Startup Black America... Where Do We Start?

Dear Black America, can we talk?

How about in the churches... or the HBCUs... or somewhere within our urban communities?

So, here's what I want to discuss.

I propose we invest in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem with a goal of generating 150,000 jobs in the next 12 months.

The latest unemployment figures are no surprise: 16.7 percent. I feel your pain. My phone isn't ringing either.

And before you "go there," I already know. We have a jobless rate that is two times higher -- and a median wealth 20 times less -- than White America.

Yeah, we're suffering. But what about our kids? The future doesn't look too rosy for Black America's graduating Class of 2015 -- the vast majority of whom have a math proficiency of 13 percent and a science literacy rate not worth mentioning. How are they going to be prepared for their own future when most of the economic growth and wealth will be created in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math)?

Don't Blame Obama

Let's agree -- it's bad out there. "Great Depression" bad.

Yet, we need to acknowledge aloud something we instinctively know: It's not President Obama's fault. It's not even a little bit Obama's fault.

If we absolutely need a scapegoat for our present-day economic condition (and I'm not suggesting we do, but Obama's plummeting approval ratings among Blacks hint there's some disappointment) there's a whole lot of blame to go around. After all, unemployment in our demographic has remained at, or near double, the overall jobless rate since Obama was in diapers. Nothing he could've done would've magically mitigated that statistic.

We knew America was entering a technological age when President Kennedy suggested we stick a flag on the moon. Back then, we were equally under-represented in math and science fields as we were on the football fields. Today, we remain significantly behind across all STEM fields... in the 21st century Age of Technology and Innovation.

I'm not sure how President Obama is to blame.

We have not been at the controls of America's institutions, laws, financial sectors, national media and private sector processes that produced jobs and wealth before, during and even after the Civil Rights Movement.

So, what has been happening over the past five decades?

American Progress?

  • America's growing "private sector" has failed to recognize the need for risk capital investments in minority entrepreneurs that would benefit and uplift non-majority communities.

  • America has failed to fix the public schools -- particularly in urban areas -- despite the announcement that "Our Nation Was At Risk" back in the 80s.
  • Job creation and economic growth in Black America remains as it was... abysmal.
  • So, how has wealth in America been created over the past several decades? Look around. Job growth is in the hands of the "private sector," which has generated all new net job growth in America since 1980. That job growth didn't translate into more jobs for Black Americans.

    So, what's the solution to job growth and economic progress for Black Americans?

    Our Responsibility -- Our Opportunity

    In Black America, the "private sector" is you and me. Our 1.9 million business owners consist of 1.8 million sole proprietors who can't grow their businesses and create jobs because we aren't investing in them. Our new high-tech, high-growth entrepreneurs can't find investments to build million-dollar and billion-dollar companies because we don't have a private risk capital infrastructure. We don't even talk about producing an infrastructure that could connect to the existing risk capital foundation built in White America over the past several decades.

    Here's an idea: Let's produce job growth in Black America now. I propose we invest in creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem with a goal of generating 150,000 jobs in the next 12 months.

    Let's learn from the existing entrepreneurial and risk capital ecosystem and develop our own. Let's develop centers of innovation across the nation and construct bridges to the 21st century economy where a new ecosystem can thrive.

    That would benefit America as a whole.

    Black America... Can We Talk?

    Perhaps we can start our discussions within a framework in which questions are addressed with solution-oriented ideas. I propose we use our HBCUs, urban communities and our churches as "meetup" locations to engage in community-level "Startup Black America" partnerships.

    Black America has high net worth individuals, middle-class and even lower socio-economic classes of folk with investment capital. We also have talented entrepreneurs, both slow growth "lifestyle" entrepreneurs and high-growth entrepreneurs within our midst. Identifying our innovators and providing education, training and resources are things we can do.

    Innovative Infrastructure

    Connecting entrepreneurs to pools of investment capital within our own communities is something we can do.

    The business model for job growth and wealth generation exists in plain sight, yet we have not recognized it. The activity that exists in Silicon Valley and other geographic hotbeds in the entrepreneurial ecosystem is activity we can discuss developing and innovating in Black America using existing education and community networks.

    Imagine 5,000 communities investing in just 10 lifestyle entrepreneurs who each hired just one person. That's 50,000 new jobs created by our "private sector." And if each of those communities also invested in a couple of high-growth entrepreneurs whose enterprises ballooned to hire 10 workers each, that's 100,000 new jobs.

    Imagine 150,000 new jobs in Black America over the next 12 months.

    Let's get together and talk about this... let's get started.