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Platform Announces Founding Member Event in Chicago

April 15, 2013, Chicago, IL – Platform, launched in 2012 with the mission to increase the interest, participation, and success of underrepresented populations in the innovation economy, today announced the third in a series of regional receptions focused on welcoming new Founding Members and introducing the organization and its mission to the area’s business and civic leaders. 

The gathering will be hosted by Lester N. Coney, Executive Vice President at Mesirow Financial, a leading Chicago-based independent financial services company. It will take place on April 18, 2013 at Park Hyatt Chicago; Park Hyatt Chicago and Hyatt Corp. have generously provided the use of their venue and personnel, as well as additional in-kind support. Platform is a not-for-profit organization founded by serial technology entrepreneur and NewME alum Hank Williams. It is sponsored by Google, The S. Ahmad-Llewellyn Family Foundation, MIT Media Lab and various individual supporters. Platform is a project of the Tides Center, its fiscal sponsor.

“As a Founding Member of Platform, I want to thank Les Coney for his support,” said Chaz Ebert. “As a business executive and attorney, I am keenly aware of the need for greater diversity in business start-ups. It is through Platform’s efforts that we will enhance opportunities for African-Americans, Latinos, and women in the entrepreneurial community. It is exciting that Chicago will host this event and I’m pleased our city can serve as a key jumping off point for this important initiative.”

Statistics show African-Americans, Latinos and women are underrepresented in the fields that comprise the innovation economy, to the detriment of those groups and the nation.

•A CB Insights study indicated that for the first half of 2010, only 1% and 8%, respectively, of the founding teams of venture funded early-stage Internet companies had African-American and women members.

•A 2011 report by the National Venture Capital Association and Dow Jones VentureSource stated that only 11% of people working in venture funds in an investing capacity are female.

•From the same report: only 2% of people employed in venture funds in an investing or non-investing capacity are African-American or Latino – a 33% decrease from 2008.

•According to 2008 US Census Bureau data, African-Americans, Latinos and women represented 13%, 16% and 51% of the population respectively, yet the proportion of these communities employed in computer and mathematics occupations was only 7%, 5% and 27%.

“We are very excited to bring Platform to Chicago,” said Mr. Williams. “Our overall mission is not just to create an ongoing community for members to exchange ideas, but to aggregate resources that help new entrepreneurs succeed. We see both significant need and opportunity in Chicago. We’re looking to build the relationships and infrastructure that will allow us to bring focused efforts to Chicago and other key areas after we conclude our inaugural July Summit at MIT Media Lab, which will be a by-invitation, TED-style event with 300 invitees. With the help of highly accomplished people like Les Coney, we are confident of reaching our goal.”

“We will use our July 12-14 Summit to kick off a national dialogue” continued Mr. Williams. “At the Summit, we will capture talks from visionaries and leaders in underrepresented groups that will serve to inspire the next generation. At our core, we’re forming a media property that will be able to help people along the innovation pipeline by supporting them, and connecting them to resources, networks, and other mission critical needs for early stage businesses.”  

Event Details


When: Thursday April 18, 2013 

About Platform

Platform’s mission is to increase the interest, participation and success of those under-represented in the innovation economy — with a particular focus on African-Americans, Latinos and women.  Platform is working to ensure diversity on a broad and sustainable scale, with the intent to become a nexus for inspiration, education, opportunity and resources, effectively broadening the funnel that feeds new entrepreneurship.

Established in 2012 with a Board of Advisors and sponsors, it is under the fiscal umbrella of The Tides Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit.  Please see

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 24th year.

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