As a special education administrator in DC Public Schools, Brandon Best has seen struggles with a lack of communication between parents and teachers for over a decade. That’s why he founded PT Chat, a platform designed for Title I schools that allows parents to regularly talk with their teachers and check up on their kids.
“A lot of schools really have difficultly when it comes to engaging families, especially in a way that impacts their bottom line, which is student achievement,” Best told Technical.ly DC. “At DCPS, they have 48,000 students, for which they receive $25 million in Title I funding, and 1 percent of that funding has to be spent, by law, on family engagement projects. That’s what we are. For the last couple of years they have been trying to figure out ways to spend that money.”
Ebony Pope is the director of U.S. Ventures at Village Capital, which invests in companies that are solving social issues within education, financial technology, energy education, health care and agriculture. The Village Capital Pathways program, which is also working with minority and woman-owned startups in Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta, plans to help the startups become investment-ready and link them with angel investor opportunities.
All of the companies have a social mission and are led by founders from groups that are underrepresented in tech. Often, these startups have a tougher time getting early-stage funding.
“We’re hoping that through this program they’re able to meet with angel investors or other ecosystem players that can help them scale or grow and in the next year or two they can get involved with our programs, which are for companies that are a little farther along at the seed stage to get venture capital funding from us, or from other organizations,” Pope said.
SouSou is a mobile crowd banking platform designed to connect investors and banks to women-owned businesses and female prospective home buyers.
“Women are getting screwed out of funding,” said SouSou CEO and founder Fonta Gilliam. “We are two times more likely to be denied a loan at a bank, we are four times less likely to receive venture capital and 34 percent more likely to receive a subprime loan. And banks and institutional investors have a serious challenge finding investment-ready businesses, particularly startups.”
The Mentor Method leverages a company’s top performers to attract, engage and retain diverse tech talent through mentorship.
“As a woman of color in tech, despite having certifications from MIT and the Harvard Extension School, oftentimes I was treated as the token for companies looking to check off their diverse hiring box,” said Janice Omadeke, founder and CEO of The Mentor Method. “This resulted in me taking all of my top-performing, brilliant ideas over to competitors where they would utilize them, and unfortunately this case is all too common.”
We Are Marcus delivers a virtual on-demand character development curriculum designed to close the mentoring gap for middle school and high school boys of color.
“We know more and more that students are engaging with their phones,” said Christopher King, founder and CEO of We Are Marcus. “You get a bunch of kids that get sent to the male role model at the school. Now you’ve got a cohort of kids who are missing class time consistently.”
Cohort members also include:
- RecruitHer, which helps companies attract more female tech talent by identifying unconscious gender bias in job descriptions and offering data driven recommendations for alternative language.
- Elite Gaming Live, an interscholastic competitive gaming platform that provides STEM programming for grades 4-12, educating students on careers in technology and game development.
- Mully Lingua, which works with families to raise globally aware and multilingual kids by connecting them with local events and activities that provide authentic cultural learning experiences.
- WordsLiive, an app that enhances literacy by integrating student interests and preferences within music and social media into their school curriculum.