Will Black Entrepreneurs Be Apart of the Detroit Startup Renaissance?


I read an interesting article in TechCrunch last week about the Detroit Startup Renaissance  and being a Detroiter it was exciting seeing my city mentioned. After reading the article I left feeling more challenged then excited. I was left with an empty feeling and this thought. Will Black Entrepreneurs be apart of the Detroit Startup Renaissance?

My question is not focused at any person or organization because this is a systemic issue that exists in the startup community nationwide. This blog post is not written to the key stakeholders (VCs, Angel Investors, etc.) but to the black entrepreneurship community, the same community that I am apart of! The reality is, if we don’t insert ourselves in the startup movement we will be left behind and it will be almost impossible to catch up. The numbers don’t lie, only 1% of VC (Venture Capital) backed startups are founded by black founders.

To provide some context of how important the startup space is to the economy let’s start with the earning potential of the average person. With a High School diploma a person can expect to earn $1.2M in their lifetime according to the national government. There are 20-somethings that are launching startups and raising a $1M dollars. Hey, don’t wait for the call because it isn’t coming! There are opportunities but we have to work hard for any shot at being apart of the startup movement. Let’s not be left behind!

For inspiration on the Tech Startup Movement for Black Entrepreneurs checkout CNN’s Black In America 4 on 11/13/11. Here is a link to the trailer.

  • http://twitter.com/Freaky_J_BK Freaky J

    Black culture (so to speak) dominates so much of America that I believe there is a genuine ‘organized effort to exclude us from startup opportunities. The biggest sports stars in the most popular sports are not white. Generation X is really generation Hiphop. So paychecks from sports are gone, paychecks from music are gone, more black CEOs and executives. They are fiercely protecting the startup market. Its the last frontier where the average white boy can get rich.

    Backlash that is similar to the Tea party movement that blames blacks
    for the erosion of their ‘white privilege’  when in fact its THEIR
    leaders that send the jobs overseas. The competition for jobs and money
    has gone global.

  • http://www.ourblackbox.com Georgianna

    I’m not sure about that assumption Freaky J, but I do know that the culture around startups and computer science in general is probably one of the biggest barriers to encouraging and creating more black founders. Of course, not all Black people are the same but in a lot of ways, Black culture and specifically hip-hop is all about ‘cool’ whereas computer science is intrinsically nerdy. I think this is pretty obvious.

    Until we change the stigma that it is cool to be smart, you won’t see more Blacks in school period let alone an engineering classroom. As for those who do study computer-related occupations, our communities face a severe brain drain as our brightest minds are lured and sedated into high-paying IT positions. What incentives are there for our computer cognoscenti to assume the risk of entrepreneurship when they’ve been striving for that “good job” prolly making more than their parents? 80K straight out of school is enough to make any mildly-ambitious negro just sit back DOWN when it comes to risking it all to go on your own.

    Lastly, I’ve been a web developer for over 7 years and I still haven’t studied every language and development platform out there. The technical skill to build a high-growth web application is an intensive learning experience that requires some kind of road map or glimmer of light down the rabbit hole from those who have gone before. We need to do more to open up that black box and show the gears, show the way for those who might be interested, but “don’t know what they don’t know”…


  • http://twitter.com/Freaky_J_BK Freaky J

    Very true.. good points. Like any issue, there are always multiple sides and multiple solutions.
    One other point I have to add is that no other generation has consumed technology the way the hiphop generation does.
    Hopefully that will help to make it ‘cooler’.

    Even still we may be excluded from the revolution & opportunities that are going on.

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