Cintrifuse doubles down on diversity efforts, adds Manager of Inclusive Innovation

Just as there seems to be a business for every need, the color and faces of entrepreneurs themselves are virtually limitless, too. In our continual efforts to make Greater Cincinnati a vibrant, accessible and inclusive region for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds, races and genders, Cintrifuse is excited to announce the promotion of Bjorn Simmons as our Manager of Inclusive Innovation.

This role is an evolution of Simmons’ role at Cintrifuse where he has been a part-time StartupCincy community catalyst, tasked with fostering organic growth in the region’s startup ecosystem.

The need for the position arose as Cintrifuse continues to align itself, along with the region, as a champion of inclusive innovation. The role is an important piece of Cintrifuse’s diversity and inclusion strategy, which includes an ecosystem census to monitor minority growth and development, a series of events to recruit founders to the region, supplementing the Cintrifuse customer connections program and positioning the region as a destination for diverse thinking.

Diversity and inclusion is a challenge that the entire tech community has come face-to-face with over the past several years, and organizations are being forced to take action. Techstars, a strategic partner of Cintrifuse, recently released a comprehensive study on the issue of diversity that served as a strong call to action to the country’s tech community.

Imagery provided by Techstars. Click image for full report.

Important takeaways included:

  • Diversity is important to 72% of founders, but only 10% are taking action
  • About 1 in 10 startups are Diversity Leaders
  • Tech Diversity Leaders and Builders are more likely to have women or minorities on their board of directors
  • 81% of all founders say diversity enhances creativity and innovation
  • Almost all (96%) minority women founders are very involved in promoting diversity, compared with 59% of all other founders

Read more: Techstars’ Diversity and Inclusion study: visualized

Steve Case, co-founder of Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm Revolution LLC behind the Rise of the Rest campaign, is one of the many leaders in tech vocalizing the impact of diversity and inclusion on his industry. Case spoke about the issue during his July 2017 visit to Union Hall.

“Everybody, everywhere has a shot at the American dream, and right now the playing field is not fair,” Case told the capacity crowd at Union Hall, challenging the room to change the way it thought about diversity.

“Southwest Ohio is uniquely positioned to make a serious impact and move the needle in this space,” said Simmons. “Less than one percent of all venture capital in the country goes to minority-led companies and we’re lucky to have SIX in the region here. Cintrifuse can affect change because we’re at the foundation — capable of creating a cultural shift necessary to drive results.”

Simmons’ role will be focused on addressing the issues facing diverse founders who are looking to raise capital or secure customer opportunities that help them scale. The plan recruits female founders and founders of color to the region and includes a call to action for strategic investors and advisors to participate in the movement.

“We have a chance to be real leaders and set up StartupCincy as an example,” said Eric Weissmann, VP of Communications, Community and Economic Inclusion at Cintrifuse. “You look at other, bigger ecosystems that have entrenched relationships and a dogma in place; whereas, we’re able to mobilize and react faster — see something, do something. It can be very effective.”

Last March, Cintrifuse played a critical role in the launch of the Hillman Accelerator — the first and only full-time accelerator in the Midwest built specifically to attract and accelerate venture-backable tech companies founded by women and ethnic minorities. Simmons will be a shared resource between Cintrifuse and Hillman — working to embed inclusion into the foundation of StartupCincy.

To open the doors to a broader collection of our community, Cintrifuse will host a series of events and workshops aimed at getting more diverse founders into the game. The series kicks off at Union Hall two weeks from today, with the return of Future, History, Now! — an opportunity for StartupCincy to celebrate minority success across the ecosystem.


Greater Cincinnati’s Venture-Backed, Minority-Led Startups

LISNR — LISNR® is an advanced, near-ultrasonic, ultra-low power data transmission technology that enables fast, reliable, and secure communication between devices via a any speaker and/or microphone.

BlackbookHR/Talmetrix — Talmetrix is reinventing how talent-focused organizations and their employees work together to fuel a culture of high performance.

Wyzerr — Wyzerr is the only survey tool with Smart Forms. Smart Forms are playful interfaces that make taking a survey more like a game and less like a chore.

ActionStreamer — ActionStreamer is a wearable technology platform that can livestream point-of-view video off of athletes in action.

SoLo Funds — SoLo Funds is a mobile peer-to-peer lending exchange for the underbanked population that provides affordable access to low-value funds.

ConnXus — ConnXus is an online service that connects diverse and small businesses with companies seeking to expand and diversify their supplier base.

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