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  • Kemberly Eliscar

How Techstar’s “Startup Weekend NYC 2019: Diversity & Inclusion” was a game changer!

Updated: Feb 13, 2019


Me and my team @ Startup Weekend!

Being a person of color in the tech industry tends to feel like you’re a fish out of water. Though tech companies are working to improve diversity in the workplace, Black and LatinX employees still make up only a small margin of the workforce.


And for those of color that are in the industry, there is usually very minor representation in the more senior and executive roles. The lack of representation at those levels tends to deter individuals from pursuing such roles as they may believe they won’t have the support needed to succeed.


This needs to change. We can do that through awareness.


Startup Weekend Diversity NYC

The goal of Startup Weekend, was, and is, to build a safe, encouraging and welcoming ecosystem, where people from all walks of life can be equipped with the knowledge, skills and network to succeed in the world of entrepreneurship. Startup Weekend NYC wanted to help create an awareness and to assist the local community in understanding the importance of embracing, and working in a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.


“Startup Weekend aims to help elevate entrepreneurship and inclusion around the world, one Startup Weekend at a time.”


THE WEEKEND COUNTDOWN.

At 6pm on Friday, February 8th, 2019, Techstars kicked off its Diversity and Inclusion Startup Weekend in NYC, and what a transformational weekend it was — full of excited participants from all over, and of all ages.


As I looked around the room I couldn’t help but feel inspired and impacted to see an enthusiastic and dynamic crowd made up of men and women from diverse backgrounds — ready for a intense weekend full of empowerment, inclusion, learning and Startup Weekend magic.


Startup Weekend Diversity & Inclusion NYC consisted of over 100 participants, made of an equally diverse range of women and men. The mix of participants and the warm environment created by the amazing organizers, produced 62 pitches Friday evening that led to the formation of 13 validated teams.


“The weekend continued on with lit energy, positivity, and teamwork that encouraged people to learn, speak up and share their ideas and themselves with their newfound community.”

Throughout the weekend, the participants were also introduced not only to a bunch of ambitious dreamers, but also to a network of experienced mentors, startups founders, and enthusiastic community builders — the likes of which included these some amazing individuals — Kelly Fryer (Techstars), Maya Brooks (Coffee and Coded), Jackie Ros (Techstars), Omar Pera (Reply.ai), Ivan Alo (New Age Capital), — and many more who came in to support the 13 burgeoning teams.


Although there were no idea restrictions or themes over the weekend, almost all teams had an idea that was centered around a social impact of some kind. It was incredibly inspiring and heartening to see how these amazing diverse-led startups came up with tangible ideas not just to make money, but to positively impact society and the people around them.

Pitch Day…


As final pitching dawned on the weekend, you could feel the excitement in the air. It was an incredibly proud moment to see how far these teams had come — from their shy 60 second pitch on Friday, to their confident 5 minute presentation on Sunday.


One thing I think is necessary to highlight is the fact that all three winning teams were lead by Females! This just goes to show how amazing things can happen when we decide to diversify our work culture and become more inclusive.


To celebrate the all the teams, Startup Weekend NYC’s organizing team partnered with

SamsungNext to throw an afterparty at Samsungs headquarters office in NYC.


Reflection

As I look back to this weekend, I can proudly say I left Startup Weekend with access to a network of amazing entrepreneurs and techies I would not have met otherwise. With the top 3 winning teams all being lead by Women, I left feeling empowered to continue on this path of social good and working with startups. I left knowing that I will have to keep up the tech hustle, especially when things fail to work out, because each failure is just a lesson learned on the road to success.


Its reasons like this why we need hackathons like Startup Weekend. Because diversity in the workplace is lacking, but we are not lacking. Because we should be able to connect and build a community. Because we should not feel like fish out of water. Because we are always willing to help each other and should know who we can reach out to when we need help. Because we are the industry leaders. Because we need reminders every now and then that we are amazing and our time to shine has come..


CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE!

By just participating in the weekend, every individual became a winner. The network built over this weekend will always be there to support your growth, and will continue cheering you on!


Lastly, and most importantly, programs like these cannot happen without the incredible support of the local organizing team, supporting partners, participants, mentors and friends. To everyone who helped make this possible, thank you!


To learn more about Startup Weekend NYC and what’s next, check out their page, and read about what some of the participants had to say.

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© 2019 by Kemberly Eliscar