For all the positives that come with the expansion of Aotearoa's venture ecosystem, we have growing pains. And while we pride ourselves on diversity, inclusivity, kindness and equality, the startup community must acknowledge that we have a ways to go to meet these foundational Kiwi principles.
Aotearoa-New Zealand’s venture ecosystem has never been more exciting. Recent years have seen incredible founders build companies with impact at their heart (like Ethique, Mint Innovation & Sharesies!), the next generation of talent aspires to join or found a startup rather than land roles in a corporate, investment bank or “big-4”, while local venture funds have raised more capital in 18-months than the prior decade.
But for all the positives that come with expansion of our ecosystem, we have growing pains. And while we pride ourselves on diversity, inclusivity, kindness and equality, the startup community must acknowledge that we have a ways to go to meet these foundational Kiwi principles.
We believe that tackling these issues head on is crucial. Icehouse Ventures has invested in 300 startups since 2004, so we have a responsibility to build a positive culture inside of our organisation, as well as set the standard for Aotearoa-New Zealand’s wider startup ecosystem.
Today we are launching our updated Icehouse Ventures Community Code of Conduct and our anonymous reporting platform (Whispli) to establish the baseline we expect from ourselves and our partners to foster safety, inclusivity and integrity for all the members of our community. Power is inherently imbalanced in our community, preventing people from speaking up, but the purpose of this platform is to help close that gap. One silver lining of growth in the ecosystem is that no single investor, founder or influencer is above being held to account.
Read the full Code of Conduct below to learn more, including our community values, unacceptable conduct in physical and digital settings, and our approach to reporting and enforcement of the Code.
In addition to providing direct feedback to those who report negative behaviour, we’ll be publishing public six-monthly reports outlining the number of violations reported, the nature of those violations, the investigations undertaken by the committee and the resultant actions implemented. We hope this data provides confidence that reports will be taken seriously and we also expect it to steer our future initiatives.
While reporting negative behaviour is never mandatory, we encourage you to speak out. The process is 100% secure and anonymous- by speaking out you do a massive favour to all of us working, investing, and advising in our startup community.
We acknowledge this is the first step of a journey to promote a truly inclusive and safe environment for all founders, their teams, and their investors. We are planning other initiatives including regular reminders of this code at every Icehouse Ventures event, providing access to EAP or other counselling services to the founders we back, and formal diversity, inclusion and equity training for our team (and if possible, made available to our community). We hope leading by example will catalyse feedback on what more we can do, and encourage our peers across the industry to implement similar safety measures.
We would also like to thank our friends across the ditch, Blackbird and Startmate, for open-sourcing their Code of Conduct as inspiration for ours.
Icehouse Ventures Community Code of Conduct
Overview & Scope
At Icehouse Ventures our mission is to back the bravest kiwi founders launching global companies from Aotearoa-New Zealand. We do that by leveraging and empowering our community to grow a thriving, creative and supportive Aotearoa-New Zealand startup ecosystem. This amplifies and exploits the natural and obvious benefits of working collaboratively: greater deal flow, capital, expertise, networks and influence. These benefits only eventuate when our community shares common values and make a mutual commitment to collaboration.
To advance these goals, we require the community associated with Icehouse Ventures (including employees, contractors, investors (both fund investors and co-investors), founders, mentors, advisors, volunteers, speakers and attendees at our events) conduct themselves with the highest levels of integrity, ethics and behaviour when these stakeholders are in an environment associated with Icehouse Ventures (including offices, shared working spaces, work events, off-sites, conferences, video calls, email communication, social media posts, investor evenings, Showcase, Demo Day, founder retreats, workshops, office hours, and other social events).
The purpose of this Code is to establish a baseline level of conduct that must be met by all Icehouse Ventures community members. Your attendance and participation in the Icehouse Ventures community indicates your agreement to abide by this Code. You acknowledge and agree that membership of the Icehouse Ventures community is a privilege that may be revoked by Icehouse Ventures for non-compliance with this Code.
Icehouse Ventures expects all community members to (1) embrace diversity, (2) engage with fellow members with respect and compassion, (3) be active and collaborative to achieve our shared vision, and (4) act with integrity, transparency and professionalism. These expectations mean:
- Embrace Diversity – diversity is a strength
o Icehouse Ventures has zero-tolerance for any form of negative discrimination or harassment of marginalised groups including groups defined by race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, family-status, or religion.
o In addition to zero-tolerance of negative behaviour or statements, we encourage our community members to exemplify positive behaviour and statements embracing diversity.
