Excerpts from and links to several articles, videos, blogs, websites, etc. on, inter alia:
- Entrepreneurship, tech expertise, and innovation in the black community, including distressed neighborhoods
- Diversity in the tech sector
- Access to capital, resources, networks, etc.
- Initiatives, investors, entrepreneurs, innovators, champions and advocates
13 Leaders Aiming To Increase African Americans In Tech. (includes videos). Jessica Guynn. USAToday.com. Feb 10, 2016. 13 leaders in the tech diversity movement working to increase the representation of African Americans in Silicon Valley.
…In Silicon Valley, they call it the 2% problem. African Americans make up a tiny fraction of the overwhelmingly white and Asian male workforces of major technology companies, the ranks of aspiring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who control the spigot of money and access.
Silicon Valley is taking steps to offer more opportunities to underrepresented minorities in the nation’s fastest-growing, highest-paying industry. But no one is working harder to tear down barriers for African Americans than a growing cadre of entrepreneurs, investors, engineers and advocates pioneering a range of innovative efforts, from teaching kids of color how to code to preparing African American and Latino engineers for jobs in Silicon Valley.
“The movement for tech inclusion has become the most important drive for economic progress and opportunity in black America,” says Van Jones, who founded #YesWeCode with the support of music icon Prince. “Tech has become the center of the bull’s eye for African Americans trying to create hope and possibility in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore.”
For Black History Month, USA TODAY profiled 13 people to watch in Silicon Valley’s diversity movement:
- Kimberly Bryant, Founder of Black Girls Code
- Laura Weidman Powers, Co-founder and CEO of CODE2040
- Erica Joy Baker, Senior engineer at Slack Technologies, advocate for diversity and inclusion in tech
- Brandon Nicholson, Founding executive director of The Hidden Genius Project
- Charles Hudson, Managing Partner with Precursor Ventures
- Tristan Walker, CEO and founder of Walker & Co. Brands and chairman of CODE2040
- Michael Seibel, Partner with Y Combinator
- Angela Benton, Founder and CEO of NewME Accelerator
- Wayne Sutton, Co-founder of Tech Inclusion and BUILDUP
- Freada Kapor Klein, Founder of the Level Playing Institute, partner with the Kapor Center for Social Impact and partner with Kapor Capital
- Monique Woodard, Founder and executive director of Black Founders, venture partner with 500 Startups
- Makinde Adeagbo, Pinterest engineer and founder of /dev/color
- Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Founder of Trans*H4CK and co-founder of BSMdotCo
“…Founded in 2011 by Angela Benton, NewME has accelerated hundreds of entrepreneurs through our online platform, residential “boot-camp” accelerators, and equity portfolio. We pioneered diversity in Silicon Valley by focusing on helping entrepreneurs identify strengths from their non-traditional backgrounds and leveraging them in business. We’ve helped hundreds of entrepreneurs build better businesses some of whom have raised venture capital funding ($20+MM to be exact)…”
Black Tech Entrepreneurs Bring Great Value to the Field. Angela Benton, Founder & CEO, NewME. HuffingtonPost.com. Feb 19, 2015 (Updated Apr 21, 2015).
…The lure of fame and recognition is often what derails us and makes us gravitate to other industries like music and entertainment. I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs I still meet trying to launch a record label thanks to the successes of Diddy and Jay-Z et al., both of whom are approaching $1B in networth. Yet, it was Dr. Dre who had the foresight to marry a credible and authentic brand with consumer electronic trends to launch a hardware technology company, Beats by Dre, which later got acquired by Apple for $3B. Even the stock buy back of the company was masterfully and artfully executed. You don’t have to major in business or finance to see who’s leading the pack here.
The future is not in recreating via blueprint what someone else was successful at. The future is where our culture, innovation, and capitalism intersect. Where we understand the in’s and out’s of the game that is being played and have enough foresight (and courage) to build for upcoming trends. And more importantly the inroads are being built now so that when you (or your kids, or your kids’ kids) have that next genius idea you have a well-earned seat at the table when checks are getting cut and deals are being made.
We’ll know black lives matter when we see more successful minority entrepreneurs in the tech industry….”
