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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?

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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

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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

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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

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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’

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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

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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

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Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Audio-Based Apps on the Rise

Welcome to the Plug In South LA Beat, a regular curation of can’t-miss innovation and technology news for our community. Recently we heard that audio-based apps are on the rise.

During our virtual community event last week, Squad founder and CEO Isa Watson talked about Ense and Clubhouse. Watson, like many of us, is getting tired of constant video calls. She shared that she started using audio apps to switch up her personal and professional routines.

Although Clubhouse is still in beta and lacks a public website, CNBC’s Ari Levy and Salvador Rodriguez reported that the company was just valued at nearly $100 million.

“If you tuned into the Clubhouse app Monday night, you could have heard a lively discussion on how the coronavirus is affecting the prison population. Speakers included MC Hammer, political commentator Van Jones, writer and activist Shaka Senghor, and venture capitalists Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz,” they wrote.

“Those in the exclusive beta group describe the Clubhouse experience as a mashup of listening to a podcast while scrolling through your Twitter feed and attending a conference remotely.”

Find out more about why the audio-based social network is getting so much buzz:

Silicon Valley is Going Crazy for Clubhouse

Clubhouse Voice Chat Leads a Wave of Spontaneous Social Apps

What Is Clubhouse, and Why Does Silicon Valley Care?

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Startups The PISLA Beat

Introducing the Plug In South LA Beat: Must-Reads on Tech Innovation in Our Community

Establishing Conversations and Connection Points for the Plug In South LA Community 

As our community navigates the Covid-19 crisis, Plug In South LA is here to help focus on moving forward together effectively. That’s why we’re introducing the Plug In South LA Beat, a regular curation of can’t-miss innovation and technology news.

Each Beat highlights an article that takes a closer look at the current state of funding and investment for entrepreneurs in our community.

We’re kicking things off with an Inc. Magazine piece that dives into the disconnect between the record number of new Latinx entrepreneurs and the funding available for their startups.

“Unless we solve the ‘scaling gap,’ we’re missing out on the opportunity to grow employment and GDP,” writes staff reporter Guadalupe Gonzalez. Continue reading to find out more about this mystery — and what we can do to unravel it:

The Number of Latinx-Run Startups Is Rocketing. Their Funding Is Not. Here’s Why That’s a Big Problem