When I first moved to NYC, I was overwhelmed. New city, new job, new people. I had only ever visited the city for weeks at a time, so becoming a full resident presented a myriad of challenges. At the top of the list was a struggle unique to anyone who has ever looked at their forehead in the mirror and shuddered.
Who will tend to the wildness that my hairline can become? Who can I trust with the task of giving me the perfect fade?! A haircut is an extension of personal brand. It frames my face, exudes confidence and good taste, and could very well be the difference as to whether or not I am winning the attention of that special someone (or nah)!
The minute the barber applies the finishing touches to my line-up and the mist of the finishing spray dissipates, IT’s ON. A good barber is much more than an Andis T-Outliner and steady hands. It’s a relationship as much as it is a service. The barbershop is a special kind of blavity; only space of its kind that brings together diverse men (and increasingly women), who otherwise never slow down long enough to exchange words in the normal hustle and bustle. The lawyer, basketball player, recording artist, student, preacher, software developer and MTA conductor all come to the barbershop not simply get their hair cut, but to engage in shared experiences in a common space.
Finding a great barber is both an art and a science. Generally, they can come from referrals from friends or family or just conversations you might have in passing with a stranger (with a nice haircut) you approach on 125th St. Unfortunately, those can generally be hit or miss. It's pretty hard for me to believe someone's barber is "the nicest in the city,' when their line-up looks like a heart rate monitor. It isn't a game, and a wack hairline can do unimaginable amounts of damage.
Thankfully, there is a solution that I wish I had known when I was walking around New York looking like a wooly mammoth. It’s called Cue, and it’s dope — one of those, "I wish I had thought of that" apps.
Cue is built to help you not simply find barbers, but evaluate them on the things that matter to you as a consumer. Not all barbers are created equal, and you deserve to find the best one for you and your hairline.
If you're in the business of cutting hair or know any barbers, Cue should be on their radar too.
It allows barbers to list themselves, provide information, and even set up appointment scheduling on demand. Barbers are also able to list prices so you can know up front if a shape-up is going to be $25 instead of negotiating a peace treaty once you're already in the chair. We’ve all been there.
They've been working with barbers in NYC, Washington D.C., LA, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Houston to integrate technology into their day-to-day work-flow. The days of not knowing what a specific cut could or should look like are also over, as barbers can showcase their handiwork directly in the app.
Finding a barber is no easy task. There are tons of options, and they all matter. Cue takes the guesswork out of finding a barber and let you focus on other things; such as getting your passport ready if Trump wins the 2016 election.
It's also the holidays, so not having your fresh cut will result in you getting played by that uncle who still dresses like a character from Miami Vice, insists on drinking out of styrofoam cups, and always sings off-key to Mary J. Blige. Don’t let that be you. You’re better than that.
Go download Cue, and commit to keeping your haircut fresh this holiday season. Also, tip your barber. They likely deserve it.
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In case you missed it: this week, a former Twitter Engineering Manager, Leslie Miley, wrote a detailed post announcing his departure from Twitter citing diversity related reasons. His departure leaves the company without any remaining blacks in engineering leadership positions. This is the latest in a set of experiences told by blacks about their challenges while working at companies such as Twitter, Dropbox, or Google. These experiences are recent and relevant, and are occurring at the same time as companies are creating initiatives to recruit and retain diverse (gender and race) talent.
Corporate Social Responsibility, the Business Case, and Economic Justice as Driving Forces behind Diversity in Tech
The “Diversity in Tech” movement is not new. My older peers tell me of similar conversations that occurred in the ’70s and ’80s. Same conversations, different companies. Then it was the IBMs and GEs attempting to figure it out. In a déjà vu manner, modern-day companies are iterating through the same steps as these older companies once did, such as creating “Head of Diversity” roles, (but implementation still not aligned with core business goals). Back then, diversity in tech efforts were mainly thought to be corporate social responsibility initiatives. “We do this because it is the morally and ethnically right thing to do” or aka “Charity feels good.”
Today, the company narrative behind diversity initiatives have been changed to “The Business Case for Diversity.” “We believe in diverse teams as as a way to drive innovation at our company.” Most of us, (blacks in tech), are in agreement with the new narrative, however, we are not convinced that our colleagues or company leadership are; evidenced by conversations and debates about “meritocracy” and “lowering the bar.”
