28 Examples Of Diversity In The Startup Scene

Melissa Tsang
Melissa Tsang
June 17, 2014
2 min read
28 Examples Of Diversity In The Startup Scene

In this article

"You can't be what you can't see."

Diversity is still an issue in the startup ecosystem. There are few women entrepreneurs, and disproportionately fewer black and Latino/a entrepreneurs.

More worrying is the fact that there are just as few minority or female investors. And fewer minority investors mean that fewer minority-led entrepreneurs get funded.

Diversity matters. A diversity of investors and entrepreneurs doesn't just produce a diversity of innovation– it also powers ground-breaking solutions for minority communities.

Here's a signal boost for 27 minority-focused and minority-led startups and support systems.

1. #YesWeCode - hoodie-wearing youth with Silicon Valley tools


People: Van Jones

Vision: #YesWeCode is a response to the negative image of low-opportunity youth in America.

I always remember how Trayvon Martin's hoodie was seen as a justification for his murder. But billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies -- and nobody shoots at him. So let's flip the script: let's give our hoodie-wearing youth the same tools, training and technology that the kids taking over Silicon Valley have. I hope #YesWeCode creates 100,000 'Mark Zuckerberg's -- and that a whole lot of them look just like Trayvon Martin.

Action: #YesWeCode aims to train 100,000 low-opportunity youth to become high-level programmers. In the process, it will recruit hundreds of grassroots training programs and team up with major technology partners, celebrities and political leaders. The movement is powered by Dream Corps Unlimited.

2. Qeyno Labs and Black Girls Code - bringing hackathons to girls of color

Qeyno Labs

diverse marketing
Qeyno Lab is the home of STEM4Girls, an initiative that inspires girls and young women to STEM-related fields.

People: Kalimah Priforce

Vision: "Making "hackathon" a household word in every home, and lifting innovation in every community. We believe that education is the vehicle for accelerating transformation."

In October of 2000, Kalimah Priforce's younger brother was shot and killed behind their childhood elementary school, inspiring Kalimah to form a lifelong commitment to transforming the lives of high potential youth towards mindfulness of their path and purpose

Action: Qeyno Labs works to close the STEM diversity gap in K-12 education. It is a hackathon incubator that works with local partners and schools to harness the interests of high potential youth from low-opportunity settings into STEM career pathways. Qeyno also started STEM4Girls, a content channel that features women in numerous STEM-related fields.

Black Girls Code


People: Kimberley Bryant


When I was first introduced to computer programming, as a freshman in Electrical Engineering, I remember being excited by the prospects, and looked forward to embarking on a rich and rewarding career after college. But I also recall feeling culturally isolated: few of my classmates looked like me.

Much has changed since my college days, but there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are likely culprits.

With Black Girls Code, I hope to provide  young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.

Action: Through a combination of workshops and field trips, Black Girls Code is providing girls with new skills in computer programming, introducing them to role models in the technology space, and building their confidence to become tech creators and entrepreneurs. BGC hosts its own hackathons - most recently, it held the loveisrespect hackathon in Brooklyn.

3. Black Web 2.0 and Revision Path - signal-boosting awesome black techies in tech, design, and innovation

Black Web 2.0

diversity marketing

People: Angela Benton, Markus Robinson

Vision: Signal-boosting African-American game-changers in tech

Action: Black Web 2.0 showcases the wealth of exceptional innovation, talent, and ambition of Blacks in the tech and new media industry. It is the premier destination for culturally relevant news in the tech industry; and African-American entrepreneurs and influencers.

Revision Path

People: Maurice Cherry, Siedah Mitchum

Vision: Because the stories of Black designers and developers deserve to be shared and told, but most mainstream tech and design websites and podcasts don’t share or tell these stories.

Action: Revision Path is a weekly interview show that focuses on showcasing Black graphic designers, web designers, and web developers. Each week, they explore the stories, processes, experiences, insights, and creative inspirations of these awesome creators from all over the world. Check out Revision Path's Black History Month project, 28 Days of the Web.

