5 Quotes From 500 Startups
This summer, 500 Startups hosted a Unity and Inclusion Summit in Tech Square at TechSquare Labs. This one-day event brought together entrepreneurs, investors, and the tech community to talk about the current state and future of diversity and inclusion across disabilities, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and lifestyle in tech.
Keynotes, workshops, and panelists addressed topics like access to capital, building diverse teams and workplaces, growth marketing, and the 500 Startups Seed Program.
In case you missed it, read on for quotes from each panel that highlight the importance of inclusion in the Tech community.
1. "Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance."
Monique Woodard, venture partner with 500 Startups kicked off the event by explaining the importance of unity and inclusion for businesses. "Diversity is not just for the sake of diversity; it's about actually making businesses better," she said.
2. "Have courageous conversations. Push past what is comfortable."
Kelly Burton of Founders of Color, gave a keynote on "Finding Our Way Forward Together." She encouraged the Summit's attendees to make lasting change for the better by stepping up to the plate to brave some uncomfortable conversations.
3. "There is still a heavy bias to prevent disruption in corporations."
An afternoon panel titled "Bringing Innovation to the Fortune 1000" included Atlanta heavy-hitters Carie Davis, startup relations & program director for Bridge Community; Duriya Farooqui, executive director of Atlanta Committee for Progress; and Bronwyn Morgan, chief of Subkulture Innovation Lab. Even with decades of working in and partnering with corporations to improve diversity and inclusion, these panelists admitted there's a long way to go. They also shared how each of their organizations can help get everyone's foot in the door.
4. "The first and most important question you should ask when starting a collaboration is 'How can I help you?'"
Another panel discussing "Building the Atlanta Startup Ecosystem", moderated by M.Cole Jones, invited panelists to explain why they are passionate about the current local startup scene. When asked "Why choose Atlanta?", Dana Ugwonali said "Here, you can have a work/life balance that you can't find other places."
On the topic of collaboration, Joey Womack, founder & CEO of Amplify4Good said, "The first and most important question you should ask when starting a collaboration is 'How can I help you?'" He also put a good word in for seeking diversity among your close network: "It's good for perspectives, to be mentored by someones out of your comfort zone, that is a difference race than yours."
5. "The biggest problem facing startups today, that have minority founders, is funding."
The last panel of the day was "The Founders Guide to ATL," featuring Jennifer Bonnett, director/general manager, ATDC; Theia Smith, founding executive director, City of Atlanta's Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative; Darlene Gillard, chief community officer, digitalundivided; and Chris Markl, director of social entrepreneurship, Georgia State University.
Jen Bonnett explained how ATDC offers support beyond the initial startup stages. But even with community support, there exists a real inequality in access to capital.
By hosting events and facilitating conversations like the Diversity and Inclusion Summit, Tech Square can take an active role in ensuring this is the best place to live, work, and play for every type of breakthrough talent. Look for more conversations on the topic coming this fall.