Intel $125 Million Fund to Support Diversity in Startups

The chip maker, which already is spending $300 million to increase diversity in its workforce, is now funding startups led by women and minorities.

workforce diversity

Intel officials, who earlier this year committed to spend $300 million more to greatly diversify their own company's workforce, is spending another $125 million to help startups run by women and minorities.

The company this week announced the Intel Capital Diversity Fund, kicking it off with initial investments in four companies that touch on such segments as in the Internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and cyber-security.

Comments by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich about what's driving the creation of the fund echo ones he made in January when the giant chip maker kicked off its $300 million effort to ensure that by 2020 the company's workforce fully represents the percentage of women and minorities in the United States.

"We believe that a diverse and inclusive workplace is fundamental to delivering business results," Krzanich said in a statement when announcing the fund. "Our goal with this new fund is to meaningfully support a technology startup workforce more reflective of society, and ultimately to benefit Intel and the broader economy through its success."

The fund is part of a larger trend within the industry to increase the workforce diversity at major tech companies. Executives at companies like Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter have admitted that women and minorities are under-represented in their workforces, and some have taken steps to fix the issue.

For example, Google officials last month announced a $150 million workplace diversity initiative this year, with about half of the money going to outside organizations and the rest spent on internal programs, including an effort to recruit more women and minorities to work at the search company. That follows the $115 million or so Google spent in 2014 to promote diversity, according to officials.

Apple CEO Tim Cook talked about the need for a more diverse workforce earlier this week at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference. Speaking with news site Mashable, Cook said diversity is "the future of our company," adding that "the most diverse group will produce the best product. I firmly believe that."

It's going to take work to change the trend in the tech industry. Intel cited a recent report by Babson College that found that only 15 percent of venture capital-funded companies in the United States have a woman on the executive team, and that companies whose CEO is a woman receive only 3 percent of total capital venture money. In addition, citing industry surveys, Intel officials said that less than 1 percent of the founders of companies in the Silicon Valley in California are African-American or Latino, and almost all of funded founders are white or Asian.

Lisa Lambert, managing director and vice president of Intel Capital, the chip maker's investment arm, said that with the new fund, "Intel Capital is committed to investing in the best talent from a myriad of backgrounds to cultivate brilliant innovations that serve the needs of a diverse public."

Among the first companies the fund is investing in are Brit + Co., which is developing a media and e-commerce platform that offers online classes and all-in-one kits to teach women and girls everything from calligraphy to building gadgets using Intel's Galileo development boards. CareCloud offers cloud-based medical software and services, including practice management, electronic health records and medical billing.

Mark One is using Intel's Curie hardware module to build a smart cup that automatically recognizes the beverage the user is drinking, displays the nutritional content and syncs the user's drinking habit to their smartphone. Venafi's technology ensures that cryptography keys and digital certificates are protected so they can't be misused.