4. Black Founders - incubating all-black startups

marketing diversity

People: Chris Bennett, Hadiyah Mujhid, Nnena Ukuku, Monique Woodard


We aim to increase the number of successful black entrepreneurs in technology.

In 2010, the black demographic entered entrepreneurship at a rate of 0.24% and comprised 9% of the total new entrepreneurship activity in the US. Black entrepreneurs, however, remain underrepresented in the tech entrepreneurship space. All-black founding teams receive much less funding than all-white teams.

Action: Black Founders is creating an ecosystem that stimulates tech entrepreneurship and fosters economic growth. Their programs include networking and educational events in major cities, hackathons at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU hackathons), conferences, and fund-raising.

5. NewME Accelerator and BiTHouse - supporting women of color entrepreneurs

marketing for all

People: Angela Benton

Vision: A startup incubator aimed at under-represented minorities in the tech world - namely African Americans, Latinos, and women.

Race really throws a wrench in the women in tech conversation because now we are discussing women of color who have higher percentages of single parenting, and generally “doing it on their own”.  Not to mention a higher possibility of a lower socioeconomic status - these aren’t women who have “made it” yet. They don’t have nannies, maids, and house managers to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks.  
I’ve heard from many woman through our work at NewME that feel like having the career they want in tech isn’t attainable, not because they feel like they are being excluded, but because they feel balance isn’t an option in such a demanding industry where many of the decisions are made by men.

Action: Since their launch in 2011, NewME has accelerated over 200 startups through their 12 week program. Last year, it worked with Rippld, Have1OnMe, and DigitalMunch, among others.

BiTHouse - championing diversity in tech

marketing for everyone

People: Jewell Sparks

Vision: "Minimizing barriers to entry" - Diversity + Tech + Ideas = Future.

Companies with the highest representation of women on management teams have a 34% higher return on investment than do those with few or no women.

Action: BiTHouse connects technologists of color with entrepreneurs and investors. They provide a safe environment for youth, women and minorities to share their ideas and create innovative technology solutions with the potential to impact the world in which we live.

6. CODE2040 - creating pathways for minority software engineers

everyone can code
CODE2040 Fellows Yuri Farias Gomes and Amy Quispe with Co-Founder and Chairman Tristan Walker.

People: Laura Weidman Powers, Tristan Walker


Our goal is to ensure that by the year 2040—when the US will be majority-minority—Blacks and Latinos are proportionally represented in America's innovation economy as technologists, investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.

Action: CODE2040 is a nonprofit organization that creates pathways to educational, professional, and entrepreneurial success in the innovation economy for underrepresented minorities with a specific focus on Blacks and Latino/as. Their flagship program is the summer Fellows Program, which places high performing Black and Latino/a software engineering students in internships with top tech companies and provides them with a leadership development curriculum.

7. Latino Startup Alliance and Manos Accelerator - connecting Latino entrepreneurs

latino startup

People: Jesse Martinez (founder of Spark America), Jennifer Arguello

Vision: Martinez is well aware of that baggage and the challenges entrepreneurs face when looking to venture into the startup world. It was one of the main reasons why he founded the LSA.

As you look at the tech landscape within the Latino community and break it up, you can look at it from who is doing startup? Who wants to do a startup? Who knows about startups? And what does that pipeline look like? What are those stepping-stones? And then there are those who are outside that who would like to do start-up but they have what I call ‘life-baggage'. It’s tough to do a startup.

Action: The LSA fosters an ecosystem to support Latino entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, providing them with advisors, mentors, and access to capital. It held the 1st LSA Innovator Summit in San Francisco last year. The summit brought together Latino tech entrepreneurs for two days of startup pitches, keynotes, workshops, and networking.

Manos accelerator - empowering Latino innovators

People: Edward Avila, Sylvia Flores, David Lopez, Hana Yang


Latino workers and aspiring entrepreneurs do not want to be stereotyped as only taking food service, agricultural, manufacturing, construction, and other blue-collar jobs. We wanted a name to show the world that Latinos are more than just a pair of "hands" (manos), and capable of so much more.

Action: Manos fosters a new generation of Latino entrepreneurs by providing access to early-stage capital, mentorship support and resources. Through their 12-week mentorship and networking program, they provide "hands-on" expertise in the areas of product development, design and user experience, customer acquisition, business metrics, and pitch preparation.

8. 500 Startups - a strong backer of women-led startups

female entrepreneurs
500 Startups is a proud backer of female entrepreneurs.

People: Dave McClure

Vision: Make your startup go BOOM - blowing up startups with data, design, and distribution.

Action: 500 Startups Accelerator experiments generously with early-stage startup formulas. It also recently launched an AngelList Syndicate for female entrepreneurs. This is on top of its history of backing more than 100 women-led companies including TaskRabbit and Moonfruit.

9. Lesbians Who Tech - support and visibility for lesbian techies

lesbians who tech

People: Leanna Pittsford

Vision: To get more lesbians in technology, and to connect them to LGBTQ organizations who are doing incredible work for the community.

Outside of Ellen, Rosie, Melissa, and now Tammy, what other mainstream lesbian role models can most people name? We need more examples of lesbian leaders and that means we need to come out as the amazing, successful people we are.

Action: Lesbians who tech is a community of queer women in or around tech. LWT holds an annual summit in New York. (Dattch founder Robyn Exton spoke at last year's LWT Summit!)

10. StartOut - breaking the queer glass ceiling

People: Darren Spedale

Vision: Promoting equality and combating discrimination in the business world through economic empowerment.

Action: StartOut is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating great business leaders by inspiring, educating, and supporting LGBT entrepreneurs. Since it’s founding in 2009, StartOut has produced over 200 events with more than 15,000 participants nationwide.

It's also developed its Lesbian Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program, which pairs new lesbian entrepreneurs with seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and senior level executives to grow their businesses.

11. Kapor Capital - powering disruption and social change

social change

People: Mitchell Kapor


We believe diversity in tech is a strategic priority to the industry. We invest in gap-­closing info tech start­ups that revolutionize people’s lives across a vast set of industries. We look for companies that are addressing lack of access and opportunity for underserved communities or are bringing about the disruptive democratization of a sector.

Action: Kapor Capital's portfolio includes Brilliant, Asana, Catchafire, InternMatch, and HumanDX.

12. Pipeline Fellowship and Topstone Angels - nurturing women entrepreneurs and angel investors

People: Natalia Oberti Noguera

Vision: Changing the face of angel investing

I was invited to judge a tech startup demo and judges were asked to sit in the front row. A guy told the guy next to him — loud enough for me to hear, however not directly addressing me — ‘I thought only judges were supposed to sit in the front.’ I turned around and said, ‘What makes you think we’re not judges? Because we’re women?’ My approach is to call out -isms. As a queer Latina, it can get tiring.

Action: Pipeline Fellowship works to increase diversity in the U.S. angel investing community, and create capital for women social entrepreneurs. Its program includes education, mentoring, and practice.

Topstone Angels

marketing for woman

People: Kristin Calve


Anything we can do to get more women involved in angel investing will have a high impact. Not only will it lead to more female founders getting funding, it will get more women onto boards and hired as C-level executives.

Action: Topstone Angels connects investors with qualified entrepreneurs and start-ups. It is female-founded and led, and recently lauched The Refinery, an early stage accelerator program designed to assist innovative women-led ventures in becoming scaleable and investible businesses.

The innovators

13. Bevel - a shaver designed for men of color

colored men marketing

People: Tristan Walker, who founded Walker and Company


Our purpose is to make health and beauty simple for people of color.

A big frustration of mine is that the earliest adopting region in the world knows nearly nothing about the earliest adopting culture. That discord just doesn’t make any sense to me.

