Google Has Plans to Expand Atlanta Office

Google has plans to announce the expansion of its Atlanta office.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports the tech giant will lease 200,000 square feet on the top floors of a new Midtown Atlanta tower and will add 500 jobs to the city. This more than triples the space Google currently occupies in Midtown.

“This is more evidence Atlanta is considered a pinnacle of software development talent,” John Yates, a partner in the technology practice at Morris Manning & Martin LLP told the Business Chronicle.

Google’s Atlanta move is part of a larger growth plan in tech hubs across the nation.

Last month, the company announced plans to expand its New York City campus. Google Hudson Square is reportedly a $1 billion project that will be 1.7 million square feet.

The company also purchased Chelsea Market in Manhattan for $2.4 billion with plans to add 300,000 square feet to the location.

 

Uber Partners With Bay Area Tech Training Programs

Uber has partnered with several organizations in San Francisco to help increase access to high-quality jobs.

The ride-sharing giant–announced in a blog post–its plans to commit $100,000 to nonprofits <dev/Mission>, Code Tenderloin, and Opportunities for All in an effort to train the next generation of technologists.

In addition to the donation, the company will provide office space and offer volunteer time for employees to work with students on coding and interview skills.

“The donations build on long-standing relationships we’ve established with each of these groups that date back to their founding days,” the company said.

<dev/Mission> will use the grant to add 30 students and 10 new internships to the program. Code Tenderloin will add over 50 students to its Job Readiness Class and Coding program, which teaches students how to build a resume and prepares them to interview.

Opportunities for All, an initiative led by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to expand access to youth employment, will bring additional interns into their program.

IBM Releases Dataset to Help Reduce Bias in Facial Recognition Systems

IBM wants to make facial recognition systems more fair and accurate.

The company just released a research paper along with a substantial dataset of 1 million images with intrinsic facial features including facial symmetry, skin color, age, and gender.

The tech giant hopes to use the Diversity in Faces (DiF) dataset to advance the study of diversity in facial recognition and further aid the development of the technology.

“Face recognition is a long-standing challenge in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI),” the authors of the paper wrote. “However, with recent advances in neural networks, face recognition has achieved unprecedented accuracy, built largely on data-driven deep learning methods.”

Lead scientist at IBM, John Smith told CNBC that many prominent datasets lack balance and coverage of facial images.

“In order for the technology to advance it needs to be built on diverse training data,” he said. “The data does not reflect the faces we see in the world.”

Bias in facial recognition technology is an ongoing issue in the industry and tech companies are starting to take steps to address the problem. In December, Microsoft president, Brad Smith, wrote a company blog post outlining risks and potential abuses of facial recognition technology, including privacy, democratic freedoms, and discrimination.

The company also wrote that it is calling for new laws that regulate artificial intelligence software to prevent bias.

Joy Buolamwini, a researcher at the M.I.T. Media Lab, researched how biases affect artificial intelligence and found the technology misidentified the gender of darker-skinned women 35 percent of the time.

“You can’t have ethical A.I. that’s not inclusive,” Buolamwini said in the New York Times. “And whoever is creating the technology is setting the standards.”

IBM’s Diversity in Faces dataset is available to the public and researchers are urging others to build on this work.

“We selected a solid starting point by using one million publicly available face images and by implementing ten facial coding schemes,” they wrote in the paper. “We hope that others will find ways to grow the data set to include more faces.”

/dev/color Is Bringing In Its Largest Cohort of Black Engineers Ever

Tech nonprofit /dev/color just announced the induction of the largest “Squad” of Black engineers into their community, growing its membership from 225 to 370. They have also unveiled plans to operate cohorts in two new cities this year.

/dev/color convenes a visible force of Black software engineers to uplift and empower one another within the overwhelmingly white tech industry. Nearly four years old, the organization began with just 11 members in San Francisco, and now has chapters in Atlanta, Seattle, and New York City.

