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Intel launches $125 million fund for startups run by women, minorities

Intel has a goal to drive growth and career development for women and minorities in order to achieve "full representation" at every level by 2020.

Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, California
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said the company has more than doubled the number of diverse candidates hired this year. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Intel Capital, the global investment arm of the chip maker, unveiled a new $125 million fund dedicated to fueling diverse startups.

Noting that this initiative has been in the works since last December, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich explained on Tuesday that means new businesses run by women or underrepresented minorities.

"We've changed the way of how we do things here at Intel," said Krzanich during a media presentation, citing Intel has more than doubled the number of diverse candidates hired this year (from 20 to 40 percent of the workforce) so far.

Intel Capital has already doled out more than $50 billion in funding to more than 1,400 companies across 57 countries.

Lisa Lambert, vice president and managing director at Intel Capital, was quick to clarify this "isn't a social program," arguing there are many women and minorities ready to lead -- they're just looking for the opportunity.

"What we're convinced of is, as you seek out diverse points of view, you're going to produce better returns. All the studies show that," said Lambert.

Nevertheless, Lambert lamented "the news is not that great" when looking closer at the diversity (or lack thereof) at many tech companies today, large and small. Among some of the more dim statistics Lambert tossed out:

  • Only 15 percent of venture capital-backed companies in the United States have a woman on the executive team.
  • Fewer than one percent of Silicon Valley startups were founded by African American or Latino entrepreneurs.
  • Eight percent of all tech founders are women, dropping to just three percent within Silicon Valley itself.

However, when looking at the general workforce nationwide, Lambert said the highest growth rates are coming from African American and Hispanic American communities.

"The industry, as a whole, has some improvement to make," Lambert reflected. "We believe we have some improvement to make, but we're certainly no worse."

As Intel Capital started looking for these companies over the last few months, Lambert described her team quickly lined up a stream of investment candidates -- more than 100 -- starting with the quartet Intel announced funding for on Tuesday. These startups will also have access to Intel resources for business development, global marketing and other solutions.

Among the initial startups selected by the fund include maker movement-focused and e-commerce startup Brit + Co., founded by CEO Brit Morin who leads a workforce that is more than 80 percent female, and healthcare IT startup CareCloud, which boasts a workforce that is 56 percent female and 50 percent underrepresented minorities.

Rounding out the first four are cybersecurity startup Venafi, which focuses on cryptographic keys and digital certificates, and Mark One, which built a smart cup based on Intel's Curie hardware model to identify any beverage poured into the cup,

Within Intel itself, Krzanich reiterated a goal to drive growth and career development for women and minorities in order to achieve "full representation" at every level by 2020.

Aside from the new fund, Krzanich pointed toward other efforts including $1 billion targeted toward diverse suppliers as well as deeper involvement in the K-12 education sector, most recently with the Oakland Unified School district to establish a stronger path to college and technical careers.

But that's not enough, Krzanich acknowledged, insisting, "You have to build the full ecosystem."

This story originally posted as "Intel Capital launches new fund for startups run by women, minorities" on ZDNet.