TECH: 20 Millennial Innovators of Color You Should Know

(photo credit: Culture Shift Labs)

by Kunbi Tinoye via urbangeekz.com

It’s common knowledge that the tech industry has a diversity problem. Employee demographics clearly show a dearth of women and untapped minorities in the leading technology firms. Then when black and Latinx founders do decide to start businesses of their own they often struggle to raise capital. Research by the #ProjectDiane, for example, reveals African-American female founders raised a mere 0.2 percent of venture funding from 2012-2014. With that being said, there are many young and talented innovators and entrepreneurs of color making waves.

Last month a handful of these trailblazers attended the Culture Shifting Weekend‘s ‘Millennial Breakfast’ at SAP in Palo Alto. Founders were given a platform to talk about their startups to a room full of industry heavyweights. The mission is simple. Create a safe space for diverse talent to secure support, expertise, and partnerships with key players in the tech ecosystem. Co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought, Maci Peterson, at the Culture Shifting Weekend. Peterson was just one of the founders who presented her startup at Millennial Breakfast.

Lloyd Carney, CEO of Brocade Communications Systems, was just one of the influencers in attendance. Carney, a Jamaican immigrant, recently sold his company for $5.5 billion. Other attendees included Danny Allen, VP Diversity & Inclusion, SAP; Jacqueline Jones, Strategic Partnerships, Global Inclusion, LinkedIn; and Rachel Spivey, Diversity Specialist, Google, among others.“I added an element to the event,” said Andrea Hoffman, CEO of the management consultancy Culture Shift Labs, who organized the annual Silicon Valley event.

“We had a Millennial Tech Entrepreneurs and Influencers Breakfast that was sponsored by Vista Equity Partners. It was an experiment and it went really well. There’s more to come from in terms of millennial tech entrepreneurs of color.”From software to recruitment, check out this list of 20 black and brown millennial innovators and founders who all presented their startups (except two bonuses #19 and #20) at the Millennial Breakfast.

1. Stephanie Lampkin – Blendoor

Stephanie Lampkin is a TEDx speaker and founder & CEO of Blendoor, a recruiting application that reduces unconscious bias in hiring. With a 14-year professional career in tech, she is all too familiar with the difficulties faced when one doesn’t look like the typical software engineer. Through technology and data, her mission is to reduce bias and challenge the assumption that homogeneous environments are a meritocracy. Stephanie holds a BS in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

2. Harold Hughes – Bandwagon

Harold is the founder & CEO of Bandwagon, an online marketplace and fan community designed to improve the game day experience for sports fans everywhere. As a leader in the growing startup community in Greenville, South Carolina, he is the co-managing Director of Collective: a coworking space for small teams and entrepreneurs. He is also Director of the Founder Institute-Greenville chapter, a member of NEXT, and involved in the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. He recently participated in the Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange Program in Durham, NC. Continue reading

Black and Latino Youth to Benefit from Google’s New ‘Code Next’ Lab

(Photo by Ariel Skelley via essence.com)

Tech giant Google is aiming to foster the next generation of leaders by increasing learning opportunities for students of color by spearheading an initiative aimed towards encouraging young people of color to pursue careers in technology.

Launched earlier this week by the multimedia behemoth, the Code Next program was established in an effort to combat recent Google statistics citing that 51 percent of Black students and 47 percent of Latino students lack access to computer science classes in their schools.

Stressing the importance of students being given adequate learning tools to broaden their knowledge of technology in today’s constantly evolving tech environment, Code Next will provide enriching curriculum that serves to connect computer science to the students’ daily lives.

To read full, original article, go to: http://www.essence.com/news/google-code-next-lab

Teacher Ruth Mesfun Creates Website to Showcase People of Color Working in Tech

article by Mariella Moon via engadget.com

One way to address the lack of diversity in tech is to expose kids to computer science as early as possible. That’s exactly what Ruth Mesfun is doing. She studied how to teach Computer Science, so she could conjure up a curriculum and launch a new class for the Excellence Girls Middle Academy, an all-girls, majority-black middle school in Brooklyn.

She has also created a website called “People of Color in Tech” (POCIT) with her developer friend Michael Berhane, so her kids can find role models to look up to. The website features interviews of engineers, designers and other people of color in the industry, and Mesfun and Berhane hope to to add two more profiles every week.

The tireless teacher told TechCrunch that the website’s main goal is to demonstrate that there are “so many [people of color] who want to support each other” in a world that’s mostly made up of white guys. It might take a while before the industry becomes more diverse, but at least more people are making an effort to change things now. One of them’s NYC’s local government, which eventually wants all public schools in the city to offer computer science courses.

