I’m a guy from a small southern town in NC who moved to San Francisco to launch an incubator/fellows program and conference to work with underrepresented tech founders to help launch successful tech companies.
I’m a guy from a small southern town in NC who moved to San Francisco to launch an incubator/fellows program and conference to work with underrepresented tech founders to help launch successful tech companies.
Tell me a bit about your early years and where you come from.
I come from North Carolina. I grew up in a small town, Teachey, North Carolina, about 45 minutes from Wilmington, NC. Population: 200. I grew up doing a lot of farming, working the fields, tobacco cropping and things of that nature. But I had a passion for art and drawing. I was an artist. I used to draw on classmates clothes. I used to do paintings. Initially, I got into computer graphic design.
So you were a creative kid growing up. I’m impressed that you found that so early. I’m from New Bern, so I know what it’s like growing up in a tiny North Carolina town. I had no exposure to the word “creativity” until I moved to Raleigh.
What was it like being a creative kid in the small-town South?
It was fun. I can’t remember what drew me to art and drawing, but it was something I just seemed to like to do. Like every kid, of course, I played sports, but I knew I liked to draw. I knew I wanted to paint. You know, every entrepreneur has a story about, “Oh, I used to sell lemonade in the neighborhood.” I think everybody has a great story around that, but for me, I used to draw on people’s clothes like graffiti or the Super Mario Brothers character or their initials, and that was my hustle. That was my side project. It was how I brought a little extra money for school shopping. Growing that’s what I did, and eventually, that was the beginning of my tech career. After high school, I was like, “What am I going to do?” I went to a one-year school for computer graphic design and ended up doing that and getting a job at the Jacksonville Daily News Paper for computer graphic design. An area which you know about, Jacksonville, NC.
“I feel like it’s rooted in my blood and my history to be a connector. Being someone who brings communities together.”
I know Jacksonville very well. I grew up 45 minutes from it.
I worked about four years at The Jacksonville Daily News. Two years where I was doing graphic design, newspaper ads and then two years in IT. I started doing desktop support and to show my age, I used to go to people’s houses with a floppy disk to set them up with dial-up networking. So I feel like it’s rooted in my blood and my history to be a connector. Being someone who brings communities together.
Yeah. So, when I first connected with you and discovered you seven or eight years ago, you were deep in the North Carolina tech scene in Raleigh and I was just a bartender who happened to like tech. You were one of the first people I discovered when I found Twitter and that whole network of techies in North Carolina. What was the North Carolina tech scene like at that time?
I moved to Raleigh in 1998 from Teachey, NC and that’s the beginning of the end of the first dot-com bubble. Raleigh-Durham and The Research Triangle Park and that whole area were like, “We are Silicon Valley 2.0.” The tech scene at that time had Sony Ericsson, Cisco, SASS, all these tech companies. When the crash happened, it hit the NC community harder than other tech communities because it didn’t have the wealth to put back into the community like Silicon Valley has. A lot of entrepreneurs just didn’t survive. Innovation and the tech ecosystem wasn’t thriving and growing. It just came back to sports and universities. I felt like, “Wow, there’s still a lot of opportunities here, there’s a lot of community here, but we’re not coming together.” That was the beginning of blogging. That was the beginning of blogger meet-ups and then tweet-ups. Twitter launched in 2006. I was one of the first 1000 users to join Twitter. Then we started seeing the beginning of the web 2.0 movement. People were like, “Everything’s a fad.” I’m like, “No, this is great! It’s now connecting us with people all over the world. We can build relationships; we can create communities and awareness.” I started connecting with people at NC State and then we began doing blogger meet-ups. Me being a geek, a nerd and working IT, I was into everything tech. I was reading everything that happened in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. I’m like, “We can replicate—at least from an event standpoint—what they’re doing over there in Boulder too. So the community started growing. There were a lot of people like my friend Ryan who’s at IBM. Another friend who was at an interactive agency, Kipp, who’s now the CMO of Hub Spot. We have another friend Jeff, who was working at a marketing agency. Now he’s a professor—I think in Chicago—teaching social media and business.
