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As entrepreneurs, we are always looking for ideas on how to run our businesses effectively, launch new ventures, raise more capital, become better leaders, and attract great employees. Investing in the accessibility space is a surefire way to accomplish many of these goals at once.
Six years ago I launched a startup, verb, which quickly grew into a $2 billion company that is a leader in accessibility. Many of my entrepreneurial colleagues and our partners build and run thriving businesses and attribute their success to greater investment in access.
Everyone from Google to Microsoft to Harvard University has an accessibility policy or inclusion arm. Microsoft launched one neurodiversity recruitment program, while Apple gives a run for their money with its prescription hearing aids The AirPods hearing aid feature.
Here are some tips on how and why entrepreneurs like you should devote more resources to accessibility for business longevity and financial success.
Related: How Accessibility Teams and Leaders Can Collaborate for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities
Why entering the accessibility space is such a smart move
A key indicator of business success is the total addressable market, the size of the audience you can address. Apple and other tech giants push resources toward accessibility-focused innovations because they understand the metrics
More than 1.5 billion people worldwide have some form of hearing loss. Projections suggest that number will rise to more than 2.5 billion by 2050. That reality has boosted the over-the-counter hearing aid market, a market ripe for innovation more than $1 billion.
Hearing aids, and now even assistive technology in cars that helps people keep doing that drive as they get older, are examples of innovations that improve people’s lives by helping them maintain autonomy. Are lucrative for entrepreneurs to start businesses that give people more control, freedom and a better quality of life. Companies that open up to accessibility attract more talent, customers and most importantly, investors.
Start by looking internally: your current hiring practices and employees
Filling positions may involve a $15,000 price tag for every worker who earns about $45,000. From there it only goes up. Not being able to fill vacancies also turns on existing employees risk of burnout.As an businessroundups.org building your startup into a functioning business, you need to eliminate revenue opportunities. Enabling inclusive hiring practices is a place to start.
Studying at CVS and Microsoft showed that their initiatives aimed at employing workers with disabilities improved their bottom line. People with disabilities are underemployed, even in job markets with low unemployment. Start training your team to avoid aptitude – the idea that candidates with disabilities may not be able to perform – when they are over qualified. Educating hiring managers and making sure your process is accessible is a great place to start. From the resume submission process to the interview, ensure your team is trained and platforms are accessible to all applicants.
I would also recommend hiring someone or making a current team member responsible for accessibility and inclusion to orchestrate these efforts, review your processes and hold you accountable. Creating a leadership position to address accessibility and inclusion highlights the importance of this for your startup, which will also appeal to investors.
Related: Hiring People with Disabilities Can Solve Your Talent Crisis
How a focus on accessibility can help you attract investors
Investors pay attention to what startups and companies do for the public good. You’ve probably seen the term ‘ESG’ thrown around. Environmental, Social and Government (ESG) considerations evaluate a company’s impact on the natural world and humanity. These metrics are vital to many investors and accessibility is an important part of the equation.
Inaccessible companies ignore the social component of ESG and expose themselves to legal risks. As a result, even if they are not deterred by the lack of accessibility, the risks of costly litigation may deter potential investors. To avoid this, even newer founders should be talking to ESG consultants. Consultants, even if you don’t have enough money to hire them yet, can help you identify areas to focus on. Is your website accessible? Do you contribute to air pollution? Investors will be impressed by your efforts to keep up with changes in these areas.
ESG reporting is all about transparency. Investors will want to see your scores, and showing them the proactive steps you’re taking to develop a responsible corporate culture will appeal to them.
Doubling Up: How to Start an Accessibility-Focused Business or Arm
There are so many barriers that affect the lives of people with disabilities. As an businessroundups.org you are gifted in identifying core problems. Why not find one that they relate to and solve it to create a positive impact?
My product was initially developed for the legal sector. I started considering additional use cases and the TAM. I founded my company in Israel, home of 1.8 million people with disabilities. But even from the start-up phase, our prospecting and growth efforts have focused on sales abroad every 2 months 61 million adults with disabilities in the U.S. Releasing Verbit in the US meant an exponential increase in our TAM. Now our solutions make it easier for people around the world — not just people with disabilities — to study, work and live more efficiently. That’s why entrepreneurs are poised to enter the accessibility space — we think big and can make a big impact.
My advice to you is to keep finding ways to connect your ideas and startup capabilities to bigger problems that need solutions. Investors need to understand that your mission will be lucrative, but if they also address the “why” with the good you can do for the world, their commitment and mentorship will go beyond the financial investment. The same goes for your team: if they endorse your mission or see you reinventing your hiring processes, they’ll stay. They won’t see it as just another job.
Creating something that can improve the lives of millions rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ offering makes for smart business. Step into the accessibility space if you’re interested in doing just that.