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PANN Is an App That Crowdsources Black News

There is tons of content around the web surrounding black news but what we haven’t seen is an entirely crowdsourced platform.

Darren Harris, a serial entrepreneur and Wall Street professional with over 10 years of experience in investment banking and sales and trading, and business partner Quincy Ewell, a seasoned business attorney who is admitted to practice in California, New York, and Washington, D.C., are the co-founders of PANN, a premier video sharing app that enhances the capabilities of crowdsourced news shared in black communities.

Black Enterprise caught up with the two and we got the inside scoop on why they founded PANN, what makes it different from other black media outlets, and how they see it changing the landscape of the way black news is being delivered.

What is PANN’s major function?

PANN’s basic function is to provide a voice during breaking news events and celebrate black culture, community events, and spread awareness. However, PANN offers a technology not available elsewhere—it alerts users of local breaking news events in the black community, allows users to share video content in a seamless manner, improving the quality of citizen journalists’ content.

Why did you start PANN?

PANN was born out of our passion to portray black people, culture, and news in a way that’s not being covered in mainstream media. The misrepresentation and media bias continues to proliferate inaccurate stereotypes and undermines civil rights causes and the general worldview of the Pan-African community. To combat this issue, we developed PANN, which decentralizes news in an innovative way.

Over the last year, Quincy and I have threaded together our collective experiences, interests, and influences. My father, Reggie Harris, was a big part of our desire to create a dedicated platform [for] black news and interests.

He was an Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and was part of the first all-black team to anchor a newscast in New York. From him, we not only learned the importance of trailblazing, but the significant role media plays in uplifting, unifying, and informing all communities.

However, media bias limits that ability and there needs to be black ownership in media. By utilizing technology, it has allowed us to be inclusive of all voices, cultural moments, events, and news with one of the first crowd-sourced black news networks.

How is PANN different from the other news media platforms based on black content?

The main differences are that the content is crowdsourced and PANN’s unique technology. Users create profiles, upload stories and collaborate, which improves the quality of citizen journalists while bringing the community together. PANN offers unique technology not available elsewhere—it alerts users, through push notifications, about breaking news in the black community and we allow users to share tips with PANN so we can guide other users to cover the submitted topic. The internal “PANN Cam” allows users to share high-quality video content in a seamless manner and creates a single hub for all news and topics about the black diaspora. This incremental component embraces the common good of users and is the critical feature that separates the app from others of its kind.

Additionally, PANN helps to improve the quality of citizen journalists while bringing the community together to be more informed through alerts, push notifications, and more.

User Interface (Image: PANNtv)

User Interface (Image: PANN)

What type of stories are being sourced and showcased?

PANN is representative of all moving pictures in the black community. From street performers, art shows, health and beauty news to activism taking place on college campuses, PANN aims to capture all transformative moments in the black community and truly celebrate, support, and uplift users. We welcome content creators that are focused on the black diaspora, specifically the unheard.

Do you see this changing the landscape of the way black news is delivered?

Yes. It’s our desire to give a voice to the forgotten and amplify community leaders, advocates, and black pundits. PANN will be an invaluable tool in addressing media bias and challenging the way we all see mainstream media. PANN will shine a light on the overlooked/underrepresented stories that shape, build and advance our communities.

 To check out the PANN app, click the link here.

Join the Conversation

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The Black Wall Street App is Bringing Black Businesses to You

Since the holidays are here, we are starting to hear the same question over and over again, how do I buy black? Well, there’s an app for that. Black Wall Street, a marketplace app created by Mandy Bowman is for both consumers to buy black and business owners to sell black.

Black Wall Street Founder, Mandy Bowman (Images: Instagram) Black Wall Street Founder, Mandy Bowman (Image: Instagram)

On the consumer side, using geolocation, the app alerts you through push notifications when you are near a black-owned business. Additionally, according to the site, you can find directions, business info, images, reviews, and more on each dedicated business listing. You can also bookmark your favorite businesses and the app will notify you when they have new offers and updates. Think of it as a Yelp for black businesses with added features.

On the business owners side, you can promote your listing and show up at the top of search results when users search for similar businesses, bridge the gap between you and your customers by messaging them straight from the app, and gain sales by adding your special offers and promo codes, the site states.

I downloaded it to test it out and check out the ease of usage. I could only test the consumer side because well, I’m a consumer. Here is what I found.

At first glance, the user interface is appealing. I like the orange colors and that you are immediately hit with images of black faces. Additionally, I like the fact that you can sign in through the Facebook API. I’m lazy and hate creating and remembering new passwords.

Once you are all logged in, you are hit with a browser screen that showcases locations in your area along with ratings. I clicked on the nearby tab and was immediately shown the black-owned business around me and there were plenty.

User Interface (Image: Black Wall Street) User Interface (Image: Black Wall Street)

Cyber Monday is quickly approaching us, so of course, I scrolled over to see what offers they had. There were a few in beauty, but it seemed a little limited. I assume that’s because this is a fairly new app.

Overall, I thought the user experience was decent. I will give it thumbs up for ease of use and having a plethora of selections. I can’t wait to see what this app grows to become.

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Ne-Yo’s Wife, Crystal Smith, Seals Partnership with Delivery Service Gobble

Many people know Crystal Smith for being married to R&B artist and actor, Ne-Yo but in addition to being a wife and a mother, she is also an amazing chef. Smith recently secured a deal with food delivery service Gobble, to add her own recipes to their already flourishing menu. Some of those tasty dishes include lamb chops, toasted garlic noodles, bok choy mui, Crystal’s sauce, and veggie mash.

Holly Watt, Crystal’s Su Chef, Crystal Renay Smith, Ne-Yo, Founder of Gobble, Ooshma Garg, Chris Woodford, Head of Engineering (Image: Gobble) [Holly Watts, Crystal’s sous-chef, Crystal Renay Smith, Ne-Yo, founder of Gobble, Ooshma Garg, Chris Woodford, head of engineering (Image: Gobble)]

Smith has been cooking for years now,  working to perfect her craft and it seems as though it is all paying off although Smith’s partnership did not come easy. After her initial meeting with the CEO of Gobble, Ooshma Garg, she had to audition in front of Ooshma’s business partner and executive chef of Gobble, chef Thomas Ricci, by cooking one of her popular recipes. Chef Thomas and Gobble executives tried it and approved.

The main draw for Smith to this company was her respect for Gobble. As a mother, the service makes life easier for parents by cutting down their cooking time to just 15 minutes. Every parent knows that every extra minute they can get back, they are taking it.

Smith recently unveiled her partnership at an exclusive event in Palo Alto held at the  Aquarius Theater. Attendees included executives from the Gobble team and of course Smith’s very supportive husband, Ne-Yo.

Crystal Renay Smith with the Gobble team (Image: Gobble) [Crystal Renay Smith with the Gobble team (Image: Gobble)]The event culminated with everyone watching Smith’s partnership with Gobble unfold on her E! network show Platinum Life!

“If I can pursue my dreams; so can you. I grew up in an underprivileged area of Fort Meyers, Florida, causing challenges in my life. However, I knew if I wanted something it was my job to go after it. I am here today because I didn’t give up on my dream.”

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Sista Circle: Black Women in Tech Celebrate Friendsgiving

Sometimes the holidays can get to you, being forced to hang out with a bunch of family members that you may not like, but now, a new trend has emerged. Introducing… Friendsgiving!

Sista Circle, a group of black women in tech, recently celebrated their first annual Friendsgiving at Phenomenally in San Francisco. The event was curated by Isabella Cespedes and hosted by the founder of Sista Circle, Lexi Butler.

Lexi Butler, Hilary Jacobs, Isabel Cespedes (Image: Ashleigh Reddy) Lexi Butler, Chef Hilary Jacobs, Isabel Cespedes (Image: Ashleigh Reddy)

“When we were conceiving the event and decided we wanted to do a meal together around Thanksgiving, the holiday itself feels very loaded for folks, in particular folks of color, and so we really wanted to boil it down to its essence,” Cespedes told Black Enterprise. “At the heart of that was this concept of family and communion and at the heart of why we started Sista Circle is around fellowship and communion and support, so we wanted to be able to reflect that.”

The food and drinks were extremely rich and eclectic and even more interesting, it was all sourced from entrepreneurs of color. Hil’s Cooking catered the meal and the McBride Sisters winery provided wine for the group.

McBride Sisters Wine (Image: Ashleigh Reddy) McBride Sisters Wine (Image: Ashleigh Reddy)

“This is not your usual Thanksgiving. It includes a lot of diaspora-inspired food and everybody who is involved is a black-owned business, which is pretty amazing,” stated Butler.

“I think that in the tech world, especially as a black person, it could be very isolating, so to have black women in tech coming together for a three-hour experience, with black-owned businesses and just celebrating black unity and womanhood, is very important.”

Additionally, Bianca St. Louis, founder of The CEsuite, had a few key takeaways for self-care while surviving the holidays.

Bianca Saint Louis providing holiday tips. (Image: Ashleigh Reddy) Bianca St. Louis provides holiday tips. (Image: Ashleigh Reddy)

Self-Care Tips

  • Don’t spend all your life on social media. Really invest in building an offline community.
  • Invest in fortifying different data points that remind you of what’s great about yourself.
  • Find what works for you.
  • Honesty is key. Take consistent audits of where you are.

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Uber Pays Hackers $100,000 Not to Snitch

Sometime last year, hackers stole 57 million Uber driver and rider accounts and Uber paid a ransom of $100,000 for the hackers to keep quiet about the breach, reports The New York Times.

Uber executives then tried to cover up the fact that they paid a ransom by asserting that the hackers were hired to purposefully find security weaknesses.

(Image: iStock/MartialRed)

Since the revelation, Uber’s head of cybersecurity, who arranged the payment to the hackers in cahoots with ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, has been fired.

The ride-sharing service’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, who replaced Kalanick just this past August, commented on the matter on the company’s blog:

I recently learned that in late 2016 we became aware that two individuals outside the company had inappropriately accessed user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service that we use. The incident did not breach our corporate systems or infrastructure.

Our outside forensics experts have not seen any indication that trip location history, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers or dates of birth were downloaded. However, the individuals were able to download files containing a significant amount of other information, including:

The names and driver’s license numbers of around 600,000 drivers in the United States. Drivers can learn more here.

Some personal information of 57 million Uber users around the world, including the drivers described above. This information included names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers. Riders can learn more here.

At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorized access by the individuals.

Uber has had one public relations nightmare after another. Eric Holder was hired by the company after a former female engineer went public about rampant sexual misconduct at Uber’s offices.

The company also drew criticism after it was accused of ignoring calls to respond to President Trump’s Muslim travel ban by joining in solidarity with New York City cab drivers. The taxi cab drivers, many of whom are from Muslim countries, refused to pick up and drop off passengers at NYC’s airports to protest Trump. People were angry that Uber drivers stepped in to transport passengers and the #deleteUber social movement was born.

After allegations of racist practices by Uber drivers and a lack of diversity within its corporate walls, Uber took further steps toward accountability by appointing former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns to its board of directors and by hiring marketing wunderkind Bozoma Saint John as its chief brand officer.

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Floyd Mayweather is New Face of “Wild Poker” App

The Money Team is back at it and of course, Floyd Mayweather’s newest venture is surrounding, none other than money. Mayweather has expanded his venture deals into the app space and has become the new face of “Wild Poker,” according to an announcement made in a recent press release.

Wild Poker ft. Floyd Mayweather (Image: Playtrex Playtrex) Wild Poker ft. Floyd Mayweather (Image: Playtrex)

 So how does it work?

Players are able to choose from a list of characters, including Mayweather, and the goal is to, of course, win your poker tournaments. In order to gain an advantage over your opponents, you can make in-app purchases that will boost your chances of winning, stated the release.

If you’ve ever played Texas Hold’em Poker, this game will be a breeze for you. It’s basically the same game with a unique twist. Wild Poker adds elements of strategy and adventure such as real-time decision-making, power-ups, journey, character development and more to increase the experience.

Interactivity

It has a really interesting interactive feel allowing players to embrace the spirit of their favorite animal characters and deploy special skills, including the shark’s sharp sense of smell to detect another player’s fear or the giraffe’s elongated neck to peer over another player’s shoulder. These characteristics make the game a lot more engaging than your traditional poker app.

Wild Poker ft. Floyd Mayweather (Image: Playtrex Playtrex) Wild Poker ft. Floyd Mayweather (Image: Playtrex)

“We are ecstatic to attach one of the world’s most recognizable athletes to Wild Poker,” said Ed Mills, Hero Digital Entertainment CEO said in a statement.

“As soon as I saw Wild Poker, I knew I wanted to become part of it,” said Mayweather. “I’m constantly asked to put my name on stuff, but Wild Poker is different than any game I’ve ever seen. It’s poker, but it goes to the next level. There’s a whole new level of strategy with the power-ups. It’s a cutting-edge game, this is that next thing, and like everything I put my name on, Wild Poker is the best ever.”

Mayweather fans and Wild Poker players can download the game for free from the App Store and Google Play here.

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These Detroit Residents Are Building Their Own Internet

We’ve heard of a lot of systems created to keep the underrepresented population uninformed, but these Detroit residents aren’t going for it. Equitable Internet Initiative is a group of Detroit residents who are learning how to build autonomous, affordable, and high-speed WiFi networks to prevent what they are calling, “the creation of a digital class system,” according to Vice’s recent documentary short, Meet the People Building Their Own Internet in Detroit, from the series Dear Future.

Digital Steward, Sanubianku Astonished (Image: Vice) Detroit resident and digital steward Sanubianku Astonished (Image: Vice)

“We risk our human rights if we don’t take ownership and control over the internet in a way that is decentralized,” said Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project. Nucera, also known as Mother Cyborg, believes her mission is to empower individuals and help them come to the realization of the potential of technology and she is doing that through the Equitable Internet Initiative.

Diana Nucera, Director of the Detroit Community Technology Project (Image: Vice) Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project (Image: Vice)

“Detroit is one of the top five least connected cities in the United States,” says Nucera. “So what happens when you have a city that has 1,000 mbps and the people with the least [amount] of resources only have 10? I think that causes a huge problem as far as what you can do with access.”

Telecom companies won’t offer good service within these impoverished areas because they don’t see the value. In fact, they go as far as not even turning on their fibers to create the connections, so the Equitable Internet Initiative has purchased gigabyte fiber that they’ve connected to routers and pointed them to their community centers, allowing WiFi access, according to the Vice documentary.

“We need to build our own infrastructure and rethink internet service providing and access in order to reach those people who have been traditionally left out and marginalized,” said Nucera. “The work that we’ve been doing is not just about access, it’s about building a healthy digital ecosystem.”

Equitable Internet Initiative created the Digital Stewards program, which has trained people in the North End, Islandview and Southwest Detroit, giving their neighborhoods access to WiFi. The byproduct is not only internet access, helping to close the digital divide, but a creation of community.

Digital Stewards installing WiFi (Image: Vice) Digital Stewards installing WiFi (Image: Vice)

“I think it’s important when you talk about business and places and organizations that do things, to have a face to it, so for me, this is a beautiful thing to be a part of because the faces that these people see are the people who installed it, the same people who are protecting their privacy, and the same people who will come back and be like, ‘Hey, you have a problem. How do we fix that?’” said Gabrielle Knox, one of the digital stewards.

Watch the full documentary on Vice.

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An African King Visits Silicon Valley

African king Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II recently visited Silicon Valley to understand the technology landscape and figure out how to create partnerships between the U.S. and the African continent, specifically Nigeria. His mission, while here, is to start conversations around building a bridge between Nigeria and Silicon Valley’s powerful technology community.

