Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2022 Beta

Startups The PISLA Beat

Inside Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson’s Quest to Solve VC’s Diversity Problem

In an entire venture capital industry worth almost $70 trillion, only 1.3% of assets are managed by women and POC, according to the nonprofit Knight Foundation.

To bridge this gap, Bahiyah Yasmeen Robinson created VC Include with the goal of accelerating investment into diverse managers: women, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and LGBTQ. Her platform demonstrates that inclusion can promote higher return rates.

“Empowering organizations to utilize diversity as a driver for success needs to become a must-have feature for institutional investors,” Robinson told Forbes recently.

In today’s Plug In South LA Beat, we dive into how this innovative CEO is building a diverse VC ecosystem:

Meet the Female Founder and Impact Investor on a Mission to Expand Investment Opportunities for BIPOC and Female Venture Capital Managers

Startups The PISLA Beat

Movement to Rebuild Black Wall Street in Tulsa Gains Momentum

The centennial of the Tulsa race massacre that destroyed “Black Wall Street” is spurring efforts to forge a new entrepreneurship ecosystem in the city.

At the forefront is Build In Tulsa managing director Randolph F. Wiggins, who’s also a venture partner at Atento Capital. “The call from history, the attraction of a powerful and resilient community, and the hope of a brighter and more prosperous future for Black America pulled me to plant roots here,” he wrote in a Blavity op-ed.

In today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of must-read tech and innovation articles, let’s find out how Wiggins and his team are catalyzing generational Black wealth creation:

I’m Planting Roots in Tulsa for the Hope of a Brighter and More Prosperous Future for Black America

Photo Credit: Drew Harbour on Unsplash

Startups The PISLA Beat

Black Tech Nation Ventures Cultivates ‘Digital Wakanda’

Since launching this spring, the newly formed seed-stage venture fund Black Tech Nation Ventures is helping create a ‘digital Wakanda’ for Black tech entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh, Bloomberg reports.

The driving force behind this effort is Kelauni Jasmyn, founder and CEO of the national online network Black Tech Nation. In March, she and partners David Motley and Sean Sebastian launched BTN Ventures, which aims to raise $50 million this year.

In today’s Plug In South LA Beat, we’re traveling far from Silicon Valley to see how BTN Ventures is cultivating a new and welcoming hub for emerging tech:

New Effort Bets on Pittsburgh as a Hub for Black Venture Capital

Photo: Black Tech Nation Ventures general partner Kelauni Jasmyn. Credit: Kelauni Jasmyn on LinkedIn

Startups The PISLA Beat

Black-Led Legal Tech Startup Secures $233 Million Investment

San Francisco-based legal tech startup Rocket Lawyer, led by founder and CEO Charley Moore, just raised $233 million to expand internationally and make acquisitions, Forbes reported.

Currently Rocket Lawyer has 25 million registered users. Moore told Forbes that he recently added a new feature called Rocket Evidence that allows users to upload video footage to the app and consult with lawyers.

For our regular curation of must-read tech and innovation articles, the Plug In South LA Beat, we take a look at how Moore grew his business from a simple idea and where the company is headed now:

Legal Tech Startup Rocket Lawyer Raises $223 Million for Expansion

Photo: Rocket Lawyer founder and CEO Charley Moore. Credit: Rocket Lawyer

Startups The PISLA Beat

Audio and Video Commenting Startup Yappa Raises $3.5 Million

Startup Yappa, co-founded by Kiaran Sim and Jennifer Dyer, allows users to make audio and video comments on social media and news sites instead of text-based ones.

“We truly believe that text-based commenting is archaic,” Sim said in a public statement. “Many times comment sections are littered with unproductive toxicity. It’s much harder to be rude if you’re using your voice.”

Based in Marina Del Rey, the company recently raised a $3.5 million Series A. In today’s edition of the Plug In South LA Beat, we find out how Yappa is transforming engagement for online publishers and their audiences:

Black-Owned Tech Company Raises $3.5 Million to Combat Online Bullying

Photo: Yappa co-founders Kiaran Sim and Jennifer Dyer. Credit: Yappa World Inc.

Startups The PISLA Beat

MIT Study Exposes Tactics Used Against Black Women AI Researchers

Abuse aimed at Black women, especially in the field of artificial intelligence research, follows a clear playbook, three MIT professors found. A new study details each step, from disbelief to revisionism.

