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

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