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Black Dot: A new startup epicenter for Black entrepreneurs

recent report about the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship found that only 0.2 percent of all U.S. venture capital deals from 2012 to 2014 went to Black women, despite the fact that they founded 1.5 million businesses and are the quickest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the nation. Black women founders also received just $36,000 on average in funding, while the average failed startup raised $41 million.

This massive gap highlights the need for culturally-focused startup hubs like Black Dot, a new resource center for Black entrepreneurs in Seattle’s Central District.

Black Dot co-founders K. Wyking Garrett, Aramis Hamer, Monica Washington, and Mujale Chisebukaseek to change these statistics. They strive to get more youth in the Central District interested in entrepreneurship while providing Black entrepreneurs with the necessary resources to successfully start or maintain their businesses via panels, networking events, and the option to use Black Dot as a co-working space.

“We look forward to kind of being like a greenhouse for economic sustainability in this community — we are a seed,” Garrett said. “The dot is a seed.”

The idea for Black Dot came about after the founders attended a Startup Weekend event called Hack the Central District. At the hackathon, Hamer and Washington created the idea for Heart Haven, which, similar to Black Dot, would provide the space for artists to connect and create. At the same time, Garrett createdAfricatown, a website and app that serves as a mechanism of discovery of the Central District.

After the event, they realized the community needed more than just one weekend a year to create and innovate new ideas. Working with David Harris, a startup advocate for Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, the entrepreneurs agreed that there should be a place that would provide a way for artists and innovators of all kinds to meet and develop ideas that benefit everyone in their community.

Thus, Black Dot was born.

Keeping the spirit of innovation alive

One key aspect of Black Dot is its physical location at the heart of the Central District on 23rd and Union. The corner has held historical importance for decades as a center for the African American community, but now a bevy of construction projects line the streets and existing businesses in the area have been struggling to stay open.

“It’s ground zero of gentrification,” Garrett noted.

Garrett has lived in the Central District his entire life and worries about the future of the neighborhood. The pattern of gentrification around Seattle has set a discouraging precedent, he said.

“You see buildings going up and you don’t see businesses that reflect the Black community that has been here for over 130 years,” Garrett said.

There is a long history of innovation born within the Central District community. It’s a place where people like Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix started their careers.

Garrett wants that spirit of innovation to remain alive and well in the neighborhood, despite all the changes. He said that the “legacy of resilience is why Black people are still here.”

“We wanted to make sure we connected and tapped that energy so this community can have a future in Seattle and not be totally displaced by the changes in the economic environment that is disenfranchising so many,” he explained.

Before opening Black Dot’s doors, Hamer set up a chalkboard mural on the corner of 23rd and Union and asked people to answer three questions: What they think of this corner, what they feel on this corner, and what they dream of this corner becoming.

A common answer for the third question: A mecca for successful Black businesses.

“Having us here is actually the perfect manifestation of what the people who are present in this community want to see in this space,” Hamer said. “So it just feels good all the way around, knowing that Black Dot is here.”

‘Everybody Wins’

Moving forward, Black Dot will work to grow their membership pool and continue connecting and educating entrepreneurs. They will be hosting more events in the space like startup bootcamps and invite successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries to come speak.

Programming Black Dot is supported by partners including Hack Nation, Umoja PEACE Center, Africatown, Black Community Impact Alliance, Seattle U, OED, Google, Add3, Madrona Venture Labs, Tech Stars, PACE and more. Much of their furniture was donated from WeWork and Lucid Lounge. Their business model is centered around a monthly fee paid by members, which come from a variety of industries and include techies and artists alike.

Garrett said the goal is to connect entrepreneurs of all types so that “everybody wins.”

“Black Dot and spaces like this are absolutely critical to the city’s goals around shared prosperity, social justice, and equitable development,” Garrett said. “Creating a world class city should be reflective of the world that we live in and we think that the work here helps us get to that place.”

Black Dot: A new startup epicenter for Black entrepreneurs in Seattle’s Central District

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5 tips for first-time female angel investors

BY on February 4, 2016 at 5:35 pm

Katherine Hague wants more women investing in startups.

