T he upcoming installment of CNN’s Black In America series is one to watch. In it, anchor and host Soledad O’Brien looks at the scarcity of minority-owned companies that are actually thriving in Silicon Valley. No small thing, right? After all, the Valley is where tech fortunes are made, and the fortune- and market-making machine has largely been unreachable by entrepreneurs of color.
Hopefully, that’s changing. As we’ll see when the newest installment airs on Sunday at 8PM EDT, there are concerted efforts to level the playing field and make entrepreneurs of color more competitive out in the valley. One of those efforts centers around New Media Accelerator, an incubator started by Angela Benton of Black Web 2.0 and technology consultant Wayne Sutton, who made a surprise appearance as a speaker at the Festival of the New Black Imagination. What they’ve did was take 8 startups and embed them in Silicon Valley for 6 or so weeks. During that time, the entrepreneurs were given pitch classes, got to meet venture capitalists, and got an important, first hand look at what it takes to build a successful tech company. Hopefully, such an experience will pay off for them.
According to Wayne:
The promo picture (above) features the eight founders who lived in the house which includes Anthony Frasier of Playd, Hank Williams of KloudCo, Angela Benton of Cued/NewMe Accelerator, Hajj E. Flemings of gokit, Crisson Jno-Charles of Fetchmob, Tiffani Ashley Bell of Pencil You In, Pius Uzamere of becouply and myself(Vouch/NewMe Accelerator) with Soledad O’Brien in the middle.
However, he also notes:
CNN only covered the eight startup founders in the house and not all of the startups founders in the NewMe Accelerator. That was their choice not ours. The other startup founders were Chris Bennett of Central.ly, Curtiss Pope of aislefinder and David Adewum of OneSchool.
Wayne Sutton (l) and Hajj Flemings of GoKit.me (photo credit: Mark Hill/CNN)
Of course, the coverage of this effort has generated a lot of conversation, both positive and negative. On the negative side, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington said he didn’t know of any black entrepreneurs and would take any black entrepreneur, regardless of merit, into his TechCrunch Disrupt conference. No matter what his intentions, this is a clearly offensive statement, since black entrepreneurs, like everyone else, want to compete and succeed based on strength of their ideas and business plan, not on some affirmative action pass.
Anyway, lots of more conversation will come out of this. In the meantime, our hats off to Angela and Wayne for getting this off the ground. To tide you over til Sunday’s premiere, take a look at the trailer: