Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Coalition for Queens

We recently sat down with David Yang of Coalition for Queens, one of the eight Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Coalition for Queens increases economic opportunity through technology and transforms the world’s most diverse community into a leading hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.

What sparked the idea for C4Q?

C4Q was launched in 2011 by Jukay Hsu and David Yang with the mission to create economic opportunity through technology.

Returning to his hometown of New York City after completing his service as a U.S. Army Infantry Officer, Jukay observed a critical information and skills gap in his community and was inspired to start an organization that closed the divide between tech and the greater population.

The idea for C4Q is deeply rooted in his military experiences working with individuals who did not have college education but embodied the grit, resilience and passion that characterizes exceptional entrepreneurs and technologists.

C4Q’s very first project was built upon Mayor Bloomberg’s Applied Science initiative, which aimed to create a new tech focused university to help drive economic activity and position New York City as a central hub for innovation.

With a background in design and a deep interest in education, David joined Jukay in the pursuit to connect underserved and underrepresented populations with the opportunities created by technology

C4Q began as two Queens natives hoping to bring opportunity to more New Yorkers and create a tech community that was reflective of the great diversity of the city.

What problem are you solving?

The innovation economy is transforming the workforce.

On the one hand, technology has generated new industries, companies, jobs and wealth at a rapid rate. At the same time, tech–with significant advances in fields like automation and robotics–has made other industries and jobs obsolete. Whereas manufacturing once provided opportunity and stability, the growth of the tech sector has seemingly created a sense of economic anxiety.

Many individuals across the United States do not have access to the skills needed to participate in the innovation economy. For the 70 percent of Americans who do not have college degrees in particular, the limited opportunities to gain employment and move out of poverty remain a significant challenge.

To solve this problem, C4Q empowers adults living in poverty and without college education with the skills needed to gain jobs in the innovation economy. We aim to create a more diverse and inclusive tech community in New York City, and in particular we serve New Yorkers who do not have college education.

By training and enabling talent from underserved and underrepresented communities, we are ensuring inclusive and integrated growth.

What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

Our work takes place in Queens and New York City, but it is rooted in what the location represents: a place for opportunity and growth. We believe that people from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn to code, gain jobs in tech and create the companies of the future.

At C4Q, the conception of diversity extends beyond gender and ethnicity. It is critical to provide opportunity for individuals from low-income backgrounds, ensuring that we serve those who would otherwise not have access to the emerging opportunities in tech.

Enabling diversity means creating socio-economic change and impact.

Tell us how your organization is helping your target audience?

Our flagship program, Access Code, trains adults from low-income backgrounds to become software engineers. Through an intensive 10-month curriculum built by industry experts, our students gain technical skills, industry knowledge and access to networks.

The program is transformative–graduates have gone from making $18,000 to over $85,000 a year and are working as programmers at some of the best startups and companies such as Kickstarter, Pinterest, OKCupid, CapitalOne and more.

How has the Techstars’ network helped your business so far?

Techstars entrepreneurs and startups represent the best emerging talent and companies. We are proud that C4Q Access Code graduates are now working at Techstars companies, shipping code and contributing to products that will reach millions of users.

Whether early stage companies currently in the accelerator to alumni from the wide network, Techstars serves as an aspirational role model for our organization and our students. As part of the Techstars Foundation, we’re excited to work together to build more talent pipelines and help bring diverse engineers into the tech community.

What is your vision for the future?

C4Q is currently focused on training the best software engineers and technology leaders from low-income and diverse backgrounds.

As we grow, we hope to increase our impact by serving more deserving audiences and understanding the levers by which we can improve our outcomes. We believe that the 70 percent of Americans who do not have college degrees can have equal access to good jobs and opportunity.

Our long-term vision includes expanding beyond teaching programming skills to enabling our community to become entrepreneurs and create companies of the future.

We aim to empower more individuals like Moawia Eldeeb, a graduate from our very first cohort who went from growing up in Queensbridge Public Housing to raising over $2 million to launch his startup after finishing our program.

