This interview is part of our Diversity in Tech series in partnership with All Raise, Anitab.org, Blavity, Grid 110, and Latinas in Tech, a coalition effort to champion diverse representation in the tech industry. Read more about this initiative here, and download images from the Diversity in Tech collection here.
Elisabeth is the Community Manager at Grid110, where she focuses on building an engaged community for early-stage entrepreneurs. Outside of work, she is active in promoting gender equity and diversity in the workplace and advocates for a broader representation of women in tech. Her mission is to bridge the gap between underrepresented leadership talent & the emerging workforces of today’s leading tech companies — and beyond.
Elisabeth grew up in Germany and moved to the US when she was sixteen. Living between two countries has given her a unique perspective on life, as well as an appreciation for diversity she developed at an early age. Speaking multiple languages (German & Korean) and being knowledgeable about various cultures helps her connect with and support founders from different backgrounds.
We caught up with Elisabeth to learn more about her work at Grid110, the Los Angeles startup community, and her perspective on the importance of visual representation.
Hi Elisabeth! Tell us about yourself, how did you get to where you are today?
My first job out of college was in human resources (HR), where I learned the ins and outs of employment law and recruiting. But, after a few years of working in HR, I realized I needed to make a change. In my free time, I found myself drawn to the startup world. Whether it was on a weekend or a weeknight, I was at a startup event. During my lunch break, I’d listen to “How I Built This” and read up on the latest startup news on TechCrunch.
This curiosity and passion continued to grow and my love for startups steered me towards working full-time at Grid110 in 2019.
I used to think that to be an entrepreneur, you had to have an idea and run with it yourself. I never considered the other option, working for a startup or as part of a venture capital team, until I came across the team at Grid110. This was perfect because it allowed me to gain more experience and knowledge in the entrepreneurship world, while gaining new skill sets like marketing and community building.
What inspired you to join the team at Grid110?
At the top of the list is the culture of support and belonging. The team culture at Grid110 is unlike any I’ve seen. We all bring our unique perspectives and passions to the table. It feels good to come to work every day and feel supported by your team, and be encouraged to bring your full authentic self to work.
When you begin applying for new jobs, my best advice is to get to know the people you would be working with before applying. Don’t apply for jobs you wouldn’t want. Also, join an organization that excites you and is in an area that you’re genuinely passionate about.
Tell us more about your role as Community Manager at Grid110 — what does an average day look like for you? What programs and initiatives do you oversee?
In my current role, I help founders realize their visions and help them get to the next stage in their business. My focus is to provide our entrepreneurs with the insights and support they need at critical stages in their business, including fundraising, pivoting, and hiring. A typical day is filled with jumping on calls with our entrepreneurs for office hours. On top of this, I work very closely with our alumni founders and help them connect to the right resources. For example, every month, we host a networking hour to come together and we also bring in industry experts to share business trends and advice.
The thing that is amazing to me is how much I love my job. The excitement of thinking about all the cool things you can do with startups never goes away. I feel very lucky to have gotten such a great opportunity early on in my career, where I’m able to spend my time doing what I enjoy while helping the next generation of entrepreneurs.
How do you help foster community building within the Grid110 network of founders and mentors, as well as within the larger LA startup community?
“Community” means different things to different people, but I believe it’s about building relationships for the long run. Life is like one big roller coaster ride, so we have to help each other out and support one another. At Grid110, I manage events and represent the organization in the greater Los Angeles community.
Outside of Grid110, I am the Managing Director of a nonprofit called Girls in Tech LA, focused on supporting women in Technology. I believe in giving back to your community and fostering close ties with other organizations.
What are some of the greatest opportunities you see right now to drive meaningful change when it comes to more equitable representation in the LA tech and startup communities?
LA is a melting pot, and that’s what makes this place so great. I love so many things about LA, but if I had to choose one thing, it would be the diversity. The LA startup community is growing and evolving more every day, with diversity in leadership becoming a priority for many companies.
Diversity is such a huge topic right now and it’s great to see more VC firms committing to diversity-focused efforts. Historically, when women and people from underrepresented backgrounds needed VC funding for their startup, they often struggled and fell through the cracks because they didn’t get access to investment firms. That’s why organizations like Grid110 and Pledge LA are so critical in driving the change in the startup ecosystem.
At Noun Project, we believe visual language has the power to shape, reinforce and change perceptions. What are your thoughts on why diverse visual representation in tech is important?
I fully believe that having diversity in the workplace, and especially tech, makes for better business. Diversity means more ideas from a broader range of backgrounds, it brings fresh perspectives, and most importantly, it leads to innovation and growth. It’s important to see people who look like you in industries you aspire to work in and for others to know that they are seen. It affects how we think and view the world and also affects the way we see ourselves.
Diversity is also personal for me. I grew up in Germany and was raised by a Korean parent. As someone who grew up between two cultures and two languages, my cultural background has always been important to me. My childhood was filled with moving back and forth between two countries — going to school in Germany while spending summers in Seoul and vice versa. Diversity has always been around me and it’s something I deeply value because it has given me the gift of appreciation for other cultures.
Looking to the future, what inspires you and what initiatives are you most excited about right now?
The initiative I am currently most excited about is our next cohort: The Grid110 South LA Winter Cohort, which will kick off in January 2021. We will be selecting 20 Black and Latinx founders from the South Los Angeles area who will be matched with $25K in funding and mentorship. For the program, we partnered with PledgeLA, a nonprofit that addresses economic injustices in Los Angeles by creating access to entrepreneurship opportunities, technology, and other sectors.
This program is one of the many ways that we are committed to disrupting the status quo.
How can people get involved with Grid110 and support the work you’re doing?
If you love what we do, consider a donation to support our programs. Every dollar counts, and it all goes back to supporting our entrepreneurs. We are a registered 501(c)3 organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.
Grid110 is an economic and community development non-profit dedicated to creating clearer pathways to success for early-stage entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. Through its two cohort-based accelerator programs, Idea-to-Product (I2P) and Residency, Grid110 provides founders in Los Angeles with a growing community of fellow entrepreneurs, expert mentorship, and crucial resources.