Lately, it seems like tech news has been rife with as many scandals as product announcements—from sexual harassment lawsuits, to racial discrimination, to countless other lawsuits and reports.
It's not just Silicon Valley that struggles with diversity and equality in gender and race. Chicago’s women-founded startups are having a tough time getting venture capital funding, according to a recent report by Chicago Inno. People of color are disproportionately impacted by the lack of access to capital. And black entrepreneurs are nearly three times as likely as whites to see an effect on their bottom line, according to the 2016 How Access to Capital Impacts Profitability report.
As Chicago positions itself as an emerging tech hub, here are five groups and tech incubators have sprung up to nurture marginalized communities in the tech space.
The budding network for black and Latinx entrepreneurs has attracted more than 1,600 tech enthusiasts in Chicago and other locations like California, New York, and Texas. Free members can attend group events and join the ImBlackInTech Slack group, where they can discuss what it's like to be an entrepreneur of color.
A paid membership offers access to hard-to-find resources like technology contract templates, training, and client representation templates. During paid-members-only events, members can have one-on-one time with investors and practice investor and client pitches.
Cost: Basic membership is free, but the paid membership is $400 annually.
Given the limited access to capital for women entrepreneurs, Ms.Tech provides a place for women to find resources, seek mentorship, and push their ideas forward. The organization gives members—ranging from early career to executive-level women—access to a network of investors, entrepreneurs, technologists, and tech executives. With more than 5,500 members, the organization, which is based in tech incubator 1871, provides its paid members with perks like job listings, members-only meetups, bootcamps, an annual conference, and other resources.
Cost: It’s free to join the Facebook group, but a First Class membership costs $365 annually.
For entrepreneurs of color looking for support outside of downtown tech hubs, Blue1647 is a more accessible option. With locations in Pilsen and West Pullman, Blue1647 is a tech coworking and learning space positioned at the intersection of several diverse communities. The incubator offers classes and programming for techies at various skill levels. Thanks to a partnership with Paige & Paxton, parents can take advantage of family packages for $25 per month, which include drop-in STEM classes for children of various age and grade levels and weekend bootcamps.
Cost: Coworking memberships start at $24.99 per month. $450 per month for office space
Earlier this year, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and 1871 teamed up to give Latinx entrepreneurs a place to develop. The IHCC & 1871 Joint Incubator takes in about a dozen people for each 12-week program, which aims to guide their businesses to scale. This includes educational programming, tech support, and other resources for expanding a business and raising funding—all within a welcoming environment alongside fellow Latinx entrepreneurs.
The Queer Tech Club welcomes Chicago’s LGBTQ technology professionals to come hang out, network, and exchange ideas. Since its founding in 2013, this Meetup group for LGBTQ technology professionals has grown to more than 1,900 members. While casually having a drink at spots like Replay in Lakeview or Mary’s Attic in Andersonville, members can pitch their startup ideas, talk about recent accomplishments, and find about job opportunities from members.