Portland increasingly seen as a leader in addressing diversity in tech

Portland increasingly seen as a leader in addressing diversity in tech

Tech diversity and inclusion is a pressing topic, in Silicon Valley and nationwide, and has gained momentum recently. Earlier this month, the first national Tech Inclusion Conference took place in San Francisco, and we had the chance to share the Portland story.

Our group of 12 Portlanders representing the Portland Development Commission, startup investment, affinity groups and tech companies were inspired by both the very existence of such an event and the discovery that we are among a growing group of leaders of this national movement.

PDC and our private sector partners have clear reasons for creating a more inclusive innovation economy: Diversity and inclusion lead to better economic and business outcomes.

Tech inclusion requires multiple actions happening simultaneously to make a difference in our tech ecosystem. The PDC is engaged in efforts to educate the pipeline of diverse talent, support startups led by minority founders and facilitate an inclusive tech workplace.
We began several years ago with an initial focus on supporting a growing pool of successful minority entrepreneurs.

We found that here in Portland, as in many other entrepreneurial communities across the country, women and people of color are less often represented on startup founding teams, often by a big margin. A whopping 96 percent of Portland’s 114 venture capital deals in the last two years involved companies founded by or led by at least one white male. Those same deals involved women-only founders only 19 percent of the time. The numbers for Asian and East Indian groups, Native Americans and Latinos dropped even further to 10, two, and one percent, respectively.
Consequently, PDC focused the 2014 Startup PDX Challenge, a city-sponsored incubator and startup competition, on identifying and assisting six diverse startup founding teams. That focus continues in the 2015 Challenge, which is now open for applications ( due Sept. 30).
The 2014 Startup PDX Challenge class disproved two unfortunate myths about minority founders: that targeting minority founders lowers the bar on quality and that there are too few minority-led companies to choose from. Instead, we found being intentional and explicit about our goals for diversity pays off.

If you look for quality diverse talent, you will find it.
We’ve since recognized the need to create more intensive and structured programs that support the founders of scalable companies in Portland who are women, people of color or other underrepresented populations, particularly at the early seed stages. One such program is the recently announced Inclusive Startup Fund, a partnership between PDC, Multnomah County and the State of Oregon.
Our community has a growing ecosystem of partners that are tackling tech inclusion at every stage of the pipeline. We look forward to continuing the momentum for the benefit of all Portlanders.


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