But, we remain and do the dance (in hopes of change). Mainly due to the economic opportunities that tech presents. We enjoy the work, but it is an omission to leave out the allure of the economic benefits that tech presents. This is especially true for us who identify with being both racially underrepresented in tech and growing up in or having some association with lower social economic communities. This becomes our driving force in the diversity in tech movement. It is not charity work for us, it is economic justice.
Its too early to tell if work culture at companies like Twitter, Dropbox, and Google will change to become more inclusive. Many of these companies are still young and there has not been enough time to see the long term impacts of current diversity initiatives. As more blacks are seeking tech opportunities, the choice remains of where do we invest our talent. The Twitters, Googles, and Facebooks remain options as long as these companies do their part in outreach and implementation of fair hiring processes to lessen biases. Once in, these companies do offer great compensation and serve as a nice resume stamp for future opportunities.
However, some will argue that if greater economic advantages are what we seek as underrepresented folks, then the heyday of these companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter) is over. Instead, opportunities at earlier stage startups may be more appealing due to larger equity packages, (of course, dependent on the future value of the startup). In addition, early startup employees have the opportunity to shape the culture of the startup. In contrast, these early stage startups do not have formal HR policies and often are ill-prepared to handle the complexities of diversity conflicts that may arise.
Then there’s the easier-said-than-done advice of ‘Starting Our Own.’ Strictly, from a statistical perspective, this is the least economically advantageous option. Startup failures are enormously high. Success of startups can be dependent on the companies ability to scale which may require raising capital. (Raising capital while black is another post in itself) However, statistics has never deterred the black community from pursuing opportunities. Think of all the basketball courts filled with hopes of becoming the next LeBron, and the real statistics behind these hoop dreams.
What’s Your Desired Outcome
This post is not intended to offer solutions to mainstream tech leadership on their perceived challenge of diversity in tech. Instead, the post is intentionally written for the underrepresented racial minority from a view of empowerment. It is written to inform of both the advantages and challenges of being black and working in tech. However, finding your motivation and defining your desired outcome is important as you pursue and work in various opportunities. These are the tenets that you must hold onto as you weigh each opportunity or when facing diversity conflicts in the workplace.
This post was originally published on HBCU to Startup. Read the original post here. ...
Last week Black Wall Street Homecoming, hosted in Durham, North Carolina, kicked-off an inaugural year by pairing entrepreneurs with storytellers, venture capitalists and a few tastefully-curated after-parties with the ultimate goal of setting the stage for growing Durham’s startup economy.
It’s not often that the Southeast gets recognized for progressively innovative startups or high-profile conferences. So the importance of providing diverse, high-quality content outside of Silicon Valley meant helped the evolving desire of smaller cities to be active participants in cultivating local economies that help entrepreneurs thrive.
The summit was spearheaded by a team of passionate leaders: Talib Graves-Manns, owner of Point AB, entrepreneur-in-residence with Google for Entrepreneurs and Code2040 at the American Underground; Jesica Averhart, director of community partnerships and new business development for American Underground; and Tobias Rose, principal and creative director of Kompleks Creative.
As evidenced by its name, the summit (held at the American Underground) wasn’t your ordinary startup conference meetup. Whereas typical tech and venture capital conferences boast highly-homogeneous panelists and attendees, the Black Wall Street event reflected a much more diverse audience of business hopefuls alongside seasoned experts connected to as much of the future of Durham’s economy as they are its past.
Paying homage to the original Black Wall Street of the 1900s, the summit’s namesake speaks to two dichotomies: the need for African-American presence in the 21st century economy and the connection to a history of contribution without recognition.
Parrish street, a four-block district in the heart of Durham, was the hallmark of the black business community from the late 1800s to early 1900s. As many as 125 prominent shopkeepers and black-owned financial institutions developed a powerful, self-sustaining economic system that supported their families and their communities during in the midst of systemic racism and segregation.
In addition to getting schooled on an important piece of American history, the three-day summit comprised of a collection of panel discussions and lectures breaking down the pathways to funding, pitching and developing sustainable businesses. The event was attended by a blend of early-stage entrepreneurs and those seeking to take the leap into the startup world.
Sessions included Venture Capital 101, Making the Deal, Storytelling and the How and Why and What it takes to be a VC.
The roster of notable speakers and panelists included: Chaucer Barnes, senior vice president of context strategy at Translation; Marlon Nichols and Trevor Nichols of Cross Culture Venture Capital; Stefanie Thomas, senior associate of investments at Impact America Fund; and Zack Mansfield of Square 1 Bank.
