Easy to Follow Tips For Black Women Aspiring to Launch a Tech Startup

It’s great to see diversity numbers moving upward in the tech industry, but most tech startups are still founded by white men. At times, it may feel like a boys club, but there are ways to navigate the industry and do exceedingly well.

Here are three tips that I found profoundly useful when launching and growing my app, Around the Way.

Stop Waiting For Perfection To Launch.

We women have the tendency to make things perfect. Take a look at how long it takes us to leave the house in the morning — hair, outfit, nails, makeup. You get yourself “right” for the day.  That’s all well and fine for personal grooming, but in business (especially in tech) perfection is not a requirement. It may be a personal standard you set for yourself, but your business is  ever-evolving. Your goal is to launch something, anything, and iterate, iterate, iterate.

Do one thing well — your basic offering, then add on from there. Simple. It’s both enchanting and daunting to think of all the aspects your business can be. Just boil it down to your initial offering, launch and keep building.  The puzzle gets more intricate as you add more on to your product, which can push back your launch date.

Before launching Around the Way, I had tons of ideas about what I wanted it to be. I wanted merchants to sell items through the app, I wanted a deals section, I wanted articles, stats and facts —  I wanted all of it in my initial product. But I had to scale it back to the essence of the offering. My original goal was to make it easy to find Black-owned businesses. So my initial product is just that- an easy way to find BOBs.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want those things.  But now, they’re on an implementation schedule. Had I waited for all of those bells and whistles, I would not have launched the app by now. For me, no launch would have meant, no downloads, no speaking engagements, no awards. For the BOBs, no launch would have meant no inclusion in the mobile space ,and no new customers finding their businesses using the app.

All of the advantages would’ve been delayed had I been perfecting my app before launching.

Share Your Idea

You may very well have the next billion-dollar idea that will revolutionize the way we all work or play, but if you don’t share it, no one will ever know about it. No one will ever help you. Your idea will never blossom to a real business. You will not make the billion. That’s the long and short of it.

Tell the world what you’re up to. It’s a disservice to your awesomeness to keep it to yourself. Not one successful person reached their goals by keeping their ideas to themselves. Not one.

I had to get over my fear of someone stealing my idea. I figured if I shared my app idea with app developers, they could go home and make it that evening. I had to realize that I could tell 20 developers about my idea and they could build it that night, but they will never do it exactly the same way I would. Our passions and dedication to the app are unmatched.

After I understood that, it was GAME ON! I told the world about my idea. And when I did, the floodgates of support opened. Had I not done that, I would not have created the app. I met my original app developer, chief marketing officer and chief technology officer each at different networking events.

I’d just be a gal with an idea, had I not shared it with others.

Know When To Be A Black Woman.

As I said earlier, the tech community may “feel” like a boys club – but that’s just a feeling. Yes, there are more guys than gals, but so what?  Make sure you go to those events where there are primarily white men. Get uncomfortable. Share your idea. You never know what could come of it. You never know who you’ll meet or who they know or who may be able to help you.

Also, it’s rarely said, but someone has to do it: Stop wearing your Blackness on your sleeve.

I’m not a Black app developer. I developed an app – I just so happen to be Black. The same goes for being a woman. Putting gender-race first is a slippery slope. In some realms, this approach can be an advantage, in others, a disadvantage.

When you’re a member of a “Black women business empowerment group,” sure, glom all your “Black women-ness” all over the room- everyone’s basking in it. Or in a pitch event solely for women – yes, girl power!

But don’t head to those primarily white techy rooms solely as a Black woman. You’re a dope person with a dope business looking to connect with other dope people. Period. Don’t let your “demographic” get in the way of expanding yourself, your business or your network.

In case you’ve forgotten, Black people originated cool (IMHO). Who doesn’t like hanging out with cool people? Networking sounds hoity-toity, but it’s really a matter of  asking yourself, “Who do I like talking to?” “Who do I mesh well with?” “Did we have a great conversation?”

That’s who people like doing business with – someone they can have a beer with. Don’t get all weird with your own apprehensions or fears. Remember how awesome you are! And all you really want to do is expand your network with other awesome people.

I hated “those white techy events” when I first started out. I felt more comfortable talking to my own people. I would go to Black tech events, women events, and Black women in tech events (see how small my bubble shrank?). And those all feel good, they’re comfortable, and there is great opportunity to meet amazing people.