“When the crash happened, it hit the NC community harder than other tech communities because it didn’t have the wealth to put back into the community like Silicon Valley has. A lot of entrepreneurs just didn’t survive.”
We all came together and just started doing these events and replicating from content and an event standpoint what we saw in Boulder and Silicon Valley, like Ignite events. The community started growing and surprised some, but when you think about it, it made sense because the universities and Research Triangle Park had an active iPhone development community. There were a lot of IOS developers who were one of the first teams to make a million dollars on the app store. Just like even today, there’s a Bitcoin community in the area. So the tech community was thriving, all the pieces were there, but we all came together to start making the events more community focused.
Walk me down that path from doing all this great work in the Raleigh tech scene to then moving to Silicon Valley and making moves there. What was the impetus for moving across the country to build something on your own?
So if I’m 100% honest, when I was saying that I was reading all of the blogs and reading everything that was happening in Silicon Valley, there was some jealousy there. Being a geek and being a nerd, you want to be a part of the energy. You want to be a part of what’s happening in tech. I’m not a person that’s a big fan of tradition or stereotypes, or being put in a box. I’m just like, if they can do it, I can do it too, right? That’s how I think and operate. And so, I got fed up for a while. I was just doing a lot of work in NC and a colleague reached out to me. He was like, “Let’s build this mobile app. It’s similar to Foursquare but just for the Raleigh-Durham area, we called it TriOut.
“Being a geek and being a nerd, you want to be a part of the energy. You want to be a part of what’s happening in tech. I’m not a person that’s a big fan of tradition or stereotypes, or being put in a box. I’m just like, if they can do it, I can do it too, right? That’s how I think and operate.”
I remember that.
Yeah, one of the few people. And so we came together, we launched the TriOut iPhone app and a social network. So from 2009 to 2011, that was what we did. We were a startup in the area, one of the few tech startups. And we grew the platform, the service, and had a lot of great support from small businesses, but even in that time the companies were not ready for location-based platforms or using a mobile app to reach the customers. Most of the businesses were not even embracing Twitter and Facebook, much less a mobile app. That took a lot of work and energy out of us, knocking on doors of businesses and trying to grow the startup in the area. We did get some interest from investors, but we ended up selling the platform technology to NC State University.
“We received tons of crazy press. We were in CNN’s documentary Blacks In America. CNN created some controversy, but we had people talking, and the show inspired thousands. Because for the first time, you saw African-Americans and women and minorities on TV doing tech startups. It wasn’t that common; African-Americans were like, ‘what’s that?’ They didn’t think it was for them because we just didn’t have the exposure and lack of role models in the tech industry.”
In 2011, the data came out that only 1% of tech startups are founded by an underrepresented individual and by that time I’m like, I’m part of that 1%. I know how hard it is. I’ve been in tech my whole life, what else can I do to learn but also educate others to be more successful. So I partnered with a colleague of mine, Angela Benton, and we had an idea for a startup house helping unrepresented entrepreneurs go to Silicon Valley for the summer. It would be a mix of the real world meets the social network, and we pivoted and just created an incubator-accelerator and moved to Silicon Valley for four months. That was the birth of NewME. We received tons of crazy press. We were in CNN’s documentary Blacks In America. CNN created some controversy, but we had people talking, and the show inspired thousands. Because for the first time, you saw African-Americans and women and minorities on TV doing tech startups. It wasn’t that common; African-Americans were like, “what’s that?” They didn’t think it was for them because we just didn’t have the exposure and lack of role models in the tech industry. So I officially made that move in 2012 from North Carolina to San Francisco.
What were your first impressions of Silicon Valley like? What were you expecting and how was it similar or different to those expectations?
