Alex Ro­dri­guez, not to be con­fused with the New York Yan­kee, is a prom­is­ing play­er in the Twin Cities tech­nol­o­gy scene.

Ro­dri­guez, 22, son of a small con­struc­tion con­trac­tor from Eagan, is co-own­er of a fledg­ling com­pany called WorkMand, a soon-to-be launched man­age­ment plat­form for con­trac­tors that auto­mates ev­er­y­thing from pull­ing city per­mits to hir­ing laborers.

“I got into tech­nol­o­gy and ap­pli­ca­tions and so­cial me­di­a in high school at Simley High [in Inver Grove Heights] and be­gan to re­al­ize that this was also about busi­ness,” Ro­dri­guez said. “I start­ed read­ing Techcrunch.com and show­ing up at tech-industy events.”

Ro­dri­guez, who left a good tech job to launch WorkMand, also is the first mi­nor­i­ty en­tre­pre­neur-in-res­i­dence at CoCo, the co-working and col­lab­o­ra­tive space pro­vid­er based in the Grain Exchange Building and oth­er sites and home to hun­dreds of start-ups. CoCo, in the first of sev­er­al in­itia­tives that will in­clude mi­nor­i­ty fellow­ships, is part­ner­ing with Goo­gle for En­tre­pre­neurs and Code 2040 to ac­cel­er­ate mi­nor­i­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Ro­dri­guez also will re­ceive a $40,000 sti­pend, support services and attend a re­treat at the Googleplex in Sil­i­con Valley this sum­mer. Rodriguez, who has been financing WorkMand with his partner out of their pockets, said winning the competition to be an entrepreneur-in-residence has relieved the financial and other stress of launching a new business.

Rodriguez, a collaborative sort in a collaborative work community, also is an adviser to CoCo lead­er­ship.

“He’s in­volved in every de­ci­sion we make,” said CoCo CEO Kyle Coolbroth. “We want to have a place where there’s no fear of, ‘I don’t be­long here … ’

“Our mem­bers have built an un­ri­valed com­muni­ty of in­tel­li­gence, ex­peri­ence and sup­port that we want to share broad­ly and more di­verse­ly.”

Code 2040 is an in­dus­try-backed ef­fort to in­crease mi­nor­i­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion by 2040, the year in which American whites will no long­er con­sti­tute a ma­jor­i­ty. Code 2040 says blacks and Latinos earn 18 percent of com­puter sci­ence de­grees. However, they con­sti­tute only 5 percent of the tech workforce in the in­dus­try’s big­gest com­panies.

We appear to be getting some modest traction in that regard in the Twin Cities.

A column earlier this month featured Jaquan Sloan, a black man who went from a $12-an-hour job to a $27-an-hour job plus good benefits at Dell Compellent thanks to his de­ter­mi­na­tion and a train­ing program at the Takoda Institute at American In­di­an OIC in Minneapolis.

Mi­nori­ties represented about 9 percent of the 143,000 work­ers in the “pro­fes­sion­al, tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tif­ic” job cate­go­ry in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Minnesota Department of Em­ploy­ment and Economic Development. Mi­nor­i­ty em­ploy­ment grew 20 percent to 13,084 jobs from 2014 to 2015.

White em­ploy­ment grew 11.9 percent to 129,948. Black em­ploy­ment year-over-year grew by 51 percent to 3,624 jobs last year. Asian em­ploy­ment grew 5.9 percent to 7,206 jobs. People who claimed two or more rac­es grew em­ploy­ment by 31 percent to 1,515 jobs.

Code 2040 found­er Lau­ra Weid­man Pow­ers will vis­it CoCo’s Up­town fa­cil­i­ty on May 4 to dis­cuss the im­por­tance of di­ver­si­ty in tech­nol­o­gy and ex­plore the im­pact of the Code 2040 res­i­den­cy programs around the coun­try.

Tech businesses play host to Step-Up in­terns

Earli­er this month, more than 50 Minneapolis youths, dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly mi­nor­i­ty kids from the Step-Up Achieve youth em­ploy­ment program, spent a Sat­ur­day with local tech pro­fes­sion­als. Step-Up works with 160 employers who hire 750 teens annually for paid in­tern­ships. Dur­ing the day, teams of Step-Up par­tici­pants learn about ca­reers and also work with pro­fes­sion­als to con­ceive their own ven­tures.

The win­ning-team pitch­es over the years have in­clud­ed: Nactohydrobus, a de­vice that col­lects mois­ture from the air dur­ing the night and de­liv­ers wa­ter to wa­ter-short com­mu­ni­ties by day; Piggy App, an app for teens that of­fers fi­nan­cial tips about per­son­al fi­nance; and Mobile Oasis, a mini-truck that re­trieves ex­cess food from res­tau­rants and events and dis­tri­butes it to peo­ple at bus stops and so-called neigh­bor­hood “food de­serts.”

 

Neal St. Anthony has been a Star Tribune busi­ness col­um­nist and re­port­er since 1984. He can be con­tacted at nstanthony@startribune.com.