Every day there seems to be a new think piece on the last, failing breath of the thriving startup culture in the technology industry. Every day, however, the entrepreneurial spirit driving that culture beats a touch stronger and new ideas, new inventions, new innovations give many more breaths to keep the culture suspended in air a while longer. Tech Diversity Magazine believes diverse backgrounds help drive diverse outlooks help drive those forward-thinking innovations. Now, National Diversity Council is proud to recognize the soaring startups from women and people of color that will push multiple industries several steps forward.
Founder and CEO Debbie Sterling “created GoldieBlox to be a toy and media company to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire future generations of female engineers.” The prevailing idea has long been that girls like playing with dolls and boys like playing with trucks and building things. Seeing the way toys like Legos were marketed towards boys, Ms. Sterling sought to give girls the same ability to see themselves playing with and building toys that boys get. When the traditional leaders of the toy industry rejected Sterling’s idea, she turned to Kickstarter. And it worked.
Airbnb has struggled to deal with the discrimination inherent in lodging services and #AirbnbWhileBlack is now a thing, as African-Americans share their stories of difficulties booking an Airbnb due to the color of their skin. Responding to this and their own troubles using Airbnb while black, co-founders Rohan and Zakiyyah are launching Innclusive (formerly Noirebnb) that promises – true to its name – to be a shared lodging app that is entirely inclusive.
After departing Tinder amid a sexual harassment controversy, Tinder co-founder Whitney Wolfe set upon creating a self-proclaimed feminist dating app that put the power into the hands of women. With Bumble, only women can make “the first move” and begin a conversation with ‘Matches.’ Ms. Wolfe’s goal is to flip the “heteronormative rules surrounding dating” – where the men do the initiating – right on their head. Bumble takes the pressure of initiation from men and empowers women to start things off.
Laurel & Wolf
The interior design industry needed a digital disruption and Leura Fine recognized that fact at the perfect time, now raising millions of dollars for Laurel & Wolf which gives customers access to high-quality design services from the company’s hundreds of design partners for a small, flat fee. Fine explains, “Ninety-eight percent of people couldn’t afford interior design services because of the way it’s been traditionally priced.” By simplifying the process, Fine lowers the price.
Long-time investment manager and Citigroup CFO Sallie Krawcheck started the Ellevate network as a way to connect women and promote them as business leaders. Out of that mission, Ms. Krawcheck is launching Ellevest, a digital investment platform that seeks to help women invest their money wisely. Ellevest promises to strip the traditional gender biases lurking in the investment industry and focus on the individual needs of women who, like many men, desire to start their own businesses and buy their own homes.
On Second Thought
In our age of mass communication where messages are often made permanent due to the technology we use, Founder and CEO Maci Peterson sought to end the scourge of text regret. On Second Thought is an Android app that allows users to take back any text they send within a one minute span. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the app is that it does not require receivers of the texts to possess the app itself, allowing users to recover their embarrassing and sent-without-much-thought texts back no matter what.
Seeking to prevent the sorts of unconscious hiring biases that make true diversity that much harder to instill in industries like technology, Founder and CEO Stephanie Lampkin created Blendoor. The app counteracts that bias by only showing skills, work experience and education on the job application, removing things like name, photo and age which might lead companies to make unconscious assumptions that prevent them from hiring the right people for the job.
Creating the first smart earplugs, founder Daniel Lee recognized a consumer need in the sleep industry due to constantly being confronted with noise in loud campus dormitories. Hush Technology develops ear plugs that block out external sound, but also double as headphones that allow users to receive notifications such as important call and texts from pre-selected contacts, wake up from an alarm clock and fall asleep to white noise.
Katie Brenner, a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, created bluDiagnostics Fertiliy Finder to assist women with fertility issues. The app creatively analyzes the levels of estriadiol and progesterone (two hormones tied to fertility) found in saliva that is collected through disposable paper strips attached to the end of the device . Ms. Brenner’s startup took home the top prize at the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.
As an African-American man himself, Founder and CEO Tristan Walker saw firsthand the inadequate selection of shaving products for people of color. Confronting that, Walker created Bevel, a single-blade razor system for men and women with coarse, curly hair which addresses the problem of razor bumps and skin irritation – a problem that predominantly affects African-American. Now the line has attracted investors like Magic Johnson and 2015 NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.
Financial institutions have now caught on to the greatly untapped market of Latinos. Twin brothers Sean and Kenny Salas see even greater opportunity in a demographic that those more traditional lenders have ignored. With Camino Financial, the Salas brothers aim to connect Latino small business owners and entrepreneurs who are first time borrowers with lenders they otherwise would not be able to borrow from due to a lack of credit history or capital. Camino Financial not only offers the ability for entrepreneurs to find funding, but also provides financial advice that these communities have traditionally been unable to access.
As another app in the new on-demand economy comes the creation of former McKinsey consultants Marcela Sapone and Jessica Beck: Hello Alfred. The app acts as a way to connect users with an on-demand “butler” who will go about the users daily errands seamlessly for a small fee of $32 a week. With Americans becoming increasingly busy, Sapone and Beck seek to completely remove the “cognitive load” of the daily to-do list from their users’ minds, allowing them to focus on more important tasks.