40 Diverse People In Tech Who Made Big Moves In 2015

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40 Diverse People In Tech Who Made Big Moves In 2015

Diverse people — people of color, LGBTQ men and women, women in general, people with disabilities, older people, younger people, etc. — have contributed a lot to the overall tech ecosystem this year.

Before you dive in, please keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive. There are tons of diverse people in tech who accomplished amazing things this year, so don’t hesitate to tell us who they are and why they should be on this list in the future!


Glassbreakers co-founders Eileen Carey and Lauren Mosenthal

Glassbreakers, the mentorship platform for women, announced its entrance into the enterprise software business, after doing trial runs with Box and Pinterest. Next year, Glassbreakers will officially launch an enterprise solution for diversity to companies with over 10,000 employees.

Founded by Eileen Carey and Lauren Mosenthal, Glassbreakers hopes to provide a solution to diversity that can make a difference right now. “We wanted to build something we could implement today and effect change for people who are already there,” Mosenthal told me in September. “So moving away from the pipeline, but I think that can and will help the pipeline because then they’ll be known as a company that cares about diversity.”


Morgen Bromell, founder at Thurst

Morgen Bromell launched Thurst to serve as the first truly inclusive dating app for gender queer and trans people.

“Our main focus is pretty much security and safety,” Bromell told TechCrunch in August. “We’re really working on harassment policies to create features that protect users from being tracked or stalked, or being put in a dangerous situation when they meet in person. That goes for trans women of color who get unreal levels of harassment and violence on dating platforms and apps.”


Rodney Williams, CEO at LISNR

In November, audio-beacon startup LISNR raised a $10 million Series B round led by Intel Capital. Intel Capital’s investment in LISNR came from its $125 million diversity fund, which was created to invest money in startups with female or minority founders.

LISNR was co-founded by Rodney Williams, who previously led up brand management for Pampers over at Procter & Gamble.


Angelica Ross, founder at TransTech Social

Angelica Ross, who taught herself how to code and build websites, has an admirable goal: to connect the global trans community. Through TransTech Social, Ross aims to create and grow employment pipeline for trans people. Members of TransTech Social have access to training around things like typing, data entry, Google Docs and web programming.

This year, Ross joined U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith to kick off the second White House LGBTQ Tech and Innovation Summit.


Charles Hudson, Managing Partner at Precursor Ventures

After spending several years as a general partner and eventually venture partner at SoftTechVC, Charles Hudson has launched a new pre-seed investment firm called Precursor Ventures.

With Precursor Ventures, Hudson’s plan is to invest early on in young startups, with the hope that those bets will result in high returns. Hudson has yet to announce the firm’s initial investments.


Tracy Young, co-founder and CEO at PlanGrid

PlanGrid, the construction management software startup led by Tracy Young, had a big year.

Last month, the startup announced a $40 million round led by Tenaya Capital. To date, PlanGrid has worked on over 300,000 construction projects and is managing over 30 million blueprints.


Heather Hiles, founder at Pathbrite

As founder and CEO of PathbriteHeather Hiles wants to make it easier for students and professionals to showcase their work.

In late October, education tech company Cengage Learning bought Pathbrite for an undisclosed amount. Pathbrite had previously raised over $11 million.


Riana Lynn, founder at FoodTrace

Earlier this year, Riana Lynn received a $40,000 stipend, office space and other resources through a Google-backed Entrepreneur in Residence program in partnership with non-profit organization CODE 2040. Lynn’s FoodTrace connects members of the food supply chain, like farmers, wholesalers and buyers, and enables them to more efficiently manage their inventories. Through FoodTrace, food shops and restaurants can offer transparency to customers around where their food comes from.


Stephanie Lampkin, founder at Blendoor

As founder of Blendoor, Stephanie Lampkin is on a mission to mitigate bias from the recruiting and hiring process. Earlier this year, Blendoor won first place at the second annual Lesbians Who Tech Summit’s startup competition. In November, Blendoor landed a $25,000 investment from Kapor Capital as part of the social impact firm’s “People Operations Reinvented” pitch competition.

Prior to founding Blendoor, Lampkin worked as a technical account manager at Microsoft. She has an engineering degree from Stanford and an MBA from MIT Sloan.


Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler, founder at Trans*H4CK

In 2013, Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler founded Trans*H4ck, a nationwide effort that develops open source tech resources and products to help and benefit trans and gender non-conforming initiatives. Prior to founding Trans*H4ck, Ziegler wrote and directed the award-winning documentary STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen.

