Blerds and Technology’s 2 Percent Diversity Problem

Three giants in the technology sector recently released their diversity reports. Google, Yahoo, and Facebook proved what we have long suspected: Diversity in technology is almost non-existent.

As a Black person, I was very interested in the representation of Blacks at these companies. While the number was the lowest of the four non-white ethnicties (Asian, Hispanic, Black, and multiracial), I was surprised to find that the number was the same at all four companies: 2 percent.

No other ethnic group had such uniformly low level of representation. My surprise increased when I saw the wide variation in the most represented groups, whites and Asians. There was an 11 point difference between the highest representation of whites (61 percent at Google) and the lowest (50 percent at Yahoo).

There was a nine point difference between the highest representation of Asians (39 percent at Yahoo) and the lowest (30 percent at Google). How can there be such a wide point-spread among whites and Asians, but the exact same percentage for Blacks? Can it be an accident that Blacks are at 2 percent across all four companies? Is it by chance that Blacks are the least represented minority group?

Contrast the extremely low representation of Blacks in technology with areas where Blacks are over-represented. I can think of two: sports and the prison system. We clearly see an excess of Black athletes and Black prisoners. I think this is because Blacks are valued for our athletic skills, but we also have to cope with a criminal justice system that unequally targets and imprisons us.

Is it possible that we can increase the representation of Blacks in technology by combining the forces of skill appreciation (used in sports) and systematic recruitment (used in the criminal justice system)? I think that not only is this possible, but it’s the only way to solve the 2 percent diversity problem in technology.

Improving the appreciation of the technology skills of Blacks and setting up a system for aggressively recruiting them into tech careers will require a change in how Blacks are viewed by employers. This can be done by implementing three kinds of visibility improvements: media, entrepreneurship, mentorship. Blerds are instrumental to making these improvements.

Visibility in Media

The media is a powerful force for changing perceptions. That’s why media companies are multibillion dollar operations. If we can get more Blerds involved in both traditional and new media, then we can help connect Blacks to the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. That’s why having astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as host of  the television series Cosmos was such an important accomplishment. We need more Blerds hosting science and technology shows as well as working behind the camera to write and produce these types of series.

Visibility in Entrepreneurship

The technology world is filled with the romance of the startup. We thrive on replicating the success of  Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and  Mark Zuckerberg. Although most startups fail, we worship those who fight for and achieve multiple rounds of venture capital funding. Of course, the vast majority of those seeking funding and providing funding are white males.

If we can get more people of color — like Tristan Walker, the founder of Bevel — positioned as startup founders and providers of capital, then we can establish Blacks with a seat at the table. I’m convinced that there are Blerds across the country who can make the leap into entrepreneurship. We just need to encourage them to do so.

Visibility in Mentorship

Most successful people can point to someone who invested in their success. These mentors took time to share their expertise and experiences to provide that boost that everyone needs to make progress. Most Blerds are introverts, but that introversion needs to be removed as an impediment to investing in other people (especially other Blerds).

I try to dedicate a few hours a week to mentoring of people of color in technology. I often do this through informal calls, emails, and lunches. Blerds can’t wait for others to ask us for mentorship. We need to proactively identify people we can help and start providing them the help that they need.

Improving the 2 percent representation of Blacks in technology will take an investment of time and resources. However, Blerds can work in the realms of media, entrepreneurship, and mentorship to improve the appreciation of the technology skills of Blacks and set up a system for getting ourselves recruited into tech companies. By doing this, we will steadily see results. After all, it has worked well in sports and our criminal justice system, and we can reposition that effectiveness for positive change.

Anjuan Simmons has worked in the technology industry for over two decades. He is also the author of “Minority Tech: Journaling Through Blackness and Technology” ( You can find out more about him at

Entrepreneur Tristan Walker on Creating a Brand, Giving Back to Community

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Tristan Walker is the founder and CEO of Walker & Company Brands who launched his first product, Bevel, this past February. Bevel is a shaving system designed specifically for men with sensitive skin and coarse and curly hair. Walker honed his entrepreneurial skills as the director of business development at Foursquare, and then as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andressen & Horowitz. Along with creating his own brand and products, he’s also active in getting Black and Latino students involved in start-ups through his organization CODE2040.

Q: Where did the idea for Bevel come from?

Walker: Bevel started out from my own frustration of not being able to shave for 15 years. Every single way that I encountered facial hair removal sucked. I used the multi-blade razor on my face when I was 15. I woke up the following morning completely broken out. You go to a barbershop, a barber will use the same electric clippers he’s using on everyone else’s hair on your face, which when you think about it, is disgusting. He doesn’t clean it person to person. The last one, which is the worst of them all, I put a depilatory cream on my face.  It sits on your face for six minutes and has all these crazy chemicals in it and then you wipe it off. It burned my face. It did all types of damage to my skin. So, I thought there has to be a better way. We created Bevel out of that.

Q: Where do you hope to see Bevel in five years?

Walker: Bevel is the flagship brand under Walker & Company, so hopefully, Bevel is still a very, very large brand that people continue to love. Hopefully, it’s one of a few brands that Walker & Company has. We want hundreds of thousands of people using this product. Quite frankly, the thing that kind of inspires me most.

