by Karla Monterroso, VP of Programs and Laura Weidman Powers, Co-Founder and CEO
After three years of the Code2040 Residency, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs — Code2040’s first program for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs — we’re announcing that this recent class of entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) who finished their term with us on September 29, was the program’s last.
An incredible journey
When Google for Entrepreneurs (GFE) called us back in 2014, they asked us to design a program to help their US tech hubs achieve their diversity goals. Through this phone call, the Residency Program was born.
Running the Residency has been an incredible journey over the last three years. We built meaningful relationships and participated in inspiring communities. The program also served as a valuable learning lab for diversity and inclusion in tech entrepreneurship. We got insights into challenges Black and Latinx entrepreneurs face in launching and growing companies, strategies tech ecosystems deploy to attract and support diverse talent, and learned so much more.
We have watched the Code2040 EIRs go on to do incredible things both with their companies and for their communities — -from matching lawyers to pro bono cases to leveraging smartphones to help people manage their food allergies — -things that we’ve been honored to directly and indirectly support. And through our work with TechSquare Labs in Atlanta, Capital Factory in Austin, 1871 in Chicago, Grand Circus in Detroit, American Underground in Durham, COCO in Minneapolis, Nashville Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, and Galvanize in San Francisco, we’ve seen meaningful progress across key geographies in this country to create inclusive tech ecosystems.
We are grateful to GFE for taking the risk to commission a new, untested program to help them meet their diversity goals, and for giving us the runway to build it over the last three years. It’s rare to find a single partner so committed to an issue that they will jump in with both feet financially and programmatically. The Residency’s successes in 2015–2017 are not just ours, our EIRs’, or the Hubs’, but GFE’s as well.
Deciding to sunset the program
Earlier this year as we kicked off the 2017 cycle, GFE let us know that they had decided to stop partnering with us on the program after this cycle.
Given this change, we decided to dig into our data and reflected on our insights to determine what were our best next steps. As we did, it became clear that while the Residency Program does have significant positive impact on participants, the structure of the program as designed for GFE’s goals did not attack the underlying systemic issues that are making it difficult for Black and Latinx tech entrepreneurs to succeed. At Code2040, we believe in the work of direct impact and changing lives, but we are called to do the work of systems change. Knowing the Residency was not fulfilling this purpose meant either simultaneously revamping it to fit our impact goals and finding new funders, or sunsetting it.
Given all the positive impact it had, the choice to move away from the Residency was painful. But ultimately we felt that, to best leverage our competencies to effectively pursue the work of systems change, entrepreneurship at Code2040 could not be confined to a single programmatic initiative. Rather, it must be part of a cross-functional approach that brings entrepreneurship into every part of what we do. So we decided that, rather than continue the Residency without GFE, we would sunset the program.
What this means is that in 2018 we will not have a standalone entrepreneurship program. Instead we will prioritize entrepreneurship in our student programs, ensuring Code2040 program alumni have access to the networks and resources they need to start and scale companies. We will put entrepreneurship front and center in our storytelling, identifying and elevating the stories of Black and Latinx entrepreneurs through content and campaigns. And we will create special places for entrepreneurs in our community, including by hosting events and opportunities for entrepreneurs to meet and support each other.
A final thanks
Perhaps most importantly, though, we’d like to take an extra special moment now to honor our current cohort of EIRs — -Jonnie “Jo” Williams, Kristen Sonday, Juan Porras, Courtney “Coko” Eason, Sterling Smith, Javier Evelyn, Damola Ogundipe, and Yscaira Jimenez — -finishing their term with us this week. You all are brilliant. You have tackled problems in the areas of pro-bono legal services, health, business productivity, human connection, and civic engagement.You were willing to make difficult decisions both in terms of accountability and business development while also trying initiatives to diversify the space. You are inspiring. We’re honored to have you and the rest of our EIRs from past cohorts in our community for the long term.
And to GFE, we have loved being a part of the GFE community and look forward to figuring out new ways to be part of the Google for Entrepreneurs partner network.
And thanks to YOU for continuing to cheer on Code2040, our mission, and our whole community. Stay tuned over the next few months for more on what entrepreneurship at Code2040 will look like!