Inspiring more and more entrepreneurs from diverse and underserved populations will create a more prosperous society.

The Techstars Foundation provides a way for Techstars alumni, partners, mentors, and others to Give First by supporting the foundation and helping create stronger entrepreneur communities worldwide.

Techstars Foundation Announces Second Round of Grantees

The Techstars Foundation is pleased to announce our second round of grantees who are committed to improving the landscape of diversity in tech.

We received hundreds of grant requests. The creative initiatives and thought leadership related to diversity in technology entrepreneurship is truly awesome. The work that these organizations are doing on this important issue is creating real change and building stronger communities around the world. We thank you all for the work you do.

The mission of the Techstars Foundation is to provide grants and resources to organizations making a scalable impact in diversity in tech entrepreneurship. This group of grantees encompasses a wide spectrum of underserved entrepreneurs, including female and minority entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds, students of color and immigrant founders.

The organizations receiving financial grants and further assistance from the Techstars Foundation are:


Coalition for Queens (C4Q) increases economic opportunity through technology and transforms the world’s most diverse community into a leading hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. We believe that people from every community — across gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic backgrounds — should have the opportunity to learn to code, gain jobs in tech, and create the companies of the future.


The Global EIR Coalition expands economic opportunities through partnering international entrepreneurs, universities, and cities to promote job creation, grow local economies, and build their businesses throughout the United States.


Student Dream trains collegiate students of color to start companies. Driven by a vision to create wealth in communities of color, Student Dream runs semester long programs and a membership platform that connects aspiring Black, Hispanic, and Native American student entrepreneurs to training, mentorship, and industry opportunities needed to succeed.

An instructor from Coalition for Queens teaching a class
An instructor from Coalition for Queens teaching a class


Student Dream participants during an entrepreneurship event
Student Dream participants during an entrepreneurship event


A Global EIR working with University of Colorado student during a session of the Global Entrepreneurs in Residence Program.
A Global EIR working with a University of Colorado student during a session

Along with the financial  support, Techstars will leverage our broad global network of mentors, alumni and investors to provide additional support to these organizations. If you would like to learn more about these organizations or get involved, please contact: foundation@techstars.com.

Thank you again to our generous donors who have made these grants possible. We continue to encourage 100 percent participation from our network to help support this cause. Every dollar counts.  

If Techstars accelerators, staff, mentors or startup programs such as Startup Weekend and Startup Digest have helped you in some small way, please consider a donation of any amount to help improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship.

We look forward to making a difference in diversity in technology entrepreneurship together, through the above partnerships and with your support.

Diversity at Techstars Companies: 2016 Update

Last year Techstars announced our diversity commitment as part of White House Demo Day. As a follow up to that commitment, we are now reporting on our progress and publishing our diversity data annually. During 2016, we’ve tracked participation in our accelerator programs and have made measurable progress to increase participation by women and underrepresented minorities within our applicant pool, mentors, and staff.

Here is a recap of what we are doing to improve inclusive entrepreneurship:

  • We created the Techstars Foundation to improve diversity in tech entrepreneurship worldwide, through grants to mission-driven organizations such as Defy Ventures, Astia, Change Catalyst, Gaza Sky Geeks, and Patriot Boot Camp.
  • We partnered with Chase for Business to survey ~700 startup founders about diversity and inclusion at their startup. The output includes a research report highlighting the data from that survey as well as a website which provides actionable resources startup founders can take to improve diversity at their startup.
  • We’ve trained staff on unconscious bias, are working to offer this training to our portfolio companies, and we’ve implemented processes to ensure that every selection committee includes at least two women.

Our specific diversity commitment last year was to:

Double the number of women in our accelerator program applicant pool and across our mentor network over four years. Track participation in our programs by underrepresented minorities and double that from the baseline over the same time period.

