Around 250 attendees turned out for the 500 Startups Unity and Inclusion Summit in Atlanta earlier this month. The conference, a partnership with Microsoft, brought together investors, startup founders, venture capitalists, and many key influencers in Atlanta’s tech startup ecosystem.
The event at Techsquare Labs featured a diverse range of speakers with different ideas, insights, and perspectives. The line-up was 60 percent women and 80 percent people of color. The roster included the likes of Jewel Burks, founder & CEO of Partpic; M. Cole Jones, Managing Partner, RIISE Ventures; and Joey Womack, founder & CEO, Amplify4Good, among others.
During the panel discussion the ‘From the Bay to the A’, panelist Carl P. Evans III talked about why he decided to move his startup from the San Francisco Bay Area to Atlanta. His decision was based on two factors: the lack of diversity and the high cost of living.
“During the year I was out there I would walk around Mountain View and there were times I wouldn’t see another black person.”
“It was very exciting living out there but there were two main reasons why I decided to leave,” said Evans, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Predictive. His company is focused on aggregating and using machine learning to analyze public regulatory data from hedge funds and other SEC-registered investment managers.
“First was cost of living. When I was working as a lawyer out there I was very comfortable but when I decided to launch a startup I downsized into a 400 sq ft apartment, with no air conditioning and no dishwasher.”
“But probably the biggest issue for me and I didn’t realize it was going to be an issue when I moved out there. It was kind of surprising but there aren’t a lot of black people [in Mountain View] out there. Just to give you a quick anecdote, I went to a social function shortly after moving to the Bay Area and this guy came up to me and said I’ve lived here for a few weeks now and you’re the first black person that I’ve met. He meant well but it was super awkward.”
“During the year I was out there I would walk around Mountain View and there were times I wouldn’t see another black person.”“The statistics bear the reality that many of us see. Blacks, Latinos, and Women are still disproportionately underrepresented in technology,” said Dana Weeks Ugwonali, president of the Black Angel Tech Foundation, who was also a speaker at the Summit. “We are missing an enormous opportunity in innovation and technology.”
Monique Woodard, a venture partner at 500 Startups, flew in from San Francisco for the event. In an interview before the summit, 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.”
Main Image: Photo Credit: T Sripunvoraskul