Blavity's inaugural tech conference kicks off in a little under a week, and needless to say, we can't wait. Starting with startup and entrepreneurship programming on Friday, the opportunities, community and innovations to come are undeniable. If you'll be in attendance, get ready to hear from peers who are changing the game, talk to leaders who can help you achieve your goals and mingle with brands you already admire.
And although there are countless things we're looking forward to, these have to be at the top of the list.
1. Lit happy hours
Friday will kick off with a happy hour, a panel about starting up, a fireside chat with Airbnb about what it's like to be a black traveler, and even a meet & greet and book signing with Luvvie, NYT best-selling author of I'm Judging You: The Do Better Manual. Get ready for drinks brought to you by Gentleman Jack, and save some energy for a second happy hour sponsored by Twitter on Saturday.
2. A Milli: Life scaling your business after raising 1M+ in funding
One of the first morning sessions is with Porter Braswell of Jopwell, Rodney Williams of LISNR, Frederick Huston of Pigeon.ly, and moderated by Jason Townes of Groundwork. Raising a million dollars is hard, but this panel will talk about life after a milli and how these business leaders are managing their cash.
3. IRL: Being a digital brand and the media landscape
Hear from Everette Taylor of Skurt, Rashad Drakeford of REVOLT Media & TV, and Quinta B of Buzzfeed Video on branding yourself in the digital age. Social media has created many opportunities for people of color to build their own audiences and generate revenue - this fireside chat will be full of gems.
4. AMA with Ben Silbermann, CEO of Pinterest
The Pinterest Founder will answer all of our questions in this open conversation about startups, leadership and making it in Silicon Valley. This is a rare opportunity to have access to one of the top CEOs in the Bay area. His story to success is unconventional and we can't wait to get a chance to ask him questions.
5. The networking and recruiting office hours.
In between all of the awesome panels, be sure to mix and mingle with the incredible startups and entrepreneurs that will be around every corner. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Automattic and Atlasssian will all be there to recruit —have your resumes ready!
6. Building apps without code by Tara Reed
If you're afraid about hopping into tech without a technical background, let Tara Reed's inspiring words motivate you to get back on track and not let anything stop you. Her lunch time session will be a hands on opportunity to take the leap of faith and build an app.
7. Start-up Survival: Building a Small Business from the Ground Up
This panel, brought to you by Ebay, will be moderated by Venture Capitalist, Chairman and cofounder of Cofound Harlem, John Henry; Andrea Harrison, owner and founder of It's In A Clutch; Odane Hanson of Second Life Mac and Emeka Anen, CEO of Throne. If you're in the business of startups, you need to be here.
8. Hack it 'Til You Make it: Acing Your Next Technical Interview
/Dev/ Color will help you prep for that interview that's been looming over your head. You got this, and this session will help.
9. The Blavity Team will be there.
Curious about how Blavity got started or the people behind the website? Well this is your chance! All of the four co-founders will be in attendance as well as more than 10 employees. Be sure to grab one of us and say hi!
10. Lightning talks
For a variety of chats with industry game-changers, you won't want to miss AfroTech's TEDx-style lightning talks. Catch Zim Ugochukwu, CEO of Travel Noire; Cedric Rogers, CEO of LookLive; Jason Mayden of Stanford d.school/Accel and Jessica O. Matthews of Uncharted Play, and get ready for some real conversations.
11. Do you like Soulection? Well...the after party will be brought to you by Toasted Life and features 3 celebrity DJs
And after all of the socializing, networking, business advice, startup expertise and overall great company, there's only one thing left to do — party. Join us at the official after party, hosted by the Bay-area gem Toasted Life.
So, what are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below! We'll see you there.
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Your DMs just got more interesting.
With the release of Apple's iOS 10.2 beta, iPhone and iPad users can rejoice in some bomb new features including updated wallpaper to keep that lock screen cute, facelifts for utilities like the Status Bar and Press and Hold to Speak feature, and yes, you guessed it: new emojis!
The recently refurbished ideograms will be revamped while also incorporating 72 highly requested designs to the mix. "The new art style is more bulbous with sharp details which are beautiful," says tech site Emojipedia. "While it's a shame to lose some of the hand crafted details of the original set, this new 3D-style set looks like a cohesive collection for the first time."
Here are a few that we anticipate being our favorites:
For all those "c'mon, son" moments.
Cue CeCe Peniston's "Finally."
Naysayers gon' naysay but this moment is magical.
Left and Right Fist Bump
For the culture.
For the emotionally unattached and the woke.
*insert overused Harambe joke here*
"Look up, Marlon, say cheese!"
Perfect for describing cuffing preseason.
Drums with Drumsticks
One word: homecoming
50% apathy, 50% trill
Check out Emojipedia for more sneak peeks of the update.
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Not everyone has the unique opportunity to see things from the perspective of an entrepreneur and an investor. But Mandela Schumacher-Hodge has experience in both worlds, giving her a well-rounded vision of the world of start-ups, business and entrepreneurship in a super authentic way.
She's currently the founding portfolio services director at Kapor Capital, a startup blogger, the founder of MandelaSH Videos, was featured in Forbes 30 Under 30, was in the Case Foundation Top 50 Inclusive Entrepreneurship Champions, is the author of three Top 20 Medium Posts, is a TEDx presenter, and has been a featured speaker on more than 55 stages (including events at Google, Facebook, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). Safe to say, she's been there, done that. And she's sharing some of her wisdom with us regarding transitioning into tech spaces, embedding diversity initiatives into the DNA of companies, the intersections of education with entrepreneurship and more.
Get to know Mandela further before she presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with her below:
Blavity: What were your career goals early in life? And how did you transition from a teacher to an entrepreneur in tech?
