Over the past few years, diversity in tech or the lack thereof, has become a major point of discussion within corporate boardrooms, media outlets and schools all across America. Many of the nation’s top tech companies have reported less than 10 percent of the companies’ overall employees were Black (6%) or Latino (7%), compared to 27 percent in the America workforce. For many minority entrepreneurs, they face serious hurdles in accessing capital and investors for their businesses.
As Sarah Kunst of Entrepreneur pointed out, while 11 percent of Americans are African-American, a scant one percent of founders of venture-backed companies identify as such. Women are also massively under represented in VC funding, with rates as low as 8 percent. Other groups, including Hispanic populations, receive so little funding that it is difficult to quantify.
Organizations like Black Girls Who Code, Code 2040, #YesWeCode, AllStar Code and many others have made it their mission to diversify the tech industry by creating a pipeline of talent creating a new generation a tech stars. In recent years, venture capitalist firms like Camino Financial and accelerators such as NewME have launched with a focus on finding and funding minority-owned startups.
At REVOLT, we wanted to highlight some of the young, major diverse players who are shifting the tech industry and culture, not only through racial diversity but clutter-cutting products and innovative work. Check it out, share with friends/loved ones and let us know your thoughts on Twitter at @revolttv using the hashtag #REVOLTTechLeaders. Here are the leaders we’ve been waiting for!
Title/Company: Founder, CEO & EIC of THRONE
Most Inspiring Song: “Workin” by Puff Daddy & The Family
Emeka C Anen is the CEO, Founder and EIC of THRONE, based in Los Angeles and New York City. THRONE is a company focused on building technology tools in order to enhance the consumer experience for the often overlooked, yet massive, sneaker and streetwear community. THRONE’s first product, a self-titled mobile app, is currently available for download on iOS. In a year’s time THRONE’s community has rapidly grown to over 300,000 members. Among other awards, Emeka has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by TechStars, and as a “Next Tech Star” and “Modern Man” by Black Enterprise.
Prior to THRONE, Emeka spent three years in the world of management consulting. Prior to that Emeka spent nearly a year researching, studying, and discovering in Shanghai, China.
Emeka is a 2010 graduate of UNC Chapel Hill where he studied Business Administration at the Kenan-Flagler Business School and and Health Policy and Management at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. He currently serves as a Director At-Large on the Governing Board of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.
IDALIN "ABBY" BOBÉ
Title/Company: Consultant, ThoughtWorks/Tech Activist
Most Inspiring Song: “If I Ruled The World” by Nas feat. Lauryn Hill
Imagine if the Black Panthers had a technology education program. That is the type of tech activism Idalin aims to bring to the table through her work. Her goal is to merge computer programming with political education so that black and brown people understand the impact technology and social structures have on their lives and possess the means to produce the fundamental change needed for social justice to be a reality. Idalin Bobé is an IT consultant at ThoughtWorks and a tech activist. Her passion is bridging the digital divide among hard-to-reach populations and creating more technical community-driven leaders. Originally from the North Side of Philadelphia, Idalin has impacted thousands of men, women and children globally with her work in tech literacy and empowerment.
Her most recent work was supporting Ferguson, Missouri activists with technology tools through Hands Up United's "Roy Clay Sr. Institute." The program trains young community leaders to gain 21st century skills, combining computer coding and political education. Other tech initiatives she spearheaded were: building a computer lab for a school in South India serving people of the lowest caste, building fundraising campaigns to teach 2,000 girls of color through Black Girls CODE and organizing social justice hackathons with Qeyno Labs Hackathons and #YesWeCode.
Still under 35, Idalin is a rising social entrepreneur, whose work has positioned her at the forefront as an innovative leader in technology, activism and community development.
Title/Company: CEO, Partpic & Entrepreneur In Residence for Diversity Markets, Google
Most Inspiring Song: “No Weapon” by Fred Hammond
Jewel Burks is co-founder and CEO of Partpic, an Atlanta based startup designed to streamline the purchase of maintenance and repair parts using computer vision technology. Partpic has raised over $1.5 million in seed funding to integrate its proprietary technology into mobile apps and websites of parts distributors and retailers. Partpic has won numerous national competitions including the 2015 SXSW Accelerator and Steve Case's Rise of the Rest.