This year, Ziegler co-founded BlackStarMedia and revamped Trans*H4CK to bring it online and make it more accessible to trans people all over the world. In June, Trans*H4CK received $85,000 in grant money from VC Marc Andreessen and philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.


Erica Baker, build and release engineer at Slack

A powerhouse in the tech industry, Erica Baker has held engineering roles at top tech companies like Google and now at unicorn startup Slack. Having spent nearly ten years at Google, Baker worked in IT support, managed the hardware trial program for Google TV and later worked as a corporate operations engineer. When she’s not coding, you might find her blowing the whistle on pay inequality at Google or speaking out about diversity efforts in Silicon Valley.

Earlier this month, Baker received an award from the Level Playing Field Institute for her work around advocating for diversity in the tech industry.


Leslie Miley, former engineering manager at Twitter

Miley’s a seasoned engineer in tech, having spent his last several years in engineering management positions at Google, Apple and Twitter. While at Twitter, Miley was responsible for the company’s Android, iOS and web engineering efforts for the product safety and security team. Miley had his hands on core functionalities of Twitter like the log-in, two-factor authentication, password reset and archived tweets.

He recently resigned from Twitter because of the way the company is tackling diversity and inclusion. In doing so, he further ignited the conversation around diversity in tech.


Payal Kadakia, CEO at ClassPass

ClassPass, the fitness startup that charges you $125 for unlimited fitness classes from a plethora of gyms, has been on a tear this year. In April, ClassPass acquired a competitor called FitMob and in November, ClassPass raised a $30 million Series C round led by Google Ventures.

ClassPass started as Classivity, a search engine for fitness classes, but didn’t do very well. Under Kadakia’s leadership, the company pivoted to ClassPass and has since raised $84 million.


Laura I. Gómez, founder at Atipica

Before founding Atipica, Laura I. Gómez spent time at tech companies like YouTube, Jawbone and Twitter. At Twitter, Gómez was a founding member of the international team and lead Twitter’s product expansion into 50 languages and several countries. At Atipica, her goal is to use big data and machine learning to mitigate bias in applicant tracking systems.

In November, Atipica received a $25,000 investment from Kapor Capital.


Justin Washington, engineer at Snapchat

Justin Washington has worked at some of the top companies in the tech industry, including Apple, Yahoo, Twitter and now unicorn startup Snapchat. Washington’s first full-time job was at Apple, where he kicked off his career on the iOS quality assurance team.

Today, Washington works at Snapchat as a quality assurance engineer. This year, Washington led the testing efforts for Snapchat’s first in-app purchase product, Pay-2-Replay.


Freada Kapor Klein, partner at Kapor Capital

Through her work at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, Freada Kapor Klein has advocated for entrepreneurs from underrepresented backgrounds through her words and her money.

In August, Kapor Klein and her husband Mitch Kapor committed to spending $40 million over the next three years to help make Silicon Valley a more diverse and inclusive place.


Erin Teague, product manager at Yahoo

With a computer engineering and computer science degree from University of Michigan, and a business degree from Harvard Business School, Erin Teague is an ideal employee in Silicon Valley. She’s held roles at Intel, Twitter, Path and now Yahoo, where she’s been director of product management for over two years.


Mark S. Luckie, founder of Today in Black Twitter

Before starting Today in Black Twitter, Mark S. Luckie spent three years at Twitter as manager of journalism and media, where he helped journalists use Twitter and help them better understand how to use it for sourcing.

The idea for Today in #BlackTwitter, which officially launched in October, came from something called BlackWeek, which was Twitter employee resource group Blackbirds’ take on the company’s quarterly Hack Week.

“We were trying to come up with ideas of how to advocate for the black community through Twitter’s technology,” Luckie told me in November. During that conversation, Luckie and other Blackbirds members discussed how there are algorithms within Twitter’s API that could help them “surface exactly who Black Twitter is and what they’re talking about,” Luckie said. “And after I put out the book, I thought, hey, I could actually do this and I think it’d be amazing.”


Melanie Araujo, founder at Front & Center

Prior to founding Front & Center earlier this year, Melanie Araujo worked as a neuro-marketing research specialist at Nielsen NeuroFocus, and as a lead interaction designer at Telenav.

At Front & Center, Araujo aims to increase diversity in tech through hosting design workshops in local communities. Check her out on TechCrunch talk show Bullish.


