Seed-stage investment firm Unusual Ventures is launching the Unusual Interns program in the summer of 2019 to increase the technical internships of black students. The program aims to connect students of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with high-growth start-up companies in Silicon Valley.
According to the State of Black America report, there are less than 5% black Americans in most tech companies.
Unusual Venture senior associate Megan Holston-Alexander believes that this lack of diversity is a pipeline problem. She explained that HBCU students are seriously under-recruited, while students at Ivy League schools are wooed by recruiters with coffee meet-ups, giveaways and dinners.
Under the Unusual Interns program, 10 computer students from Alabama A&M University, Hampton University and Howard University will participate in 10-12 week internships. The interns will be matched with tech companies like Harness, zScaler, DataStax and Zola, with potential full-time employment after the internship. They will be also be provided with a six-week online course from Lambda School where they will be trained in machine learning, artificial intelligence and full-stack engineering. There will also be guest speakers who will provide the interns with insights into possible career paths and hold personal and professional development sessions.
Unusual Ventures co-founder John Vrionis added that participants in the Unusual Interns program will get the chance to contribute to the daily operations of fast-growing tech companies and to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills. In 2020, the company plans to partner with additional HBCUs and enroll up to 50 interns and expand the internship to a semester program that will allow students to get college credit.