AlterConf Minneapolis 2016 - Graveti: Building a Stronger Tech Startup Ecosystem by.... - Lake Harding Association

AlterConf Minneapolis 2016 – Graveti: Building a Stronger Tech Startup Ecosystem by….

AlterConf Minneapolis 2016 – Graveti: Building a Stronger Tech Startup Ecosystem by….

By Micah Moen 0 Comment August 14, 2019


(upbeat music) – Hello everyone. So first off, I want to thank also Ash and the AlterConf team
for putting this together. And I also want to thank the sponsors, and you for giving me your
time and attention today. So before I get started, who am I? I’m Alex Rodriguez, you can call me A-Rod. I’m the founder of Graveti,
as well as a Code2040 Entrepreneur in Residence. And my day to day job is
co-founding a start-up called WorkMand. So my talk today is on
the importance of building diverse ecosystems, primarily focused on Blacks and Latinos. So Blacks and Latinos are
among the fastest-growing population in the United States, yet we’re the least,
under-represented community in tech. So why is that an issue? How can we solve that? And why is it a community effort? So to get started, here’s a few issues. Blacks and Latinos earn about 18% of computer science
degrees, yet only about 9% of us are in tech. So the interest is there,
the opportunity is not. Aside from that, a lot
of the consumer markets are not being tapped into. A good example of this Bevel and Blavity. So Bevel is a shaving cream product based in Silicon Valley. And you’re probably thinking,
oh shaving cream product, what’s so crazy about that? Well they actually target the
African-American community, and they’re one of the
fastest-growing start-ups. And they raise about $31
million in less than two years. Blavity is about 18 months in, and they’re a content website. And as you all know, we have plenty of content websites these days, but they’re also doing very well because they also target the
African-American community by giving them a voice among
young, Black millennials. And probably the craziest
statistic of this all is that less than 1% of
Black and Latino start-ups are VC funded. Think about that. All the money being invested to start-ups, only about less than 1%
is invested in to these Blacks and Latino founders. And this is on a broader scale, and we’re actually doing even
worse here in the Twin Cities. But that doesn’t mean we
can’t change the ship around. So how do we turn that around? Well, I think we have to
focus on the whole pipeline. We got to start with the youth. We got to expose Blacks and Latinos to tech entrepreneurship early on. We need to have more targeted programs so that they can see
what’s going on in tech and how to get involved. And then hopefully, by the
time they get into high school and college, they will
have been exposed to tech and entrepreneurship. And here, the big thing
you really want to do is show the opportunity. So what’s the opportunity in tech? Well the average tech worker
makes double the income of a Black and Latina household combined. That’s pretty staggering. If you would have told me in high school that I could make double
the income of my parents, I know what my future would
have been in a heartbeat. And then we gotta start
building a support network among mentors that look like them. Colleges should start
partnering with high schools, we should start having better programs that target these groups,
and also make them inclusive. This is not just to focus
on Blacks and Latinos, but we do need to
intentionally target them so that they can see the opportunities and how to get involved. And so that we can show
them there’s another route besides being an actor,
athlete, or a rapper to make it. And then, if they go on to college, I think the most
important thing in college is really the mentorship. We want to mentor the youth. We want to mentor these students so that they have a blueprint of success, so they can see that, hey,
you can become an engineer, you can work your way up to
become a manager and a VP at these tech companies. And you have to think okay cool, so once we get them in
the door, it’s done. Wrong. One of the biggest issues
right now with tech companies, especially in the Bay Area, is retention. Some companies do a good job
of getting these engineers, but the culture’s really
exclusive to them. Doesn’t relate to these engineers, so the people from Black and
Latino/Latina backgrounds. So we gotta work on the culture. And I know culture makes
and breaks a start-up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t
have an inclusive culture. And studies show that if
you have a more diverse and inclusive work force, that
leads to better productivity, which leads to more money, and I’m sure we all want to have more
money at a start-up company. So we need to build that culture. We got to learn how to relate to them. What backgrounds do they come from? And then we got to focus
on entrepreneurship. And I highlighted entrepreneurship because I think this is really
the most important one. Studies show that diverse founders are more likely to build a diverse team. So we need to invest
in these entrepreneurs. Now not every start-up needs VC funding, but as I said, less than 1% of them are getting actual money
from these companies. So we need to invest in these start-ups, we need to take a risk on them. So if you’re a VC, maybe you’re thinking oh, well there’s no good start-ups. Trust me, there’s plenty of good start-ups founded by Black and Latino founders. And you can actually talk
to me after this conference if you want to know some. So we need to focus on them. And then we need to really guide them. We need to be in it for
the long run with them, and we need to show them,
how do you get to that Series B, that Series C route. And then how do you take
the company to the top. And then we also gotta focus on the early stage entrepreneurs. Show them there’s similar groups and people that look like them, and have networking events
so that they can build a peer network group, and
they can support each other. And I do think if we do all of that, we could steer this ship around, and really make the Twin
Cities one of the most diverse and inclusive work forces
for people of color. That concludes my talk. I’m Alex Rodriguez again. Feel free to connect with me afterwards if you have any questions. Thank you. (applause) – [Voiceover] Hello. I was wondering if you
can think of any examples of start-ups that have successfully built a welcoming culture? – Yeah, just to follow
up, like any start-ups? Or start-ups here in the Twin Cities? – [Voiceover] I guess
now that you mention it, I’m curious about the Twin Cities? But I guess in general. – Yeah, so one start-up
that does a really good job here in the Twin Cities is a start-up called Player’s Health. They’re pretty early
stage, but they’re actually one of the most diverse and
inclusive teams that I know, and their culture is really
welcoming and opening. You should definitely
check out that start-up. And then on a larger
scale, I know Pinterest does a really good job as well. And they really have a lot of
unbiased towards their hiring. – [Voiceover] Hi, I was just wondering if you might be able to speak to thoughts on what people could do to make
a more inclusive environment for Black and Latino and Latina employees? Specifically if there’s any concrete steps that could improve things. – No, yeah, definitely. I think that really
varies on the start-up, and what city you’re on,
what city you’re based in. Cause it’s really different everywhere. But I mean, you really should learn like where do they come from? What’s their background? What do they relate to? A lot of stuff that people talk about like on a day to day
basis during lunch breaks, it’s not like what we grew up in, so we’re not used to that. A big part of that too
is around masculinity. So one of the biggest
issues that people would do a decent job of increasing
Black and Latinos, but all we’re doing is really increasing the male population. We’re not helping women
in, that’s another big one. We could also focus on
talking about Latina girls, Black girls, stuff like that. Awesome, thank you. Well yeah, feel free to
check with me afterwards. (applause) (upbeat music)

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