Joelle Emerson, founder and CEO at Paradigm

As the head of Paradigm, Joelle Emerson is tasked with helping tech companies like Slack, Airbnb, Pinterest and Asana develop diversity strategies and initiatives.

Before Emerson started Paradigm, she practiced law around gender equality at Equal Rights Advocates, a non-profit organization for women’s rights.

Down the road for Paradigm, the aim is to scale the business and work with more clients. In fact, Paradigm wants to work with every company in Silicon Valley, and in tech more broadly, that cares about diversity and inclusion, but doesn’t have its strategies nailed down just yet.


Kimberly Bryant, founder at Black Girls Code

Kimberly Bryant runs Black Girls Code, the non-profit organization that aims to increase the number of women of color in technology and computer science. Now in its third year, Black Girls Code has reached over 3,000 girls. Through Black Girls Code, Bryant hopes to teach 1 million girls across the world how to code by the year 2040.


Rubi Sanchez, co-founder at Wearless Tech

With a background in health care systems and business, Rubi Sanchez has turned her expertise into Wearless Tech, which recently unveiled its first product, the Cocoon Cam. The Cocoon Cam is a smart baby monitor that offers insights around a baby’s breathing and temperature, without the need for any wearable device.


BuildUp founders Kristina Omari, Wayne Sutton and Christian Anderson

BuildUp is the brainchild of Kristina Omari, Wayne Sutton and Christian Anderson (pictured above). Collectively, they make up a diverse, all-star team of serial entrepreneurs, mergers & acquisitions experts and investment bankers.

This year, BuildUp launched a fellows program, an intensive two-week accelerator designed to educate and mentor underrepresented founders, like women, veterans and minorities, in the tech industry. The program culminated with a demo day at Twitter in October.


Ana Díaz-Hernández, business development manager at Udacity

Formerly of Kapor Capital, Ana Díaz-Hernández joined online education startup Udacity in August to create partnerships with companies looking to hire grads from Udacity’s Nanodegree program. Her goal is to pursue her “passion for democratizing access to education and employment,” Díaz-Hernández wrote on LinkedIn in September.

Fun fact: Díaz-Hernández is the founder of a group called Women of Color in Tech in the Bay Area.


Tristan Walker, founder at Walker & Company

Walker & Company, the lifestyle brand for African-Americans behind Bevel razors, has had a stellar year. Founded by Tristan Walker, Walker & Company raised a $24 million Series B round in September, bringing its total funding to $33.3 million.

It also recently announced a major deal with Target to sell its items in-store and online. Bevel products will be available at Target starting sometime early next year.


Leanne Pittsford, founder of Lesbians Who Tech

Leanne Pittsford hosted the second-ever Lesbians Who Tech Summit in February, and is gearing up to host the third one in San Francisco early next year. LWT is the first event of its kind to bring together lesbians, queer women and allies in tech.

In June, LWT received $165,000 in grant money from VC Marc Andreessen and philanthropist Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.


Ruth Mesfun, co-founder of People of Color in Tech

Inspired by her computer science students at Excellence Girls mIddle Academy in New York, Ruth Mesfun co-founded People of Color in Tech to highlight the stories of racial minorities in a mostly white industry. Now that the site has launched, Mesfun gives her students the interviews to read as homework, and encourages them to write letters to the interviewees.

But the main goal of the site is to help people of color realize that, even though the numbers are low, there are “so many of us who want to support each other,” Mesfun told me in October. Down the road, POCiT will host chats on Twitter and other social media platforms to let the readers engage with the interviewees, as well as host meet-ups to further grow and nurture the community of people of color in tech.


Laura Weidman Powers, CEO at CODE2040

CODE2040, led by Laura Weidman Powers, had a year full of partnerships and money coming in. In January, Google gave CODE2040 $775,000 in grant money and in March, Google backed a CODE2040 pilot program to support minority entrepreneurs with a one-year stipend and free office space in Chicago, Austin and Durham, N.C. Back in August, Apple partnered with the organization to offer three-month paid internships to 10 of the 80 fellows in CODE2040’s 2016 class.

Earlier this month, CODE2040 received a $1.2 million grant from the Knight Foundation to double the size of its diversity in tech programs. Since launching its pilot program in 2012, CODE2040 has helped thousands of black and Latino students get involved in technology through its flagship CODE2040 Fellows Program.


Brian Dixon, partner at Kapor Capital

Brian Dixon, Kapor Capital’s newest venture partner, spent his first couple of years at Kapor Capital as a pre-MBA intern who later converted to a full-time associate, and then principal. A principal is basically a partner in training, Dixon told me in November.

