Hi-ho! One of the NewME Summer 2011 founders here!
I’ve watched the tenor of the conversation around CNN’s Black in America 4 go from the startups and how they’re trying to break down barriers to only the barriers. I’ve talked to people on Twitter who think highlighting the issue as it stands right now is a good thing to do. This mostly stems from a variety of comments that came out of a few advance views of Black in America 4 that were held last week. I want to say that writing anything further about the fact that Silicon Valley has a diversity problem is counterproductive. This is especially so when the furor comes from a documentary that’s actually a positive portrayal of our experiences (I’ve seen it) and spends less than 2 minutes on the moment that has far too many people wielding digital pitchforks.
I don’t think playing armchair activist and writing more posts (or raining bloody hell on anyone’s Twitter mentions, for that matter) about how racist Mike Arrington and the rest of Silicon Valley supposedly are is helpful. (For the record, I don’t believe Mike Arrington and the vast majority of the Silicon Valley community are racist.)
So I say, in anticipation of a barrage of angry tweets and blog posts leading up to and after November 13th, when the show airs, before firing up WordPress or Tumblr and writing yet another “Arrington is horrible” blog post, pause for a second. Instead, let me suggest 7 better things to write about and then explain why you should take this route:
2. AisleFinder. AisleFinder is Google Maps for the supermarket. Search for groceries within your grocery store of choice, build a shopping list within the app, and then, get in and get out. If you’re a developer, you can use their newly-released Supermarket API to cook up your own grocery store/search mashup.
So, we can talk about the problems with Silicon Valley all day long, but we’re beating a dead horse. That never accomplishes much. People benefiting from any kind of privilege (white privilege, male privilege, whatever) never seem to want to acknowledge it and even seem to fear losing it if they do. A million blog posts won’t make John Doerr eat his words. So, instead of publishing yet another post about how TechCrunch doesn’t write about black startups and how Silicon Valley has a diversity problem, use your blog or your Twitter feed or however you communicate to help the companies above out. Or else, I’d argue those who know about the problem yet choose to just keep talking about that are just as bad as those they’re talking about.
What to do?
1. Contact the founders to write about our companies.
2. Signup (and get your friends to sign up, too) and do a review of our sites.
3. If we have Facebook “Like” buttons on our sites, click those and take a few extra seconds to fill in the box with a comment about why you liked the site (it helps with the visibility of that “like” on your newsfeed).
4. Pile onto the NewME Accelerator Facebook page and “like” that, too.
5. Follow all the companies on Twitter and retweet announcements and anything else you think would be of value to your followers.
6. Email people you know and tell them to check out the companies.
7. Download our iPhone apps and take a few minutes to write a review in the App Store.
8. Run a popular site? Offer free or discounted ad space. Do an interview.
My thought is that it’s silly to get caught up in rehashing the problems as they stand now as if nobody knows what’s going on. Let the CNN documentary tell that story. You, as the masses, have a voice and it’s helpful if that voice is singing the song of the startups.
This is not just about imploring people to sweep a serious issue under the rug, however. It’s about something greater. If you believe an injustice has been done, you normally take up whatever methods you can to fix it. Instead, I’m seeing instance after instance of people giving power to those who already have it. This is ridiculous. Of course, I’m biased, but if I weren’t running a startup and walked away from this particular installment of Black in America, my reaction would be the same as it is now. Don’t forget about the companies.
“…when you know better, you do better.” -Oprah.
[Editor's Note: The authors suggestions above should be applied to all minority start-ups, not just those who participated in the inaugural class of the NewME Accelerator.]Category: Diversity, Featured | Tags: #SVDiversity, aislefinder, BeCouply, black founders, central.ly, gokit, kloud.co, NewME Accelerator, Pencil You In, Playd, tiffani ashley bell