This year will serve as our baseline and we will update these numbers annually. Here’s how we’re doing so far:





Ethnically diverse founders





Female founders/participants





Female mentors





  • Twenty five percent of our US-based founders are ethnically diverse (non-white).
  • Nineteen percent of our founders and program participants are female.
  • For many of our US-based accelerator programs (including Sprint, Retail, Healthcare, IoT and Connection) nearly 20 percent of the companies who applied had at least one female founder.
  • Eighteen percent of our mentors are female and 18 percent are ethnically diverse.
  • For our global Startup Programs, we’ve increased our gender diversity to 33 percent female attendees.
While we are glad to see our efforts are beginning to pay off, we’ve still got a very long way to go. We want to thank those of you who have helped with these efforts over the last year, and who will continue with us on this journey.
Startup Founders: to learn more about how to improve diversity and inclusion at your company, please visit our microsite for specific resources that will help you become a diversity leader.

Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Astia

We recently sat down with Yuka Nagashima and Sharon Vosmek of Astia, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Astia transforms the way businesses are funded by providing capital, connections and expertise that fuel the growth of women-led ventures.

What problem are you solving?

Astia continues to deliver on its mission to propel women’s full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses, fueling innovation and driving economic growth. We are transforming the way businesses are funded, providing capital, connections and guidance that fuel the growth of highly innovative, high-growth, women-led ventures around the globe.

With the launch of Astia Angels in 2013 under our White House Commitment, we are now investors in 40 companies that include women in positions of executive influence and leadership. In total, we have invested more than $12.5M of our own capital, representing more than $124M in syndication into 56 investments.

The Astia Angels portfolio is diverse in nearly every measure: team composition, sector, stage, technology, market, size and geography. And as an investment group, our impact on the market is notable: still today less than 3% of venture capital is invested in women-led companies.


Our investment activity in just the prior twelve-month period is on pace with some of the most active investment groups and represents more than $5.5M in direct investment (almost half of our three-year total).

Our investment velocity is increasing. In the same 12 month period, Astia has made >356 Astia Advisor connections, >100 investor connections to >143 women-led companies and maintained >5000 Astia Advisor volunteers around the globe.

What sparked the vision and foundation behind Astia?

Originally named the Women’s Technology Cluster, Astia was founded as part of the Three Guineas Fund in 1999, by Cate Muther, former CMO of Cisco Systems, and was spun off in 2003 as an independent non-profit. When Muther looked around, she wondered, “Where are all my female peers?” so she started WTC.

We changed our name to Astia to communicate a broader focus in diversity beyond just women. (The word Astia is derived from the Greek word, Aster, meaning star.)

We were not seeing sufficient interest from the larger community to invest, despite research demonstrating financial value of women-led companies, so we took matters into our own hands by starting Astia Angels (only investing in companies led by gender-inclusive teams).


What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

Female and male entrepreneurs are different. It’s not that women are forming different types of companies than men, but instead it’s the funding level that determines the kind of companies they end up becoming: the difference lies in the investor’s lens, and not the entrepreneurs.

How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?

What we hope to achieve from this relationship is a true partnership. Techstars investing in us was a validation of our mission and approach, alongside other mainstream investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Prolog Ventures and Illuminate Ventures.

Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Change Catalyst

We recently sat down with Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler of Change Catalyst, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Change Catalyst is an organization committed to inclusive innovation through two main initiatives, Tech Inclusion and Startup Showcases.

What problem are you solving?

The lack of diversity in tech and venture capital is a clear problem for the tech industry, for innovation and for society as a whole. As an organization, we focus on inclusion across the whole ecosystem of entrepreneurship, where innovation and technology represent and benefit all people. The tech workforce is not inclusive and welcoming to everyone, and we want to change that.

Tech Venture Capital Diversity Numbers

  • 92% of Senior Investment teams are men
  • 78% of Senior Investment teams are White
  • 29% of Senior Investment teams are Asian
  • 1%  of Senior Investment teams are Hispanic
  • 1% of Senior Investment teams are Black
  • 2.7% Venture backed companies are women-led
  • 4% decrease Women VC Partners since 1999

Entrepreneurship Diversity Numbers

  • 37% of entrepreneurs are women
  • 0.2% of venture capital for Black Women
  • 1%  VC-backed founders are Black
  • 1%  VC-backed founders are Latino

Tech Leadership Workforce Average Diversity Numbers  

  • 29% Women
  • 2% Black
  • 3% Asian
  • 1% Hispanic

Tech Workforce in Technical Roles Average Diversity Numbers

  • 29% Women
  • 52% White
  • 8% Hispanic
  • 7% Black
  • 25% Asian

Sources – Engadget, TechCrunch, The Verge

What sparked the vision and foundation behind Change Catalyst?

The vision of Change Catalyst was borne from two founders who were confronted with barriers in their own careers based on gender and race, and decided to do something about it. Melinda Briana Epler and Wayne Sutton began by mapping the needs of the tech industry: what was currently working, what wasn’t working and where the needs and gaps were greatest. What they found:

  • An ecosystem approach is needed – to fundamentally shift the industry across education, workplace, entrepreneurship and policy.
  • A lot of great work around diversity and inclusion was being done in silos, without collaboration and sharing of best practices.
  • Severe biases, lack of empathy and lack of resources were keeping many diversity and inclusion solutions from taking hold. A focus on individual behavior change and collective culture change is needed.

For a year they worked to build the first Tech Inclusion Conference and Career Fair, bringing the whole tech industry together to focus on solutions to diversity and inclusion.

The two-day conference sold out, and they had to turn away quality candidates for the career fair because there was so much interest.

The results from the event were widespread: numerous public-private collaborations, shared best practices, changes in careers, new startups formed, diverse candidates hired, new solutions blossomed across the US and even around the world.

Tell us about how your organization has affected/positively impacted your audience?

Change Catalyst empowers diverse, inclusive and sustainable tech innovation through Tech Inclusion and Startup Ecosystem programs.

We partner with the tech community to solve diversity and inclusion together through conferences, career fairs, strategic consulting and training. Our work spans the full tech ecosystem, including: Education, Workplace, Entrepreneurship and Policy.

Below are some of Change Catalyst’s impact from January 2016 to September 2016:

  • Change Catalyst has worked with 26 startups and over 60 entrepreneurs
  • Hosted 4 conferences and 2 career fairs, reaching 1800+ Tech Inclusion event attendees
  • Featured 200+ diverse speakers in tech
  • Launched a community platform at Community.TechInclusion.co to provide inclusive tech career oppounites.
  • Hosted diversity and inclusion corporate training with several leading Bay Area startups.
  • Led Entrepreneurship Bootcamps for Women in Hyderabad, India and Canary Islands, Spain – reaching a total of 400 women.
  • Participated in multiple roundtable discussions focused on improving diversity and inclusion in tech and entrepreneurship.

What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

One of the biggest misperceptions around the work to create an inclusive tech ecosystem is the perception that the responsibility to create change is up to one ethnic group, gender, class or other homogeneous group.

The other equal misperception is there is a pipeline problem for tech companies hiring qualified candidates in technical and non-technical roles.

Both are damaging perceptions that often stifle opportunities for impact.

Creating an inclusive tech ecosystem is the responsibility of everyone in every role in tech. Using “the pipeline” as an excuse for not addressing diversity in a company’s hiring practice, or inclusion in the culture, is irresponsible and sends negative signals to qualified candidates.

To counteract this, Change Catalyst hosts Career Fairs to bring the diverse tech pipeline to tech companies, and the Tech Inclusion Conference to create an educational opportunity for everyone improve their diversity and inclusion practices.


Has the Techstars’ network impacted your business so far?

Yes, during the Tech Inclusion New York Conference, Change Catalyst partnered with Techstars to host the Startup Showcase pitch contest.

We worked with Techstars to expand our reach for high quality startups via suggestions from the network. Techstars IoT and Barclays NYC Managing Director, Jenny Fielding, participated as a pitch judge during the conference. The Techstars network also provided prizes such as mentor office hours to the top three winners of the Tech Inclusion New York Startup Showcase.


How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?

