Creating an ecosystem that provides equal opportunities for diverse startup founders, entrepreneurs, and venture leaders has garnered a lot of discussion and has been the focus of many industry initiatives over the last decade. These efforts have accelerated and gained a new level of importance recently in the wake of global events that have shown a new light on economic inequities, especially in the venture and startup ecosystem. The results are encouraging.

  • According to a 2021 Crunchbase report, Black founders raised $1.8B in capital during the first half of 2021, a four-fold increase from the same period in 2020.
  • Women-led tech startups have received over $30B in venture funding in the first three quarters of 2021, an increase of 82.9% over 2020 funding levels, according to a 2021 report from Pitchbook.
  • In a report on Latinx-Founded Startups published earlier this year from Crunchbase, Latino founders have seen an increase in VC investment having raised $6.8B in venture funding in 2021, compared to $1.7B in 2017.

While we celebrate the progress that’s been made, we also know that the road ahead to get to a truly level playing field is long. Recognizing this challenge, Cisco launched its Social Justice Beliefs and 12 Actions in 2020. They serve as our blueprint for how Cisco responds to injustices and addresses inequities for all communities.

Leveling the playing field for diverse-led venture funds and startups has long been a focus for Cisco’s Corporate Development and Investments team, but we also recognized there was more we could do. To accelerate our efforts, we founded the Aspire Fund in 2020, a $50 million initial commitment allocated over five years to invest in diverse-led enterprise technology and startups.

Cisco’s long-term commitment to these efforts has resulted in collaborations with several diverse venture leaders and startup founders like Amanda Gorton, CEO and Co-Founder of Corellium, who is breaking barriers in cybersecurity, and L’ATTITUDE Ventures, which is focused on investing in early-stage U.S. Latino-led companies across multiple vertical industries including technology.

Magnetic Aspire Virtual Summit – Join us!

To continue our efforts to raise awareness and affect real change, Cisco and Cisco Investments will host its inaugural Magnetic Aspire Virtual Summit on September 8, 2022 (9:30 am – 12:00 pm PT).

Magnetic Aspire is not just another virtual summit. It is a collaborative experience where attendees will have the opportunity to engage with and learn from some of the most prominent leaders in the technology industry. You can expect to walk away from the event with the insights and knowledge you need to help create positive change in the enterprise technology industry. Our goal is to deliver an experience that will help all of us move our industry forward and level the playing field for the next generation of technology leaders from all communities and walks of life.

Investing in Our Purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All

Shari Slate, Cisco’s chief inclusion and collaboration officer and senior vice president for Inclusive Future and Strategy, will deliver the summit’s keynote address, “Investing in Our Purpose to Power an Inclusive Future for All.”

A Conversation with Sol Trujillo of L’ATTITUDE and L’ATTITUDE Ventures

Sol Trujillo is synonymous with Telecom innovation. As the former CEO of Orange (France Telecom), Telstra, and US West, Sol has been at the forefront of transformative innovation. Now, in the second act of his career, Sol is dedicating his efforts to highlighting the contributions of Latino leaders across multiple industries including technology, by creating the L’ATTITUDE organization. In this in-depth conversation, Sol will share how his personal and career journeys have shaped his life and commitment to supporting the next generation of Latino leaders who are transforming the technology landscape.

Women Founders Transforming Cybersecurity

Prasad Parthasarathi, Senior Director, Corporate Development and Cisco Investments, will host an insightful panel discussion featuring security trailblazers Amanda Gorton and Shaila Shankar. Amanda is co-founder and CEO of Corellium. Shaila is senior vice president and general manager of the Cisco Security business group. Amanda and Shaila will discuss how they carved out their respective paths in the male-dominated cybersecurity space and share insights on how other female founders and leaders can also achieve success in the space.

A Conversation with Lo Toney of Plexo Capital

Lo Toney is one of the most highly respected and recognized investors in the emerging enterprise technology ecosystem. Throughout his career, Lo has been at the forefront of investing in emerging technologies and creating positive change for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) founders. In this fireside chat, Lo will share his journey to becoming a prominent investor and how those experiences have shaped his approach and commitment to creating a positive impact for diverse technology founders.

Diversity is Smart Business

Janey Hoe, vice president of Corporate Development and Cisco Investments, will lead an insightful conversation with technology investor luminaries, Theresia Gouw of Acrew Capital and Jessica Lin of Work-Bench Capital. They will discuss why diversity is no longer a “nice to have” approach to business but an essential driver for creating positive business outcomes and transformational change.

At the summit, I will discuss how Cisco, along with our portfolio company partners, fellow investors, and customers, are blazing the path forward with greater opportunities for all as we work to create a more diverse and inclusive future for enterprise technology.

We look forward to you joining us on September 8, 2022, 9:30 am – 12:00 pm PT! And, if you are a startup, please join us for Magnetic Aspire Office Hours!

Join us for the inaugural

Magnetic Aspire Virtual Summit

Creating Positive Change and Bringing Equality to Enterprise Technology

September 8, 2022  |  9:30 am – 12:00 pm PT



Derek Idemoto

Senior Vice President

Corporate Development and Cisco Investments