I haven’t been asked that question that way before. When we moved to Mountain View, I was expecting Mountain View to be more like how San Francisco is now. That was the first impression. I also was surprised how everything closed around 9 o’clock. Isn’t this Silicon Valley; this is where things are happening. I thought people would stay up and work all night at coffee shops. No, everybody’s gone at nine. So I was like, “Hmm. Surprising.” Later I learned most of the developers were hacker houses.
There was no Helio’s (a coworking cafe we both frequented in Raleigh) open ’til midnight.
No, there’s no Cafe Helio’s in Mountain View. But one of the biggest surprises that is still relevant to this day was that people say how competitive it is as a tech entrepreneur. It is very competitive, especially when you’re trying to raise capital. Everybody is trying to reach the same 50 to 100, 200 investors. But overall, because of the density of entrepreneurs, everybody’s willing to help. That was surprising because in North Carolina there was only a small hub of entrepreneurs, the same thing in Durham. In Chapel Hill, there’s community around UNC, but it’s so competitive because everybody’s trying to fight for those smaller amounts of investment and there’s a limited awareness of community. So that was surprising, like wow, there’s so many people that want to help you. It was also surprising as I learned about how the ecosystem operated, how people may or may not help you. If you are working on something world changing, if you are cool, if you are getting into the right circles, if you are drama free. You know what I’m saying, if you’re a signal that the ecosystem measures entrepreneurs by.
When you got here, what was the community of underrepresented entrepreneurs like? How did people form support networks at the time and what were some of the biggest issues they were facing?
When we first came to Silicon Valley, people had started reading about us in the news. We were in the Wall Street Journal. We were in a CNN documentary, and then because of our relationships using social media, we had a network. We weren’t starting from zero, which was very, very helpful and valuable. When we came to San Francisco, there was an organization called Black Founders. They held a welcome brunch for us. When we got here, we were already working with Mitch and Freada Kapor. They were mentors and speakers in our program. We were connected to Ken Colemen, another was a mentor, Stephen Adams, who had been out in Silicon Valley for 20 years. These individuals who have been here, they were opening doors and embracing us, and that was important. It felt right because we came from North Carolina, and I was too surprised also. Everybody knows that there’s a sense of a problem that there’s a lack of diversity in tech. And some people have been out here for years who have made a lot of success for themselves and their network, but it hasn’t been pushed to the forefront of the conversation. And I was surprised why has that been the case. If you’re here, why hasn’t there been more effort? I was surprised about that. At the same time, I started understanding why, because there are unspoken rules that you don’t talk about race in tech. Because of the false belief of meritocracy. You don’t speak of culture because it’s the good old boys who work and the create the culture, it works, so why to change it. You don’t fit in. You’re not a culture fit. I started seeing how these communities operated.
Regardless, the community embraced us, but not everyone. Some people told me; “Don’t come out here and mess it up for us.” “I’ve got it good right now. I made it. Don’t screw it up for me.” Which is unfortunate, but I get it. So it was good and bad.
“I started understanding why, because there are unspoken rules that you don’t talk about race in tech. Because of the false belief of meritocracy. You don’t speak of culture because it’s the good old boys who work and the create the culture, it works, so why to change it. You don’t fit in. You’re not a culture fit. I started seeing how these communities operated.”
What have been some of the most exciting parts of building an incubator and building conferences? What has been some of the most fulfilling parts of that work for you?
