Efforts to close the divide: Pitch Mixer, Black Founders, Latino Startups NewMe Accelerator…
By Esther C. Moore (Co-Founder & CEO, HustleAndCode)

You need only put your ear to the ground these days to catch conversation about Silicon Valley’s diversity challenge as it relates to women, blacks, latinos and other underrepresented groups knocking at the door of what many consider “the land of milk and honey.”

Although I was born in the Bay Area, I grew up in the rural town of Bakersfield, California. I would say that an entrepreneurial spirit has always run throughout my family – which is probably why I find myself in the role of Co-Founder and CEO of HustleAndCode.

Several years ago, I teamed up with my son Sir Drafton (Founder and CTO of the company), to jump into the foray of the technology industry. Actually, it wasn’t quite that simple. But I knew that Sir’s passion for programming, his talent for design, and expertise in social media marketing made a great formula for success. When I saw the first product he developed, I knew he was on to something grand – not knowing that within a few months he would be diagnosed with cancer. Really? Who do I need to talk to about this #DISRUPTION!

It’s a no a brainer for me to believe that organizations such as Pitch Mixer (founded by Ayori Selassi and Kalimah Priforce), Black Founders, Latino Startups and NewMe Accelerator are new beginnings for folks like me (i.e., poverty-laden life, teenaged mother with an undying entrepreneurial spirit who was not exposed to the “startup ecosystem” during my youth).

But I had enough insight to expose my child to technology – not knowing that one day we’d team-up to work together. Sir programmed his way right on through his cancer journey – a journey that you don’t wish on your worst enemy. So you can imagine, there isn’t much anyone can say to me about the heart, stamina and stick-to-it-ness that it takes to be an entrepreneur.

So we set out in 2012 to make some things happen for us; in February, Sir and I attended Pitch Mixer’s first event in Oakland. Afterwards, we thought it would be good experience to pitch our social promotions platform Contest.is so I emailed Ayori Selassi indicating our interest.

In March, we participated in the Startup Monthly Pitch Accelerator and the Startup Demo Day in San Francisco. Sir had the opportunity to pitch our product at that venue, and we gained a lot of insight about the do’s and don’ts of pitching with Demo Coach Nathan Gold.

When Ayori emailed me back to confirm our spot to pitch for their March event (i.e., first ever Women-focused Entrepreneur Forum), to my dismay, I found out that I would be pitching for 5 minutes without a slide deck. Damn, just my luck! But I quickly sucked it up because I knew organizations such as Jump Start Days follow that same format of pitching without slide decks.

Preparing to pitch is grueling, but I must admit that it is a transforming process that gives you piercing focus on your product. It was my first time pitching, so I appreciated the great feedback from the panelists. It certainly wasn’t difficult to guess that Louie Taylor from Skillville would be the Judges’ favorite – and, a well-deserved favorite for sure! She was natural in her pitch, hit all the major points that most panelists would want to hear about – and she had traction too! Can you say “hockey stick?”

It’s always great to meet other entrepreneurs who are pursuing their startup dreams and, likewise, to meet people who want to help you achieve your own dreams. We made several contacts at the event including partnerships and a potential mentorship which is necessary for our continued growth.

Pitch Mixer (and its partners and sponsors) are to be commended for hosting the event in the East Bay which created an avenue for tech folks to connect without having to travel to The City. And, it’s a wonderful experience to witness the seeds being planted by organizations such as Pitch Mixer in their efforts to “close the divide!”

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Esther C. Moore is Co-Founder and CEO of HustleAndCode. She is also a practicing attorney for the past 16 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. She brings an extensive background in business management complemented by 7 years of experience in social media strategy and tactics. Besides the Juris Doctorate earned in her studies at Golden Gate University, Esther holds a Master’s in Education and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Follow her on Twitter at @esthercharlene.