To give context, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, born Oct. 17, 1974, is the 51st monarch and Ooni of Ife. This title is reserved for the king of some 50 million Nigerians of the Yoruba ethnic group.

The event was hosted by the Silicon Valley-Nigerian Economic Development Inc. (SV-NED Inc.) and African Technology Foundation, led by Stephen Ozoigbo and consisted of a two-day tech tour making stops at some of the most popular technology destinations. These locations included the California State Senator’s Office, Stanford University, Tesla Motors, Google, and YouTube.

The tour was arranged by Chief Temitope Ajayi, also known as Mama Diaspora by the Nigerian community, who has deep connections with many Silicon Valley companies.

King, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II and Royal Family (Image: Muyekconcepts) King Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II and Royal Family (Image: Muyekconcepts)

On the first day of his visit, his evening culminated with an extravagant dinner party, where everyone was draped in their traditional African attire.

Some of the presenters included:

  • Seun Olagunju: Ooni of Ife lineage appraisal
  • Deborah Magid, director of software strategy, IBM Venture Capital Group
  • Bolaji Ajayi, award-winning and best-selling author of Akiti the Hunter children’s book series: Dedication to the Ooni of Ife
  • Dr. Sam Haddad, Ph.D. professor, Stanford University Nigeria’s Immersion Program
  • Carl Davis Jr., president of Silicon Valley Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Deanna Tyron, chief of protocol, Silicon Valley Office of Protocol: Award presentation to the Ooni of Ife
  • Awards presented were issued by Office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Office of the Mayor of Santa Clara, Lisa Gillmor; and California Legislature Assembly
  • Omo Oduduwa, Music by The Talented Band (Yinka Ayefele Boys); Engineer Yemi Martins, master of ceremony and dance

His Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, spoke about the reason he decided to do this tour and why it was important for him from a cultural perspective. “Whatever we can do, in whatever little way, we should all come together to make sure our heritage is in a better place,” said the royal.

King, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II and Mama Diaspora (Image: Kimi Alli) King Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II and Mama Diaspora (Image: Kimi Alli)

Additionally, other sponsors and partners came to the table to ensure that the king had a proper visit. These parties included PagePedia, African Technology Foundation, IBM, Cisco, Silicon Valley Capital Club, Church Brothers Farms, True Leaf Farms, Yoruba Heritage International and, of course, Black Enterprise. 

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[Recap] AfroTech Was Another Woke Lituation

Just when we thought last year’s AfroTech took the cake, this year Blavity came even stronger with a whole lot more celebs, people, and fun. Black Enterprise was in full attendance and here is the recap, broken down into categories.

People

When you arrived, you were greeted by a line that was almost three blocks long. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen this many black folks in San Francisco, center-focused around one location.

Swag

After you entered the building, you were immediately hit with swag―you get a backpack, you get a backpack, you get a backpack!

Tracks

Once the conference started, Blavity CEO Morgan DeBaun greeted the audience. Then, almost immediately, everyone was broken into tracks that consisted of engineering, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Morgan Debaun (Image: Instagram/James Nwobu) Morgan DeBaun (Image: Instagram/James Nwobu)

I headed down to marketing to see what was poppin’ and was asked by track host Everette Taylor to participate in a game of “Marketing Family Feud.” Our team lost promptly by way of my answer. Sorry, guys.

Vendors

After leaving the track, I began to roam around. One thing I noticed was every tech vendor had a photo station, so I stopped at Netflix, Twitter, and WeWork and got my ‘gram game up. Not to mention, Facebook had it poppin’ with the Oculus specs.
 

AfroTech Photo Booth (Image: Twitter) AfroTech Photo Booth (Image: Twitter)

Celebs

Almost immediately, I started seeing celebs who were beyond approachable. Kehlani floated around the vendor station for a while as people stopped her for pics. Chamillionaire had very long, detailed conversations with attendees on some supernormal, “I’m just chillin’” type of vibes. When I spoke to him briefly, he was like, “I need to swing by this engineer track and recruit some folks.” Indeed.

Jesse Williams came Day 2 and launched his new app ‘Blebrity’ aka Black Celebrity; he proceeded to play the largest, blackest trivia game on the planet to a crowd of 2,000 people.

Chamillionaire (Image: Instagram/James Nwobu) Chamillionaire (Image: Instagram/James Nwobu)

Food Trucks

These were the blackest food trucks I’ve ever seen, from soul food to Caribbean. I opted for the soul food plate, which consisted of macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and a chicken sandwich.

Vibes

The lounge stations were backdropped by DJs and there were friends everywhere, and even if they weren’t friends, they became friends. It was like an HBCU homecoming, or so I’ve heard. I went to a private Jesuit university, but I digress.

Let me not forget to mention that Bozoma Saint John vibed out to Cardi B and highlighted her leadership capabilities. Yaaaassss! Come through Bodak Yellow. Send us the word.

Parties

Oh, the parties—there were so many parties. I had to check in with myself like, “Am I at SXSW, or nah?” Lyft had a party, there was a party at the host hotel and a party at John Colins Lounge, and two, I repeat two, official after-parties hosted by Toasted Life. The other one was so sold out that they had to create a part deux.

This conference had too much sauce.

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Interview with the Founder of Lazy Jar—an App That Charges You When You Don’t Workout

Have you ever signed up for a gym membership and been really inconsistent about your attendance? What if you were charged for NOT going? Introducing Lazy Jar, the app that charges you a set fee when you choose to skip your workouts.

(Image: Lazy Jar) (Image: Lazy Jar)

Black Enterprise caught up with the founder, Justin Anyanwu, who explained to us why he created Lazy Jar, the results his users are seeing, and why, for now, you need your Fitbit to use it.

Founder of Lazy Jar (Image: Justin Anyanwu) Founder of Lazy Jar (Image: Justin Anyanwu)

Tell us about your background.

I am a software engineer living in Raleigh, North Carolina. I emigrated from Nigeria to the U.S. in 1998 and I am now a citizen. My aspiration has always been entrepreneurship since my grad school days at North Carolina State University.

Why did you create lazy jar?

I created Lazy Jar because I was fed up with my inability to maintain discipline and consistency with my fitness endeavors. I have been a member of various good gyms but I never saw the results I wanted. It hit me one day that the problem wasn’t the gyms. The problem was me.

I’d always stop attending the gyms after a couple months and would fall back into my sedentary lifestyle. So I decided I needed a way to hold myself accountable for the fitness goals I wanted to achieve. And I realized that there was nothing out there that was doing it the way I had hoped. So I came up with Lazy Jar.

How does Lazy Jar work?

First, you’ll need an active Fitbit account. The app will prompt you to connect your Fitbit account. Then you’ll be given the chance to set your weekly goals. For example, steps, calories, minutes, and miles you’d like to complete at the end of each week. Then you get to set the penalty amount you’d like to be charged at the end of the week in case you fail to complete your goals.

To show your level of commitment, you are asked to make a refundable $30 security deposit. The reason for this is because we need to encourage users to stick to the six-month program and do their best. At the end of the six-months, they’ll get the $30 back.

During the course of the six-months, any week you fail to meet your set goals, you’ll be penalized the amount you set for yourself. Currently, 80% of the amount is donated to charity. The charity we support at the moment is St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

How it Works (Image: Lazy Jar) How it Works (Image: Lazy Jar)

What results are you seeing from users?

Since we only started pushing the app in October, most of our users have written us telling us that they found themselves getting up to go for a run or a walk, because they didn’t want to fall behind on their weekly goals.

One particular user who was pregnant wrote us to reduce her goals just a little bit so that she could still maintain her active lifestyle.

Another user told us that on occasions where she would excuse herself from going to the gym, she now found herself eager to go the gym just to meet her calorie goals for the week.

The recurring theme here is exactly what I expected would happen. Our users were reporting an increase in being more active. Which, in the grand scheme of things, is fantastic and good for one’s cardiovascular health. Especially when you consider that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the U.S.

What products do you need to use it?

Currently, you need a Fitbit capable of tracking your heart rate and steps to use it. The reason is, is that I owned a Fitbit and I needed this app for my own personal use. So to prove the viability of the concept, I developed it for the Fitbit.

Any plans on linking other devices or making it independent of the Fitbit?

Absolutely. Plans for the next version are already on the way. We hope to be done early next year. This version will be designed to accommodate various wearables (provided they have the appropriate APIs).

If you are a Fitbit user and interested in staying workout accountable, you can test it out here.

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Diversity Vice President, Denise Young Smith, Is Leaving Apple

The vice president of diversity and inclusion at Apple, Denise Young Smith, is leaving her position at the end of the year, reports CNET

(Denise Young Smith. Image: Apple)

She is headed to Cornell Tech to become its new executive-in-residence, as per a post on Cornell Tech’s website, as of January 2018.

While there are few details yet or a comment from Young Smith; the departure follows a recent controversy over remarks she made at a conference earlier this year.

During a panel session on racial injustice held in Bogota, Columbia;  Young Smith said that she focuses on everyone as Apple’s diversity chief.

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT,” she said on the panel as reported by Quartz.

Her next comments are what some took issue with. “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.

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Malcolm X’s Daughters Launching a New Malcolm X Clothing Site

The sisters, Qubilah ShabazzIlyasah ShabazzAttallah ShabazzMalikah ShabazzMalaak Shabazz, and Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz have partnered with technology company Hingeto, to bring the apparel line to life.

Malcolm X's Daughters L to R: Qubilah Shabazz, Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz Malaak Shabazz, Attallah Shabazz, Ilyasah Shabazz (Image: malcolmxlegacy.com) Malcolm X’s Daughters L to R: Qubilah Shabazz, Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz Malaak Shabazz, Attallah Shabazz, Ilyasah Shabazz (Image: malcolmxlegacy.com)

“Honoring Malcolm X’s legacy via a clothing store is a dream and the most meaningful application of Hingeto’s system to date. We first met one of Malcolm’s daughters alongside Colin Kaepernick in a full-day meeting in New York,” said Leandrew Robinson, co-founder and CEO of Hingeto.

“It was clear Malcolm’s principles are as relevant today as ever. We all thought it was imperative to represent his message and today’s human rights movement as a brand that people can outfit themselves in daily,” said Robinson.

And as Robinson mentioned, Kaepernick is in full support, tweeting the line and helping to get the message out.

Kaepernick shows his support for the line (Image: Twitter) Kaepernick shows his support for Malcolm X Legacy (Image: Twitter)

Malcolm X’s 12 Principles

The collection will honor Malcolm X’s 12 principles.

The world is dependent upon the ability to unite ideas, skills, organizations, and institutions for a better future.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Human rights are your God-given rights…rights that are recognized by all nations of this earth

SELF-SACRIFICE

The spirit of self-sacrifice is the dignity and glory of humanity, living forever

SPIRITUALITY

Taking the Spiritual Journey which leads to one’s highest potential and enlightenment

SELF-DETERMINATION

Striving for right to direct and control your lives, your history, and your future

Using education as a tool with critical thinking that liberates minds and creates civil society

ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE

Freeing oneself of economic slavery and building strong economics for self and community

SELF DEFENSE

Affirming your right and obligation to defend yourself in order to survive

ANTI RACISM

Resisting all forms of Racism and Discrimination that dehumanizes human life

CULTURAL PRIDE

Having a keen awareness and honor with your Culture and Ethnicity

RESTORATION

Restoring broken bonds with your people, heritage, and past

To establish justice throughout the world

The new line can be found at Malcolm X Legacy.

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She Was Tired of People Touching Her Hair, So She Created This App

Fed up with folks coming up to her and asking to touch her hair, art director and creative Momo Pixel, created a web-based app addressing the issue, reports Mashable.

Described as “A new travel game about a black woman tired of people touching her hair,” game play involves swatting as many hands away from your customizable character’s hair as you can. The more hands you swat, the more you fill your Nah! Meter. Fill the meter before time runs out.

(Image: hairnah.com)

Pixel, an art director at the Portland-based advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, is known for her pixel-based artwork. She had an art show, “Momoland” in an Atlanta-based gallery in 2016. She is an abstract painter as well as a designer.

“I’m really into making ordinary things extraordinary,” she says. “It’s all about pushing the limits of things,” she said in an interview with Creative Loafing.

(Image: Instagram/momopixel)

Black women have long lamented the “Can I touch your hair?” question. It often accompanies other inappropriate questions asked by non-black people; “How do you get your hair like that?”; “Can you wash it?”

Many African American women also have to deal with ignorance about their hair in the workplace. Dr. Erica Jones, board-certified family medical practitioner, and a ‘locs-wearer for about a decade, discussed the responses she received from patients in her practice in an interview with Black Enterprise.

“When people ask me how my hair grows and how I wash it, I tell them that it grows just like yours and I wash it just like you do,” Jones said.

“My hair sparks conversation from people who aren’t used to seeing natural hair and who are genuinely interested. I handle it by being open and light-hearted when approached with questions regarding my hair. If they ask to touch it, sometimes I’ll ask, ‘Why?’ Usually, they want to know what it feels like and if it’s real.”

Momo Pixel also addresses the hair touching issue on her Twitter feed:

Check out Hair Nah here.

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This Young Black Robotics Engineer and CEO Just Landed a Sweet Deal with Apple

Reach Robotics, an augmented reality gaming company that creates robots for both fun and STEM education, announced on Wednesday that it just made an exclusive deal with Apple to sell its line of MekaMon real-life gaming robots in Apple’s flagship U.S. and United Kingdom stores.

The robotics company’s CEO and co-founder is British-Nigerian Silas Adekunle. He is an engineer who graduated with First Class Honours from the University of the West of England, with a Bachelor of Science in robotics technology, and previously worked at GE Aviation and Infineon.

(Silas Adekunle. Image: Reach Robotics)

 

“A Quantum Leap Forward” in Augmented Reality Gaming

“We’ve created an entirely new video gaming platform,” said Adekunle in a press release. “MekaMon straddles both the real and virtual worlds while taking the gaming experience beyond a player’s screen and turning their sitting room into a limitless robotic battle zone. MekaMon represents a quantum leap forward in the leveraging of augmented reality. Players can whip out their iPhone to battle their multi-functional, connected battlebots in the physical and virtual worlds at the same time.”

MekaMons are four-legged robots that players can control via a smartphone using a companion app for augemented reality gameplay. Multiple players can have their MekaMons battle each another. Each robot weighs a little over two pounds with dimensions of 11.8 by 11.8 by 5.9 inches. MekaMons can connect to each other via infrared signals and Bluetooth, allowing for co-op gaming.

(Image: Reach Robotics)

The robots are powered by a rechargeable battery that provides up to an hour of gameplay. They are compatible with the iPhone, using the smartphone’s camera and infrared tracking capability for precise navigation.

 

Wide Availability

MekaMons will be available in Apple stores as of Nov. 16 as well as online at Apple.com for $299.95.

(Image: Reach Robotics)

“As the world’s first premium gaming robot, MekaMon fits neatly into the emerging category of mobile augmented reality products,” said Adekunle in the same statement. “By fusing robotics, reality-bending technology and competitive play, we’re offering players a new twist on hardware and video games–a premium robotics product that’s easy to play but very difficult to master.”

Check out the video below of Silas Adekunle providing a live demo of MekaMon at Black Enterprise’s studio:

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Young Geneticist Gets ‘Shark Tank’ Mogul to Invest in His DNA Startup

Olivier Noel pitched DNA Simple, a new way to support cutting-edge medical research, on a recent episode of ABC’s Shark Tank. After the show, Brandon Andrews sat down with Noel for an interview about the show and his business.

