• Ben Franklin 4 PA

Four Reasons Why: Inclusion is an Organizational Priority for Innovation Works

Updated: Jul 22


By The Innovation Works Team

Innovation Works


Innovation Works’ commitment to inclusive practices and policies is steeped in all we do and has been an organizational priority for many years. In fact, we’ve experimented with and refined almost a dozen programs, forged relationships with numerous community partners, and continue to roll out innovative solutions that reach more entrepreneurs in more communities at the very earliest stages of technology entrepreneurship.


A recent example of this work is our road trip to the HUE Tech Summit led by Ashley Lopez, Life Sciences Coordinator, and Jenn Van Dam, Digital & Community Engagement at Innovation Works. Innovation Works teamed up with the Pittsburgh Technology Council to coordinate a road trip for entrepreneurs to attend the HUE Tech Summit in Philadelphia. The Summit was a day-long event designed to educate, elevate and empower women of color technologists and tech entrepreneurs through panel discussions and workshops The group met with entrepreneurs, investors, and local tech groups such as Backstage Philly, the Philadelphia CiC, and the Professional Women’s Network. This road trip is just one example of how we’re helping entrepreneurs, specifically women of color entrepreneurs build relationships and foster connections across the state.


How is our commitment working? Today — and over the past ten years — more than 50% of the entrepreneurs and teams Innovation Works has invested in have a founder who identifies as a woman and/or person of color. And while we’re always striving for greater improvement, these figures are way ahead of national and regional benchmarks. Innovation Works is one of the nation’s most active and progressive investors in diverse founders of seed-stage, technology companies.


Here’s some of the leading work we’ve been doing with intention and focus:


· Created a board and staff that is reflective of the total community we serve. You can read more about our team here and a recent blog post welcoming the newest members of our board here.


· Formed the accelerators AlphaLab and AlphaLab Gear to make entrepreneurship more accessible to more entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of developing a company.


· Developed the Startable summer program to teach entrepreneurship to teens from diverse backgrounds, demographics and communities. The goals of the program are to receive mentoring, encourage STEM exploration and consider business ownership as a career. Startable is a paid internship, making learning entrepreneurship a reality for everyone, regardless of economic status.


· Brought on a senior Human Resources & Inclusion Director to our leadership team to not only grow Innovation Works’ programs but to also help the startups we fund to develop the inclusive culture and practices that will help them grow dynamically and successful companies.


· Created and live by a policy to ensure our panels, speakers and events are reflective of our wider community.


· Direct our sponsorship dollars and partnerships to community outreach to make entrepreneurship more accessible to more people. We provide free childcare at events so parents can attend, partner with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and many other organizations in our internship program, provide programming in rural communities to serve the entire Southwestern PA area and so much more.


If you are interested in our inclusion efforts, we’d love to talk with you. We don’t have every answer, but we’re working on an array of initiatives that make our people, policies and practices more open, transparent, inclusive and reflective of our community. Share your own ideas and perspective with our team so we can get even better. Innovation Works is strengthened by and focuses on programs that fuel the inclusive energy of our entire community.



© 2020 Ben Franklin Technology Partners