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Intel to invest US$125 million in startups run by women, minorities

Intel to invest US$125 million in startups run by women, minorities

This new Intel Capital investment fund is separate from an existing $300 million diversity plan

The Intel logo on display at Computex 2015 in Taipei

The Intel logo on display at Computex 2015 in Taipei

To encourage diversity in IT, Intel Capital has established a US$125 million investment program targeted at startups run by women and under-represented minorities.

The investment program complements a separate $300 million Intel initiative announced in January whose goal is to bring more women and under-represented minorities into its workforce by 2020.

Intel already chose four companies, all of which have diverse work forces, for the first round of investments, totaling $16.7 million. Intel Capital has a pipeline of companies it is looking to fund, said Intel's CEO Brian Krzanich, during a webcast on Tuesday.

Intel has talked about plans to change its capital investment program to make it more accessible for women and minorities.

Intel wants to be clearer on funding plans and responsive to funding requests from startups run by women and minorities. The company has also established an advisory board of senior Intel employees to help make funding decisions.

A small portion of technology companies are founded by women and minorities, and Intel Capital will provide financing and industry connections to help the chosen companies grow their businesses, said Lisa Lambert, managing director and vice president of Intel Capital.

Intel may be fulfilling social obligations, but the capital fund is not a "social program," Lambert said. Investments will go to high-quality companies whose products align with Intel's goals and have "great outcomes," Lambert said.

The first four companies are Brit+Co, which sells hardware equipment and provides guides to makers and do-it-yourselfers; CareCloud, which provides cloud-based health care documentation services; Mark One, which makes a "smart cup" that recognizes beverage and nutritional content; and Venafi, a security company that provides tools to assess, fix and block keys and certificates.

Intel Capital has invested $11.4 billion in 400 companies worldwide since 1991. Intel typically funds companies that could help improve sales of its products or help develop new technologies.

For example, Intel Capital in May took an undisclosed stake in Digital Specialty Chemicals, which could help develop silicon-replacement materials for its future chips.

Intel has taken some steps to reach its diversity goals. It has increased the hiring of women and under-represented minorities like Hispanics and African Americans since the start of the year, and the company has committed to spending $1 billion cumulatively with diverse suppliers by 2020.

Intel has also worked with the Oakland Unified School District to develop a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program that could ultimately lead to internships and jobs.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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