Katlyn Turner, Danielle Wood, and Catherine D’Ignazio told VentureBeat that their Abuse and Misogynoir Playbook was a response to Google’s treatment of Ethical AI team co-lead Timnit Gebru, but applies to fields well beyond AI.

“This is a process, a series of related things, and the process has to be described step by step or else people won’t get the point,” co-author Wood said.

For today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of relevant tech and innovation articles, we dig into what it will take to finally break this vicious cycle:

Black Women, AI, and Overcoming Historical Patterns of Abuse

Photo Credit: Pietro Jeng on Unsplash

Startups The PISLA Beat

Software Engineer Training Startup Formation Raises $4 Million

Formation, a startup that supports diverse software engineers with specialized training and connect them with high-level tech positions, just raised a $4 million seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Sophie Zhou Novati co-founded Formation after holding senior engineering roles at Facebook and NextDoor. She told TechCrunch that coding boot camps tend to have more Black and Latinx students than traditional universities, but only around half the graduates land software engineering jobs — and not very well paid ones at that.

For this curation of must-read tech and innovation articles, the Plug In South LA Beat, let’s see how the startup uses adaptive learning to strengthen the tech talent pipeline:

Formation Raises $4M Led by Andreessen Horowitz to Train Truly ‘Exceptional’ Software Engineers

Photo: Formation co-founder and CEO Sophie Zhou Novati. Credit: Formation

Startups The PISLA Beat

Former Facebook Recruiter Rhett Lindsey Creates Anti-Bias App

Rhett Lindsey saw racial bias and discrimination in Silicon Valley firsthand as an engineer recruiter for Facebook, where “culture fit” hangs over candidates of color like an invisible cloud, he told the Washington Post.

Lindsey left the company in November after only 11 months on the job, and then channeled his experiences into co-founding Los Angeles-based tech startup Fyindr Inc. Along with fellow founders Shazan Ashroff and Bill Mehserle, he created Siimee, a recruitment app that aims to make the recruitment process more equitable and purposeful.

In today’s curation of curation of must-read tech and innovation articles, the Plug In South LA Beat, we dive deep into the problematic system that spurred Siimee:

A Recruiter Joined Facebook to Help It Meet its Diversity Targets. He Says its Hiring Practices Hurt People of Color.

Photo: Fyindr Inc. co-founder and CEO Rhett Lindsey. Credit: Siimee

Startups The PISLA Beat

Arabian Prince’s Social Impact Incubator Launches in LA

A new LA-based incubator co-founded by songwriter, rapper, producer, DJ, and technologist Arabian Prince just launched to support tech entrepreneurs from marginalized communities. Incub8next aims to take startups from concept to seed funding.

“There are people who have never gotten the opportunity but have everything else they need to succeed in business,” Arabian Prince said in a statement. “With my background, I’ve conjured things out of thin air to make money. So I know the struggle.” In addition to the legendary N.W.A. founding member, Incub8next’s team includes Art + Logic co-founder Paul Hershenson, healthcare entrepreneur Matthew Walk, and sales and marketing pro Aj Kang.

For this Plug In South LA Beat, our curation of must-read tech and innovation articles, we find out how the incubator supports startups focused on health and wellness technologies:

Incub8next, a Social Impact Incubator, Launches to Help Underserved Communities

Photo Credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Startups The PISLA Beat

Digital Banking Startup Greenwood Readies for Service Rollout

Greenwood, the digital banking startup co-founded by rapper Killer Mike, Bounce TV founder Ryan Glover, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young is getting ready to start serving underrepresented customers.

Named after the Black business district in Tulsa that was destroyed in 1921, Greenwood quickly raised $40 million since launching and recently secured financing from Bank of America, FIS, JPMorgan Chase, PNC, Truist, and Wells Fargo.

In today’s Plug In South LA Beat, we explore what this leap in digital banking could mean for communities and small business owners who have long been ignored by major financial institutions:

Greenwood Prepares to Offer Digital Banking with $40 Million Funding in Place

Big Banks Rush to Back Greenwood, Killer Mike’s Atlanta-based Digital Bank for Underrepresented Customers

Photo Credit: Greenwood