Being a recipient of the Techstars Foundation grant has allowed Change Catalyst to reach more entrepreneurs and startups through our Tech Inclusion Startup Showcases. The Techstars staff have been great collaborative partners in providing opportunities for founders.

Aligning with the Techstars brand has also elevated our own brand. We appreciate our mutually beneficial partnership and we’re excited to see what we will do next together!

Techstars Foundation Welcomes New Director

I just completed my first month as Director of the Techstars Foundation. WOW! I am excited to be here.

Diversity in the tech industry is something we are all reading about, talking about and a place we want to see change. Rather than sit on the sidelines, Techstars has developed resources for founders to use when creating and growing their companies and announced a Diversity Commitment in conjunction with the White House last year.  

Another way we have committed to moving the needle on real change is through the creation of the Techstars Foundation. The Techstars Foundation was founded in 2015 and is committed to improving diversity in tech entrepreneurship. We do this by investing in organizations with grant money and leveraging the Techstars network to empower these organizations to accelerate their mission forward.

I have followed the work of the Techstars Foundation since its inception. When Techstars established the foundation last year, I always thought to myself, “That sounds interesting, and I would love to find a way to help.”

A few months after its creation, I got connected to Ali Berman, interim Director of the Foundation. Over lunches, coffees and exchanged emails, we brainstormed ideas on how to raise more money for the Foundation and how to make impactful grants to interested organizations.

I always walked away from my conversations with Ali with that ‘head spinning’ feeling of excitement, enthusiasm and wanting to help more.  

My career to-date has been as a fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. I have always had a strong mission and interest in connecting individuals to their areas of philanthropic passion. When I think about the words “connecting” and “passion”, they are almost synonymous with the power behind the Techstars network. The Techstars Foundation is built upon that very premise.

You might be wondering – What does the Techstars Foundation support? What do we not support?  How can my organization apply for funding? How can I get involved?

What does Techstars Foundation support? – We support non-for-profit and for-profit organizations that are impacting diversity in tech entrepreneurship. How do we support them? In two ways.  

  • First, we provide grant money to that organization to help with a specific project or general operating needs.  
  • Second – and more powerful than the money from our vantage point – we actively wrap the Techstars network around our funded organizations to help drive their mission forward. We are not funders who grant money and walk away. We grant money and actively engage around your organization’s challenges.

What does Techstars Foundation NOT support? –  The Techstars Foundation is not designed to provide start up funding for individuals or companies. We do not provide grants to individuals either. Organizations that do not have 501c3 status or lack a fiscal sponsor are not eligible to apply.

I want to apply for funding. Where do I begin? – Awesome! We want to hear from you and understand how your organization is impacting diversity in tech entrepreneurship. We just rolled out a new process for interested organizations. Visit our website to review our grantmaking guidelines and our grantmaking process. If you are a fit, apply!  

How can I get involved? – There are a number of ways to become involved:

  • If you are in the Techstars network and want to help one of our funded organizations, ping me.  
  • If you are passionate about diversity in tech entrepreneurship, consider making a gift today. (The Foundation is 100% powered by personal donations.  Your tax-deductible gifts is what enables us to run.)  
  • If you are a company and want to contribute, consider becoming a Pledge 1% company and listing Techstars Foundation as a beneficiary.  
  • If you have an awesome idea on what we should be doing, please drop me a line.

A special thank you to our generous donors who helped get this off of the ground. Without you, the Techstars Foundation would not exist. A big shout out to Google who just came on board as the Foundation’s first corporate partner. Thank you also to the Techstars Foundation’s Advisory Board, current grantees and certainly Ali Berman for helping me get up to speed. You have all guided the Foundation to a wonderful place thus far, and I am excited about where we will go.

I look forward to meeting many of you and working with you in the months and years to come!  

Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Patriot Boot Camp

We recently sat down with Charlotte Creech and Josh Anderson of Patriot Boot Camp, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Patriot Boot Camp is an intensive, 3-day educational event designed to mentor military members, Veterans and their spouses to start technology-focused businesses.

What problem are you solving?