The New & Diverse Leaders of Technology. Rashad Drakeford. RevoltTV.com. Jan 8, 2016. These 15 men and women are leading the charge of change in Silicon Valley.
Former NASA Engineer Makes Millions with STEMBoard. Lynne d Johnson. Ebony.com. March 30, 2016. No venture capital? No problem for space-age sista.
8 Companies Attack the Digital Divide. Lynne d Johnson. Ebony.com. August 04, 2015. Fostering diversity in the technology space through coding opportunities, organizations like CODE2040 and Hack the Hood close the gap.
“…[F]ounded by Lupe Fiasco and Di-Ann Eisnor to turn ideas into start-ups. We need more diverse entrepreneurs bringing fresh ideas and new innovations to life. So, we’ve created a neighborhood-specific fund to support entrepreneurs and start-ups from underserved areas and of course so the best new ideas won’t go wasted. We provide access, network, workshops, mentoring and of course funding….”
Lupe Fiasco and a Waze Exec Make a Million-Dollar Bet on Inner-City Innovators. David Zax. Fast Company. October 23, 2015. Could the next $100 million business come from a marginalized neighborhood? Waze’s Di-Ann Eisnor and rapper Lupe Fiasco are sure of it.
…”I’m already so happy with the ideas that are coming out,” Eisnor told me after hearing the last pitch. “There’s something interesting in each of them, and they were viable.” Her and Fiasco’s ambitions are not small—the goal is to create a $100 million company out of the fund. They hope to be in about a dozen neighborhoods by the end of 2016. “Brownsville is just the beginning,” says Fiasco.
…Eisnor says that the fund is emphatically not a philanthropic venture. “It’s very important to me that this is not philanthropy, that we have real economic engines and real wealth coming to these neighborhoods,” she says. “If one success comes out of this, then other investors will take it seriously. We want to be the on-ramp to something more sustainable.”
She has a serene certainty that it will work. “It’s totally faith-based, as was Waze, as was everything I’ve done,” says Eisnor. “My personality is really intuitive. If I have a sense that something needs to happen, I’m going to make it happen.”
In addition to crime and other urban problems, neighborhoods like Brownsville often suffer from underfunded public schools and low educational attainment. What does Eisnor say to a skeptic, then, who might wonder if Brownsville residents have been adequately trained to found a $100 million company? “My first statement is: So? You don’t have to believe it. We’ll prove it. I’d also say that some of the best companies are from people who didn’t get to finish their education. Being an entrepreneur is more about being stubborn, tenacious, hard-working, and focused, rather than having any specific skill set.”
Could Brownsville Be the Next Startup Hub? Tyler Woods. Technical.ly Brooklyn. Nov. 10, 2015. “All the ideas that came out used technology and none of them were technology ideas,” Eisnor said, explaining one major difference between Brownsville and what she usually sees in Silicon Valley. “Here we have really credible businesses where the technology is just a tool. I judge all kinds of pitch competitions in the valley and the ideas here rival anything I see there.” ….
Eisnor also made the point that Silicon Valley and Manhattan have no monopoly on entrepreneurship. The skills and talents that make one a good entrepreneur exist across all strata of society, though the barriers to entry are certainly different in different places. She and Lupe have put together a million-dollar fund from their own money and from friends to back the winning project.
“In Silicon Valley and New York you have these good on-ramps where if someone’s willing to take the risks, they can really engage,” she explained. “Entrepreneurship is really supposed to be about scarcity and solving problems. There are different kinds of entrepreneurs and we have to get back to solving problems. And there are plenty of people who have already identified problems but they don’t have a way to do anything with that.”
The Dream Big Foundation Rewards Entrepreneurship in the Inner City. Elana Krasner. December 30, 2015. “…Dream Big hosted its first-ever Idea-to-Prototype Challenge in partnership with the Neighborhood Start Fund last month. Before the event, 200 local entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for a chance to win funding for their start-ups. The panel of judges, including Rob and Wasalu Jaco (better known as Lupe Fiasco!) among other successful entrepreneurs, selected nine finalists to present live. Each finalist received $5,000 and will have access to free mentoring from the Dream Big Foundation. The top three winners, Subway Talents, Made in Brownsville, and Checc-Up, have the potential to earn up to $100,000 depending on their business’ needs….”
