POTUS Demo Day promotes diversity, AZ companies recognized
Co-written with Tishin Donkersley
Only 1% of America’s venture capital-backed startups are led by African Americans, and only 3% are led by women. This has to change.
Today, President Obama is hosting the first White House Demo Day, promoting diversity across all industries for women and minorities. The event is giving 30 entrepreneurs and startups the opportunity to showcase their innovations and share their stories.
The White House also announced new initiatives to promote inclusive entrepreneurship and innovation across the United States – Arizona was represented well among participating private and public companies and award winners.
One exemplified company was GoDaddy, who pledged to achieve compensation parity. They have doubled the number of women in the past year and will continue to work to make sure equal work receives equal pay across both genders.
“GoDaddy is dead serious about this issue and proud that we are already making progress having more than doubled our tech women interns and new college graduate hires in the past year (from 14% to 39% in each category),” GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving said.
GoDaddy will complete a comprehensive audit analyzing compensation between men and women in like roles.
Educational institutes are also committing to focus on gender and minority equality. Engineering deans at 100 universities across the U.S. pledged to retain a diverse student body. The deans of the engineering schools at both Arizona State University and the University of Arizona signed the commitment.
Startup accelerator Techstars committed to doubling participation of women and other underrepresented minorities in its program applicant pool over the next four years. Techstars is currently a partner of Arizona State University.
Global incubator and seed fund 1776 is also committing to increase diversity in entrepreneur participation across the nation, and recently named CO+HOOTS in downtown Phoenix as part of the global incubator alliance.
The Small Business Association also announced a Growth Accelerator Fund competition, awarding $4.4 million to 88 startups accelerators in 39 states. Three of the winners are in Arizona: Seed Spot, Arizona Center for Innovation (Tucson), and CPLC Pickle House.
“We are incredibly thankful for the community that has rallied around Seed Spot to help us put Phoenix social entrepreneurs on the national map,” co-founder and CEO Courtney Klein said. “This funding will give us the ability to expand our programs to serve younger entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations – we are confident their dreams will create more positive impact on the world.”
When it comes to funding women and minorities, many angel and venture capital firms have been on the radar for the lack of diverse representation; only 4 percent of US-based VC investors are women.
As a part of the White House initiative a group of 40 VC firms such as Kleiner Perkins, GE Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz, representing collectively over $112 billion in assets under management, signed a letter through the National Venture Capital Association committing to solutions and adopt HR policies to advance women and minorities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
In addition, these firms will contribute to a national survey to track diversity at the firm and within their portfolios, results will be made public. No Arizona VC firm signed this letter. Here is the complete list of VC firms.
According to the White House, angel investors invested $24 billion in 73,000 companies, however, only 20 percent of both the pool of investors and founders represented women and minorities.
The Angel Capital Association (ACA) plans to improve the efficiency for the diverse population through funding and conducting a first-ever study of the demographics of the angel network and how and why they make their investment decisions. The data is intended to fuel startup financing to diverse founders outside of Silicon Valley.
Curtis Gunn, chairman of Desert Angels and board member of ACA told AZTB, “I think it’s great that President Obama and Washington are strongly embracing the entrepreneurial energy that is taking place all over the country. The Demo Day in Washington is a perfect way to highlight the companies and technologies that are being created in every geography and also across all ethnic and social minorities. My hope is that this effort will help bring attention to and also potentially funding for companies that sometimes fall through the cracks. ”
Among other initiatives that help women and minority startups attract funding:
- The Commerce Department Economic Development Administration launched a $10 million fund opportunity for REgional Innovation Strategies program providing grants to local and state governments, universities, and more to help founders and young companies attract funding.
- The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced its Patent Pro Bono Programs which provides free legal assistance to under-resourced inventors to secure patents for all 50 states.