SHARK TANK - "Episode 912" - A U.S. Air Force fighter-jet machine-gun mechanic from Columbus, Ohio, introduces a high-performance problem-solver; an entrepreneur from Queens, New York, hopes the Sharks bite into a DNA test that aims to aid and optimize medical research; a Dallas, Texas, entrepreneur duo hopes to lure the Sharks with their high-tech solution for a common household chore; robots and drones are all the rage with boys, but one Bethesda, Maryland, entrepreneur is hoping to encourage more girls to get into coding and technology, on "Shark Tank," SUNDAY, NOV. 12 (9:00-10:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network. (ABC/Eric McCandless) DAYMOND JOHN, RICHARD BRANSON, MARK CUBAN, LORI GREINER, ROBERT HERJAVEC, OLIVIER NOEL (DNA SIMPLE) (DNA Simple CEO Olivier Noel pitches on Shark Tank. Image: ABC/Michael Desmond)

Brandon Andrews: DNA Simple matches DNA donors with research studies looking for DNA that matches their background. Where did you get the idea?

  

Olivier Noel: Back when I started my Ph.D., I realized how difficult it was to get specific samples from patients for scientific research regardless of how great the infrastructure, lab equipment, and even the amount of grant money we had. The geographic barrier between us scientists and patients is a difficult one to bypass. While attending a genetics conference in Philadelphia, I realized that this was a problem affecting scientists across the country and not just my research team at Penn State and came up with the idea for DNA Simple, an online database connecting patients and scientists independent of location.

Why is providing a reliable source of DNA for research studies so important?  

Over the past 10 years or so, scientists have realized that a lot of conditions that were not previously thought to have a genetic basis are actually linked to our genes and genome. In fact, we’re finding out that even the genetic conditions themselves can be broken down into subtypes that are directly related to our DNA. This explains why it is so important for researchers to have a reliable source of DNA for research studies, to be able to study DNA of patients of different backgrounds. Once we can understand the disease process and genetics behind a condition, then we can bring about personalized care for such condition.

How does DNA Simple work for donors and researchers? Walk us through the process.   

Donors simply register on our site DNAsimple.org and enter basic clinical and demographic information about themselves. Researchers also register on our site and set up a study. They can let us know, for example, that they are looking for 5,000 donors with a particular condition and background. We make the match and find them the donors who fit into their study from our database. Once a match is made, we send the donor a saliva collection kit to their house with a prepaid stamp, they send the sample back to us and we ultimately send the de-identified sample to the researcher. Finally we send a $50 check to the donor as compensation for their participation to the study. This process repeats itself every time a donor matches a research study.

DNA Simple Logo (DNA Simple logo. Image: dnasimple.com)

How are you keeping sensitive research and personal information safe?

When a donor signs up on DNA Simple, his or her account is automatically de-identified and assigned a DNA Simple unique ID. This insures that we never work with or reveal a donor’s information at any point in our process. This is extremely important to us. Ultimately, a researcher receiving a sample will know that it has come from someone with the clinical characteristics sought after (e.g., a 37-year-old black female with breast cancer) but not that it has come from “Jane Smith from NYC.” In addition, we do have donors send us the samples back first as opposed to sending them directly to the researchers in order to mask their address and keep the process anonymous.

What does scale mean for DNA Simple? How many donors would you like to have in your database? What does scaling DNA Simple mean for medical research?

In our “perfect world,” everyone in the country (and the world) would be registered on DNA Simple and make themselves available to participating in research studies and provide samples. This is to say that we’d like to have as many people as possible and are targeting 1 million people as our next milestone. Scaling in such fashion will allow us to work with many more researchers and teams working to understand genetic conditions and looking to bring about cures to diseases. This can only be good news for the medical research field in general.

You went from Queens, New York, to pitching DNA Simple on Shark Tank and striking a deal with Mark Cuban. Tell us about your experience on the show.   

The experience on the show was pretty special. It’s not every day that you get to walk into a room with Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and the rest of the star-studded line up that Shark Tank has. So for me to grow up in Haiti and to make it to Queens and then to Shark Tank was pretty special and one of the coolest experiences in my life for sure.

Give us an update. What have you been working on since the show?

Since the pitch, we’ve grown quite a bit from a just a few thousands of donors in our database to now over 60,000 and growing. We’ve also added the option to donate urine and stool samples to researchers who would like to have such samples for their studies. As an additional option, we also offer ancestry and genetic testing for about 70 traits to folks who’d like to get such a service.

 Olivier Noel Pitches DNA Simple on ABC's Shark Tank

(DNA Simple CEO Olivier Noel pitches on Shark Tank. Image: ABC/Michael Desmond)

Are there medical benefits to having more DNA donors from the African diaspora?  

Absolutely! Having diversity in research studies is incredibly important. To date, less than 5% of all clinical trials have included non-whites, and less than 2% of clinical cancer research studies focus on non-white ethnic or racial groups, which is a mind-boggling number.

As I mentioned earlier, it is critical to understand one’s genetic background to ultimately bring about personalized therapy. It also applies to different ethnic backgrounds. While African Americans and other members of the diaspora are not a different race– scientifically speaking–there are clear, unique, genetic footprints and markers that need to be studied and understood in order to serve and deliver appropriate and personalized therapy to that patient population. Medicine is no longer a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and that certainly applies to the different ethnic backgrounds.

 

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Jesse Williams Just Released the Blackest App Game You’ve Ever Played

Jesse Williams is known for his social activism in the community and making headlining news for speeches like the one at the 2016 BET Awards during his acceptance of the Humanitarian of the Year Award. Right in line with his brand, Williams just released Blebrity, the blackest trivia app game you’ve ever played.

The game has several different categories including Music, Make ‘Em Say Ugghhh, Dance Moves, Soul Train Line, and Actin’ a Fool, I Can’t Take You Nowhere.

Black Enterprise caught up with Williams during the AfroTech conference this past weekend, where he made the official announcement.

You have been in the tech industry for a while now and people are just starting to hear about it, so tell me how you got involved. 

A few ways. It’s a new frontier right, and a lot of times new frontiers don’t make a lot of room for black and poor folks to have a real entry point and we have a real learning curve, a lot of catching up to do. When you enter something late, actually it reminds me of our history. If you’re lucky enough to go to college, maybe you’ll take an African American studies course once but, you’re already 19 years old whereas, everybody else, the majority of the population has been learning their history since birth, so you’re behind.

Ebroji

The tech world is like that or like the cannabis industry now, so we have to figure out ways to kind of overcompensate and be really good at each one teach one and lifting each other up, so I’ve just been trying to be a student. That started with diving into a cultural language extension tool called Ebroji. That was this GIF keyboard.

We saw that black folks on social media were driving culture, we drive the way everybody talks, dances, the trends, the way we speak, what trends on social media, seven of the top 10 trending topics. We don’t own anything, it’s not for us, it’s not by us, we don’t have any stock in it, they don’t employ us, so why do we have this middleman and why do we wait for corporate, kind of white pop-culture to validate us for us to exist, we already exist, so we decided to build something that included us.

Included our faces and bodies and we can use GIFs that have black/brown trends, gay/queer human beings expressing themselves. Expressing love, joy, passion, frustration, and it doesn’t have to be overtly political. It’s still political because we exist.

Scholly

I dove into a product called Scholly that connects students to over $80 million in scholarships. Education is a big passion of mine. I struggled to stay in school, every semester to come up with an extra six grand, four grand to stay in school. There are a lot of ways to push us out of education and money is a big part of that and we don’t have the generational wealth that many others do so, Chris Gray created this incredible product and I just threw my entire weight behind him backing the product. We do great work. We connect students and help keep them in school.

Blebrity

Most recently, I’m most excited right now about Blebrity, something simple, a game. We all love game night, we all love watching people have fun, we all love getting together. Nobody gets together and figures out a way to be an alchemist and make something out of nothing like black folks, but these games ain’t built for us and that’s fine. We’re not waiting around, waiting for you. “Can you please include me? Can you please maybe make us, can you please throw us a crumb?” We’re not with that. We’ll just build it ourselves.

Jesse Williams plays Blebrity with Tech Editor, Sequoia Blodgett (Image: Kadura Bellamy) Jesse Williams plays Blebrity with Tech Editor Sequoia Blodgett (Image: Kadura Bellamy)

Check out the hilarity of Blebrity live in action below and download it now in the app store.

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‘Chef Curry’ is Cookin’ with New Mobile App

It looks like Ayesha Curry is taking her cooking skills digital. NBA superstar of the Golden State Warriors Steph Curry and wife, author, TV personality, and chef Ayesha Curry have partnered with PM Studios to produce their very own mobile cooking game.

“Chef Curry,” will take on the popular time-management cooking game genre allowing players to run a fast-paced restaurant with Steph and Ayesha Curry. Users have the option to play as Steph, frantically serving customers while trying to accommodate their picky tastes. The goal is to manage your resources against a clock, while Ayesha oversees the kitchen.

Chef Curry - Featuring Steph and Ayesha Curry (PM Studios) Chef Curry – Featuring Steph and Ayesha Curry (PM Studios)

“Bringing Chef Curry to life has been an incredible experience,” said Ayesha Curry in the press release. “When we were conceptualizing the game, I wanted to make sure it reflected the challenges, intensity, and gratification that goes along with managing a kitchen, whether at your home on Thanksgiving serving friends and family or in a high-paced restaurant serving customers.”

The user can gain points and they continue to play and improve their management skills. As their points grow, they become eligible for upgrades. They can lace Steph with new gear and are allowed access other cool additions and features.

“It was natural for us to partner with Steph and Ayesha to create ‘Chef Curry,’ said Mike Yum, CEO of PM Studios in a statement. “The most important part of integrating Steph and Ayesha into our world of gaming is authenticity, so we worked extensively with them to create an immersive world that’s true to their passions and gives players the unforgettable gaming experience our fans expect from PM Studios.” Both Steph and Ayesha voice their characters.

The rise of celebrity game apps is quickly gaining traction, especially with the success of the Kim Kardashian app. “We have seen the mobile gaming space as a landscape for limitless potential and it is an area which Ayesha and I have been interested in for some time”, stated Steph Curry in the release.

If you are interested in trying out ‘Chef Curry’ it is available for download in the app store on both iTunes and Android devices. Additionally, you can click on the trailer below to check it out.

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Will.i.am Raises $117 Million to Scale A.I. Platform Omega

In addition to being a super-creative talent from The Black Eyed Peas, Will.i.am has been playing quite heavily in the tech space. We watched him host Apple’s new series Planet of the Apps, alongside Jessica Alba, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Gwyneth Paltrow, without too much knowledge of what he was working on… until now.

Introducing, I.am+, a tech startup focused on artificial intelligence, similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, according to Reuters. The company just closed $117 million in venture funding, and houses over 300 employees.

Prior to raising this round, the company closed $89 million from Salesforce Ventures, but that was quietly kept.

“I wanted to create something that allows us to do many things,” Will.i.am, founder and chief executive of the company, told Reuters. “There’s so much you can do with a voice platform.”

Will.i.am is going the enterprise route versus straight to consumer, which allows him to create a large amount of scale very quickly. The company’s first customer was Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE), the German telecommunications giant.

Not only does Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE) house T-Mobile, but its other assets include Slovak Telekom (Slovakia); Magyar Telekom (Hungary), which holds majority shares in Makedonski Telekom (Macedonia); and Hrvatski Telekom (Croatia), which holds majority shares in Crnogorski Telekom (Montenegro).

Initially, when the company launched, it appeared on the market feeling very similar to Beats By Dre. It was introduced as premium wireless Bluetooth earphones with excellent sound quality for calls and music. It flaunted fashionable colors that would match your iPhone or Android devices. Although these earphones are still on the market, it seems that the focus is now more on enterprise growth and capturing market share.

Will.i.am (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The website describes the enterprise side of the company as, Omega, an “A.I. platform which was built to be conversational & contextual. It is a voice-first A.I. platform that delivers natural and engaging user experiences for organizations of any size.”

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Ray J Closes $31 Million Deal to Launch Raycon

We have been covering the story of Raytroniks for a while now and the company has just taken a massive leap forward. Ray J has recently closed a $31 million deal securing the launch of his electronics transportation company, now branded Raycon.

According to a recent press release, the $31 million deal, paid in the form of equity and cash, was finalized between the R&B artist/television personality and Cowboy Wholesale, a leading distributor of consumer electronics based in New York City.

Ray J and Ray Lee of Cowboy Wholesale shake hands after signing the paperwork cementing their $31 million Raycon distribution deal. (Image: Raycon) Ray J and Ray Lee of Cowboy Wholesale shake hands after signing the paperwork cementing their $31 million Raycon distribution deal. (Image: Raycon)

Ray J’s company has been popularizing the Scoot-E-Bike, its foldable, two-wheeled electric vehicle. The bike was presented to a mass network of influencers, which allowed it to gain a good amount of traction in the market.

It looks like Raycon is an extension of what Ray J initially started. The company will include more innovative, high-demand electronics designed and backed by celebrities and plans to address the everyday needs of the urban technophile, focusing on impactful electric transportation.

“The world is moving towards renewable green energy, and electric transportation is a big part of that. With the Raycon movement, we are going to make sure we are one of the first ones there,” said Ray J in the press report.

Partnering with Cowboy Wholesale was a smart move for the entrepreneur. Not only will they provide capital, but a world-class management team and board of advisers who have collectively sold over $1 billion in sales. The company has a heavy footprint in consumer electronics with past executive experience in companies such as Sony, Coby Electronics, and Pepsi.

As the exclusive distributor of Raycon products, Cowboy Wholesale will market the products through its global logistics and distribution channels, including the United States, Asia, and Europe, leaving Ray J to tend to marketing and global branding strategy.

The Raycon official product launch is set to release mid-November 2017 and products will be available for purchase at rayconglobal.com.

 

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How Facebook Community Boost Will Help Black-Owned Businesses

Facebook just announced a game-changing new program for small businesses: Facebook Community Boost. With the program, experts from Facebook will travel to 30 American cities, many of them with large communities of black entrepreneurs, to “provide digital skills and training for people in need of work, to advise entrepreneurs how to get started, and to help existing local businesses and nonprofits get the most out of the internet.”

(Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with small business owners in St. Louis. Image: Facebook/Mark Zuckerberg)

Facebook Community Boost will be of particular value to black-owned small businesses. As per research conducted by Facebook in its Economic Impact Report:

Businesses run by African Americans, Latinos, veterans and those with a disability are twice as likely to say that their business was built on Facebook, and one and a half times more likely to say they’ve hired more people since joining the platform.

For business owners or the aspirational entrepreneur, the program will help them turn ideas into an actual business and also assist them in creating and establishing an online presence.

Community Boost will also provide digital and social media training to the general public in the 30 cities, including how to stay safe online.

The free program is part of Facebook’s over $1 billion investment to promoting small businesses and helping people prepare for the digital future.

The 30 cities include St. Louis; Greenville, South Carolina; and Houston. Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, issued this statement about Facebook’s new initiative; “We’re happy to welcome Facebook to Houston to boost our residents’ digital skills and make sure our vibrant community of entrepreneurs and small businesses gets more out of the internet. I’m glad that Facebook recognized that one of the first five cities to benefit from this program should be Houston, the most diverse city in the nation, the largest economic engine of Texas and a proving ground not only for innovation in tech, energy, medicine and space exploration but also for mom-and-pop small businesses that reflect all the cultures of America and the globe.”

All of the details about Facebook Community Boost can be found on the program’s site.