But then I challenged myself to get outside of my comfort zone, join “those white techy meetup groups” and attend those VC pitch events. It wasn’t fun at first. I can’t lie, I’ve actually been to events where I send the RSVP, paid, showed up, put on a name-tag, watched the pitch event, spoke to NO ONE, and left. That was a complete waste of time.

I remember one tech event where there were a panel of investors and established tech entrepreneurs and I finally mustered up the courage to ask a question on the mic. It took some in-my-head coaching to get me to do it, but I did it. My voice was trembling – but I did it. My question was borderline remedial- but I did it. That was a breakthrough for me.

Once I accomplished that, I had no problem talking to people. After that awkward question, I chatted with a few people and left that event a whole new person.

The fact of the matter is- at tech events- we’re all building something. That’s our common ground. We’re all in the same boat. It’s the part we lose sight of when we wear our “Black-womenness” on our sleeve.

Get to know people- see what they’re up to, share what you’re up to. Because we’re all really up to something big.

Janine Hausif is the founder of Around the Way- a mobile application that locates Black-owned businesses and works as a business consultant for non-profits and small businesses. http://hellojanine.com

Top Free Sites to Learn to Code

It seems like everybody is computer coding these days and if you don’t want to get left behind, you should probably start learning. Why should you learn how to code? Well, if you’re in need of a personal website and don’t want to pay someone a large sum, or if you would like to increase your job prospects, you should probably start learning how to code.

Below are the top sites that will teach you how to code for FREE.


KhanAcademy is mostly known for its tutorials on school subjects, but it also offers courses on programming.

The programming modules use JavaScript to show concepts that apply to coding in general, while also teaching some practical JavaScript skills. The courses are divided into a dozen categories, each of which has three to 12 separate lessons. Each video lesson animates the coding technique in a window on the left and shows the result of the code running in a window on the right. After you watch the code, the user then has to write the code that copies the operation. If your code isn’t right, the tutorial will give hints to help you correct the problem.


W3Schools.com has tutorials in HTML, CSS, XML, SQL, PHP, JQuery and JavaScript, among others. The site offers demos on building a website, server technologies and Web databases.

The JavaScript tutorial has 19 separate lessons that take an estimated 15 minutes to an hour to complete, along with eight to 12 lessons for HTML DOM and Browser BOM.


Quickly becoming known as an online education mecca, Coursera offers courses from millions of universities online free of charge.

Classes are available in five languages, English, Spanish, French, Italian and Chinese. You can also learn from professors from 62 universities.


Codeacademy’s sole focus is well, coding.

Take courses in APIs, Ruby, Python, JavaScript, JQuery, PHP and web fundamentals.


If you want to have some fun while learning to code, Code/Racer combines just that.

It’s an online racing game that forces you to learn to code quickly so that you get ahead on the racetrack. As you complete courses, you earn badges for your accomplishments.

MIT OpenCourseWare

Think of this as another way to get a top-tier education without the student loans or stress of an application. MIT has provided all of its course content to Web audiences, so that anyone can learn and take advantage of this highly regarded institution.

The Best Apps You Need to Know Designed By Black Developers

We all love the apps on our phone or mobile tablet and there are tons of them that make our lives simpler. What’s even better is that many apps were created by Black developers.

Take a look at 10 great apps that were created by us and for us.

HBCU Buddy

Founders: Jonecia Keels and Jazmine Miller

Purpose: Provides prospective and current students with information about historically Black colleges and universities on aspects of student life, admissions, alumni, standardized test scores and faculty research. The app also has virtual campus tours and integrates social networking with Twitter and Facebook.

Why You Need It: Founders Keels and Miller are Spelman College alum and used their love of technology and HBCU culture to create HBCU Buddy, which won the 2010 AT&T Mobile Campus Challenge with a $10, 000 prize.

In addition to the feel-good story, this app is perfect for any young person considering attending an HBCU, or for alumni who want to keep up with their alma mater. 


Founder: Chinedu Echeruo

Purpose: HopStop gives those who live in metropolitan areas simple and easy directions on how to navigate by public transit, walking, taking a cab or biking.