Tech Giant Apple Appoints former Boeing CEO James A. Bell to its Board of Directors

James A. Bell (photo via macdaily.com)

James A. Bell (photo via macdaily.com)

Technology companies have been the target of questioning when it comes to hiring minorities. In fact, with the lack of adequate minority representation in companies like Facebook and Google, civil rights activists such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson along with the Rev. Al Sharpton have called out these companies. By calling out major technology companies with regard to their hiring practices of minorities to managerial and upper management positions, some companies are listening.

In a recent development, Apple has elected James, A. Bell to its board of directors. This move is without a doubt, a move in the right direction for a company as powerful as Apple.

Bell is the former chief financial officer and corporate president of the Boeing Company. With a 38-year tenure at Boeing, Bell served as the interim CEO of the the company in 2005.

When asked about his election to the board of directors for Apple, Bell said “I am an avid user of Apple products and have a tremendous respect for the company’s ability to innovate. I am delighted to join the Apple board and look forward to contributing to its continued success in any way I can.” according to The Root.

With all of his vast experience in corporate America, Bell brings quality leadership and strategic planning to the board. In addition to that, his experience in finance will definitely be a huge contributing factor.

“In August, Apple said it was making efforts to hire more women and underrepresented minorities, recruiting more diverse candidates in the past 12 months than in any previous year, but overall there was little change in the demographics of the company, which is overwhelmingly male and white, USA Today reported Thursday.”

Apple isn’t the only board appointment Bell has. He’s a board member of the following: Dow Chemical, JP Morgan Chase, and CDW. He’s also a trustee of the Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center
.

article via financialjuneteenth.com

28-Year-Old Maci Peterson Creates App that Lets You Take Back Text Messages

(Image: Twitter)

On Second Thought app Creator Maci Peterson (Image: Twitter)

There have been ongoing programs and initiatives set in place to close the STEM gender gap. Men dominate the field, and black women in particular are few and far in between the numbers. But things are changing, and young women like Maci Peterson make us very optimistic about the future.

Maci is the brainiac behind On Second Thought. The cleverly named innovation is an app that lets you take back text messages before the content is delivered to the receiving party. This app is a prayer answered to every college student who’s accidentally hit “send” to their moms and not their BFFs after a late Friday night/early Saturday morning.

BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the young innovator and former Spelman student to get all the details behind On Second Thought, her marketing and financing strategy for the new business, and how we can attract more girls of color to STEM. Read on.

So tell us exactly how On Second Thought works, and share some of the app’s cool features.

On Second Thought is very easy to use. After downloading the app from the Google Play Store, you go to the app’s settings, set On Second Thought as your default SMS app and determine the length of your “grace period”—up to 60 seconds. The “grace period” is the amount of time you have to swipe left and Ost (recall) a message after hitting “send.”

Another feature in development is “curfew.” It’s for those nights on the town when you know you might have a bit too much to drink. Just go to your On Second Thought settings, determine the time you’d like your “curfew” to start, and all messages you try to send after that time will be held until the next morning. Once the “curfew” expires, you can look back and see which messages you still want to send, and which ones you’re thankful didn’t go through.

How is On Second Thought performing?

We currently have over 4,200 users, expected to reach 5,000 very soon.

Congratulations. How have you been able market and promote the app?

We have used social media and an aggressive public relations campaign to market On Second Thought. We have also forged strategic partnerships with other apps that have over 2.5 million monthly users to promote our app. Additionally, we used my relationships in Hollywood to secure product placement deals for On Second Thought to be integrated into film and television shows.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, how did you finance the business?

In the beginning days of On Second Thought, my partners, phenomenal parents and I bootstrapped. Then we took in some money in our friends and family round at the end of last year. We are currently raising our seed round from institutional and private investors.

What steps did you take to even create an app?

My background is in marketing and public relations, and I can write code to build a rudimentary website. I definitely did not have the technical chops to build an app as complex as On Second Thought. In my case, I knew I needed a partner with a technical background who could lead the development of the app. I realized my good friend, Stewart Voit, had a technical background and I asked him to join On Second Thought as our Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer.

Before we wrap up, you’re doing remarkable things in the world of tech—a field where black women are significantly outnumbered. What drew your interest to tech, and how do you think we market it to be attractive to more girls and women of color?

I was drawn to tech because I had a solution to fix common mistakes in messaging. We’ve sent messages we needed to get back. I saw a problem and a void in the market, and then I thought of and developed a solution.

Girls and women of color will be more attracted to the tech industry if they see women of color succeeding. My hope has always been that people will hear my story and think, “If Maci did it, I know I can too.”