Collectively, the summit proved to be a well-executed variation of both lecture and networking. One that we hope will continue to grow in attendance as the rest of America begins to keep their eyes on what the entrepreneurs in Durham are building.
Additional Information and Resources:
Black Wall Street Storify
Periscope | BWS Reception, History Behind BWS, VC Panel
Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology and digital inclusion.
Website | Twitter | Instagram
After my dad went into a permanent coma, I had to take his car back to the dealership and hand them the keys. They wanted to know what happened and I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t sign papers. I was shaking.
I held out the keys and they took them. I walked out. My dad was my first mentor.
After, I was waiting on the curb of the highway for a car to pick me up. I got a message: “Come to dinner.”
So, of course, I dropped all my plans and went. It was from someone who was mentoring me.
Much later that night, I had too much to drink. At my instigation, the mentor’s daughter (who I had a crush on), now a well-known movie producer, screamed at the mentor’s mistress (“Money hungry slut!”) and then walked out of The Four Seasons restaurant.
I’ve had about 8-9 mentors in my life. I’ve had many, many more virtual mentors. And it’s an ongoing process. I try to learn from everyone. I constantly try to find people I respect who can teach me what they do. Right now I have mentors ranging in age from 20 to 80.
I also get better with finding higher quality people to mentor me. No more mistresses, for instance. But this was a learning process.
Learning never stops.Many people die at 25 but are not put in the coffin until 75. The learning stopped early for them.1
Every day I seek out mentors: people who have great experience to help me, particularly in areas I am new to, excited about, and know nothing about.
Here are the only ways I’ve ever been able to find a mentor. I hope they also work for you.
I do heavy research on their bios, their histories, everything. One time I even read an academic paper written in 1965 by one person who I wanted to mentor me and I sent him my comments on it.
I read all the books they like and have spoken about publicly. I read all the analysis on the books so I can discuss it with them. I read all of their books. I read about people they’ve previously mentored and what happened.
This may seem overly coordinated or manipulative. But this is the real world and not the land of legend where magical caddies help golf pros deal with a spiritual crisis in the middle of the most important tournament of their lives.
I send ideas how they can improve their businesses. I still do this every day. I just did it about 20 minutes ago with a business I want to learn more about.
But this involves even more work and research. For me at least, I have to put in a lot of time before someone wants to spend time with me.
The ideas have to be so good that I feel they have never thought of them before. I write, let it sit, rewrite, let other people look at them sometimes, and finally send.
Some people are simply too busy and will never be a mentor. They already have their mentees. Or they just don’t want to be a mentor. That’s fine.
But, that said, I have a technique here which is to provide updates every 3-4 months. This has worked for me in about 2-3 cases where they have eventually gotten back in touch. One of those cases resulted in the sale of a company I started.
Also, quantity is important because there is never just one thing you have been placed on this Earth to do. Life is a buffet and not a fixed-price meal. At least for me. I like to sample.
Even if they like your ideas, send a note back, and are friendly, there is still work to do.
I might fly out (even to another country where they could be) and then tell them, “I’m in the neighborhood and happy to discuss the ideas more”.
I make myself available for whenever they are available because, by definition, they are less available than I am.
I am NEVER available 99.9% of the time.I am ALWAYS available for people who I look up to as mentors. And I expect that of them.
I’m infinitely grateful for these people who have spent some of their hard-earned time on me. Every day I wake up grateful for that.
There’s never just one mentor who will teach you “the ropes.” I’ve always been on the lookout for more than one, usually at the same time.
It’s also not a love relationship. I definitely am willing to “trade up” when I have a mentor.
If he or she is a good mentor, then this is something they would want for me. Many mentors fail in this respect. One of my first realizations was that mentors are never as perfect as I initially thought they were.
Believe it or not, sometimes it’s just as good (and often better) to read all of their materials rather than be directly mentored.
Some people are very smart and you can get a lot of value from them, but they are very draining when they are in person. I don’t know why this is. Some people suck all of the air out of a room and they don’t realize this about themselves.
One mentor I was over the moon about but I found that whenever I was around him personally, I would end up feeling bad about myself.
So there are different levels of engagement: reading, sending emails, taking courses, meeting in person, and meeting in person every day.
Make sure you choose the right one that doesn’t drain you.
But all of these methods of receiving the message of mentorship are equally viable depending on the mentor and what you want from them.
