Kathryn Finney Is FOCUSed on Getting Black Women STARTed in Tech

DigitalUndivided launches START, an event focused on bringing tech entrepreneurship to urban communities

Kathryn Finney (far right) of Budget Fashionist fame and an editor at large for BlogHer put in work at SxSW this year. In addition to curating the panel "Art of the Start(up): How to Successfully Launch a Tech Company" which inlcuded former Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance White (second from left); she hosted a Digital Undivided Reception in conjunction with Kendra Braken-Ferguson of Digital Brand Architects (far left) and Former Essence Magazine Fashion Editor Darlene Gillard Jones of the Gillard Jones Agency; and hosted a tweet chat with Rachel Sklar, a TechStars mentor, and author of Change The Ratio, a book about increasing the visibility and opportunities for women in Tech.

Similarly, Kathyrn wants to give black women that same type of leg-up in the tech space.

She was first thrust down this path in 2007 after participating in a popular technology incubator, which she declines to name. She was surprised by the overt sexism and racism that was espoused by not only the participants, but by the judges and organizers who were some of the top leaders in the field.

At a time in her life, when she was one of the progenitors of style blogging, regularly making television appearances, one incubator participant had the audacity to ask her if she knew any of the top fashion and beauty bloggers. “I realized there was a dismissal that was so complete that they didn’t event Google me. I wasn’t even worth the cursory Google,” says Finney.

Another participant told her that her business idea, a kind-of Birchbox, online curation tool for black women’s hair products, wouldn’t work–not because he understood the black hair care market, but because he said Finney had an accountant, and thus would not be able to relate to normal black women. To which, Finney responded: “’I live in Harlem, so we can agree that I know more black women than you know. And they have accountants.’ If they are saying this to me and I have all the pedigree and things you’re supposed to have to be successful in the tech industry what would they say to someone else and would that person even get in the door.”

That thought settled in her soul for three years and when she realized that the status quo still had not changed for blacks in the tech game.  She joined forces with event director-extraordinaire, Darlene Gilliard Jones, and decided last October to host #FOCUS100 Pitch Bootcamp and Symposium,  the first event from DigitalUndivided, a social enterprise that builds forward thinking initiatives to fundamentally change the digital space by increasing the number of urban women digital entrepreneurs.

With help from sponsors like BlogHer, Ogilvy, Adreesseen Horowitz, and Starvest Partners, to name a few, the event drew more than 45 black, female-run companies, who were planning to launch or currently running a digital tech company. Newark Mayor, Corey Booker and MacArthur Fellow/Sustainable South Bronx founder, Majora Carter, were two of FOCUS100’s high-profile speakers. The event’s social footprint reached over 3 million people with 47 million impressions that resulted in several angel and venture funding deals.

Her next endeavor START, taking place on Saturday, April 13, is an interactive symposium held at the Spelman College Science Center NASA Auditorium. It will teach urban entrepreneurs how to start and grow digital businesses. While FOCUS100 was for entrepreneurs with a viable, registered corporation, START is a pipeline initiative that will bring Silicon Valley to the hood, with the intent to provide access to tools, resources, and individuals that would otherwise be unattainable to some of its participants. Attendees will be able to pitch their digital business ideas and could win up to $5000 in prizes.

No matter what Kathryn does, whether it involves fashion or uplifting female tech entrepreneurs, it’s fabulous.

For more information on START ATL, visit DigitalUndivided.com.

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