Lupe Fiasco’s Looking for the Next Big Idea in the Inner-City. iHeart.com. November 16, 2015. What if the next Facebook or $100 million startup idea came from the inner-city? That’s exactly what Lupe Fiasco’s Neighborhood Start Fund is banking on.
“All Star Code is a non-profit initiative that prepares qualified young men of color for full-time employment in the technology industry by providing mentorship, industry exposure, and intensive training in computer science. We are dedicated to closing the opportunity gap between young men of color and the tech industry.”
“Our Vision: To increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages 7 to 17 to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology.”
Hack the Hood
“Hack the Hood is an award-winning non-profit that introduces low-income youth of color to careers in tech by hiring and training them to build websites for real small businesses in their own communities. During 6-week “Bootcamps,” young people gain valuable hands-on experience, build a portfolio, and learn about opportunities in the tech industry, as well as building critical technical, leadership, entrepreneurship, and life skills with mentorship from staff and tech professionals working in the field.”
“Many have been searching for ways to uplift today’s urban youth and help them achieve a more promising future. We believe that one solution lies in connecting tech and social justice leaders to spearhead revolutionary tech programs whose benefits extend to the most disadvantaged of society. #YesWeCode has a mission to connect 100,000 low-opportunity young adults to high-paying careers in technology.”
“Our mission is to increase the number of successful black entrepreneurs in technology. Black Founders is creating an ecosystem that stimulates tech entrepreneurship and fosters economic growth. We develop global programs that equip entrepreneurs, inspire innovation, and allow us to share resources.
Blacks In Technology is a tech focused community and media organization focused on increasing diversity in technology. Blacks In Technology’s mission is to increase visibility, participation, and change the perception of people of African descent in technology through community focused activities, events and media. Blacks In Technology (BIT) is “Stomping the Divide” by establishing a blueprint of world class technical excellence and innovation by providing resources, guidance and issuing a challenge to our members to surpass the high mark and establish new standards of global innovation.
The Hidden Genius Project was founded in 2012 by five black male entrepreneurs/technologists who were unnerved by the dramatic juxtaposition between the high unemployment of black male youth and the plethora of career opportunities within the local technology sector. To address this challenge, the founders established a program to connect underserved, young black males with the skills, mentors, and experiences that they need to become high-performing entrepreneurs and technologists in a 21st century, global economy.
CODE2040 creates access, awareness, and opportunities for top Black and Latino/a engineering talent to ensure their leadership in the innovation economy. … CODE2040 …creates pathways to educational, professional, and entrepreneurial success in technology for underrepresented minorities with a specific focus on Blacks and Latino/as. CODE2040 aims to close the achievement, skills, and wealth gaps in the United States. Our goal is to ensure that by the year 2040 – when the US will be majority-minority – Blacks and Latino/as are proportionally represented in America’s innovation economy as technologists, investors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs.
“In 2014, DC-based digital agency Ghost Note created Technoir to showcase, fund, and celebrate diverse companies and ideas. We achieve this through economic empowerment, creative social events, and valuable programming that can help get new ideas out to the world. Simply put, Technoir is founded on a core belief that black brilliance and disruption has the power to change our community and the world.”
Blacktech Week is an immersive week long series of events that brings together the most innovative young minds, creative influences and thought leaders of color to learn from the best, exchange ideas and address common challenges through engaging workshops, thoughtful discussions, and social interchange. This week long cultural celebration will highlight cutting-edge technologies and entrepreneurial innovation.
“The wealth of talent, experience and innovation that comes with diversity is often lost because minority startups aren’t afforded the access and capital necessary to grow their businesses and develop their ideas. PowerMoves.NOLA fills that gap by orchestrating connections of high-growth entrepreneurs of color to advisors, capital, and technical assistance.”
PowerMoves.NOLA / City Ventures. Traveling to cities across the nation that are committed to the PowerMoves.NOLA mission of increasing the number of venture-backed minority-founded companies. Through City Ventures, PowerMoves.NOLA will introduce regional and national startup talent to partner cities, highlight existing local entrepreneurial resources and ecosystems, and aid in the strategic positioning of those cities as regional hubs for high-growth and high-tech entrepreneurs of color.