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Backstage Capital Makes Investment in R&B Artist Kehlani’s Tech Startup

After experiencing some tumultuous times last year, including a lot of public ridicule leading to depression and a hospital stay, R&B artist Kehlani has re-emerged stronger with new music as well as a completely new venture—a tech startup. Kehlani will be releasing Flora, a health and wellness platform aimed at her target demographic—people between the ages of 16 and 25—according to a report from TechCrunch.

Kehlani (Image: Savannah Baker) Kehlani (Image: Savannah Baker)

She recently tapped Arlan Hamilton for investment from Backstage Capital. Hamilton came aboard committing $50,000 in addition to mentorship and advisory.

“I am incredibly honored to work with Arlan, not only due to her outstanding work in the tech world, but her consistency in supporting queer women of color. I look forward to creating positive change & making strides in tech,” Kehlani said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Currently, the startup appears to be in stealth mode taking sign-ups on her website but according to Hamilton, Kehlani is very dedicated and involved in the process. “She’s taking this incredibly seriously, and in my opinion is approaching it like she would a new album or tour. It’s exciting to see her learning about the tech world, and I’m impressed with her interest in sharing the journey with her fans,” Hamilton said in the TechCrunch article.

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Tech Entrepreneurs With Cloud Startups: Here’s How You Can Tap Into A $50 Million Fund

Hoping to fuel more usage of its technology, Salesforce Ventures has established a $50 million fund to invest in startup cloud computing companies focused on artificial intelligence (AI).

(Image: iStock/Happy businessman connecting to cloud computing with laptop)

The new fund means that the venture capital unit of Salesforce.com is providing funds to startups to accelerate their development of AI technologies built on the Salesforce platform. Based in San Francisco, Salesforce claims it’s the world’s No. 1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) company, with more than 150,000 customers.

In general, artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that affirms the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans, according to Techopedia. Planning, speech recognition, and problem-solving are some of the activities computers with AI are designed for.

Salesforce provides technology that helps businesses stay connected with their customers across many touch points, including sales, service, marketing, and commerce. Salesforce has been boosting its use of artificial intelligence since introducing its “Einstein’ technology in 2016.

Growing Demand Fueling Need For New Partners

Salesforce says its consulting partners are seeing their Salesforce practices grow more than 50% annually. It adds the growing demand is creating a need for new partners that can deploy more of Salesforce’s apps to customers.

Now, Salesforce wants to deepen relationships with developers and startups building AI apps that integrate with its platform. Portfolio firms that get funding from the Salesforce Ventures’ AI Fund can reap many benefits, including access to Salesforce’s customer base and access to the world’s largest cloud ecosystem, giving them a competitive edge over rivals. Salesforce Ventures has provided approximately $700 million in funding to over 250 startups since it started in 2009.

“Consulting firms play a pivotal role in the Salesforce ecosystem, implementing Salesforce solutions that meet the needs of customers of all sizes, industries, and geographies,” John Somorjai, executive vice president of Corporate Development and Salesforce Ventures, said in a statement.

Plus, Salesforce continues to boost its AI offerings. It has just announced Einstein Forecasting, enabling business leaders to understand exactly what to expect from their sales pipeline and provide them accurate revenue projections.

Other new apps include Einstein Opportunity Scoring, which automatically prioritizes high-value opportunities and Einstein Email Insights, which automatically identifies the most important emails, enabling sales reps to sell faster and smarter.

Venture Capital Investment in AI Startups Could Surpass $10.8B

At the same time, venture capital investment in AI startups is growing rapidly. Global financing for AI startups this year is projected to exceed $10.8 billion, almost double the $5.6 billion spent in 2016, according to research firm CB Insights.

Observers say cloud computing makes AI more accessible because most types of hardware people use—including laptops and smartphones—do not have the computing power to run many AI applications competently.

Often referred to as “the cloud,” the technology enables a business to use a network of connected computers, servers, and other applications to store, manage and process data over the internet. The resource means that the information is no longer located on just a single computer or server a business uses to store data.

Viewed with skepticism by business owners in recent years, cloud computing is now used as an adopted tool by those operators. A new survey by Clutch shows that 67% of businesses plan to increase their cloud computing spending in 2017.

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Startup Founder Creates Yelp for Apartment Hunters

Ofo Ezeugwu, founder and CEO of Whose Your Landlord, saw a problem in the market when it came to tenants understanding who they were actually renting from. He solved it by creating a platform that provides aggregated data from both current and previous tenants that consists of reviews and a rating system.

“WhoseYourLandlord (WYL) is a platform built to empower and inform millennial renters through neighborhood insights, landlord reviews, community-driven content, and access to quality listings,” said Ezeugwu in a recent interview with Black Enterprise in which he goes into detail about raising capital via crowdfunding.

When you log on to the platform, you have the option to search for available apartments or read landlord reviews. On the landlord’s side, there is a rating system that shows the properties conditions and the safety provided among other really important qualifications that will help you decide if this is the place for you.

“We’ve seen rating systems on Yelp and Netflix and you can look at the movie and look at the ratings before selecting it but, in housing, it’s never really been that way so, it really is an untapped market when it comes to the real estate industry,” Ezeugwu told Now This.

The site currently has over 300,000 users and is increasing its active users daily. It’s unlike any other site of this nature due to the fact that there is actual content displayed on the homepage and a cool vibe and feel behind the brand. Stories are showcased with headlines that read like a modern-day publication. “Ever Been Duped by a Fake Landlord?” and “Is Your Home Your Headquarters?”

The CEO’s goal is to create a social element to the platform as well, allowing former, current, and prospective tenants to interact with each other, Ezeugwu told Now This. This type of engagement not only gives the tenant feedback but it also keeps the landlords accountable; knowing that there is potential for their future tenant’s decision to be swayed.

Who's Your Landlord (User Interface) User Interface (Image: Whose Your Landlord)

According to the video below, “Over the last decade, the homeownership rate is down 7% among millennials and down another 9% among folks age 35-44 and today, nearly half the nation rents.” Whose Your Landlord is right on time.

Video: YouTube

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Must-Try New App Helps You Make Healthy Delivery and Restaurant Food Choices

Oftentimes, we order from the menu not fully understanding what we plan on ingesting. Order Healthy was created to ensure that we are aware of the nutritional value of the foods we consume at our favorite go-to spots.

User Interface (Image: Order Healthy) User Interface (Image: Order Healthy)

How does the app determine what is healthy or not? It pulls data from, Join The Challenge, a platform that crawls the description for ingredients and food preparation provided by restaurants. If the food is deemed healthy, there will be a green dot next to the item, if it is unhealthy, a red dot will surface. If it’s considered moderately healthy, the user will see a green dot. This entire experience mimics that of a traffic light.

(Image: iStock/m-imagephotography)

According to a recent press release, Here are some key statistics, from the analysis, comparing the average Red (unhealthiest) vs Green (healthiest) rated food:

  • 60% more calories
  • 83.58% more total fat
  • 117.65% more saturated fat
  • 63.35% more cholesterol
  • 43.59% more sodium
  • 39.49% more carbohydrates

Currently, the app gives you access to over 10,000 restaurants so there is likely something near you to vet.

So why the color-coded combination? The press release stated that according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania: When researchers added color-coded or numeric calorie labels to online food ordering systems, the total calories ordered was reduced by about 10% when compared to menus featuring no calorie information at all.

The study is the first to evaluate the effect of “traffic-light” calorie labeling—where green labels signal low-calorie content, yellow labels signal medium calorie content, and red labels signal high-calorie content—in the increasingly common setting of ordering meals online. The result means more diners are finding themselves eating healthier meals.

Interested in improving your eating habits? You can access the app in the iTunes or Google Play store or click here.

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NCA&T Senior Gets 11 Offers From Top Tech Companies

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University student, Brandon Lamar Long came out to Silicon Valley on a mission. After attending our BE Smart Hackathon and taking home the winning prize of $40,000 for the second year in a row, the senior recently returned for the HBCU Innovation Summit. By the time he was ready to pack up and head home, Long had 11 job offers on the table.

Who are these companies you ask? General Motors, Bank of America, Etsy, Sam’s Club, Credit Suisse, GE Digital, Apple, Microsoft, Target, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Microsoft. Each company was vying for Long, leaving the computer science major with the pick of the litter.

So when all was said and done who did Long choose? Microsoft. Not only did they opt to match the bid from their counterpart Apple, they offered to cover all of Long’s college loans, which were estimated to be approximately $150,000, according to HBCUBuzz.

For a 21-year-old, Long has a beyond impressive résumé. He has already held positions with Apple as a software developer intern; Google, as a CodeU participant; and Oracle as a software engineer co-op. And when he’s not head down, trying to debug code, he is highly engaged as an accomplished musician.

Brandon Long (Image: File) Brandon Long (Image: File)

“Prior to attending college, I originally wanted to be an architect. This plan started shifting when I noticed how much technology has affected the way architects design structures. I started doing research on how tech has evolved not only this industry but other industries as well. Soon after, I came across the amazing field of computer science,” Long stated on his website.

Well four years later, Long is well on his way. He and his team members Kaila Bille, Jean Olivier Beya, and Aaren Avery recently took home the grand prize at our BE Smart Hackathon creating Taasha, a Toyota chatbot and mobile application system that allows the customer to have a personalized experience at home, in the dealership, and in the car.

NCA&T Hackathon Winners (Image: File) NCA&T Hackathon Winners (Image: File)

With the engineering chops that Long has, any tech company would be lucky to have him.

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What Happens When Companies Create a Diverse Workforce?

Recently, Wayne Sutton, co-founder of Change Catalyst, spoke at the Creative Startups Demo Day in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He and his co-founder, Melinda Briana Epler, have spent an enormous amount of time researching tech and inclusion, so much so that the two have formed an entire conference circuit center focused around it.

Wayne Sutton and Julia Youngs (Image: File) Wayne Sutton and Julia Youngs (Image: File)

As the keynote speaker of the event, Sutton sat down with Julia Youngs, program manager of Creative Startups, to share what the data shows when companies create a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Outperform

The first finding is that companies significantly outperform despite their tech vertical. These are the averages that Sutton saw through his research.

  • Companies with gender-diverse teams are 15% more likely to outperform companies that lack gender diversity.
  • Companies with ethnically diverse teams were 35% more likely to outperform companies that lacked this diversity.
  • Companies with veterans were 4% more likely to outperform non-veteran employees.
  • There was a 15% increase in revenue when companies showcased an ethnically diverse makeup.

Inclusive Culture

Companies that showcased an inclusive culture and diverse workforce, on average, saw:

  • 39% higher customer satisfaction
  • 22% higher productivity
  • 37% more profitability
  • 22% lower turnover

Buying Power

In the United States alone, the buying power has significantly increased for women and minorities and continues to grow year over year.

  • Women hold $40 trillion
  • African Americans hold $1.2 trillion
  • Hispanics have $1.4 trillion
  • Asian Americans hold $891 billion

A diverse workforce ensures that companies create products that relate directly to diverse consumers. As a result, the company sees a significant increase in their bottom line.

So what does all of this data tell us? Based on the findings, it pays to have a diverse workforce.

“Diversity is everyone. White males are a part of that conversation. A lot of the times we think white males aren’t a part of that. No, we need everyone. We look at every demographic. Companies should look at inclusion and diversity earlier. If you don’t now, it’s going to cost you later. Gender diversity, class, all that matters,” said Sutton.

“I’m excited about the hard conversations that we are having in our world right now to create a better culture and a future for everyone.”

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5 Women of Color Making D.C. The Next Impact Tech Hub

Being the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. is known for creating companies that possess impact at their core. These five women of color discuss why they chose the city to help lead the charge in each of their professional career journeys.

Ebony Pope, Village Capital

Ebony Pope, Village Capital (Image: WDCEP) Ebony Pope, Village Capital (Image: WDCEP)

Ebony Pope, the director of US Ventures at Village Capital, is a huge proponent of the fund’s location due to the types of entrepreneurs that surface from the city. Village Capital’s goal is to find and train entrepreneurs, solving critical and global issues and Pope says D.C. is the place to do it.

“DC’s proximity to the Department of Education, Energy, Agriculture and the government entities addressing some of our nation’s most critical problems provides a great foundation as the launching pad for impact companies,” Pope told the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership.

Janice Omadeke, The Mentor Method

Janice Omadeke, The Mentor Method (Image: WDCEP) Janice Omadeke, The Mentor Method (Image: WDCEP)

Janice Omadeke is CEO and founder of the Mentor Method, a social enterprise that provides curated mentor matches. The company’s aim is to connect the next generation of tech leaders with change-making mentors seeking to increase their diversity numbers at their respective companies.

“DC’s impact network has helped me grow and scale my business. The supportive community has given me a platform and direct access to resources [and] is fueling growth,” stated Omadeke to WDCEP. 

Shelly Bell, Black Girl Vision

Shelly Bell, Black Girl Vision (Image: WDCEP) Shelly Bell, Black Girl Vision (Image: WDCEP)

Shelly Bell, the CEO and founder of Black Girl Vision, a national network for professional and entrepreneurial women dedicated to connecting women of color to access to funding and social capital, is in the process of transitioning the company to Black Girl Ventures and champions D.C. when it comes to impact.

“Washington D.C. is great for impact companies because as the nation’s capital we are the hub of America’s human experience. I believe that the majority of people in the Washington, D.C. metro area realize that while change is not easy it is the only necessary constant in our society,” said Bell to WDCEP.

Marla Blow, FS Card

Marla Blow, FS Card (Image: WDCEP) Marla Blow, FS Card (Image: WDCEP)

Marla Blow, CEO of FS Card, a company that leverages advanced analytical techniques, sustainable product design, and behavioral incentives to offer a scalable unsecured credit product in a market, is enthralled by the fact that D.C. is communal and that she has access to a plethora of resources.

“As an entrepreneur, I’m privileged to work in a community where the creative juices are always flowing and you have the support you need at your fingertips. Offices like the District’s Economic Development Team and local tech incubators like Halcyon and 1776 have been our local champions every step of the way. DC also boasts enthusiastic private and public capital partners—all of which have been critical for my growing fintech company. The unique access to policymakers and thought leaders is only possible in our nation’s capital; and this, coupled with the diverse and vibrant local culture, make DC a great place to work and live,”  Blow explained to WDCEP.

Jan Baker, Impact Hub DC

Jan Baker, Impact Hub DC (Image: WDCEP) Jan Baker, Impact Hub DC (Image: WDCEP)

Jan Baker, managing director of Impact Hub D.C., an inclusive co-working and events space for a member-based community of social entrepreneurs, activists, and creatives is all about the inclusivity that D.C. brings to the table.

“Washington, D.C. is the gateway to inclusive entrepreneurship that fosters a tight-knit community of impactful changemakers focused on creating equitable systems that create a better city for a better world,” Baker stated.

Thinking about starting or joining a social impact, tech company? D.C. might be the place for you.

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Google Just Granted $1 Million to Increase Black Male Presence in Tech

Google is providing a $1 million grant to the Hidden Genius Project—an Oakland-based organization dedicated to increasing the representation of black male youths in technology. The grant is provided through Google’s foundation arm, Google.org.

(Image: Courtesy of Google)

The funds were presented at “Tech Slam,” an event held in Silicon Valley that gives kids access to activities and people in computer science and other fields including music, fashion, and sports.

On hand at the most recent Tech Slam, was Alphabet SVP David Drummond, who hosted a fireside chat with Warriors players Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee.

(L-R: Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, and David Drummond. Image: Courtesy of Google)

Justin Steele, a principal at Google.org wrote about the event and the grant in a blog post:

Coding is evolving and influencing how we think about all industries, including fashion, music, and art. But even as CS becomes more important across a wide variety of fields, millions of Black, Hispanic and female youth aren’t unlocking its benefits.

