Tech entrepreneurship in Chicago is an unequal playing field, and underestimated tech founders are not given the opportunities and access (to networks, capital, and information) necessary for success. We recognize that this isn’t an accident; it’s by design. We also recognize that this means we cannot address systemic gender and racial inequities on our own. We have to come together, as a city, and build new systems.
GET Cities believes that tech entrepreneurs have the opportunity to shape the future of our societies due to technology’s outsized influence on our lives. This opportunity and responsibility is why we are working to drive equity and economic justice within the sector.
We are excited to announce the GET Chicago Tech Equity Working Group – an alliance of Chicago accelerators, incubators, and funds creating city-wide solutions to systemic inequities in Chicago’s tech entrepreneurship ecosystem. The ambition of this group is to move far past just having conversations about what we can do better. This group is a launchpad to collaboratively ideate, pilot, and scale interventions targeting systemic gender and racial inequities that impact Chicago tech founders. Specifically, the group’s aim is to jumpstart, accelerate, and fund more Chicago tech startups founded by women, trans, non-binary, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, people of color, and LGBTQ+ founders.
This working group is undertaking collaborative pilot interventions exploring the following questions:
- How might we democratize access to venture capital and other funding networks to ensure marginalized founders have sufficient capital to launch tech startups?
- How might we build pathways into tech entrepreneurship, while tech-enabling small and medium-sized businesses owned by women of color, on the South and West Sides?
- How might we create accessible pathways into venture capital careers to diversify our ecosystem of checkwriters?
- How might we effectively deploy non-dilutive funding as launch capital for women, trans, and non-binary tech founders of color so that startup grants open doors to larger rounds of funding?
One such pilot project is a series of pitch competitions focused on women, trans, and non-binary tech founders who also identify as Black and Latinx as a part of P33’s TechRise initiative and Beta Boom’s New Pattern initiative. P33, a nonprofit focused on making the Chicagoland region an inclusive global tech leader, today announced the launch of TechRise – a $5 million grant fund in partnership with Verizon and 1871. Beta Boom invests in diverse founders and helps them grow their startups with daily support and coaching from product, marketing, sales, and fundraising experts. GET Cities and Beta Boom’s New Pattern initiative will be supporting a cohort of 5 founders who will get access to funding via GET Cities, a platform to pitch via TechRise, and follow-on operational support via New Pattern. Additional contributors to this coalition, in the form of thought partnership, mentorship, pre-pitch support, and outreach, include mHUB, MATTER, and Future Founders.
This is just one of a number of pilot projects coming out of this group. We are excited to continue to share the collective work of the Tech Equity Working Group and its dedicated participants in the future.
Initial participants in the Tech Equity Working Group include (but are not limited to):
- 1871: Alysha-Aubrey Bursey, Director of Affinity Programs and Mandy Yoh, VP of Experience
- Beta Boom: James Valadez, Partner
- Center for Creative Entrepreneurship: Saudia Davis, Director
- Chicago:Blend: Lindsay Knight, Founder
- Fifth Star Funds: Samir Mirza, Executive Director and Co-founder
- Future Founders: Salvador Dueñas, Startups Manager and Tina Hrabak, Director of Startups
- Impact Engine: Chris Wu, Senior Associate
- MATTER: Courtney Zhu, Venture Acceleration Manager, and Noelle Sáles-Griffin, Associate Operations Manager
- mHUB: Shannon McGhee, Director of Community Impact and Engagement
- Mox.E: Adam Phillips, Managing Director of Venture Partners and Angela Madaha, Director of Operations
- P33: Brandi Bridges, SVP of Ventures and Desiree Vargas Wrigley, Executive Director of TechRise
- Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Nima Merchant, Senior Associate Director of Strategic Planning and Partnership and Thelma Tennant, PhD, Director of Business Development and Licensing
- TechNexus Venture Collaborative: Cristin Pacifico, Manager, and Tessa Flippin, Director
- Techstars Chicago: Brad Schnitzer, Program Manager and Head of Chicago Startup Week
- The Garage at Northwestern: Mike Raab, Associate Director
- West Side Forward: Jason Rebello, Director of Business Development
- Women in Entrepreneurship Institute: Abigail Ingram, Director
- World Business Chicago: Abin Kuriakose, Executive Vice President of Innovation & Venture Strategy (ChicagoNEXT)
- YWCA Metropolitan Chicago: Kelly Evans, VP of Entrepreneurship and Community Economic Development and Robert Johnson, Chief Economic Inclusion Officer and General Counsel
We encourage you to follow along by signing up for our mailing list or following us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date on the Tech Equity Working Group and our other programming to advance gender equity in tech.
And if you’re interested in getting involved, either by joining the Tech Equity Working Group, sponsoring the work, or aligning your initiatives with ours, please submit this form to get in touch with our team.