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

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There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the lack of diversity in tech communities. Whether it is within the Silicon Valley workforce, venture capitalist circles, or among founders of tech startups, blacks are having a hard time penetrating the world of innovation, which is run almost entirely by white and Asian men.

[RELATED: Lack of Diversity in Tech Takes Center Stage This Summer]

BlackEnterprise.com spoke with Jon Gosier and Shelton Mercer III, two young African American men who have both achieved significant influence and success on their own but decided to come together to start PredPop, a new company that specializes in using data and analytics to find new paths to monetization for the music industry. Both men are serial entrepreneurs who, by all standards, have achieved far more than most African American tech founders. Nevertheless, their journeys have not been without instances of discrimination. Gosier and Mercer opened up and candidly shared some examples of how nuanced racism has challenged their success.

Jon Gosier

Jon Gosier
The challenge in the tech industry is that you’re not going to walk into a venture capitalist office and see a confederate flag. They are not going to kick you out as soon as you walk in. But the moment you walk in a room, for whatever reason, everyone gets uncomfortable. And you become uncomfortable because they are uncomfortable. They are uncomfortable because they don’t come across people who look like you very often. It can just be awkward.

I’ve had a lot of these scenarios and I can’t say for certain that they were all because of race – it could be all sorts of other things. But when it’s happening from East Coast to West Coast, and the conflict is you, and you know they are meeting entrepreneurs all day, every day and the one thing different about you is skin, what else could it be?

It has never stopped me from doing anything but it does make it harder. For example, with my last company, Metalayer–we had customers; we had revenue; we had Comcast as an investor; we had gone through DreamIt Ventures, one of the world’s best accelerators; and we still were unable to raise venture capital. We were solving a big problem in how to make it easier to manage big data at a time when data was the biggest thing to be doing in tech, and we were unable to raise capital. We got a fair shot from some VCs (venture capitalists) but there were definitely a couple of rooms where racism existed.

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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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