Miami’s Black Tech Week Draws 1,600 Entrepreneurs. Taylor Lewis. Essence.com. Feb 23, 2016
…In addition to discussions and panels, including sessions that explored ways to diversify STEM fields in a push to get overlooked populations like former prisoners involved, female entrepreneurs attended a women’s innovation brunch, and Power Moves Miami, an incubator for underrepresented entrepreneurs, hosted a pitch competition. “You have to build the city that you want,” Fletcher said to the Huffington Post. “Black Tech Week is our gift to the ecosystem in Miami…There is such genius and raw talent in our community. We don’t need to leave our community to be successful.”
Powermoves Launches, Black Tech Week Opens Amid Sobering Statistics. Nancy Dahlberg. MiamiHerald.com. February 17, 2016. PowerMoves, a new entrepreneurship program aimed at building a pipeline of entrepreneurs of color, launched in Miami this week. Black Tech Week, a celebration of entrepreneurs of color, runs through Saturday. Both events aim to increase the pipeline of entrepreneurs of color and connect them with resources.
…This week, in partnership with Black Tech Week, PowerMoves held a three-day bootcamp for about 15 entrepreneurs that will culminate in a demo day open to the public Wednesday morning at the Fontainebleau. On Tuesday PowerMoves held two pitch competitions for eight selected entrepreneurs around the country, including two teams from South Florida: Court Buddy, a Miami-based matching service for a la carte legal services, and Kweak, a video messaging platform company based in Miami and Berlin. Taking home $25,000 each were Better Weekdays, a mobile job-matching platform, and Virgil, a mobile-first career navigation platform.
“I was blown away by the ideas and the execution of the ideas so far. The ideas presented not only solved big social problems but would have great multiplier effects,” said Carla Harris, a judge in the pitch contest and vice chairman of wealth management for Morgan Stanley, presenting sponsor of the event. She sees a long future for PowerMoves in Miami building a pipeline of entrepreneurs of color: “It is my thought that this will become the place for sophisticated investors who are looking for next generation technology and are specifically looking for entrepreneurs of color – they will have to come to PowerMoves to find them.”
Black Entrepreneurs Take Over Miami For Black Tech Week. Tyree A. Boyd-Pates. HuffingtonPost.com. Feb 23, 2016.
Carla Harris, Morgan Stanley’s Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management and Senior Client Advisor, discussed the importance of having events like PowerMoves Miami. Impressed by the caliber of entrepreneurs at this year’s conference, she stated, “PowerMoves Miami has been able to source high quality, high growth entrepreneurs and develop them.” She predicted that PowerMoves Miami will be the place for great investors and entrepreneurs of color to meet and build with one another. “This will be the place where you will be able to find entrepreneurs of color on a larger scale.”
Sheila Herrling, Case Foundation’s SVP of Social Innovation, said the same. In a conversation, Herrling mentioned that the obstacles preventing the visibility of entrepreneurs of color is due to the standard myths of entrepreneurism which, in turn, affects participation. To offset this, she shared, we must “tap into the social capital” that entrepreneurs of color possess-something she feels PowerMoves is doing in real time.
Earl Robinson, CEO of PowerMoves and the New Orleans Startup fund, stated that, “people tend to overcomplicate entrepreneurship. When a really talented entrepreneur receives the right capital it can assist his/her community. PowerMoves was put in place to “even out the unevenness of wealth distribution in some communities and make sure those communities have heroes that are well resourced.”
Black Tech Week Recap: Voices of the Inspired & Empowered. Donna Owens. NBCNews.com. Feb 22, 2016. …From sessions on funding start-ups, to youth functions and a women’s innovation brunch that closed the summit, participants expressed enthusiasm about the thought-provoking dialogue experienced at this cultural conference. That dovetails with the vision of event co-founders Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson who aim to move the needle forward in terms of growing Black entrepreneurship in the tech sphere.