Hearing the stories later. That has been some of the most inspirational aspects of this all. I do this work because I love it. I do this because it’s needed. I do it because I want to leave a legacy for my son, and he says, “Well, my daddy is doing this, and he did it for me.” And I care! I’ve traveled to speak at conferences in Detroit and Atlanta and abroad, and you hear entrepreneurs and individuals say, “You know what, I read about you, and that inspired me to get into tech now. And now I’m working for this hedge fund.” Or, “Now I’m doing this startup.” Or, “Now I’m doing this.” Or, “I saw you on TV, I read this article, and now I’m hosting this event.” That is the most exciting part. It’s also un-measurable in some sense because you don’t know all the people you can reach or who’s watching you. You see the work you’re doing and hope for that they can learn and get inspired for themselves. So that has been the most valuable. And then there’re the other tangible aspects of it where somebody got a job through an introduction or someone met a co-founder or some serendipitous meeting happened because of the work we’ve been doing. And then, of course, there’s the one where people just created a team, and they’re raising money because you introduced them to the right investor and so forth.
“I do this work because I love it. I do this because it’s needed. I do it because I want to leave a legacy for my son, and he says, ‘Well, my daddy is doing this, and he did it for me.'”
What personally has been the most challenging thing or the biggest hurdles for you as an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur but also coming from North Carolina and being black, I still deal with confidence and credibility. I still deal with the fact that I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. I haven’t created a product that millions of people have tested or downloaded. I haven’t raised millions of dollars. I haven’t had an exit or created a 100x opportunity for an investor. I deal with imposter syndrome. Those things are all signals in Silicon Valley and tech people look at those terms of success metrics. That doesn’t mean it’s right, right? It’s just their signals in Silicon Valley / Bay Area, the system that’s been established. But those signals play in the back of my mind where even today,I was talking to my partner. She was like, “I don’t have to live up to those standards, and I don’t have to get those individuals approval, right? Who are they, and why should I be trying to get their approval or live under their standards? I don’t have to seek to get in that particular network. The work I’m doing is just as important or more and what I’m doing has better values and integrity.” So the biggest challenge is most definitely the confidence and dealing with credibility despite all the work and success I’ve had so far.
“Coming from North Carolina and being black, I still deal with confidence and credibility. I still deal with the fact that I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. I haven’t created a product that millions of people have tested or downloaded. I haven’t raised millions of dollars. I haven’t had an exit or created a 100x opportunity for an investor. I deal with imposter syndrome.”
Yeah, I feel like one of the biggest moments for me in the last few years was having this moment where I was like, “Oh, I don’t have to please and get approval from every single person. It’s a waste of time. It’s unproductive.”
Yes, and now I learned to stop caring about what other people think. Now I focus on being happy and what that means. Being happy with just yourself and being aware of how you think, having a cognitive awareness of how you process your thoughts, your emotions. Being inspirational to yourself and how you think and how you feel, thinking “You know what? I’m happy, I’m healthy,” and like you said not trying to please everyone.
“I learned to stop caring about what other people think. Now I focus on being happy and what that means.”
Have you had mentors or people that you’ve looked up to for inspiration or people who have been pivotal in your career along the way?
Yes, one I mentioned earlier was Steve Adams. He’s the entrepreneur at Heart also. Been in Silicon Valley for around 20 plus years, and raised over 20 or 40 million dollars over his career. He’s an African-American guy who pulled me along the side and just really has helped coach me and advise me on life. Sometimes it’s been about a product I’ve built but most times the feedback has been about my life. Another person is, Shellye Archambeau, who’s the CEO of MetricStream. Shellye is an inspirational mentor where she drops those little nuggets, life lessons like, “Keep doing what you’re doing. I believe in you, keep writing, keep story-telling, keep me updated.” Because all those things were a sign that someone cares, right? Another mentor is Cedric Brown. He’s also from North Carolina. He went to UNC, and he works with Kapor Capital For Social Impact. We have lunch every couple of months in Oakland and really just talk about life and relationships. Those individuals are people I call mentors but also friends, and it took a while for me to develop those relationships. There’s also Steve Blank. Steve Blank is a guy who everybody knows in entrepreneurship tech. I got a chance to build a relationship over a two or three year period with Steve. I’ve been to his house a couple of times and talked about entrepreneurship, and he gets it. Being able to leverage his brand, his name and path to my career has been key. Also Kathleen Warner and Kelly Hoey, who both are on the East Coast, these two amazing ladies who I’ve met over my career, they get it, they care, and they just want to see good people win. It’s been good to be able to have those individuals in my life.
