CES Revokes Innovation Award For A Sex Tech, Women’s Health Startup

Lora DiCarlo, a women-focused sex-tech company, was supposed to receive an innovation award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), stripped the company of its award after determining that the company’s Osé robot did not fit into any of the award’s product categories.

Lora DiCarlo’s Osé is a hands-free, micro-robotic technology that mimics all of the sensations of a human mouth, tongue, and fingers. 

“The product referenced does not fit into any of our existing product categories and should not have been accepted for the Innovation Awards Program,” Samantha Doherty, CTA spokeswoman said. “CES does not have a category for sex toys. CTA had communicated this position to Lora DiCarlo nearly two months ago and we have apologized to them for our mistake.”

The CTA also cited its rules stating, “Entries deemed by CTA in their sole discretion to be immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified.”

Lora DiCarlo has also been prohibited from presenting on the floor of CES. In past conventions, robot sex dolls and virtual reality porn showcases have been acceptable enough to present at CES.

“Men’s sexuality is allowed to be explicit with a literal sex robot in the shape of an unrealistically proportioned woman and VR porn in point of pride along the aisle,” Lora Haddock, founder and CEO of Lora DiCarlo, said in a post on the company’s website. “Female sexuality, on the other hand, is heavily muted if not outrighted banned. You cannot pretend to be unbiased if you allow a sex robot for men but not a vagina-focused robotic massager for blended orgasm.”

Haddock called it “insulting and ridiculous” that her company’s biomimicry device was ineligible for the Robotics and Drone category.

Angela Benton’s NewME Accelerator Acquired by Lighthouse

NewME, the popular accelerator for entrepreneurs of color, today announced that it has been acquired by LightHouse–the parent company of the Cincinnati based Hillman Accelerator program. 

Entrepreneur Angela Benton, a mainstay in the tech world, founded NewMe in 2011 as one of the first online programs geared toward providing support for entrepreneurs of color. She created the program after seeing a lack of diversity in the tech industry and among underrepresented entrepreneurs  who’d received funding for their ideas.

NewMe launched in Silicon Valley and moved its headquarters to Miami in 2017. Since it’s launch, the program has helped secure over $40 million in venture funding for entrepreneurs of color.

Benton posted her excitement about the sale on Instagram:

Hillman Accelerator was launched in 2016 by HelloParent founder Candice Matthews-Brackeen, former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Dhani Jones, and Ebow Vroom. It provides underrepresented founders with seed funding, partnership opportunities, and mentorship. 

“Lighthouse’s acquisition of NewME is a win across cultures,” said Matthews. “Our accelerator expansion will enable us to reach even more underrepresented founders and their transformative businesses, which offers even more opportunities to connect all people with the disruptive technologies that enhance and define the human experience.”

The original programming created by Benton will continue through the acquisition, and she’ll stay on as an advisor.

“Candice’s passion and commitment to not only continue the work that I’ve developed with NewME but also to the minority tech community at large is unique and doesn’t come often,’’ said Benton. “Her energy and vision are exciting and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish moving forward.”

The program offers one-week long accelerators and free online resources are also available for entrepreneurs as well. 

The next accelerator begins on January 28. Apply here.

This Tech Startup Wants To Make Sure People of Color See Themselves In Greeting Cards

Culture Greetings is making greeting cards more inclusive with diverse images and themes that speak to communities of color.

The online greeting card startup was founded by tech entrepreneur and business psychologist, Dr. Dionne Mahaffey, who saw a need to create culturally relevant greeting cards that can’t be found in stores.

“It’s important for us to be able to see ourselves in products,” Mahaffey said. “Something bearing an image of us with sayings that are specific to us as a people.”

Culture Greetings is innovating the slow and antiquated process of searching for the perfect card in the store and making it easier for people to create and send a greeting card to anyone in the U.S.

According to the American Greeting Card Association, the average American sends 25 to 30 cards each year, with the most popular being birthday cards.

The act of sending someone a greeting card is still meaningful, but now Culture Greetings is giving users the ability to customize cards catered to people of color in minutes.

“There are other automated greeting card services, but none that deliver cards that have a specific cultural nomenclature,” Mahaffey said.

The Atlanta-based company launched just in time for the holidays last month with over 700 greeting cards (and growing), mostly designed in-house by Mahaffey herself. The tech entrepreneur also works with award-winning cartoonists Quinn McGowan and artist Steve R. Allen whose work can be found in the National Museum of African American History.

“My goal was to design a culturally relevant greeting card platform that would become a leading destination for Black consumers. That’s the beauty of being able to code. We programmers can build whatever we dream,” said Mahaffey, who worked in tech for over two decades.

Users can choose from a wide variety of cards for different occasions, use the online tool to write a personalized handwritten note plus add a gift card. The custom built automation software then prints, stamps, and mails the card to be delivered the next day.

“It gives the same experience of someone receiving handwritten cards, but it takes the sender the same amount of time it takes to write a social media post,” she said.

The company plans to launch a series of Black history cards in February. The platform is also set to launch an iOS and Android app in 2019.

Mahaffey is the founder of several businesses including the WhereU app, a directory of Black-owned businesses.

Walker’s Legacy Awarded $400K Towards Supporting Women-Owned Businesses

Walker’s Legacy—a digital platform for underrepresented women entrepreneurs—was just awarded $400,000 by the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to empower women leading businesses across the country.

The award is part of a roughly $1 million Global Minority Women’s Economic Empowerment grant dedicated to advancing diverse women-owned businesses. Another $400,000 was awarded to El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The organization will use the funding to create programming catered to women of color including entrepreneurship boot camps, an online accelerator, business and technical workshops, masterclasses and pitch competitions.

“Minority women are the fastest growing population of entrepreneurs. While many women are making tremendous strides in the business world, they still face obstacles as entrepreneurs,” said MBDA National Director Henry Childs, II in a press release.

Black and Latinx women are starting businesses at a faster rate than their white counterparts, according to census data. Minority women account for nearly half—44 percent—of all women-owned businesses.

Businesses owned by Latinx women are growing most rapidly demonstrating an 87 percent increase between 2007 and 2012, far outpacing the growth of the population in the United States.

“We are proud to continue to advance programming to support such a critical and vital economic community for our nation, multicultural women entrepreneurs,” said Natalie Madeira Cofield, founder and CEO of Walker’s Legacy in a statement. “Our partnership with the Minority Business Development Agency allows for us to continue, and more importantly expand this work.”

An estimated 5,824,300 women-of-color-owned businesses employ 2,230,600 people and generate $386.6 billion in revenue, according to the MBDA.

The agency reports women entrepreneurs reinvest about 90 percent of their earnings into their family and back into their communities.

Recipients are part of the new 2018 MBDA Broad Agency Announcement initiative, which is awarding $13 million to 35 projects focused on minority-owned business success.


Unapologetically Dope Tackles Issues Faced by Black Women in Tech

Career technologist Dr. Nicki Washington is no stranger to the challenges Black women face in the tech industry. In her new book Unapologetically Dope she channels her experience into a guide for Black women on how to survive and thrive in the tech field.

“This book is like my personal diary,” Dr. Washington told AfroTech. “I wrote about the microaggressions I experienced because I needed other women to know that it’s okay to not be okay and that there is always someone you can turn to.”

Dr. Washington had the lightbulb moment to write Unapologetically Dope after hearing a group of Black women talk about their struggles navigating the tech industry. She realized she was often part of conversations where inclusion in the workplace and self-doubt were the main issues.

She dedicated a summer to writing the lessons that aren’t taught out of a textbook or in the classroom.

“I wrote this book because I saw and heard that issues around diversity and inclusion still weren’t being solved,” she said. “Nothing is being done to treat the actual problem.”

Despite nationwide efforts to increase diversity and inclusion across the tech ecosystem, Black women comprise only 15 percent of computing Bachelor’s degrees and 3 percent of computing degrees overall.

The computer science educator—whose mom was a computer programmer—grew up surrounded by technologists who were also HBCU graduates. That representation allowed her to not only see the opportunity in tech but also better understand how to build her career.

Dr. Nicki Washington is the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from North Carolina State University.

But Washington is tired of being the “first.”

“It still bothers me that we still talk about people being ‘the first,’” she said. “The problem with that is that there haven’t been a lot of people who have come behind me.”

She talks about being in her last year of graduate school when her mother, a former IBM programmer, gifted her a set of golf lessons for Christmas. “A lot of deals are made out on the golf course,” she said. “My mother told me ‘you don’t have to know how to play the game well, but you have to know how to play the game.’”

Unapologetically Dope is Washington’s contribution to ensuring that current and future technologists are equipped to tackle the diversity-starved field.

“I hope every woman or girl of color comes away empowered and like they are not alone,” Washington said. “Their stories are the same as mine. I hope to give them that sense of comfort that there was someone who went through this.”

Mixtroz Raises $1M in Seed Funding

Mixtroz, a platform founded by a mother-daughter tech duo, raised $1 million in seed funding, becoming one of only 40 Black female founders to hit this fundraising mark.

Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons created Mixtroz in 2014 to help users navigate networking events and drive engagement for authentic connection. The funding will help the company hire more members to support the growth of its core team.

“Achieving this milestone is a huge success for us, especially considering we are black, female, non-technical tech founders,” said Kerry Schrader, Mixtroz co-founder, and CEO.

They won the Rise of the Rest pitch competition in May 2018 in Birmingham—where the startup is based— securing a $100,000 investment.

“As a startup, Birmingham has proved to be a perfect home base for us. They have figured out how civic, corporate and tech ecosystems must come together to breed success, and we attribute a lot of our accomplishments to the supportive business community here,” said Schrader in a statement to AfroTech.

The founders attribute their milestone to the support of Innovation Depot’s Velocity Accelerator, Bronze Valley, a Birmingham-based fund and online resource.

