These Philadelphia Organizations Are Teaming Up To Build A Pipeline Of BIPOC Tech Founders

The Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT) and Ben Franklin Technology Partners are teaming up with Coded By Kids to make Mentor Connect, a program that matches founders with experts, more diverse. They say it’s the first of its kind in the city.

In a city whose tech sector is steeped with racial and gender inequity, a new partnership among three of Philadelphia’s leading tech advocacy and education organizations aims to provide budding entrepreneurs of color the opportunity to receive mentorship from industry leaders through a program called Mentor Connect — the first of its kind in the city.

Mentor Connect, a program that pairs entrepreneurial talent with experts to learn about operations, marketing strategies, leadership, and investing and raising capital, was first launched in 2016 by the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT) and Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) in response to the lack of community and mentorship opportunities available for diverse entrepreneurs in the tech sector. As part of OnE Philadelphia, a citywide tech pipeline for members of underrepresented communities, PACT and BFTP collaborated with tech education nonprofit Coded by Kids to expand Mentor Connect to prioritize underrepresented entrepreneurs.

“One of the things we’ve seen is the need for entrepreneurs, people willing to take risks, and it’s a very lonely environment being an entrepreneur in the tech sector,” Tony Green, vice president of science and technology at Ben Franklin Technology Partners, told The Plug. “It’s a very different mindset, requires a very different set of skills and experiences, and we felt very strongly that we needed to build a different infrastructure for that. There’s lots of coaching out there, there’s a lot of mentors, but there really isn’t a lot of systematic programming built on capacity building.”

Black people make up just 8.8 percent of Philadelphia’s technology workforce, according to a 2019 Economy League report. Melanie Hidalgo-Britt, chief revenue officer for Coded by Kids, says this lack of diversity inspired the nonprofit to launch OnE Philadelphia in October.

“We have to work on creating a system that would abolish or replace systemic racism that is placed on all the barriers for underserved and underrepresented communities to prosper and achieve economic mobility,” Hidalgo-Britt told The Plug. “That is where Mentor Connect comes in.”

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