The White House Demo Day begins now, where innovators, entrepreneurs and startups across the country gather to "demo" their story to President Obama. Showcasing how success stories at the individual level are the building blocks of the new American Dream, this event is a far cry from the private sector Demo Day at the White House where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to potential investors. Individuals, colleges and universities, financing establishments for entrepreneurs, and of course companies are coming together to share their unique success stories.
This inaugural event is slated to bolster the lack of minorities present in US tech entrepreneurship. Plus, it's a reminder that there's more to tech innovation than Silicon Valley. One company featured is Phone2Action Inc., founded by Ximena Hartsock who's a woman tech entrepreneur and one of less than two percent of Latinas working in technology.
Another woman steeped in the issue is Megan Smith, the first female US Chief Technology Officer (CTO), who says, "So many Americans have the grit and creativity of a world-class entrepreneur, but they lack the resources--mentorship, networking, funding, training--to bring their ideas to fruition."
Bridging the Gap
How can we tackle this? Share your stories and be committed to upping inclusive entrepreneurship. A great example is Phone2Action's help in building a pipeline of civic technologists via a $250,000 fund. Targeting low-income high school/college students who are interested in coding, open government, and civic technology, the program offers mentoring, programming courses, resource access and an internship.
Proud to be a diverse company, Hartsock says, "We can talk all day long about the importance of building diverse teams, but we will not be able to do that without a pipeline."
Many of the companies heading to the White House focus have moved from startup to a full-fledged company. They're making business plans that are sustainable and feature entrepreneurial leaders with a clear sense of duty.
Can't make it to DC? Use the hashtag #WHDemoDay to follow along. Talk about challenges and news in your community and around the country. The White House will be posing a few key questions on Twitter as well as to those representing at Demo Day, including ice breakers like, "Who inspires you as an entrepreneur?" "What was your most successful pitch?" And "what was your first business idea?"
Whether you're part of a company like Hartsock, an individual who volunteers or mentors in your community, represent a university that hosts on-campus events geared toward boosting entrepreneurship, or involved with an entrepreneurial financing firm that's expanding to include more entrepreneurial ventures, there are many ways to get involved. Join the discussion on Twitter and find out what fellow entrepreneurs around the country are cooking up.
Here is President Obama’s Fact Sheet on today’s White House Demo Day.
UPDATE: The event has ended and the recorded stream is archived here on YouTube.