Intel Announces $125 Million Investment Fund for Minority-led Startups
When it comes to reshaping Silicon Valley to be more inclusive and better reflect the makeup of the rest of the country, Intel is leading the way again.
Intel Capital's Diversity Fund
This week, Intel announced it has created a $125 million venture capital fund with the goal of investing in startups founded or run by women and minorities that are underrepresented in the technology industry.
The fund will serve startups led by women and underrepresented minorities like African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, which together, Intel notes, account for less than 1 percent of venture-backed CEOs currently.
Intel states that investments will cover "a broad spectrum of innovative industries," and the $125 million investment target will span over the next five years. That time span, coincidentally (or probably not), matches the #Parity2020 goal line Intel has given itself to reach representative staffing in its own workforce.
The Diversity Fund is being led by former software engineer, tech investor, and Intel Capital managing director and VP, Lisa M. Lambert. She'll be looking for startups with women or underrepresented minorities as CEO or founder -- or at least three members of its senior management team -- along with meeting other standard startup criteria.
"We are proud to take a leading role toward broader participation in technology entrepreneurship and employment," said Lambert in the company's release. "With this new fund, Intel Capital is committed to investing in the best talent from a myriad of backgrounds to cultivate innovations that serve the needs of a diverse public."
So far, Intel Capital has invested in four companies as it launches the Diversity Fund: Brit + Co, CareCloud, Mark One, and Venafi. In addition to the investment, companies chosen by Intel Capital will gain access to the company's business development programs, technology expertise, and global network.
Pushing Diversity on Multiple Fronts
It's another major move by Intel, a company that is quickly solidifying its place this year as the number one Silicon Valley establishment firm committed to a more representative high-tech industry in the near future.
After a year of disclosures of workforce diversity by Google, Amazon, and a dozen or so major tech and social media firms, it became clear exactly to what degree the industry's status quo is white, male monoculture: Far less than half of most companies' staffs were comprised of women, and Latino and Blacks regularly made up only single-digit percentages. When it came to leadership or technical roles, the figures only tended to go down further.
Intel arguably took the biggest step for diversity of any Silicon Valley firm so far, when CEO Brian Krzanich not only announced Intel's $300 million investment in STEM education and diversity programs during his CES keynote speech, but also importantly made Intel the first major tech company to set a clear, quantifiable, and accountable goal with his public commitment to parity at Intel by 2020.
But even as Intel -- along with Google and others -- commit millions to invest in computer science departments at traditionally Black colleges, after school programs, and other aspects of the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) career "pipeline," the startup arena outside of "big tech" has become a new focus for change-seekers like the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Still, new high-tech businesses founded by minorities and women have struggled to get the attention of venture capital -- much less its financial support. As David Lopez of Manos Accelerator, a Google-backed Latino startup program, said recently at the Venture Capital Association's 2015 conference regarding the number of Latino startups currently getting funded by VCs:
"You could count them on one hand."
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