Mandela Schumacher-Hodge: Up until the age of 20, I was a full-time student-athlete. For the most part, I took general courses in school (with no speciality in any one area), and I spent the rest of my time perfecting my craft as an elite soccer player, at the time I was the co-captain of the NC State Women’s Soccer Team. It honestly wasn’t until I made the decision that I did not want to pursue a career as a professional soccer player that I really started to reflect more on what I did, in fact, want to spend my life doing. It was also during this time that my father unexpectedly passed away. That experience absolutely rocked my foundation and forever changed my perspective on life. More than ever, I recognized what a precious gift life is, and that it isn’t something to take for granted or waste. My father’s death broke my heart, but it also emboldened me to make the very most of my life, and to do it on my own terms.
Thinking back to that time in my life, I didn’t necessarily have a huge vision for my career, but I also didn’t let the opinions of others (“You’re crazy for walking away from a full scholarship” or “You should do this...or be that”) sway me. I was OK with not having everything all figured out and giving myself some time to find my way. One thing I did know for sure, though, was that I needed to be in a different place; an environment with more diversity of people and career opportunities. So I packed up all my stuff into one car and moved from North Carolina to Los Angeles (thanks mom for driving with me; I couldn’t have done it without you!). Once in LA, I took a semester off from college to work at a law firm. Then I transferred to Pepperdine University, and immediately studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which was my first time traveling outside the United States. I ended up graduating from Pepperdine with a Bachelors in Intercultural Communication and a minor in Spanish.
It was a few years later and I was now 23. I still wasn’t positive what I wanted to do for a career yet, but I had gained some valuable experiences that made me more clear about which paths would suit my interests. One of those interests was educating others, particularly those who come from underserved and underprivileged backgrounds. I had grown up in a household with two civil rights lawyers for parents, who were extremely dedicated to uplifting and empowering historically marginalized peoples and communities. I wanted to contribute to this mission and en route to investigating options to join the Peace Corps, I stumbled upon a program called Teach for America. It felt like the right fit for me at the time, and that’s how I began my career as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles. I went on to get a Masters from Loyola Marymount University in Education Administration & Policy, and was then admitted into a top six PhD program at UCLA, and my concentration was Urban Schooling.
As you can see from my past, it was never my intention to pursue a career in tech. In fact, I had never taken a technical, business, or entrepreneurship course prior to launching my first startup in 2011. My introduction to this thing called a “startup” was via an event called Startup Weekend Education, and it was there that I bumped into this even bigger thing called “entrepreneurship.” And I’ll tell you this much: It was love at first sight! I felt like I had finally found my tribe — people who are “crazy” enough to challenge the status quo, courageous enough to propose alternatives to the way things are currently being done, and dedicated enough to put in the very hard work it takes to bring those ideas to life. Since that event, I have continued to identify problems that I'm passionate about solving, and I've stayed true to my passion to take action to bring about change versus just theorizing about what could happen.
And as I’ve learned more, my career has blossomed, and my network has grown, I feel like it’s my duty to bring others with me. Success in my eyes is not determined by my individual ascent; rather, it's about all of us getting the opportunity to succeed.
B: What motivated you to focus on the intersections of education and entrepreneurship?
MS-H: Entrepreneurship is all about being brave. Being brave enough to push back on the way things are currently being done, being brave enough to pursue a vision most others can’t see, and being brave enough to believe that all your blood, sweat and tears will pay off.
Entrepreneurship is an incredibly inspiring act to me, and I want to teach more people how to be brave enough to pursue that route. To not just accept the world they were born into, but to question it, challenge it, and create solutions that make it better.
B: What do you love about startups and the startup environment?
MS-H: I love startups because I love making progress and making it quickly. Startups are all about building, testing and iterating. Over and over again in a startup you’re taking deliberate actions to see how different variables influence your ability to grow and make a profit. There are constant challenges (e.g. competition, new legislation, changing technology) you have to work with, so there’s never a dull moment, which is also something I appreciate. Operating in a startup keeps you on your toes and makes you uncomfortable. And being uncomfortable is the best way to grow.
B: Where do you turn for inspiration?
MS-H: My biggest inspiration is the calendar. Being reminded that I have a finite amount of time here, and that I can’t get out of this life alive; that’s honestly my biggest inspiration. Remembering that there’s an expiration date to my life helps me consistently be courageous and keep my own doubts and the opinions of others at bay. I recognize life’s too short to put off pursuing what I really want to do and who I really want to be.
B: What are your biggest motivators? What keeps you going through your busy days and your packed schedule?
MS-H: Aside from the calendar, other places I turn to for motivation and inspiration are other entrepreneurs and creatives. I am in awe of the way they think, the big vision they have, and how they’ve been able to bring their ideas to life. Seeing them succeed inspires me to succeed. And because one major pillar of how I define my success is linked to helping as many people as possible, I am willing to invest the hard work required to build an operation that scales.
B: What do you do to unwind? How do you make time for you — for self-care and mental health days — despite being so busy? Do you have any go-to activities, musical artists, movies, books, etc.
MS-H: My morning rituals are a must: Drink a glass of water, engage in at least 10 minutes of guided meditation (I use apps like Calm or Headspace), writing in my journal (what I’m grateful for and what my intention is for the day); running around Lake Merritt in Oakland (~3.5 miles), and drinking a homemade kale, spinach and fruit shake.
I’m engaged (yes ladies, he put a ring on it! lol), and having a great relationship with my partner is also a high priority item for me. In order to create the loving, adventurous relationship my fiancé and I want, we do a few things consistently: Greet each other every morning and night, engage in a daily conversation about each other's day, have what we call a “Life Meeting” once a week (to make progress on our joint goals), take turns planning a weekly date night, taking a quarterly trip (even if it’s just hiking for a weekend), and attending pre-marital counseling (a good foundation must be deliberately built).
Also, I love documentaries and getting immersed in biographical films or movies that raise my awareness about topics that I’m interested in.
Maintaining my mental, physical, and social-emotional well-being are all non-negotiables for me. I’ve seen what life is like when I don’t prioritize my health and happiness, and I refuse to revert back to that place. Every day, I make deliberate choices to be healthy and happy.
B: What has it been like to work for Kapor Capital, considering they helped fund Tioki, where your tech/entrepreneur career took off?
