GET Cities’ Tech Equity Working Group Deploys $1M in Funds to Scale 5 Successful Pilot Programs in the Tech Sector

After their initial success, these 5 programs will use the funds to scale their impact, creating a more equitable landscape for Chicago’s tech scene.

CHICAGO – May 31, 2023 – GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Cities and their Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG) have recently deployed $1M in funds to five promising initiatives. These pilots have been carefully selected to drive meaningful change in the tech sector by fostering equity, inclusivity, and opportunity for every entrepreneur.

These pilot programs showcase the innovative approaches TEWG is taking to address the challenges faced by underrepresented groups in Chicago’s tech industry. Their goal is to transform these initiatives into fully integrated, scalable solutions within their partner organizations, thereby amplifying their impact and creating a more equitable landscape in the tech sector.

“At GET, our ambition is to build a just and inclusive tech economy where all humans have equal access to opportunities and the resources to achieve their full potential.  A core organizing principle of our work is collaboration and TEWG is an example of that commitment. Collectively, partners across this ecosystem came together, to co-create human-centered solutions that accrue directly to the benefit of underestimated technologists and founders, test them, pivot according to the lessons learned during experimentation and then move them to scale. I am blown away by the curiosity, creativity and courage exhibited by this coalition and heartened to see the speed and scale of this work which is already having a tangible impact on the humans we collectively seek to serve and creating the just and inclusive Chicagoland region we imagine.” Leslie Lynn Smith, National Director of GET Cities

The $1M was allocated to the following pilot programs and their partner organizations:

Chicago Venture Fellows

This four-month intervention, led by Chicago:Blend, brings together aspiring VCs from marginalized backgrounds and gives them the unique opportunity to learn more about sourcing and evaluating deal flow through hands-on experience, personalized mentorship, and lessons from top VCs and tech leaders. Since its launch in 2021, Chicago Venture Fellows has had 30  fellows across three cohorts, with nine  of those fellows securing coveted positions in VC.

TEWG will expand funding for the program throughout 2023, which will include hiring a full-time director and adding 30 fellows while continuing to diversify investors and local deal flow. Learn more about the Chicago Venture Fellows here.

P33’s TechRise and TechChicago

After piloting gender-focused aspects of TechRise’s pitch competition, TEWG will sponsor future rounds of TechRise, led by P33, to support women, trans and nonbinary founders that seek increased access to the connections, capital, and community needed to elevate their efforts. They are also dedicating funding to collaborating with founders through P33’s Speed Round, an initiative where founders receive personalized feedback from advisors and investors.

P33’s network of founders also have access to tailored VC introductions through the newly launched TechChicago CommonApp, and initiatives like the inaugural two-day Capital Summit during the 2023 TechChicago Week featuring track-based programming and curated 1:1 meetings. Learn more about TechRise here and TechChicago here.

Chicago Tech Equity Desk at the Polsky Exchange

As part of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago, The Polsky Exchange will lead the Chicago Tech Equity Desk to connect South Side entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow their business. With additional support from Verizon, this year’s initiative consists of two parts: the E-Commerce Learning Lab which brings e-commerce training and fulfillment support to 20 products-based businesses through 37 Oaks, and the Web Dev Shop supplying 12 businesses a grant for upgraded web services, web design, and digital storytelling through contracts with diverse tech vendors.

The Tech Equity Desk will place 20 University of Chicago students interns in local South Side businesses to further help founders tech enable their internal processes or amplify their digital presence. Beyond the immediate impact on the estimated 52 businesses participating in this iteration of the Tech Equity Desk, the broader business community will be invited to attend events and lectures on tech enablement as an integral part of growth strategy for new and growing ventures. Learn more about The Polsky Exchange here.

Travel Funding and Entrepreneur Exchange

World Business Chicago (WBC) will organize a series of travel funding and entrepreneurship exchanges that utilize their network of international sister city relationships and domestic business partnerships to plan impactful trips during scheduled conferences for diverse female and non-binary founders.

The series kicked off with travel to GET Cities hub Miami, which introduced 50 diverse founders to venture capitalists, potential funding opportunities, and access to exclusive programming. As part of this initiative, these founders, along with other delegations of founders in the destination cities and from World Business Chicago’s Startup Chicago program, will build warm connections across VC and new markets for partners and customers. Learn more about World Business Chicago here.

Venture Engine Executive Founders Series

The Venture Engine Executive Founders Series run by the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC) is intended to develop meaningful connections between startup founders in Chicago and corporate executives. Its primary objective is to assist founders in establishing relationships with clients, investors, and corporate connections that are typically difficult to source through a series of themed networking opportunities.

Founders will participate in networking dinners that offer introductions to seasoned subject-matter-experts, corporate and ecosystem partners, and venture capitalists. Diverse founders from ISTC’s Venture Engine, an online platform connecting startups to the state’s most innovative corporations, will also benefit from access to premiere events to support efforts to further diversify the tech ecosystem. Learn more about ISTC here.

By supporting these programs and helping them transform into scalable solutions, TEWG seeks to amplify their impact and continue their work towards a more inclusive, equitable tech landscape for all.

“We are hopeful that the significant seed investment made by GET Cities into the TEWG coalition and their co-designed interventions will continue to attract the attention of regional and national investors committed to economic justice who will leverage these early investments and carry this work forward sustainably ensuring that this critical work can continue to fill gaps and move equity, inclusion, belonging and justice across the region for years to come, while acting as a model for the national ecosystem system.” Leslie Lynn Smith, National Director of GET Cities

Visit for more information on this announcement or any of the initiatives mentioned above.

About GET Cities & The Tech Equity Working Group

GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Cities, led by SecondMuse Foundation and Break Through Tech in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women, transgender, and nonbinary people in tech through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the United States. Currently, GET Cities has established local tech hubs in three U.S. cities: Chicago, Miami and D.C.

Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG), powered by GET Cities Chicago, is an alliance of 25 accelerators, incubators, funds, and mission-aligned ecosystem supporters designing city-wide solutions and collective infrastructure to address gender and racial inequities for Chicago-based tech founders.  

To learn more or get involved with GET Cities, visit their website at


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