Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Why the Tech Industry Still Lacks Diversity

Many Silicon Valley tech companies released statements recently in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, but their continued lack of Black and Latinx workers tells another story.

“The industry, which prides itself on agility, has failed to move the needle on workplace diversity,” Sam Dean and Johana Bhuiyan wrote in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

In today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of must-read innovation and tech news, we’re seeking answers.

“Tech’s approach to diversity the last few years has been like filling the bathtub with the drain open,” Freada Kapor Klein, a founding partner at the venture capital firm Kapor Capital, told the journalists. Greycroft investor Brentt Baltimore, who will be speaking at Urban Tech Connect 2020 in September, also weighed in.

Here’s what the industry stats reveal:

Why Are Black and Latino People Still Kept Out of the Tech Industry?

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: This Black Female Founder Paves the Way

Crystal Etienne, founder and CEO of Ruby Love, used to dread pitching. But, as she explained in a recent Q&A, she started looking at the process differently.

“I think it’s such an awkward moment for any, or most, founders,” Etienne told Crunchbase for their Female Founder Series. “It wasn’t until I stopped looking at it as pitching and started looking at it as me telling the story of this great company and opportune market that I started to feel completely comfortable.”

That approach paid off. Her period wearables products company, which launched as PantyProp in 2015 and later rebranded as Ruby Love, secured $15 million Series A funding last year from the global investment fund the Craftory.

For this Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of must-read innovation and tech news, we’re finding out how Etienne is paving the way for next-gen entrepreneurs:

Fundraising Success Through Authentic Storytelling: Ruby Love CEO & Founder Crystal Etienne Describes Her Journey


Greycroft Investor Brentt Baltimore to Speak at UTC 2020

Plug In South LA proudly announces that investor Brentt Baltimore will be speaking at Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2020. Based in Los Angeles, he sources, evaluates, and executes venture stage investment opportunities for the leading VC firm Greycroft.

Baltimore received a BA from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He began his career in investment banking at Credit Suisse in Los Angeles, where he focused on leveraged buyouts and debt financing transactions.

Before he joined Greycroft, Baltimore led business development at Operator, a venture stage company in the conversational commerce space. He also worked on technology commercialization at the artificial intelligence research company Numenta. At Detroit Venture Partners, he led investment diligence and supported portfolio companies.

“The core learning of my journey is that I happened to be introduced to worlds that I didn’t know about — and I did everything in my power to close the gap,” Baltimore says.

Greycroft is a global firm focused on investing in internet and mobile companies with amounts that range from $100,000 at the seed stage to as much as $35 million. Last year Greycroft participated in a $200 million round of Series D financing for mobile game developer and publisher Scopely. Recently the firm helped lead a $15 million Series B round of funding for, a startup aimed at democratizing stock investing.

Baltimore says he’s passionate about investing in revolutionary products, and building businesses that redefine industries. This year’s Urban Tech Connect theme resonates with him.

“‘Forward’ is the action of pushing boundaries for myself, my family, and the industry that I work in,” he says. “Moving from ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ to ‘know what you don’t know’ is the most powerful jump forward in the knowledge cycle.”

Baltimore joins an impressive group of speakers virtually for the conference, September 15-17. Register to attend and learn firsthand what VCs are looking for before they decide to invest.

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Inside Planet FWD’s $2.7M Seed Funding

Julia Collins sees a growing consumer demand for climate-friendly foods — and wants to meet it. Her climate-focused snack startup Planet FWD recently announced $2.7 million in seed funding.

That seed round led by BBG Ventures with additional participation from a number of other investors was unique. Collins told TechCrunch that 99.5% of the funds came from people of color and/or women.

In this Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of innovation and tech news, we’re learning more about Collins’ approach. “When it came to the regenerative food landscape, nothing had been codified or mapped yet,” she said.

Find out how she went from a “little spreadsheet” to building a regenerative food platform and climate-friendly snack brand:

Zume Co-Founder Goes from Pizza to Climate-Friendly Food with $2.7 Million in Funding

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Black Animators Bridge Cultures

D’ART Shtajio, a 2-D animation studio in Tokyo, is the first in Japan created by Black animators. For today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of must-read innovation and tech news, we’re getting to know these pioneering creatives.

As AfroTech’s Njera Perkins explains, Black background artists Arthell and Darnell Isom founded D’ART Shtajio with animator Henry Thurlow.

“The three animators created their studio infusing American culture with Japanese anime, and in the process have worked on some huge anime projects,” Perkins wrote.