“To see all these innovators in a room and people who look like you is inspiring,” said Barbara Jacques, CEO of Jacq’s Organics, an e-commerce site that carries cleansers, face oils, and other natural beauty products. “It’s empowering,” said the Haitian-American entrepreneur, who was a panelist at Saturday’s women’s tech celebration…
Could Miami Be The New Hub For Black Entrepreneurs? Donna Owens. NBCNews.com. The goal is to support entrepreneurs of color and shift mindsets from merely consuming social media and technology to developing it. The topic seems especially timely during Black History Month. “We have amazing genius and raw talent in our communities,” Hatcher told an enthusiastic crowd at the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts during a preview reception.
Blerds Unite: Black Tech Week Makes Big Splash In Miami. Desire Thompson. Vibe.com. Feb 18, 2016. “We have amazing genius and raw talent in our communities,” Hatcher said about the event. Clarence Wooten, the founder of VentureFund.io, also shared the importance of spreading innovation awareness. “Black Tech Week is a very important event for a number of different reasons, Wooten said. “There is a perception that blacks aren’t creators of tech. The diversity discussion in Silicon Valley illustrates that perception. The 12-year old boy and girl programmers in our community must have positive examples of success to be inspired by, and the greater tech community can take notice”
“…We believe that the development of a thriving black tech ecosystem will empower the black community, propel the tech community, and introduce a new competitive advantage for the city. However, a thriving black tech ecosystem will not just appear out of thin air. It must be deliberately and meticulously constructed. Our specific focus is to strengthen connections within the community, quantify collective impact, drive growth and tell the world about it.”
How To Promote Black Tech in Chicago? Collaboration Is Key, Leaders Say. Tatiana Walk-Morris. DNAinfo Chicago. Jan 29, 2016.
It’s no secret that the tech sector has a diversity problem, and last night a group of tech professionals of color met to lay out the blueprint for bringing more black people into Chicago’s tech world. Hosted by Micae Brown, of The Urban Business Roundtable radio program on WVON, executives at Coding While Black, Bridging the Gap and Blue Ocean Logic spoke to an audience of more than 200 black entrepreneurs and enthusiasts about their companies and the overall state of Chicago’s black tech community at Google’s West Loop office, 320 N. Morgan St.
Fabian Elliott, founder of Black Tech Mecca and an advertising technology exec at Google, organized the event in hopes of taking the pulse of Chicago’s black tech community, which he said hasn’t been formally measured.
Kurt Summers lays down a challenge at black tech summit. Cheryl V. Jackson. Chicago Tribune. January 29, 2016. There was a lot of influence in the house Thursday night as entrepreneurs and supporters gathered at Google Chicago to talk about ways to strengthen the black tech ecosystem. And money was a top topic.
Groups gear up to boost Chicago’s black tech community. Cheryl V. Jackson. Chicago Tribune. December 29, 2015. The Code2040 Entrepreneurs in Residence program is leading an effort to map all the black and Latino tech founders in Chicago so investors can find them, while other initiatives are also aiming to boost Chicago’s black tech community.
Founder of ‘Black Tech Mecca’ Talks Transforming Chicago Technology Scene. Kandia Johnson. BlackEnterprise.com. October 5, 2015. Founder Fabian Elliott talks connecting and inspiring the black tech community
The Real Unicorns of Tech: Black Women Founders, The #ProjectDiane Report. Feb 2016. #ProjectDiane is digitalundivided’s proprietary research study about the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship in the United States. DID studied over 88 startups led by Black women founders and synthesized the results into this compelling report.
It’s True, Black Female Founders Receive Basically Zero Venture Capital. Megan Rose Dickey. TechCrunch.com. Feb 13, 2016.
In “The Real Unicorns of Tech: Black Founders Women,” a recent report by #ProjectDiane, you’ll come across several startling statistics like, for example, of all venture deals from 2012 to 2014, only 0.2% (24 of 10,238 deals) went to black female founders.
It’s Embarrassing How Few Black Female Founders Get Funded. Davey Alba. Wired.com. Feb 10, 2016.
Slack Releases Diversity Report With Stats On Intersection Of Race And Gender. Megan Rose Dickey. TechCrunch.com. Feb 4, 2016.
Kapor Capital Will Start Requiring New Portfolio Startups To Invest In Diversity And Inclusion. Megan Rose Dickey. TechCrunch. Jan 21, 2016. Kapor Capital wants its portfolio companies to progress in the areas of diversity and inclusion, which is why it’s launching the “Founders’ Commitment,” a four-part roadmap for startups to foster diverse and inclusive cultures early on.