MS-H: It’s been a great experience working at Kapor Capital because it’s given me the opportunity to see how “the other side” operates. I’ve been an entrepreneur, and will continue to be one, but I haven’t been an investor yet, so it’s been a very educational experience for me to see how investors make decisions, how their success is defined, and the various stakeholders they’re responsible for maintaining relationships with.
I’ve definitely built more empathy for the investor’s perspective and have been able to utilize that empathy to build bridges of understanding with the founders. I’ve also been able to help the investors gain more insights into the mindset and experiences of the founders, and more efficiently and effectively service their needs. I’ve pioneered new processes, programming and resources that are intended to scale the support we’re able to provide our portfolio of 118 tech startups of varying sectors and sizes. It’s definitely challenging work, but work I find incredibly worthwhile and exciting.
B: What do you find most rewarding about helping to develop the portfolios of early-stage tech startups? What do you find the most challenging about it?
MS-H: As I mentioned earlier, I’m absolutely in love with entrepreneurship and the people who pursue that route. Entrepreneurs are the special people who are on the ground doing the really hard work to create the things that the rest of us get to enjoy. Think about you reading this article right now. It’s only possible because of all the technology that entrepreneurs built — the internet, website, a computer, tablet or phone. Technology has advanced our lives, and it’s showing no signs of slowing up. So from my perspective, as the Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital, it’s a privilege for me to be able to be work alongside these innovators when they’re just starting their business and trying to figure out how to find product market fit and scale their solutions. Getting to lend my time and talents to the achievement of that end is incredibly rewarding.
Another cool perk of the job is being able to see the future before anyone else. Every time a founder pitches an idea or shares their three-year roadmap, I get a glimpse into what the the future may look like. I get to peer inside the minds of visionaries and it’s a spectacular sight to see!
It’s been exactly one year since I joined Kapor Capital as its inaugural Portfolio Services Director. It’s been an amazing ride already and as I look back and reflect on these first 365 days, I feel most proud of working with Kapor Capital Partner and diversity and inclusion (D&I) expert Dr. Freada Kapor Klein to launch the Founders’ Commitment, the first ever VC-backed diversity pledge. Never before has an investment firm required that their founders prioritize diversity and inclusion the same way they prioritize growth and revenue, and after nearly nine months of working with 82 tech startups on their Commitment, our team has taught countless founders and diversity advocates how to bake D&I into the DNA of their companies and has inspired a slew of other diversity initiatives to launch. By no means done (and by no means easy), I'm optimistic that a shift is underway for tech to finally become the inclusive industry we all know it can and should be.
B: Who can be a successful entrepreneur? Do you find there to be certain personality types or traits that are most successful? What strategies do you use to help people to hone in on their success?
MS-H: Anyone can be a successful entrepreneur. The problem, though, is not everyone’s given the opportunity to be a successful entrepreneur. My colleague, Mitch Kapor oftentimes says “genius is evenly distributed across zip codes, but opportunity is not.” I love this quote, because it drives home the point that everyone — no matter their place of birth, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. — is intelligent and capable of achieving success. However, the issue is with access; access to opportunities that allow everyone to not only survive in life, but thrive and contribute their talents to the advancement of society.
2% is a powerful statistic in tech. 2% of all employees at major tech companies are black. And when it comes to the employment creators, less than 2% of all VC-backed startups are led by black founders. (Blavity’s own founder, Morgan DeBaun, is a part of this very small percentage.) There’s a clear underrepresentation of blacks in tech when you compare that 2% to the total population of blacks in the U.S., which stands at 12.6%. Simply put, it’s not a level playing field, and that’s really important to acknowledge. Because until you’re willing to acknowledge it, you can’t fix it.
Another problem I think is vital to call out is that fact that entrepreneurship is really, really hard. I’ve seen many people — from all different backgrounds — be given the opportunity to build a company, but the fact of the matter is, not everyone’s cut out for it. It truly is one of the hardest things you could ever pursue. So my advice to folks is that before you leave your life jacket at shore and take the plunge into entrepreneurship, really take some time to learn what the life of an early-stage founder is really like. I refer to becoming a founder as entering “Sacrifice Central,” and in this video I pull back the curtain and let you see behind the scenes of entrepreneurship. It’s not always as glamorous as it may seem.
And if you do decide to become an entrepreneur, start yourself off on the right foot by watching “4 Qualities That Make a Great Entrepreneur.”
B: What can we expect next from you?
MS-H: Every week, I publish a new video and article where I give people insights and advice on how to accelerate their success in both business and life. I just filmed an interview with Blavity founder and CEO, Morgan DeBaun, and you can sign up here to find out when it gets published. You can definitely expect more of this kind of support from me for entrepreneurs and anyone interested in advancing their life or career.
B: Anything else we should know?
MS-H: My Instagram Stories are poppin’ with daily inspiration, tidbits of wisdom, and tons of fun adventures. Follow me @MandelaSH to keep yourself on your A-game.
For more from Mandela Schumacher-Hodge and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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Ariel Belgrave is busy helping people take things to the next level. She's the programs director at /dev/color, a nonprofit startup working to advance the careers of black software engineers. /dev/color helps members network and gain knowledge and support that helps them to succeed in the industry.
Belgrave is also the Founder of Gym Hooky, a wellness brand that helps people to lead healthy lifestyles even with their busy schedules.
Before she started working at /dev/color, she spent more than 4 years at JPMorgan, where she developed and managed employee programs across 40+ countries, focusing on many different areas, including diversity, philanthropy and more.
We chatted about her daily routine, how she balances everything and how to transition from one career to another.
Get to know Ariel further before she presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with her below:
Blavity: As the programs director at /dev/color and the founder of Gym Hooky, what does a typical day in the life look like for you?
