WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 2, 2019 – Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed, and HBCUvc, a nonprofit fellowship program providing Black and Latinx students with training and mentorship in venture capital, today announced the launch of a joint 5-city Startup Weekend tour across the country. The series of events will take place at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutes (HSIs) across the U.S.
Techstars and HBCUvc partnered on this initiative to increase the representation of young black and brown entrepreneurs in each startup ecosystem and ultimately create jobs and wealth opportunities for communities of color, which are traditionally underrepresented in the VC and startup landscape. This is the first endeavor of its kind aimed to specifically reach HBCU students, who account for 60 percent of all black engineers in the country.
Each three-day Startup Weekend allows attendees to connect with like-minded individuals looking to build something new, pitch new startup ideas to a panel of judges and learn what it takes to start their own company. In just 54 hours, participants will experience the highs, lows, fun and pressure that make up life at a startup.
“We’re excited to partner with Techstars, a global accelerator, to bring Startup Weekends to HBCUs,” said Hadiyah Mujhid, Founder and CEO of HBCUvc. “Our partner HBCUs and their students benefit greatly as Techstars Startup Weekend events bring tech entrepreneurs, corporate partners, and investors to the campuses of HBCUs, helping to accelerate our next generation of technology entrepreneurs on our campuses.”
Results from past Techstars Startup Weekend events include the formation of more than 23,000 teams by more than 193,000 entrepreneurs in 150 countries. Some teams even started to generate revenue during the event, while others went on to raise funds from angel investors or venture capitalists.
“This is the vision and promise of an organization like Techstars – opening access and leading the charge in entrepreneurial ecosystem development through collaborating with groups like HBCUvc,” says Monica Wheat, Techstars liaison for the tour, Techstars Startup Programs Lead in Detroit and Founder of Venture Catalysts. “HBCUvc has already been fueling pipeline development work for years. Techstars and these communities are excited to see this program go live and we look forward to all the opportunities it will create.”
This unique initiative will cover five campuses in 2019, with more to follow in 2020. The tour officially kicks off at Howard University in October 2019. Below are the tour stops announced to date:
- Howard University, Washington, D.C. – led by students Shondace Thomas & Cory Lipsey and faculty Legand Burge. (October TBD)
- Fisk University, Nashville, TN – led by student Zahena Dieujuste and faculty Shavonte Hammonds & Nicholas Umontuen. (October 18-20, 2019)
- Prairie View A&M, Prairie View, TX – led by student Bryanna Barnett and faculty Lawrence McNeil. (October 25-27, 2019)
- North Carolina Central University, Chapel Hill, NC – led by student Lyndon Bowen and faculty Undi Hoffler (November 22-24, 2019)
- Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA – led by student Malcolm Beason and faculty Lavonya Jones (February 28-March 1, 2020).
Techstars is committed to being an action-driven thought leader for diversity and inclusion in the tech space. This partnership will directly impact those who choose a career in venture capital and those who become entrepreneurs. HBCU and HSI schools interested in participating should connect with HBCUvc at firstname.lastname@example.org. Interested partners and sponsors should contact Monica Wheat at email@example.com.
HBCUvc is a nonprofit organization that trains students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in venture capital and technology entrepreneurship. The organization provides students with venture capital skills training, mentorship, and the opportunity to build professional relationships with seasoned investors and entrepreneurs, and empowers them to fuel high-growth entrepreneurship. This first of its kind program unlocks and fosters entrepreneurship at HBCUs and HSIs and provides students with a unique learning experience that jumpstarts their careers.
Techstars is the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars founders connect with other entrepreneurs, experts, mentors, alumni, investors, community leaders, and corporations to grow their companies. Techstars operates three divisions: Techstars Startup Programs, Techstars mentorship-driven Accelerator Programs, and Techstars Corporate Innovation Partnerships. Techstars accelerator portfolio includes more than 1,900 companies with a market cap of $23 Billion. techstarsblog.wpengine.com
As a Latina entrepreneur, I know the transparent walls that we face every day for being different. I know what it is like to be seen as an outsider and someone who doesn’t belong in a tech conference. Regardless, I found a community, a strong co-founder, resilient mentors, and a network that supported my growth—and I was able to succeed. I work every day to inspire other entrepreneurs to take these same chances. And I work to give them the tools they need to succeed.