Why You Need It: Developed by a Nigerian who’s a former Wall Street analyst, Time magazine included the app on its list of 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011. If you live in a major city or plan to visit one and will be using public transportation, HopStop is perfect to avoid getting lost.

Around the Way

Founder: Clearly Innovative

Purpose: Around the Way is an app that is meant to support Black-owned businesses. The app can locate 17,000 black-owned businesses in 50 states and will help users find the nearest in their area. The app can find businesses such as ATMs and banks, auto shops, bakery and cafés, beauty parlors and barbershops, clubs and lounges, laundry-dry cleaners, lodgings, restaurants and shopping.

Why You Need It:  Lots of people express the desire to support either small businesses or Black-owned businesses. Now with Around the Way, you can do both. Created by Clearly Innovative, a Black-owned mobile app firm based in Washington, D.C., the goal is to empower Black businesses by giving potential customers a point of purchase.

Bid Whist 

Founder: Jerod Motley

Purpose: Bid Whist is a popular card game that you can now play on your mobile device.

Why You Need It: If you like card games, this app’s for you. Now you can enjoy the game you’ve most likely played plenty of times in an app created by a Black developer.


Founder: Techturized Inc. , co-founders Candace Mitchell, Jessica Watson, Chanel Martin, Joy Boulamwini

Purpose: Myavana is a hair app for African-American women that encourages users to form communities based on hair textures and desired hairstyles. Women can upload hairstyles, share beauty tips about styling products and techniques, and salons. Also, users can follow desired hairstyles by “Girlfriending” other users who post images with that style. Each time a Girlfriend request is accepted, the community can follow that user’s hair journey and learn her hair secrets.

Why You Need It: Founded by Georgia Tech graduates who are all Black women and knowledgeable about the challenges faced when changing hairstyles. This app provides women with a sense of community and can offer tips on haircare.

Black History Milestones

Founder: Blue Sodium Corp. , (co-founders Nnanna Obuba and  Chidi Oparah).

Purpose: Black History Milestones is an app that presents a collection of important milestones in African-American history that aim to educate and inspire you.

Why You Need It: If you enjoy history, specifically Black history, you’ll like that this app will serve as a daily reminder of the rich history of African-Americans.

Iman Cosmetics 

Founder: Iman

Purpose: Renowned supermodel Iman is the founder and CEO of Iman Cosmetics, which are designed for African-American, Latina and Asian women. The Iman cosmetics app provides a “one-stop shop” for all your beauty needs using patented color-matching technology.

Why You Need It: This is perfect for a woman who loves makeup or has a hard time finding her shade. It’s easy to just upload your picture to the app and get customized Iman product recommendations that match your complexion and style.

Bill Organizer- Manage & Track Your Bills

Founder: Blue Sodium Corp. (co-founders Nnanna Obuba and Chidi Oparah)

Purpose: This app can organize, track and manage your bills, as well as notify you when bills are due. It can sync among devices and its other features include reminders when bills are due, monthly money reports, and a full history of all bills ever created.

Why You Need It: You can never go wrong with an app that helps you keep the bills paid, and it is great for people who like to actually see where their money is going.

A Song for Miles

Founder: Diverse Mobile, LLC

Purpose: Children learn the meaning of determination, kindness and love through soul music from the likes of singing sensations Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind & Fire. It nurtures a child’s inquisitive nature and love for music and sounds, while teaching the importance of good character.

Why You Need It: This is first storybook application that uses Black soul music artists who influenced the songs we listen to today. Developed by a Black-owned development company in Atlanta, A Song for Miles includes features such as digital links that pop off the screen, and interactive links to iTunes to purchase featured music. This is an ideal digital book for parents to read to children, especially if they enjoy music.

Ashti Meets Birdman Al

Founder: Diverse Mobile, LLC

Purpose: This storybook featuring music by jazz singer Al Jarreau is about a little girl named Ashti, who, while at the park with her mother, meets Birdman Al, an elderly man who is concerned about saving the jazz program at his former elementary school. His dilemma leads Ashti to her big idea. Children learn traits such as compassion, respect and responsibility while being exposed to jazz artists such as Billie Holliday, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Cab Calloway.

Why You Need It: Another digital storybook that exposes children to music while teaching them how to be good people will keep the little one in your life entertained not only through reading but also with classic music.