Ariel Belgrave: My day starts with the beeping of my alarm clock at 7:50 a.m. After hitting the snooze button for 10 minutes, I hop out of bed to start my day. My morning routine is pretty consistent on weekdays (to ensure I prioritize my self-care time!). From 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m., I exercise in my living room for 20-25 min, listen to a 10 min Christian meditation, shower and get dressed. By 9:00 a.m. I'm ready to chow down on a healthy breakfast meal. I typically meal prep on Sundays so I have quick meal options during the weekdays. I pack my lunch and am out the door by 9:40 a.m. My 15-minute walk to work is Gym Hooky time. I publish a post (healthy living tip, fitness advice, or a recipe) on social. I also use this time to engage with followers who’ve commented on past posts or have messaged me with questions. I am in the office by 10 a.m. and get settled at my desk. I look at my calendar for the week, check upcoming tasks, write a to-do list for the day and answer emails. When 11 a.m. hits, my founder, Makinde Adeagbo, and I head to a conference room to follow-up on any takeaways from prior meetings and discuss the status of what we are working on in order to set priorities for the week. We then connect with the /dev/color team at 11:30 a.m. to check in on the major projects each team member is assigned for that month. We go around the room and provide a status of each of our projects. If there are any projects that are a concern, we help the team member brainstorm solutions, offer help, etc. From noon to 6 p.m., my day consists of meetings, drafting plans for our 2017 programming, connecting with companies hosting our Q4 and 2017 events, chatting with members, etc. At 6:30 p.m. I head home. Around 7-8 p.m., my fiance, Quinnton, and I cook dinner, recount our day, catch up on our favorite TV shows and get our fix of social media humor. We switch gears around 9:15 p.m. to work on personal projects and catch up on our personal emails. More recently, our evenings have been spent brainstorming and pinning for our wedding in 2017. I am a night owl, so lights are typically out by 12 a.m.
Blavity: As /dev/color works with more engineers and continues to build and see success, what do you think has been the most impactful moment for you working with black software engineers? Any specific moments that made the hard work you’ve put in all make sense?
Ariel Belgrave: As a small team, we spend a lot of our time behind our laptops making the magic happen — building partnerships, planning events, managing our program initiatives and supporting our members. What I look forward to the most are our monthly events, where we are in the presence of our members. I am moved every time I am in a room filled with our talented and driven black software engineers. Why? Well, this is a sight that is rare to see in the SF Bay Area. Simply knowing that our team’s efforts create moments like these are a constant reminder that the hard work we have put in to build this community is necessary. Equally as important as seeing the members is hearing from them. Hearing that they’ve never have been in a room with THAT many black software engineers before. Hearing that being a part of /dev/color has brought meaningful change to the way they approach goal setting and career growth. Hearing that they are excited to hold one another accountable to achieve ambitious goals. And hearing that we have inspired them to help members of our community succeed.
Blavity: I read that you originally planned to be a doctor before pursuing your current career. How did you ultimately decide to make the change, and what advice would you have for someone who is afraid to take a leap in their career?
Ariel Belgrave: That is correct. I entered my first year at Boston College convinced that i wanted to be a doctor. I really enjoyed biology and learning about the human body. As an adolescent, I had romantic notions on the life of a doctor. The self-fulfillment and gratification that comes with being a healer appealed to me. I thought that this profession was filled with glory, prestige and honor. After my first semester in college, I had a change of heart. I was no longer passionate about pursuing a career in the medical field. I realized that my career decision was limited by what i knew of success to be — pursuing [a] profession that will make me money. I knew very little about aligning my career with my passion, my values and my interests. BC’s core classes and internships allowed me to explore the different disciplines and career options that I didn't know existed. By the end of my senior year, I knew that I belonged in the world of business.
When taking a leap of faith to pursue a passion or a more fulfilling career, it’s normal to have doubts and hesitations. Your mind immediately thinks about all the potential risks involved with stepping into the world of the unknown. I typically challenge folks to replace their fear of the unknown with a sense of desire for what’s to come — a desire for their passion. Take 5-10 minutes every day and visualize it. What does it look like? What does it feel like? Who is around you? When they can stay in that beautiful energetic state that is desire, they are more likely to cultivate their passion with ease!
Blavity: What was your experience breaking into the tech space? When did it happen and how did you make it work?
Ariel Belgrave: It was quite the journey, but I learned a ton during the process! Prior to /dev/color, I worked on Wall Street as the Global Head of People & Communications in the Finance sector. After 4.5 years, I was ready for a change. I longed to be in an environment where I was challenged to think outside the box, encouraged to build, and pushed to take risks. The tech industry was an environment that sparked my interest. I was amazed at the amount of creative energy bouncing around. I was inspired by the innovative solutions created by founders making an imprint in the tech industry.
However, I needed to figure out what I wanted to do next and how I was going to successfully seize the next opportunity. I started attending local meetups and events to build a presence in the tech industry and meet people who had similar career paths. I researched non-technical roles to understand which ones best aligned with my work experience and skill sets. I lived lean to prepare for a potential pay cut. I asked myself key questions to ensure that my desire to leave the industry was a phase.
After a six month job search, I officially took the leap from Wall Street in February of this year, moved from New York to California, and began my journey as /dev/color’s first employee. It is a blessing to be a part of the efforts to move the needle in tech diversity! I recently published a blog post recounting my leap from Wall Street to join a tech startup in Silicon Valley. I share raw details about why I left Wall Street and how I officially transitioned. I hope for it to be a source of inspiration for readers in a career rut!
Blavity: With Gym Hooky you help women incorporate healthy habits into their already hectic lives. This is a feat that many people feel is impossible, so what advice do you have for someone who wants to incorporate more time taking care of themselves and their health but feels like they already have a jam-packed schedule?
Ariel Belgrave: Absolutely — sharing this type of advice is my forte! I know this challenge all too well. There are many ways that women can live a healthy, active lifestyle with a packed schedule. One bit of advice that I will give today is to:
Sneak exercise into your daily routine. Exercise is a key contributor to health and happiness. Moving more can lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more. The good things is women can incorporate fitness into their life without having to change their routine. Here are a few adjustments they can make to their everyday lifestyle that will double as exercise:
Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators
Walk or jog instead of driving shorter distances
If you have kids, run around and play with them rather than just watching
Walk around the airport during your layover as opposed to just sitting
Ditch the conference rooms and have a walking meeting with your coworker
Squeeze in some sit ups or lunges in while watching T.V. (or during commercials if you can’t be distracted during your favorite show)
Blavity: What’s on the horizon with /dev/color? How about Gym Hooky? What can readers hope to see soon?
