How This Gen AI Expert Is Mentoring Female & Black Founder Startups To Hyper Growth

Lakshmanan Sethu Sankaranarayanan

This top Gen AI expert is helping Women and Black entrepreneurs succeed through dedicated support to get their ventures off the ground.

In a landscape where diversity in tech entrepreneurship remains a significant challenge, diversity-forward mentors are stepping up to make a tangible difference. The need for such initiatives has never been more critical. Across the U.S, VC firms, Big Tech and other organizations are sponsoring accelerator and mentorship programs to help level the playing field for Female and Black founders. These programs provide 1-1 mentorship, technical support, fundraising and networking opportunities for Women and Black Founders.

In 2022, Black and Latino founders received a measly 1% and 1.5% respectively of the total US venture capital (VC) funding against over 95% of funding going into White Male founded startups. Women-founded teams received 1.9% of VC funds, and only 0.1% of VC funds went to Black and Latino women founders. Despite these challenges, the potential for innovation and investment in startups led by women and Black founders is immense, underscoring the importance of leveling the playing field.

Lakshmanan Sethu Sankaranarayanan is an AI/ML Solutions leader at Google who has positioned himself as a top expert in pioneering AI innovations and cloud technologies through his career spanning over 17 years in Tech. He has a keen passion for mentorship, evident from his advisory role at Google for Startups in North America. There, he is helping underrepresented founders harness Generative AI technologies, focusing on the architecture and design of implementing Gen AI solutions to fuel business growth. Lakshmanan shares,

❝ There's a profound opportunity in bridging the gap for underrepresented founders in tech. My mission is to democratize access to Generative AI technologies, equipping these talented entrepreneurs with the tools they need to excel and reshape industries. ❞

Reflecting on his own journey as an immigrant of minority ethnicity, Lakshmanan notes,

I have navigated the tech industry's complexities, fully aware of the barriers that my unique immigration situation presents in launching my own venture. Yet, this hasn't deterred my spirit; instead, it's fueled my desire to mentor others. ❞

His inspiration to mentor comes from a personal place. ❝ Having faced the hurdles firsthand, I understand the disparities in access to funding and networks that minority founders endure. My goal is to level the playing field, providing the mentorship and resources that were scarce during my early days in tech. ❞

In his mentorship, Lakshmanan is currently advising a high-growth startup led by a woman immigrant founder, focusing on redefining their Generative AI solutions. The startup is tackling the issue of complex and inefficient product development software that often hampers high-growth startups. Commonly, such software proves challenging to use, demands considerable time for configuration, and falls short of supporting the dynamic needs of today's fast-moving, cross-functional teams. In response, this startup is overhauling the conventional design to create a streamlined, powerful platform that simplifies the product development process. Their goal is to craft a more accessible and flexible tool that caters to the collaborative and rapid pace of modern engineering and development efforts. By focusing on simplicity and efficiency, their platform is designed to help teams meet their release schedules more effectively, thereby enhancing productivity and the success of projects. Through a commitment to simplicity in design, the startup envisions making a significant impact on how product development is approached.

Lakshmanan Sethu is currently helping this high-growth startup in further refining their use of Gen AI to accelerate their growth and improve their offerings. ❝ This startup has untapped growth potential, and by integrating Generative AI more deeply into their platform, they can revolutionize product development. The challenges are manifold, from ensuring AI's ethical use to seamlessly integrating it into existing workflows, but they're surmountable with the right strategy. ❞

Lakshmanan's advisory expertise is widely recognized, serving on technical advisory boards at reputed technical publishers such as Packt and as a Technical Editor for Gen AI books across publishers like Packt and O'Reilly. He was also invited and is currently serving as an advisory board member at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) and the University of California, Irvine. His influence continues with an invitation to be a keynote speaker at the API Days London in September 2024.

In closing, Lakshmanan reflects, ❝ Advancing AI, especially Generative AI, in startups is not just about economic growth; it's about fulfilling my life's mission. Through mentorship, I am not only helping minority founders thrive but also contributing to a more equitable and prosperous global economy. The success of these founders is a testament to what's possible when we invest in diversity and innovation. ❞

Lakshmanan Sethu Sankaranarayanan's journey from an aspiring entrepreneur facing his own set of challenges to becoming a mentor for the next generation of tech leaders is a powerful narrative of resilience, innovation, and inclusivity. Through his work, he not only champions the cause of underrepresented founders but also lays the groundwork for a more diverse and dynamic technological future.

This article was first published on April 22, 2024