Mixtroz not only leverages app-based technology to drive attendees to events but also allows hosts to collect real-time data on interactions.

“People attend events to make valuable connections,” said Ashlee Ammons, Mixtroz co-founder and COO. “The attendees are guaranteed to meet people of interest at events, and the organizers and sponsors can gather valuable information about the event participants in real time.”

The platform has hosted clients including the Nashville Mayor’s Office, Deloitte, Vanderbilt, Pinnacle, and Georgia Tech.

“The fact that we were able to acquire prestigious clients clearly shows that there is a real need for our product,” said Ammons. “Mixtroz is a way to make the most of your time when you have decided to make the effort to leave the house and attend an event.”

Google Links With MotherCoders and Women.nyc to Diversify Tech With Moms

Google is teaming up with MotherCoders, a nonprofit helping mothers thrive in tech, and women.nyc to put on a nine-week tech training program for moms of all backgrounds in New York City.

The program is designed to set moms on a tech career path through skills training for career advancement, accelerating a startup, or re-entering the workforce.

To qualify, moms must be at least 21-years-old, have a college degree, and some experience trying to learn to code.

“There’s a huge population of very educated people, but moms tend to get pushed out of the workforce,” said MotherCoders founder Tina Lee to TechCrunch. “We end up with a lot of moms who are overeducated and underemployed. There’s no reason why moms shouldn’t be included in the diversity and inclusion initiatives going on.”

MotherCoders participants learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, during the program and are offered free childcare throughout the duration of the nine-week training. MotherCoders NYC will be entirely sponsored by Google.

“Creating opportunities for everyone and increasing access to CS Education is something we have in common with MotherCoders and women.nyc and we can’t wait to see the impact this program has on women across the city,” said Google NYC external affairs head Carley Graham Garcia in a statement.

The cohort begins in February 2019 and has already started accepting applications

Study Reveals Professional Event Speakers Are Mostly Male

An event software company used facial recognition technology to analyze the gender diversity of more than 60,000-panel speakers at tech conferences and events in the last five years. The results: tech event speakers are made up of mostly men.

Bizzabo today released the Gender Diversity & Inclusion in Events Report compiling data from thousands of the world’s largest professional events across 23 countries. The survey found Internet-focused event speakers were 79 percent male and 21 percent female.  

Information technology event speakers were 80 percent men and 20 percent women and venture capital event speakers were 82 percent male and 18 percent female. IT services speakers were 80 percent male and 20 percent female.

Computer software event speakers have a slightly higher percentage of women speakers at 25 percent female and 75 percent male.

“Every event benefits from having greater gender diversity and balance across its speaker lineup,” said Alon Alroy, Bizzabo’s co-founder and chief marketing officer. “By releasing this data, we hope to spotlight the lack of representation that’s still, unfortunately, too common.”

Kenya has the overall highest number of female speakers with 42 percent followed by Mexico with 39 percent and the United States at 35 percent. Poland has the least gender diversity overall in event speakers at 10 percent.

Read the full report here.

California Is The First State To Require Companies To Have Women On Their Boards

Photo: Women of Color In Tech

California governer Jerry Brown just signed a bill into a law that will diversify the boards of major companies headquartered in California.

This new law requires that major companies, including Apple, Snap and Tesla, need to have at least one woman on their boards by 2019. And for larger boards, they could require the presence of up to three women by 2021. Failure to comply will result in a $100,000 fine for the first violation and $300,000 per violation after that. And startups would also be required to add at least one woman to their board before going public.

Despite Brown signing it into a law, according to Recode, some business groups are already opposing it.

When Brown signed the message, he said the following:

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”

Having women on corporate boards has also been shown to have more effective business results. A study by MSCI showed that U.S. companies with three or more women directors reported 45 percent higher earnings per share between 2011 to 2016.

Women Startup Employees Are Seeing a Huge Equity Gap

America’s gender pay gap compensates women 80 cents to the dollar of their male counterparts — but for women working in startups, the equity gap is much worse.

According to a study released Monday by Carta, a California-based company that helps startups manage their cap table and valuations, women in tech are 35 percent of equity-holding employees, but hold only 20 percent of employee equity.

Carta analyzed nearly 180,000 startup employees at more than 6,000 companies and more than 15,000 founders.

It is common for startup employees to accept less pay in exchange for equity, in hopes that they will hit the jackpot when the company gains more success. Carta’s study showed that female equity-holding employees earn about 47 cents to the dollar of males equity-holding employees.

“Women are consistently undervalued,” said EnrichHer CEO and Founder Roshawnna Novellus. “We often expect even less [pay] because we want to be included in the story and that perpetuates why there is a disparity.”

Novellus said that women should ask employers if their pay is equitable to their team members and that this question is the first step to ensuring equal pay. EnrichHer is a Washington, D.C.-based company that connects women-founders with venture funding opportunities in an effort to bridge the pay gap between female and male-owned startups.

According to Carta, women make up 13 percent of founders, but only hold 6 percent of founder equity. These female founders own 39 cents for every dollar of equity male founders own.