Featured

0 943

Silicon Valley holds a perception of inclusion and progressiveness. Even a recent Intel commercial featured an Indian man as the company’s own rock star – and other tech companies have done the same. But the release of recent data shows stark contrasts between these images and the reality of visible minorities in Silicon Valley.

The truth is that most high-tech entrepreneurs are not white Mark Zuckerbergs who get it all figured out in Harvard dorm rooms. Most tech entrepreneurs cut their teeth while working in successful (and sometimes unsuccessful) technology companies within the industry. Only after getting some real world wisdom and experience do most entrepreneurs leave the ranks of the employed to start their own companies.

HITC Tech reports figures from Google, Yahoo, and LinkedIn that reveal that their work force is more than sixty percent male—a 10% overshot of the general population (not terrible compared to other industries). But when it comes to race, African-American and Hispanic workers often accounted for less than ten percent of their total worker population. Throughout the general U.S. population, African-Americans and Hispanics make up almost 30%. What’s even more telling is that this ten percent minority is paid less on average than the reset of the workforce.

So who is to blame for Silicon Valley’s lopsided distribution of minorities? The explanations include the usual suspects – starting with education, where often-referenced statistics point to a lack of exposure to math and science for minorities and women, thus excluding them from technology jobs. One problem with this explanation, however, is that many of the jobs in Silicon Valley are in sales, marketing, and public relations, where the race gap is most easy to see.

Mindfulness (simply acknowledging these disparities) is one important step for tech companies who are hoping to close the gap. So is finding opportunities to reach minority communities and invite them to apply for permanent positions and internships that could give them the exposure they might need to move into tech companies and eventually form their own enterprises. Platform is an organization trying to do just that. This past October, Platform partnered with Morehouse College and the Level Playing Field Institute to pull together an academy to immerse minority students in math and science. The initiative is known as the 10,000 Innovators Fund. It’s aim is to boost the number of minorities in science and engineering programs.

Once more minorities are involved in the engineering heart of Silicon Valley, opportunities for everyone, inside and outside of these businesses, can benefit from a new diversity of ideas and perspectives.

0 1293
boston patriots entrepreneurship

Massachusetts is known for Tom Brady, Superbowls, and its active entrepreneurial community support system – including the MassChallenge—a highly successful private accelerator that goes beyond the work of a traditional  incubator to “catalyze a start-up renaissance.”

So if you are the new Mayor of Boston and three of your top priorities are jobs, jobs, and jobs, how do you go about ensuring that your city is the one that attracts top start-ups?

In a model entrepreneurship and government partnership program, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh focused on the Goliath in the room: the City’s unwieldy and lengthy permitting and licensing procedures that ate up entrepreneurs’ time and money. Obtaining permits and licensing in Boston had become a marathon itself, taking way too long to get through the confusing permitting and licensing race.

So, Boston’s young, tech-savvy mayor decided to replace the marathon with a sprint, and implemented a new best-practices approach to attract fresh entrepreneurs.

If the system’s broke, fix it.

Mayor Walsh knew that his job was to manage the change rather than create the solution; that is, he needed to reach out to the right people, find the right technology, and secure the right resources to enable the change.

The right people: The City’s organizational chart simply did not reflect the right framework for this challenge, so Mayor Walsh began his approach to creating a friendlier environment for entrepreneurs by establishing an interagency team. Traditional departments became subservient to individuals and getting the right people together to accomplish the task.

The right technologyAs Harvard’s Ash Center reports in Data-Smart City Solutions, the interagency team applied technological solutions in two ways:

  • First, they began with a Hackathon challenge. Teams that included all stakeholders, developers, designers, city employees, and residents came up with new ideas to handle “the most pressing pain points for those seeking permit applications.”
  • Second, the team followed the Hackathon with overhauling and streamlining their online system. They wanted a system that was user-friendly for “small business and homeowners who do not have the resources to hire an attorney and/or permit expediters,” as Data-Smart City Solutions reported.

The right resources: A major part of the old time-consuming licensing and permitting marathon was the process for obtaining variances—a significant aspect of the burden for entrepreneurs.

  • Mayor Walsh did the practical thing: He doubled Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearings—the path to obtaining variances—and the Mayor didn’t stop there.
  • In an innovative move, the Mayor added what was in effect a second ZBA: another board working under the ZBA for expediting short hearings. To make it easier for small business entrepreneurs to attend, these subcommittee hearings are held outside of regular business hours.