One reason behind a lack of representation is perception; according to our research with Gallup, students are five times more likely to take an interest in computer science if they often see people who look like them in that field. As we often say, “you have to see it to be it.”

I first met The Hidden Genius Project when they were finalists and then winners in our 2015 Google Impact Challenge. Since our initial $500,000 grant, they’ve reached more than 1,700 Bay Area students through their 15-month intensive CS and entrepreneurship boot camp program, as well as events and workshops exposing young black men to mentors, basic computer programming, and various careers in tech, like sports analytics and video game design.

(Image: Courtesy of Google)

“For the past five years, The Hidden Genius Project has been able to serve youth in a holistic fashion, revealing their genius throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. With a broadened vision of themselves, our Geniuses become change agents for their own lives and their communities. Thanks to the Google Impact Challenge Grant, we were able to increase our investment in program operations and expand our youth development opportunities to open an additional program site in Richmond, California,” said Brandon Nicholson, executive director of The Hidden Genius Project.

“Our efforts and results have positioned us to scale nationally, and additional funds from Google will help us reach our goal to provide career exposure opportunities like Tech Slam that offer entrepreneurship, leadership, and technology creation skills to youth throughout the country.”

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Uber Hires PepsiCo Exec and Former DOJ Official Tony West

Uber has hired Tony West, a former Justice Department official and general counsel at PepsiCo Inc., as its chief legal officer. The new appointment comes as the embattled ride-sharing company faces multiple lawsuits, federal investigations, and scandals.

Uber (Image: Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Starting in 2014, West served as executive vice president of Government Affairs, general counsel and corporate secretary for PepsiCo, where he prioritized diversity and ethical practices. The food and beverage conglomerate has consistently been ranked by Black Enterprise as one of the top best companies for diversity during his tenure. Prior to that, West was appointed as an assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice, which happens to be investigating Uber’s business dealings.

According to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, “Tony is exactly what Uber needs now” as it battles allegations of sexism, a major lawsuit with Alphabet, and a series of U.S. investigations, including allegations that it used software to evade federal regulators and bribery in foreign countries.

“As a former federal prosecutor and senior Department of Justice official in the Obama administration, he’s well-equipped to handle the investigations into our past practices,” said Khosrowshahi Friday in a statement. “And at Pepsi, he has emphasized diversity on his team and across the company. But perhaps most importantly, Pepsi has been named one of the world’s most ethical companies 10 years in a row. Under Tony’s leadership, I’m confident that we will one day join this list.”

Last week, three Latina software engineers filed a lawsuit in San Francisco against Uber, alleging that they endured unequal pay and treatment due to their gender and race. The global tech company was also banned in London in September over public safety and security concerns. In the midst of these challenges, Black Enterprise SVP/Chief Content Officer Derek T. Dingle says hiring West was a smart move.

“Not only are they gaining a professional with vast corporate experience and a diversity champion having worked as general counsel and serving as an executive officer for PepsiCo, one of the nation’s largest companies, but they also get talent with an intimate understanding of how federal investigations work,” says Dingle. “His legal expertise and strategic approach will be invaluable in handling the DOJ’s investigation into the company’s business practices. West’s appointment will go a long way to help Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reach his stated goal of positioning Uber to one day be considered among ethical corporate leaders. However, achieving that objective will take some time.”

In an interview with The Washington Post, West admitted that the tech giant faces challenges ahead. “I’m not the first to recognize that the company over-indexed on growth without putting in the appropriate guardrails,” he said. “Fostering a culture of compliance is going to be one of my top priorities.”

West, who is slated to start at Uber in early November, is one of several prominent African American figures to join the company this year. Earlier this month, former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns was appointed as a board director in a controversial move made by ousted CEO Travis Kalanick. In August, marketing guru Bozoma Saint John was brought on to help Uber rebrand. Meanwhile, former US attorney general Eric Holder was hired in February to lead an independent review into allegations of sexual harassment.


*Our original article stated that Tony West was still operating as the EVP, government affairs, general counsel and corporate at PepsiCo, Inc. However, PepsiCo confirmed that West stepped down from this role on PepsiCo on October 27, 2017. 

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Pressure Increases for More Tech Firms to Tie C-Suite Exec Bonuses to Diversity Goals

There is no shortage of criticism over Silicon Valley’s abysmal attempts at diversifying the tech industry. Even people of color with STEM degrees remain woefully underrepresented in tech jobs.

(Image: iStock/PeopleImages)

There have been calls from organizations focused on socially responsible investing to tie tech company executives’ compensation with the company’s diversity goals.

OpenMic.org, a non-profit organization using shareholder engagement to forward diversity in media and telecommunication, works with socially conscious investment firms to create shareholder proposals holding tech CEOs more accountable for diversity progress.

Apple Is a Frequent Target

A recent proposal filed by Zevin Asset Management requests that Apple integrate “sustainability metrics, including metrics regarding diversity among senior executives, into the performance measures of the CEO under the Company’s compensation incentive plans.”

“The tech sector faces a diversity and inclusion crisis,” said Pat Miguel Tomaino, associate director of socially responsible investing at Zevin Asset Management, via a released statement.

“Investors need to know that Apple has what it takes to recruit and retain talented and diverse workers. C-suite accountability is a critical step.”

These investment firms argue that diversity is good for business and that their clients make more money when companies in which they are invested are more diverse.

Apple filed a letter with the SEC requesting permission to reject the proposal. The City of Cupertino’s argument is that the same proposal was filed and also rejected two times prior.

Indeed, earlier this year, Zevin Asset Management filed a shareholder proposal surrounding the lack of diversity on Apple’s executive team and board. It was also rejected.

Some Tech Companies Already Holding Executives Accountable

Apple has launched several diversity initiatives within the company. For example, for the last three years, the company has released its diversity data.

Cupertino also hosts an Immersion Experience program through its partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF). The program prepares HBCU students for internships with Apple. Apple also announced a $40 million donation to the TMCF.

Yet, other tech companies have also launched internal diversity and inclusion efforts, and have taken the further step of associating executive compensation with diversity.

Last year, Microsoft announced that its executives’ bonuses would be determined on whether that executive’s team met its diversity goals.

In 2015, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced the company’s $300 million commitment to diversity and that diverse hiring goals are taken into account for annual performance bonuses for every employee in the company.

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Cross Culture Ventures Invests in Technology to Assist with Modern Day Parenting

Cross Culture Ventures, a minority-owned and operated venture fund, whose general partners include Troy Carter and Marlon Nichols, and venture partner, Suzy Ryoo, recently produced a series of reports highlighting themes focused on the state of technology and culture.

The first report released exemplifies what the fund is coining, the “UNperfect parent,” focusing on ways to leverage entrepreneurship and technology for modern-day parenting. Black Enterprise spoke with Nichols to discuss how the fund is assisting in this process by investing in technology that ensures that with the new family dynamic, people are still leading full lives.

Marlon Nichols (Image: Cross Culture Ventures) Marlon Nichols (Image: Cross Culture Ventures)

As we know, black women are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, so how are we starting to see this represented in the household paradigm shift?

We didn’t focus [the report] necessarily on black or white men or women, we looked at it more from the perspective of parents are getting younger, and the younger generation, in particular, millennials, are very comfortable with technology, particularly mobile phones, and also comfortable sharing responsibility with technology and with products for various aspects of their lives, so why can’t parenthood be another one of those aspects.

Specific to your point, this technology and this movement is great because there are no busier people in the world then entrepreneurs that are trying to juggle all of these things and then when you throw family and children into the mix, it’s like your job of multitasking has gotten that much more difficult so it’s very, very relevant to black women and entrepreneurs.

I dived into the report and saw that there was a focus on pop culture and the way that we look at the traditional family structure. Can you talk a little more about that?  

Yeah, so if you go way back to the ’60s, this is when the traditional family was a mom and a dad, or a male and a female, and they were raising children. The father would go out to work and then the mom would stay at home and be the caretaker, managing the entire household and would put an apple pie on the table.

Things started changing. There was a war and a lot of the men went off to war, so women still had to provide for the children and the household and they still had to do all those other things. The war was over, men came back and the women were like, we’re not staying home anymore.

Then you started seeing interesting things like men staying home, while women went out to work and then the LGBT community started growing and they wanted the right to adopt or birth children and raise them as a new kind of family structure.

These are some of the things that we looked at and said this has some real legs to put investment dollars behind.

Speaking of investment dollars, what are some of the investments that Cross Culture Ventures has put their money toward to ensure that this technology gets out there and is assisting in the ‘UNperfect parent’ scenario?

We highlight three in the report:

Wonderschool, a software platform that enables stay-at-home parents to turn their homes into daycare and preschool facilities.

Yumi, a baby food delivery service. They do all the meal planning, they send it to you, you get it at your doorstep and basically, you just feed your kid what they’re providing you. They are planning to be the online destination for anything that’s good for your child.

Thrive Market, a company that allows you to eat well for a lot less, so all the products that you’d find in Whole Foods, you can get on Thrive Market’s website for anywhere from 25% to 50% of what it would cost you in a Whole Foods. The idea here is that irrespective of where you live or what your social status is, you should be able to feed your family well.

This is just the beginning of several reports that Cross Culture Ventures plans to release in forthcoming months showing us where they are placing their resources.

Watch the video below to find out more about where the focus will go from these leading industry experts.

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Black Tech Founder on Pitching to the Sharks and Cuban’s Remark on ‘Entitled Millennials’

Ryan Diew pitched Trippie on the Season 9 premiere of ABC’s Shark Tank. After the show, Black Enterprise contributor Brandon Andrews sat down with Diew for an interview about the show and his mobile app that helps travelers navigate and find what they need at the airport.

Trippie Founder Ryan Diew Pitches on ABC's Shark Tank (Trippie App Founder Ryan Diew on ABC’s Shark Tank. Image: ABC/Michael Desmond)

Brandon Andrews: Trippie makes navigating airports easier. Tell us how you came up with the idea.  

Ryan Diew: Two years ago, after a long week of finals, I was on a layover in DC headed home to Oakland. I forgot to pack a lunch in the airport so I was pretty hungry. On my layover, I wanted to get food but I had no idea where anything was. I immediately searched the app store for “airport app with airport maps” to see if there was anything out there, but I couldn’t find anything. I had to trust a stranger with my three carry-on bags while I went to find food. It was at this moment I decided to build a solution myself.

Why are you passionate about solving this problem?

I really like that we’re solving a problem that millions of people deal with every day. I really believe Trippie can change the way air travelers spend their time waiting before flights in the airport.

You built Trippie while you were a college athlete. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs wanting to build apps themselves? 

If you want to do something, just do it. I’ve had a lot of people say to me, “I have this great idea, but I don’t have a motivated developer” and that’s the wrong way to go about things. I didn’t learn how to build this app in class. I decided to use sources like YouTube to watch tutorials on how to build every single feature I wanted in the app. The internet has significantly made knowledge more accessible and easier.

Trippie App Screenshots (Trippie Mobile App Screenshot. Image: Trippie)

When did you apply to be on the show?

My team and I pitched at my alma mater Colgate University my junior year. In our Shark Tank pitch contest, we were able to win $22,000 in prize money. This allowed me to actually buy a laptop to code on which was really awesome. That win led to Trippie being featured in Inc Magazine’s Coolest College Startups back in March. After the Inc feature, we were contacted by the producers of Shark Tank.

A lot of entrepreneurs dream about appearing on Shark Tank. Of course, I thought about it too. However, Shark Tank wasn’t an opportunity we were actively pursuing. I honestly thought we were a bit too early. But, the producers reached out and I took the opportunity.

Your pitch on the show illustrated the struggle of many black entrepreneurs. They have spark and grit, but often lack the capital to build their businesses. Lack of capital can also mean that these businesses do not have the traditional traction profile VCs look for. Tell us about your experience pitching.

I went in expecting to get a deal, but I knew our product wasn’t as far along as I wanted it to be. I was a D-1 college basketball player. Upsets happen every year in the NCAA tournament. The No. 15 seed has to believe they can beat the No. 2 seed for it to happen. I went in believing.

We didn’t get a deal, and as guest Shark Rohan Oza said, they gave me some tough love. My Shark Tank pitch nonetheless has been an amazing learning experience for me.

What lessons did you learn from your experience on Shark Tank?

One lesson I learned is being able to keep a poker face. This business is my baby, and being told that my baby wasn’t ready impacted me more than I thought. Prior to Shark Tank, our team had won thousands of dollars in every pitch competition we entered. It was jarring.

I also learned to take the positive out of every situation. The Sharks were focused on my app data and ability to scale, and—immediately after the show—so was I. That feedback was honest and helpful, but I was so focused on that feedback and that I forgot every Shark saying they liked the idea.

At the end of the day, all of the buzz about my pitch is leading to more site visits and more app downloads.

During and after your pitch, Mark Cuban made a comment about “entitled millennials,” as a millennial entrepreneur, how do you respond to this criticism?

I feel like that narrative is opposite of who I am. My—now famous—monologue wasn’t intended to come across as me feeling entitled. It was intended to demonstrate that I’m worth investing in.

I made a D-1 basketball team as a walk-on. There were no roster spots my freshman year, so I participated on the practice squad and was ‘team manager.’ I even joined the track team to stay in shape in the off-season. I eventually earned a spot on the team. I taught myself to code and built the first version of Trippie myself.

I don’t think anyone owes me anything, but I do feel like my life experience demonstrates the grit needed to grow a business. While I don’t think I’m entitled, overall Mark Cuban’s advice was helpful. The conversation was much longer in person, and the edited version on the show may color it differently. He even follows me on Twitter now.

 

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[Video] Baron Davis Launches BIG Summit

Former NBA All-Star Baron Davis, nicknamed “B-Diddy,” has been heavily active in the tech community in the past couple of years but recently, we are definitely starting to feel a lot more of his presence.

There is no lack of summits or events to attend in the Bay Area. After launching the Black Santa Co., late last year, Davis has his eyes set on a new venture, the BIG (Business Inside the Game) Summit. From Tech Inclusion to Blavity’s AfroTech to our very own tech summit, TechConneXt, event goers have a list to choose from so what makes this summit different?

L to R: Monte Stettin, Somesh Dash, Carren Morris, Baron Davis, Leslie Osborne, Justin Kan, Image: file) (L to R: Monte Stettin, Somesh Dash, Carren Morris, Baron Davis, Leslie Osborne, Justin Kan, Image: file)

Well for starters, Davis and partner Tina Davar have curated a group of extreme movers and shakers who are not only present as speakers but who also made up the attendance list. After speaking with several individuals, I was well aware that the audience themselves had their own set of success stories from Hollywood execs to data scientists to investors to established tech entrepreneurs.