It’s not just ideas. Sometimes I’ve wanted someone to mentor me (or notice me) and they aren’t interested in ideas. So I will drive business their way, or introduce them to people who can provide value for them, etc.
This might be every three or four months. Just keep planting seeds.
This shows that I’m the type of person who can deliver, even if it’s just the first review on their latest book. Doing something little every three or four months. This has helped me considerably (another company sold, for instance, after seven years of doing this without expectation).
This is your only chance. And your mentor has plenty of people around him. Over-deliver on everything. Look for every opportunity to over-deliver.
To this day, I have many mentors that I turn to for their areas of expertise even if it’s not a main area of exploration in my life.
It’s ok for someone to be a mentor for a day. Napoleon Hill interviewed Andrew Carnegie for one day and after that considered Carnegie a mentor for life. He was the mentor who ultimately influenced one of the top-selling books of the past 100 years: “Think and Grow Rich.”
The best mentorships I’ve had have taken a lot of time to cement.
I provide a little value, they ask for more. I provide more value, we meet, they ask for more. I provide more value, they critique, we lose touch. I later provide more value, we spend more time together (then the mentoring occurs). I provide more value, they provide value for me (finally…payback). I provide more value, we trade value, I move on, then they hate me (90% of the time).
Why do they hate me? A poor mentor can’t handle when the student goes sideways or higher. A good mentor will, with his last breath, push you to the top of the mountain, even at their own personal risk.
Most mentors lean towards “poor” in this regard, but a few are in the middle and “good” is rare. At some point you will be a mentor. Please, please, listen to me and be a good mentor.
Your legacy is not what you do. It’s what the people you teach do.
Which leads me to…
I’m very grateful that in the past 20 years I’ve had many opportunities to be a mentor. It hasn’t always been me on the floor crying. Sometimes I’ve done well and have been able to share.
When I’m the mentor it goes this way: someone provides immense value for me, I show how the value could’ve been done better, and that cycle continues until they either surpass me (this happens a lot which is always my hope for the mentee) or they stop delivering value or never fully delivered value in the first place and it took me awhile to realize it.
The benefit they get is my comments on how they can provide more value to people and that might include introductions, advising their companies, suggestions, hiring, etc.
If they stop providing value, that’s ok also. People’s lives go in different directions and only sometimes we intersect.
But I’m patient and many people come back, often years later and in a much different capacity. This is happening to me now in at least two situations that are very important to me.
I always want people to succeed past me. What I usually say is, “When you later see me lying in a puddle of my urine in the gutter with a needle coming out of my eyeball, please pull me out so I don’t get wet.”
They laugh. “That will never happen.” But deep down, I’m afraid it’s true.
James Altucher, the author of this, also wrote about the ultimate cheat sheet for reinventing yourself where he stressed on the importance of having a mentor.
He is an entrepreneur, investor and best-selling author of “Choose Yourself” and “Choose Yourself Guide To Wealth.”
He openly discusses the financial and emotional impact of making (and losing) money in his personal blog at JamesAltucher.com.
Sign up for the Tech808 conference for more awesome advice like this. And take advantage of an exclusive discount with the code ‘Blavity!’
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Wherever someone may do business, no one disputes that Sean “Diddy” Combs wrote the book on #BossUP when it comes to many things, including sales. One of his key leaders at Combs Enterprises, Aubrey Flynn, is appearing at Tech808 on November 9th at NYU. To set the stage for Aubrey, we’ve brought back a dope piece that Anthony, one of our founders and bosses, wrote when Mr. Combs owned the sales floor on HSN in ’12. Watch. Read. Apply.
If there’s one thing Diddy can do well, it’s sell. I took some time out to watch the clip of when he appeared on HSN and sold out of his entire scent collection in 15 minutes. He then went on to pretty much sell out of every other Sean John product he brought out that day. He didn’t do much talking, in fact, the host did much of the pitching the entire time. So how did he pull it off so well? I’ll share my takeaways below.
When describing the products he spoke about himself experiencing them. When speaking about the cologne he gave away his secret tips on how to layer it just right. When he spoke about his robes, he explained how he likes to lounge around like the gents in the classic movies. He definitely made sure you understood these were items he was using himself.
Not only was music his life, but fashion as well. There was a story that connected him to fashion even as a child. He told the story of helping his grandmother pick out designs and patterns. He also used to follow his mother to photo shoots because she was a model. This made Sean John not look like some quick flip venture you see so many celebrities do. There’s a story attached, with some level passion.