Boston Now a Welcoming Municipal Partner

With the backlog of licensing and permit applications now shrinking, and a shiny, new, streamlined and user-friendly process in place, the City of Boston has met its own challenge to ensure that the municipal barriers to entrepreneurship are gone. The City has become a true partner to entrepreneurs by dissolving its red tape.

Combined with the MassChallenge accelerator and support networks such as the Boston Entrepreneurs Network, the Revolve Nation Boston Entrepreneur Group, and Greenhorn Connect, Boston is a welcoming hub of entrepreneurial activity.

Power Moves NOLA, a seed company based in New Orleans, is focused on creating opportunities for minorities in Entrepreneurship. The opportunities are designed to allow entrepreneurs to take home a salary and focus on building their business. Power Moves NOLA offers several areas of interest to budding minority entrepreneurs.

Rising Stars Bootcamp

Done in partnership with a leading startup accelerator, TechStars, the Bootcamp is a two day training event for early-stage minority entrepreneurs. Twenty-five companies were invited to the last event. The grand prize was $50,000, with a second place prize of $25,000 and five individuals invited to Power Moves NOLA’s mentorship program.

Power Pitch

Power Pitch Events are multiple one day events throughout the year with opportunities for minority entrepreneurs to pitch their company to investors. Companies wishing to participate in these events need to be minority-lead, investment-ready and invited to apply.

There were three events over the last year. The biggest pitch event was sponsored by Chevron, with a $5000 additional prize. The two other events were sponsored by Liberty Bank and Entergy.

Companies involved in Power Moves NOLA can come from any industry. In attendance at last year’s events were beauty companies, college guidance companies, exercise and social marketing apps and more.

Upcoming Year

Minorities interested in finding out more about Power Moves NOLA can get information at the upcoming NOEW 2015 in March. NOEW 2015 is the event for New Orleans entrepreneurs and others who desire to interact with the 30 plus investment organizations, including Power Moves NOLA, at the event.

Saint Joseph University in Philadelphia is launching a new entrepreneurship program this spring with a unique three-phase program that allows disabled veterans to pitch their business plan “Shark Tank” style. The Veterans Entrepreneurial Jumpstart program is modeled after an entrepreneurship “boot camp” started by Syracuse University in 2007. That program has expanded to include eight other universities, and Saint Joseph has applied to join the consortium.

The program is free to qualified candidates and is operated out of the university’s Office of Veterans Services. Student participation will be divided into the following three phases.

  • The first phase is an eight-week online course. The self-guided curriculum aims to teach fundamental business principles and help students develop their business plan.
  • The second phase is an intensive seven-day session at Saint Joseph’s Philadelphia campus. Students will attend classroom sessions, participate in workshops and panel discussions, and hear from successful entrepreneurs. The week ends with the sought-after opportunity to pitch their business plans “Shark Tank” style.
  • The final phase includes a six-month mentor program and access to small business services, including accounting and tax advice, Web design and legal services.

The launch of the program is partly credited to the community. The idea came about two years ago when a donor came to the Dean wanting to create an entrepreneurship program specifically for disabled military veterans. Since then, many businesses have offered free services that will contribute to the success of phase three of the program. The goal is to give veterans “enough to jumpstart their ambitions so in the first year…they get their business up and running,” said Ralph Galati, director of St. Joseph’s Office of Veterans Services. St. Joseph University hopes to at least match the 70 percent success rate of the Syracuse program.

Find out more about college entrepreneurship programs for specific demographics, like Veterans, through travisluther.com.

Recognition for its excellent entrepreneurship program is not new for the University of Utah. Just this year, the Princeton Review ranked the school’s David Eccles School of Business No. 23 on its list of Top 25 Entrepreneurship Programs in the nation. The Business School’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute is now breaking ground on a new endeavor that is unmatched by any other school.

“Lassonde Studios”

The Lassonde Studios, a $45 million expansion to the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, is casually labeled “the garage.” It will be a 20,000-square-foot, 400 bed facility open to all students that come to the institute to attend events, build prototypes or launch a business. Undergraduate and graduate students can take advantage of the unique combination of a living environment combined with a studio. They will have access to light manufacturing resources, fabrication facilities and other entrepreneurship resources. Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, explained, “Students can go to class and if they are inspired at two or three o’clock in the morning, they can get up and work on their idea.” It’s the perfect atmosphere of resources and creative minds from varying backgrounds. The new facility is scheduled to open in fall 2016.