We are making exciting moves at /dev/color! We recently hosted our first conference for black software engineers, /dev/color in Motion. It was a full day of learning, sharing, and connecting with peers and leaders shaking up the tech industry. During the conference we announced our seven corporate sponsors, including Uber, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google. With this support, /dev/color will be expanding our A* Program to New York and inviting industry leaders to be members via our Boost Program. We are ecstatic about our 2017 plans for engineers and industry leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York. If you are a black software engineer in the industry, I encourage you to apply! Applications for our 2017 program will be open from October 13th - November 16th.
As far as Gym Hooky goes — I am excited to share that I am working on my first e-book Gym Hooky’s Beginner Guide to Home Workouts! As many subscribers know, I haven’t been to the gym in over 3 years, as I work out in the comfort of my own home. The flexibility of home workouts have allowed me to be in the best shape of my life! In my ebook I will be sharing all one needs to know about building their home gym and well as various exercises and workouts they can do at home. The ebook will be released in January 2017 (sign up on my website to get notified!)
For more from Ariel Belgrave and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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If you're looking for an expert opinion on how to work at a startup and gain success as an entrepreneur in general, look no further than Everette Taylor. Taylor's an entrepreneur, a public speaker and a marketing expert. He's currently serving as the CMO of Skurt, an on-demand car mobility service. But he has a ton of experience starting his own companies and helping to bring success to everything he touches.
Check out our convo below to see his opinions on the marketing landscape, what sets millennials apart and what pushed him to start his first company.
Get to know Everette further before he presents at AfroTech this November, and read our interview with him below:
Blavity: When did you decide that entrepreneurship was for you? Was that always the kind of career you were interested in? Or did you realize it slowly?
Everette Taylor: It was definitely a journey for me, but I started fairly young. When I was in the 3rd grade, I started going to the corner store to buy gum and then resell each piece to my classmates at a premium. As I got older, I found any way to hustle and make money on my own whether it was cutting lawns or selling CDs.
Fast forward to my sophomore year of college, I had to drop out to help my family. As I was searching for jobs via LinkedIn, I noticed that I barely was getting any responses or interviews despite having 5 years of working experience at the time. I had this hunch, so I decided to do an A/B test.
I created a fake LinkedIn with an identical resume except I changed my name and put a photo of a slightly older white male. I reapplied to 10 job openings in which I did not receive a response and was contacted by 7 of them. The anger and frustration from that pushed me into just starting my first company and fully embracing entrepreneurism.
B: What qualities do you think one needs to thrive as an entrepreneur in a startup environment?
ET: A strong relentless mindset — startups aren’t as glamorous as people make it seem. A lot of ups and downs and constantly going through a range of emotions. It takes someone who will keep pushing through and can deal with adversity. A lot of long days and nights, a lot of sacrifices have to be made.
Emotional intelligence and the ability to delegate tasks is crucial. EQ helps you manage people well and bring out the best in them, but also helps when understanding consumer psychology. As an entrepreneur, you have to recognize that you can’t do everything and you’re not the best at everything. Smart delegation can help you survive the rigors and workload of startups.
Lastly, have to be able to take a scientific approach to things and be data-driven. Money is a tight and you have to be lean as a startup entrepreneur. You have to be smart about how you spend your time and money, the clock is constantly ticking. Taking an experimental and data-driven approach helps you accomplish this.
B: What do you know now that you wish you would have in the beginning of your career?
ET: The importance of learning how to code, I’m still kicking myself to this day — I didn’t take it seriously. It empowers you to be much more independent as a startup founder or someone who works in startups. If you’re reading this right now, go learn how to code now. Trust me.
B: How did you get involved with Skurt? What excites you most about this endeavor in particular?
ET: I had been watching Skurt for sometime, I met the founders last year and they struck me as eager and passionate about what they were doing. When we reconnected this year, I saw so much growth not only in the young founders, but the company itself.
What really sold me on the company was the mission to one day provide affordable access to mobility to everyone. Coming from Southside Richmond, I saw plenty of people without the means to be able to get around or people whose whole lives consisted of a few block radius.
Not only is the mission something I’m passionate about, but also the product. It’s absolutely amazing and I do believe at scale will change the world. I already see us changing people’s lives on a day-to-day.
I’ve started a few companies and worked at several startups, none of them had anywhere near the potential that Skurt has.
B: With the current digital landscape, how do you see marketing as a whole evolving? What do brands need to do to stay ahead of the curve?
ET: “Listen to the kids brooooo” - Kanye West
All jokes aside, really listen. Millennials and the younger generation are a completely different type of consumer than the older generation. Being hyper-aware of pop culture and changing trends is essential.
Creativity will always be key when it comes to marketing, but gone are the days when you can just rely on branding and marketing campaigns that aren’t data-driven. Having structure in marketing and growth is necessary now, and making sure that what you’re doing on the marketing is are pushing your KPIs (key performance indicators).
I believe a mix of strong data-driven marketing, putting an emphasis on customer success, staying culturally aware and embracing new platforms will be the keys to success.
B: What sets millennials apart when it comes to marketing to them and for them?
ET: First and foremost, optimizing your marketing and website for the mobile experience and having a strong genuine presence on social media. Millennials spend an insane amount of time on their phones, almost 90 percent of them use the internet on their phones every day and over 50 percent use social media to make spending decisions.
Attention spans for millennials are short and trends change at an instance, being well versed with tools like Google Trends and studying social media, viral content and influencers can help you stay relevant with millennial consumers.
Customer success has to be a strong initiative in marketing and making sure customer support is easily accessible on the web. Millennials, more than ever, are focusing on the sustainability and social aspects of the products they’re using.
Lastly, you just have to keep it real. Stay authentic and consistent with your branding. Millennials want transparency and to feel that they can trust your brand, not just the cheapest price.
B: What’s your biggest motivator? You’ve worked on so many incredible projects, and I’m sure your schedule and workload are jam-packed. What keeps you pushing through?
