Mar 7, 2022 - Business

Diversity in tech: 5 questions with Preston James

Photo illustration of two word balloons, one containing an image of Preston James II.

Photo Illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: DivInc

Preston James II co-founded Austin-based startup accelerator DivInc in 2016 with a mission to support minority and women entrepreneurs.

Details: James, who has lived in Austin since 1997, caught up with Axios to chat about the city's tech scene and the future of DivInc.

Here's our condensed interview:

1. How has DivInc's mission changed since 2016?

"It's evolved from just being an accelerator program. We have become more of an ecosystem builder, focused on building innovation, startup ecosystems. … It's building the infrastructure to support underrepresented founders."

2. What are the gaps in Austin's tech ecosystem?

"Are we providing the right cultures and the environment for those entrepreneurs — our entrepreneurs — to feel welcomed and allow them to want to participate and allow them to thrive?
We're continuing to build that in collaboration, for example, with the Capital Factories, the Notley Ventures, the Mass Challengers of the world. … That's still something that we're building. and it’s getting better each and every year.
We don't have enough Black and Latinx venture capitalist partners here in town. … No. 1: The existing firms need to diversify their investment decision makers. No 2: We need to be able to support new emerging fund managers that are Black, Latinx and women."

3. Do you continue to see more support for diverse founders, especially now that we're two years removed from 2020's racial reckoning?

“I do think people have been trying to mobilize in some way, shape or form. … But what I will say is it's still not coming as easy as their white, male peers. It's still a challenge.
There's still a lot of learning to do, and what I'm finding is that it's not just talk, but some people are stuck trying to figure out what to do, where to lean in, how to lean in.”

4. What are your goals and what does the future look like for DivInc in the next five to 10 years?

“For us, the work over the next five or 10 years is: How do we grow and scale our impact across the United States and internationally to create more equitable, more equity socially and economically for underrepresented communities through entrepreneurship?”

5. How has Austin changed since you first arrived 25 years ago?

“Austin has become more of a metro city, not a small town city. It's pretty vibrant. It's a great quality of life in general compared to other cities. … It's more than just Sixth Street, college town now.
I think Austin now is — depending on who you talk to — the No. 1 tech startup city in the United States. Relatively speaking, it is definitely in the top five. … That is a tremendous accomplishment for where Austin was even just 10 years ago.”

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