This is the part so many sadly overlook. It doesn’t matter how good you pitch, the product has to be great. And you need to find some way to show you actually give a damn about what you’re selling. When describing the products they highlighted everything from the stitching to the softness of the robes. Even the packaging was drooled over for a moment. So attention to detail is important to Diddy.
Diddy being on HSN wasn’t really a big deal. But he made it one. He tweeted how epic this night was going to be. He called his appearance “historic,” and I firmly believe he would have said that even if he didn’t sell out in 15 minutes. Nothing’s too small. He made it all seem bigger than himself. Which leads me to the next observation…
Diddy was very thankful to God, the host, his fans, the network, everyone. His very humble approach resonated with the audience, and they felt good about buying from him. They didn’t feel like they were being sold to. Make no mistake Diddy takes plenty of pride in his work, but the amount of humility he shows overpowers that. At least in public.
He left the audience with some words of wisdom. Staring at a stage full of Sean John products, his message of “Work hard one day and be like me” was loud and clear. He looked like success. What inspirational message can you attach to your product or service?
Feel free to add some more Diddy tips you may have picked up yourself in the comments. Also check out my post aboutThe Paper Gangster that talks a little about Diddy, but in a completely different light.
Sign up for the Tech808 conference for more awesome advice like this. And take advantage of an exclusive discount with the code 'Blavity!'
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Black Enterprise's Tech Connext Summit was lit. With a schedule filled with amazing speakers giving invaluable advice, a hack-a-thon where talented engineers got to showcase their talents and a general feeling of support from other black people in tech, it was the perfect platform for personal growth and career motivation. Both days were jam-packed with content, but here are a few key takeaways that day two of the conference brought us:
Cities 3.0 - Reinventing Urban America
This Tech Talk was one of the first presentations of the day. Hon. Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, talked about how cities are transforming to include more technology, and how bringing in business that often written off from black communities can actually yield surprising results for many. The example he used was about a Starbucks reluctantly opened in making back its money in six months — a record-breaking time compared to the four-year average that it takes to start making a profit. He emphasized that we don't know the power of the black dollar until we cater to black consumers.
Diversity in Silicon Valley
This panel was jam-packed with experienced speakers. Kate Mitchell, co-founder and partner; diversity task co-chair, National Venture Capital Association; Mark Mathewson, vice president, Capital One techy, Capital One; Frank A. Sanders, vice president at Technology and Manufacturing Group; director, corporate strategic procurement at Intel; and Michael DeAngelo, head of people at Pinterest shared their views on diversity. They discussed their various strategies on incorporating diversity in the workplace, and a major theme was to do so from the start — building a diverse foundation is the best way to ensure diversity as the company grows.
While at the conference we talked with HBCU students who were flown out to Silicon Valley by AT&T to participate in a hackathon and Tour google and The Foundry.
Succeeding in Silicon Valley
The main takeaway from this discussion was definitely the power of networking. Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream Inc.; Clarence Wooten, Jr., serial entrepreneur, investor, founder of VentureFund.io and Progressly; Erik Moore, founder and managing partner of Base Ventures and Eric Kelly, chairman and CEO of Sphere 3D encouraged attendees to put in the necessary hustle by reaching out to people that know what they're talking about, working hard and making time for the work they care about. Success is often relationship-driven, so Archambeau said to always make time to network. She offered advice on lifestyle things to incorporate networking with — if you're being social, going to an event, etc., why not make it a networking opportunity?
Intersection of Music & Technology
Gimeal Keaton, better known as Young Guru, is an engineer, professor and DJ that has worked with the likes of both Jay-Z and Beyonce. He gave a super informative speech that talked about the complicated relationship the music industry has with technology and the resistance to embracing new tech advances that often riddles the industry. He encourages us to not reject change. Artists rejected the idea of audio recordings at first, thinking they would eliminate the value of a live show. We all know that didn't happen, and we should look toward the same innovation with optmism for future changes. He provided the audience with self-proclaimed "genius ideas" (that were, admittedly, pretty genius) with advice on changing the kinds of deals artists sign with record companies, touching on the idea of directional, three-dimensional sound and even bringing tech ideas to African citizens. He ended his session with this sound advice: Look at where there are problems and holes and where tech can fill those holes. And look at what can not only make you money, but what can uplift your people.
This post is brought to you by AT&T.
