Kathryn Finney Aims to Help Black Women in the Tech World with her BIG Innovation Center in Atlanta

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Kathryn FInney, Managing Director of DigitalUndivided Photo credit: kathrynfinney.com
Kathryn Finney, Managing Director of DigitalUndivided
Photo credit: kathrynfinney.com

Kathryn Finney made a huge announcement at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Finney, founder and managing director of DigitalUndivided, is launching an initiative in Atlanta called the BIG Innovation Center. The 6,000-square-foot space will be home to the BIG accelerator program, a 16-week track for high-growth companies led by women of color and financed by the newly launched Harriet Fund, reported TechCrunch.com.

DigitalUndivided, established in 2012, finds Black women and Latinas who are tech founders with high-growth companies and game-changing ideas and connects them to investors, mentors and influencers.

The 39-year-old Finney was first introduced to technology in the early 1980s. After her father was laid off from a Milwaukee brewery, he became one of the first African-American software engineers in the United States and eventually took on an executive position at Microsoft.

With such a strong technological influence, the Milwaukee native became one of the Internet’s first lifestyle bloggers in 2003 when she launched the wildly successful blog, The Budget Fashionista. Finney drew an audience of 13 million-plus unique visitors a year and eventually sold the blog to Speak Media.

In 2012, she became editor-at-large of the popular site BlogHer. That same year, Finney created DigitalUndivided and also launched Focus 100 conference to give employers and investors a place to find talented women of color in tech — and to give these women a place to find each other.

“It’s so important for people who are in this space to know there are others in this space,” Finney told Wired.com. “We wouldn’t know we existed if we didn’t have spaces like this.”

A Yale epidemiology graduate, Finney said she became increasingly frustrated at being the only Black woman in the room at various tech conferences she attended.

“I was speaking at a lot of different conferences from Web 2.0 to SXSW, and I saw that there were very few people who looked like me,” the New York resident told Upstart Business Journal. “I was actually in one of the early accelerators, way back in the stone ages, here in New York, and I had a horrible experience. Not because of not being qualified, but because I was Black and a woman.”

According to a recent report by DigitalUndivided, underrepresented minorities in tech could stand to benefit from Finney’s BIG accelerator program. Of all venture deals from 2012 to 2014, only 0.2 percent (24 of 10,238 deals) went to Black female founders.

“We are champions of game-changing innovation and disruptive ideas and are excited to continue our work in the city of Atlanta,” Finney said to TechCrunch.com. “We look forward to being a vital hub for Atlanta’s emerging diverse tech community.”

The innovator and business savvy entrepreneur wants to continue to inspire women of color in technology and has advice for anyone aspiring to enter the tech world.

“First, think big. As women of color, we’ve been conditioned to think small, lest someone is offended by our ambition,” she told Powered by Light. “Second is to ask for help. The tech industry is collaborative by nature. Lastly, just do it. We have a tendency to ‘over think’ and ‘over plan.’ Just start the damn thing.”

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