Q: You were director of business development at Foursquare. What did you learn from working at that company that you apply to your product, Bevel?

Walker: I really learned the importance of brands and authenticity. The reason why I think Foursquare was so successful was that every employee lived the brand, every employee was the brand, and it just made it easier for users and customers to really get it and want to be a part of it. When I think about Bevel and the Walker Company, I think the thing that we do well is we show off that authenticity. We’re not faking it. This is us. I think we’ll continue to do that with every brand we launch.

Q: How did your time as entrepreneur-in-residence at Andressen & Horowitz prepare you to launch Walker & Company Brands?

Walker: One thing that they taught me was to be the one thing that you feel like you’re the best person in the world to do, then you have a really good advantage. What I realized is, as it pertained to Bevel, no one understood the problem the way I did because I had to deal with it everyday of my life. Being able to disrupt health and beauty with technology focused on a demographic group that I’m a part of made me feel like I was one of the best folks in the world to try it.

Q: What other products can we expect from Walker & Company Brands?

Walker: We’re really focused on making things that solve health and beauty problems for people of color. Bevel helps with the razor-bump irritation issue with its design, etc. I think about things like vitamin D deficiency, natural hair transitioning and hyperpigmentation. We want to build brands that solve those problems in a very big way and I think we’ll do it.

Q: Tell us what you’re doing with CODE2040.

Walker: CODE2040 is a not-for-profit organization I helped found 2 ½ years ago. Our flagship program is the Fellows Program and the goal of it is to get the highest-performing Black and Latino engineering undergraduates internships in Silicon Valley, and then we provide them with all the tools they need to be very successful. The reasons behind starting it is, number one, I didn’t want folks to realize that Silicon Valley existed way too late. I realized it existed at 24 and that’s way too late, in my opinion. Secondly, I really have this fascination around how can we make the biggest consumer demographic (Blacks and Latinos) in the world the best producing demographic in the world? I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities of my lifetime.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to enter the worlds of entrepreneurship and technology?

Walker: The first thing I would say is to just get a drive. You’ve just got to do it. Some of the best advice I got on that came from [director-producer] Tyler Perry. I had the good fortune to interview him a couple times with Walkers and Phoners and he said one thing to the group that stuck with me for a long time. He said it wasn’t until he realized that the trials you go through and the blessings you receive are the exact same thing and that freed him up to become a great entrepreneur. That stuck with me because your trials are just blessings and those lessons are blessings. Once you think about that, you start to become fearless in a sense. Think about it from the perspective of entrepreneurship being hard. The hard parts are just trials and your blessings.

8 Black Female Inventors You Might Not Know


Dr. Shirley Jackson is an American physicist.  She received her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, becoming the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate at MIT in nuclear physics. Currently, Jackson is the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

In addition to her academic achievements, she also has an impressive list of inventions to her credit. Her experiments with theoretical physics are responsible for many telecommunications developments, including the touch-tone telephone, the portable fax, caller ID, call waiting and the fiber-optic cable.


Marie Van Brittan Brown received a patent in 1969, making her the first person to develop a patent for closed- circuit television security. Brown’s system was designed with four peepholes and a motorized camera that could slide up and down to look at each one. Her invention became the framework for the modern closed-circuit television system that is widely used for surveillance, crime prevention and traffic monitoring.


Minority Report: Young Black Entrepreneurs Create The First Robot Bartender

Sci-fi television and films usually seem to foreshadow technology innovations by many years. It is 2014, and even though there has been a slew of  innovative products, we’re far from flying cars like those in Back To The Future or The Jetsons. What we do have now, is a robotic bartender. A group of young Black men from Atlanta have created a device called the “Monsieur” that allows users to have their drinks automatically mixed.

As reported by

“It might sound unusual for a robot bartender to whip up cocktails in the kitchen as you come home from work, but a new concept called the Monsieur could make this the new norm.

“Here’s how it works: You load the alcohol of your choice (and mixers such as orange juice and cranberry juice) into the back of the system. It will then create a customized menu based on whatever you put in. Choices for mixed drinks then appear on the touchscreen. After selecting the one you want, you can select if you want the drink strong, medium or light.”

The Monsieur team is led by co-founders Barry Givens, Eric Williams and CTO Mario Taylor, who are all graduates of Atlanta’s Georgia Tech. They also have the wildly successful Dr. Paul Judge, on their board and as an investor.

According to their website:

“The Monsieur comes with 12 themed packages with 25 preset cocktails each. You can select from a tiki bar theme, a sports bar theme, an Irish pub, or a non-alcoholic theme. On average, the machine can make 150 cocktails before it needs refilling.”

The Monsieur team is also working on a home version of the robotic bartender as well.

According to

“The company is developing an in-home version of its business model Monsieur bartender using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Weighing 50 lb (22.6 kg), Monsieur is a black box measuring 22 x 18 x 21 in (55.8 x 45.7 x 53.3 cm) with a touchscreen and a dispensing slot with a suitably festive blue neon glow. Inside the basic model is room for eight 30-oz (0.8-l) containers along peristaltic pumps, and processors that handle orders and monitor container levels. Clean up takes about two minutes”

It’s always great to see young Black professionals doing big things in the technology industry, and hopefully the Monsieur will become a mass market product.