marketing gimmicks – from interactive surgical training to educational content for new foster parents.

Augmented reality could also create an entirely new way for parents to play with their kids, says Tanya Laird, one of the show’s curators and recently appointed CEO of children’s game company Beans Entertainment. Beans is working on an ambitious new AR app for four to six-year-olds, which would enable them to play with a parent in another room – or even country.

Laird describes the scene: ‘The parent is in New York with their tablet, while the kid opens their tablet in London. She looks around the room through the screen, and various elements of the play universe start sprouting up – rivers flowing and trees growing. She can see her dad’s character in that environment (and he can see her in his). They can go on a quest together, crawling around on the floor to see what’s underneath the tree.’

‘Parents tend to be locked out of children’s imaginative worlds,’ adds Laird. ‘This app could help parents share in their child’s imagination.’

The premium app, called Magic Window, is set for release early in 2019.

Copycat giant fast food brands in Iran.

In Iran, many north American and European fast-food chains are banned.

That’s not always been the case, but after the revolution in 1979, brands like McDonald’s were forced to close their doors in the country.

This Atlas Obscura piece on the alternative businesses that have popped up as a result is fascinating – from ‘Mash Donald’s’ to ‘Pizza Hot’.

This article was updated at 10:00 on 6 April to include a response from Atom Bank.