Pinterest Points the Way as Silicon Valley Grapples With Diversity. Davey Alba. Wired.com. Jan 06, 2016.
Silicon Valley, Seeking Diversity, Focuses on Blacks. Patricia Leigh Brown. New York Times. Sept. 3, 2015
Bits Blog: Behind Silicon Valley’s Self-Critical Tone on Diversity, a Lack of Progress. Mike Isaac. New York Times. June 28, 2015.
A Difficult Road For Black Tech Founders. Scott Goss. Delawareonline.com (The News Journal). Aug 29, 2015.
IBM’s School Could Fix Education—And Tech’s Diversity Gap. Wired.com. Issie Lapowsky. Aug 08, 2015
Handing Out Seed Money So That Black Tech Startups Can Grow. Julie Walker. TheRoot.com. April 5, 2015. With black entrepreneurs making up only 1 percent of founders at tech startups that receive funding, some organizations are working to change the game.
Two Young, Black Entrepreneurs In Tech Open Up About STEM Diversity — And Why It Matters. Jacqueline Howard. HuffingtonPost.com. Mar 24, 2015.
BE Smart: All Star Code Educates Next Generation of Tech Entrepreneurs. BlackEnterprise.com. Derek T. Dingle. March 23, 2015. The nonprofit helps diversify the tech space.
The Entrepreneur Prototype is a Young, White Male. They Want to Change That. Steven Overly. WashingtonPost.com. August 6, 2014
Education, Mentors, Money: How to Boost Black Tech Entrepreneurs. Karen E. Klein. Bloomberg.com. May 30, 2013
Who Are Some Influential Black Women Tech Entrepreneurs? Quora.com Answers.
Beats Founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine Fund USC Entrepreneurship Academy. Louis Lavelle. Bloomberg Businessweek. May 15, 2013. Hip hop artist Dr. Dre and producer Jimmy Iovine have given $70 million to the University of Southern California for a new academy that will be of particular interest to business students. The program will offer a four-year degree designed for budding entrepreneurs in the arts and entertainment.
Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley. CNN.com. 2011. Video Documentary; articles.
Silicon Valley’s Invisible Blacks. Joel Dreyfuss. TheRoot.com. Nov. 11 2011. CNN’s Black in America 4 ignores the history of African Americans in technology. Here’s what it missed.
Soledad O’Brien’s latest chapter in her Black in America series has caused a huge uproar even before the episode airs on Nov. 13. In her continuing exploration of the nooks and crannies of African-American life, O’Brien has taken on Silicon Valley, which sees itself as a model of meritocracy.
The episode, “The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley,” follows a group of African-American entrepreneurs who join an “incubator” called NewMe, led by BlackWeb 2.0 founder Angela Benton (a Root 100 2010 honoree), and spend nine weeks living in a house in Silicon Valley, preparing to present their Internet startups to potential investors [see panel discussion on it hosted by Mario Armstrong here: “Innovation Nation: Startup Success]. In the process, O’Brien asks why so few black entrepreneurs have emerged from America’s tech bastion.
The controversy has largely been triggered by comments in the documentary by Michael Arrington, founder of the influential startup showcase TechCrunch, who declares that he doesn’t know a single black entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and adds that if he found one, he’d give him a platform without regard to the merits of his company. Previews of his comments set off a spirited — and often racially tinged — debate about whether Silicon Valley is as colorblind as it likes to think it is.
The rarity of blacks in current tech startups is indisputable, but both Arrington and O’Brien’s documentary leave you with the inaccurate impression that there are no black tech entrepreneurs at all in the Valley. In fact, while the total number of African Americans working at tech companies is small today, blacks have had a long and consistent presence in Silicon Valley, even playing key roles at critical times. Today a number of companies founded by blacks are thriving, despite Arrington’s ignorance.
The elder statesman of black entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley is Roy Clay Sr., chairman of Rod-L, a company that makes electronic testing equipment. Clay came to the Valley in the 1950s with a degree in mathematics from St. Louis University. He led the team at Hewlett-Packard that created the company’s first computer in 1966….