The Latinx community is one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States. There are an estimated 58.9 million Latinx people in the United States. This is 18.1% of the U.S. population! This group is also one of the fastest-growing populations of consumers and tech users, making them a highly desirable market for tech companies. However, only 6.8% of those working in technology are Latinx.
The world of tech startups and entrepreneurship is not diverse, and this lack of diversity can be mostly attributed to limited access to capital, network, and education for these historically underrepresented groups, including those who identify as Latinx.
It is crucial that we break down those barriers and begin to work together to support our Latinx communities of innovators and entrepreneurs. We need to develop the next generation of Latinx tech leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors. And we are.
For the past four years Techstars has partnered with the Kapor Center to focus on this opportunity—city by city—as we co-launched Latinx in Tech themed Startup Weekends across the U.S. Together, we went from one city to five, and then to 10. Across all 10 cities, demand from Latinx communities for pathways to entrepreneurship is clear. The problems the Latinx community is tackling are large and meaningful.
These initiatives are making a difference. But why aren’t we seeing even more of these ideas grow into their full potential as high-growth companies? The data gives us a peek into the barriers that we still need to tackle.
The Growth is Huge
The number of Latinx businesses in the U.S. is growing at a rate that outpaces every other group.
A recent U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce study reported that there are nearly 4.4 million Latinx-owned businesses in the U.S., and together they contribute more than $700 billion to the American economy every year. Latinx-owned companies have grown at 31.6% since 2012—this is more than double the growth rate of 13.8% for all businesses.
Imagine this future
Imagine if we could support these Latinx communities with access to a supportive network of coaches and mentors.
Imagine if we could support these communities with access to capital and connect them to investors looking to fund diverse founders.
Imagine if we could support these communities with the education, resources, and tools to learn not only how to start their own businesses, but how to build their teams and scale their organizations.
We see incredible potential to create a positive global impact by empowering this community.
Systemic Gaps In the Pathways for Latinx in Tech
However while Latinx-owned businesses are growing fast, there is a leaky pipeline for Latinx people in tech.
The Kapor Center for Social Impact published a study in 2018 on “The Leaky Tech Pipeline.” This revealing report found that “The technology sector nationwide is overwhelmingly male (74%), White (69%), and Asian (21%), while female, Black, Latinx, and Native American/Alaskan Native professionals are underrepresented in the technology workforce relative to their proportion of the labor force and the United States population.” Together, black and Latinx adults make up 30% of the U.S. population, but only 7-8% of tech workers are black or Latinx. That’s a 22% gap to even proportionally reflect the U.S. population!
Kapor Center report suggests four ways to fix this leaky pipeline, which leaks away too much Latinx talent from tech jobs: Increase the education of STEM in Pre-12, higher education, Tech workforce, and Entrepreneurship & VC. According to the Kapor Center report, “Race and gender disparities exist in enrollment in computing majors, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. Enrollment in computing majors is tied to access and participation in AP CS classes in high school.”
What We’re Doing
Through Techstars Startup Weekend, we continue to work towards increasing access to entrepreneurial education, growing Latinx startup communities, and providing the tools and resources for all entrepreneurs to succeed. We aim to support the Latinx community so they can become entrepreneurs and inspire the next generation to do the same.
Through this series of Latinx in Tech Startup Weekends with community partners such as the Kapor Center, we are creating opportunities, inspiring innovation and bringing large communities together to solve today’s biggest problems. An intentional and intersectional strategy to foster more representation of Latinx entrepreneurs is critical.
