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DC-founded speakers bureau tackling gender gap at tech events

The cofounders of Orate, an online platform for public speakers and event planners to connect, are back from their time at The Startup Factory in Durham, N.C., and are building out a second version of their platform. The company, cofounded by Sara Capra and Veronica Eklund, is looking to scale and to connect with the DC tech scene, and with women in the DC tech scene in particular.

Orate is an online platform that helps event organizers find speakers for keynotes, panels and the like. Speakers create profiles on the site, including video clips of past speaking engagements, potential speaking topics, and social media links. Orate also has a spot for event organizers to list upcoming events and a call for speakers.

The second version of Orate will automate much of what Capra and Eklund have been doing manually. "We're infusing technology into every part of the booking process," says Capra. "We'd like to make the entire process, for both event organizers and speakers, a lot more seamless:  everything from searching for speakers, to booking the contract, to payment and feedback—all in one centralized location."

Orate has 140 speakers currently listed on its site, and would like to scale that number. "We're actually focused on bringing on women in technology," says Eklund. "It's something that we're both passionate about because [as founders,] we're women in the technology space, but also there is a huge need in the market."

In a culture that is male dominated, and where a diversity panel at SXSW 2015 was composed of two white men and one woman (one of the men, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, apparently repeatedly interrupted his fellow panelist Megan Smith who is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer), Orate is fighting an uphill battle, but Capra thinks bringing more women speakers to tech events is in fact possible.

"When we talk to event organizers, if they have the opportunity, all other things being equal, to choose a man or a woman for their [technology] event, they'll choose a woman every time. We know they're out there. We want to be the place they can go to find really fantastic female speakers."

Orate has raised a total of $500,000 in funding between angel investment and a convertible note at the end of their time at The Startup Factory. They plan to open another investment round this summer. The company is also hiring a business development manager and at least one software developer.

Due to a reporting error, this article originally misstated co-founder Veronica Eklund's first name. Elevation DC regrets the error.

Read more articles by Allyson Jacob.

Allyson Jacob is a writer originally hailing from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is the Innovation and Job News editor for Elevation DC. Her work has been featured in The Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. Have a tip about a small business or start-up making waves inside the Beltway? Tell her here.
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