It was during a rare lull in activity at Startup Weekend Albuquerque that I found myself chatting with the Executive Director of the New Mexico Technology Council, Eric Renz-Whitmore. Eric had mentioned quite some time before about the idea of a bigger event in Albuquerque to showcase just how much was going on in the tech scene in our city, and now it was turning from talk to planning. Eric is a go-getter, the kind of person every community needs because of his passion, commitment and, frankly, his willingness to put his own efforts into making things happen that help the community grow.
It was in the midst of that conversation that I asked him if there would be something to highlight women in technology in Albuquerque. With a slow smile, he turned and said, “There could be. Are you volunteering?”
And, yes, I was. Because it matters. Since World War II, our state has been known for its technology. In fact, we have one community with more PhD’s per capita than anywhere in the world. Yet our state is still struggling to catch up economically and is notorious for ending up at the bottom of lists that make it difficult to attract new talent and companies. But in the last few years, we’ve started changing that. Forbes recently named New Mexico a hotbed for engineers while other lists have claimed our state to be one of the best places to live for twenty-somethings, one of the best Mid-sized cities for the future, and one of the best places to trick or treat. I’m not sure why that matters, but, hey, if you’re going to raise kids somewhere, it might as well be one of the best places to wander around in the dark asking strangers for candy, right?
On a more serious note, there is a growing movement to take Albuquerque’s wealthy resources of talent and grow into one of the hottest cities for tech startups, and it’s being championed by people who have grown up here, started their first business here, and who want to see their grandchildren be able to do the same. But in the midst of all this new energy and passion, women are still in the minority when it comes to founding tech companies, growing them or getting them funded by venture capital. When I pitched at TVC’s Deal Stream Summit this past spring, APPCityLife was the only woman-founded company among those selected to present, and the teams that were chosen had very few women involved in the companies. I am passionate about changing those statistics, about making more opportunities for women to succeed as entrepreneurs in our community, not just as solopreneurs but as leaders of companies with big ideas and big plans to grow far beyond the borders of our state.
So when Eric asked if I was volunteering, I said yes. Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked with a dedicated group of volunteers, and we’ve done a lot of asking, a lot of begging to put this event together – and the community has rallied with support. On September 9, 2013, we’ll launch an event that we hope not only brings to the forefront the successes we’ve already enjoyed here in Albuquerque but also changes the conversation from women talking about the disparities and challenges to men and women talking about how to create an even playing field in our community and how we support women and minority-owned businesses so that the entire region benefits from their success.
I’m thrilled that so many leaders in the community have agreed to sit on the panel, and I’m humbled and honored that the organizing committee asked that I join the panel as well. Attendees will hear from moderator Gwyneth Doland, a well-respected journalist who has long covered women’s issues in New Mexico, Lisa J. Adkins, who currently serves as President of the New Mexico Technology Council and is a serial entrepreur, John Freisinger, who heads up Technology Ventures Corporation, Stacy Sacco, a professor of entrepreneurship at UNM and a renowned community networker, Jessica Eaves Mathews, a lawyer who specializes in supporting women entrepreneurs as well as a serial entrepreneur, and Katie Szczepaniak Rice, a venture capitalist focused on tech startups, and myself.
And I’m thrilled that Joanne Wilson, the NYC-based angel investor and passionate advocate for women entrepreneurs, has agreed to join us as our keynote speaker via Google+ Hangouts, meaning the Albuquerque audience will have a very rare opportunity to ask her questions at the end of her keynote address.
If you haven’t yet signed up to attend the luncheon, I hope you will – whether you’re a man or woman entrepreneur, working in tech, student, stay-at-home parent or retiree. Changing the conversation and opportunities will take all of our community coming together and building a network of support. (And if you’re a company or community group, please consider signing up for a booth at the event. Not only will you have great visibility and opportunities to interact with attendees, but you’ll be supporting our grass roots efforts to bring change to our community.)