Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups is hosting a highly anticipated summit in Atlanta focused on diversity and inclusion in the tech startup ecosystem.
The conference, a partnership with Microsoft, brings together many of the key players in Atlanta’s startup community, including a plethora of sought-after speakers. The line-up includes the likes of Candace Mitchell, founder of Myavana; Rodney Sampson, a partner at TechSquare Labs; and Kelly Burton, CEO of Founders of Color, among others.
This is the first time that 500 Startups is hosting an event in Atlanta. The June 10th convention is the fifth Unity & Inclusion Summit. Previous summits have been in LA, New York, Berlin, and London.
Monique Woodard, a venture partner at 500 Startups, is flying in from San Francisco to participate. She told UrbanGeekz that the seed accelerator and early-stage venture fund is keen to meet budding entrepreneurs and founders of scalable startups in cities outside of the Bay Area.
“We believe that talent can be found in places outside of Silicon Valley and want to support the growth of those entrepreneurial ecosystems,” said Woodard, who is one of the few African-American venture partners. “We have knowledge to impart as Silicon Valley investors, but the local market also has a lot to show us; so we’re interested in meeting and getting to know the best founders in Atlanta.”
The one-day event will bring together entrepreneurs, investors, and the tech community to talk about the current state and future of diversity & inclusion in tech. Through panels, keynotes, and workshops, topics such as access to capital, growth marketing, and building diverse teams and workplaces will be addressed.
The day will also include a chance to have one-on-one office hours with Microsoft on startup business, 500 Startups for guidance on seed funding, and WSGR for advice on legal concerns or setting up your startup.
“We need to support the growth of budding and talented diverse entrepreneurs,” said Dana Weeks Ugwonali, president of the Black Angel Tech Foundation, who is also a speaker at the Unity Summit. “My hope is that the summit will help level the playing field by providing the access as well as highlighting the strong pipeline of companies being created by diverse founders.”
Lisa Calhoun, a partner at Valor Ventures, says there are huge opportunities to close the innovation gap.
“With some 40 percent of entrepreneurs coming from traditionally overlooked demographics like women, African Americans, and Hispanics, yet only 10 percent of funded tech firms coming from minorities, there’s a big opportunity here to improve and see more interesting companies built from interesting, transformational points of view,” said Calhoun, who will also speak at the event.
Indeed, the statistics clearly speak for themselves. Blacks, Latinos, and women are still disproportionately underrepresented in technology. Some of the challenges facing untapped communities are the lack of access to capital, resources, networks, and mentorship.
“What we’re doing at Valor is benchmarking. First, we accept what we experience as the ‘norm’ is not ‘normative,’” said Calhoun. “In such an environment, it’s important to act based on facts. At Valor Ventures, we benchmark the actual tech entrepreneurial community to make sure our pipeline reflects the real spectrum of investable startups at the appropriate age and stage for our fund.”
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About 500 Startups
500 Startups is a global venture capital seed fund with a network of startup programs headquartered in Silicon Valley with over $330M in committed capital across 4 main funds and 13 micro funds. We have invested in 1,800 technology startups all over the world since our inception in 2010 including: Twilio (NYSE: TWLO), Credit Karma, Grab, Udemy, Ipsy, Talkdesk, Intercom, MakerBot (acq’d by SSYS), Wildfire (acq’d by GOOG), and Viki (acq’d by Rakuten). Our team of 150 people based in 20 countries manage seed investments across 60 countries and speak over 25 languages.
Main Image: The Women Founders Panel at the Unity & Inclusion Summit in Los Angeles.
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