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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

Tinder creators launch Ripple, a professional networking app void of pros

(TECH NEWS) Ex-Tinder employees have come together, backed by Match.com, to create a swipe-based professional network, but we don’t plan on giving it a second date.

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In 2015, we discussed briefly the possibilities of taking the dating app’s and repurposing them for professional networking. What if finding professional connections was as easy as finding a date on Tinder? Tinder (executives) literally heard us because they have introduced a solution in their new mobile app called Ripple.

Not to be confused with Ripple the cryptocurrency, Ripple the app is a professional networking tool that literally feels like Tinder.

As it should, the former CTO, Director of Engineering, and Lead Designer of Tinder all make up the founders, along with Mike Presz from Match.com. People who make good dating platforms came together for a professional networking solution that they hope makes networking easier, more natural, and more modern. I took the liberty of signing up for a few days and experimented with the app and I have a few things to say about it…

The good?

Design. Design. Design. The app has a luxuriously simple UI, and is fabulously easy to use. If you even tried Tinder for six minutes, you’ll be able to use this app. The use of symbols, big images, and easy UI is great. The application navigates simply.

It’s fantastic. It’s minimal, it’s content oriented, the interest categories are so good (but they could be better – no interest in process improvements? Go learn about Six Sigma) LinkedIn should look it. The profile set up takes no time at all, about five minutes and you’re ready to go.

But that’s about it.

Everything that’s not good? Everything else.

This is probably because the app is new, but there is nothing going on for the US market. I saw a lot of European professionals and professional groups, but zero people in my area, a major US metropolitan area also called Dallas-Fort Worth. The lack of content and the lack of professionals means the app has nothing.

I can’t rate group experience or say I met the mentor of my professional dreams because no one is on it. Which leads me to ask: What’s next?

The branding, marketing, and advertising for this app are going to have to take off. This is a beautiful product, but the lack of content makes it a pretty dull use. I had to actively remind myself to use it, and I’m in a serial relationship with LinkedIn.

Basically, no second date for me with Ripple until they get… something to happen.

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Tech News

The cutest part of CES was Sony’s AI robot doggo, Aibo

(TECH NEWS) The Consumer Electronics Show revealed the technologies that are dominating and will dominate the market, with Sony’s AI puppers stealing the show.

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One of the most endearing items to emerge from CES this year was Sony’s revamped robot dog, Aibo.

Aibo’s first unveiling in 1999 featured a blend of emergent Sony technology, such as their Memory Stick and companion operating system. By the time of its demise in 2006, the Aibo was equipped with a large vocabulary (it could speak 1,000 words) and could interact with an owner’s commands and motion. The computerized canine wasn’t limited to just the realm of their traditional counterparts, however – the 2006 model of the Aibo could take pictures from the eye-embedded camera system, play music, and write blogs.

Equipped with more personality and a better interactive capability with its environment, the 2018 Aibo looks more like a real dog as well.

Composed of 4,000 parts and OLED-screen eyes to more authentically mimic movements, Sony says it relies on sensor systems and embedded cameras akin to those in self-driving cars to provide as close to an authentic experience as they can. The cameras, located in nose and tail, allow the robot to learn its way around the house and to deliver it back to its charging station once the two-hour charge runs out.

Reviewers at CES noted that the updated version of the Aibo was very “puppy-likem” barking and scampering with unlimited energy.

The current model is also touch responsive on its head, back and under its chin, allowing the user to give “puppy love” in a way that mimics that of what real dogs like.

Perhaps proving that Aibo is capable of acting more and more like a real dog, the robot canine was unresponsive to commands from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai on stage at its unveiling, prompting Hirai to return Aibo to Sony staff quickly.

Slated to go on sale in Japan later this year, the dog isn’t cheap, priced at nearly $1,800, but does find itself selling into a dedicated Aibo fanbase from its earlier issue and a consumer market which is hungrier and more accepting for interactive experiences of this type of poo-free pet ownership.

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Tech News

Lyft offers test rides in their autonomous cars – how’d it go?

(TECH NEWS) Lyft let passengers roll around Vegas in their self-driving cars, and surprisingly, no shocking viral videos resulted.

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If you haven’t been paying attention to the progress of self-driving cars, you’re in for a shock – they’re closer to a daily reality than you might think. As part of this year’s CES conference, Lyft offered test rides in a handful of their autonomous cars, and the results were reportedly decent.

Unlike other companies’ public tests in the past, Lyft’s demonstrations consisted of normal passengers taking normal routes in Las Vegas; there was little in the way of preemptive route control, meaning that the tests were as authentic as possible. Passengers were able to board autonomous Lyfts from the Las Vegas convention center, with some testers traveling well over three miles with minimal operator interference.

The cars themselves are designed by Aptiv, which is a technology company heretofore unaffiliated with Lyft.

While both companies are aware of the potential for flaws and the need to iron them out before production begins en masse, test riders reported that the cars were able to anticipate and respond to a myriad of traffic conditions (for example, slowing down to allow a faster vehicle to merge); this bodes well for the 2020 goal that many autonomous car companies have set.

Naturally, there were a few kinks in the cars’ respective operations, including yellow light confusion and some other finessing issues, wherein the cars’ human operators had to intervene.

The technology behind self-driving cars is only part of the equation, however. As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, cities will have to adapt to accommodate them.

This process will most likely include things like redefining road architecture, legislation regarding car use (at the moment, autonomous cars must always have a driver in them), and implementation of smart technology.

There’s also the matter of public perception. While most of the reports from the Lyft demo in Las Vegas were positive, the fact remains that plenty of people will be skeptical of new technology – as well they should be, since any emerging technology is bound to make a few bad headlines before it evens out.

How Lyft counters this perception will be key in determining the future of its autonomous fleet, and perhaps even the future of autonomous cars as a whole.

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