Member Profile: Charley Wang
People from across the Bay Area have joined TechEquity as members. We know that we’re growing a great membership base full of smart, passionate, engaged citizens and we thought we you might like to see who some of these folks are.
Meet Charley, CEO of Josephine:
Charley is the CEO of Josephine, an Oakland based startup that helps home cooks make money by selling their food to their neighbors and local communities. He’s spent the past three years thinking deeply about how our reliance on industrialized food has harmed our ability to support diverse, codependent, trusting, and healthy communities.
Charley currently lives in West Oakland and his motto is “Be more dog.”
What is your professional passion these days?
I’ve been working on helping home cooks reclaim cooking as a means for supporting their families and nourishing their communities. My company, Josephine, helps folks excluded from professional opportunities — immigrants, women, lower income families/at-home parents — make money offering home cooked food for pick up out of their homes. It’s a concept that I feel is deceptively simple, but that represents radical impact for folks who have valuable skills but are limited by lifestyle restrictions (having to be at home with the kids) and systemic disadvantages (ESL, racism & misogyny in professional industries). This concept also represents the social and health benefits of non-industrial food access and stronger community fabric.
A huge part of our work recently has been political — we’ve been pushing to decriminalize the sales of home cooked food through state legislation — the CA Homemade Food Act. Our bill would create a permit for people to safely and accountably sell small amounts of prepared food to their friends and neighbors, giving people an accessible and relevant opportunity right where they are, in their homes and their communities.
What inspired you to get politically/civically active?
I think that the “solve your own problems” mentality of the tech industry has led to an over-saturation of companies that improve the lifestyles of the privileged. How many on-demand laundry services should a city with massive housing and poverty issues really have?
If entrepreneurs want to walk the walk of actually trying to make the world a better place, then they need to spend more time as listeners, facilitators, and allies, and less time on prescribing solutions. When you look at the issues that could use our privilege, patience, and support the most, it becomes glaringly apparent that society’s biggest shortcomings are not just going to be solved by a website or an app. Sure, technology is an important *tool* in trying to impact change, but the arena in which we could make the biggest impact is politics.
My first year of Josephine was spent in the kitchens of home cooks all over the East Bay and they have been my inspiration from day one. When I asked them what they wanted me to help with, the answers were: First, help us make more money. Second, help us find the power we need to be seen and heard by the government.
Why is it important for the tech community to become more civically engaged?
I think that as a community we tend to ignore the fact that we have already caused a lot of damage. People often start companies feeling like they are engaging society with a blank slate, when in reality each of us is accountable to the strategies of our industry. We aren’t entitled to a seat at the table if we aren’t able to acknowledge and remediate the tenuous relationship we have with the public sector already.
People who think that tech community is exploitive, that we only serve shareholder profit, or that we’re driven by our savior complex, are right. If we want to earn back some trust and change that legacy then we need to get over our own fragility, show up, and put in work for public interest, full stop.
We are organizing the tech community to advocate for a tech-driven economy in the Bay Area that works for everyone. We believe the tech industry can and should generate widespread opportunity instead of inequality and displacement.