In addition to leading Partpic, Jewel also serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence for Diversity Markets at Google. She works to help underserved business owners attract and engage customers using Google's business tools. Jewel has been featured in numerous publications including Forbes, Black Enterprise, Essence and Glamour. Prior to founding Partpic, Jewel served in management and enterprise sales roles at McMaster-Carr and Google. Jewel is a native of Nashville, TN and graduate of Howard University.
MATTHEW BURNETT & TANYA MENENDEZ
Title/Company: Co-Founder & CEO, Co-Founder & CMO, Maker’s Row
Age: 31, 28
Most Inspiring Song: “ The Boss” by James Brown, “Quimbara” by Celia Cruz
Matthew Burnett is the CEO and Co-Founder of Maker’s Row, an online marketplace for American manufacturers with a network of over 9,500 manufacturers and 90,000 brands creating products in the U.S. Matthew, a Detroit native, received a BFA in industrial design from Pratt Institute. His early career began as a timepiece designer for Marc Jacobs, Diesel and DKNY. Before Maker’s Row, Matthew has founded a watch company and leather goods line (The Brooklyn Bakery) that exposed him to the firsthand benefits of manufacturing domestically in order to maintain control over the quality of production and form closer relationships with suppliers and contractors. In 2011 Burnett partnered with Tanya Menendez on The Brooklyn Bakery to manage sales and operations. From this collaboration, with Burnett’s background in manufacturing and Menendez’s experience with operations, they began to develop the blueprint for what is today Maker’s Row.
Tanya is the Co-Founder and CMO of Maker’s Row. Growing up in California, Tanya studied technology and its socioeconomic impacts on rural economies at UC San Diego. Tanya’s research in ethnography and sociology was published in several industry-leading journals. Before Maker's Row, Tanya managed operations within Google, Goldman Sachs and a leather goods line, The Brooklyn Bakery. While at The Brooklyn Bakery, she came up with the idea to create a platform for entrepreneurs to be able to easily access American manufacturers. Combining her experience in operations and automation with Matthew’s experience in global manufacturing, they started Marker’s Row.
Title/Company: Founder & CEO, Blavity
Most Inspiring Song: “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West
Morgan is a native of St. Louis and graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. Founded by DeBaun in July 2014, Blavity is a tech media company that creates original, often user-generated content reflecting the experiences and interests of black millennials. With a community of over 1.5 million people, Blavity has demonstrated the power–cultural and economic–of a community previously largely ignored by mainstream media. They are the number one website for black millennials.
Since founding Blavity, Morgan has been quoted in nationwide outlets like Forbes, Washington Post, TechCrunch, NPR and Huffington Post as a voice of her generation. Prior to starting Blavity, Morgan was a product manager at Intuit.
Title/Company: CEO, Mayvenn
Most Inspiring Songs: “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “Public Service Announcement” by JAY Z
Diishan was born and raised in Oakland California, and has lived and worked entrepreneurially around the globe for the past 10 years. Having spent several years living in China after college, Diishan began importing everything from shoes, to art and furniture and selling them on and offline.
In 2013, Diishan took issue with the fact that more than 95 percent of African American hair salons were too undercapitalized to have a real retail component to their business. He was lit up by the idea of helping hundreds of thousands of people from his community earn better incomes and founded Mayvenn, an online platform that enables hairstylists and beauty professionals to retail without having to buy or hold inventory. Mayvenn has now raised a total of $13M dollars in VC funding from Andreesen Horowitz and TrinityVC, as well as name investors like Serena Williams, Steve Stoute, Jimmy Iovine and Troy Carter. Over 50,000 stylists are already increasing their incomes using the Mayvenn platform.
Title/Company: Founder & CEO, Sama Group
Most Inspiring Song: “Poetic” by Seinabo Sey
Leila Janah is the founder and CEO of Sama Group and an award-winning social entrepreneur. At Sama Group, they use technology and private sector methods in new ways to measurably improve poor people’s access to dignified work, critical medical care and education. Since 2008, Sama Group has grown three successful social ventures and helped cultivate a new industry: Impact Sourcing.
