I sincerely believe that we are living in a time of extraordinary opportunity for a tiny percentage of the population, namely, those who are thrice blessed with technical talent, entrepreneurial drive, and dumb luck. Despite the fact that our economy now distributes 90 percent of its newly created wealth to the richest one percent of the population, a tiny percentage of upper middle class Asian and Caucasian males have become billionaires and multimillionaires before their thirtieth birthdays by starting companies that created software applications that were bought by millions of customers.
How much longer will this go on? Ten years? Twenty? Who can say, but only fools believe that good times roll forever. Therefore common sense decrees that the fortunate few who have the talent and drive should run as fast as possible and hope that they will be lucky enough to have their efforts hugely rewarded in the marketplace before times change.
This brings me to the dilemmas facing Black software entrepreneurs:
- Ambitious and/or greedy Asians and Caucasians just have to be hugely successful. So they focus on growing their startups, write modest checks to their favorite charities along the way, then retire as philanthropists who dole out the mega donations that reshape our society
- Unfortunately, Black entrepreneurs being Black also feel compelled to "give back to the community" right now, before they've even met their first payrolls. Why? Because this compulsion to help those less fortunate than ourselves is a deeply ingrained component of Black culture, a component that lends greater purpose to the lives of aspiring Black politicians, doctors, lawyers, preachers, and teachers ...
- But this commitment imposes huge competitive disadvantages on Black entrepreneurs if they divert some of their creative energies to evening and weekend community initiatives -- e.g., civic hacking, coding workshops for young kids, etc -- while their Asian and Caucasian competitors are always working, 24 by 7. Of course their incredibly ambitions and/or greedy competitors do not lead "balanced" lives, but neither do Olympic athletes. If you want to go for the gold, you have to pay the price of admission to the competition ... :-(
In my opinion, diversity in tech can provide Black entrepreneurs with a huge competitive advantage if they really appreciate the fact that there are lots of highly talented Black techs out there, male and female, besides themselves. For example, as noted in a couple of previous posts on this blog, HBCUs are an excellent source of Black talent in STEM. Many of their graduates have already acquired impressive software skills and many others could easily do so.
- As I also noted in other posts, it's useful to divide Black America's Talented Tenth into two components -- Bright Stars and Dark Stars. The transcripts of the Bright Stars glitter with straight A's, whereas the uneven transcripts of Dark Stars reflect deficiencies in prior instruction and thereby obscure their underlying capabilities. Just as Harvard and Stanford ignore Dark Stars and compete for the Bright Stars when they are recruiting undergraduates, Google and Facebook compete for them when they graduate. That's bad news for HBCUs and bad news for Black entrepreneurs looking to recruit talented, risk-oriented Black techs.
- The good news is that there are far more Dark Stars than Bright Stars, although the Dark Stars are more difficult to identify. Therefore Black entrepreneurs should be prepared to turn down nine out of ten Black job applicants -- something that Google and Facebook won't dare to do for fear of receiving angry phone calls from the Reverend Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition. In other words, Harvard and Stanford and Google and Facebook won't and/or can't tap into this deep pool of underrated talent ... :-)
IMHO Black software entrepreneurs should make the most of the current extraordinary market opportunities while they last. This means taking pages from the playbooks of their Asian and Caucasian competitors by focusing 24 X 7 on growing their startups into hugely successful operations, writing modest checks to their favorite community service organizations along the way, then making the mega donations that can reshape our society when they retire ten or twenty years from now. Meanwhile they should also make the most of the competitive advantages they can realize by diversifying their staffs with highly talented Dark Stars.
Related notes on this blog:
- Diversity in Tech -- Silicon Valley vs. the rest of the U.S. (1) ... May 2015
- Ambition, greed, and a more diverse Silicon Valley (2) ... May 2015
- Tech power beyond Silicon Valley (3) ... May 2015
- DLL Storify of Black Founders Twitter Chat with Brian Clark -- Tuesday 5/19/15 ... DLL Editor's note -- IMHO Mr. Clark is a black software entrepreneur with the appropriate ambitious focus
- Of Silicon Valley, the Talented Tenth, Bright Stars, Dark Stars, HBCUs, and Affirmative Action ... November 2014