Tech Incubators on a Mission of Diversity




Emile Cambry Jr., founder of the nonprofit tech incubator Blue1647. He opened the organization’s first location in a primarily Hispanic neighborhood of Chicago. Credit Joshua Lott for The New York Times

CHICAGO — Many tech start-ups are in the business of making themselves successful. But some entrepreneurs have set up businesses with the express mission of training others to be successful in the tech sector.

Several of those start-ups have dedicated themselves to creating programs, incubators or accelerators to train blacks and Hispanics for tech jobs.

Their efforts are coming at a time when Silicon Valley has increasingly been scrutinized for its lack of diversity. But instead of leaving it to the tech giants to solve the problem alone, some see their own connections as a way to address the issue.

From NewME in California to Blue1647 in Illinois, entrepreneurs are cultivating talent within the groups that have been underrepresented at established tech companies.

Data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows that there are more black and Hispanic students graduating with computer science degrees than there are working at tech jobs, despite campus recruitment efforts from companies like Google.

Founders of these start-ups say tech companies have to try new ways of seeking out talent. With the guiding hand of these programs, many alumni have gone on to secure tech internships and jobs or form their own start-ups.

Angela Benton, founder of NewME, an accelerator for entrepreneurs of different backgrounds, said she faced skepticism about whether her business model was possible. Instead, Silicon Valley influencers encouraged her to scour elite institutions to find minority entrepreneurs to help.

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