Boulder’s Techstars launches new foundation to foster diversity

Boulder’s Techstars launches new foundation to foster diversity

Boulder-based accelerator Techstars announced Wednesday that it has launched a foundation to improve diversity by providing opportunities for under-represented entrepreneurs.

The launch of the foundation comes on the heels of the White House Initiative, which declared that over the next three years the Techstars Network will double the number of women in its accelerator program applicant pool and across its mentor network over the next four years.

The incubator was launched in 2006 by Boulder entrepreneurs David Brown, David Cohen, Brad Feld and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis and has grown rapidly ever since. Over the past two years Techstars has opened offices in London and Berlin, in addition to its six U.S. offices, and was ranked as the No. 3 most successful accelerator in the U.S. this year.

Since its founding nine years ago more than 600 companies have gone through the Techstars program.

“Over the past year, many of our alumni, investors, and mentors have encouraged us to think hard about inclusive entrepreneurship,” managing director David Cohen said in his blog post Wednesday. “We decided that we wanted to do something very meaningful that would have a lasting impact on this issue — and so we created the Techstars Foundation.”

Cohen said the goal of the foundation is to improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship by providing opportunities for underrepresented entrepreneurs through grants, scholarships, and sponsorships.

“Techstars has made a series of diversity commitments, including our recent announcement with the White House,” Cohen said Wednesday afternoon. “We wanted to do something that was more lasting. Something that could have a long term impact. So we created the foundation as a permanent way to allow our community to impact diversity in tech entrepreneurship.”

Last month Techstars first announced its diversity commitment as part of White House Demo Day, held in Washington D.C. on Aug. 4.

It’s goals are:

– Double the number of women in the accelerator program applicant pool and across the mentor network over four years.

– Track participation by under-represented minorities and double that from the baseline over the same time period.

– Publish diversity data annually.

– Train staff on ‘unconscious bias’ and ensure that every selection committee includes at least two women so that female founders are represented in the selection process.

“Founders and employees of Techstars, along with a number of alumni and mentors, have made an initial cash contribution to the Techstars Foundation, which launches today with more than $500,000,” Cohen wrote. “We are thrilled to offer a way for Techstars accelerator alumni, partners, mentors, Startup Weekend and Next alumni, and other supporters to Give First by providing access and opportunity to under-represented minorities and – together – create stronger entrepreneur communities worldwide.”

Cohen said the foundation will begin making grants in January.

“We have not yet determined the exact process, and again plan to leverage our advisory board to help determine the strategy and process, which will be announced soon. We expect to have very short applications. We will have a global focus,” he said.

“Our hope is that it will eventually contribute to making itself obsolete, along with the issues in the tech community around diversity. Unfortunately, we are planning for a long time horizon. The goal of the foundation is to eliminate the need for itself,” he added.

The Techstars Foundation’s board of advisors includes Brad Feld (Managing Director, Foundry Group), Mary Grove (Director, Google for Entrepreneurs), Jenny Lawton (Chief Strategy Officer, littleBits), Rod Robinson (Founder and CEO, Connxus), and Lucy Sanders (Founder and CEO, National Center for Women and Information Technology).


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