Also, the carefully, curated crowd didn’t just consist of tech entrepreneurs. It was a beautiful intersection of entertainment, tech, business, and sports. The event kicked off with Davis moderating with the smooth sounds of Notorious B.I.G. instrumentals playing in the background. Panelists included:

  • Somesh Dash, who actively led or participated in IVP’s investments in Pure Storage (PSTG) Qadium, Rubrik, Shazam, Snap, Tanium, The Players Tribune, TuneIn, Uber, Uproxx, and Zynga (ZNGA).
  • Justin Kan, an internet entrepreneur and investor who is notably known for founding Twitch, a video game streaming platform (acquired for $970 million by Amazon in 2014). Venturing back into the entrepreneurial space after many years as an investor, Kan recently started Atrium LTS, which builds products and services to help automate legal workflows, innovate new processes, and help firms identify new clients.
  • Leslie Osborne, a professional soccer player for 10 years, model, trainer, spokeswoman and ambassador for Puma. She is currently the chief marketing officer for Sweat Cosmetics, the preferred cosmetic brand for professional female athletes and women who live an active lifestyle.
  • Monte Stettin, an executive and entrepreneur with a career that reads like a college course catalog spanning publishing, advertising, entertainment and media, real estate development, design, invention, alternative energy, medical devices, software, and healthcare with a strong interest in exponential technologies and their deployment to improve lives. There isn’t much Stettin hasn’t done.
  • Carren Morris, a 16-year e-commerce, and business development veteran working for global brands such as Nike, Converse, and Puma. From her experience, Morris created a consulting company specializing in brand development, marketing, sales planning and go-to-market strategies for professional athletes, designers, and startups, helping them develop and launch their brands.

Topics during the discussion ranged from each individual explaining their ‘Business Inside the Game,’ i.e., what they bring to the table to what is the pulse (the culture) of their companies. Individual comments were followed by Davis’ swagged out catchphrase, ‘that’s BIG.”

“This event was a beta, an A/B test,” Davis’ partner Davar told Black Enterprise. “We got tired of talking about it and decided to do it.”

So what is the ultimate goal for this Summit you ask? “Our mission at BIG is to function as an educational and empowerment resource for our communities to nurture new opportunities, relationships, and careers at the intersection of sports, business, technology, and culture,” said Davis.

“BIG will be a new disruptive, open source power summit and platform with important activations that allow us to invest and incubate the next wave in culture.”

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The Secret to Building Apps Without Using Code

Last week, hundreds of tech leaders, executives, innovators, renowned speakers, and entrepreneurs convened in Silicon Valley for the annual TechConneXt Summit powered by Black Enterprise. The two-day conference was packed with insightful talks, interactive workshops, and one-on-one chats with some of the brightest minds in tech.

This year, Tara Reed, the founder of Apps Without Code, delivered a BE Tech Talk on how non-technical people can learn to build software without code. Prior to launching her first app in 2014, Reed worked in marketing at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft. At that time, she didn’t aspire or envision herself as an entrepreneur. However, after she had trouble finding an existing app to help people interested in buying fine art, she decided to build her own. Without writing a single line of code, she launched an app called Kollecto in just a few months, which helped her earn $35,000 in revenue.

Apps (Image: Tara Reed at the 2017 TechConneXt Summit)

“I had this crazy set of tools that I was stringing together to create an experience that felt like cool technology to my users, but really, I was using surveys in a really fancy way. Every week, I would load up a ton of artwork that had been curated by my team, and all these pieces of artwork had tags on them based on their price and on the type of artwork they were. I would send people an email that would basically send them to a dynamic survey that was hiding and showing pieces of art based off of the preferences they chose when they [initially] signed up,” Reed told BLACK ENTERPRISE earlier this year.

Now, she’s teaching others how to turn their business ideas into cool apps. During her presentation at TechConneXt, Reed shared tips and resources for entrepreneurs who have an idea for an app but no idea how to build or market it. Some of those resources include:

  1. Using logic-based software written in English, not code
  2. Bubble, a program that lets you build interactive, multi-user apps for desktops and mobile web browsers
  3. If you want more information, Reed runs a 12-week boot camp that includes personalized coaching, video tutorials, and a supportive community to get app users and earn revenue

Learn more about how to build apps without code and Reed’s “code-free toolkit” here.

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Damon Dash Creates the Dash Diabetes Network

Most people know Damon Dash for his partnership with Jay-Z and the creation of Roc-A-Fella Records, or his famed relationship with the late R&B/pop artist Aaliyah Haughton. But what people may not know is that in recent months, Dash has re-emerged on the scene as a tech entrepreneur, founding an ultra-informative platform called the Dash Diabetes Network.

Black Enterprise recently caught up with Dash to discuss his media tech transition, why he went this route, and where he sees the business going.

Damon Dash (Image: Dash Diabetes Network) Damon Dash (Image: Dash Diabetes Network)

Black Enterprise: Why did you start the Dash Diabetes Network?

Damon Dash: I always wanted to bring awareness to diabetes just because I’m diabetic. The last couple of years in my career, I decided to just really focus on myself; instead of making money off of other people’s talent, making money off of my own. That also means bringing awareness to whatever is weak or considered a weakness about me and showing people how to turn it into a strength.

When I came across Afrezza, which is an inhaled insulin as opposed to an injectable insulin, and found that I could control my blood sugar and get my A1C right, I was like wow, now I could be an official spokesperson on how to maintain a healthy life despite the fact that [I’m] an imperfect person and I don’t think anyone else would give me the platform, so I had to make it.

Platform Interface ((Image: Dash Diabetes Network) Platform Interface (Image: Dash Diabetes Network)

When did you discover you had diabetes?

I was about 15 and was in high school. I was pretty promiscuous and things were coming out, where I felt like I might have had something that was way worse than diabetes. I felt like it was something that I couldn’t recover from. I felt like I was going to die. I thought I was going to die for about a month and I felt really bad. I was going to the bathroom a lot. I lost like 40 pounds. In school, everybody was saying I was dying. I was scared to go to the doctor because I didn’t want to be diagnosed with death.

I was so sluggish and I couldn’t move and my moms was like, ‘yo, you gotta go to the doctor.’ I went to the doctor and he told me I was a Type 1 diabetic, so I had to take a needle. I was kind of happy, you know, I was relieved. I felt like I had a second chance at life.

What made you start an entire network instead of doing a one-off series?

I’m Dame Dash. I don’t do one-offs. I try to make history when I do something. Plus, I’m enlightened enough to do that, so why wouldn’t I? I change my whole business model because of the millennial generation and the way they receive information. I help develop it.

When I opened DD172, which was a gallery in Tribeca in 2010, and made it a television network, at that time you couldn’t even monetize the internet. But I was still giving you content. I was still giving you something on YouTube and Vimeo every single day and I also developed an aesthetic.

I was waiting for the business model back then that I knew would be present in the future. I kind of knew something that people didn’t. I kind of had to wait it out but now that the world’s caught up, I know exactly what to do.

What’s your main goal with the company and how do you plan to scale it?

My main goal is for people to get well, and to teach people how to be healthy because to live as a successful diabetic just means being a healthy person and everyone should want to be healthy.

It’s going to be more programming. Right now it’s all Dame Dash-heavy. The next season is not going to be so much of me. It’s going to be, more or less, the lifestyle and the people that I work with because I find them very interesting. I’ve always liked to showcase my infrastructure because, without them, I have no flavor. They’re the real flavor.

A lot of different programming is gonna spawn from it.

For more information, and a look at the platform, check out the Dash Diabetes Network by clicking the link here.

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If You Connect Your Home or Business to Wi-Fi, You Must Deal With This Threat Now

Researchers have discovered a flaw in the security mechanism used to secure just about every Wi-Fi router out there. The vulnerabilities are in the encryption protocols that routers and other wireless devices use: WPA and WPA2. WPA2 is the newer protocol and the security encryption most home and business routers and devices are using. The newly found vulnerability has been dubbed the “Krack Attack.”

(Image: iStock/4×6)

So what can a hacker exploiting the found vulnerability in wireless security do? According to the International Consortium for Advancement of Cybersecurity on the Internet (ICASI), hackers could potentially seize control of the affected device, inject malware, and wreak all sorts of havoc on a Wi-Fi network.

Device manufacturers and tech companies are already issuing security patches for their devices and software or have released a statement about the issue:

Microsoft: Windows PCs and devices are considered to be generally safe from the attack, but Microsoft said in a statement to The Verge that it is releasing a fix through its automatic updating feature.

Google: Google says that all Android devices are affected and those running Marshmallow (Android 6.0) have an even greater vulnerability. According to Android Central, Google will release a fix “in the near future.”

Belkin/Linksys: A spokesperson for Belkin emailed the following statement (Belkin manufactures the widely-used Linksys router as well as smart-home Wemo devices):

“Belkin International (Belkin Linksys, and Wemo) is aware of the WPA vulnerability. Our security teams are verifying details and we will advise accordingly. Also know that we are committed to putting the customer first and are planning to post instructions on our security advisory page on what customers can do to update their products, if and when required.”

Other Vendors

ZDNet has a list of companies releasing fixes that it is updating regularly. From ZDNet:

Intel: Intel has released a security advisory listing updated Wi-Fi drives and patches for affected chipsets, as well as Intel Active Management Technology, which is used by system manufacturers.

Linux: As noted on Chargeda patch is already available and Debian builds can patch now, while OpenBSD was fixed back in July.

The WiFi Standard: A fix is available for vendors but not directly for end users.

MikroTik: The vendor has already released patches which fix the vulnerabilities.

Google: Google told The Verge that the company is “aware of the issue, and we will be patching any affected devices in the coming weeks.”

AVM: This company may not be taking the issue seriously enough, as due to its “limited attack vector,” despite being aware of the issue, will not be issuing security fixes “unless necessary.”

OpenBSD: Patches are now available.

Microsoft: While Windows machines are generally considered safe, the Redmond giant isn’t taking any chances and has released a security fix available through automatic updates.

Netgear: Netgear has released fixes for some router hardware. The full list can be found here.

Ubiquiti Networks: A new firmware release, version 3.9.3.7537, protects users against the attack.

It’s a good idea to contact your device’s manufacturer including those of your router, smartphones, PCs and laptops, as well as those that make Internet of Things devices such as Alexa, and smart TVs or internet-connected appliances to find out if those devices are vulnerable and when a fix will be available, if they are.

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Apple’s Denise Young Smith Walks Back “White, Blue-Eyed Men” Diversity Remark

After receiving backlash—particularly across social media—Apple’s vice president of diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, has apologized for recent comments she made speaking at a conference earlier this month.

(Denise Young Smith. Image: Apple)

During a panel session on racial injustice held in Bogota, Columbia;  Young Smith said that she focuses on everyone as Apple’s diversity chief.

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT,” she said on the panel as reported by Quartz.

Her next comments are what some took issue with. “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Twitter users quickly found fault with her statements:

However, there were also tweets of support for what she had said:

TechCrunch  obtained an internal Apple email in which Young Smith apologizes to her colleagues:

I have always been proud to work for Apple in large part because of our steadfast commitment to creating an inclusive culture. We are also committed to having the most diverse workforce and our work in this area has never been more important. In fact, I have dedicated my twenty years at Apple to fostering and promoting opportunity and access for women, people of color and the underserved and unheard. 

Last week, while attending a summit in Bogota, I made some comments as part of a conversation on the many factors that contribute to diversity and inclusion. 

I regret the choice of words I used to make this point. I understand why some people took offense. My comments were not representative of how I think about diversity or how Apple sees it. For that, I’m sorry. 

More importantly, I want to assure you Apple’s view and our dedication to diversity has not changed.  

Understanding that diversity includes women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and all underrepresented minorities is at the heart of our work to create an environment that is inclusive of everyone. 

Our commitment at Apple to increasing racial and gender diversity is as strong as it’s ever been. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, but there is much work to be done. I’m continually reminded of the importance of talking about these issues and learning from each other. 

Best,

Denise

Young Smith is Apple’s first diversity and inclusion officer. Young Smith was appointed to that position in May of this year. Previously she led Human Resources at Apple and also helped the company grow its retail business worldwide.

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You Can Learn to Code—Without Taking on Debt

Over the summer it seemed that every other week media reports announced that one coding school after another was closing.

(Image: iStock/shironosov)

Coding academies—often called boot camps—have taken the world by storm over the past six years. Everyone from college grads to dropouts to mid-career professionals was thinking about or actually attending these schools with the hope of on-ramping to a high-salaried position in the tech space. For some, the dream came true.

But it may be that their early success made some schools expand too quickly or too ambitiously. Some of the biggest names in the sector are now closing, while others are becoming more innovative to both serve students better and outlast the competition.

New York Code + Design Academy

Full disclosure: When my son was between schools, we seriously considered a coding academy. Although he ended up opting to go to college, our family was convinced that a 12-week coding school just might do the trick, although some in the tech space say otherwise.

And it isn’t always easy for students to come up with the $15,000 tuition up front—which is what most coding boot camps require.

Except for those that offer income share agreements—which require little to no cash up front. I’ve written before about a school that costs its students nothing up front, nor do its students take on debt.

New York Code + Design Academy also uses income share agreements. I recently spoke with Karl McDonnell, CEO of Strayer Education Inc., which owns the coding school, about this innovative financial arrangement.

“The $15,000 price point is difficult for most people to come up with,” McDonnell told me. “And unlike regionally accredited postsecondary education, these coding boot camps are not eligible for Title IV funding, so you can’t take out a student loan. We were looking for alternative ways that students could finance their education.”

A For-Profit Entity

You probably know that Strayer is a for-profit entity. Yet, I’m excited about this program—and that’s saying a lot. I’ve written a bit over the last two-and-a-half years about how disastrous and predatory for-profit schools are—and how they prey mostly on vulnerable people, especially low-income, poorly informed people of color.

Their low graduation rates, high debt burden, and poor value in the job market all work against their recommendation.

But this is a program I think I can get behind. I’m not kidding. My son is a full-time computer science student, but I am going to tell him about this program.

Why? Because of its income share agreement.

It’s in the best interests of the school to make sure they’re teaching students what they need to be employed—since students must be working in order to pay the schools back—setting up a kind of virtuous circle—instead of the much more familiar vicious cycle of debt —useless degree/drop out—more debt/no job—leaving students worse off than if they’d never gone to school at all.

Student Protections

“The way we try to protect the students,” McDonnell continued, “is if you’re unable to find work, you can get up to two years of deferment. The second protection is, if you’re unable to get a job paying at least $40,000 then effectively the program is free. We do absorb the cost on that.”

Once employed, grads agree to pay 8% of their monthly gross income for 48 months. There are no additional fees or interest charges.

“We do the work of placing students in full-time jobs, which in our experience offer average salaries of $55,000 to $75,000,” says McDonnell, who told me that their placement rate is an attractive 93%. “These coding jobs are very good jobs.”

McDonnell went on. “There’s a problem of economic mobility in this country. Tech jobs are going unfilled. Traditional CS degrees are not equipping students for these jobs. The income share agreement should make this vastly more accessible to students.”

Course Report, which monitors the coding boot camp sector, gives New York Code + Design Academy—which despite its name operates in five locations, including Washington, D.C., and Amsterdam—four stars based on student reviews. For more on income share agreements, go here.

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Black Tech Leaders Address Silicon Valley’s Diversity Issue

Each year, the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit brings together tech leaders, executives, innovators, renowned speakers, and entrepreneurs with the goal of empowering people of color in the tech industry. The two-day conference is packed with insightful talks, interactive workshops, and one-on-one chats with some of the brightest minds in tech. In the lead up to the conference, TechConneXt also provides HBCU students with an opportunity to showcase their talents and genius in the #BEhackathon competition for a grand prize of $40,000.

(Image: Anthony Frasier, author and entrepreneur, and Tony Prophet, Chief Equality Officer of Salesforce, at the 2017 TechConneXt Summit)

This year, during “An Interactive Discussion: Real Solutions to Tech’s Diversity Issue” session, a roundtable of millennial tech influencers addressed what top companies in Silicon Valley are doing to foster diversity and whether or not their efforts have led to actual change. Before the panel of young techies took the stage, Anthony Frasier, an author and entrepreneur-in-residence at Newark Venture Partners, began the session with a fireside chat with Tony Prophet, the chief equality officer at Salesforce. Prior to joining Salesforce, Prophet worked as an executive at both Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. Today, he is considered to be one of the most powerful black tech executives in Silicon Valley.

