Techstars Seattle 2018 class focuses on diversity, labor market

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The newest Techstars Seattle class features an increasingly diverse group of startup founders, and a focus on technology for the labor market and business workflow.

The 10 startups are led by the most diverse group of founders to take part in the high-profile Seattle accelerator, which offers resources such as funding and mentors to growing companies. The Techstars program, which has chapters around the world, has operated in Seattle for nine years. Companies from anywhere can apply for the Seattle program, which has two classes each year.

Three of the companies are led by women, and three founders are African-American. The makeup of the class is not yet close to reflecting the demographics of the general population, but managing director Chris DeVore sees it as a step in the right direction.

DeVore, who is also an angel investor in Seattle, penned a blog post last year noting his “failure” as head of the accelerator’s Seattle arm to attract diverse company founders. Over the last year, DeVore said he focused his efforts to meet with startup leaders that represent a diverse mix of entrepreneurial groups.

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“I learned a lot of people are opting out of Techstars,” he said. “They haven’t historically seen themselves in brand leadership positions.”

The technology industry is known for having male-dominated workforces and employees who are mostly white and Asian. Managers who hire staff  tend to seek out candidates who have backgrounds similar to their own, and the issue persists.

DeVore said he has been  trying to figure out ways TechStars can support female founder groups and underrepresented entrepreneurs.

One of the 2018 Techstars companies, WeSolv, helps to bridge the gap between companies who are hiring and diverse candidates. CEO Stella Ashaolu, who is African-American, started the company based on her own experience searching for jobs after getting her MBA.

“I had a difficult time because my background didn’t match that of a lot of my peers and I didn’t look like a typical candidate,” she said.

WeSolv, which is based in Chicago, connects diverse MBA students with companies to work together on projects. “Failure to find diversity is not because it’s not out there but because it’s not a priority of search,” she said.

The new Techstars Seattle class also features a company helping workers find agriculture jobs and another startup connecting doctors with temporary work.

More about the Techstars Seattle 2018 class can be found here.

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