I’m in aisle 14, the ethnic aisle — it’s not even really an aisle, it’s a shelf — then I have to reach to the bottom of that shelf for a package that’s dirty, and then there’s a photo of a 65-year-old bald black guy with a towel on drinking a Cognac. And they assumed I should buy that product. That entire second-class citizen experience needs to go, especially considering how much money we spend on that stuff, how culturally influential we are, and, along with Latinos and Asians, we’re going to be the majority of the country in the next 20 or 30 years.

Action: 80% of men with coarse or curly hair experience ingrown hairs and razor bumps. Bevel is the first 5-part shaving system clinically tested to reduce razor bumps.

14. Startup weekend/Black Male Achievement Hackathon - Could an app have saved Trayvon Martin?

People: Hosted by Qeyno Labs


Could a smart phone app have saved Trayvon Martin?

Because of the homogenous environment that exists within the tech world, a lot of the problems and solutions become limited in scope. Are we building an app ecosystem that is inclusive?

When George Zimmerman approached Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin had a phone in his hand. Is there a button that he could have pressed that may have altered the situation? More importantly, the app that could have saved Trayvon Martin is an app that should have been built by Trayvon Martins. And how do we start building apps for the Trayvon Martins of the world rather than the George Zimmermans? - Kalimah Priforce, founder of Qeyno Labs

Action:  The hackathon did in fact produce an app that could have saved Trayvon. HelpCircle was the winning app of Startup Weekend.

HelpCircle would appear as an icon on a smartphone that when pressed sends preloaded text messages to selected friends and family members or to police letting them know the user is in danger and at what location.

The team came up with a marketing line “Instantly connect with the people you trust when you need them the most.”

15. Hack the Hood - giving youth tech skills for the real world

hack the hood

Hack the Hood emerged Top 4 in the Google Impact Challenge 2014.[/caption]

People: Zakiya Harris, who also co-founded Impact Hub Oakland, Grind for the Green, and Earthseed Consulting

Vision: "There're a lot of smart young people who really want to engage in the tech industry but don't really have the opportunity to access it. Our goal is to train over 2500 in over 5 cities across the Bay Area, and to move our young people beyond just being consumers of technology, but to become innovators."

Action: Hack the Hood provides boot camps in multimedia and tech skills for youth, who then work on real-world consulting projects with locally-owned businesses and non-profits. The organization recently won a $500,000 grant through the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge.

16. Fever - the Airbnb of nightlife

People: Pep Gómez

Vision: "I was new in San Francisco. I was super young and couldn’t go into any clubs. I also discovered people were so lazy and it was difficult to discover what was the good event. I created Fever as a solution to the never-ending dilemma of deciding what to do tonight. We like to think of ourselves as the Airbnb of nightlife."

Action: Fever works by taking your top three interests, such as music, parties, and dancing. Connect with your friends and taste-makers in your city to learn about events that may be of interest to them. Fever tells you what to do in their city, based not only on what you want to see but the people you care about. Also, bookings, whether for tickets or RSVPs, can be made through the app.

The 21-year-old has already landed a $3 million investment.

17. Plaza Familia - involving parents in bilingual education

bilingual education

People: Ana Roca-Castro, who also founded LATISM (Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media)

Vision: A bilingual education platform that engages Latino students and parents in the learning process.

Action: Plaza Familia offers teachers tools to get families engaged in the learning process. One of its unique programs is "Grade-Based Spanish" - a student whose dominant language is English learns a Math concept in English, but repeats it in Spanish. That way she reviews her math while practicing her Spanish. The company has received investment from Kapor Capital.

18. Hispanicize Wire - affordable plugging for Latino businesses

hispanic marketing

People: Manny Ruiz. Manny is also the founder of the Hispanicize brand of platforms - including the annual Hispanicize event, Hispanicize digital, Latina Mom Bloggers, and the Hispanic PR Blog.

Vision: To be the most comprehensive, cost-effective, multimedia platform ever created to reach Hispanic media, bloggers, and online consumers.