During their chat, Prophet emphasized the importance of creating a diverse company culture. He also stated that organizations have an obligation to foster social change, starting from within.

“Naturally, all industries and any great institution [are] striving for diversity, but you also want to build cultures that are inclusive where everyone feels seen, valued, and heard,” he said. He added that companies must build safe work environments that encourage their employees “to bring their whole authentic self to work.”

In addition to cultivating diversity through their recruitment efforts, Prophet pointed out that businesses can also use data to make sure their company policies are practicing pay equality among their employees.

(Image: Anthony Frasier, author and entrepreneur; Roy Broderick Jr., founder/CEO of The Intuition Consulting Firm; Mariah Lichtenstern, founding partner at DiverseCity Ventures, Tiffany Price, Community Engagement Manager at Kapor Center for Social Impact; and Leroy Jackson, managing director at Accenture Technology)

In the second half of the session, Frasier moderated a discussion with Roy Broderick Jr., founder/CEO of The Intuition Consulting Firm; Mariah Lichtenstern, founding partner at DiverseCity Ventures; Tiffany Price, the community engagement manager at Kapor Center for Social Impact; and Leroy Jackson, the managing director at Accenture Technology. Each panelist shared their thoughts and expertise on how Silicon Valley can promote diversity and inclusion.

A company’s culture must be conducive to the people they are trying to attract, said Lichtenstern. On the other hand, if your business has a hostile work environment, then the focus needs to be on exposing and educating your employees on a diverse culture, she said. She also encouraged the audience to start their own businesses in order to challenge the paradigms that currently exist. Likewise, Jackson stressed the need for companies to focus on creating an inclusive environment and understanding who their employees are outside of work. “As a managing director, everyone sees me through that equal managing director lens, but it’s important for me to come to work and also express who am I. So when things are taking place in the media, I need to be vocal and bold in letting folks know that police brutality or [racial] profiling are things that actually affect me on a day-to-day basis.”

Broderick pointed out that company’s need to invest in the right recruiter officers who can build a sustainable and inclusive culture. “As we all know, diversity dollars are thin and they’re usually the first to go when it’s time to [make] cuts, so it’s very important to be strategic” in allocating those resources.

Price, however, argued that the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley stretches well beyond recruitment. “It’s all about leadership, and if the leadership doesn’t care, then it’s going to be a lot of struggle, with not a lot of shift.”

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Advice From Blerd Entrepreneurs to Their Younger Selves

Before geek became chic, it was just another synonym for outcast. So as a blerd—a black nerd—maintaining a career, that in most cases you had to build from the ground up, would be a formidable task requiring singular focus and carefully laid plans. One would assume this was the case if you look at Black Girl Nerds and Universal FanCon’s Jamie Broadnax or Black Nerd Problems’ William Evans.

But these examples of success come with lessons that they would have gladly been given a heads up on. Here are some of the lessons they and others in the geek market have learned along the way.

“Do not compromise your voice or interest because you think people won’t get it or care.” —William Evans, Black Nerd Problems

William Evans, the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Black Nerd Problems, collaborated with friend Omar Holmon when they realized that the lack of representation in the geek market wasn’t confined to the source but also reflected the lack of diversity in coverage and consumers speaking out. So they recruited other like-minded individuals to make their voices be heard.

“Being a geek can be isolating because we compare our interest to the general population, but we sometimes don’t know that there are huge communities that share our interest and passions. They just aren’t always in our class at school or neighborhood. But seeking out a community that is invested in the nerd stuff that you are is one of the best parts about being a geek.”

“Make sure that your con and concept represents your passion.” —Hilton George, BlerDCon

Hilton George is the founder and con-chair of BlerDCon, the annual convention celebrating the contributions of blerds to the geek community. Attending cons and not seeing them reflecting the diversity of the audiences that watched them inspired him to start BlerdCon.

“Go to as many cons as you can and have as much fun as you possibly can. For anyone considering building a convention, it is not for the faint of heart. So you’ll need a motivation that is bigger than yourself to get through the birth pains of bringing a con about.”

“When you’re doing something you love not only will the setbacks seem smaller, success will find you in ways that you can’t begin to imagine when you start your journey.”—BenHaMeen, Fanbros

BenHaMeen, co-founder and executive producer of the award-winning Fanbros podcast is a multitalented creative that hasn’t met a medium he didn’t like or master.

“I think one of the main keys to success is to find something that you love to do, something that you can’t imagine what life would be like if you weren’t doing it, and then never stop doing it.”

“Build a community; have an audience that respects your work and respects your brand and wants to help you.” —Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds

Jamie Broadnax, founder of Black Girl Nerds—the critically acclaimed portal for female nerds of color—has added con founder to her ever-expanding résumé. Broadnax is the co-founder and community director for the newly created Universal FanCon, which will take place in 2018 and she credits listening to her community as a big reason for her success.

“When your audience is telling you to create something, you need to go out and do it. So that’s the advice I would give, create things based off of the demand of your fans and they will support that. They will give you exactly what you are asking for whether they support you financially or by word of mouth. But you definitely have to follow through.”

“Believe in your power.” – Tatiana King-Jones, Fanbros

Tatiana King-Jones is a host on the Fanbros podcast and editor-in-chief of the accompanying website. While she might be hesitant to give out advice to her younger self for fear of poisoning the timeline she would encourage herself to believe in her power.

“I’d tell my younger self that I am enough. That my ‘odd’ interests, atypical perspective, and passion for geekdom is my purpose. I’d tell myself that the things I love, no matter how uncomfortable it may make me feel for being the ‘other, other’ in my circles, will actually be what makes me the most successful. I would tell myself never to dim her light or try to be like everyone else—because you’re not like everyone else—and that’s what makes you incredible.”

“Make sure your beginning is in a place that’s manageable.” —Jason Richardson, J1-Con

Jason Richardson, founder of J1-Con, Philadelphia’s first anime convention, would advise his younger self to make sure to start with a solid foundation.

“Be careful with where you begin your business. The place where you start is your bottom, and you can never fall below that line. Look at your heroes and not just where they are, but how they got there, as well as what they went through to become the heroes you know them as.”

“We’re all superheroes; we all have powers that lay untapped. And once you unlock yours, there is nothing stopping you.” —Jacqueline-Elizabeth Cottrell, Noir Caesar

Jacqueline-Elizabeth Cottrell is entertainment manager and spokesperson for the black-owned media company Noir Caesar. The brainchild of NBA player Johnny O’Bryant, Noir Caesar aims to give creatives of color a platform to showcase and distribute their work. Jacqueline’s history as a writer, model, and content creator in the geek market, as well as her belief in their mission, made her a logical choice to be the new company’s ambassador. While her path hasn’t always been easy, it was her dedication to it that lead to her opportunities.

“Don’t give up. Don’t let anyone force you into a box. Don’t let anyone call your blackness into question because you would rather watch InuYasha or read Angel Sanctuary as opposed to just regular comics. And don’t sell your own talent short. Be grateful for the gifts you have no matter what. You have been given the power to create, and I believe that is one of the most astounding superpowers you can have.”

“Everything is based on relationships.” —Maj Mack, Goboiano

Maj Mack, founder of anime culture lifestyle Goboiano is still learning as he goes. But one important lesson he learned early on was the power of friends and fostering relationships.

“I think the most important thing I’ve learned throughout the process would be building a network early. Relationships are the key to progressing whether in advertising, hiring, fundraising, whatever. I had an idea, but didn’t really understand until jumping in how important it is for moving forward.”

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For These Two HBCU Students, an Intel Internship Opened Up a New World

“I didn’t even know that side of the world existed,” says Allison Murdock. The sophomore at Morgan State University is referring to the time she just spent in Silicon Valley as an intern at Intel.

The internship program is part of a $125M diversity initiative from Intel—this specific program in which Murdock participated comes from Intel Capital—the company’s venture capital sector.  The ICAP program is an investment to diversify the next generation of venture capitalists (VCs).

Murdock became an intern at Intel while she was a freshman—a rare college year for interning. She was so impressed by her time at Intel that she switched her major.

(Allison Murdock. Image: Intel)

“Originally I was a business administration major,” she explains. “I just recently made the switch over to finance coming back from California.”

She says that while technology has always intrigued her, it was “not necessarily something I wanted to pursue.” She realized during her internship that she could fill a role at a tech company with her major, such as running business operations.

Hands-on Experience and Meeting Tech Leaders

What impressed the finance major most was learning about venture capitalism at Intel. “I was involved in calls with different companies that were pitching their ideas,” she says. “I got to sit down in meetings…”

She and the other interns were introduced to the VC world as well as prominent figures in the tech space including CEOs and the head of Intel Labs China. She even got the chance to snap a selfie with “BK,” she says. That’s the Intel employee nickname for Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

(Murdock with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. Image: Intel)

Josiane Ishimwe, a senior at Howard University, also took part in the Intel Capital (ICAP) internship. The Rwanda native is majoring in chemical engineering with a minor in computer science and says she was particularly intrigued by what she learned about artificial intelligence (AI) as an intern.

“I came [into the program] under a software internship…thinking it was strictly software development,” says Ishimwe. “But I ended up working [with] AI. I am very interested in AI, deep learning, machine learning…”

Ishimwe says she gained a “better vantage point” from the VC world and how AI and cutting-edge tech plays a part.

She also had hands-on experience. “My initial project was the market analysis of intelligent agents [such as] Alexa, Cortana…mid-summer I worked on different AI companies mapping different ecosystems and verticals…industrial IoT, client cars…”

(Josiane Ishimwe. Image: Intel)

For the Howard senior who always wanted to be “the female version of Iron Man,” the Intel program stoked a passion for the investment world along with her interests in chemical engineering and computer science.

Why Diversifying the VC Space is Critical

“Intel internships are a clear path to employment there,” is just one of the many positive reasons Barbara Whye, Intel’s VP of HR and chief diversity and inclusion officer, cites for Intel’s investment in ICAP. Whye says that “hands-on experience” is key to building skills and getting more diversity in tech and the VC space.

(Barbara Whye, Intel’s VP of HR and chief diversity and inclusion officer. Image: Intel)

While Intel has always had internships, “We have increased the intentionality. [ICAP] is new… an additional feature,” says Whye who is also an engineer and boasts a more than two-decade career with Intel.

She says the internship’s focus on VCs is with good reason. Diversifying VC culture, “impacts the innovation ecosystem,” says Whye. “The more we can fund and bring diversity to the VC, the better the products we can create and innovate.”

(ICAP intern, L-R: Savannah McCoy, Allison Murdock, Wendell Brooks (SVP at Intel Corp. and president of Intel Capital), Josiane Ishimwe, Isaiah Weaver, and Francisco Gomez. Image: Intel)

Intel’s diversity initiative is comprehensive, expanding beyond internships. “We’ve always had partnerships with HBCUs. We also just launched a deeper investment with a $4.5M investment with six HBCUs, a lot of that is around scholarships, research, and internships,” Whye says.

But Whye reiterates how key it is to diversify venture capitalism. “If tech is truly serious about achieving [diversity] it has to change itself first and that starts by really providing access to funding and investing.”

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Download the BE Events App to Stay Connected at TechConneXt Summit

TechConneXt

WHEN: Monday, October 9 – Tuesday, October 10

WHERE: Burlingame, CA

Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Summit presents a unique and unparalleled opportunity, bringing the best and brightest of the black tech community from Silicon Valley and beyond.

Network with tech industry leaders, decision-makers, influencers, and innovators. Receive cutting-edge information; participate in hands-on workshops; and learn from some of the best in technology. 

To stay on top of all things Entrepreneurs Summit, go to iTunes or Google Play to download the BE Events app.

This app will allow you real-time access to the Summit including schedule updates, speaker information, networking, social engagement, registration, partnerships, Black Enterprise exclusives, and so much more. Download today to remain in the know.

After downloading, tap your desired conference, accept the push notifications, click register, enter your info, and enjoy the event!

be-eventslockup

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After The Storms: Leading AT&T’s Effort to Assist Hurricane Hit Areas

Just as critical situations became stabilized in hurricane-ravaged parts of Texas and Florida—Hurricane Maria hit—decimating many of the island nations that form the Caribbean.

After major natural disasters, the first responses are to ensure that people are safe, fed, and have water and shelter. Meeting these needs can often prove a logistical nightmare especially when power and communications services are down.

“Communication is required,” says Gary Ludgood, president of field operations at AT&T and someone leading the national efforts to aid areas hit by the storms.

(Gary Ludgood. Image: AT&T)

Making Progress in Puerto Rico

Ludgood says that AT&T is using its vast experience in disaster recovery to help devastated communities restore telecommunications and infrastructure. He also weighed in on how relief efforts are going in Puerto Rico—savaged two weeks ago by Hurricane Maria.

“We are making a lot of progress in Puerto Rico. We have a barge en route now with even more equipment [such as] generators. As soon as those things hit the ground, we are prepared to deploy them around the island and get them back online,” says Ludgood.

“We work far in advance to be disaster-ready, this is kind of part of what we do at AT&T; it’s part of the culture. We regularly prepare for events like this whether [the disaster] is natural or man-made,” he explains.

Before the storm in Puerto Rico, Ludgood and his teams were hunkered down in Texas and Florida restoring services there as both states recovered from Hurricane Irma.

(• Hurricane Irma 1 (Key West City Hall): One of two AT&T Sat COLTs deployed to Key West in the Florida Keys. This COLT deployed to Key West City Hall provides connectivity for first responders and other recovery personnel. Image: AT&T)

He says in all disaster recovery situations, the first priority is restoring communication services to first responders.

“In Rockport, Texas, the county command center had no service [and] needed to communicate with first responders,” he says. AT&T engineers put fiber connective in place and installed service. The team then provided service to the local airport—within 24 hours.

Unique Logistics Problems With Each Hurricane

Ludgood says that these back-to-back storms were different in how each affected the areas they pummeled. This means being quick to change the disaster recovery strategy in one particular storm-affected location versus another.

“If you look at these three storms, they were all very different,” Ludgood says. “Harvey was largely around flooding. In an event like that, you have to let the waters recede. You have a fairly lengthy time of drying out the facilities. Irma was largely a wind event that resulted in massive power outages unlike Puerto Rico, the infrastructure is hardened in Florida—within a week they restored services there.”

(In Key West, a firetruck helps transport water to cool critical AT&T equipment. Image: AT&T)

“With Maria—it’s quite a ferocious storm where there’s a massive wind event against a weakened power structure that makes it a lot more challenging. There are lots of access issues; the logistics of getting equipment to the island.”

The telecommunications executive has been with AT&T for over a decade, according to his LinkedIn bio. He says he is planning to be on the ground with AT&T’s recovery teams in Puerto Rico this week.

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17-Year-Old Tech Phenom Develops Apps that Address Social Problems

(George Hofstetter. Image: Equal Justice Initiative)

We’ve been swamped here at Black Enterprise preparing for BE Smart Hackathon 3.0, held this year for the first time just prior to the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit—the definitive place to be if you’re into all things tech.

Speaking of all things tech, I’ve discovered a young tech phenomenon in the Bay Area where our conference will be held: George Hofstetter, a 17-year-old high school senior at Alameda Community Learning Center.

Like many of today’s young people, George isn’t waiting for opportunity to come his way—he’s creating it. At 16 he started his own tech company, George Hofstetter Technologies Inc. Last month, he was one of five honorees at a gala of the Equal Justice Society. He is also hosting and co-producing a project sponsored by Capital One Dev Exchange called UP to CODE vol. 1. UP to CODE is a free mobile curriculum for middle schoolers that’s focused on closing the digital divide.