Prior to founding the Sama Group, Leila was a visiting scholar with the Stanford Program on Global Justice and Australian National University’s Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics. She was a founding director of Incentives for Global Health, an initiative to increase R&D spending on diseases of the poor, and a management consultant at Katzenbach Partners (now Booz & Co.). She has also worked at the World Bank and as a travel writer for Let’s Go in Mozambique, Brazil, and Borneo.
Leila is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, a Director of CARE USA, a 2012 TechFellow, recipient of the inaugural Club de Madrid Young Leadership Award, and the youngest person to win a Heinz Award in 2014.
She received a BA from Harvard and lives in San Francisco.
Title/Company: Founder & CEO, Uncharted Play
Most Inspiring Song: “Energy” by Drake
At the age of 19, Jessica invented the SOCCKET ball, an energy-generating soccer ball that provides off-grid power for the developing world. At the age of 22, she founded Uncharted Play, renewable energy company specializing in motion-based, miniaturized power systems. Expanding her reach to global infrastructural projects, at the age of 26, Jessica became a Co- Founder and Executive Director for KDDC, a 30-megawatt hydropower dam in Nigeria—one of the first to be privatized in the country.
Working with governments in the U.S. and internationally, Jessica was invited by President Barack Obama to the White House to represent small companies for the signing of the America Invents Act in 2012, and currently serves as an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship for Nigeria.
Jessica’s research and career centers around the intersection of disruptive technology, human behavior, and the psychology of self-actualization. A dual citizen of Nigeria and the U.S., Jessica has a degree in Psychology and Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Title/Company: Head of Multicultural Marketing, Google
Most Inspiring Song: “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys
Eliana Murillo founded and leads the multicultural marketing team at Google, Inc. She focuses on cross-product strategies to engage diverse users and businesses with culturally relevant marketing and insights. Eliana has spearheaded programs that support diversity in entrepreneurship, education and civic engagement with the use of technology. Eliana's previous roles at Google include diversity business development, global sales people operations and regional Latin American human resources. She founded HOLA, Google's Hispanic employee and business resource group, to build a community of Googlers and support the external Latino community.
Prior to joining Google, Eliana worked at Target Corporation dedicated to supply chain optimization and merchandising. Eliana is a graduate of Harvard University, where she studied the sociology of economics.
She serves on the Nielsen External Advisory Council and supports her family's business producing organic Tequila Alquimia. She co-founded the Latino Tech Giving Circle via the Latino Community Foundation and is committed to philanthropy and community outreach. She is originally from Oxnard, California and resides in Oakland.
OBINNA "OBI" ONUNGWA
Title/Company: Founder, Cue
Most Inspiring Song: “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar
Obinna is the founder of Cue, a mobile application designed to help people find, book, pay and rate the most qualified and talented barbers in the world.
Committed to offering the beauty and wellness community ground breaking technology, Obinna is on the verge of simplifying grooming for all. Obinna was formerly a Business Development Associate for early stage tech start-up The Daily Muse, where he helped establish the Washington D.C. market amongst various employers seeking to hire millennial talent. Prior to this, he worked with technology start-ups in Accra, Ghana as a Fellow with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. Prior to this role, he was a Senior Marketing Associate for LivingSocial, an online coupon company. At Goldman Sachs, he was a Summer Analyst with the Sales & Trading division with a unique interest in the commodities market. Obinna holds a BA in History from University of Maryland College Park. At Howard University, he embarked on an independent study focused on emerging markets in Africa. He enjoys cuban salsa, African literature and NYC randomness in his free time.
Title/Company: Co-Founder & CEO, On Second Thought
Most Inspiring Song: “Good Good Father” by Housefires
Maci Peterson is the co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought, a messaging app that lets you take back text messages before they get to the other person. In 2015, she was named “Tech’s Newest Innovator” by Essence magazine and recognized among Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40." On Second Thought won First Place at SXSW's annual pitch competition #StartupOasis in 2014, was named "The Texting Savior" by AT&T and won 1st Place in the inaugural Women Who Tech Startup Challenge, in partnership with Craig Newmark of craigslist and Fred and Joanne Wilson.
