This morning at TechCrunch Disrupt NY, Walker & Co. founder Tristan Walker spoke about bringing more diversity to Silicon Valley and his plan to reach 5,000 black and Latina/o students this next year through his Code2040 program.
The former Foursquare exec and co-founder of Code2040 also runs the aforementioned Walker & Co., a health and beauty startup with a focus on people of color. Its first product, Bevel is a razor targeted towards those with coarse or curly hair.
Walker knows something about minority struggles. He grew up on the south side of Jamaica Queens, an urban area of New York City with a rough reputation. But a boarding school scholarship due to some good test scores at the age of 14 changed the course of his future, exposing Walker to some of the richest families in the world, including folks like the Rockefellers, and a world of wealth and educational opportunities.
A lot of the narrative is how can we fix things in the next six months..but it’s a bit unreasonable
Walker went to Wall Street after college but said he hated the culture of greed and set his sights on Silicon Valley riches instead, after hearing how well others his age were doing there. “When I was young I had one goal in life – to be as wealthy as possible and successful as possible,” walker told TechCrunch writer Kim-Mai Cutler onstage.
Walker headed first to Stanford and then became the VP of business development at Foursquare before going out on his own, boosted by the guidance of Ben Horowitz and participation in the entrepreneur in residence program at a16Z.
Walker is now heavily involved in diversity issues in the tech capital of the world and the onstage interview centered on that subject. Walker emphasized the success of his Code2040 program and that it has grown from five at the beginning to now 35-40 fellows going through the program, with 90 percent offer rates.
Walker also hinted onstage that he plans to launch a new product through Walker & Co. by the end of the year that will include more diversity to reach unique individuals.
“More and more you’ll see from us great product, great service but also personalization,” he said. He also mentioned that the health and beauty products at Bevel would possibly branch out and that he also would like to include products for women.
Walker mentioned a few ways to help minorities get into STEM and Silicon Valley entrepreneurship. He said the first thing is to recognize it will take time.
“A lot of the narrative is around how can we fix things in the next six months..but it’s a bit unreasonable,” he said. Also, recognize there’s an issue but also understand why the issue is there. To really fix things, he said, will require both public and private support in recognizing implicit bias.
“Folks at the top are using technology in a way that those at the bottom are not,” Walker said. “If we are to believe that our economy is increasingly digital and no longer analog, then we should be doing what we can to help.”