Simone was born in light of the growing number of workplace inequality cases.
Courtesy of Fortune.com
Question: What would you do after suffering from toxic work experiences? While some of you might rant about it to your family and friends, some might take a break from work to clear your head.
Ariella Steinhorn and Mary Rinaldi, however, decided to launch Simone, a company that connects employees in crisis with resources and legal help.
The duo, who met in summer of 2018 amidst the recovery from a professional crisis, decided to fight back following their similar experiences of gender discrimination at work.
Long story short – both of them were pushed out from New York City jobs at small, male-dominated tech startups after experiencing unequal treatments due to their gender. Unsurprisingly, their stories will resonate with some: describe facing dismissive managers, having their authority undercut, and being inexplicably pulled from key projects and teams.
Following the introduction by a mutual friend, the pair found themselves falling into the habit of meeting daily to work on various consulting projects and commiserate about the things they wished they’d said to human resources and the lost months of their careers.
It was during those times that the seeds were planted to launch a business to help people who are going through similar situations.
Fast forward six months later, the idea of Simone was born – a start-up aimed at connecting individuals in crisis at work with attorneys, therapists, career coaches, as well as tools designed to help them make the best of a bad situation.
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Here are the 3 things you should learn about the start-up:
1. Legal advice is crucial
In fall 2018, the founders began building a database of screened professionals willing to be matched with Simone’s clients—not an easy task given many of these clients might be looking for relatively unprofitable advice rather than starting a discrimination lawsuit at $350 to $650 an hour. Still, their roster is now up to 50 lawyers, with therapists and career counselors still to come.
2. Their struggle of fund-raising
As the start-up’s business model is predicated on getting involved in workplace grievances, this causes complications when it comes to company expansion. According to the founders, taking venture capital will be a big ‘No’ – imagine a client comes to them with a complaint against that venture capital firm, or against a company in its portfolio? Simone would be conflicted.
3. Improving the business model with technology
Simone doesn’t have attorney-client privilege with any individuals who come to the company, so if any of their clients’ claims progress to a lawsuit, the information clients share with the company could be vulnerable to that process. (The founders ask clients to keep the details of their situation as basic as possible before they connect with an actual attorney.) That’s part of the reason Rinaldi and Steinhorn handle all in-take manually for now—they’re waiting to build a tech layer until they’re confident that the system will be able to protect and handle that sensitive data.
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Whether or not the company can navigate through such complexities is yet to be seen.
However, the emergence of the company is definitely a breath of fresh air in the workplaces where different forms, scale and severity of discrimination take place everyday.
While the cases they are tackling might be a tip of the iceberg, it is encouraging to see how past victims rise above the daunting experience and are transformed into a white knight.