WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama spent his 54th birthday talking to a robotic teddy bear that teaches children how to manage their diabetes and watching a radio waves demonstration used to detect senior falls.
Obama welcomed more than 30 startup teams including women, minority people and others underrepresented in entrepreneurship to the first White House Demo Day on Tuesday, August 4.
Obama said America is home to more high-tech companies than anyplace else in the world, but not everyone has the chance to pursue their dreams because of challenges like raising capital.
“It’s always hard to get in front of the right people, but sometimes it’s harder if you’re a woman or an underrepresented minority who all too often have to fight just to get a seat at the table,” he said.
The White House says about 3 percent of U.S. startups backed by venture capital are led by women. About 1 percent are headed by African-Americans.
“We’ve got to make sure that everybody is getting a fair shot. The next Steve Jobs might be named Stephanie or Esteban,” Obama said. “We’ve got to unleash the full potential of every American — not leave more than half the team on the bench.”
Before his remarks, Obama toured half a dozen startups in the State Dining Room including Sakti3, which designs solid-state lithium batteries to power mobile phones, computers and cars- and Duolingo, a free app that teaches languages.
“I’m going to tap in this” and “spruce up my Spanish,” Obama said, promising to check out the application whenever he gets access to a Smartphone again.
The president also announced new public and private-sector commitments to attract diversity in entrepreneurship and technology including the winners of Small Business Administration competitions, federal partnerships to increase training efforts by the National Science Foundation and expanding the TechHire initiative, where cities and states partner with employers in recruitment.
Before the group of young, diverse innovators sang “Happy Birthday” to the president, Obama said he looked forward to seeing what they end up doing.
“And keep in mind that in about 18 months, I’m going to need a job,” he added.