- Respect & Compassion – accountability
o Community members are expected to engage with their fellow members with respect and compassion.
o Community members are expected to communicate and engage expeditiously, respecting others’ time, while having compassion for others’ professional commitments or personal circumstances.
o Community members are expected to tolerate and acknowledge that our activities lend themselves to significant uncertainty and high-stakes for those involved, resulting in strongly-held but differing opinions. The delineation between opinions and statements of fact should be acknowledged and respected.
o Investors’ success is reliant upon the entrepreneurs they invest in. Accordingly, investors are expected to recognise their position of influence and to act with compassion towards the wellbeing of entrepreneurs.
- Active & Collaborative - participation in the community
o Community members are encouraged to be active and collaborative with fellow members to enable the achievement of our collective vision and strategic priorities, including by introducing quality entrepreneurs, inviting prospective investors to events, participating in due diligence, providing ongoing support to enable the success of entrepreneurs we have invested in, and by investing their capital (in the case of investors).
o Community members are encouraged to be collaborative by sharing their insights or expertise as pertinent to the success of their fellow community members and by avoiding statements and actions detrimental to the success of other community members even when such actions or statements may be personally beneficial.
- Integrity, Transparency & Professionalism – acting in good faith
o Community members are expected to act with integrity, transparency and professionalism in their engagement with their fellow members including investors, entrepreneurs and co-investors.
o Community members are expected to keep all information they receive as a member strictly confidential. Icehouse Ventures considers any failure to respect confidentiality to be a material breach of this Code.
o Community members are expected to communicate any actual or potential conflicts of interest transparently, particularly as they relate to any specific transaction.
o Community members are expected to act in good faith, communicate clearly with meaningful and honest feedback and intentions, and to keep promises and commitments made to their fellow members including to investors, to entrepreneurs, and to co-investors. This includes communicating and sharing information in a manner that is accurate, truthful, fair and not misleading.
o We recognise that the power relationship between investors and the founders they invest in may be heavily weighted in favour of the investor. This imbalance of power can create the potential for abuse or harm by the investor. We encourage investors to take this imbalance of power into account in all of their interactions with founders and that investors be careful to avoid using their power to coerce the founder, intentionally or unintentionally.
Icehouse Ventures is committed to providing events that are welcoming and safe for all participants, are free from unlawful discrimination and harassment, where all participants are treated with dignity and respect. All participants at Icehouse Ventures events must abide by the following:
- Be excellent to each other. We want our events to be a positive experience for everyone regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, neurodiversity, physical appearance, body size, ethnicity, nationality, race, age, religion, or other protected category. Treat everyone with respect. Participate while acknowledging that everyone deserves to be here - and each of us has the right to enjoy our experience without fear of harassment, discrimination, or condescension, whether blatant or via micro-aggressions. Jokes shouldn’t demean others. Consider what you are saying and how it would feel if it were said to or about you.
- Zero tolerance of harassment. Harassment includes: verbal language that reinforces social structures of domination related to gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, neurodiversity, physical appearance, body size, ethnicity, nationality, race, age, religion, or other protected category; sexual imagery in public spaces; deliberate intimidation; stalking; following; harassing photography or recording; sustained disruption of talks or other events; offensive verbal language; inappropriate physical contact; and unwelcome sexual attention. Participants asked to stop any harassing behaviour are expected to comply immediately.
- Speak up if you see or hear something. Harassment is not tolerated, and you are empowered to politely engage when you or others are disrespected. The person making you feel uncomfortable may not be aware of what they are doing, and politely bringing their behaviour to their attention is encouraged. If a participant engages in harassing or uncomfortable behaviour, the event organisers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning or expelling the offender from the event with no refund. If you are being harassed or feel uncomfortable, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of the event organising staff immediately.
Icehouse Ventures reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person from, any hosted event at any time in its sole discretion. This includes attendees behaving in a disorderly manner or failing to comply with this Code. If a participant engages in harassing or other unacceptable behaviour, the event organisers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning or expelling the offender from the event.
Unfortunately, harassment at events and in online communities is common. Creating and implementing a policy aims to mitigate this by making it clear that harassment of anyone for any reason is not acceptable within our events and communities. This policy may prevent harassment by clearly defining expectations for behaviour, aims to provide reassurance, and encourages people who have had bad experiences at other events to participate in Icehouse Ventures events .
All attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers at any Icehouse Ventures event are required to comply with this Code. Organisers will enforce this Code throughout the event. We expect cooperation from all participants to help ensure a safe environment for everybody.