Action: Hispanicize Wire is tailored to serve small businesses. It offers comprehensive national, state, and city-specific distributions to U.S. Hispanic media and bloggers. Its newswire platform features a wide range of budget-friendly multimedia capabilities and online placements. Most importantly, it's priced at a fraction of what traditional wire services cost. Hispanicize Wire is 100-percent Latino owned and operated.

19. DESMADRE - hilarious, culturally relevant sketches

cultural marketing

People: Amy Lo, Jesus Beltran, Samuel Tomsing Martínez

Vision: Hispanics are by far the top digital consumers in social and mobile video. A shortage of inventory exists to satisfy this huge demand, as well as enormous inefficiencies in content sourcing and delivery. Desmadre.com is where Funny-or-Die meets Vice for a cross-cultural audience.

Action: DESMADRE is a new media hub developing a highly focused mobile distribution system and next-level content for a cross-cultural audience. Check out their sketches on Desmadre.com, or on their YouTube channel.

("Masa & The Power" is side-splitting stuff and completely worth your time.)

20. Curatoric - celebrating artists of African descent

People: Elen Awalom. Elen is a full-stack engineer, a Kapor Capital Women 2.0 scholarship recipient, and Diversitech's African & African Diaspora Manager.


Curatoric was inspired by my desire to amplify the works of often marginalized African descended artists, with amazing skills and great potential, but limited access to Western, African, Asian and Latin American consumer markets and accompanying opportunities - as well as the desire to amplify the works of established African descended artists - I recognized the possibilities of utilizing technology to bridge these gaps.

Action: Curatoric is a web and mobile platform for high-end and middle-market visual art by people of the African diaspora. Amongst many of its features, the site will also offer an opportunity to educate the general public about the process of collecting African art. Curatoric is still in stealth mode, but Elen has written extensively about its story on Model View Culture.

21. Dattch - Pinterest-inspired dating app for lesbians

woman startups

People: Robyn Exton, who has also done a Reddit AMA on Dattch.

Vision: A dating app designed by women, for women. Because lesbians get lonely too.

Tidbit from Robyn - "If you are pitching to 40-year-old men (most investors) and you are showing pictures of girls snogging on screen they are going to get distracted and not listen to the pitch."

Action: Dattch is the first dating app designed specifically for women. It's based on the Pinterest model, where users can create a kind of personality mood board, making profiles much more revealing. Robyn compares it to looking at someone's Instagram feed: "You get a sense of who they are really quickly."

22. Section II - Netflix for lesbians

netflix for lesbians
Section II. It just got better.

People: Allie Esslinger


Until 1968, “Section II” of the Motion Picture Production Code outlawed lesbian characters in film. I am reclaiming our namesake as the premier space for relevant content and the people who love it. Now is the time for technology and entertainment to come together and foster creativity as the next step in the fight for equality. With your help, we can create LBTQ content at a rate that’s never been attempted and deliver to an audience that’s never had the chance to consume it’s fair share.

Action: Section II is curating, showcasing, and creating high quality content on a destination site. They're a benefit corporation dedicated to the better representation of queer women in popular culture. (Allie wrote the detailed story behind Section II on Bitch Flicks.)

23. YadaZing - learn conversational English through pop culture

english lessons
This English lesson I can get behind!

People: Rachel Wolan

Vision: "We are on a mission to help every proficient English learner, rich or poor, practice everyday English every day."

Action: YadaZing is an app that helps English learners move beyond basic English proficiency to fluency. Instead of using canned content and preset levels, they curate fun, authentic videos like TED Talks and clips from movies, build real English lessons based on the learner’s needs and ensure she is exposed to a breadth of speakers as well as topics so that she can begin to speak and understand real English with confidence.

“Pitching at LWT was a fantastic experience. The LWT crowd felt more intimate and supportive than other places we have pitched before. Since pitching LWT, I have connected with dozens of fantastic women who wanted to help YadaZing in some way or just simply share their experiences learning English, and tell me they wished YadaZing had existed when they were learning English.”

