Last week, Firebrand attended TechCrunch Sessions: Justice. The first in a new series of nationwide events, the event was hosted at the Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission. The program featured speakers discussing issues of justice that affect a range of citizens. Topics included access to technology across socio-economic, race, disability and other barriers. Presenters touched on political issues in several conversations in painting a vision for a brighter future. It is increasingly clear the role that local, regional, and national politics plays in access to technology, to justice, and to an equitable system.
Followers of the event’s hashtag may have seen comments like “TechCrunch is holding X speaker’s feet to the fire.” Barbs like this were directed at panelists, who commenters hoped would have better answers. The reality is that each session touched on issues complex to understand, to manage, and to create consensus around.
A common theme that ran throughout was racial diversity. Many of the speakers were from a minority group, and several talked about that experience quite openly. Advocates for minority hiring and new opportunities in technical fields featured prominently from public companies including Facebook, Google, Salesforce, and Doppler Labs. Well-recognized incubators and funders, including Y Combinator and 500 Startups, themselves represented by minority spokespeople, highlighted their efforts and advice for underrepresented entrepreneurs.
One panel that stood out featured speakers from Vets in Tech, The Last Mile, and Elemental Path. These programs power opportunities for coders and entrepreneurs from unlikely places. Soldiers returning from overseas deployments, and rehabilitated prisoners gain a fresh start in technology. Each speaker on this panel highlighted a vibrant, positive outlook, and emphasized technical skills and program-building.
The founding stories of both Vets in Tech and The Last Mile shone a light on areas ripe for thoughtful innovation. For Vets in Tech, an early hackathon inspired attendees to ask for more programs, an alternative to “super lame career fairs.” When founding The Last Mile, Chris Redlitz says he saw the hunger in the eyes of prisoners was ten times the fire he seeks in founders for his venture capital portfolio. Both groups were seeking an avenue for hope.
A Brighter Future
Hope was a running theme throughout the event. Each speaker is striving to create brighter futures for the communities they serve. That includes those building new coalitions or creating new programs within large companies. It was good to see TechCrunch give these programs a platform and provide a forum to discuss thorny but important issues. We’ll look forward to seeing how their coverage and the presenters’ programs move us toward a hopeful future.
Maura Lafferty is an influencer relations specialist, with a particular focus on media outreach over social channels. Maura has over 14 years’ experience in public relations, and relationships with media working in national, California, and Silicon Valley newsrooms.