Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Federal government / POC in Tech / Women in tech

At first White House Demo Day, Obama calls for inclusive entrepreneurship

The President cheered on startup founders and announced a slew of access-minded initiatives.

President Barack Obama speaks at the first White House Demo Day, which was held on his 54th birthday, Aug. 4, 2015. (Screenshot via YouTube)

On Tuesday, dozens of startup founders got to chance to pitch their concept to none other than the President of the United States.
“Our ideas can move the world,” said Barack Obama, speaking in front of a podium full of founders selected to present at the White House.
“And we’ve gotta judge those ideas on their merits,” he continued. “We’ve got to make sure they’re not filtered by misperceptions about who people are or who’s capable of dreaming something up.”
For its first-ever Demo Day — which trended on Twitter — the White House sought to cheer on U.S. startups while also highlighting the gender gap and lack of diversity in entrepreneurial circles.

President Barack Obama met with entrepreneurs at the White House. (Screenshot via YouTube)

President Barack Obama met with entrepreneurs at the White House. (Screenshot via YouTube)

“There are chronic challenges for any entrepreneur,” said Obama, citing access to capital for entrepreneurs who don’t live in VC hubs, or aren’t of a specific profile.
“It’s always hard to get in front of the right people,” he said. “But sometimes it’s harder if you’re a woman or an underrepresented minority.”
Obama also deplored the enduring gap in access to STEM education.
“Too many girls and too many young people of color are getting intimidated and winnowed out of the process,” he said. “We deprive ourselves of the talent that we need in order for us to continue to be a dynamic, innovative economy.”
“The next Steve Jobs might be named Stephanie, or Esteban,” added the President. “They might never step foot in Silicon Valley.”
The government announced a series of access-focused initiatives in conjunction with Demo Day, including:

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Among those selected to present were Felix Brandon Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd Bookey, the couple that founded children-centered apps platform Zoobean out of 1776 in 2013.
The company moved to UberOffices in Rosslyn after receiving backing from the Center for Innovative Technology Gap Fund.


Zoobean cofounders and married couple Jordan Lloyd Bookey and Felix Brandon Lloyd in front of their booth at the White House Demo Day. (Photo by Lalita Clozel)

Lloyd, who previously lived in Austin, Texas, said he found D.C. to be relatively welcoming for diverse entrepreneurs. “It’s a friendlier place to live in as a minority,” he said.
He added, beaming, that he got to shake Obama’s hand. “That means an awful lot,” he said.

Companies: Relevant Health / Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation / Eastern Foundry / Amazon / Mission: Launch / Andreessen Horowitz / Microsoft / U.S. Small Business Administration / White House

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