Prior to launching On Second Thought, Peterson was a brand manager at Marriott International and a marketing strategist for The Root. Peterson attended Spelman College and received her Bachelor of Arts in public relations and advertising from Chapman University in Orange, California. She currently lives in San Francisco, California and enjoys hiking and SoulCycle.
Title/Company: Venture Partner, Vice President of Technology & Innovation, Atom Factory
Most Inspiring Song: “I Can” by Nas
As venture partner to Troy Carter, Suzy Ryoo is responsible for identifying/evaluating investment opportunities for Atom Factory, SMASHD LABS and Cross Culture Ventures. She manages Atom Factory's 70-plus investments, including Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Warby Parker and Spotify, as well as facilitates technology partnerships for artists such as Meghan Trainor and Charlie Puth.
Passionate about community, diversity and mentorship, Suzy is a regular speaker and advisor to organizations such as South LA non-profit Urban TXT (Teens Exploring Technology), the UCLA Riordan Programs and the USC Marshall Career Advantage Program. Suzy is 28 years old, a Korean American immigrant and a proud 23-year resident of Los Angeles, California.
Title/Company: CEO, Camino Financial
Most Inspiring Song: “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham
Sean Salas is the CEO and Co-Founder of Camino Financial, a credit marketplace helping underbanked small businesses access capital with focus on servicing the fast growing Hispanic business segment. Previously, Sean worked at ICV Partners, a private equity firm based in New York City, where he evaluated over 150 middle-market opportunities and oversaw four portfolio companies with combined revenue of $250 million. Prior to ICV, Sean worked as an investment banker at UBS, where he did extensive work in mergers and acquisitions and capital market transactions. Throughout his experience in finance, Sean has structured over $1.2 billion in debt financings. Sean has a BA in Political Economy of Industrial Societies from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
Title/Company: Co-Founder & CEO, Localeur
Most Inspiring Song: “Kick Push ll” by Lupe Fiasco
Joah Spearman is co-founder and CEO of Localeur, a community where locals share their favorite places to help people experience local. Localeur has been named one of the best travel apps by The Today Show, Time, Forbes and countless publications, and its product has reached more than 1 million users since its launch. As CEO, Joah oversees partnerships with companies like Google and Tablet Hotels, community management of locals spanning 20 major U.S. cities, marketing and investor relations, including securing more than $1.6 million from strategic investors such as Steve Pamon (COO of Parkwood Entertainment), MICK, the globe-trotting DJ, Heather Brunner (CEO of WP Engine) and Blake Chandlee (VP of Global Partnerships for Facebook).
Before Localeur, Spearman co-founded an experiential marketing agency which worked closely with SXSW and ESPN X Games, and earlier served as a social media and communications adviser to companies ranging from FedEx to Volkswagen. Joah was recently named one of the Top 10 Black Innovators of 2014 by MVMT 50 ("Movement 50") and was named Emerging Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Austin Black Chamber in 2013 along with being a four-time finalist for Austin’s Under 40 Awards.
Joah serves on the executive committees on the board of directors for both AIDS Services of Austin and KLRU-TV (Austin's PBS affiliate) and previously served as vice chair of the Austin Music Commission and a member of its Downtown Commission. He is also the co-author of "Real Role Models: Successful African Americans Beyond Pop Culture" (Univ. of Texas Press) and has been a frequent contributor to Huffington Post and other outlets.
Title/Company: Founder & CEO, LISNR
Most Inspiring Song: “So Ambitious” by JAY Z
Rodney Williams, Founder/CEO of LISNR, leads one of the most disruptive companies in the IoT space and the world of mobile connectivity with a new communication protocol that is the most efficient way to connect any device with a speaker or microphone. Fresh off of their $10M Series B raise lead by Intel Capital, LISNR took the stage in 2015 racking some the world's most coveted awards such as a Gold Lion @ Cannes for Most Innovative Mobile Technology and being selected at #12 on 2015's CNBC Disruptor 50 to just name a few. Williams is an innovative and out-of-the-box strategic thinker who is obsessed with the ways technology will touch and improve our everyday lives.
Prior to LISNR, Williams spent over four years at Procter & Gamble as a brand manager and is most noted for being the first marketer there to co-write digital patents. Williams holds four degrees but most notably two masters, one of which is an M.B.A. from Howard University.