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New DivInc cohort announced – diversity in tech pre-accelerator

(TECH NEWS) DivInc unveils their second cohort and a tech inclusion event at SXSW, all in an effort to improve diversity in the tech industry.

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An astonishing disparity

Lack of diversity is a problem in nearly every industry, especially tech startup ecosystem, where women founders receive only 3 percent of venture capital funding, and African American and Latino founders together receive less than 2 percent.

Without a boost from venture capital, many startups don’t stand a chance – no matter how much they deserve one.

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Pre-accelerator focused on diversity

An Austin-based incubator focused on encouraging diversity in the tech industry, DivInc is on a mission to rebalance those scales.

The nonprofit diversity champion launched their first pre-accelerator program for women and minority entrepreneurs last fall, aiming create a “more transparent path for entrepreneurship” for underrepresented demographic groups “by providing access to the network of critical resources that are essential to building high growth and scalable businesses.”

Second cohort announced

DivInc recently announced the members of its second cohort, for a program that will begin April 3 and last 12 weeks. This cohort is made up of seven women and nine men, and fourteen members of the Spring cohort are underrepresented ethnicities in the tech industry.

These founders were selected on the basis of their motivation, passion, commitment, and willingness to be coached. The companies are all technology-related, or tech-enabled, and they all have, at minimum, a validated concept, though some have reached the Minimum Viable Product stage:

  • Jamal Wilburn, founder of BigMouff/li>
  • Kate Peiler, founder of disruptED/li>
  • Mark Ruvalcaba, Raj Panesar and Joe Ruvalcaba, founders of FeverFit/li>
  • Louis Daily, Malik Djiba and Donté Houston, founders of Hairu/li>
  • Trisha Locke, founder of InPharm Global/li>
  • Shambrekia Wise, founder of INrichMe/li>
  • Sophie Kwok, founder of Love Intently/li>
  • Mira Royz, founder of MiraLend/li>
  • Mariam Derin Raji, founder of Tekhniteo/li>
  • Isis Ashford, Kehlin Swain and Michael Pittman, founders of Xplosion Tech

Partnering with the tech industry

Co-founder and CEO of DivInc, Preston James emphasizes the importance of community and collaboration in the pursuit of inclusion: “As someone who has been in the tech space for a number of years, I’ve seen the lack of diversity firsthand… We continue to receive tremendous support from the Austin community and beyond, and look forward to collaborating with partners that want to create a mindset shift within the tech industry.”

One of these partners is Galvanize Austin, a learning community oriented around tech that provides industry-specific training, workspace for brand new startups and long-established companies, and networking. DivInc’s program will operate out of Galvanize Austin, offering the cohort comprehensive programs and access to a vast network of mentors, as well as experienced entrepreneurs, subject experts, and the all-important investors.

Tech Inclusion event, March 15th

“At Galvanize, inclusiveness is one of our core values,” says Bill Blackstone, general manager at Galvanize Austin. “We’re proud to partner with DivInc and be part of the effort to ensure access to opportunity for diverse tech founders here in Austin and across the technology sector.”

If you’re an Austinite or you’re in town for SXSW, check out the free Tech Inclusion event at Galvanize on Wednesday, March 15. DivInc’s Preston James will be in attendance as a speaker, and after a couple of hours of talks and panels you can unwind at a happy hour to network with fellow inclusive minds.

#DivInc

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Tech News

4 ways startups prove their investment in upcoming technology trends

(TECH NEWS) Want to see into the future? Just take a look at what technology the tech field is exploring and investing in today — that’s the stuff that will make up the world of tomorrow.

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Woman testing VR technology

Big companies scout like for small ones that have proven ideas and prototypes, rather than take the initial risk on themselves. So startups have to stay ahead of technology by their very nature, in order to be stand-out candidates when selling their ideas to investors.

Innovation Leader, in partnership with KPMG LLP, recently conducted a study that sheds light onto the bleeding edge of tech: The technologies that the biggest companies are most interested in building right now.

The study asked its respondents to group 16 technologies into four categorical buckets, which Innovation Leader CEO Scott Kirsner refers to as “commitment level.”

The highest commitment level, “in-market or accelerating investment,” basically means that technology is already mainstream. For optimum tech-clairvoyance, keep your eyes on the technologies which land in the middle of the ranking.

“Investing or piloting” represents the second-highest commitment level – that means they have offerings that are approaching market-readiness.

The standout in this category is Advanced Analytics. That’s a pretty vague title, but it generally refers to the automated interpretation and prediction on data sets, and has overlap with Machine learning.

Wearables, on the other hand, are self explanatory. From smart watches to location trackers for children, these devices often pick up on input from the body, such heart rate.

The “Internet of Things” is finding new and improved ways to embed sensor and network capabilities into objects within the home, the workplace, and the world at large. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean anyone’s out there trying to reinvent Juicero, though.)

