LOS ANGELES, June 1, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Organizations focused on women and minority entrepreneurs gathered in Los Angeles at the La Kretz Innovation Campus to discuss strategies to increase support, access to capital, job creation and a more inclusive environment for diverse entrepreneurs in the tech industry. In partnership with The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co, Taking the Lead: Growing Women and Minority Entrepreneurship in America featured a panel of experts highlighting strategies for diverse entrepreneurs to enter the tech ecosystem, including initiatives underway through the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI).
Maria Contreras-Sweet, a member of President Obama's Cabinet and the 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), was honored at the event for her dedication to enforcing the need for diversity in small business and helping to launch LACI's Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. Under Contreras-Sweet's leadership, SBA loans to women rose 42% and loans to minorities increased 36%, a momentum in critical need of being upheld. The award was presented by LACI Chief Operating Officer, Neal Anderson.
"There is a powerful economic opportunity to seize by taking steps to be intentionally focused on inclusive entrepreneurship," said Connie Evans, President and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. "Our latest report, The Tapestry of Black Business Ownership in America: Untapped Opportunities for Success, points out the need to reduce barriers faced by Blacks and other diverse groups by transitioning from their concentration in low-revenue growth industry sectors to higher performing sectors, such as tech. Doing so will require greater access to capital but also greater access to training programs and the funding that makes that possible."
The program included strategies to bring a more diverse pipeline of entrepreneurs into LACI and the technology industry more broadly. A panel of experts representing financial services, entrepreneurship and investment capital shared insights to supporting these entrepreneurs. Moderated by Anousha Sakoui of Bloomberg, panelists included:
- Jesse Draper, Founding Partner, Halogen Ventures
- Connie Evans, President and CEO of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)
- Tracy Gray, Executive in Residence, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and Managing Director/Founder of The 22 Capital Group
- Sky Kelley, Founder and CEO of Avisare
- Daniel Tellalian, Managing Partner at Avivar Capital
JPMorgan Chase co-sponsored the event as part of its three-year $75 million Small Business Forward program, a global effort to support women-, minority- and veteran-owned small businesses. "We are delighted to partner with LACI and other community leaders in this effort to bring much needed diversity into the cleantech sector," said Joseph Skowera, Chase Business Banking Market Manager for Los Angeles. "Given the diverse population of Los Angeles and the large number of women and minority-owned businesses in the region, we are optimistic that the tech sector here can attract more of these business owners."
Each year, Silicon Valley companies report their diversity employment numbers with minimal progress occurring in the industry. Los Angeles' competitive advantage, in both cleantech and cultural diversity, presents unique opportunities to lead the way in changing the face of technology.
"Los Angeles is where the world creates and innovates," said Tracy Gray, Chair of the LACI Diversity in Entrepreneurship Advisory Council and Managing Partner/Founder of The 22 Capital Group. "Our goal is to change the face of tech through a conscious effort to recruit and support diverse entrepreneurs and make the industry look more like the diversity of Los Angeles and less like Silicon Valley."
Several tech hubs in the U.S. continue to see incredible trajectories of success, but women and minority entrepreneurs are being left behind. Racially, ethnically, and gender diverse firms financially outperform the industry norms (these firms are 15-35% more likely to have higher financial returns). By being intentional with new and inclusive initiatives, more communities in the U.S. can participate and benefit directly through jobs created by diverse entrepreneurs.
The LACI Diversity in Entrepreneurship Advisory Council was launched earlier this year, consisting of experienced and diverse leaders from business, government, academia and community organizations helping to design programming to best serve the region's underrepresented populations and expand this nationally. The Advisory Council includes representatives from The 22 Capital Group, Avivar Capital, Environmental Defense Fund, Federal Chief Sustainability Office, JPMorgan Chase & Co, LA 2024, LA Coalition for the Economy & Jobs, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, REDF, SKY Marketing, The City of Los Angeles, and LACI portfolio companies, Avisare and GRID Logistics.
About The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO)
The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is the leading voice of innovation in microfinance and microbusiness in the United States. For twenty-six years, AEO and its more than 450 member organizations have helped millions of entrepreneurs contribute to economic growth while supporting themselves, their families and their communities. AEO members and partners include a broad range of organizations that provide capital and services to assist low income entrepreneurs in starting, stabilizing and expanding their businesses. AEO is focused on three main areas: innovations that support access to capital for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, research and insights on underserved entrepreneurs to create actionable impact and, advocacy efforts to ensure the availability of capital and technical assistance to entrepreneurs nationwide. Together with our partners and members, we work to change the way capital and services flow to underserved entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs and opportunities for all.
About The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)
The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) is a private non-profit organization helping to accelerate the commercialization of clean technologies by offering flexible office space, CEO coaching, mentoring, and access to a robust network of partnerships and capital. LACI was founded in 2011 as a cluster-driven economic development initiative supported by the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power and the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. Recognized as one of the most innovative business incubators in the world by UBI, LACI identifies local entrepreneurs across multiple cleantech business sectors and guides them to market, creating jobs that advance LA's green economy. In just five years, LACI has helped 67 companies raise $134M in funding, created 1,500 jobs, and delivered more than $335M in long term economic value for the City of Los Angeles. LACI operates out of the La Kretz Innovation Campus with satellite offices in Northridge, CA and Silicon Valley and is founder of the Network for Global Innovation NGIN. For additional information, please visit: laincubator.org
Laurie Peters, (818) 635-4101
LACI Communications Director
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SOURCE Association for Enterprise Opportunity