9 Blerd Celebrities Who Are Taking Over Pop Culture

blerd tyson Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist, author and advocate of science literacy. He is currently the Frederick P. Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space, and a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

From 2006 to 2011, Tyson hosted the educational science television show NOVA ScienceNow on PBS, and he has been a frequent guest on other TV shows, including The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher. Since 2009, he has hosted the weekly radio show StarTalk.

In 2014, Tyson began hosting a TV science documentary series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, an update of late astrophysicist Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a 1980s television series.

Tyson has also appeared on television episodes of sitcom The Big Bang Theory and sci-fi series  Stargate Atlantis.

blerd rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, director, and producer, who is best known as creator, head writer, and executive producer of the medical drama television series Grey’s Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice, and the political thriller series, Scandal.

In May 2007, the popular Hollywood writer was named one of Time magazine’s 100 people who help shape the world.  Rhimes has a new legal series on ABC, How to Get Away with Murder, which will air in the 2014-15 season.

Rhimes, who describes her self as a “nerd” says one of her favorite activities is to watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee and to “nerd out” while blogging about the competition.

“I’ve been watching the bee forever. Way back, when it was first on ESPN is when I first started watching. I’ve been watching forever. I’m a nerd that way, but I was very into it and a bee nerd in school,” she said.

Rhimes attended Dartmouth College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree, and the University of Southern California where she received a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Cinema-Television.

blerd glover

Donald Glover

Donald Glover is an actor, comedian, rapper, writer and proud Black nerd, who first became popular for his work with the Internet comedy sketch group, Derrick Comedy.

From 2006 to 2009, he was a writer for the NBC comedy series 30 Rock. He was also cast in the role of Troy Barnes in the television series Community, and in 2010, he starred in a stand-up special on Comedy Central network.

Glover released his debut album as a hip-hop artist the next year,  followed by a second release in 2013. The young star graduated from New York University with a degree in dramatic writing.

Melissa Harris-Perry

Melissa Harris-Perry is a professor at Tulane University, television host and political commentator with a focus on African-American politics. Harris-Perry hosts a weekend news and opinion television show on MSNBC.

Before working for MSNBC,  she taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago. Harris-Perry is also a regular columnist for the magazine The Nation, the author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South.

Harris-Perry attended Wake Forest University where she received a bachelor’s degree in English, and Duke University where she earned a doctorate in political science.

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” (http://www.MinorityTech.com). You can find out more about him at http://www.AnjuanSimmons.com.

7 Things to Do Before Becoming An Entrepreneur

So, you want to be an entrepreneur? Well, like most things in life, it’s not for everybody. There’s a quote that says, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life the way most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life living the way most people can’t,” and for the most part that’s true.

Since entrepreneurship is not for the weak or the weary,  we give you seven things to consider before you decide to make the plunge.

Be Passionate About Your Product

For some, it may be easy to work a 9 to 5 job that you aren’t passionate about, but if you’re an entrepreneur launching a product or service, how do you expect consumers or investors to be excited about your product if you aren’t?

As your own boss, you become the chief salesperson and your enthusiasm has to make others believe in you. Another reason you must believe in your product or service is because entrepreneurship has many peaks and valleys and you’re going to need determination to get you through unpredictable times.

Cleanse Your Social Media Profiles

Prospective employees are often told to clean up their social media profiles, but entrepreneurs must do the same especially when they are taking meetings with potential investors.

Sometimes it’s not enough to dress the part, you also have to take into account that people will check your Linked In profile, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. You have to be mindful of the photos you post since they could be misinterpreted.

Have a 12-Month Plan

If you’re not organized or don’t like to plan, then entrepreneurship may not be for you.

Be prepared to write your business plan more than once and it will need to be looked over by professionals and trusted colleagues. Your 12-month plan should include your personal and business budget.

In the calendar section of your business plan, you need to include vacation, medical appointments and important events.

Know Your Finances

Finances are a large part of being an entrepreneur and you’ll need to take care of any outstanding debt before pursuing your goals.

Downsizing and creating a monthly budget are effective ways to pay off debt. As an entrepreneur you may not get your first paycheck for months, so you will need to have 12 months of savings to pay your bills.

