CES 2020 Centers Investment into Underrepresented Entrepreneurs and Investors

Just one year after announcing its $10 million commitment to investing in underrepresented founders, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has doubled down on its diversity initiatives by introducing a new programming track at its annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) conference for those looking to see women and founders of color gracing the show’s stages. 

The Innovation for All series at CES features a host of panel discussions, pitch competitions, luncheons, and key organizational partnerships aimed at highlighting and connecting industry professionals and emerging tech founders. CES, which runs Tuesday through Friday, is the largest technology conference drawing nearly 200,000 attendees to the city of Las Vegas each year. Since its founding in 1967, companies from around the world have showcased their latest gadgets and discovered the latest trends on the CES platform. Despite major growth and international inclusion, the CES show came under fire in 2018 for its inability to feature women and other underrepresented minorities on its roster of keynote speakers and presenters. 

Brenda Darden Wilkerson, president, and CEO of AnitaB.org published the following on Recode admonishing CTA ‘s leadership: Among the show’s mainstage speakers, there is not a single woman, nor a single member of any underrepresented minority. The faces on the keynote page look surprisingly alike: Six white men, one Asian man; no women, no members of the black, Latinx or Native communities. Not a single person who identifies as LGBTQ, nor any other attribute that places them outside the dominant culture of tech. 

The following year, with a $10 million recompense in hand, the CTA actively went to work reshaping its diversity and inclusion initiatives with thoughtful tech policies and partnerships in the mix. “We’re investing in girls and children of color by partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington and Clark County Schools in Las Vegas. We’re also working with the Congressional HBCU Caucus to ensure that the 47% of HBCU graduates who are engineers are prepared to enter the tech sector and be successful, Tiffany Moore, Senior Vice President for Political and Industry Affairs, told ThePLUG last year. 

The Innovation For All series during the expo includes conversations with Melissa Bradley of 1863 ventures, a pitch competition with Black Girl Ventures, and a host of additional programming and networking for founders and investors to build connections across the show’s many featured events. We’ll also see conversations hosted with Harlem Capital Partners and SoGal ventures which were among the first minority-focused funds to receive a portion of the CTA investment. 

Confirmed tech founders in attendance include Dawn Dickson, founder of PopCom; Desmond Wiggan Jr., co-founder of BatteryXchange; QuHarrison of Inevitable Human and Mark Cuban Companies, and several others. Brandon Andrews, who leads open casting calls for underrepresented founders for ABC’s Shark Tank, will be hosting a call for pitches as well.

See a condensed version of a few of the innovations for all schedules here and below:

Jan 7

Chief Diversity Officer Panel: Implementing Diversity from the Top CTA Stage, LVCC, Grand Lobby 3PM to 4 PM

Jan 8

Female Entrepreneurs & Allies Meetup with SoGal Ventures LVCC, South Hall, S104 12PM – 2 PM

Jan 9

Entrepreneurs of Color & Allies Meetup with ThePLUGSands/Venetian, Lido Ballroom 3103 12PM – 2 PM

Culture Shifting and Hiring Differently CTA Stage, LVCC, Grand Lobby 2 PM – 3 PM

Note: ThePLUG will be hosting a PRO-member luncheon at CES this year on Thursday, January 9th from 12 pm to 2 pm in the Sands/Venetian Lido Ballroom. RSVP here to attend.

Sherrell Dorsey

She is the founder and CEO of The Plug—a distinctive, Black tech news and insights platform covering Black innovators in tech, venture capital, future of work policy, and more. Follow Sherrell on Twitter @Sherrell_Dorsey.