The Female Funders founder stopped by Seattle’s Columbia City Club on Thursday morning for the final stop of her eight-city Female Funders breakfast series. She was joined by fellow female angel investors Gillian Muessig, co-founder of Moz; Outlines Venture Group Anne Kennedy; and Seattle Angel Fund Managing Member Susan Preston.

The group shared advice for female investors looking to make their first angel investment. Hague, who runs an online resource for both experienced and aspiring angel investors at Female Funders, wants 1,000 more women making angel investments by the end of 2016.

“Only 3 percent of deal-making venture capitalists are women, and this number has led to an even more troubling statistic — that only 2.7 percent of venture capitalist funding goes to female CEOs,” she noted today.

Hague raised cash from angels for her first company, an e-commerce platform for hardware startups called ShopLocket. She sold that company at just 23 years old and was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2014. She then launched Female Funders and Angel School, a boot camp for investors or entrepreneurs, to get more women interested in these fields.

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Future engineers show off student-made robots and scientific innovations at state competition

By on January 31, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Robots, crickets, and Washington’s future engineers took over the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash. this weekend.

Washington FIRST Robotics held two competitions on Saturday at the Western Washington State Championships on Saturday, as more than 1,000 students ranging from 6 to 18 years old battled with their respective robotic creations.

FIRST Lego League (FLL), a program that encourages students ages 9 to 14 to design and develop a Lego robot based on a real-world problem, hosted 30 of 120 Washington-based FLL teams on Saturday. To earn points, the teams competed against each other with autonomous robots in the “Robot Game” and showed off their Trash Trek project, which asked students to develop creative ways to collect, sort and reuse trash.

Entomophagy, or eating insects, was the Bearded Pineapple’s solution to the Trash Trek challenge. Crickets decompose quickly and are better for the environment than meat and bone scraps, and have the lowest “yuck-factor.”

The Bearded Pineapples say eating crickets isn’t so bad — in fact, they encourage it.

“It tastes like peanuts and chicken,” said Ashley, a 12-year-old member of the FLL team.

Ashley and Fritzi of the Bearded Pineapples, a FIRST Lego League team, show off their crickets. Eating insects, which decompose quickly and are better for the environment, was their solution to the Trash Trek challenge.
Ashley and Fritzi of the Bearded Pineapples, a FIRST Lego League team, show off their crickets. Eating insects, which decompose quickly and are better for the environment, was their solution to the Trash Trek challenge.

Washington FIRST Robotics, a non-profit organization with more than 11,000 actively involved students and 6,000 volunteers, mentors and coaches, also held its FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) this weekend, inviting 32 teams who competed for a spot in the Super-Regional Championship. FTC challenges seventh through twelfth graders to design, build, program and operate robots using a standard robotics kit that can successfully complete a game.

This year’s game was called RES-Q and was designed to imitate a mountain rescue. Each robot scored points by “resetting rescue beacons; delivering rescue climbers to a shelter; parking on the ‘mountain;’ and parking in the rescue beacon repair zone,” according to the FTC national website. Teams won extra points if their robot could pick up debris and place them in specific goals, or if it could hang from a pull-up bar at the top of the “mountain.”

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Startup Weekend Girls Edition: Teen ‘girlpreneurs’ learn how to build companies at 54-hour hackathon

It was like any other Startup Weekend, except the participants were a bit shorter and a bit younger.

More than 50 girls set up shop at Seattle’s Lake Washington Girls Middle School this past weekend during a 54-hour Startup Weekend Girls Edition designed specifically for fifth to ninth grade girls.

The ‘girlpreneurs’ spent the weekend working together to launch six different startups. They learned how to create social media accounts, websites, and logos, and even presented a demo of their product on stage to three judges: Rebecca Lovell, Director of Entrepreneurship and Industry for City of Seattle, Zach Smith, a partner with Social Venture Partners, and Bryan Lhuillier, founder of Shiftboard.

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