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DC Tech Leaders Launch Major Initiative to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
'BEACON' Initiative receives backing of Mayor Bowser, looks to make the District the top U.S. city for women innovators and entrepreneurs

Provided by BEACON

Washington, DC area leaders and entrepreneurs announced today the launch of BEACON: The DC Women Founders Initiative, a campaign to make Washington, DC the most supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs in the United States.  The initiative will bring together business leaders, investors, government leaders, mentoring networks and other allies in a unified effort to expand funding and other resources and opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

As part of the launch, BEACON unveiled a key partnership with District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser that includes dedicated grant funding for organizations that provide resources, mentoring and other support to women founders in the DC area.

"I am committed to continuing Washington, DC's reign as a top city for women entrepreneurs," said Mayor Bowser. "I am excited to support BEACON, an initiative that brings together the District's public and private sectors to foster an innovative environment for DC's next wave of women entrepreneurs."    

BEACON also announced a series of workshops to engage area innovators in a collaborative effort to understand the challenges and needs of women District entrepreneurs.  The workshops will inform future projects of the initiative and are supported by the Institute for Technology Law and Policy at Georgetown Law, with sponsorship from Google as part of its efforts to bring more diverse voices into technology.

Support from Georgetown will help ensure that the DC Women Founders Initiative attains specific, quantifiable measures of success and that the Initiative develops a replicable model that can be scaled to benefit other communities in the District and across the United States.

"The innovation community in Washington, DC is vibrant and growing," said Shana Glenzer, co-founder of the DCFemTech collective and a member of the BEACON board. "By amplifying the resources for women entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, we are making DC a leading hub for women founders."

"Investing in women is smart business," said Anna Mason, director of investments for Rise of the Rest at Revolution and DC co-director of The Vinetta Project, another BEACON leader. "We are seeing a nationwide effort to expand the concept of entrepreneurship and empower more founders to succeed. DC is well-positioned to showcase the best approaches for supporting women entrepreneurs."

Today's launch comes at a time of increasing focus on the imbalance of funding and resources available for women entrepreneurs.  Just one in ten venture dollars goes to companies with a women founder, and on average, women start their businesses with half the capital of men.  Women of color face even greater barriers: of 10,284 venture deals funded from 2012-2014, just 24 involved startups led by black women—about 0.2 percent.

"Women's entrepreneurship is on the rise, but women still face disproportionate challenges in gaining access to capital and other resources that businesses need to thrive," said Alexandra Givens, Executive Director of the Institute for Technology Law & Policy at Georgetown Law, which will contribute to BEACON with policy and management support. "BEACON aims to disrupt that narrative, pulling together resources in a playbook we hope other cities will follow."

The launch of BEACON takes place today at MakeOffices Dupont with a roundtable of stakeholders from across the business and tech community. The roundtable will focus on specific steps that can be taken by local organizations and individuals to improve resources and opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

Present were representatives of the DC Mayor's Office including Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner, investors and entrepreneurs from the DC area, and BEACON leaders Aerica Banks of Google, Xina Eiland of BFF, Black Female Founders and X+PR PR, Shana Glenzer of MakeOffices and DCFemTech, Alexandra Givens of Georgetown Law, business owner Mariana HubermanAnna Mason of Revolution and The Vinetta Project, and Joy Whitt of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.