(Part 2) Veteran Tech CEOs Tell Stories of Bias in Silicon Valley
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Eric Kelly
CEO, Sphere 3D, a native application virtualization platform

How often are you invited to speak at large international tech events?
Not very often. African Americans are often overlooked for these kinds of opportunities, and that even includes those of us who are CEOs and members of boards of directors. When only 2% of the technology workforce is African American, and only a handful of those at the executive level, it makes it very difficult to have adequate representation without making it a strategic initiative. Only when organizations decide that diversity is an integral part of their corporate strategy will they ensure that their panels have the proper representation.

Don Charlton
Founder/CEO, Jazz, recruiting and performance software

What is the fundamental problem with Silicon Valley?
I have not experienced racism but I have experienced absolute, pure ignorance. People are using a polarizing word like racism to describe a very human problem. The human problem is ignorance not racism. There isn’t a grand conspiracy by Silicon Valley VCs (venture capitalists) to not invest in minorities.

But there is an ingrained, unfair analysis of success in Silicon Valley. There is a pattern that is naturally occurring in SV. [White tech company] Box, the file sharing and storing platform, has lost more money in one year of operation than all of the money black founders have raised combined. People always try to profile and point to the success of white tech founders [for their pattern matching]. They don’t talk about the wasteland of white guys who have spent billions of dollars in venture capital only to fail.

The challenge that African Americans have in tech is fighting the notion that their successes and failures are, at best, demographic and, at worst, genetic. For white males and Asians who raise money, it is all about them being individuals. This pattern matching notion in Silicon Valley is fundamentally flawed and it’s actually a self-fulfilling prophesy–this belief that only a sliver of people are able to build a successful company.

One of the mottos in the Valley is “fail fast and fail often.” How many minority-led African American startups have been able to spend $50 million in order to try to figure out an idea? A kid in college raised $40 million–twice as much as I’ve raised–for a company called Clinkle. From everything you read about the company, it is not doing great. You are asking blacks and minorities to be much more efficient in finding the next big thing than other groups of people.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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