PBC helps bridge the resource gap that Veterans and military spouses face when starting technology companies. Our mission is to equip them with focused education, mentoring and community support to help them innovate and build the next generation of scalable companies.

Patriot Boot Camp leverages a nationwide network of business and startup community thought leaders to help entrepreneurs bridge the divide between military service and entrepreneurial life.


What sparked the vision and foundation behind Patriot Boot Camp?

Patriot Boot Camp has a strong foundation in the Techstars network. While going through the Techstars Boulder accelerator, Taylor McLemore questioned whether the tech community could be doing more to support Veterans in making the transition to startups.

With support from David Cohen, Taylor crafted an intensive 3-day boot camp to mimic the mentorship-driven Techstars accelerator. The first program – held in Washington, D.C. in 2012 – was met with huge demand from the military & Veteran community, and sparked what has now become a standalone 501(c)(3 non-profit organization running multiple programs each year.

Tell us about how your organization has affected/positively impacted your audience?

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) has run nine entrepreneurship education programs across seven cities since 2012, providing hands-on training and mentorship to more than 500 early stage military/Veteran and spouse tech entrepreneurs.

Successful outcomes from these programs range from having alumni meet a co-founder, to getting accepted to a Techstars accelerator program, to having a PBC mentor invest in their company and everything in between.

Most commonly, our alumni tell us the advice they received at PBC helped them quickly hone in on, or pivot to, a more viable business model and helped connect them with a network of subject matter experts that they never would have been able to access on their own.

What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

A popular misconception about military Veterans is that because of their uniformed service, they are rigid and heavily regimented.

While structure and order are hallmarks of the military, most personnel serving in the U.S. armed forces must be creative and inventive in order to accomplish their missions. Many of the ideas and companies that come through Patriot Boot Camp are highly innovative and operate with a social mission.

What is one world-changing company that you admire?

USAA! USAA has a long history of being a trusted service provider for military members and their families and has been an incredible supporter of Patriot Boot Camp. USAA’s mission is deeply rooted in its culture, and it truly leads the industry in both customer service and technology innovation.  

Do you have any examples of how the Techstars’ network has impacted your business so far?

Since its inception, Patriot Boot Camp has benefitted from the strength and expertise of the Techstars network. Nearly every member of Techstars’ leadership has volunteered at PBC programs as speakers and mentors, sharing invaluable advice and lessons learned.

Furthermore, Patriot Boot Camp is pleased to have five of its alumni companies gain acceptance into a formal Techstars accelerator program, and countless other alumni have leveraged its vast network of mentors and founders to gain critical knowledge and guidance.   

At an organizational level, Patriot Boot Camp is fortunate to have David Brown sit on its Board of Directors and access to a wealth of subject matter experts in all facets of business development.

How has the Techstars Foundation helped your cause/business?

Having the backing of the Techstars Foundation and brand has helped Patriot Boot Camp establish credibility among a highly competitive landscape of non-profit organizations.

More importantly, the Foundation provided a grant award which has helped us expand our programming and has also connected us with incredible mentors in the nonprofit arena to help us build a lasting, impactful organization.  


How can Techstars help with getting more Veterans involved with startups?

Many active duty military members, Veterans, and their spouses have an interest in pursuing entrepreneurship as an alternative career path, but don’t always have the community support and network needed to effectively guide them to the right resources.

By making a greater effort to outreach to the military and Veteran community, Techstars and its supporting programs including Startup Week, Startup Weekend and Startup Next, can help shepherd more Veterans into tech and ensure they have access to critical startup knowledge and resources.  

Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor will be matching donations to the Techstars Foundation until October 31. Brad and Amy will be matching $1 dollar for every $2 dollars contributed by members of the Techstars’ community, up to $100,000. Donate here today!

Diversity in Entrepreneurship: Gaza Sky Geeks

We recently sat down with Ryan Sturgill and Iliana Montauk of Gaza Sky Geeks, one of the five Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship.

Gaza Sky Geeks is a co-working hub, entrepreneurship outreach organization and startup incubator and accelerator in Gaza, run by the global organization Mercy Corps.

