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 start 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-known startups 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 startups, 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 Black Web 2.0 have maybe 2 startups 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