Did you livestream any of the sessions? What was your favorite moment of the day? Let us know in the comments below!
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A little less than a year ago, Seattle Seahawks star running back, Marshawn Lynch, coined a phrase that still echoes through classrooms and office cubicles to this day: "You know why I'm here."
On Monday, October 12th, I left the neighborhood that raised Lynch in Oakland and headed south toward Santa Clara to attend the Black Enterprise Tech Connect Summit (#TECHCNXT).
The event was held in the Santa Clara Marriott, a hail-mary throw away from where the Seahawks' rivals, the 49ers, play. As I sat in the hallway of the five-star hotel, I took in the images of the young to middle-aged attendees. They were well dressed: charcoal and navy suits, shiny hard-bottom shoes and earth-toned blouses. There were handshakes, laughs and business cards being exchanged.
Because everyone isn't Marshawn Lynch, I wondered why they were there.
We all know the weather is always a good reason to visit the South Bay, but I wanted to know specifically what brought the attendees of the conference to town. So, I sat in the hallway and asked entrepreneurs, recruiters, CEOs and a Reverend by the name of Jesse Jackson Sr. why they were in attendance.
Here are their responses:
"I'm here today because I feel like this conference is really needed, especially in Silicon Valley. Not a whole lot of black start-ups or software engineers are being funded at a rate that I think we should be funded. So we need more things like this to encourage the youth to get out there and focus on technology, since technology is a really big growth center for the United States right now."
— Phillip Bauman, Software Engineer at Capital One
"Diversity in Silicon Valley is a big thing. We've been covering it for a while. We were here in June or July for Jesse Jackson's Rainbow P.U.S.H. diversity conference for tech. So we wanted to come out and support Black Enterprise and see what they had, their new ideas and some of the things they wanted to do to push for diversity in Silicon Valley."
— A.R. Shaw, Rolling Out magazine
"I'm the co-founder of Higher Mind Apps, we're an app development company that is producing interactive children's books. And we're here to make connections and get the word out about Ameka Love. She is a first female heroin, and she's in an interactive series. It's available now on iOS and Android."
—Ameka Ali Co-Founder of Higher Mind Apps (Amekalove.com)
"I came to the Black Enterprise Tech Connect Summit to learn more about diversity in tech. There's a lot of work that needs to be done. There is a great network that we're not aware of when it comes to diversity, or diverse talent within tech. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of how we engage the diverse pipeline within tech, so there's that aspect. I think, just coming out the panel about investments and investors, I think there's a lot of work in terms of educating communities of color. In getting them through the door, understanding the barriers of entry, and whether or not they're actually barriers."
— Michelle Ceran, Diversity & Inclusion, Bloomberg LP
"I'm here today to learn more about how to increase diversity and how to promote diversity within our upcoming start-up. It has been absolutely amazing meeting people from all across the country, hearing from keynote speakers and learning about entrepreneurship within the black community."
— Elresa Snell, Pivotal Software
"I speak (on stage) tomorrow on building ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley. Where do you go to work amongst like-minded people that's affordable? Where do you find mentors? People who have been incredibly successful or who have failed incredibly successfully? But it all matters where you go find these people. Where do you get the knowledge and the acumen to navigate what we're calling the innovation economy or the entrepreneurial economy? And so that's what an ecosystem is. The ecosystem has one rule: you must invest in the ecosystem to withdraw from it."
— Rodney Sampson, Founder CEO of Opportunity HUB.
This post is brought to you by AT&T
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Blavity had a chance to catch up with Reverend Jesse Jackson to ask him what the Rainbow Push Coalition was up to and why we should be paying attention to Silicon Valley. Watch what he says!
This post is brought to you by AT&T
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Black Enterprise is launching it’s inaugural tech conference, bringing together entrepreneurs, educators, executives, and innovators in the tech space, to bring access to Black entrepreneurs and future world changers. Here’s why we’re so excited.
1. The public & private sector will be in conversation.
Too often the rhetoric surrounding the advancement of Black interests happens in silos. Not at BE Tech ConneXt. Public will meet private for an incredible dialogue about not just technology, but how its impact on the populace will shape the future, especially with regards to Black America.
2. The capital will be in the building. Physically.
Ask any entrepreneur you know: getting funded (and staying funded), is one of the hardest thing’s to do. At Tech ConneXt, you’ll get to hear from venture capitalists and investors who are actively looking for the next big company.
3. There are powerful, empowered, and history-making Black women front and center.
Too often tech conferences talk about diversity, instead of showcasing it. This is not one of those times. With industry movers and shakers like Stacy Brown-Philpot and Erin Teague, the #blackgirlmagic will be at all time highs.
4. It’s accessible.
People are busy. We’ve got 9-5s, that we use to empower our 6-10s. The good people at AT&T understand this, so they hooked up a FREE livestream so anyone can get access to the resources. Now you can be there, even if you’re across the country. Get your notebooks, iPads, and settle down at your laptop. No excuses!
5. Young Guru will be there. AKA It's Lit.
After all that knowledge being dropped, there will definitely be a need for some networking and good vibes. Who better on the 1s and 2s then super engineer and Jay-Z's personal DJ, the legendary Young Guru!? He will also be speaking, so it's a win-win either way.
This post was brought to you by AT&T. ...
THRONE (formerly known as InstaSneaks) is an online sneaker and streetwear marketplace app. The application comes from Emeka Anen, CEO of THRONE, who was recently featured in Black Enterprise's BE Modern Man program and here on Blavity. The objective for the application is simple — to provide a simple, safe and mobile-first solution for buying, selling and discovering rare sneakers. The landing page shows the feed where community members can showcase their sneakers, an explore page, a news feed and a feature for users to upload their own prized sneakers.
The app is well-designed with high-quality images, snappy performance, social-media sharing and secure payment options. The most impressive thing is the community interaction on the feed section where users (250,000 of them and growing) are actively admiring and bartering on sneakers. A great marketplace is nothing without an even better ecosystem supported by avid users, and the THRONE team appears to have tapped into this notion.
Anen spent his first year out of college in Shanghai, China and then worked for a management consulting company focused on the healthcare sector. After three years, he debated going to business school to advance his career, but he ultimately decided to pivot toward entrepreneurship. The initial idea was InstaSneaks. Anen admits it wasn't great, (the app had a different design, moved slower and didn’t have as many features) but the community immediately attached to it and the platform experienced hyper growth with subsequent updates.
Now with THRONE, Anen and his team’s focus is singular — “building what would be dope for us”; “us” meaning the urban millennial community. The team has also expanded to doing editorial content focusing on lifestyle, technology, music and, of course, sneakers to further cater to the community. Anen envisions this effort will drive THRONE from being just a product to an ecosystem.
THRONE’s rapid success has opened a lot of doors for Anen and his team to deal with different accelerators, venture capitalists and investors. He credits his time in management consulting for enhancing his ability to talk to people at more senior levels (who might not otherwise get it), but to still be able to provide guidance and advice. Working with investors is “never as easy as it looks on tv,” he says, but fortunately he has been able to find great advocates within the VC community that are not necessarily sneakerheads, but understand the vision of what his team is building nonetheless. Anen is working with Troy Carter of Atom Factory through SMASHD labs accelerator on fulfilling that vision.
THRONE is currently available in the Apple Store and on Google Play.
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This spring I enrolled in a CodePath mobile development course. The experience was remarkably positive and beyond what I had expected; so much so that I was inspired to share their curriculum with an unlikely audience: a group of 20 individuals in Haiti with little-to-no prior programming experience. I was born in Haiti and lived there until I left for college, and now I live and work in San Francisco. Having those two vastly different perspectives and experiences has made clear to me how underserved communities are not on equal footing when it comes to participating in opportunities created by the internet, even when they are able to passively access and engage with it.
CodePath provided access to their Android curriculum to launch the program this past summer. I chose the students from more than 150 applicants — most of whom were recruited through a Facebook ad — and I included a mix of high school and university students, as well as a handful of professionals. Carly Baja, a Haitian developer whom I coached on the CodePath Android material, taught the two-month class starting on July 4th. He spent 20 hours in class with the students every week to discuss the video lectures and offer guidance on the assignments. Saint-Louis de Gonzague, a high school in Port-au-Prince, was kind enough to allow us access to their computer room.
To ensure a reasonable course completion rate, we emphasized two key components: commitment and collaboration. One of the more challenging aspects of learning to code is the willingness to put in the hours it takes to attain proficiency. When first learning to code, it’s easy to feel discouraged and abandon a potential career in programming when struggling to understand key concepts or trying and failing to fix a bug for hours, especially if one lacks the support system to persevere. Within the first two weeks of our course, nine students dropped out or were asked to leave the program because they did not demonstrate the level of commitment required for the course. Paring down the class to only those who were willing to put in the time and effort allowed the remaining students to participate in an environment that encouraged favorable outcomes, and allowed us to make the most of our limited resources. In addition, we encouraged all students to collaborate by helping one another on projects and by creating an online discussion forum to share information and collaborate. Many of the students were unaccustomed to working in groups, but quickly came to understand the value of working collaboratively as it led to them progressing more quickly through the material.
