by Makula Dunbar
Recently — and too often — headlines continue to broadcast ethnic disparities in technology. We’ve been notified that African-Americans are only one percent of internet tech start-ups, our numbers are steadily declining in IT and according to Building Engineering and Science Talent only 20 percent of the nation’s engineers, scientists, mathematicians and technologists are minorities.
In an effort to counter these facts, tech accelerators — programs that nurture and boost tech startups —have emerged. However, there are still many who have an idea, but don’t know how to go about reaching their goals. Tech incubators or accelerators are extremely helpful in jumpstarting new ventures, but who’s to say individuals can’t devise a structural jumpstart program in their own community, school or even right at home?
Understand and moving past a great idea
“I think one misconception is believing that someone else is going to do it versus taking on the responsible of saying ‘I don’t have to wait for the next person, I can be that person,’” said Hajj Flemings, branding expert, co-founder and CEO of gokit.
He said it’s important to start building on an idea, regardless of resources. Although he was one of eight African-American tech participants in the minority based NewMe Silicon Valley tech accelerator, he is adamant on encouraging others to jump into the field.
“When we started out I had an idea for a downloadable press kit,” he said. Now his startup gokit — to be launched later this year — has developed into a digital portfolio, much cleaner, organized and focused than an individual person’s Google search results. “One of the points that we always talk about is pivoting. The idea that you start with may not be the idea that you ultimately end with,” he said.
Aside from being a great idea, a tech startup should be one with reach. “How can you create something that has the biggest market? When you look at social networks or a lot of internet based services and products, they’re not just for white people or Hispanic people, they’re for everybody,” he said. “In order to get critical mass, you need to be able to create a product that doesn’t necessary alienate.”
Tyler Smith, a new software techie and founder of SkySlope — transaction management software for real estate brokers — said the most important part of executing an idea is thoroughly grasping what need is. More so than making a great tech pitch — in front of the right person — considering marketplace necessity key. “What people have to understand is venture capitalists already know you want to create the next thing, but what is the need?”
He said, “I never thought about tech. If I wasn’t selling real estate I probably wouldn’t have SkySlope. The reason it’s here is because there was a need.”
Prior to outsourcing developers, SEO gurus and taking full advantage of his tech network, Smith worked as a real estate agent. Bogged down by all of the paper files that agents are required to keep and store — by law up to eight years — he sought out ways to create a solution.
Smith’s venture stemmed from evaluating software that was already on the market, assessing what they didn’t offer, then coming up with a product that would fill the void. Leshell Hatley, tech education specialist, researcher and founder of Uplift Inc. supports Smith’s approach. “Creativity and problem solving [in technology] are most important. You have to have a knack for wanting to dig deep or satisfy a need for something,” she said.