Oakland-based Mindblown Labs put gaming into education and garnered the largest Kickstarter campaign for any mobile game ever. E-commerce site Mayvenn found an unserved market and is growing 40 to 60 percent a month in revenues, and GroupFlix is already being described as another Netflix, prelaunch.

These tech start-ups are all in Oakland. And they were all started by African Americans.

There’s a burgeoning tech industry in Oakland, with a host of startups joining a dozen midsize tech companies and Oakland’s two technology giants, Pandora and Ask.  Oakland is becoming a place where tech happens, not on the scale of San Francisco or Silicon Valley, but enough to be a contender when start-ups figure out where to locate.

What’s more, and a potential game changer in technology, is that Oakland’s tech industry appears to be more diverse than the largely white male and Asian male tech industries across the bay and down the peninsula, based on the concentration of start-ups by people of color and women in the small tech eco-sphere here.  SleekGeek was started by a Latina, XEO Designs by a woman, 2Locos by a team finding that their Latino lifestyle tastes are unanswered on e-commerce sites.

Also, start-ups here in Oakland are often driven by a social mission. Mindblown Labs aims to teach youth about financial literacy. GoldieBlox, started by women, hopes to inspire young girls to become engineers. Qeyno Labs, started by another African American, is a career discovery game for underserved kids needing mentors. Solar Mosaic is making solar electricity affordable for regular people and non-profits. Impact HUB Oakland is providing a collaboration and innovation workspace for multi-cultural tech endeavors. Sleek-geek hopes to get kids more engaged in learning science through mobile apps.

“You see a lot of education start-ups planting roots here and some other social impact oriented start-ups, so you have a differentiating number here,” said Jason Young, co-founder of Mindblown Labs as well as the Hidden Genius Project, which teaches coding to young African Americans.  “It doesn’t hurt that we have Kapor Capital and New Schools Venture Fund,” two venture capital firms interested in funding initiatives that widen opportunity.

Read the rest at Live Work Oakland, Oakland Local’s new tech and business innovation site.

About The Author

Barbara Grady is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can reach her at barbara@oaklandlocal.com

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