You’re from a tiny town. When I meet people who are from tiny towns in the South, I’m like, “Oh my god, you got out too, that’s crazy!” [laughter] So I’m curious to know, where do you think you got those entrepreneurial qualities like that appetite for risk and the drive, where do you think that came from?
It originates from both sides of my parents. I look at my father. He and I spent a lot of time working on cars. That’s what we do in the South, right? We worked on engines; we worked on go-carts. We just like to build things with our hands, so I think that’s where the artistic side of me came from, but for me it was computers. My mom used to work for the government. She worked for HUD, the state, and always had that kind of entrepreneurship drive and spirit. She’s now had her own business in Teachey for ten, maybe fifteen years now. When she started, I helped her when it was a print business. Then she got into insurance and taxes, and it’s been her business for years. The house is paid for, and they are doing well in the South.
So I got that drive from both of them. When I look at my grandfather on my mother’s side, he died before I was born, he was a police officer. My great-aunt was a school teacher on my mom’s side. And my grandfather on my father’s side was an entrepreneur. I remember going out with him; he used to take me to the farm. That was my summer job. I would work in a field all day starting around 6 am until like 3 o’clock, and we’d go to the farmers market and sell the vegetables, and he’d give me five dollars. I’d be like, “That’s all I get?”
How do your friends and family and folks from way back home feel about how far you’ve come and all the work that you’ve done?
With my immediate family, I have two sisters, a younger and an older sister. They all get it. My parents, they get it. I was always pushing tech on them. “Hey, do this, sign-up for that.” I set up my moms’ network at her home office. Her home office network was better than the local town’s network, with more computers and printers. I would say that they are happy for me. It’s been tough because a lot of African American families—and people in the South, no matter what race, they don’t leave their hometown that often. They don’t go too far.
“It’s been tough because a lot of African American families—and people in the South, no matter what race, they don’t leave their hometown that often. They don’t go too far.”
At times, when I come home to visit, they sit watching TV. I’m like, “What are we doing?”. One of the things I remember my first cousin telling me. We all have family who have been in and out of jail or things of that nature. He’s a cousin who now is getting his life together, who’s working, but he told me” You’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing.” He’s like, “I tell my friends I’ve got that cousin who’s out in Silicon Valley who works with Google and all these other big tech companies. He’s out there making a name for himself.” For him to say that, inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing because he didn’t think that it was an opportunity for him, and you don’t see that many African Americans in tech. I have a Slack group called BlackMenInTech.com, with about 300 black guys from across the country who work at Google, Facebook, Uber, etc. Some are entrepreneurs; some live in the midwest. We had a guy in the Slack group who lives in Cleveland, Ohio. He was like: “Wow. I didn’t know there were this many black guys working in tech.” Because if you are in Cleveland, Ohio or New Bern, North Carolina, and you read all the news you’d think it was just all white guys. You wouldn’t know that there’s any diversity out here at all. So the work that we all are doing is important, these stories that you are doing are important.
“If you are in Cleveland, Ohio or New Bern, North Carolina, and you read all the news you’d think it was just all white guys. You wouldn’t know that there’s any diversity out here at all. So the work that we all are doing is important.”
It’s one of the biggest drivers of this project because I think people are going to come to this and for the first time see people that look like them and who are from where they’re from. I think so many people have no idea that Silicon Valley is even an option for them because they’ve never seen anyone like them in it. That’s a problem.
Or they don’t see any women. They don’t see any women in various roles. Women in leadership or women CEOs and technical positions, or even the fact that you can just create a real business using technology. It doesn’t have to be trying to go to IPO. It doesn’t have to be the next Instagram or whatever, but just great business. It’s getting so bad that the narrative out there is that you can’t just live here and be happy [chuckles].
