SANTA CLARA — Intel is launching a $125-million investment fund for technology startups led by women and minorities, a move the chipmaker says is aimed at changing the face of Silicon Valley.
The new fund, which is unusual for its focus on minority-led companies, is part of a broader effort that Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich has launched amid widespread criticism of a U.S. tech industry dominated by white male executives and investors.
Krzanich announced plans earlier this year to spend $300 million on diversity efforts and pledged to make Intel's workforce and executive ranks more closely resemble the U.S. workforce by 2020. Intel has previously said its workforce is about 24% female and 12% black and Hispanic. The U.S. workforce is about 47% women and 26 percent black and Hispanic.
The new investment fund will raise Intel's commitment to more than $300 million, Intel officials said, although they said there is some overlap and they did not provide financial details. It's intended to help build a more diverse "ecosystem" of smaller companies and entrepreneurs that plays an important role in the tech industry, Krzanich said Tuesday.
Despite statistics that show few women and minority-led startups receive venture funding, he said Intel wants to show "there are plenty of women- and minority-led startup companies, and we want to work with them."
The first companies to receive backing from the new program include Venafi, a cybersecurity firm; CareCloud, which makes Internet-based software for the health industry; and Mark One, which makes a "smart" cup that analyzes the nutritional content of beverages.
To qualify for funding, firms must have a woman or minority founder or CEO, or at least three top executives who are women and minorities, said Lisa Lambert, who is overseeing the fund.