(George Hofstetter. Image: Equal Justice Society)

Although George isn’t one of the students who’ll be competing in the BE Smart Hackathon—he’s still in high school, after all—similar to those students, George illustrates how tech proficiency can be used to attack some of society’s most intractable problems—like racism and violence.

I recently spoke with George by way of email.

BE: When did you get involved in technology?

I found out I was interested in technology when I was 13. One of my best friends, Desmond, invited me to a hackathon powered by Qeyno Labs, an Oakland-based tech company. At that hackathon we created an app to help private school students of color support one another through their experiences of racism. At the time I was attending a private school and experienced institutionalized racism. We found a way to help other students.

After that first hackathon, I wanted to really change the world’s perspective on race through technology. That year I taught myself four programming languages. That really opened my eyes to what it means to be an innovator and not just a consumer of technology. At 16 I started my own tech company, George Hofstetter Technologies Inc.

(George with his 9-year-old sister, Joelle, after she won her first hackathon. Image: Johnathon Henninger)

BE:  You also do public speaking. You spoke at Capital One headquarters?  

I was invited to speak at Capital One’s NextTech2016 conference. It was great speaking in front of banking professionals and developers. They hold so much power for how the black, Latino, and other minority communities experience essential things like banking and financial literacy. We all need more financial knowledge. My grandfather George McDaniel is a retired investment banker and bank president so I do know that world a little bit, but we can always learn more.

BE: I understand you’ve developed a controversial app.  

My latest app is called CopStop, the 21st century key to staying safe from police brutality. I submitted the app to the app store and it was sent back for errors in the code. Although I can and will fix it, right now I am overwhelmed with college applications and running my company.

BE: What are you planning to pursue professionally?

I plan to pursue a career in computer science and psychology. I think artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity are the most fascinating subjects in computer science, so I’m extremely excited to learn more. I am now applying to college and really want to go to UCLA, so UCLA if you are reading this, I’m right here!

(George with one of his mentors, Police Chief Jeff Tudor, and his sister, Joelle. Image: Johnathon Henninger)

BE: Who are your mentors?

I attribute my success in the tech space to my mentors who have always supported me, particularly Kalimah Priforce, headmaster and CEO of Qeyno Labs; Howard Sueing of Google; Jeff Tudor, Chief of Police in San Leandro, and many others. I also mentor younger kids at a program called The Hidden Genius Project. My success as a public speaker I have to attribute to my mom.

Inspired? For more information about George Hofstetter, visit www.meetgeorge.info. And to register for the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit, go here.

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Ex-Uber CEO Appoints Ursula Burns as Board Director in Move That ‘Completely Surprised’

Former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns has been appointed as a board director at Uber in a controversial move made by the ride-sharing company’s ousted CEO Travis Kalanick.

Kalanick stated Friday that Burns, along with John Thain, the former CEO of CIT Group, Merrill Lynch, and the New York Stock Exchange, will join Uber’s board of directors in a surprise announcement that even shocked Uber.

“I am happy to announce that Ursula Burns and John Thain have agreed to join Uber’s Board of Directors,” said a spokesperson for Kalanick in a statement sent to Tech Crunch. “Ursula and John are two highly accomplished corporate leaders with extensive board experience. Their backgrounds include successfully leading large public companies as chief executives and chairs, navigating dynamic, technology-powered and regulated industries, and guiding tens of thousands of employees around the world.”

The statement adds that the Uber co-founder is confident that the corporate titans will provide “valuable insights, counsel and independent perspective as Uber moves into the next phase of growth and prepares for a public offering.”

In response, Uber admitted that the appointments “came as a complete surprise to Uber and its Board” in a statement. “That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of.”

Kalanick said he made the stunning decision in “in light of a recent Board proposal to dramatically restructure the Board and significantly alter the company’s voting rights. It is therefore essential that the full Board be in place for proper deliberation to occur, especially with such experienced board members as Ursula and John.”

The announcement comes as Uber struggles to revive itself from a slew of scandals and bad press, which include allegations of sexism, federal investigations, and multiple lawsuits. Most recently, the tech giant was banned in London. In midst of these challenges, Kalanick was coerced into resigning in June by pressure from shareholders. Dara Khosrowshahi, formerly the CEO of Expedia, was hired in his place while marketing guru Bozoma Saint John was brought on to help Uber rebrand.

Benchmark, a board member and early investor in the tech giant, said it regrets granting Kalanick the privilege to remain on Uber’s board of directors with power over two other seats, following his resignation. Uber directors are scheduled to vote Tuesday on board reforms that could drastically limit Kalanick’s power, reports Bloomberg.

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Jotaka Eaddy Takes on New Role as Vice President of Policy, at LendUp

Jotaka Eaddy has been serving as an activist for years; tackling issues surrounding government affairs, working relentlessly as the senior advisor to the president and CEO of the NAACP, and has now taken those skills into the tech industry, having recently been appointed the new vice president of Policy, Strategic Engagement, and Impact, at LendUp, a role that did not previously exist.

According to the socially responsible financial services firm, this new role was created to further the company’s commitment to social impact and advocacy for financial inclusion, a topic that Eaddy is very well-versed in. Previously, Eaddy served as LendUp’s head of Government Affairs so it was only fitting that with her range of skill sets, a customized title was crafted around her promoted position.

A press release cited that LendUp has met several very large milestones recently. The company has saved borrowers nearly $135 million in interest and fees and expects to surpass $200 million by the end of the year by providing them with financial education, resources, and tools. These savings have helped to close the gap caused by poor credit, which costs Americans roughly $250,000 more over the course of their lifetimes.

Financial Education Resources (Image: LendUp) Financial Education Resources (Image: LendUp)

“We started LendUp to improve the way Americans access credit, with a mission to provide anyone with a path to better financial health. Reaching these milestones is huge—not just for us, but for our borrowers,” LendUp co-founder and CEO Sasha Orloff stated in the release. “Since Jotaka’s arrival, we’ve benefited from her knowledge and leadership, and we value her commitment to our mission. I’m thrilled to see her take on this expanded role, and I can’t wait to see all the good she does with it.”

So what will Eaddy’s new role consist of? She will work to advance policies and partnerships that improve economic opportunities for millions of Americans facing financial instability, including:

      A cross-sector partnership with the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program to address the growing problem of income volatility affecting American workers. This collaboration led to the launch of Finance Forward, a multi-city event series that for the first time brings together elected officials, businesses, community advocates, and nonprofit leaders to identify and advance actionable solutions to income volatility. The series, which is joined by several other national partners, including the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, the Urban Institute, and Stride Health, held its inaugural event in Columbia, South Carolina, in June. Its next event is in St. Louis in November.

      Ongoing research in collaboration with the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the centerpiece being a robust program to measure the overall financial health of LendUp customers. As a result of these efforts, LendUp was named a CFSI 2017 Financial Health Leader.

      Innovative service partnerships with nonprofits, B Corps, and financial innovators, including Balance, SpringFour and Digit, that connect LendUp borrowers with access to important educational resources, like free credit counseling, that are proven to significantly improve financial health.

Jotaka Eaddy VP of Policy, Strategic Engagement & Impact (Image: LendUp) Jotaka Eaddy VP of Policy, Strategic Engagement & Impact (Image: LendUp)

“We’re thrilled by the progress we’ve made to address issues related to financial inclusion, income volatility, and financial health, but we know we can do more to help our customers make sound financial decisions,” said Eaddy. “We want to see our borrowers develop the day-to-day financial habits that lead to long-term resilience and opportunity. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible when financial services providers and others with a common goal—improving Americans’ financial health—join forces.”

To hear more from Jotaka Eaddy about LendUp’s advancements and what her plans are in her new role, catch her Oct. 9th and 10th at the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit in Burlingame, California.

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GM Peppers the Congressional Black Caucus Conference with Tech

There’s been tons of tech talk over the past couple of years. Summits are popping up all over the place. Currently, tech conversations are seeping into landscapes where we don’t traditionally hear too many tech discussions—government affairs is one example.

Tech made a strong splash at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference this year, tapping into subjects that ranged from smart cities to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math), to autonomous vehicles.

General Motors was an ardent participant and at the forefront of many of these conversations. When it comes to the automotive industry, it’s no wonder they are planning ahead and taking the steps to secure their spot in the new innovation economy.

One of their objectives is focused on creating a pipeline that provides students of color with the same opportunities as their counterparts in STEM. During the, Expanding STEM and the Arts for Underrepresented Youth conversation lead by Aisha Bowe of STEMBoard, Bowe made sure that each student understood the value of the opportunities put in front of them.

Smart Cities and You: The Future is Here, Don’t Get Left Behind Panel and Workshop, Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (Image: File) Smart Cities and You: The Future is Here, Don’t Get Left Behind Panel and Workshop, Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference (Image: File)

So what are some of these opportunities? General Motors is doing their part to keep up with the current demand in the job market by partnering with companies like Black Girls Code, Institute of Play, and Digital Promise, to prepare the students for the workforce in addition to offering mentorship programs such as Steminista, to keep them focused on a set path.

It’s interesting to see a car company position themselves this way but the truth of the matter is every company should be thinking about themselves as tech-enabled. Technology will be the driving force behind every future product and if you’re not thinking this way, you are already behind.

David Albritton, executive director of GM Global Product Development Communications gave us some insight on what General Motors is working on during the “Smart Cities and You: The Future is Here, Don’t Get Left Behind panel. This not only included their electric cars but, their preparation for autonomous vehicles.

Albritton made a point to note that GM is transitioning away from the automotive business and focusing on the technology business that makes automobiles. Additionally, he keyed us in on the fact that General Motors is currently testing autonomous vehicles in select markets.

I wanted to see exactly how entrenched the company was into technology so I tested out their new Chevy Bolt EV. After driving the car around Washington, D.C. and being admittedly nervous as I had never driven an electronic vehicle before, I was pleasantly surprised. It felt like I’d been driving the car for ages. There was no real learning curve like there is with other vehicles.

Additionally, the tech was spectacular. It had a rearview camera mirror, making objects beyond clear to see, a massive dashboard screen that integrated seamlessly with the iPhone and best of all, it could literally go a whopping 238 miles before it needed a recharge.

Check out the recap video that we shot. It’s much easier to show you then to tell you.

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Trump Sparks 4 Million #TakeAKnee-Related Social Media Posts

President Donald Trump ignited a firestorm of protest that exploded on social media over the weekend following his fiery remarks about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who have peacefully protested against social injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem.

(Image: Instagram/kaepernick7)

During a campaign rally in Alabama on Friday, the president called for the NFL to fire athletes who refused to stand while the anthem is being performed before football games. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b—h off the field right now, out, he’s fired!” he said. Trump then doubled down on his disparaging comments in 17 different tweets over the weekend. He even went as far as to encourage fans to boycott the NFL. In turn, Twitter users on both sides of the debate tweeted about the controversy.

According to social data intelligence company Talkwalker, the hashtag #TakeAKnee was mentioned 22,500 times while #TakeTheKnee received 6,800 mentions as of 7:15 p.m. ET on Sunday. Altogether, there were more than 4 million social posts related to the NFL and the national anthem over the weekend.

On Sunday, both the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Baltimore Ravens became trending topics on Twitter after the two teams stood in solidarity with Kaepernick and knelt during the anthem. Each team received over 15,000 mentions as of 6 p.m. EDT on Sunday, reports Talkwalker. CNN political commentator Keith Boykin shared a video of the Jaguars and Ravens taking a knee received 4,100 likes and 2,000 Retweets. Meanwhile, the hashtag #NFL spiked by 377% and BoycottNFL had a jump of 256%.

According to Talkwalker, the top social post was a tweet from military widow Katie Hubbard in support of the NFL players’ right to protest. It has received more than 350,000 likes and 87,000 retweets.

On the other hand, a tweet from actor James Woods criticizing NFL players also went viral with 16,000 likes and 7,800 retweets.

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NASA Opens Research Facility Honoring “Hidden Figures” Hero Katherine Johnson

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled its latest research center, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility named after the African American woman and retired NASA mathematician. Johnson’s life was depicted in the biopic Hidden Figures.

(Katherine Johnson at her namesake facility. Image: NASA)

The 37,000-square-foot, $23 million building will be used for innovative research supporting the organizations’ space exploration missions and air mobility.

(Interior of the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility. Image: NASA)

The 99-year-old Johnson, who retired from NASA in 1986, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 22.  Also in attendance was Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, girls in the Black Girls Code program, as well as members of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Upon hearing that NASA’s newest research center was being named after her, Johnson said jokingly, “I think they’re crazy.”

“You have been a trailblazer,” McAuliffe said at the ribbon-cutting event. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.

(Johnson and her family see the entrance of the new Computational Research Facility, along with NASA Langley Director David Bowles and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Image: NASA/David C. Bowman)

The author of the book Hidden Figures, upon which the movie is based, Margot Lee Shetterly, served as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.

“At every fork, her talent, her hard work and her character pulled her toward her destiny,” said Shetterly. “At every turn, she made a choice to become the protagonist in her own story and then of ours.”

“Telling your story has been an honor,” she said. “Your work changed our history and your history has changed our future.”

The facility is the newest of four buildings that comprise NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. It was at Langley that Johnson did her notable work including verifying the computer calculations mapping out the trajectory of astronaut John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth. According to Johnson’s biography on NASA’s website, Glenn specifically requested that Johnson be the one to check the calculations before he embarked on his mission.

(Johnson at work at NASA. Image: NASA)

Johnson received four standing ovations at the ceremony. She recalled her time at NASA and spoke about how happy she was at her work.

“I didn’t do anything alone but to try to get to the root of the question—and succeeded there,” Johnson said.

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Just What Is Ray J Doing with a Tech Company?

When celebrities enter other business verticals, people have been known to become very doubtful. It’s as if the celeb has been assigned to one career for a lifetime. This stands equally true as we’ve seen them transitioning into the tech space in droves. Are they as authentic as we’re led to believe or are they a brand plastering their name across a fully developed product?

In reality, entrepreneurship is a trait that many celebrities possess; creating something out of nothing. I sat down with Ray J to find out why he built his company Raytroniks, and what role he plays as a tech entrepreneur. Putting on my director’s hat, we played with this interview, wrapping it into a reality-style delivery to give you a deeper understanding of Ray’s decision and show you what Raytroniks is all about.

Ray J and Sequoia Blodgett talking tech at the Staples Center (Image: File) (Ray J and Sequoia Blodgett talking tech at the Staples Center. Image: File)

Although reality shows can sometimes be loosely scripted, Ray’s passion for becoming a tech entrepreneur is very real. He invested his own money, time, and energy into launching his first product, an electronic scooter called the Scoot-E-Bike, which is one of the many products he plans to roll out under the Raytroniks brand. Although he didn’t conceptualize the bike, he has been heavily involved in the creation, business, and distribution strategy.

“I finally now can transition from music and TV, something that I love to do but, you’re getting paid for your talent so you’re showing up and you’re getting paid to show up,” said Ray. “At some point, you gotta branch out of that and start taking some money that you make and investing it in something that could be profitable, or take a loss, you know, whatever it is. It can’t be Groundhog Day in an entertainment world.”

Additionally, contrary to popular reality TV show belief, his wife Princess has been very supportive throughout this entire endeavor and Ray’s business partner Billy Jones has been hustling hard to make sure the two secure brand deals and celebrity endorsements.

Peep the clip below and come kick it with Ray J and his business partner Billy Jones as they take a deeper dive into the business at Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Summit, Oct. 9th and 10th in Burlingame, California.

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