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 firstname.lastname@example.org.