Their flagship A* program offers professional engineers a year-long membership including monthly meetings with peer groups (called “Squads”), access to exclusive events, and tools to design an individualized career roadmap.

“It’s rare for folks to take retention into their own hands,” said Lajuanda Asemota, Interim Executive Director of /dev/color. “It’s not just learning and development opportunities that keep people at companies and in the industry. It’s also their sense of belonging and sense of confidence.”

The conversations around tech diversity often centers the acknowledgment that the industry is made up of nearly 8 percent Black workers and recruitment strategies (or lack thereof) have failed to address this gross underrepresentation, though numerous organizations are working to remedy these faults.

Changing the narrative around diversity, equity, and inclusion is part of /dev/color’s work to ensure these connections exist beyond this organization.

The nonprofit reports that as a result of its A* Program, over 70 percent of members received an increase in compensation in 2017. Of that, 34 percent received a salary increase of 15 percent or more. 

“We’re contributing to intergenerational wealth and community growth,” said Asemota. “Folks are able to achieve their goals and grow their careers.”

Black tech workers are the lowest paid in the tech sector, according to a 2018 report from Hired. Across the industry, Black employees are paid the least at $130,000, an average of $6,000 less than their white counterparts.

The Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found that Black women are asking for promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, but are not getting the same outcomes.

“The diversity in tech conversation has gotten a little bit repetitive,” said Asemota. “I’m really hopeful that people will capitalize on the history of the work, and really think critically about how to do things creatively that will actually have an impact.”

This Program Is Teaching Incarcerated Youth How To Code

A new coding program at a juvenile correctional facility in California is teaching incarcerated youth how to build websites and apps in an effort to reduce recidivism rates.

Code.7370 is an 18-month training program supported by The Last Mile, a non-profit organization working to provide offenders with marketable job skills that lead to employment.

The program—based at the O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton—is part of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s juvenile justice reform proposals working to move the state’s Juvenile Justice Divison out of corrections officials’ control and into the health and human services providers. 

“If we’re going to get serious about changing the trajectory of the lives of these young children, I think we need to do it through a different lens,” said Gov. Newsom in an interview at the facility. 

According to the Division of Juvenile Justice, an early 2017 report showed 74.2 percent of California youth were re-arrested, 53.8 percent were reconvicted of new offenses, and 37.3 percent had returned to state custody within three years of release.

The Last Mile is supported by a $2 million grant from Google.org.

T.I. Launches Investment Syndicate Tech Cypha

Atlanta rapper and actor Clifford Joseph ‘T.I.’ Harris, Jr. has launched Tech Cypha, a new investment syndicate focused on early, growth and late-stage startups, with an inaugural investment in Culture Genesis, a digital gaming studio targeting urban and multicultural audiences.

The syndicate will provide startups with capital, marketing expertise and brand amplification through partnerships with macro influencers, according to the company.

T.I. and his business partner Jason Geter have been investing in tech companies for years. According to Tech Crunch, the pair first invested in a website called Streetcred.com over a decade ago, a deal that ultimately fell through. Now, the team is looking to leverage the right demographic by investing in the growing tech scene in Atlanta.

“Being in the city of Atlanta and with Georgia Tech producing so much talent, and coming from us being within the hip-hop culture which is always influencing and promoting things, we saw an opportunity,” Geter told Tech Crunch. “In the past, we were always looking through the glass window and looking at ways we can participate earlier. And that’s by coming together to pool our resources so we can invest more.”

PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association report that Atlanta area startups raised $626.85 million across 35 venture capital deals in the fourth quarter of 2018. This is a significant increase from the $72.62 million raised from 22 deals in Q4 of 2017.

Black Women Raise Wants To Build a Community for Black Women Founders

The story of Black women founders is all too familiar.

Despite being the fastest growing group of female entrepreneurs, the median amount of funding raised by Black women is $0, according to digitalundivided. Overall, Black women have raised just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.

Entrepreneur Dee Poku Spalding wants to reframe this narrative.