Find ways that you can support your startup ecosystem and help make it inclusive through our Latinx in Tech Startup Weekends. If you’re in the area, we invite you all to see this ecosystem in action October 8-11 in San Francisco & Oakland at LTXFest.
Are you a Latinx entrepreneur who is ready to continue your growth? If so, sign up to be selected for the LTX Fest Inaugural El Poder Del Pitch Competition <link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSew8QH2TgfOBls5UMflBFo1wiCuKMRxueTJvw4qzDQaqoDnKg/formResponse> Past Latinx in Tech Startup Weekend participants are especially encouraged to apply, but the competition is open to all!
We often don’t like to talk about things that make us uncomfortable. As a result, we try to change the subject and focus on the weather. The funny thing is, the weather is real, and if I tried to deny it, you would not talk to me.
Let’s talk about the weather
Let’s imagine we are standing in the rain:
You: “Raining hard, isn’t it?
Me: “I don’t see rain.”
In this situation, my response would be unsettling. If I continued to try to convince you that I did not see rain, while we were both being rained on, you would probably become very uncomfortable. Yet I am often told, “I don’t see your color.”
What if I told you, “Things that are important to you don’t matter to me.” That, I imagine, would also be uncomfortable.
The definition of caring
When my mother died several years ago, people who barely knew me said extraordinarily kind things to me. Even casual acquaintances seemed to be able to find a simple combination of words to show they could relate to the pain of losing a parent or loved one.
Not one person ever said to me, “That doesn’t matter to me—I only see you.” No one said, “I don’t care about your mother’s death, I just care about you,” or “You are more than a son.”
Caring, by its very definition, means that things matter.
I would have been offended if someone had told me that they didn’t care about my mother’s death, because it mattered enormously to me. And because it mattered to me, it mattered to people who cared about me, even those who only knew me slightly.
I get these things wrong, too
Some time ago, a friend told me that he was gay. My response was, “That doesn’t matter to me. I just see you.”
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my response belittled something that was very personal and important to my friend. To his credit—or maybe because I mattered to him—he let the moment pass, and showed me understanding.
When people tell me, “I don’t see color,” referring to the color of my skin, it makes me feel like I do not matter. By saying this, they are telling me not only that my experience as a person of color doesn’t matter—they are denying that my experience even exists. The color of my skin is part of me, and given the world we all live in, it has shaped my life—just as the color of your skin has shaped your life.
Yet even though I had experienced this hurt myself, I made the same mistake with my friend. I was trying to tell him that I loved him—but what I actually told him was that something important to him was not important to me. I unintentionally told him that to me, his reality didn’t even exist. It was hurtful regardless of how I meant it.
The words we choose matter.
What should I have said when my friend came out to me? Sometimes a good friend just listens. If I could relive that moment, I would tell him: “I am honored that our friendship has developed to the point where you want to share something that is important to you. You matter. What matters to you is important to me.”
June is LGBT Pride month. Take a moment and share kindness. Let your friends and family know they matter. Let them know you love them because of all the things that make them who they are.
I am often told we don’t have enough women in the pipeline for tech jobs. Here’s my take on that: there are enough women in the pipeline—if you assume competence.
What do I mean by “assume competence”? Let me give you an example.
The Volleyball Example
In September of 2018, men held almost 60% of the head coaching positions for Division I women’s volleyball teams.
Women make up 100% of the athletes in women’s volleyball. Yet not even 50% of the coaches are women. There are only 22 men’s volleyball programs at the Division I level in the NCAA, yet they apparently produce enough coaches to supply almost 60% of the coaches for 334 women’s Division I programs.
Over 75% of the athletes who play volleyball in the U.S. are women, yet there is no pipeline problem of men to coach women’s volleyball. To my knowledge, after some brief searching, there are zero programs that prepare men to coach women’s volleyball. There is no leaky pipeline study, no Lean In book telling men what to do to coach in a female-dominated sport.
Why do we not have a pipeline problem for men coaching women’s sports? We assume competence.