The following behaviours are examples of unacceptable conduct:
o The safety of our community is of the utmost importance to Icehouse Ventures, please be mindful of and report any health and safety concerns.
o Harassment, including inappropriate verbal comments relating to gender, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity, religion, age, national origin, gender identity or expression, political beliefs, or physical appearance. We expect all participants to treat each other with respect and kindness.
o Inappropriate and/or unwanted physical contact.
o Unwelcome sexual attention, which can include inappropriate questions of a sexual nature, asking for sexual favours or repeatedly asking for dates or contact information. Specifically, this Code bans all sexual advances initiated by a person with significant power over the recipient, such as a person who influences funding decisions towards a person seeking funding, a conference organiser towards a speaker, or a coworker towards another coworker if they have influence over their career advancement. We strongly recommend that people in positions of greater power turn down sexual advances from someone they hold significant power over.
o Stalking or deliberate intimidation.
o Unwanted photography or recording (if you are asked to stop photographing or recording someone, please do so. If someone indicates that they do not want to be photographed or recorded, do not record or photograph them).
o Discriminatory or sexual images in public spaces.
o Sustained or wilful disruption of talks or other events.
o Excessive drinking and disorderly behaviour.
o Offensive language or behaviour.
o Violent behaviour.
o Undertaking any illegal activities.
o Discriminatory language or behaviour based on sex, gender, religion, culture, disability, age, race or general vilification in any form.
We appreciate that unacceptable conduct by a community member may not have been intended to upset or offend and that standards of acceptable conduct may change and evolve over time. We remain committed to upskilling and educating ourselves and our community on current standards of conduct on a regular basis. For further more specific examples of unacceptable behaviour, please refer to the Model Code of Conduct for the Australian Startup Community here.
Reporting & Enforcement
Icehouse Ventures is committed to fostering a collaborative community that embodies this Code of Conduct and have established a Code of Conduct Committee to monitor and review the actions and statements of community members known to have breached this Code.
If any of our community members experience, witness or are involved in any conduct that is unacceptable then they can report to us in the following ways:
- Contact our Code of Conduct Committee: Jack McQuire (Partner), Lane Litz (Venture Partner) and Jo Wickham (Venture Partner) from Icehouse Ventures. Your report will be treated with the strictest of confidence; or
- Report anonymously through Whispli here.
The matter will be escalated to Icehouse Ventures independent board members (Tim Williams & Anne Catley) and founder representatives (Brooke Roberts & Shaun Quincey) in the following circumstances:
- The person who violated the Code is an Icehouse Ventures employee;
- The violation of the Code represents criminal activity that will be referred to the appropriate legal authorities;
- The person who violated the Code is not a member of Icehouse Ventures’ community and the committee recommends notification of the violation to a third-party organisation or individual; or
- At the request of an individual who is a primary victim of the person who violated the Code’s actions.
Icehouse Ventures’ partners with many other organisations in the ecosystem including Outset Ventures and Ministry of Awesome. Where a report involves an individual associated with those organisations, we will seek to include an appropriate representative of that organisation as an additional member of the Code of Conduct Committee. In doing so, we will engage with the reporter prior to engaging with that organisation regarding who we plan to contact and the details divulged to them.
We aim to acknowledge reports within 2 business days, and to complete handling a report within 10 business days. Where the Committee determines that a community member has failed to act in accordance with this Code, the Committee may:
o issue a verbal warning;
o issue a temporary ban from certain or all activities, events, investment opportunities, forums or any other association with Icehouse Ventures;
o issue a permanent ban from certain or all activities, events, investment opportunities, forums or other association with Icehouse Ventures;
o remove responsibilities (e.g. to the extent within Icehouse Ventures control, removal of board or observer positions);
o terminate employment (in relation to Icehouse Ventures employees);
o notify other relevant industry bodies or, where appropriate, employers of the individual (e.g. the Angel Association of New Zealand, New Zealand Private Capital Association, Callaghan Innovation, NZGCP, NZTE); or
o report to legal authorities.
Please note, while we take all concerns raised seriously, we will use our discretion as to determining when and how to follow up on reported incidents and may decline to take any further action and/or may direct the participant to other resources for resolution.
Where appropriate we will make a statement about the report and any actions we took to the person or persons who reported the incident. In addition, Icehouse Ventures will publicly publish six-monthly reports outlining (without publishing any individually identifiable details) the number of reports received, the nature of violations contained in those reports, the investigations undertaken by the Committee and conclusions reached, and actions taken.