CINCINNATI — Ohio has lots to offer technology entrepreneurs thanks to funding and support the state provides through the Ohio Third Frontier initiative.
But the state could do a better job of opening up opportunities to minority tech entrepreneurs.
That’s the conclusion of a recent study conducted by Sean Rugless, president of Cincinnati-based consulting firm The Katalyst Group.
“Pound for pound, we have one of the strongest and most connected ecosystems in the country,” said Rugless, the former CEO of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African-American Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of ethnic minorities don’t understand the offerings.”
Using a tool he developed called the Minority Entrepreneurial Connectivity Assessment, or MECA, Rugless determined that Ohio’s various technology entrepreneurship programs appear to be overstating their success with minority entrepreneurs. That, in turn, could be conveying a false sense that Ohio is doing a better job with diversity and inclusion in the technology industry than the state really is, he said.
“There’s a lack of standardization in measurement,” Rugless said. “If I have an entrepreneur who is African-American and lives in Athens, Ohio, some people will count her three times: as a racial minority, for her gender and as a rural entrepreneur.”
Sen. Cecil Thomas, a Cincinnati Democrat who helped commission the study by Rugless, said the findings convinced him that Ohio could be doing more.
“This is a huge opportunity for our state to begin to attract the talent of our minority community, to get involved in the innovation and technology that the state is going toward,” Thomas said.
That’s important, Thomas and Rugless said, because of the potential to create good, high-paying jobs in the tech sector and the need for those kinds of jobs in minority communities.
“The state’s numbers made it appear that the minority participation was at a level that was acceptable,” Thomas said. “But when we looked at the numbers, it was clear that was not true.”
Rugless shared his findings with officials at the Ohio Development Services Agency.
“We are taking his input and suggestions on an on-going basis, along with others across the state, to continually improve our processes,” Chief Communications Officer Todd Walker wrote in an email response to WCPO’s questions about the findings.
Insiders can read more about what the state of Ohio has done to encourage more minorities in the tech sector. Insiders also can read about a Cincinnati example of success.