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St. Louis tech coalition will study barriers in startups for people of color

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TechSTL, St. Louis Community College and Lindenwood University will study barriers to resources for entrepreneurs of color and workers in technology startups across the region.

TechSTL, St. Louis Community College and Lindenwood University have received a nearly $300,000 research grant to study barriers to resources for entrepreneurs of color and workers in technology startups across the region.

Researchers will use the inclusive ecosystem grant funds from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation over the next three years to compile data on the gaps in resources and startup growth for entrepreneurs of color. They also will explore upward mobility, job training and diversity in the tech industry.

“Data is power, and when you know how to use it and know how to apply it, you're able to let that data really drive your decisions to make smarter choices on behalf of your career and your business,” said Emily Hemingway, executive director of TechSTL, a technology foundation that supports small businesses in the region.

Researchers say the data will highlight unequal resources affecting startups of color.

“When you are tackling very complex challenges, like around underrepresentation, like around barriers to access and lack of resources that are available to entrepreneurs and to the tech talent across the region, having strong data helps really break down the silos and the misconceptions,” Hemingway said.

TechSTL wants the St. Louis region to play a major role in the technology and startup industries by helping to create more equitable opportunities for entrepreneurs of color and workers in the technology industry. The technology group is working with faculty and staff from Lindenwood University’s Center for Applied Economics, which will serve as the primary project lead.

St. Louis Community College will use grant funds to expand on the data it found in its recent State of the St. Louis Workforce report, which highlighted growth and access in the geospatial industry and regional startups, by exploring entrepreneurship growth in communities of color and low-income communities.

The data could boost the region’s tech industry and the ability of companies to attract workers, said Phyllis Ellison, associate vice chancellor of St. Louis Community College.

“We have a very robust startup community here in the St. Louis region,” she said. “Unfortunately, when you don't have data, it's really hard to market that.”

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.

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