We’ve exited our shareholding in Applied, an innovative platform which uses behavioural science to open up employment opportunities more widely. In this case study we talk about why we invested (and exited) and the exciting journey we’ve shared.

Impact Objective: To increase equal opportunity through reducing unconscious bias in recruitment

The business completed a £1.5 million investment round at the end of 2018. Having supported and nurtured the business for some time prior to its investment in 2017, Nesta Impact Investments took this opportunity to sell its shareholding. We were delighted that the team would benefit from the expertise of incoming investor Blackbird Ventures, as well as existing shareholder Behavioural Insights Team.

Whether we care to admit it or not, the way we make decisions is influenced by unconscious bias. There are major barriers for individuals without peer-group support, academic achievement and industry experience to be considered for relevant employment opportunities.

In her book What Works, Professor Iris Bohnet, a behavioural economist at Harvard University, argues that rather than trying to alter people, employers should change their processes to limit the opportunity for bias.

That’s exactly what Applied does: anonymised applications and structured review, removal of gender-bias from job descriptions, monitored drop off rate of applications by age, ethnicity and gender. And a lot more…

We looked at different approaches being taken by companies to address the problem (such as diversity training, or job description wording). Applied stood out because of it’s robust, intelligent use of behavioural science (improving candidate fit), scope and sense of humanity (personalised and automated feedback and information about other suitable roles are provided to unsuccessful candidates).

We got to know management in 2016 when Kate Galzebrook, Applied’s CEO, sought our opinion of the business, its impact and our advice in structuring a spin-out from Behavioural Insights Team.

Applied has since gone from strength to strength. During the time Nesta was invested in Applied, the number of candidates on the platform grew from less than 10,000 to reach 50,000.

So, we’re delighted to have supported Applied, and believe that its ongoing success will make a substantial difference to many disadvantaged individuals.

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