Why NBA superstar Steph Curry just invested in Seattle pay equity startup Syndio

Why NBA superstar Steph Curry just invested in Seattle pay equity startup Syndio

NBA star Stephen Curry. (Aubrie Pick Photo)

Seattle pay equity startup Syndio has scored more than $30 million in funding in its four years, but a new $1 million assist from early-stage investors Penny Jar Capital, announced Monday, is especially noteworthy because the firm is anchored by NBA star Stephen Curry.

A two-time league MVP with the Golden State Warriors, some have called Curry the greatest shooter in NBA history. Off the court, the shots he’s taking on companies such as Syndio are also gaining attention.

“This was really important to me because he’s not part of this hype cycle around equity,” Syndio CEO Maria Colacurcio told GeekWire. “He’s really been committed to this for a long time. And that was really before the U.S. Women’s National Team stuff kicked up.”

She added that Penny Jar and Curry offer a different look on Syndio’s cap table and that Curry is already very involved.

“He’s not just putting his name on something and then backing away,” Colacurcio said.

Colacurcio referenced a piece Curry wrote in The Players’ Tribune in 2018, in which he said he took pay equity personally as the father of two girls who wanted to grow up “knowing that there are no boundaries that can be placed on their futures” … “believing that they can dream big, and strive for careers where they’ll be treated fairly.”

Curry said that fair pay is long overdue and a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed to “progress towards an equitable society.”

“Syndio is an objective solution that removes unconscious bias from the equation and changes the way business leaders tackle workplace equity, making pay equity the standard for companies around the world,” he said in a news release.

Maria Colacurcio of Syndio during the GeekWire Elevator Pitch finals at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle in 2019. (GeekWire File Photo / Dan DeLong)

Syndio’s so-called EquityTech software analyzes salaries, rooting out discriminatory differences in pay that are tied to gender, race, ethnicity or age while providing strategies for fixing those disparities. Of its 160 clients, 40 are in the Fortune 500 and companies include Nordstrom, Salesforce, Slack, General Mills and others. The startup’s software is being used to analyze the pay of 2.6 million employees.

And while the problem Syndio is tackling is an obvious attraction for investors like Curry, Colacurcio said the company’s success is also a big draw.

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Curry is invested in companies such as Miro and Guild Education, which Colacurcio called “massive, successful, SaaS companies,” and previous Syndio investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Emerson Collective are also invested in Guild Education, an upskilling platform.

Syndio meanwhile has seen revenue double from Q1 to Q2 of this year and its year-over-year revenue has tripled.

“Penny Jar really did their diligence with us and I was impressed actually, they did their homework,” Colacurcio said. “What we don’t want to have happen is for this to be construed as just a social impact investment. Obviously our missions are very well aligned, but a big part of this was just purely the momentum as a business that we’re having.”

Colacurcio credits three things that are driving that momentum:

  • The ESG movement around environmental, social, and governance investing. Colacurcio said the S is “squishy” and companies are struggling to figure out how to commit to the S in an actionable, calculable way and pay equity fits that bill.
  • Pay equity is becoming table stakes from an employer brand perspective and to be competitive, employees are engaging in “Google Docs activism,” Colacurcio said, where they’re sharing their salaries and they’re talking about it.
  • It’s not just a gender issue, but a race issue as well. “That was really interesting to Stephen because he’s been looking at this way back when we all talked about it as a gender issue,” Colacurcio said. “So when we started telling and sharing with them that 98% of our customers look beyond just gender and to race as well, that was really interesting to [Penny Jar]. They were like, ‘Wow, they’re actually attacking racial and gender inequity in companies and giving companies a way to prevent these issues from happening.’”

Syndio just released a new tool called Pay Finder, which helps companies guide discretion and eliminate bias in starting pay and promotions.

Data scientist and law professor Zev Eigen launched Syndio in 2017; Colacurcio joined in 2018. Syndio won GeekWire’s Elevator Pitch competition in 2019 and the startup now employs close to 70 people and is hiring.



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