Networking Programs Help Black Women Succeed in Silicon Valley

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January 5, 2012 ‐ By Charlotte Young

In Silicon Valley, black faces can be hard to spot in the pool of entrepreneurs. And the African-Americans that do make attempts at starting innovative business often encounter lack of funding. It’s what entrepreneur turned venture capitalist Mitch Kapor calls “mirror-toracy.” He tells The Bay Citizen that business professionals tend to finance people who look and act like them as they fit their image of success.  African American aspiring entrepreneurs are left out, and desperately need the resources and financial backing to get them started. That’s one reason why Angela Benton founded the New Media Entrepreneurship Accelerator, (NewME).

Benton, previously based in Charlotte, NC, realized the disparity in African American entrepreneurs when she took a visit to the Google Headquarters. She held a mixer for black entrepreneurs and was amazed when 100 people showed up, excited to meet other like-minded individuals. Although a report from CB Insights, a venture capital information database, observed that less than one percent of the venture capital-backed tech companies in California were started by blacks, the desire and the people were there.

Benton realized that there was a need for a community to support black entrepreneurs, but no one had thought to create it. These future business leaders simply needed an incubator and a community to nurture their business ventures.

Similar to other incubator programs, NewME provides resources and networking opportunities to potential business owners. In its first workshop held last summer, NewMe had eight participants, three of which are now starting up business in Silicon Valley. Two others are looking to start their business elsewhere.

“We need 10 NewMEs,” Chad Womack, a co-founder of the America 21 Project, said to an audience of black professionals in San Francisco. “We need to clone Angela and spread her around the country, if we can.”

America 21 works to encourage African Americans to take on technology business as a way to earn wealth. The non-profit groups plans to create opportunities for inner city youth with the help of the White House and hopefully initiaitves such as NewME.

Benton said she is now planning to hold a 12-week follow-up program in the spring. This time, the requirements for participants will be a bit stiffer and more in line with other incubator programs. All must commit to giving NewME four percent of the company’s equity.

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