Building the San Leandro Women’s Innovation LAB
On October 18th, 2016, Westlake Urban and the City of San Leandro threw a large, celebratory party to commemorate the grand opening of the San Leandro Tech Campus and the initial San Leandro lighting of artist Marco Cochrane‘s iconic statue, Truth Is Beauty.
That evening, as CIO of the City of San Leandro, I announced a new project that was already underway: the creation of a San Leandro Women’s Tech Incubator. I spoke of the promise of new industries and jobs for San Leandro — and Truth Is Beauty’s invitation to imagine a world where woman are safe. Not only physically safe, but economically empowered: a world that intentionally creates a level playing field for women and those who self-identify as women to grow sustainable, well-capitalized businesses. Just one year earlier, McKinsey and Co. had released a seminal study on women and entrepreneurship, identifying increased global prosperity that would come from empowering women. This is the opportunity that San Leandro is about to intentionally embrace.
Today I am writing my last blog as Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Leandro. I am proud of the work that we have done together to transform our City into a center for innovation: hardware (We Make Things), software (Tech Campus), art (murals, Truth Is Beauty). Today San Leandro is attracting investment at a pace not seen in decades! I am committed to continuing this work from the private sector, to work with an amazing team of women and those who support us to create a Women’s Innovation LAB in San Leandro, designed to accelerate the growth of women-created businesses in those sectors that we have identified as important to San Leandro and the East Bay: Advanced Manufacturing, Fiber Optics/Infrastructure/Smart City Technology, Education, Energy, Civic Engagement and Entrepreneurship.
We’ve had some help along the way to assess the viability of this opportunity in San Leandro. An inspired team of U.C. Berkeley graduate students wrote the initial assessment: San Leandro Women in Tech Needs Assessment, published in December 2016. Their conclusion? Develop a business incubator for women regardless of industry focus:
Early in 2017, findings of the U.C. Berkeley students were expanded upon through research by Carolyn Hays of the Coro Fellows program:
And our project is getting noticed! A couple of weeks ago, GovTech magazine noted my transition to the private sector in an excellent article:
State Scoop followed a week later with a deeper dive into the reasons for developing this project here in San Leandro:
I am grateful for the immense opportunity I was given to serve this City, its residents and businesses. As a resident of San Leandro and a future entrepreneur, I look forward to many more years of working with our community, our region and beyond to grow the San Leandro Tech and Innovation Ecosystem!
Chief Innovation Officer
City of San Leandro