24. Model View Culture - cultural and social critiques of tech communities

model view culture

People: Shanley Kane

Vision: MVC starts conversations about social justice issues in tech.

(On "culture fit"): I know a number of women who have been turned down from jobs because they “weren't a culture fit.” People will say “not a culture fit” without having to define what that means. It's almost this sacred space which lets them uncritically reject people from the company or from the team. On the surface level it tends to mean “We just don't like you. You're different from us. We don't want to figure out how to work with you.” “Not a culture fit” gives us a really easy way to disregard your experience and you as a person.

Action: Model View Culture publishes the original work of technologists, activists, writers, educators, and artists. It aims to present compelling cultural and social critique, highlight the work and achievement of diverse communities in tech, and explore the use of technology for social justice.

25. Make Love Not Porn - the Etsy of sexy videos

make love not porn
Left to right: Cindy Gallop, UX architect Michael Smith, MadamCurator Sarah Beall, CTO Corey Innis, UX lead Oonie Chase.

mlnp logo
"Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference."

People: Cindy Gallop, Corey Innis, Oonie Chase

Vision: Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference.

One day, nobody should ever have to feel ashamed or embarrassed ever again of having a naked photograph or a sex tape of themselves posted on the Internet, because it’s simply just a natural human part of who we all are. - Cindy Gallop, CEO, MLNP

Action: MLNP believes everyday, #realworld sex is the hottest sex there is, and welcomes everyone to be a part of the project - young and old, male and female, straight, gay, and every which way, whatever language you speak. Instead of fetishizing our differences, it celebrates them. MLNP allows users to put their videos up for rent ($5 per video, for three weeks), and keep 50% of the proceeds.

26. Trans*H4CK - engineering solutions for trans* people

marketing for transgender

People: Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler


Trans*H4CK is a space for creating technology that socially empowers transgender individuals.

Transgender people are unemployed at 2x the national rate (4x for transgender people of color); have incomes of less than $10,00 a year; experience homelessness at 2x the rate of non-trans people; and suffer overwhelming discrimination when it comes to accessing adequate healthcare and legal services. Imagine if there existed an app that helps individuals find trans friendly doctors, or an app that profiles safe space job opportunities for trans people across the country.

Action: Trans*H4CK develops new and useful open source tech products that benefit the trans and gender non conforming communities in the following ways: 1. economic advancement; 2. services for trans* people who are incarcerated, homeless, or doing sex work; 3. gender safety; 4. the overall wellbeing of the community. Trans*H4CK is also a meeting point for trans* individuals interested or involved in the tech industry.

The first Trans*H4CK happened early this year.

27. Refuge Restrooms - an open-source index of trans*-friendly bathrooms

refuge restrooms

People: Teagan Widmer


Bathroom usage is an important topic for transgender individuals because we often have fear surrounding entereing such gendered facilities. We have good reason to be afraid, too. I was reading an article this past week about a student from California State University, Long Beach who was attacked in a bathroom and had the word “it” carved onto their chest. Trans people need safe access to bathrooms, and my dream is that REFUGE can be a place that positively impacts the lives of transgender individuals.

Action: REFUGE is an open-source web app where anyone can list a trans*-friendly or gender-neutral bathroom. Find them on GitHub. (Note: they welcome donations - most of the core team are transgender and underemployed at this time, and work on REFUGE as volunteers.)

28. Say it with Signs - hearing people can chat hands-free with deaf people

marketing for deaf

People: the Singapore Association for the Deaf

Vision: Changing the everyday lives of deaf people.

Action: The hearing caller speaks. She is informed that her speech will be translated into sign language. The deaf recipient replies with text. The text is spoken back to the hearing caller through the app.


Read next: When Startups Fail: 12 Founders and Advice Moving Forward

Melissa Tsang
Melissa Tsang

Melissa Tsang is a writer and speaker on the social impact of ecommerce and technology. She's also a bit of an impulse shopper. (A bit.)

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