She launched the inaugural Black Women Raise symposium last Friday convening Black female founders and business leaders committed to addressing the ability to raise growth capital, scale up and create pathways for the women behind them.

“Yes, we encounter barriers but despite that, we are strongly innovating in our fields and building incredible businesses that compete comfortably in the marketplace,” she said in a statement.

The event served a dual purpose of providing founders with practical resources and an open forum for voicing frustrations.

Founders participating in the program included Marah Lidey, founder of Shine Text, a messaging app helping young people achieve self-care, and Jewel Burk, founder of Amazon acquired tech company PartPic.

Programming also included a panel discussion on insights from investors like Charles Hudson, founder, and managing partner of Precursor Ventures, and Sutian Dong, a partner at Female Founders Fund.

“Are Black women fundamentally higher-risk investments?” asked Asmau Ahmed, founder of Plum Perfect and SVP at Bank of America, during a panel titled “Understanding The Investor Mindset.”

Poku Spalding is not new to helping create opportunities for women. She is also the founder of Women Inspiration & Enterprise (WIE) Network, a network designed to create a community for women in the workplace.

“I wanted to build the type of strong community and network around this group that other founders get to take for granted,” she said.

Black women who raised less than $1 million in 2017, raised an average of $42,000. On average, 39 percent of venture capital deals at the Series A stage were $25 million or larger in 2017, according to Pitchbook.

 

 

New Media Ventures Is Now Accepting Pitches for Funding

New Media Ventures is looking to fund a new wave of activists and entrepreneurs tackling the biggest challenges facing our democracy.

The investment fund is now accepting pitches from mission-driven teams dedicated to building scalable solutions through movement work, technology, and media. Grants and investments range from $50,000 to $250,000.

“The last two years show the tremendous progress that’s possible when we work together, invest early, and bet big on innovation,” New Media Ventures said in a statement. “But we aren’t ready to rest. We know that progress doesn’t matter unless we build lasting power to win hearts, minds, and votes.”

New Media ventures has says it’s looking for companies that are working to answer these specific questions:

  • Shifting Power: How can tech and media help – from the census to redistricting to countering voter suppression?
  • Building Movements: How can innovation accelerate movements for racial, gender, economic, and environmental justice?
  • Changing Narratives: What’s the next chapter for media and messaging? How can new voices change the way we see the world?
  • Sparking Civic Engagement: How can technology help recruit and empower folks like never before – from voters to volunteers to candidates?

Participants will also have access to a network of advisors, donors, investors, and founders for support.

The deadline to submit a pitch is February 11. Apply today.

This Founder is Building a Community for Black Women to Thrive at Work

Millions of women in sub-Saharan Africa make the dangerous and arduous trek to the wells each day, sometimes walking an average of 3.7 miles to access clean and safe water for their families. The powerful idea of women from different tribes banding together to accomplish a goal inspired entrepreneur Krystal Scott to launch a space for professional Black women to connect.

The Well Space launched on International Women’s Day in March 2018 and aims to provide an authentic network of career-driven Black women based on genuine relationship building.

After nearly a year of building the community from scratch, The Well has just reopened the waitlist for women to apply to join the Tribe and launched a new website along with the rollout of new member benefits.

“A lot of what we need to advance in our career can be gotten from our relationship with other people,” said Scott, founder, and CEO of The Well. “It’s really important for Black women to remember that we are a tribe. We are a community.”

The community-based platform will now allow each of its members to create and maintain their own profile on the website with the ability to directly message others. Members will also have access to a directory of The Well members by location and industry.

Other perks include a program featuring discounts and freebies from Black-women-owned brands and a 12-week mentorship program.

“When I first launched, I was thinking about The Well being a coworking space,” recalled Scott. “But, I didn’t want the community to be limited to just a physical space.”

“We’re building that infrastructure as a community for women to meet in an intentional way,” she added.

