PUSHTech2020: Jesse Jackson and PUSH Silicon Valley host inaugural tech summit

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by Kia Croom

Tech leaders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from across the country attended the PUSHTech2020 Summit to continue the dialogue on diversifying the tech sector.

The one-day conference, which was hosted by Rev. Jesse Jackson and the RainbowPUSH Silicon Valley Project took place May 6 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco.

Staff members from Intel, PUSH and OUSD posed together at the PUSHTech2020 Summit in San Francisco May 6. – Photo: Auintard
Staff members from Intel, PUSH and OUSD posed together at the PUSHTech2020 Summit in San Francisco May 6. – Photo: Auintard

The ballroom was packed to the gills with nearly 500 attendees hoping to find ways to plug into more than $1.6 billion in pledged investments from tech giants looking to diversify their supplier network and workforce. Attendees leaned in as tech leaders announced their companies’ strategies to put their money where their mouths are.

In a keynote address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the company will invest $5 million over the next five years in science and engineering programs benefiting Oakland Unified School District students (OUSD). He hopes the partnership between Intel and OUSD will serve as a model project designed to create pathways for underrepresented minorities and women in tech industry.

“We wanted to send high school graduates to college to study computer science and engineering. We are going to provide real jobs and guarantee graduates a job at Intel,” Krzanich said.

Krzanich reaffirmed Intel’s commitment to diversifying its workforce by the year 2020. This past January, in a keynote address at a consumer electronics show, Krzanich announced Intel’s $300 million commitment to diversifying its workforce. He took a moment at the PUSHTech2020 conference to share the company’s progress to date.

“Since I made the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Summit, we’ve made some incremental progress. Since that announcement, 41 percent of new hires are diverse – up 30 percent from last year. Seventeen percent of senior hires are from underrepresented minority groups and 33 percent are women – both numbers have doubled since last year,” he said.

In a keynote address, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the company will invest $5 million over the next five years in science and engineering programs benefiting Oakland Unified School District students.

Apple VP Lisa Jackson took to the podium to discuss Apple’s workforce diversity data and company investments aimed at recruiting a more diverse cadre of employees.

“Let’s do the numbers. Apple is 7 percent Black,” she said candidly acknowledging the number is less than desirable and quickly shifted gears to discuss the company’s efforts to attract minorities to careers in tech.

“We’ve committed $10 million to the National Center for Women in Technology to bring more women into the tech workforce. We’ve committed $40 million to the Thurgood Marshall Fund to accelerate the number of African-American students studying STEM and tech,” she said.

PUSHTech2020 attendees also participated in break-out sessions with tech executives, venture capitalists and thought leaders for deeper dialogues on diversity and inclusion.

At a pitch competition, diverse tech startup entrepreneurs competed for more than $15,000 in cash prizes. The audience was sparse at times but standing room only at other times.

Each startup gave a three-minute presentation followed by Q&A with a panel of judges representing venture capital firms including Cisco Ventures, Google for Entrepreneurs, Intel Capital Base Ventures, Astia and others.

EHarvestHub, a cloud-based program that connects farmers with places to sell their products, won first place and received a $10,000 cash prize, courtesy of Salesforce Ventures, and an HP laptop.

Rev. Jackson discusses Intel’s progress with CEO Brian Krzanich. – Photo: Auintard
Rev. Jackson discusses Intel’s progress with CEO Brian Krzanich. – Photo: Auintard

The Human Data Project, a platform that connects patients with cutting-edge medical research won second place.

Quarrio, a software company that offers easy-to-use advanced reporting and analytics, won third place. Each startup won a $2,500 cash prize provided by Cisco Ventures and an HP laptop.

Honorable mention winners received a $1,000 cash award, courtesy of RainbowPUSH, and an HP laptop. Winners included Onēva, a company connecting sitters with persons in need of care; Crowdismo, a crowd funding platform that connects diverse funders with capital; Cocoon Cam, the first-ever smart video vitals monitor; LaborX, a job marketplace connecting employers with underserved jobseekers; Flipcause, a program offering fundraising tools to nonprofits; Studyroom, a social learning platform for college students; and Nodal Industries, a provider of network security boxes for home networks and small business.

The PUSHTech2020 pitch competitors were notably more diverse than their tech startup counterparts who compete in pitch competitions at TechCruch and the annual Startup conference. When asked what needs to happen to increase the number of diverse founders participating in competitions in larger markets, Laurence “Lo” Tooney, a partner at Catalyst Fund and a PUSHTech2020 pitch competition judge had this to say:

“Diverse founders need to have the training and support in advance of the application process to maximize the opportunity to get selected. A lot of the founders that are selected for these programs have been building their companies for months if not years with mentors that have successfully gone through the programs.”

Toney says he’s impressed with incubators that make an effort to increase the representation of women and diverse founders. He referenced Michael Seibel of Y Combinator and Dave McClure of 500 Startups as noteworthy examples.

PUSHTech2020 attendees also participated in break-out sessions with tech executives, venture capitalists and thought leaders for deeper dialogues on diversity and inclusion.

The PUSHTech2020 Summit is part of the RainbowPUSH Coalition’s campaign to diversify the tech sector. Last year RainbowPUSH researched the racial and gender composition of 20 tech companies’ workforces and then published a report which showed African-American, Latino and women are severely underrepresented within these companies – accounting for 0-3 percent of their tech workforce.

RainbowPUSH has since continued challenging tech companies to set measurable diversity and inclusion goals, targets and timetables.

Contributing writer Kia Croom is a published journalist with 10 years of experience writing for publications in California and the Southeast. Follow her on Twitter @newsbykiac or email her at kianews2011@gmail.com.

19 COMMENTS

  1. While I remain a distant supporter of Brother Jesse Jackson, I still INSIST that he, and whomever the other so-called civil rights leaders are today, to GET THE BLACKS in entertainment and sports, and others with money, to GET THEM, and all of us blacks, TO DO SOMETHING FOR OURSELVES. So that, at least, Brother Jesse, part-time activist Al Sharpton (he works full-time now for THE MAN at MSNBC), and others will not have to be at white folks doors begging all the time. IT MAKES THE WHOLE BLACK RACE LOOK BAD, and appear to be like little children. And will Jesse tell us the TRUTH about how much he is getting from Silcon Valley? WHEN are we going to GROW UP, and learn how to DO FOR SELF? — Rev. George Brooks

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