In the last few years, how have you seen tech culture change, particularly in being more accommodating to people of color. How has it changed, and/or has it gotten worse? How about right now in 2016?
Harvard Business Review and Fortune Magazine began publishing articles on diversity programs, and how they are not inclusive of white men and how white men are starting to fear a more diverse workforce and fearful of losing job opportunities. Then you start seeing these posts on income inequality from super well-known rich investors. Then stories about income inequality became a hot topic. I began to think that people with money who have been making money in tech, which has primarily been white males are now looking at this change regarding diversity inclusion and income inequality, computer science for everybody, and saying that “Isn’t it starting to level the playing field?” You look at all these VC posts and all these subtle changes, then the monopoly and the control they’ve been having, the power they’ve been having over who gets funded, how they get funded and controlling the market. It’s going to impact how they get access to early deals and opportunities to create wealth for them. That insinuates fear, and that bothers me because when people start taking emotional actions around fear where they don’t want change, that mindset is going to hurt everyone. That bothers me.
“You look at all these VC posts and all these subtle changes, then the monopoly and the control they’ve been having, the power they’ve been having over who gets funded, how they get funded and controlling the market. It’s going to impact how they get access to early deals and opportunities to create wealth for them. That insinuates fear, and that bothers me because when people start taking emotional actions around fear where they don’t want change, that mindset is going to hurt everyone.”
That’s just one case, and it’s why we need inclusion in tech. We need to show that diversity is good for the world and good for the American economy. We need to do what we can to close the wealth-access gap. Because that whole economy is going to crash if we don’t.
Whoa, that is blowing my mind for second right now, the idea that diversification of entrepreneurship makes VCs lives harder because it messes with the system they’ve built and optimized for.
Yeah, [chuckles]. It’s an uncertain outlook, but if you look at how things are being portrayed, that’s what’s happening, right?
Yeah. Absolutely. That’s a major thing, and well-founded. This is the year of VCs biting their tongue, that’s for sure.
I know, right? But the good side of it is the fact that these stories are now being told, people are taking action. With action comes accountability, with awareness comes responsibility, more resources towards education. People are starting to care more. We call it a tech business, but everything we do affects people. We have to care more about people no matter what race, what gender, ethnicity, or religion. We have to look at ways of how we can create wealth because tech is one of the only industries in the world where we don’t have to go to a four-year university to get a job, even though that’s where the bar is set with ivy league schools, right? You can come into tech; you can learn to code or be great at project management, or have the right passion and get a job,to create wealth and impact not only in your life, but your family’s life. We need to do that with the income gap, the education gap, the average salary gap, and the unemployment gap. We need more people in tech from all races, genders, and cultures.
Personally, how do you think tech can be more accommodating to underrepresented entrepreneurs in the industry?
For me, I believe tech can be more accommodating when we look at the workforce. We need people who care in leadership and are who are held accountable. They are in positions that can be nonthreatening or non-bias towards diverse individuals. I think that’s some of the hardest problems we’re facing right now, that a lot of the workforce is only 2% black, 1% Latino, about 11% women. How did that happen? That’s just the workforce. People have to care and be accountable, and they haven’t been. If they were, it wouldn’t be as it is. For entrepreneurs, it’s going to come down to the biases that investors have regarding what makes a successful team because it’s not just the money, right? It’s the opportunity they get. It’s the chance to test your hypothesis to see if this problem that you’re solving has a particular value. Everybody doesn’t get that opportunity. Because even if you get the money, then it’s the mentorship, it’s the relationship, it’s the open doors, the partnerships, everything that comes with the relationship with investors.