Collaboration tools and cloud computing also land on this list. That’s no shock, given the continuous pandemic.

The next tier is “learning and exploring”— that represents lower commitment, but a high level of curiosity. These technologies will take a longer time to become common, but only because they have an abundance of unexplored potential.

Blockchain was the highest ranked under this category. Not surprising, considering it’s the OG of making people go “wait, what?”

Augmented & virtual reality has been hyped up particularly hard recently and is in high demand (again, due to the pandemic forcing us to seek new ways to interact without human contact.)

And notably, AI & machine learning appears on rankings for both second and third commitment levels, indicating it’s possibly in transition between these categories.

The lowest level is “not exploring or investing,” which represents little to no interest.

Quantum computing is the standout selection for this category of technology. But there’s reason to believe that it, too, is just waiting for the right breakthroughs to happen.

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Tech News

Internet of Things and deep learning: How your devices are getting smarter

(TECH NEWS) The latest neural network from Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows a great bound forward for deep learning and the “Internet of Things.”

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Woman using smart phone to control other devices in home, connected to deep learning networks

The deep learning that modifies your social media and gives you Google search results is coming to your thermostat.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a deep learning system of neural networks that can be used in the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Named MCUNet, the system designs small neural networks that allow for previously unseen speed and accuracy for deep learning on IoT devices. Benefits of the system include energy savings and improved data security for devices.

Created in the early 1980s, the IoT is essentially a large group of everyday household objects that have become increasingly connected through the internet. They include smart fridges, wearable heart monitors, thermostats, and other “smart” devices. These gadgets run on microcontrollers, or computer chips with no processing system, that have very little processing power and memory. This has traditionally made it hard for deep learning to occur on IoT devices.

“How do we deploy neural nets directly on these tiny devices? It’s a new research area that’s getting very hot,” said Song Han, Assistant Professor of Computer Science at MIT who is a part of the project, “Companies like Google and ARM are all working in this direction.”

In order to achieve deep learning for IoT connected machines, Han’s group designed two specific components. The first is TinyEngine, an inference engine that directs resource management similar to an operating system would. The other is Tiny NAS, a neural architecture search algorithm. For those not well-versed in such technical terms, think of these things like a mini Windows 10 and machine learning for that smart fridge you own.

The results of these new components are promising. According to Han, MCUNet could become the new industry standard, stating that “It has huge potential.” He envisions the system has one that could help smartwatches not just monitor heartbeat and blood pressure but help analyze and explain to users what that means. It could also lead to making IoT devices far more secure than they are currently.

“A key advantage is preserving privacy,” says Han. “You don’t need to transmit the data to the cloud.”

It will still be a while until we see smart devices with deep learning capabilities, but it is all but inevitable at this point—the future we’ve all heard about is definitely on the horizon.

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Tech News

Google is giving back some privacy control? (You read that right)

(TECH NEWS) In a bizarre twist, Google is giving you the option to opt out of data collection – for real this time.

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Open laptop on desk, open to map privacy options

It’s strange to hear “Google” and “privacy” in the same sentence without “concerns” following along, yet here we are. In a twist that’s definitely not related to various controversies involving the tech company, Google is giving back some control over data sharing—even if it isn’t much.

Starting soon, you will be able to opt out of Google’s data-reliant “smart” features (Smart Compose and Smart Reply) across the G-Suite of pertinent products: Gmail, Chat, and Meet. Opting out would, in this case, prevent Google from using your data to formulate responses based on your previous activity; it would also turn off the “smart” features.

One might observe that users have had the option to turn off “smart” features before, but doing so didn’t disable Google’s data collection—just the features themselves. For Google to include the option to opt out of data collection completely is relatively unprecedented—and perhaps exactly what people have been clamoring for on the heels of recent lawsuits against the tech giant.

In addition to being able to close off “smart” features, Google will also allow you to opt out of data collection for things like the Google Assistant, Google Maps, and other Google-related services that lean into your Gmail Inbox, Meet, and Chat activity. Since Google knowing what your favorite restaurant is or when to recommend tickets to you can be unnerving, this is a welcome change of pace.

Keep in mind that opting out of data collection for “smart” features will automatically disable other “smart” options from Google, including those Assistant reminders and customized Maps. At the time of this writing, Google has made it clear that you can’t opt out of one and keep the other—while you can go back and toggle on data collection again, you won’t be able to use these features without Google analyzing your Meet, Chat, and Gmail contents and behavior.

It will be interesting to see what the short-term ramifications of this decision are. If Google stops collecting data for a small period of time at your request and then you turn back on the “smart” features that use said data, will the predictive text and suggestions suffer? Only time will tell. For now, keep an eye out for this updated privacy option—it should be rolling out in the next few weeks.

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