It’s no secret that entrepreneurs of color are chronically underrepresented in tech. Much like the ailings of our students, entrepreneurs often come to us with feelings of exclusion and alienation. While being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster in its own right, members of our community are more likely to be navigating the market without adequate funding, space to grow, or mentorship. Put concretely: currently less than one percent of Seed and Series A funding is awarded to Black and/or Latino/a founders. In a nation where the combined buying power of Black and Latino/a communities equals over one trillion dollars, we find that lack of support and representation to be troubling.
Fortunately, a lot has begun to change. Programs specifically focused on helping first time minority entrepreneurs have sprouted all over the United States. Hubs and world class accelerators have offered office hours directly targeted at underrepresented entrepreneurs and their companies. Last year, we brought three Entrepreneurs in Residence from three American cities together in the first cohort of the CODE2040 Residency. Based on their experiences, we’ve partnered with Google for Entrepreneurs to expand that program to seven cities this year.
Talib Graves-Manns was one of three original CODE2040 Entrepreneurs in Residence. Completing his year and a half long Residency in Durham, North Carolina, we’ve watched he and the other members of cohort one take amazing steps with their communities and companies alike. In the final days to apply for the 2016 Residency, we asked Talib what it’s really like to be part of the program.
What prompted you to apply to the Residency?
I was visiting Silicon Valley wrapping up a fundraising round around the time of the Residency Program Application announcement and met some members of the CODE2040 team. Within a few minutes of talking to the CODE2040 team members, I knew that these were the caliber of people that I wanted to align with.
Upon returning to North Carolina, I completed my due diligence on the history and mission of the org and applied the next day!
What is a day in the life of an EIR like?
My Day = Business + Community Development + More Business.
And if you get it right, an EIR can have their ‘cake and eat it too’. (As my Grandparents use to say).
Why are programs like the Residency important?
It gives entrepreneurs in communities across the US access to the national start-up scene and resources. Too much of the business support and capital in the tech space is concentrated in the Silicon Valley — that suffocates growth and innovation. In order for the nation to grow, entities outside of the Valley must be fertilized.
What advice would you give other applicants/entrepreneurs of color?
A simple quote, “Everything you see is just a thought manifested.” Go into the world and manifest your dreams while helping others manifest theirs.
(One more thing — if you don’t get selected this round, try and figure out a way to support the EIR and Community in your town! It will pay off in Spades!)