(NOTE: Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor will be matching donations to the Techstars Foundation until mid-October. Brad and Amy will be matching $1 dollar for every $2 dollars contributed by members of the Techstars’ community, up to $100,000.)

What problem are you solving?

Since 2007, people and goods have been largely restricted from crossing in and out of Gaza’s borders, leaving an isolated population with few avenues for employment. But the technology sector is less hindered by these restrictions – IT is the one thing that you can really do anywhere.

Building off two of Gaza’s core advantages – a strong internet connection provided by a fiber optic cable and a highly educated population – Gaza Sky Geeks is working to provide Gazans with the opportunity for reliable, fulfilling employment and the chance to join the global tech movement as coders and entrepreneurs.

What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?

We have found that a lot of the international community imagines Gaza as the pile of rubble often shown on the news, not the next potential hub for tech talent. The reality is that Gaza has a dense, urban population of educated, hard working, resilient and adaptable young people who are eager to learn and contribute to the growing global tech community.


Core to our existence is the belief that young people in tough environments have the DNA of entrepreneurs and that they can engage meaningfully in the tech sector, even if they are in isolated areas, and we have definitely seen this in Gaza. There is tremendous innovative potential here – it just needs to be harnessed.

What sparked the vision and foundation behind Gaza Sky Geeks?

In 2008, international NGO Mercy Corps saw that consistent access to high-speed internet from the fiber optic cable laid across Gaza could allow Gaza’s highly educated youth to sidestep many of the restrictions on the movement of people and goods.

Mercy Corps then embarked on a long-term mission to turn Gaza into a regional hub for internet-enabled entrepreneurship, establishing Gaza Sky Geeks in 2011 with support from Google.

Tell us about how your organization has positively impacted your audience?

Thanks to the hard work of our core staff, the dedication of our volunteers and mentors, and the support of organizations like Techstars, Gaza Sky Geeks has been able to lead the charge on building a new entrepreneurial technology ecosystem in Gaza that we believe can ultimately generate globally competitive businesses and freelancing talent.


In our vibrant co-working space in downtown Gaza City, where over 45 tech startups, online freelancers and software outsourcers work side-by-side every day, Gaza Sky Geeks is not only training individuals with hard technical skills that they can monetize, but also fostering a hopeful, growing community of over 2,500 people who now have a connection to the rest of the global tech world.

It is the only program of its kind in Gaza and the first to focus on tech entrepreneurship.

Over the past year, we have secured opportunities for entrepreneurs to travel to major startup pitch competitions in Jordan and Ramallah, complete internships with software startups in Sweden, and conduct market research in Morocco and the UK, despite increasing restrictions on permit issuances for Gazans.

For 80 percent of our entrepreneurs, these opportunities were the first time they had left Gaza in their lives.

In May 2016, we also hosted Gaza’s first hackathon, a 30-hour software development competition in which 19 teams produced working demos of their products, and one of the winning startup teams will have the ability to participate in a Silicon Valley-based acceleration program. This was a first for Gaza’s tech ecosystem and demonstrated to the entire community the potential the Gaza’s developers have to create viable online products and services.

How has the Techstars Foundation helped your business?

Techstars has helped us fund a major initiative to increase the skills and confidence of female tech founders. There are more women than men studying STEM related topics in Gaza, and in Gaza, women get higher marks than men in engineering fields.

There is also no stigma against women for excelling in science or math or engineering, but we find that many women lack the confidence and support to transfer those skills into launching their own companies or working in tech fields after university.

Our programming seeks to change that by providing a supportive community of women tech founders through regular meet ups, female coding and hardware workshops, stipends for transportation and income while working on startups, as well as investing in staff whose dedicated job is outreach to female engineers.

With those investments and support from Techstars, we’ve also established a safe, respectful and inclusive co-working space in downtown Gaza City that is accessible to everyone. Each day, over one third of the users of our co-working space are women who are working on startups, freelancing or working for software outsourcing companies.