ET: I simply want to be the best at what I do. Earlier in my career, I was super motivated to prove certain people wrong and make enough money to support myself and family. Now what pushes me is the desire to be the best at what I do and use that as a platform to change the world around me.
I have major goals and a lot I want to accomplish in life. I know my time on this earth is so short, I want to make the biggest impact I can and leave a strong legacy.
People ask me how do I work such long hours and not drink coffee? (haha) I’m genuinely passionate about what I do and my future dreams.
B: Along with that, how do you unwind? What do you do to be sure you’re taking care of yourself on a daily or weekly basis?
ET: Meditation first thing in the morning, clearing my head and getting myself ready for the day. Startups are a rigorous grind, mental and emotional health are extremely important.
To unwind is as simple as getting home, putting my work down, throwing the newest Soulection mix on and vibing out. I also love spending time with the people I love, doesn’t matter what we do or where I’m at — as long as I’m with genuine people.
Also, I recently made the commitment to eating healthier, sleeping more and just living a healthier lifestyle, already feel a difference on a day-to-day.
B: What's up next for Everette Taylor and your current endeavors?
ET: Really excited for the future here at Skurt and how the product will evolve as time goes along. Also excited for all the expansion we have planned. We just launched our 4th city, Miami, and very bullish on our plans to expand to new cities and grow. That’s really my main focus at the moment, making Skurt live up to its full potential.
Also want to continue to build a diverse team and build a great culture at Skurt. I see where a lot of startups and other tech companies have failed miserably at this, I don’t want this to be the case at all at Skurt.
B: Anything else we should know?
ET: A lot of black creatives and entrepreneurs I know don’t have a car or access to affordable transportation to run errands or make longer distance trips.
So if you’re in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Miami or reading this in the future when we are in other cities, use code “BLAVITY” to use Skurt and get a free car for the day.
[Of course I had to plug Skurt, I’m a marketer at the end of the day (smiles).]
For more from Everette Taylor and other game-changers, get your tickets to AfroTech! We'll see you there.
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The iPhone 7 is out, and I've scrolled through my timeline to see friends post their new shiny gadgets almost everyday this week. But my phone, outdated and plated a gold that has now dulled, proceeds to go through the beginning stages of malfunction. It's inevitable. Only two out of the five chargers I have actually work, while the other three are now some foreign accessory incompatible with my computer all of a sudden. There's the occasional blackout and erratic app behavior, but this is just a part of the transition all of us go through when the new and improved version of the iPhone is released.
While I, like most, patiently wait for my free upgrade (luckily mine is in October), I realized I'll be spending just as much, if not more, on iPhone 7 accessories. Seriously, how could a free upgrade still run you $700?
This is how:
Air Pods ($159)
iPhone 7 Smart Battery Case ($99)
Apple Watch ($549)
Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar™ ($99)
iPhone 7 Alpha Glass Screen Protector ($39)
Native Union TAG Cable ($49)
Kate Spade NY Pop Fizz Clink Rose Gold Glitter Case ($49)
Naked Tough Iridescent Case ($35)
Joey GripTight PRO GorillaPod Stand for Smartphones ($59)
Clearly these things add up quickly. Which iPhone accessories help you maximize your favorite gadget? Let us know in the comments below!
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Fresh out of Y Combinator, Looklive.com — a shoppable lifestyle and celebrity commerce website — launches its cutting-edge new app of the same name. Looklive allows users to browse, stay up on and purchase the latest celebrity trends and fashion looks.
Everything from influencers’ everyday streetwear to celebrities’ red carpet looks, Looklive lets you buy the exact items you see on your favorite fashion icons. Or even better, a similar item at bargain prices. From the jeans Kanye wore to lunch today and the gown worn by Claire Underwood in last night’s episode of House of Cards to the leather jacket entrepreneur Jack Dorsey wore to Allen & Co.’s Sun Valley Conference (it was Rick Owens by the way), Looklive has it all.
Looklive is coming out of a 3-month entrepreneurial bootcamp at Y Combinator (described by Fortune as "a spawning ground for emerging tech giants”) with tremendous momentum and a brand new media partner. Complex Media Group, the global youth media brand recently acquired by Verizon and Hearst is partnering with Looklive to create a premiere, shoppable content channel on the new app. Looklive will also be a major contributor and participant in Complex Media’s upcoming Complex Con Pop-Culture Conference in Long Beach, CA.
“After 15 years building fashion e-commerce companies, I saw it was time for a new approach”, said Co-founder, Greg Selkoe. “Looklive makes it easy to look great without being a fashion expert. It is like having the same fashion stylist as your favorite celebrity.”
How it works: Open the Looklive app and follow your favorite celebrities, influencers and fashion icons. Then the proprietary image analysis software and editorial team scour the internet to bring you different looks from your celebrity roster, giving you the option to buy exactly what they're wearing or a similar item at a more affordable price, directly from within the app.
“There has been a lack of innovation in fashion and I’m excited to introduce a new shopping experience, especially for men,” said Cedric Rogers, CEO of Looklive. “We are combining the power of celebrity influence with modern technology, taking traditional shopping to a new level.”
Today’s traditional shopping experience is backwards. Department stores give you a long list of brands with unlimited choice and no context, which can be overwhelming and a chore. Men spend $70 billion a year on clothing but many report that they still struggle with how to dress or with what is current and trendy. Looklive curates the best clothing looks for users everyday straight off the backs of the most stylish and aspirational fashion and cultural influencers and icons on the planet. It's like having your own fashion stylist, better yet its like having your own celebrity stylist.
The founders of Looklive have had success in both fashion and technology. Greg Selkoe was founder of KarmaLoop, a leading men’s e-commerce company that grew to $150 million in annual sales. Allen and Kyle Onyia, Looklive’s Directors of Fashion and Lifestyle, are founders of UpscaleHype, a popular high-end lifestyle online magazine that focuses on what celebrities wear. Cedric J. Rogers is a 10-year Apple veteran and Dr. Paul Judge, Co-Founder, has been co-founder and executive at several successful technology companies including Barracuda, Pindrop and Luma.