Download On Second Thought here.

article by Essence Gant via blackenterprise.com

Estella Pyfrom’s “Brilliant Bus”: a State of the Art Mobile Learning Center that Helps Underserved Students Learn Technology

Estella Brilliant Bus

If Estella Pyfrom looks familiar, it’s because she was recognized last year as a CNN Hero, a honor she received for the humanitarian genius behind her Brilliant Bus initiative, which really is quite brilliant.

Pyfrom, a retired 50-year veteran of Florida’s Palm Beach County School District, didn’t have any training in technology before she realized students in her district lacked the digital know-how to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce.  “The minute I decided that [in retirement] I wanted to continue what I was doing for 50 years [as a school administrator], I knew I needed to be creative, and I needed to understand it,” Pyfrom said in a phone interview.

So Pyfrom, who is now 76, brushed up on her tech skills in 2009 and emptied her pension to build a non-profit, state-of-the-art mobile learning center called Project Aspiration, which was later renamed Estella’s Brilliant Bus. She’s been offering free tutoring to students since 2011.

Students who were among the winners of the #YESWECODE Hackathon at the 2014 ESSENCE Festival for their GlucoReader app rode from Florida to New Orleans on Estella’s Brilliant Bus, and Pyfrom takes great pride in her affiliation with the winners.

And that’s just one of many success stories tied to Pyfrom and her work. She spoke to us about what’s next for her organization.

ESSENCE: Why did you decide to launch your Brilliant Bus?

Estella Pyfrom: I started Brilliant Bus in an effort to expose kids to technology. I became passionate about technology when I realized that it would give kids so much exposure and different ways to connect with the world. I also just looked at what was going on in the community.  When I was building my curriculum, I coordinated with area schools so that I could correlate what I was doing on the bus with what students were doing at school.  I started working with kids at day care centers, churches, schools and community centers, and I ended up being able to offer a program for kids at all levels to prepare them for standardized tests, readiness tests and GED tests.

ESSENCE: What’s special about this method of teaching?

EP: Not only is it unique and innovative, it’s an idea that works. The Brilliant Bus is customized and I built it from scratch. The bus is a mobile learning lab and it can do whatever a classroom can do. Instead of kids who live in undeserved neighborhoods finding me, I am able to take the learning to the neighborhoods.

ESSENCE: What do your students tell you is their favorite part of the Brilliant Bus?

EP: Kids will do anything to get out of the classroom. They say it’s like going on a field trip. One of the good things they tell me is that the activities [on the bus] are so much in sync with what they are doing in the classroom and that it’s a good supplement. Everything that I do with kids on the bus is grade and age level appropriate.

ESSENCE: What’s next for the bus? How will you expand on it?

EP: Brilliant Bus isn’t just a bus; it’s a movement. We plan on building these clubs in various communities. We’re conducting surveys now so that we can move beyond coding and into Robotics. We are going to get really creative with science and math so we can build robots.

Don’t forget to follow the #YESWECODE conversation on Twitter and keep up with Estella’s Brilliant Bus on Facebook.

article via essence.com

Virtual Instruments CEO John W. Thompson Replaces Bill Gates as Chairman of Microsoft Board

John W. Thompson, Chairman, Microsoft Board of Directors (Image: File)

John W. Thompson, CEO of Virtual Instruments and former CEO of Symantec Corp, has been named chairman of Microsoft’s board of directors, according to reports.  An industry leader for more than 40 years, he has made phenomenal strides in technology, having served as the only African American leading a major tech company during his time at Symantec. The Florida A&M and MIT alumnus is credited with growing the software giant’s revenues from $632 million to $6.2 billion and leading the growth of its worldwide workforce to more than 17,500 employees.

Thompson has served as an independent director on the board of Microsoft and also brings his experience as a former vice-president at IBM to his current post.  An early innovator and investor in tech advances in Silicon Valley, Thompson has also been included among Black Enterprise’s “100 Most Powerful African Americans in Corporate America,” and was named “Corporate Executive of the Year” as head of Symantec in 2004.

The West Palm Beach, Fla. native was recognized early for his knack for sales and has had a go-getter approach to his advancement. In a recent New York Times article, Thompson shared the following on career and business lessons he’s learned through the years: “First, never take yourself too seriously, or work is boring. Next, people make the difference. You can have great technology, but if it’s not complemented by great people, it won’t go anywhere. Finally, customers buy from people they like. I can always circle back to former customers and suggest they might want to take a look at our products.”

article by Janell Hazelwood via blackenterprise.com

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