We also believe that the global tech sector will benefit from the inclusivity of women and enterprising techies from conflict environments. People with these backgrounds and experiences will help develop the diverse solutions our world needs today, whether in consumer products or innovations that solve intractable problems.


Among other things, support from the Techstars Foundation has allowed us to jumpstart our women’s inclusivity program for 2016. Engaging women in our programming is is a core part of Gaza Sky Geeks. Research shows that businesses with mixed female and male leadership perform better than businesses with less diversity.

We believe that Gaza Sky Geeks are uniquely poised to become a leader in this space – since it is still the beginning of the startup movement in Gaza, it has not yet become defined as a traditionally male-led space in this geography.

Our commitment to this effort, with Techstars’ support, has allowed us to solidify Gaza Sky Geeks’ approach to:

  • Empowering women leaders and forging our partnerships with organizations like Geekettes, Technovation and TechWomen.
  • Offer the first ever women-and-girls-only coding classes in Gaza to teach one cohort of women how to code over a period of 6 months.
  • Employ a dedicated Mentorship & Women’s Inclusivity Program Coordinator.
  • Provide commuting stipends for women participating in the program.
  • Send female founders and developers from Gaza to participate in regional and international events
  • Bring international women mentors to Gaza.

Tech Startups: How to Become a Diversity Leader

Today we are excited to announce the results of our diversity research project with Chase for Business. We surveyed nearly 700 founders of tech startups from around the world to gain insights into the challenges they face when working to build a diverse and inclusive company.

We discovered that founders want to create an inclusive and diverse workforce, but many simply don’t know what to do to build inclusive teams. Our data show what specific actions Diversity Leaders take and how other entrepreneurs can replicate these actions to benefit from the unique perspectives that a diverse workforce can bring to their business.

A few key takeaways:

  • 81 percent of founders say diversity enhances creativity and innovation
  • 67 percent of founders say that diversity improves problem solving
  • 63 percent of founders say that a diverse workforce provides greater access to talent
  • 92 percent of founders are familiar with the term “unconscious bias,” but only 45 percent are taking steps to reduce it
  • Only 23 percent of founders say that a diverse workforce improves financial performance

While founders see advantages to having an inclusive and diverse team, they fail to connect those advantages to improved financial performance. However, research has clearly shown that tech companies led by women are more capital-efficient, achieving 35% higher ROI and 12% higher revenue. When a company commits to creating a diverse workforce, the business is more financially successful.

The study also uncovered that founders fall into three buckets: Diversity Planner (32 percent), Diversity Builder (56 percent), to Diversity Leader (12 percent).

Diversity Leaders take specific steps in five areas to create an inclusive environment: mentoring and advising, hiring practices, professional development, pay and performance, and flexible benefits. Tech startups who are Planners and Builders can follow the actions of Leaders to make progress in these areas.

We didn’t want to conduct another research study that identifies the problem but doesn’t offer actual ways to solve it. We have provided resources on the microsite so that founders can take action. This is by no means a comprehensive list. We know there are many more resources out there – please help us by adding them in the comments or use the Submit a Resource feature on the microsite.

Founders: please visit www.techstars.com/bealeader to learn how to become a Diversity Leader in tech. You can also view our infographic and download the full research report.

Big thanks to our partners Chase for Business, Lawless Research, and NCWIT for their support on this important initiative!

Founders: Please Participate in Techstars’ Research Study

Techstars is committed to providing the best support for founders around the globe. As part of this effort, we are partnering with Chase Bank to understand the challenges facing startup founders today, including fundraising, hiring/recruiting, diversity, market traction, etc.

Together with Chase, we are conducting a global research study to benchmark the current state of challenges facing startup founders. The findings of this research will be used to provide entrepreneurs with actionable steps to solve these challenges.

To complete this research, we invite founders to take part by completing our survey. The survey takes approximately 10-12 minutes.

As a thank you for your time and valuable insights, you may enter a drawing for a chance to win a $1,000 Visa gift card.

Please click on this link to begin the survey.


Thank you for your support!