Looklive.com includes hundreds of celebrities and tens of thousands of products. including exclusive products and behind-the-scenes content from influencers such as EDM stars, The Chainsmokers; designer, Jerry Lorenzo; pro football player, Julian Edelman; hip-hop artist, A$AP Ferg; designer, Jeff Staple and Grammy Award winner, Ryan Leslie, to name a few. Looklive.com currently has more than half a million monthly users and the app is currently available in Apple’s App store and on the web at Looklive.com.
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Kobe Bryant just entered retirement, but he's already busy launching a $100 million venture capital fund. Bryant partnered with Jeff Stibel to launch Bryant Stibel. They plan to invest in tech, media and data companies.
Both bring different skills to the table — Stibel is known as a brain scientist who has served as CEO of web.com and has founded numerous other tech and marketing companies. Bryant brings his creative genius (he designed the Bryant Stibel logo) and his expertise in marketing. The former Laker has spent lots of time becoming familiar with the tech scene to be sure it's something he's passionate about.
This isn't the first time the pair have worked together. They've invested in 15 businesses together since 2013. Some of their past investments include sports media site The Players' Tribune, juicing company, Juicero, and game designer, Scopely. Bryant Stibel isn't currently seeking outside funds.
But Bryant isn't the first basketball player to take this route. Carmelo Anthony started an early-stage investment fund, Melo7 Tech Partners, and Shaquille O'Neal has invested in tech and media companies over the years.
Looks like these athletes understand there's a life after the game, and it's definitely one worth investing in.
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Lupe Fiasco's Neighborhood Start Fund brings fresh opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. The organization co-founded by the Chicago native rapper and Google executive, Di-Ann Eisnor aims to spotlight innovators with diverse ideas. In what's described as a "neighborhood-specific fund", communities that lack access to Silicon Valley resources are provided with mentors, workshops, funding and more.
Neighborhood development and revitalization drive the program's foundation with a goal of generating more startups in overlooked communities. The profits are then reinvested into the same neighborhoods to produce a hyper-local economic impact.
"We're looking for very big good ideas. We want companies that can generate at least $100 million," Eisnor told The Chicago Tribune. "We want to create a real change, and to do that, we need some super-successful companies."
Since the October 2015 launch in Brownsville, Brooklyn the Neighborhood Start Fund has expanded to 9 neighborhoods.
Those areas include:
Englewood, Chicago, IL
Overtown, Miami, FL
South Central, LA, CA
East NY, Brooklyn, NY
Jamaica, Queens, New York
Lawndale, Chicago, IL
Roxbury, Boston, MA
Anacostia, Washington, DC
Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY
Here's a look at the first meetup in SoCal earlier this summer.
Neighborhood Start Fund seeks to support a wide array of ideas. Click here to pitch your idea. The deadline for entries is September 2nd.
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You've probably read some great think pieces circulating the interwebs about the lack of diversity in tech, but I've been the only black woman and/or black person on several tech product teams. So sit back, relax, and prepare to shake your head several times at what a day in the life was like for me.
I speed walk to the office to make it as fashionably late as possible to our 9 a.m. product meeting. Train delays are nothing new, and everyone gets stuck on a late train at some point... but I grip my coffee cup a little tighter when I imagine my teammates thinking it’s just me being on CP time.
“OMG Valerie, did you get new highlights?! They look so good!” Andrew shouts across our open floor layout office. I focus my gaze to see if I can detect any tonal difference.
But her hair still looks blonde to me.
The developers have cut my designs in half — again. This is a common design problem, and designers are expected to firmly defend our work on a daily basis (then nurse the stress of said daily defense at various evening happy hours where, if you forget to rotate your venues, bartenders will start to recognize you). But before I open my mouth, my words are taken hostage by memories from an old boss telling me, “Everyone needs to be an jerk... but you cannot be a jerk,” in reference to my blackness, womanhood or black womanhood. So I grit my teeth, smooth down my edges, and let out a resolved, “I’m looking forward to the upcoming improvements!”
I introduce myself to the new black woman working in accounts payable. Black people rarely work in product, so I’ve learned to reach out to black people in other departments. I hope to emit “I’m so glad you and your blackness are here!” through my handshake and the look of desperation in my eyes. I stop myself just short of “I’ll cornrow your hair for free if you sit on the product side of the office!”
We’re waiting for the Apple TV to display our presentation when one of the guys from sales starts talking about his weekend and how tan he got. Someone gently chastises him about foregoing sunscreen, and I second their notion, adding that it’s super important to wear sunscreen when you’re outside for an elongated amount of time. He laughs and raises his hand in a mock “guilty as charged” shakes his head in agreement, then says to me, “But really, I mean, come on, you don’t have to worry about sunscreen, right?!”
We make lunch plans. Experience has taught me not to reveal my “guy’s girl” personality on an all-male, all-non-black product team because teammates quickly abuse that privilege by inevitably saying something racist, sexist or both. Although most days I prefer to spend lunch unwinding alone, today I could really use some company.
Everything’s going well and no one has croaked while eating their Chipotle bow. But then we start talking about our parents. I mention that my dad’s a CPA and that my sister is a Fulbright Scholar. It’s as if I’ve told them I have an extra set of eyeballs on the soles of my feet.
Our product team is conducting training sessions for the new features and functionality we just rolled out. The product managers are usually uptight with me, but I notice they are jovial and maybe even a tad flirtatious now that they’re surrounded by the young white women from other departments. Most days, I chock it up to a double-standard that I’d rather not be a part of, but today it stings.
I meet with my manager to review my work. I’m excited to present it because I skipped a night of Netflix 'n’ Chill to get it done. “These look great,” he begins, “I’m glad the team lead is helping you so much.”
The network is down so everyone is surfing the net to relish this rare occasion to take a break. Someone brings up Beyoncé’s Lemonade and how flawless an album it is. Silence.
Deafening silence from a group of people who have been known to talk about indie bands and Kanye for hours at a time.
