Today, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Demo Day focused on inclusive entrepreneurship, welcoming startup founders from diverse walks of life and from across the country to showcase their innovations. The President also announced new public- and private-sector commitments that promise to provide more Americans with the opportunity to pursue their bold, game-changing ideas.
America’s entrepreneurial economy is a hotbed of emerging talent and groundbreaking innovation. But the White House acknowledges we need to do more to make sure that we are tapping our country’s full entrepreneurial potential — drawing on talented Americans from all backgrounds and locations.
Just three percent of America’s venture capital-backed startups are led by women, and only around one percent are led by African-Americans. At present, only about four percent of U.S.-based venture capital investors are women. And while companies such as Unilever and Wells Fargo have launched incubators for enterprising tech startups, and a handful of accelerators are nurturing tech innovations in Detroit, capital for innovative startups is predominantly available in just a few places, making high-growth business creation a challenge outside of a handful of metro hubs.
The White House says that for the U.S. to be the best place on the planet to start and scale a great company, we must ensure that vibrant startup ecosystems emerge in every corner of America, and that all Americans, including those underrepresented in entrepreneurship — such as women and people of color — are both encouraged and able to fully contribute their entrepreneurial talents.
The Administration announcements made today include:
- Announcing 116 winners of two Small Business Administration prizes that promise to unleash entrepreneurship in communities across the country: the Growth Accelerator Fund for startup accelerators, incubators, and other entrepreneurial ecosystems; and the President’s “Startup in a Day” initiative that will empower mayors to cut red tape for local entrepreneurs.
- Scaling up the National Science Foundation I-Corps program with eight new and expanded Federal agency partnerships, introducing hundreds of entrepreneurial scientist teams across the country to a rigorous process for moving their discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace.
The independent commitments being announced today include, among others:
- Expanding the response to the President’s TechHire initiative with 10 new cities and states working with employer partners on new ways to recruit and place applicants based on their skills, create more accelerated tech training opportunities, and invest in innovative placement programs to connect trained workers with entrepreneurial opportunities and well-paying jobs.
- Over 40 leading venture capital firms with over $100 billion under management, including Andreessen Horowitz, Intel Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, and Scale Venture Partners, committing to specific actions that advance opportunities for women and underrepresented minorities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- Institutional investors committing over $11 billion to emerging managers, including CalPERS and the New York City Pension Funds.
- Over 100 engineering deans committing to attract and retain a diverse student body, building the pipeline for the next generation of American engineers and entrepreneurs.
- Over a dozen major technology companies announcing new actions to ensure diverse recruitment and hiring, including Amazon, Box, Microsoft, Xerox, and others committing to adopt variations on the “Rooney Rule” to consider diverse candidates for senior executive positions.
At a typical Demo Day, entrepreneurs make pitches to prospective funders. White House Demo Day is a little different.
"On a typical demo day, entrepreneurs like many of you pitch your ideas to potential investors … and it is a high-stress, make-or-break moment that can change the course of your life," Obama said. "Today was much more relaxed because you just had to pitch the president of the United States."
White House Demo Day is part of the President’s Startup America initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the Nation. Today’s event featured a diverse group of over 30 startup teams exhibiting at the White House. The President personally met the entrepreneurs and viewed their exhibits, which ranged from early-stage technologies to growth-stage consumer products, and spoke about the importance of inclusive entrepreneurship to our Nation’s economy.
Next year, the White House will report on progress made toward the inclusive entrepreneurship goals and best practices announced today.
Here are just a few of the startups that exhibited at White House Demo Day:
- BlueOak (Privahini Bradoo, San Francisco, California), an electronics recycling firm that harvests the valuable precious metals out of old smartphones and TVs.
- **Declara *(***Ramona Pierson, Palo Alto, California) — After a devastating car accident left her in a coma for 18 months and blind for 11 years, Pierson founded a company to build a new kind of search engine that incorporates advanced semantic search and predictive analysis.
- Open Health Network (Tatyana Kanzaveli & Maksim Tsvetovat, Los Altos, California) — After surviving colon cancer, Kanzaveli was inspired to develop a smart mobile health platform that helps healthcare organizations, researchers, and patient advocate groups create cutting-edge mobile applications that run on any device and in any language in a day without coding.
- Privail (Christopher Ategeka and Anwaar Al-Zireeni, San Francisco, California) — after losing his parents to HIV/AIDS, Ugandan-born Ategeka and Al-Zireeni teamed up to found a company that is commercializing low-cost, early HIV detection technology developed by Al-Zireeni. The technology is a portable, easy to use testing device that can directly detect HIV virus in the bloodstream faster than antibody or antigen based tests, and for a fraction of the cost of traditional RNA detection techniques.
- Black Girls CODE (Kimberly Bryant, San Francisco, California) has set out to prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. By introducing computer coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails, Black Girls CODE hopes to grow the number of women of color working in technology and give underprivileged girls a chance to become the masters of their technological worlds.
- Wearless Tech Inc. (Rubi Sanchez, San Francisco, California) — Sanchez has developed Cocoon Cam, a smart baby monitor can track a baby’s vital signs using only a video camera.
- Sword & Plough *(*Betsy Núñez & Emily Núñez Cavness, Denver, Colorado) turns surplus military gear that might otherwise be wasted and repurposes it for rugged and refined bags. The business employs veterans at every stage of the business (as designers, managers, sewers, quality control experts, and even models). Since launching in 2013, the team has repurposed 30,000 lbs. of military surplus. By investing in their employees and donating 10 percent of after-tax profits to organizations that support veteran employment, they have built a business that serves those who have served.
- **Go Electric *(***Lisa Laughner, Anderson, Indiana) began in 2011 as a $3 million contract with the U.S. military contract to build a micro grid for a Marine Corps base in Hawaii. The project required integrating several large lithium ion batteries, two large diesel generators, and Go Electric’s micro grid technology. Four years later, their LYNC technology integrates solar, wind, generators, and batteries and optimizes those energy resources to deliver energy services that stabilize the grid and ensure businesses and government organizations have secure, low-cost power 24/7.
- **Bounce Imaging *(***Francisco Aguilar & Carolina Aguilar, Boston, Massachusetts) — a tactical camera ball that spots danger before soldiers and first responders walk into it.
- Detroit Dirt (Pashon Murray, Detroit, Michigan) collects food waste from companies, including General Motors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the Detroit Zoo, and transforms it into rich soil. Using advanced composting techniques, Detroit Dirt helps companies regenerate their waste into resources that will educate the community, create jobs, and provide gardeners rich, life-bearing soil.
- Suneris (Joe Landolina, Brooklyn, New York) a biotech company that is focused on commercializing VETIGEL, an algae-derived gel that can stop traumatic bleeding in less than 10 seconds without the need to apply pressure — compared to the five minutes of pressure that current products require.