You’re supporting the partners who may be a co-lead on a deal, but you’re not leading the deal yourself, and that’s really important,” Dixon said. 

In September, Dixon officially became a partner at Kapor Capital.


Zakiya Harris and Susan Mernit, co-founders at Hack the Hood

Hack the Hood, founded by Zakiya Harris and Susan Mernit, expanded its tech training program for low-income youths of color into five new locations earlier this year. This came less than a year after Hack the Hood received a $500,000 grant from Google, as part of the tech giant’s 2014 Bay Area Impact Challenge.


Nicole Sanchez, VP of social impact at GitHub

Nicole Sanchez joined GitHub this year to serve as the company’s first-ever head of social impact. In this role, Sanchez is tasked with tackling projects like ConnectHome, an initiative to provide high speed Internet access to low-income homes.

Before joining GitHub as VP of social impact, Sanchez ran her own diversity consulting company, Vaya Consulting. Prior to that, she worked as a managing partner and chief operating officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact.


Michael Seibel, partner at Y Combinator

Back in September, Michael Seibel, Y Combinator’s first black partner, launched the first-ever open office hours at Y Combinator to give diverse founders access to YC partners.

“I wanted to do something personal,” Seibel told me in September. “I’ve always felt like if you’re on the outside looking in, a half-hour phone call could mean the world to you. I started putting my email out there and started getting tons of people reaching out to me. I now do office hours with as many people outside of YC as those who are in YC.”


Tan Hooi Ling, co-founder at GrabTaxi

GrabTaxi, a mobile car-hailing app, is posing a big threat to Uber in Southeast Asia. Founded in 2012, GrabTaxi operates in 26 cities across six countries in Southeast Asia. Uber is present in those markets, but GrabTaxi says it’s leading in each of those cities.

In August, GrabTaxi, co-founded by Tan Hoo Ling, raised a $350 million Series E round, bringing its total amount of funding to at least $680 million.


Will Lucas, founder at Classana

As founder of Classana, Will Lucas is on a mission to reimagine the college advisor by showing learners the best books, classes, articles, events and relevant people you need to know in order to accomplish their career goals.

Lucas is also the founder of the of10podcast, which is about to launch its third season, featuring prominent underrepresented people in tech.


Morgan Debaun, founder at Blavity

Founded by Morgan Debaun, Blavity aims to be the digital voice of black millennials. As of right now, Blavity is a media site, but its plans are much bigger.

“Blavity is ultimately a tech lifestyle brand,” Debaun told TechCrunch’s Kaya Thomas in September. “We create content and experiences on and offline targeting underrepresented millennials.”


David Drummond, Alphabet SVP of Corporate Development

This year, David Drummond was tasked with transitioning from Google to the newly-formed Alphabet. He’s also chairman of both of Google’s investment arms, Google Ventures and Google Capital.

Drummond joined Google back in 2002 to lead global teams for legal, public policy, communications, corporate development, mergers and acquisitions, and product quality operations.


Frederick Hutson, founder at Pigeonly

Earlier this year, Frederick Hutson of Pigeon.ly joined Y Combinator to pump in more resources and expertise into the startup that serves the prison population by offering affordable phone calls and photo sharing. Today, Pigeon.ly supports about 2 million minutes a month in phone calls, and facilitates the sharing of a quarter-million photos every month.

Pigeon.ly has raised $4.8 million in funding.


LJ Erwin, partner at Andreessen Horowitz

LJ Erwin joined Andreessen Horowitz earlier this year from Google, where he spent three years building relationships and partnerships with brands looking to scale their businesses on Google.

At Andreessen Horowitz, Erwin works as a partner and helps build the firm’s relationships with innovative startups.


Laurence (Lo) Toney, Partner at Google Ventures

Laurence (Lo) Toney has had a diverse career in tech, having previously served as CEO of LearnStreet, a site for teaching people how to code.

He later became a venture partner at Comcast Ventures’ Catalyst Fund, the seed stage fund that backs startups led by entrepreneurs of colors. In September, Toney became a partner at Google Ventures, where he focuses his investments on marketplaces and mobile messaging.


Stacy Brown-Philpot, COO at TaskRabbit

In 2013, Stacy Brown-Philpot joined TaskRabbit from Google, where she created the Black Googler Network.

In August, Brown-Philpot joined Hewlett-Packard’s board of directors. Thats quite the accomplishment given that women hold only 15 of board seats at public companies in the U.S.