Posts Taged entrepenuers

The Empowering Feeling of Creating a Start-up Should Be Experienced By More Of Us

dodgeball

I talk alot about Internet Start-ups. Not just because they are cool and exciting in mainstream way due to the movie “The Social Network” but more because of the power of the process. Being able to create something and sometimes quickly be able to have it have an effect on people , in some cases thousands of  them. It’s an experience unlike any other. You learn more about yourself and what your capable of than you could in almost any other situation. I speak about it because I know how  the experience changed me, changed how i think about solving problems and how i know there is always a way to solve them.  Whenever I read stories about start-ups today it makes me reflect on those things all over again. I came across and post on the business insider about students who took a class at Stanford and all creating facebook apps that had great success.  When I went to the page it showed the founders of the facebook app dodgeball. The key thing for me in the picture was that one of the founders was African American.

This made me reflect again on the many talk I’ve given about how minorities are missing out on this revolution and how the problem is systemic at cultural level. The only thing that is bigger than that challenge is the opportunity for the change that could occur for minorities and their surrounding communities if this s introduced in the right way. To change lives, change communities and empower who new segments of people is a immense thing if you think about it. My hope with this post that some one of color reads it and says ” maybe me” and possibly sees the picture and realizes that we can be involved in this revolution and decides to jump in. My push from broader internet and wireless access stems from the desire to see a new generation of people take hold the inspiration and have the tools to make things happen.

The story was sourced from a NY times article that include and audio slide that lets you hear first hang how the evolution from idea to product to company changed and inspired this group of students. It’s my hope that you will share it with someone and it will inspire them.

Check out the audio slide show here  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/05/08/technology/210110508-Facebook.html?ref=technology

Diversity in Tech: Be the Change You Want to See

This post originally appeared on Blackweb20.com

The Internet has spawned companies like Google and Facebook. Companies that have not only changed how we find and share information, but have impacted the economy with job creation and monetization opportunities for companies of all sizes on their platforms. The Internet has been a life-changing bed of opportunity for thousands of small companies and individuals. However within all this opportunity, there is a problem that doesn’t seem to be improving and isn’t being discussed — the lack of diversity in the startup technology space.

It’s not a hidden issue. Reports from CB Insights reveal that less than 1% of startup founders are African American. Minorities are consuming media at an astounding rate, but they are not involved in the product creation process.  The excuse that minorities just take longer to adapt to technology was one of the justifications given when the term “digital divide” was coined by Larry Irving. In an effort to show we’ve made some progress, it’s been upgraded to “digtal lag.”

Other reports such as the Pew study show that less that 50% of African Americans and slightly over 50% of Hispanics have adopted broadband Internet at home. This means that minority youth are not growing up with the Internet in their home or developing the comfort and confidence with the technology necessary to make technology an attainable career choice. They also don’t have access to all of the free online learning tools available. I believe there are things that all sides can do to help that can benefit everyone — from VCs and angel investors, startups both large and small, even the government.

As a community we need to ask ourselves, “What have I done to better position myself?” I do it and I’m not always happy with the answer. You want to be involved in the tech entrepreneurial space. Why not go to work at a startup to gain the experience and the relationships you can use when you launch your own? You’re aware of the skills these companies are looking for. What have you done to increase your skills in these areas?  Ultimately, we can either sit back and the let the gap widen or we can make a move to cross it. We have a value proposition problem in our youth today. They are not looking at the tech world as a viable career path. If we’re going to institute change, we have to change our own thinking about getting involved in tech.

Many of you who read this blog are entrepreneurs and want to learn how to grow your business, raise capital and get your product built.  You are looking in every direction except one:  yourself. Many startups stall because they can’t find that technical c0-founder. If you want to start a company and can’t find one then maybe you should become one. If there are two of you looking build a business then one of you bite the bullet and handle the tech side of things. Lastly, if you are in the industry, there are a bunch of people in NY and the Valley who have ideas and possible investors but need a tech founder. There are ways to gain entry into the industry if we are willing to do the work.

We owe it not only to ourselves but the world. So many great ideas never see the light of day because we don’t push hard enough to execute them. There are kids out there looking for someone to show them a different way. We have the opportunity to do that.  We can blame the current startup ecosystem for not making it easy for us. We can blame the government for not making sure they focus on the technology issues that truly affect us. We could do that, but I’m suggesting something different. Let’s achieve success in spite of the obstacles. All it takes is for us to make the decision to learn as much as possible and then do what we do best, break barriers. In the worlds of P. Diddy and B.I.G. “We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves.”

I’m ready to start. Are you with me?

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Underrepresented

Surprised?  No.   Disappointed?  Yes.

That’s how I feel after reading this report on Blackweb 2.0 that says only 1 percent of web start-ups are from African Americans. “Overall, African Americans are still underrepresented in both the tech and entrepreneurial sectors,” the story notes.   The research advised that “burgeoning black techpreneurs” might find a greater reception and investors for their ideas in New York’s Silicon Alley.  I have wrapped my career — and it has become my passion — around the hope that more young blacks will be motivated and inspired to take the leap.  Our tech landscape needs their talents, ideas and voices.

Motivated to do something about it?  More than ever. Stay tuned !!!

Stay Away, G-Man

One of the great things about our nation is that the U.S. government does not “own” the news media.   Unlike some other nations, armed agents don’t burst through the doors of our TV stations and newspapers when they disagree with a story.  Journalists don’t disappear.   Instead, awards are given to those who challenge the status quo; and we often encourage people to express themselves across a variety of platforms.   For this reason, ideas and insight have flourished.

It is precisely because of the way media has impacted culture over the years, absent government intervention, that I get concerned when the government tries to jump in and say, “Let us help you.”   Journalism isn’t what it used to be, particularly when you look at the declining popularity of daily printed newspaper, and now, as a quick fix, some government men (or G-Men, as they were known in the 1930s when newspapers were in at the peak of popularity)  want to come to the rescue.

I’ve got to agree with Jeff Jarvis, a professor at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism who joined me on a recent panel sponsored by the FCC to discuss the changing landscape of journalism and the potential role of the government:   In a column entitled, “How NOT to Save Journalism,” he points out that “the barrier to entry into the media business has never been lower — and that means news can grow. “
Jarvis wrote: “The government should favor neither incumbents nor newcomers, but rather create a level playing field by helping every American get open, high-speed access to the Internet. That is the gateway to the real future of news and media. I believe that future is entrepreneurial, not institutional. The industry’s institutions have had 15 years since the start of the commercial Web, and we’ve seen how far they can come. What we need now are innovators — like my entrepreneurial journalism students — to invent new forms, structures, efficiencies and business models for news.  But those entrepreneurs don’t need government help. They need to be left alone with the assurance they won’t be interfered with by” government regulators.

If you want to read why I say amen, click here

The Daily Digest 12_2_09

The daily digest highlights stories I come across that I want to share.  I give you my thoughts and encourage you to give me yours.

Net Neutrality

The Net Neutrality debate continues to rage on, distracting the world from what I feel are more pertinent issues like broadband adoption. I came across an article that speaks to some thoughts I’ve been having for some time now. The point is that the people have the wrong idea about what “Net Neutrality” really is, and don’t understand that the net was never truly neutral. This article touches on that. Take a read here http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/commentary/fl-forum-net-neutrality-20091125,0,5311963.story

And of course when anyone tries to offer a different perspective you can guarantee there will be an article from the other side saying how they are a puppet of the telecom companies. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but my problem with these articles is that the authors accuse people of being influenced by other’s opinions/interests, when they are clearly being influenced by other interests as well but are unwilling to fully disclose that information. I’d be more accepting if this brand of net neutrality proponents acknowledged that the other side made some good points before trying to tear down their argument. I just believe the public deserves a full and educated perspective on an issue that’s so important.

Broadband

People still don’t realize that it’s more important now than ever to achieve the goal of broadband access in every home.  Broadband adoption has positive implications for everyone, but even more so for people of color. Whether it’s education, health care, or career advancement broadband provides so many opportunities that people can avail themselves to, so I’m glad this article speaks to that. http://www.hvpress.net/news/119/ARTICLE/8348/2009-11-29.html

Then of course after you read this article you may be surprised to know that there are people out there who don’t think this is important. I think the broadband naysayers are those who only look at the implementation costs and not the opportunity or the people who stand to benefit from broadband’s use. Take a read http://blogs.gartner.com/andrea_dimaio/2009/11/29/broadband-for-all-may-not-be-as-urgent-as-many-say/

Well that’s the daily digest for today. Let me know your thoughts on the topics above.

Creating a new generation of technology entrepreneurs Part 2: Consumption vs. Creation

It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week across the globe this week. You can read all about it here. But I’m sure you all knew that already because you’ve seen the bus loads of inner city kids being taken to events to help them understand what entrepreneurship is all about or you have had to sign permission slips for them to participate in workshops to show them how easily they can create tech start-ups. (I really wish that were the case)
A few months ago I was at a conference and someone was talking about how African Americans are the biggest consumers of mobile technology and content. They talked about how Diddy was a presenter at the last wireless conference and how minorities are buying and utilizing mobile services at a rapid pace.  I started to think about how even though this may be great for the mobile industry and may even provide value for us as consumers, it sends the wrong message. We all like to have the newest, hottest gadgets, but not enough of us look at these new items as business opportunities. We play video games and never think about what it takes to create them. We use facebook and twitter and never think about how we can create businesses with them–satisfying the creators of these products but missing out on the opportunities that are right in front of us. I’m not sure if I’m more frustrated with that or with the fact that the rest of the world assumes that is how it’s supposed to be.  I believe the mobile space has some of the best examples of this, and here is one in regards to the Iphone: when apple announced that they had achieved the 1 billionth download of an app from the app store. Since that number was reached at such a rapid pace it was worth taking a look at this market. I decided to explore what the barrier of entry was for creating an Iphone app.

1.    First I would need to learn how to build one. I went to the library and found 3 books on Iphone development that I could take out (for free). Next I went to the Internet and found out that there is class that Stanford offers on Iphone development that you can watch on Itunes (for free.) You can get it here . You can actually see all the schools that have classes on Itunes for that matter here .

2.    Once I had all this information, I then found that the tool which apple offers to create the apps (called Xcode) is offered (for free) here.

3.    Once I go through and create an app I can get it uploaded to the app store by joining the developer program here for about $99 .

Now this is a high level walk through of what it would take to get going, but compare it to what it would take to open a restaurant, or a Laundromat or any physical business. I mentioned for free a lot in those points to highlight that money is not a barrier here. Also take into account that there are many businesses on the iphone app store that started  out with just one person and now are making 6 figures in sales or their apps. The larger point I wanted to send home is that many of the people we know would not even think about this as a possibility let alone go through the steps. That is what has to change.   If you have children of your own or know that you can affect, encourage them to wonder how things work, who builds them and can they make a living doing it. Help to develop the problem solving mindset that is in all of them. The holidays are coming so I know young people are asking for the Wii, Xbox, playstations and phones like the iphone.  Take a few minutes to get them to take a look on the Internet or go to the library to see what it takes to create the content they are consuming. The bottom line is that adoption and consumption of these technology mediums is great, but if we as minorities don’t get involved in the creation process then how can we ever have any level of control?