Amazon drives new programs to improve tech startup diversity, inclusion, and equity
Driven by our mission to be the earth's most customer-centric company, Amazon is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in its workforce and broader communities. This philosophy is central to everything that we do, given that our customers, vendors, and internal teams are diverse, and represent a wide array of gender, race, ethnicity, ability, age, religion, sexual orientation, military status, backgrounds, and political views. Valuing different perspectives helps push us to think bigger and differently, enabling us to deliver better products and services for customers.
Opportunity to improve equity in venture capitalChallenges in diversity, equity and inclusion in startups and venture capital (VC) are not new. Thankfully, we are starting to see more attention brought to these issues. Kauffman Fellows and MaC Ventures reported that startups need 6.7x Latinx and 5.6x more Black executives in order to match the U.S. working-age demographics. Research from digitalundivided's Project Diane found that women overall attract less than 3% of investment, while companies with Black and Latinx CEOs receive less than 1% of total venture capital. Similar challenges persist on the investor side, as well, which perpetuates the problem.
Today, I want to affirm our continued commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, by announcing the Amazon Alexa Fund (Amazon's $200MM VC fund focused on Alexa innovation) is launching programs to help improve equity for underrepresented founders. Our goal is to drive inclusiveness and equity for entrepreneurs of color who are disproportionately underrepresented, from Black, Latinx, and Native American and Indigenous communities, to women entrepreneurs inclusive of non-binary individuals, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender non-conforming, LGBTQIA+, all minority genders, military, and former military. These programs will include startup pitch events for VC, fundraising workshops, networking, and business and technical guidance. Our two initial programs will be collaborations with Blavity’s AfroTech and All Raise.
Supporting Black foundersWe are excited about our collaboration with Blavity to support Black founders. Starting with programming at AfroTech World in November at which we will co-host and feature up to 10 VC-backed startups at Startup Showcase. Participants will have the opportunity to network with and gain valuable insights from VC investors and other founders. Additionally, we will host an Alexa Startups Learning Lab for those looking to establish fundraising best practices. These events are scheduled to take place on the Founder and Startup Programming Day at AfroTech World on Thursday, November 12.
Ahead of and beyond AfroTech World, we will continue exploring potential VC investments and offer learning opportunities via the Alexa Fund, including business coaching, deep technical support, and access to the investor and founder community. Join us at AfroTech World 2020 to hear more of what's to come.
Empowering women entrepreneurs and VC investors
Women connect at an All Raise event, pre-COVID-19
In an effort to improve equity and inclusion for women entrepreneurs, the Alexa Fund will host Women Founders Represent, a virtual pitch event in collaboration with All Raise, a non-profit organization empowering women entrepreneurs and VC investors. The event will feature up to 10 finalists who will pitch their company to a panel of top-tier investors and technology executives for an opportunity to receive venture capital investment from the Alexa Fund.
Amazon is collaborating with All Raise to give visibility to founders that are developing new and exciting technological innovations that are driving and sustaining a healthy start-up ecosystem. By supporting these entrepreneurs with guidance, networking, and access to capital, we believe that we can foster a culture of thinking bigger and differently, when developing and delivering products and services to the marketplace.
"We are thrilled to work with Amazon and the Alexa Fund to give female-founded companies access to investor guidance and funding opportunities. We particularly welcome Black, Latinx, and other underrepresented female founders to apply. These entrepreneurs are the architects of tomorrow who will build the tech products and services that shape our lives,” said All Raise CEO, Pam Kosta.
“Collaborating with Amazon on this event will showcase rising female founders creating innovative solutions in artificial intelligence, frontier tech, robotics, and other evolving industries,” said All Raise Co-Founder and Board Member Aileen Lee, a storied investor and general partner at Cowboy Ventures.
We are excited to have a panel of prominent VC investors participate in the pitch event, including Dayna Grayson, co-founder and general partner at Construct Capital; Charles Hudson, managing partner and founder of Precursor Ventures; Renata Quintini, co-founder and managing director of Renegade Partners; and Laurie Yoler, general partner of Playground Global. Also joining the panel will be Miriam Daniel, vice president of Amazon Alexa and Echo Devices.
Selected companies will have an opportunity to receive up to $1 million in venture capital investment from the Alexa Fund and be selected as “most innovative”. Each finalist will also receive Amazon startup perks, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) credits. All Raise will guarantee acceptance to its bootcamps and create an All Raise cohort in which finalists will have access to resources and stay engaged as a group.
I am inspired to act and thrilled to be working with my colleagues at Amazon, All Raise, and the panel of investors to deliver this event. See below for more details on how to pitch or register to attend.
While the event is recommended for startups who have already secured at least $250K in funding (venture capital, friends and family, angel investors, grants, etc.), we welcome and encourage companies of all stages to apply. The deadline to submit pitch applications is 5:00 PM PT on October 6, 2020. A selection committee comprising members of the Amazon Alexa Fund and All Raise will review and select up to ten finalist companies for the November 19 event. Those selected will be notified by Amazon and All Raise.
As a way to foster visibility and support from the technology and VC communities, everyone is welcome to attend the virtual event.
For those interested in our ongoing and future initiatives, visit our Women Founders Represent website and stay tuned for more information. Lastly, join us at AfroTech World.
About Blavity, Inc. Blavity, Inc., is a media company home to the largest network of brands specifically serving Black Millennials through original content, video and unique live experiences. Since 2014, the company has grown into a market leader for black media, through its growing brand portfolio which includes Blavity News, Travel Noire, AfroTech, Shadow & Act, and 21Ninety. Learn more at blavityinc.com.
About All Raise. All Raise is on a mission to accelerate the success of female founders and funders to build a more prosperous, equitable future. Born out of a grassroots movement in 2017, our programs arm women with access, guidance, and support to advance their professional growth. When the architects of tomorrow better reflect the world, our world is better served. Learn more at allraise.org.
About the Amazon Alexa Fund. The Alexa Fund is Amazon’s venture capital fund investing in artificial intelligence, voice technology, frontier tech, digital health, robotics, and IoT. Since 2015, the Alexa Fund has invested in approximately +90 early- and growth-stage companies globally across consumer and enterprise. It invests in early-stage startups and growth-stage companies across the globe. Companies backed by the Alexa Fund include CTRL-labs (acquired by Facebook), Ring (acquired by Amazon), Greenlight, ecobee, SevenRooms, Syntiant, tado°, Owlet Baby Care, June, Comet.ml, and Kitt.ai (acquired by Baidu), Tonal, and Zwift.