“Did you do something different with your hair?” Yes, I did. It’s called I took my braids out. Well- versed in white ignorance about black hair, I cheerfully explain that I like to try new styles with my hair. Instead of that being followed with a, “Well it looks nice!” like this person did just a few hours ago to Valerie with her new cut, our conversation is punctuated with a toothless smile.
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The day I walked out of my corporate gig, I wasn't thinking about the money I'd be losing. I was way past that. I wasn't thinking about the work friendships that might fade, and I wasn't even thinking about how the team that chronically failed to appreciate my hard work would get a rude awakening soon. My eyes, focus and stride were all forward. I was happy.
My type-A, over-calculating-every-risk self was taking a leap, a huge risk, and in some people's eyes, making a mistake. They couldn't see what I was seeing. I was reaching out and touching my purpose. I was racing full speed toward my dreams. Although Shonda Rhimes profoundly said in her Dartmouth commencement speech, "Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer," all I could think was it was the dream that had been a catalyst to my action. It was the passion for the dream that turned me into a doer. The passion for dream said I didn't have to settle for this corporate gig. The dream told me that if I became a doer as well, it might just come true.
It's not as though I wasn't already a doer — I was just a doer for someone else's dream full-time and a doer for my dream part-time. I would work 40+ hours in tech, making good money (but having no passion for what I was doing), and as soon as I clocked out, I would work on writing, recording, business strategy, branding, etc. I managed to publish a book and release an album while working this full-time job, and though the money made it easier to produce the physical product, it didn't allow me the time to really polish the product and strategize around the overall brand and plan for my business. Opportunities were missed. I was a doer, I just wasn't doing enough for me.
So, I quit.
Okay, I didn't just wake up one day and say, "Forget this." What I actually thought was, "How do I get out of this? How do I reach my next level?" Education was my way out, forward and up. I applied to my dream school and got rejected. Talk about a wrench in the plan! One part of Shonda's speech where we agree is when she daid, "You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open..." So, I worked hard for a year, applied for more creative jobs at the corporate gig to no avail, and then reapplied to my dream school.
I was accepted.
The welcome packet listed the cost of tuition as a few thousand dollars more per year than I was making at my "well paying" corporate gig, but I didn't flinch. I was being a dreamer and a doer, following my passion and purpose over the pursuit of money, and that tuition would be paid come fall. Through hard work, family assistance, crowdfunding, loans and a corporate giving scholarship, I was able to pay my tuition for the first year.
Yes, it took all of that, and then the corporate checks stopped. I was on an extremely limited budget, living in a very small space across the country from all of my friends and family. Comfort was the sacrifice I was making to become a full-time doer in pursuit of my dream. That daily cup of Starbucks was gone, popping my head into my mom's room to bug her was gone, weekend brunch on the lake with friends was gone, and I felt as though I was standing on the edge of a cliff. I was close to broke and in a strange place, but the air had never felt so clean.
Returning home for summer, the frequent comments were that I looked younger and happier, and I was. The security and comfort of a corporate job had allowed me to attach myself to titles I had grown up thinking I should aspire to attain. Relinquishing that to think bigger allowed me to open up to goals, aspirations, lessons and even people I'd never considered a part of my life journey.
I'm not going to tell you that I never had any doubt, any fear, or that I was never lonely.
That would be a lie. I will tell you that the bigger truth and the more important one to me is that I have no regrets about my decision. I walked out of that job, and I haven't looked back. When you find your purpose and make the decision that it's worth pursuing, that passion is like the most beautiful sunrise. You can't take your eyes off of it. You're trying to take a million photos of it, but its colors keep getting brighter, clearer and more magnificent. Finally, you give up and just enjoy the experience because you know that tomorrow, if you keep moving forward, the sun will rise again.
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When Deray was arrested this past week, he was wearing one of Twitter's new 'Stay Woke' shirts that the company has branded under their diversity group called "Blackbirds." This isn't the first of the many recent messages from corporations addressing the rising tensions around police brutality and its consequences.
Pandora recently posted this photo to its Instagram/Twitter accounts (and promptly received backlash):
Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, took a less straightforward approach, tweeting a picture of the Salesforce lobby:
Beautiful job by @zissimos and @pink94109 at @salesforce HQ lobby video screens today! pic.twitter.com/dhjHpP0oqe
— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) July 11, 2016
Even Facebook put up a huge Black Lives Matter banner at its headquarters:
But I wonder if these statements are enough to forge an alliance with communities disproportionately affected by police violence, or if they just take advantage of a few news cycles, trending topics and simmering tensions.
Diversity in Corporate America (especially the technology sector) has been a hot topic and source of contention for a while now. Many companies choose to steer the diversity conversation toward gender, focusing on hiring more women, equal pay for women, and women in leadership positions. The conversation is also frequently steered toward global diversity, meaning that hiring from other countries should equate to diversity. Addressing ethnicity, and frankly the lack of black people working in the tech sector in Corporate America, has been constantly avoided.
To be fair, some companies have a history of addressing the rights of groups being unfairly targeted. I'm curious about the conversations that have happened internally before these images and messages come out. The following tweet suggests that Twitter sold/will be selling their shirts:
Only 6️⃣ days left to purchase your #StayWoke shirt! https://t.co/YuIdmA6nPk pic.twitter.com/vPVqc8ljCl
— Blackbirds (@blackbirds) April 17, 2016
And giving net proceeds to a good cause:
We're excited to announce that we're donating our net proceeds from our #StayWoke shirts to @CCFlintOwosso's Flint water recovery effort.
— Blackbirds (@blackbirds) May 13, 2016
We are SO thankful to the @blackbirds for supporting us through the sales of their #staywoke shirts! They are making a difference in #Flint!
— CCFlintandOwosso (@CCFlintOwosso) May 13, 2016
Which is a great example of doing more than just saying you support us. Corporate America: Your hearts might ache, you might say you stand with us and that you're woke, but are you truly pushing a culture of alliance in your companies? It's important to be sure there's something deeper here than just messaging. We're watching. We're listening. And we're not here for the fake woke.
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