A Fair Shot

I read this article in TechCrunch this past weekend and it started the wheels turning in my head again.

I have struggled with the topic of diversity and the lack of it in the tech entrepreneurial ecosystem. While I have been a loud proponent of meritocracy based advancement, I definitely have seen where the system is stacked against the inclusion and success of minorities but that it is also out of balance for those from lessor socioeconomic means. I do not believe that this can last and if some sense of rebalance is not achieved then darker days are ahead.

The point of this post is to provide some guideposts for my broader connected community to reference on this subject. I have to get more of you to think about giving people who don’t look and sound like you “a fair shot”. This doesn’t mean that I want you to consider unqualified people for roles within your business that is not a sensible approach to this problem. I believe the solutions are Education, Exposure and Enlightenment.

We must give all members of our communities equal access to education. This means modern textbooks and innovative experiences. All of our children’s minds must be challenged and filled with the knowledge of the world.

Exposing youth from the junior in college to the 3rd grader to the world of “What is possible” is crucial to their development into people who can join the tech ecosystem. That exposure should be something that is promoted throughout the community at large. It is ridiculous that there is such a low number of black Americans that are truly involved in venture capital. My personal experiences here have stunned me in regards to how unexposed we’ve been to this channel and thus to access to the same level of financial capabilities as others. As a black tech entrepreneur in North Carolina I’ve watched first time fresh out of college white kids go out and convince investors to put millions into their businesses that are made up of only a concept and some good power point decks. When I stepped into that same pool I got every excuse in the book as to why I wasnt investment worthy even though I am a experienced executive, had invested my own money in the business, built a product, had paying customers and had double digit monthly growth. The bias is real and it has impact folks.

Enlightenment is something that those of us with a story can do a better job of doing. This again isnt just about race, its about help people from all socio-economic backgrounds realize that there are pathways to opportunity. I was listening to Chris Hughes (Facebook co-founder..the unknown one) talk about this over the weekend. He’s written a new book called “A Fair Shot” that talks about his story of growing up in western North Carolina. More locally my friend Scott Moody does a great job of conveying his story of coming from humble roots to start and lead a company through IPO and acquisition by Apple. There are lots of these stories and each one is a story that can lead to enlightenment for a person who is making a decision about where to take their life.

More ramblings to come on this subject because its important and the buzzing wont stop in my head about it….In the mean time check out these books:

J.D. Vance- Hillbilly Elegy

Chris Hughes-Fair Shot

Ross Baird- Innovation Blind Spot

Good readings for those seeking to start wrapping their minds around this subject from a different perspective.