Nov
4
2009

Creating a new generation of technology entrepreneurs Part 1: Changing the Value Proposition for Urban Youth

I spend easily 50% of my time reading about technology startups. Watching them get funded, seeing what business models take off and reading the stories of how they went from idea to executed company.  There are so many new technology companies being created everyday. Some fail, some succeed but the great part is that people are taking the chance to create something. One of the things that frustrates me is the lack of African Americans creating technology-based start-ups. Before people starting jumping at me saying “what are your talking about I’m a Black tech entrepreneur!!!” You have to admit that even if you are one or know one, there are not enough of them.   And I don’t buy the argument that we can’t because we have shown creativity and innovation in almost everything we do. When I was running Globalgrind I was fortunate enough to go to places like facebook and meet employees from well know start-ups like Ning and Digg. What I was always impressed with was the environment of creativity that existed among these people and how everyone there was keenly focused on solving problems. Yes, they were all making money but you could quickly tell that was only part of the value proposition for them. I would always say to myself that if more minority teens knew that there are places to work like facebook and other start-ups, and more importantly they can create companies just like this they would line up around the block to learn how to do it. So what is it? Why in this age of opportunity does blackweb20 have maybe 2 start-ups to cover a week while sites like Techcrunch cover about 10 a day?

I believe we have to change the value proposition of urban youth. We need to help them understand how great the opportunities are and how much easier it is to start your own company than they think. When I speak to teens at events I usually ask them if they knew that there was a guy who, using free software, in his dorm room created something and he is now worth more than P-diddy, Jay-z, And Russell Simmons combined. People rarely guess that I’m talking about Mark Zuckerberg and that he did that in about 5 years.  But after that remark I usually have their attention.  Being a pro athlete or an entertainer is great but the odds are extremely high for people to have careers in those fields. But that is who they see and the problem is that our youth don’t see people they can identify with in technology entrepreneurial roles so they don’t believe it is in the realm of possibility for them. Yes they love to use Facebook but they never think that they can create the next Facebook. So I ask the question what can we do to change their value proposition. Let’s talk about any ideas people have and start working to making this become reality for our youth.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Here are some good articles to read:

Youth Use Entrepreneurship as a Pathway to Success
http://www.blackenterprise.com/entrepreneurs/2009/10/27/youth-use-entrepreneurship-as-a-pathway-to-succeed

Teen Tips for Entrepreneurship
http://www.blackenterprise.com/entrepreneurs/2009/10/29/teen-tips-for-entrepreneurship

Lesson Plans for Young Entrepreneurs
http://www.blackenterprise.com/entrepreneurs/2009/10/28/lesson-plans-for-young-entrepreneurs

About the Author:

  • Keith S. Williams

    Like anything else young men need to see the examples to rationalize the possibilities. They also need to understand the scope and locate the resources for the detailed how to. Most of that is searchable. With some ingenuity and coaching from successful or knowledgeable folks can also make the difference between success and having to try again. Keep empowering, I’ll be watching.

  • http://www.navarrowwright.com Navarrow

    Thanks for the post. I agree with this wholeheartedly. I often say we need to change the “value proposition” for urban youth so that this is in their realm of possibility.

  • Pingback: Creating the next generation of entrepreneurs Part 3: Get Ready to bring your “A” game and turn your haters into your motivators | Navarrow Wright

  • Katrina M Harrell

    This article was posted in Nov 2009. Today is May 2010 and I can say that in reading this it was like you were reading my mind. There must be something in the air these days that have blacks like myself and you wondering what the heck is up and how can we change the mindset of our children and our young people today. Wow where can I begin. I actually have a background in business and finance. I am owner of a bookkeeping company that I founded this year: YourSimple Bookkeeper.com (our website is under development) but prior to that I have been working for the past 2 years as an independent consultant and bookkeeper for several small businesses in North Carolina. I have a background in corporate accounting and have worked in corporate america for about 10 years prior to venturing out on my own. I'm the consummate entrepreneur and while still early in my journey feel I have the spirit and gut to create a company able to compete with the “big dogs” which brings me to my point, as a bookkeeper and consultant one thing I see repeatedly is that many of us still do things the hard way, when we start businesses we start businesses the only way we know how and only businesses that are easy to get into. Thus we never receive the education to learn about business development, or my biggest “pet peeve” sound small business financial management and struggle if not loose these companies.

    Me seeing this frustration and wanting to stop myself from being the typical bookkeeper and consultant wanted to leverage what I am finding in digital entreprenuership and bring my skills to the web and offer it as a product for small businesses. I am an African American and a woman with zero tech skills outside of setting up a godaddy website tonight which I eventually stopped doing that b/c it just ran my nerves to the grown! I'm strickly a numbers girl but know that there has to be a better way to bring financial management services to my people that doesn't involve me havng to see them all the time. or dealing with tons of paper.

    My point in all of this: I think those of us who know better should do better in creating a paradigm shift in young people. In my case I want to partner with a tech firm that specifically addresses educational barries in techinology for African Americans and other minorities by providing them education on how and why to use these new applications and why embracing them is crutial. one last point, I'm seeking a tech partner to help me develop my product but have only found ones not owned by “us” I found one that I spoke to today and had a great conversation and will be meeting with this company later to start talking specifics but again they are not “us” which frustrates me. However I know my goal is much bigger than who helps me develop it. My wish is that I can do my part in educating my people on what I know about technology and what I know about small business finance. And find like minded souls along the way…

  • Katrina M Harrell

    This article was posted in Nov 2009. Today is May 2010 and I can say that in reading this it was like you were reading my mind. There must be something in the air these days that have blacks like myself and you wondering what the heck is up and how can we change the mindset of our children and our young people today. Wow where can I begin. I actually have a background in business and finance. I am owner of a bookkeeping company that I founded this year: YourSimple Bookkeeper.com (our website is under development) but prior to that I have been working for the past 2 years as an independent consultant and bookkeeper for several small businesses in North Carolina. I have a background in corporate accounting and have worked in corporate america for about 10 years prior to venturing out on my own. I'm the consummate entrepreneur and while still early in my journey feel I have the spirit and gut to create a company able to compete with the “big dogs” which brings me to my point, as a bookkeeper and consultant one thing I see repeatedly is that many of us still do things the hard way, when we start businesses we start businesses the only way we know how and only businesses that are easy to get into. Thus we never receive the education to learn about business development, or my biggest “pet peeve” sound small business financial management and struggle if not loose these companies.

    Me seeing this frustration and wanting to stop myself from being the typical bookkeeper and consultant wanted to leverage what I am finding in digital entreprenuership and bring my skills to the web and offer it as a product for small businesses. I am an African American and a woman with zero tech skills outside of setting up a godaddy website tonight which I eventually stopped doing that b/c it just ran my nerves to the grown! I'm strickly a numbers girl but know that there has to be a better way to bring financial management services to my people that doesn't involve me havng to see them all the time. or dealing with tons of paper.

    My point in all of this: I think those of us who know better should do better in creating a paradigm shift in young people. In my case I want to partner with a tech firm that specifically addresses educational barries in techinology for African Americans and other minorities by providing them education on how and why to use these new applications and why embracing them is crutial. one last point, I'm seeking a tech partner to help me develop my product but have only found ones not owned by “us” I found one that I spoke to today and had a great conversation and will be meeting with this company later to start talking specifics but again they are not “us” which frustrates me. However I know my goal is much bigger than who helps me develop it. My wish is that I can do my part in educating my people on what I know about technology and what I know about small business finance. And find like minded souls along the way…

  • Pingback: Minorities Like Me: the Minority-Led Startup Gap and What It Means for Our Future | Black Web 2.0

  • http://www.facebook.com/donellcreech Donell Creech

    navarrow – great post on bw2.0 today. do you think sxsw interactive is a viable enough tech conference platform to address the issues you mentioned? given austin's strong tech and vc connections – i think so.

    if you agree – feel free to reach out to me and let's talk. dcreech@griotmedia.com 512.731.1300.

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