What Else Sets Them Apart?

The Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute has other unique opportunities for students. For example, this past fall the institute launched a new entrepreneurship certificate for undergraduates. It’s an annual program that brings together thousands of students for business plan competitions, innovation tournaments and many other hands-on learning activities.

It’s no wonder the Princeton Review ranked the University of Utah at No. 23 out of 2,000 schools nationwide. The annual survey analyzes faculty, course work and special activities outside the classroom. The University of Utah excels across the board.

0 855

Let’s face it: there are times when hardworking entrepreneurs could use a boost to their ecosystem and the surrounding business climate. In the distressed parishes and counties stretching across the eight-state Delta Region (Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee), a new partnership aims to do just that.

Entrepreneurship and a Government Partnership

The new Delta Challenge combines the notion of a crowdsourcing challenge with a public-private partnership in the hope of producing new solutions for improving the economic ecosystem in the Delta while at the same time promoting the best entrepreneurs across the region.

The new DRA Entrepreneurship Network is an innovative approach that aims to “raise the profiles of promising entrepreneurs in the Delta region and the Alabama Black Belt,” according to the Orleans-based Times-Picayune.

The partnership intends first to “address deficiencies in the region’s business climate,” and then use the Delta Challenge to “identify entrepreneurs with strong, scalable ideas of how to fix the region’s biggest problems,” reports the Times-Picayune.

The overarching notion behind the partnership is the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats: boosting entrepreneurship across the region will enhance and enrich the quality of life of the entire population in the area.

The Delta Challenge partners

The public partner is the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), a federal-state partnership in itself that Congress established in 2000. The DRA co-chair is a Presidential appointee who collaborates with the governors of the eight-state region. The DRA’s mission is to promote “local and regional partnerships that address economic and social challenges to ultimately strengthen the Delta economy and the quality of life for Delta residents.”

The Idea Village, the private partner, is a 15-year-old New Orleans-headquartered incubator for entrepreneurs. It runs a Startup Network based on the idea that “it takes a village to grow an entrepreneurial movement” and that “entrepreneurship is an agent of change.”

The Idea Village’s CEO, Tim Williamson, says in the Times-Picayune of the Delta Challenge, “This is about … providing support for entrepreneurs coming into town, and communicating that the South is a hub for entrepreneurship.”

More information about the Delta Challenge is online on the DRA website.

0 902
For most of us, the term entrepreneur drums up images of bright, young minds. While it is true that some of our most successful entrepreneurs emerged on the scene while quite young, a new study pokes holes in the stereotypical image of an entrepreneur. Bloomberg Beta, a venture capital fund launched just last year, recently set out to use data to identify people who had a good chance of starting and building a successful company. Bloomberg Data teamed up with Mattermark, a research firm, to use data analytics to find potential entrepreneurs. Here’s how they did it and their surprising results.

The Research

Mattermark explored data on more than 1.5 million potential entrepreneurs, limiting their scope to the San Francisco and New York areas, where Bloomberg does most of its business. First, they looked for people who had already worked at a start-up before, preferably with experience in technology or business management. Secondly, they narrowed their search to people who attended top-tier universities. Eventually, their data-mining yielded a short list of 350 entrepreneurs.

The Results

The Bloomberg/Mattermark research found the typical entrepreneur to be different from our image of a college undergraduate working out of his or her dorm room with no real-world experience.

  • Middle-aged. Their potential entrepreneurs are more likely to be in their late 30’s, and 38 percent were over 40 years of age.
  • Good employment record. The research revealed that people who had stayed in a job long-term were more likely to start their own business later.
  • Not necessarily a former CEO. Two-thirds of entrepreneurs had not held CEO or even senior positions before venturing out on their own.

While Bloomberg’s intention was to gain more potential entrepreneurs in which to invest, the results revealed by their research shed light on the diversity of entrepreneurship. “Contrary to conventional wisdom, being ‘stuck’ in the same company or position for a long time, even a decade, does not diminish your likelihood of becoming a business founder,” says Mattermark Co-founder Danielle Morrill.