From state partners to minority-focused accelerators, Ohio is diversifying tech
In Ohio’s thriving startup scene, diversity in the workplace is more than an initiative, it’s the next economic evolution. As the state’s resources and companies continue to expand and change, Ohio’s startup landscape has only grown stronger, and a new wave of leaders focused on emphasizing that diversity is highlighted by Lamont Mackley, chief inclusion and outreach officer at JumpStart. Mackley’s position emphasizes JumpStart’s commitment to inclusion by helping the organization bring its resources to a diverse population.
“At JumpStart, we’re shaping what we can do to unlock the full potential of diverse and ambitious entrepreneurs,” said Mackley. “JumpStart’s impact is on businesses and venture-capital opportunities, where indicators show there’s a divide between minorities and the rest of the population. We want to have an inclusive economy. We’ve done substantial work here, but I want to see even more opportunity and make sure that all the doors are open to anybody who is an ambitious entrepreneur.”
Mackley’s title may be unique, but his goals aren’t. A wide variety of organizations in Ohio are working toward the same mission of inclusion. In Cincinnati, the Hillman Accelerator works exclusively with underserved populations and Aviatra Accelerators works with women-owned businesses, while CincyTech has a specific outreach program for minorities. In 2015, Columbus’ NCT Ventures partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology for a national survey on minority entrepreneurship. Ohio Third Frontier matches companies with talent through the Diversity & Inclusion Technology Internship Program, which helps foster a diverse new group of tech employees.
Across the state, women and minorities are making strides and working on exciting projects while bringing their communities along with them. At Creatively Stocked, Janae Bryson is bringing diversity to stock images. The team at We Can Code IT hosts coding bootcamps with a focus on diversity and inclusion. At VECTRE, a team led by Pakistan native Myra LalDin is using VR technology to train offices on inherent bias. These companies and institutions are just a few of Ohio’s bright new concepts, and Mackley is excited to see what new ideas come from diverse minds in the coming years.
“I am encouraged by Ohio leading the way, and I’m certainly encouraged by the fact that this has been a top-of-mind issue at JumpStart,” said Mackley. “It’s in our mission statement that we’re interested in diversity and that we believe in an inclusive economy. I’m also encouraged by the many organizations across the state working with diverse populations.”
Providing better access to Ohio’s economic resources isn’t just the right thing to do. It benefits the entire startup scene, a point Mackley and others hope to drive home.
“Reaching new communities is in everyone’s best interest, and anyone who is selling a product or service wants a larger market,” said Mackley. “So, expanding that group and adding opportunities has a positive impact on the whole economy and everyone in Ohio. We want to continue to create pathways that allow for more access for all types of minority groups to feel that they are included and invited to all aspects of the economy.”