We assume men who have never played women’s volleyball or (other women’s sports) can coach women’s volleyball. There are key differences in the skills and strategies of men’s and women’s volleyball. Nonetheless, we assume not only that men’s skills at playing men’s volleyball are useful and transferable, but also that they can go to the next level and coach—lead, instruct, motivate, develop winning strategies for—a women’s volleyball team, even though they have never played this exact sport.
To put it bluntly, we assume whatever experience a man had before makes him competent to coach women. There is a gendered expectation that the man is fundamentally competent.
To reverse the situation, almost no women coach men’s sports. Women’s experience playing and coaching women’s sports is not seen as transferable to men’s sports.
Why not? I would argue that it is because we do not assume women’s competence in the same way that we assume men’s competence.
Back to Tech…
Imagine if we could replicate the pipeline of men coaching women’s volleyball and apply it to women in the tech industry. The NCAA was somehow able to take a pipeline of approximately only 20% men—none of whom had direct experience playing women’s volleyball—and fill 60% of the leadership positions, i.e., the most prestigious women’s coaching jobs.
How did they do this? What was their secret? They assumed competence.
If we assume competence, we can do this diversity thing in tech. There are women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and many other underrepresented groups with either directly applicable experience or transferable skills who can lead, build, and grow your tech company—if you assume competence.
“Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.”
—Scientific American, “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter”
“Our latest research finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.”
—McKinsey & Company, “Why diversity matters”
As an entrepreneur—and as a human being—you know that having a diverse founding team, advisory board, and team of employees is both the right thing to do and good for business.
Focusing on Diversity & Inclusion can be difficult for busy founders who are trying to get a new company off the ground. That’s why we want to offer some simple and actionable advice for founders about how to create a diverse and inclusive company, starting from the very beginning. This advice is based on Techstars Founders Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion, including the Kapor Capital Founders’ Commitments. All participants in our mentorship-driven accelerators sign on to these commitments; we believe that they can be helpful to founders everywhere.
Setting goals around diversity and inclusion is an important first step. You can’t meet goals you don’t set, so the very act of setting goals is meaningful—even if you don’t meet them yet.
Of course, not all companies are the same, so nor should their goals be identical. In setting your goals, take into account your company’s funding stage, employee size, customer base, and core business.
Keep Yourself Accountable
Now that you’ve got some goals, hold yourself accountable to them. Keep track of how you’re doing, and include progress reports on D&I in your quarterly investor updates.
Review (or Set) Policies
When was the last time you looked at your company’s anti-discrimination and harassment policy? Do you even have one?
Take the time to review your policy, and if you don’t have one yet, set one. A major step toward building an inclusive environment is making sure everyone feels welcome and respected; a good way to do this is to make sure your values are reflected in your priorities.
Here are some samples that you can use:
Example of a non-discrimination policy:
(Your company) is dedicated to the principles of equal employment opportunity in any and all terms, conditions or privileges of employment including hiring, promotions, termination, training and compensation. (Your Company) does not discriminate against applicants or employees on the basis of age, race, sex, color, religion, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, genetic information or any other status protected by federal, state or local law, where applicable.
Example statement on addressing bullying, discrimination and/or harassment:
A repeated pattern of physical and/or non-physical behaviors that (a) are intended to cause fear, humiliation or annoyance, (b) offend or degrade, (c) create a hostile environment or (d) reflect discriminatory bias in an attempt to establish dominance, superiority or power over an individual athlete or group based on gender, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression or mental or physical disability; is prohibited.
These are just a few key steps, but if you do all three, you’ll have made a very good beginning toward building a diverse and inclusive company.
Do you have questions about how to build D&I into your startup?
Come to our AMA on March 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm ET “Diverse Startups Do Better: How To Make Yours More Inclusive At Any Stage” with Jason Thompson, Techstars VP of Diversity & Inclusion and Allyson Downey, weeSpring founder and author of Here’s the Plan: Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenthood.