Black Angels: The Antidote to Silicon Valley Diversity Syndrome
What if the same intense energy being used to pressure Silicon Valley to change itself was applied to creating angel and venture funding vehicles for black startup entrepreneurs who change Silicon Valley?
A wise man once said “A small mind focuses on a problem, a bigger mind focuses on a solution to the problem but a genius mind focuses on the opportunity that lies in the problem.”
By now we have all seen the hundreds of articles discussing and analyzing the Silicon Valley diversity problem. The basic story line starts with African-Americans make up only 2% of the tech employees at the major Silicon Valley companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter. The story then develops with additional statistics about racial and gender disparities in tech, scientific studies delving into unconscious bias and emotionally charged anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of being the “only minority or woman” in a particular company.
Although all of this is true, after three years of a slow circular dialogue about a tech innovation industry that moves at the speed of light, it must be acknowledged that if we haven’t seen the quantum leap in progress, something is wrong. Invariably these stories end with a weak post-crescendo series of suggestions of how to solve this problem; diversity training and pleas for inclusion. That is not the language of Silicon Valley.
We believe it is now time to use the same Silicon Valley genius that PRODUCED the tech giants to SOLVE this diversity problem.
First, we must rethink the problem. Perhaps it is not a diversity problem, it is a capital problem. Every one of the global tech behemoths from Apple to Facebook to Snapchat began with angel funding from someone.
Less than 1% of venture-backed co-founders are Black - which is uniquely both the problem and the opportunity.
What if the same intense energy being used to pressure Silicon Valley to change itself was applied to creating angel and venture funding vehicles for black startup entrepreneurs who change Silicon Valley? We believe this is the antidote to the Silicon Valley Diversity Syndrome.
The Black Angel Tech Investment Fund is the brainchild of six Black Stanford alum, Dr. Obi Ugwonali ’94, Ayanna Wooten-Days, Esq. ’99, Kwame Anku ’94, Myisha Patterson-Gatson ’03, Ron Berry ’94 and Marc Mitchell, Esq. ’99. The fund has already begun a $1M raise which will be invested in Stanford tech ventures that have at least one Black co-founder. The fund will not only provide the early stage capital, but equally as important, will actively support the growth and innovation process utilizing the resources and experience within the powerful Stanford Black alumni network.
Why Stanford? Simple Answer: Google, PayPal, Yahoo, SnapChat, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and WhatsApp (recently sold to Facebook for $19B) were all co-founded by Stanford Alums. A recent study by two Stanford professors found that in California alone, Stanford alums have created over 18,000 firms generating over $1 Trillion dollars in global sales annually.
As President Obama comes to Stanford this month to lead the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the Black Angel Technology Investment Fund will formally launch on campus. We believe that Black Stanford Alumni Investment in Black Stanford tech innovators will create a new generation of tech companies that will change the face of tech leaders and the tech workforce, building on much of the momentum that has been built by the administration in this area.
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