Lauren Washington, Founder
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m the co-founder of two businesses, KeepUp and Black Women Talk Tech. I started KeepUp, which automates social media listening for consumers and small businesses, in 2014 and shortly after won the largest business plan competition in the world, 43North competition. A few years in, I founded Black Women Talk Tech with two other tech founders to help provide resources, support and funding to help black women create the next billion dollar companies. Our main event, a two day conference held in NYC, is in its second year.
How and why did you get involved in tech?
I have been tech adjacent most of my career, working in social media and online marketing. After leading research in my last corporate job that used big data to provide insights for businesses, I saw the potential to solve a need I didn’t see filled: providing affordable automated data analysis. That’s what lead me to start building out KeepUp and ultimately take the dive into creating my own tech company. It was less that I knew I wanted to be in tech and more that I saw an opportunity and the best way to scale it was through building technology.
What is your experience being a POC in Tech?
The great thing about being a founder is you can make your own opportunities. That being said, no one is an island and some of the same diversity and gender issues that are plaguing big tech companies are also present in the startup scene. Being an entrepreneur can be difficult, so finding a community that supports you is crucial to your resilience and even more so as a woman of color. That’s why I co-founded Black Women Talk Tech. We’ve already identified hundreds of black women tech founders and are finding new ones everyday. It’s comforting and inspiring to know we’re out there.
What advice would you give to a young person who wanted to enter tech?
I would tell people there are many ways to get into tech, so don’t get discouraged thinking you don’t have the skill set or aptitude to have a successful career in tech. You can be a designer and decide how the app looks. You could be a coder and actually build out the functionality of the app. You could be in product management where you help organize people to build the product. However, as someone who didn’t have a strong background in coding before starting KeepUp, I’d also suggest that if you plan on running a tech company to at least learn the basics of what you’re building so you can jump in and help, understand your tech’s limitations and potential, and effectively lead a dev team.
Where can we find you.
You can find KeepUp at keepupapp.com and Black Women Talk Tech at blackwomentalktech.com. You can catch me at our second annual conference, Roadmap to Billions, this February 28th – March 1st in NYC and on our official panel at SXSW.