Keep reading to find out how D’ART Shtajio is creating more visibility for animators of color in the industry — and why comic book insiders say the studio is attracting fans’ attention:

D’ART Shtajio is Japan’s First Major Anime Studio Owned by Black Animators


Plug In Accelerator Presents: Founder Showcase

Please join an innovative cohort of bootstrapped and pre-seed Founders to discuss, and share the problems they are working to solve at scale. You’ll hear and learn from our Co-Hort of Five Founders representing a range of sectors from Direct to Consumer, B2B, SAAS and E-Commerce. Come help be part of the solution and see what possible looks like.

The PISLA Beat Uncategorized

The Plug In South LA Beat: $100 Million Fund for Founders of Color

As calls for change grow louder, we’re seeing new sources of funding open up that could help tip the scales. Today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our curation of must-read innovation and technology news, takes a closer look at SoftBank’s recent announcement.

SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure sent a letter to employees saying that the firm will create a $100 million fund that only invests in companies led by “founders and entrepreneurs of color,” Axios markets editor Dion Rabouin reported.

“The Opportunity Growth Fund is one of the first to put significant capital behind companies’ statements of empathy and outrage in response to protests over systemic racism in the U.S. typified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police,” Rabouin wrote.

Find out where the fund stands, who’s involved, and why this capital matters:

SoftBank to Launch $100M Fund Backing Companies Led by People of Color

SoftBank Reveals $100M Fund To Invest In ‘Founders Of Color’

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Black Woman’s Tech Firm Makes History

Sevetri Wilson recently made history with an $8 million series A funding round for her software-as-a-service company Resilia. The round represented one of the largest investments for an enterprise software company headed by an African American female founder, Resilia reported.

For this Plug In South LA Beat, our curation of must-read innovation and technology news, we’re drawing inspiration from Resilia founder and CEO Wilson, whose New Orleans-based company works to democratize innovation for the nonprofit industry by bridging gaps between those deploying capital and those on the receiving end.

“I wasn’t in the venture world and I didn’t come up in San Francisco. So you could imagine going out to raise money, and you’re not a technical founder, and you’re black, and you’re from the South. I had a lot of ‘ands’ with me,” Wilson told Black Enterprise executive managing editor Alisa Gumbs.

Continue reading to find out how she pivoted to start Resilia:

Black Women Rock at Raising Capital: Sevetri Wilson’s NOLA Startup Raises $8 Million

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Build the Future Now

“Entrepreneurs are the people who are going to get us out of the pandemic and build the future we want to live in,” Adeo Ressi, CEO and co-founder of the pre-seed startup accelerator Founder Institute recently told Crunchbase News.

For today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our curation of must-read innovation and technology news, we’re feeling inspired by Ressi’s advice for new startup founders — and the new opportunities he’s seeing emerge.

Ressi said that Founder Institute is currently enrolling more entrepreneurs than ever, and several graduate companies are flourishing despite the pandemic, business writer Mary Ann Azevedo reported. Find out why Ressi calls this period of time “the great restart”:

Founder Institute CEO: Now Is The Time For Startups To Step Up


Plug In South’s LA Response to the Death of George Floyd

Dear Plug In South LA Community,

After everything that happened in the first half of 2020, we first and foremost hope that you are safe and healthy. Plug In South LA began as a proactive effort to support a Brown and Black founders pipeline into the tech ecosystem, and help develop similar ecosystems in overlooked and underserved communities, accelerating the next generation of talent.

Recent events are warning signs that we take seriously. We are horrified by the murder of George Floyd last weekend, Breonna Taylor’s death in March, and the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in February. We are disgusted by the lack of national leadership to bring our country together to move forward. We are shocked by the injustices we are witnessing.

We can no longer sit back and watch the poor and disenfranchised suffer from a double standard in the judicial system. Yesterday Plug In South LA observed Blackout Tuesday. That meant we were not posting to social media or engaging in business as usual. Beyond Tuesday, we will be questioning how engaged we are in platforms that don’t serve us well.

We continue to look for innovative ways to help the South Los Angeles community — and communities like ours — get through these difficult times. We support the organizations that are strategically focused on facilitating peaceful protests. We can work with our elected officials to reform our legal system. Let’s put pressure on CEOs, news organization executives, district attorneys, and community leaders to unite around implementing policies and laws that prevent senseless deaths from ever happening again.

If you’re able to peacefully protest and use your voice, please do. We can support the people on the front lines of change. Organizations you can support and ways to get involved are listed below. Collectively, we can move mountains.

We hear you. We see you. We love you. We stand with you.

—Team Plug In South LA

Stand Up and Support Your Community