When Angela Benton, CEO of Black Web Media, looked around Silicon Valley, she didn’t see many faces like her own. Statistics support her observation: A survey of 150 Silicon Valley companies by the law firm Fenwick & West found that almost half of them had no female executives.
Benton would look around at the tech companies she was working for and think, “Wow, I am the only African American and the only woman in my department. It just can’t be only me!” she told Myeisha Essex of the Chicago Defender. Seeing the lack of diversity drove this 32-year-old African-American coder and entrepreneur to start Black Web 2.0 and the NewMe Accelerator.
Through Black Web 2.0, a website Benton launched along with Markus Robinson in 2007, she keeps others informed about African-Americans involved in technology and new media companies, with the goal of making people interested in these fields feel less alone. NewMe, an accelerator founded in 2011, helps women and minority entrepreneurs find the mentorship and capital needed to start new businesses. So far, NewMe has helped raise $12.9 million for the start-ups it works with.
“There are great entrepreneurs who don’t necessarily look like the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world,” Benton told Essex. “I don’t think the [tech world] is behind necessarily, I think they are working on patterns. So if everyone who is successful looks like Mark Zuckerberg, they are going to continue to fund and support more things that are like that. What a lot of people think, especially when they think about entrepreneurship, it’s very risky. When you start to talk about investors and capital, people are investing in things that are most likely to succeed. So when they are doing that they are taking notes from other things that have been successful. So it’s really like this self-perpetuating problem, at least until we really break through.”