Yesterday someone asked me whether the reason most of my avatar photos are silly is because otherwise I would have to deal with people constantly bringing up the fact that I don’t “look” like I should work in technology, meaning that I’m a (relatively not nerdy) woman.
While I had never consciously thought about it, the answer is yes (“silly” at least is off-putting, while “woman” just means “has no idea about tech”).
The concept of minority in Silicon Valley is a bit unique; White, Asians and Indian males are relatively well-represented while Latinos, Blacks and women are not. For some reason our community is exclusive to an extreme. I mean, people used to give Arrington guff for being a lawyer (!).
If Mike and I have it “tough,” the entrepreneurs at NewMe, the first startup accelerator targeting black founders specifically, have it a thousand times tougher with regards to looking like they should work in tech — Women represent 23.8% versus African-Americans at 1.5% of our work force respectively. As Central.ly co-founder Chris Bennett told me, “There aren’t minorities in tech, there just aren’t. One of the problems in the black tech community is that there isn’t yet a community.”
Co-founded by Angela Benton (wow, female and a minority — a double whammy) and Wayne Sutton, NewMe attempts to remedy this, by giving Silicon Valley exposure to African American-led startups. NewMe provides its charges with access to housing, resources and mentorship from top Silicon Valley companies (Google is a sponsor and the startups have been working out of Tagged’s offices). Instead of investment, the incubator aims to provide value by fostering a supportive community.
When asked why there was such a dearth of minorities in the tech sector and what we could do to remedy it, Benton referred to investor Dave McClure’s answer when asked the same question at a tech event, that people invest in what they know — pattern matching whether they’re doing it or not.
According to Benton, who is considering opening up the program to Latinos next, the solution to the diversity gap is giving minorities more exposure, ” We can show more diversity in what founders look like in the media, ” she said “So that a kid who reads CNN or the Huffington Post [or TechCrunch] can see that it’s accessible. We need founders that are more successful, raising money and having exits, and it can’t just be one person, it needs to be several people.”
Said mentor, and Foursquare head of monetization, Tristan Walker, “The more we can expose the Valley to what we don’t know the better off everyone is within the stack, from venture capital, to entrepreneurs to consumers, and that’s what the Valley is about, sourcing the best products and ideas and talent.”
Here is a list and brief description of each NewMe startup in its first cohort, below.
Similar to Styleseat, but with more of a focus on appointment setup functionality, Pencil You In is like a Opentable for salon appointments.
Described by the founder as a Greplin meets Dropbox, Kloud.co imports your “online universe” and lets you search through cloud services like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter and Dropbox — creating folders of what you were looking for and any other contextual information.
Playd, allows you to check in to your favorite games like you’d do for venues on Foursquare, whether they’re PC-based, mobile or on console.
Like a more casual TaskRabbit based only around shopping, FetchMob lets people crowdsource their shopping trips by asking their surrounding community for help.
Mobile app and social network BeCouply aims to solve the problem of how and where to socialize as a couple, by connecting couples and letting them share dates, activities and photo moments with the similarly partnered.
Launching in the fall, Cued hopes to give its users relevant location-based activity recommendations, through using data from your already existing social shares.
goKit is basically an About.me for people with multiple personas, attempting to give people an easily set up outlet to express the multiple parts of their online identity.
Vouch is like a Hashable for recommendations, an app that allows people to take their offline person recommendations online with Twitter-based #vouches.
AisleFinder solves the problem of never knowing what aisle the items on your shopping list are in, using Mechanical Turk to acquire data about in-store item’s location.
Similar to OwnLocal Centrally wants to be the one stop web promotion shop for small to medium-sized businesses who want to create websites with the least amount of hassle.
Image: AisleFinder founder Curtis Pope