Since its launch, The Well has hosted a number of networking events in New York City. From happy hours at Ode to Babel–a Black-woman owned bar and lounge in Brooklyn–to Karaoke nights for members. Scott said the focus is on social ways for Black women to meet.

The platform, currently in beta, has just under 200 members across the United States, Spain, and Canada.  The community connects virtually during video meetups, and collaborate daily via email and group messaging. 

Scott—who has a background in public policy and non-profits—sought to create an environment for Black women to thrive at work after her own journey navigating the workforce and finding that she was often the only Black woman in the room.

“It’s really hard to talk to someone who isn’t a Black woman about things that are happening at work because you’re a Black woman,” she said. “There is a shared experience that Black women have in the workplace.”

The recent Women in the Workplace 2018 study published by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company found nearly half of women of color are often the “onlys” of their race at work and over 80 percent face microaggressions.

Despite efforts to improve diversity, the study found women of color only make up 17 percent of entry-level employees and 4 percent of C-suite executives.

Black women are 40 percent less likely than men to receive the first promotion to manager, reflecting the largely stagnant progress for the advancement of women in the workplace overall.

“We’re underrepresented in the workplace because we’re undervalued,” Scott said noting Black women need more support as entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and in terms of being paid.

Black women were on average paid 61 percent of what white men were paid in 2017, according to Census data. Black women’s unemployment rate was 8.9 percent—the highest among women from all of the largest racial and ethnic groups—yet, the gap persists.

Despite the Women in the Workplace study finding stating that more Black and Latina women are requesting promotions and raises at the same rate as their white counterparts, they don’t get the same outcomes.

As the conversation around equity in the workplace wages on, Scott says she and her team are ready to expand programming and continue to provide the space for Black women to support and help each other get across the finish line.

“Black women enjoy each other’s company,” said Scott. “We understand each other in a way that’s really beautiful and really powerful.”

Photo credit: Nneka Peters

These Tech Firms Withheld EEO-1 Reports Due to Lack of Diversity

Tech companies like Palantir and Oracle have been keeping their diversity stats under wraps citing fear that competitors might poach their talent, among other excuses. However, a new report reveals the real reason was “embarrassment.”

An investigative probe by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting led to findings that showed companies withholding information about their diversity were less diverse than their counterparts.

Data analytics company Palantir, for example, had no female executives and only one white woman among their managers, according to Reveal’s investigation.

The firm filed various Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for the 2015 EEO-1 report showing the breakdown of a tech company’s workforce by race, gender, and broad job category. While some companies complied, others chose to block the request with claims of protecting “trade secrets.”

Reveal sued the U.S government for alleging that the Labor Department was violating the Freedom of Information Act by failing to release EEO-1 reports from Oracle, Palantir, Pandora Media, Gilead Sciences and Splunk. The Labor Department allowed the five tech firms to block their diversity data for over a year until the lawsuit was filed.

“Thanks to our lawsuit, we now know that just under 13 percent of Oracle’s executives in 2015 were women, including co-CEO Safra Catz,” Reveal reports. “Two-thirds of major Silicon Valley companies had a better representation of female executives that year. And like Palantir, Oracle’s workforce was 90 percent white and Asian.”

Through the lawsuit, the organization was granted numerous letters written by tech companies citing reasons to keep their diversity figures private.

“Keep in mind that the government actually went along with these arguments – until we pushed back,” the outlet warns.

Oracle argued exposing diversity figures would threaten its “competitive advantage” and said releasing the numbers could potentially violate their employee’s right to privacy.

“You could literally just log in to LinkedIn and find out,” Y-Vonne Hutchinson, CEO of ReadySet, a diversity solutions firm in Oakland told Reveal. “It’s far more likely that what they’re actually concerned about is that their numbers are disappointing.”

Palantir and Gilead Sciences claimed diversity in the workplace “is a business imperative” while Oracle and Pandora stated unveiling their diversity stats would lead to “raiding of minority or female employees.”

Read the full investigative piece here.