Atlanta Is Now: Diversity In Tech

February 5, 2018

By Kornelius Bankston, director, bioscience ecosystem expansion, Metro Atlanta Chamber

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Atlanta is a fertile place for company founders of diverse backgrounds to ideate and scale companies. Our city’s history has catapulted our region to a place where gender, race, sexual orientation and religious beliefs do not hinder a person’s pathway to success. As Silicon Valley grapples with diversity issues, Atlanta has always been an epicenter to challenge the societal norms of bigotry and racism. However, there is still much work to be done to close the gaps in underserved communities and underrepresented groups in tech. VC Pathways is a program that is working to close the gap in underrepresented groups in tech. VC Pathways was established by Village Capital and UBS bank, and they chose Atlanta as one of their three cities to launch the program.

“The number of budding startups with diverse founders here in Atlanta is impressive.  We had 60 applications for VC Pathways in this city alone, which further disproves the myth that the disparities in funding are due to a lack of pipeline. These companies are already doing the work,” said Ebony Pope, director of U.S. Ventures at Village Capital. “Village Capital and UBS created this program to connect the dots between entrepreneurs, local investors and entrepreneur support organizations to help these ventures grow without having to leave Atlanta.”

It makes good business sense to grow diverse companies in Atlanta. Our city is primed with seasoned senior leadership from our Fortune 500 and 1000 brands and experienced business leaders to lend their business acumen to help cultivate startups and young founders. The 10 companies selected for the program will be exposed to an array of resources in the region to help them grow.

The 10 companies included in this year’s cohort are Dispute Doc, Exception-ALLY, Zyrobotics, Aquagenuity, Speakalytics, Goodr Food Rescue, Built Out of Paper, SynsorMed, RaceIQ and Qoins.

“These 10 startups may be the strongest batch of hidden talent in the country, and I look forward to seeing how Atlanta rallies behind them to help realize their tremendous potential,” said Joey Womack, founder of Goodie Nation.

Each company has been paired with an Atlanta-based mentor. Coupling a strong batch of startups to senior leadership experience is critical in this process. The participation of these mentors is key support that our young companies need to operate at the highest level and compete with their peers around the world. The Metro Atlanta Chamber serves as a hosting partner, and I am currently serving as a mentor to one of the companies. I believe companies that employ diverse teams produce better products/services which can result in acquiring more customers/clients. According to a McKinsey & Company report from 2015, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile. Those in the top quartile for ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile.

As Black History Month kicks off around the nation, it becomes even more important to celebrate the diversity in our ecosystem. There are companies that are led by diverse founders that are disrupting business as usual. Myleik Teele, the founder of Curl Box,has kept a very low profile but has built a dynamic company in Atlanta. Song Kue, the co-founder of MiraBlue Bio, is developing colon-specific delivery systems. Mentorship and access to capital/resources is paramount as these companies continue to grow and scale.

Encouraging diversity in leadership is not something to be afraid of – on the contrary, it should be everyone’s responsibility to embrace it. Atlanta is now! Let’s show the world that we are the model city of building these 10x diverse and inclusive companies.