Growing up in three of the toughest places in America -- Detroit, Inglewood, California and the South Bronx -- sports, music and drugs were everywhere. A few friends were rappers; more worked as DJs. Everybody at the court dreamed of making it to the pros. Drug dealers were all over. Pursuing those paths required stamina, dedication and hustle. Kids worked hard at all three, not just for the love of the game, but because those were known routes to get paid, get laid and get respect.
I was motivated by the same desires, but I couldn't rap or play ball and my dad threatened to kill me if he caught me selling drugs. (He was serious.) Good fortune, good schools and good mentors gave me different ambitions, but I never dreamed I would travel the world with The White House, graduate from Harvard University or appear on CNN, CBS or MSNBC. Then I met people who did those things and they told me I could do them too. So I did.
So many young people living in communities where guns, drugs and poverty are rampant are among the most innovative people on the planet, but the world of tech company startups and IPOs can feel just as distant as the White House. Imagine what they could create with some inspiration, skills, financing and collaboration?
I spend most of my time in Washington, where people argue over things that don't matter. Something that does matter is getting more people into the innovative worlds of entrepreneurship and tech creation. That's why we created FLYCLIQUE.
The 79 million strong Millennial generation is the largest in American and the most diverse: 43 percent of Millennials are non-white. The generation behind them is even more diverse.
That demographic change is having an impact on everything from politics and culture to economics. These diverse Americans will buy the products and services businesses need; pay the taxes for our public services; and fund Social Security for the older whiter generations ahead of them.
Yet, the most innovative sector of our economy is not adapting fast enough and over time it will suffer.
When it comes to tech companies that have been funded by venture capital, the most recent study shows that 87 percent of the founders of tech companies that have been funded by venture capital are white; 1 percent African American; and less than 1 percent Latino.
Hiring diverse talent at the largest tech companies isn't any better. Google's workforce is 2 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic and 30 percent female (17 percent in tech jobs). Yahoo is 2 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic and 37 percent female (15 percent in tech jobs). LinkedIn and Facebook's numbers aren't much different.
By 2022 there will be over 1.4 million more tech jobs in the US and the White House says we need a million more Americans with STEM degrees to fill them, including lots more women and people of color. Getting more people of color into tech means amping up their skills and opening up more opportunities.
It also means exciting more imaginations. More people disconnected from Silicon Valley need to see themselves in the tech picture. Kids in Denver or Anacostia know people who went to college on athletic scholarships. Everybody knows the story of a Hip Hop artist who got a music deal by hustling harder. But who is walking around El Paso or Atlanta talking about Nigerian born, American educated Chinedu Echeruo who sold Hop Stop to Apple for a billion dollars or Joe Fernandez who sold Klout for $100 million? John Legend is known as a singer, but how much talk is there about his tech investments?
Last year Google paid $900 million to app developers. Apple paid $5 billion. It's time for these diverse Millennials to hustle and code their way into some of that money too.
We created FLYCLIQUE because we don't want knowledge or culture to be a barrier to entrepreneurship, innovation or imagination. We aggregate news and original viewpoints for people interested in playing games and making them; downloading apps and programming them; buying hardware and designing it; building companies and creating multi-media digital content.
Soon we will debut some new features to foster more collaboration. Keep checking back for those.