In­tel launches in­vest­ment fund for mi­nor­ity, women-led firms

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY BRAN­DON BAI­LEY

In­tel is launch­ing a US$125 mil­lion in­vest­ment fund for tech­nol­ogy star­tups led by women and mi­nori­ties, a move the chip­maker says is aimed at chang­ing the face of Sil­i­con Val­ley.

The new fund, which is un­usual for its fo­cus on mi­nor­ity-led com­pa­nies, is part of a broader ef­fort that In­tel CEO Brian Krzanich has launched amid wide­spread crit­i­cism of a U.S. tech in­dus­try dom­i­nated by white male ex­ec­u­tives and in­vestors.

Krzanich an­nounced plans ear­lier this year to spend US$300 mil­lion on di­ver­sity ef­forts and pledged to make In­tel’s work­force and ex­ec­u­tive ranks more closely re­sem­ble the U.S. work­force by 2020. In­tel has pre­vi­ously said its work­force is about 24 per­cent fe­male and 12 per­cent black and His­panic. The U.S. work­force is about 47 per­cent women and 26 per­cent black and His­panic.

The new in­vest­ment fund will raise In­tel’s com­mit­ment to more than US$300 mil­lion, In­tel of­fi­cials said, although they said there is some over­lap and they did not pro­vide fi­nan­cial de­tails. It’s in­tended to help build a more di­verse “ecosys­tem” of smaller com­pa­nies and en­trepreneurs that plays an im­por­tant role in the tech in­dus­try, Krzanich said Tues­day.

De­spite statis­tics that show few women and mi­nor­ity-led star­tups re­ceive ven­ture fund­ing, he said In­tel wants to show “there are plenty of women- and mi­nor­ity-led startup com­pa­nies, and we want to work with them.”

The first com­pa­nies to re­ceive back­ing from the new pro­gram in­clude Ve­nafi, a cy­ber­se­cu­rity firm; CareCloud, which makes In­ter­net­based soft­ware for the health in­dus­try; Brit + Co., which pro­vides classes and an on­line mar­ket for sell­ing do-it-your­self prod­ucts; and Mark One, which makes a “smart” cup that an­a­lyzes the nu­tri­tional con­tent of bev­er­ages.

To qual­ify for fund­ing, firms must have a woman or mi­nor­ity founder or CEO, or at least three top ex­ec­u­tives who are women and mi­nori­ties, said Lisa Lam­bert, who is over­see­ing the fund.

“They will go through the same scru­tiny as any In­tel Cap­i­tal deal. This isn’t a so­cial pro­gram” added Lam­bert, who is a vice pres­i­dent with In­tel Cap­i­tal, the gi­ant chip­maker’s in­vest­ment arm.

While there are non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions that sup­port mi­nor­ityled star­tups, ded­i­cated in­vest­ment funds are rare. AOL has a US$10 mil­lion fund fo­cused on wom­en­led star­tups. Com­cast has a US$20 mil­lion fund that pro­vides earlystage or “seed” fund­ing to mi­nor­ity star­tups. Lam­bert said In­tel’s fund will look at star­tups that are fur­ther along in their growth.

“I think we need to see more pro­grams like what In­tel is do­ing, that look at the busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties and so­lu­tions” of­fered by mi­nor­ityled com­pa­nies, said Ed­ward Avila of Manos Ac­cel­er­a­tor, a San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, group that pro­vides men­tor­ship for His­panic en­trepreneurs.

“The chal­lenge for mi­nor­ity star­tups is not their abil­ity or ca­pac­ity, it’s their ac­cess to cap­i­tal,” said Butch Wing, a spokesman for the Rev. Jesse Jack­son’s Rain­bow PUSH or­ga­ni­za­tion, which has pres­sured Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies to im­prove di­ver­sity.

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