I see so many great entrepreneurs who work their asses off. But it’s everything else. They get special access because they’re in a particular network, but if you don’t fit a particular stereotype, you don’t get that same opportunity. We need to change that in entrepreneurship. At the same time, I can’t speak for the Latino culture because I’m not Latino, but for the African American culture, we also need to look internally, look at our culture and how can we change our priorities. How can we change our focus? Regarding where I grew up, yes I got into art, but it was all about Michael Jordan, it was all about Michael Jackson, it was all about Eddie Murphy, and the comedians. That’s why we have this next generation of Kevin Harts, and just repeat, repeat, repeat. We’re in 2016; now we need more role models in tech. We also need to disrupt the African American culture and our values, get focused on creating wealth. That’s not on the street, it’s not on the court, it’s not on the stage.
“Regarding where I grew up, yes I got into art, but it was all about Michael Jordan, it was all about Michael Jackson, it was all about Eddie Murphy, and the comedians. That’s why we have this next generation of Kevin Harts, and just repeat, repeat, repeat. We’re in 2016; now we need more role models in tech. We also need to disrupt the African American culture and our values, get focused on creating wealth. That’s not on the street, it’s not on the court, it’s not on the stage.”
What are you working on right now? Either for others or yourself?
You made me pause because you said for myself and I’m like, what do I do for myself? [chuckles]
Right. I know the feeling.
For me, I just really like being healthy. Being healthy and happy. Being fit is also part of the San Francisco culture. But I just really like being happy and healthy, emotionally, intellectually, and also physically. That’s taking care of yourself, as number one.
Yeah. It’s hard to prioritize, isn’t it? Honestly. I finally figured it out this year, but I sympathize with people who can’t figure out how to make that work because they’re trying to make it work career or money-wise.
It’s hard to balance. Professionally I did a lot of cool projects over years. In 2014 I created a non-profit BUILDUP. In 2015 my partner, Melinda Epler and I started Tech Inclusion because we had begun seeing all the conversations around diversity and inclusion in tech, but most of the conversation are around the problems. We were like, we know too many people who do amazing work, but they don’t know each other. We also know a lot of the new diversity hires, a lot of individuals having this conversation, but they are not connected. Everybody was looking for solutions. We thought” how can we bring people together?” So we created the Tech Inclusion conference in 2015 and recently announced a new partnership with Google For Entrepreneurs; and we’re going to have the conference in New York and San Francisco. We hope to create opportunities and the spaces to solve these problems.
Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Do you think you’ll still be in tech and what kind of problems do you see yourself solving?
I’m always going to be in Tech. So I pause, and I laugh because I’m like—where I see myself in five years could depend on how the presidential race goes in 2016, and where I am in the country or out of the country. Regardless, in five years, I hope to continue to support the early stage entrepreneurs, and my passion is to have a venture fund one day. I’m going to put myself in the position to be on that path. Maybe get into education by teaching, and I still have some aspirations for entrepreneurship—a couple of ideas. I have asthma, so I want to do something in asthma and biotech.
My last question for you is: what advice would you give to folks from similar backgrounds as you who are hoping to get into tech? What do you wish you’d known in the beginning?
My advice is to keep learning. There’s a book called Mindset, by Carol Dweck and I think everybody should read it because it’s about knowing the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. If you have a growth mindset, you can learn anything and have the confidence to complete your goals. I think that’s like number one. Number two, believe that no door is closed. If you just learn how things work, you can open any door. Number three is to travel. If I never got outside of Raleigh, I wouldn’t be in San Francisco today. So, travel the world, get out of the country, get your passport and just go! Learn, see the world, build relationships and then be mindful that we have so many ways of communicating today. Create a real strategic plan of how you are going to communicate with your network. This sounds so basic, but in this world, if you put out positive energy, put out to the world that you are somebody and want to help others, it will come back to you. You just have to continue to put out positive energy. Last, build something. Whether your build a product, a community, a service,your network, your intellect, build something!
“In this world, if you put out positive energy, put out to the world that you are somebody and want to help others, it will come back to you. You just have to continue to put out positive energy.”
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