We worked hard to understand and adapt to each student’s specific needs.
Through student interviews prior to the class, we realized that many students lacked the infrastructure at home to complete homework on their own, so we provided ample time during the session for them to work on their assignments. Given the slow internet, which worked only intermittently, we downloaded all of the lecture videos and setup files ahead of time, and translated common terms for the students who were not native English speakers. The biggest challenge, however, was something far less obvious: most students lacked the inspiration and confidence to even believe they could become successful developers.
Most of us don’t realize that for many people, minorities in particular, the biggest barrier to success is the lack of conviction that they, too, can succeed in certain professional fields.
Over the years, I have observed that many minorities, including the people in this bootcamp, have never met nor even heard of a successful software engineer from a background similar to their own. Therefore, they seldom pursue these kinds of opportunities even when they are seen as desirable professions. In Haiti, computer science is not yet a well-known career path and there are not many visible role models in the industry. As a result, I spent a lot of time one-on-one with the applicants to share my personal story as well as the stories of those around me to inspire them to embrace a field that feels so very foreign and unattainable to them. Knowing others like them who have gone through a similar process helped inspire the confidence that they too could persevere through the most challenging parts of the course and find success. Unfortunately, I feel that coding bootcamps often fail to address these concerns for minorities and, as a result, both enrollment and completion rates are not where they ought to be for those underrepresented groups.
At the beginning I felt like an outsider because I was the youngest student and one of only 3 women in the class. My parents also told me I should do something more “attainable” instead. But I didn’t want to give up and after a while I fell in love with the subject!
— Sarah, high school student in the course
On the last day of the program, we organized a demo day and invited the students’ family and friends as well as key members of the community, including potential employers. The level of excitement we saw was unprecedented. A number of local companies, in dire need of developers, approached us to discuss internship opportunities.
Though the students have developed a strong foundation in Android as demonstrated by their projects, this experience is only the first step in a long journey ahead of them. We need to help them further their coding skills by giving them continued access to infrastructure — laptops, Android devices, internet, etc — mentorship as well as viable opportunities for work in the field. We also envision scaling up our program in order to reach more students in Haiti and one day hope to launch in other underrepresented countries as well.
The experience in Haiti further concretized the importance of leveraging the internet to empower all people, not just a small percentage of those for whom resources are never lacking.
It’s one thing to ‘connect’ the world with the internet, but it is a completely different and far more meaningful goal to provide everyone with the tools they need to participate in the global internet ecosystem.
A number of tech companies have invested resources in expanding their reach but have yet to give people around the world the tools necessary to solve their own problems and to become equal participants in an ever-changing technological world.
You can learn more about CodePath here: http://codepath.com/
(Thanks to Jonathan Laguerre for his help during the bootcamp and Dan Sherizen for reviewing earlier drafts).
This post was originally published on Medium.com.
Jules Walter is passionate about using technology to make the world a better place, an MIT and HBS alum and an avid traveler. Follow him on Twitter @julesdwalt.
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The Thurgood Marshall College Fund has opened the application process for the Apple HBCU Scholars program to help increase diversity in the tech pipeline.
The program includes 30 scholarships awarded during the recipient's senior year, an internship at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino and mentorship from Apple employees. The scholarship program is open to students in their final year of study from all of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Predominately Black Institutions (PBI)
Denise Young Smith, the vice president of Worldwide Human Resources at Apple Inc., and a graduate of Grambling State University in Louisiana, said that the program is about opening opportunities to students from HBCUs to careers in the technology sector.
In a recent press release she stated “We’re big believers that innovation will be strongest when talented people from diverse backgrounds are part of the creative process,” said Smith. “That’s why we’re so proud to be partnering with TMCF to help us find the next generation of innovators.”
If successful, this program could serve as a pattern for other tech companies to emulate and drastically increase the pipeline of students getting experience in tech.
The application process opens on August 25, 2015 and closes September 18, 2015. Students can learn more about the Apple HBCU Scholars Program at http://tmcf.org/our-scholarships.
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