Tech startups often rely on investors to get their business up and running, but tech entrepreneurs of color don’t always get the same amount of funding as their white counterparts.
According to data from Crunchbase, just under 3% of venture capital funding in 2020 went to Black and Latino tech start-ups. That unequal playing field is what led to the creation of TechRise, a Chicago initiative to support and fund Black and Latino-owned tech companies. It was started by P33, a Chicago nonprofit supporting the city’s tech community.
“I think when a lot of people think of startups, they still think of a white male in a hoodie building a company in a garage or a basement, and the reality is, is that great ideas come from everywhere, but unfortunately, access to capital, networks and knowledge does not,” says Desiree Vargas-Wrigley, the executive director of TechRise. "So, it's critical that we look at idea stage founders at the earliest opportunity to infuse capital and access to the networks and knowledge that they need to take their businesses to the next level.”
Through weekly pitch competitions, TechRise has awarded more than $900,000 to more than 40 Black and Latino-founded startups since launching in April 2021.
The organization held a finale event in December, where some of the best of Chicago’s tech industry competed for the largest prize yet, $100,000. The winner of that funding is the founder of a cyber-security business, Christine Izuakor. She’s also participating in a national ad campaign to showcase Chicago’s top tech leaders.
We caught up with her during a photoshoot As part of our Last Word series.