Know That You Can’t Stop At Just One Product

An entrepreneur is essentially an innovator, and as an innovator, you have to keep, well, innovating.

This basically means that after you launch a product or service, you have to keep up the momentum and stay ahead of the innovation curve. To consistently develop products means that you’ll have to spend money. Companies rarely, if ever, survive with just one product.

Be Good at Making Decisions

If you’re indecisive or can’t make decisions without the input of others, you might want to rethink becoming an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are responsible for the successes and failures of their businesses. They have to make decisions about working from home or leasing office space, hiring employees, targeting high-end clients or selling to the masses, advertising, borrowing money, using savings and more.

The decisions become more complex after employees are hired and the company starts succeeding.

Maintain Balance 

Entrepreneurs don’t take days off and working nonstop often means neglecting your life outside of work, which can cause burnout and a subsequent decline in business.

While maintaining a personal life with family, friends and hobbies, you must also know how to limit distractions from entrepreneurial pursuits.

Balance is all about maintaining good health and mental welfare, while still working toward your goals.

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

blerd tristan 2

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 mashable.com:

“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 gizmag.com:

“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.

More Than Fun & Games: The True Power of #BlackTwitter

With well over 600 million active users, it was always apparent that Twitter would become a powerful social vehicle, but in recent years it has been a niche community inside the social media giant that has unveiled itself as being unbelievably and undeniably powerful.

Every now and then you may see the hashtag — #BlackTwitter — but most of the time you will find yourself unknowingly stumbling upon Black Twitter’s hilarious antics or growing social movements.

Black Twitter is the name that was given to the community within Twitter that has always held Black popular culture, news and controversies at the center of its timeline.

While it initially became famous for outrageous jokes and sparking worldwide trending topics in a matter of minutes, it has recently become the latest and perhaps one of the most effective tools for social justice and racial equality.

Black Twitter’s list of accomplishments includes the cancellation of a book deal for a juror in the George Zimmerman case; Reebok’s rejection of rapper Rick Ross’ endorsement deal after his infamous date rape lyrics; and more recently,  promoter Damon Feldman’s withdrawal of a George Zimmerman celebrity boxing match.

The community has managed to use clever hashtags to gain support from other Twitter users across the globe to achieve commendable goals, all through the use of 140 characters and countless numbers of retweets.

“It’s kind of like the Black table in the lunchroom, sort of, where people of like interests and experiences and ways of talking and communication, lump together and talk among themselves,” said Tracy Clayton, a blogger and editor at BuzzFeed.

In fact, if anyone knows the power of Black Twitter, it’s BuzzFeed.

During Zimmerman’s trial, Black Twitter began sending out its own BuzzFeed-type lists with the hashtag #BlackBuzzFeed, which put BuzzFeed’s social media to shame.

“Black Twitter made this the No. 2 hashtag worldwide,” BuzzFeed later tweeted about the #BlackBuzzFeed hashtag. “Our wig has thoroughly been snatched. *Bows down.*”

Even the NAACP realized the momentum and power behind Black Twitter and made the community a part of its strategies.

The NAACP used hashtags like #TooMuchDoubt to gain support for halting the execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis, and the #OscarGrant hashtag trended nation wide, leading to support for the film “Fruitvale Station.” The film documented the life of the young Black man who was unjustly killed by a police officer.

“We realized more than anyone that we had to go in that direction and we’ve done it,” NAACP interim President Lorraine Miller said of the organization’s social media use.

Perhaps the real magic behind Black Twitter is the combination of fighting for justice and captivating comedy.

Black Twitter gains attention through humor, while also bringing attention to major issues.

For example, when celebrity chef Paula Deen admitted to using racial slurs in the past, Black Twitter created the hashtag #PaulasBestDishes, which began trending nationwide.

The hashtag earned tons of laughs with imaginary recipes like “Massa-Roni and Cheese,” “We Shall Over-Crumb Cake,” “Three-Fifths Compromise Cheesecake,” “Coon on the Cob” and “Swing Low, Sweet Cherry Pie.”

At the same time it garnered attention to Deen’s remarks, created a national discussion via Twitter about the use of the N-word and led to the cancellation of several of Deen’s endorsement deals.

In short, Black Twitter has stepped to the forefront as the lead watchdog when it comes to racial injustice and other controversial issues.