Having diversity within a company has proven to help the bottom line and can transform a community into a leading hub for innovation.
We recently sat down for a Q&A with David Yang of Coalition for Queens, one of the eight Techstars Foundation Grantees, to learn more about the organization and how it’s helping diversity in entrepreneurship. The company aims to create a tech community that is reflective of our society, with individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
The Inception of C4Q
C4Q was launched in 2011 by Jukay Hsu and David Yang with the mission to create economic opportunity through technology.
Returning to his hometown of New York City after completing his service as a U.S. Army Infantry Officer, Jukay observed a critical information and skills gap in his community and was inspired to start an organization that closed the divide between tech and the greater population.
The idea for C4Q is deeply rooted in his military experiences working with individuals who did not have college education but embodied the grit, resilience and passion that characterizes exceptional entrepreneurs and technologists.
C4Q’s very first project was built upon Mayor Bloomberg’s Applied Science initiative, which aimed to create a new tech-focused university to help drive economic activity and position New York City as a central hub for innovation.
With a background in design and a deep interest in education, David joined Jukay in the pursuit to connect underserved and underrepresented populations with the opportunities created by technology. C4Q began as two Queens natives hoping to bring opportunity to more New Yorkers and create a tech community that was reflective of the great diversity of the city.
The innovation economy is transforming the workforce. On the one hand, technology has generated new industries, companies, jobs and wealth at a rapid rate. At the same time, tech – with significant advances in fields like automation and robotics – has made other industries and jobs obsolete. Whereas manufacturing once provided opportunity and stability, the growth of the tech sector has seemingly created a sense of economic anxiety.
Many individuals across the United States do not have access to the skills needed to participate in the innovation economy. For the 70 percent of Americans who do not have college degrees in particular, the limited opportunities to gain employment and move out of poverty remain a significant challenge.
To solve this problem, C4Q empowers adults living in poverty and without college education with the skills needed to gain jobs in the innovation economy. We aim to create a more diverse and inclusive tech community in New York City, and in particular we serve New Yorkers who do not have college education.
By training and enabling talent from underserved and underrepresented communities, we are ensuring inclusive and integrated growth.
What is the biggest misperception around the issue you are trying to solve?
Our work takes place in Queens and New York City, but it is rooted in what the location represents: a place for opportunity and growth. We believe that people from all backgrounds should have the opportunity to learn to code, gain jobs in tech and create the companies of the future.
At C4Q, the conception of diversity extends beyond gender and ethnicity. It is critical to provide opportunity for individuals from low-income backgrounds, ensuring that we serve those who would otherwise not have access to the emerging opportunities in tech.
Enabling diversity means creating socio-economic change and impact.
Tell us how your organization is helping your target audience?
Our flagship program, Access Code, trains adults from low-income backgrounds to become software engineers. Through an intensive 10-month curriculum built by industry experts, our students gain technical skills, industry knowledge and access to networks.
The program is transformative–graduates have gone from making $18,000 to over $85,000 a year and are working as programmers at some of the best startups and companies such as Kickstarter, Pinterest, OKCupid, CapitalOne and more.
How has the Techstars’ network helped your business?
Techstars entrepreneurs and startups represent the best emerging talent and companies. We are proud that C4Q Access Code graduates are now working at Techstars companies, shipping code and contributing to products that will reach millions of users.
Whether early stage companies currently in the accelerator to alumni from the wide network, Techstars serves as an aspirational role model for our organization and our students. As part of the Techstars Foundation, we’re excited to work together to build more talent pipelines and help bring diverse engineers into the tech community.
What is your vision for the future?
C4Q is currently focused on training the best software engineers and technology leaders from low-income and diverse backgrounds.
As we grow, we hope to increase our impact by serving more deserving audiences and understanding the levers by which we can improve our outcomes. We believe that the 70 percent of Americans who do not have college degrees can have equal access to good jobs and opportunity.
Our long-term vision includes expanding beyond teaching programming skills to enabling our community to become entrepreneurs and create companies of the future. We aim to empower more individuals like Moawia Eldeeb, a graduate from our very first cohort who went from growing up in Queensbridge Public Housing to raising over $2 million to launch his startup after finishing our program.
Inspiring more and more entrepreneurs from diverse and underserved populations will create a more prosperous society.
Read more inspiring interviews here at Tech.Co