Closing the tech diversity gap

By Oliver Griffin September 28, 2016

As the founder of both a successful mobile app and a strategic consulting company, I have a unique perspective on the tremendous potential mobile technology offers for economic opportunity.

Too often, I attend tech events and business meetings where African American entrepreneurs are underrepresented. A diversity gap exists in this vibrant sector in which over 75 per cent of African Americans don’t often view the tech space as a realm for economic empowerment.

 In fact, a Mobile Future survey, Crossing the New Digital Divide: Connecting to Mobile Economic Empowerment, took a deep dive into the barriers to entry that African Americans face in tech and discovered a significant information gap. A vast majority of African Americans don’t know what a tech career is, much less see others in their communities holding tech jobs. However, some of my close colleagues and I have managed to push pass this reality.

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I started Bold Startups – formerly known as Community Strategies Consulting – in 2010, working with organizations and entrepreneurs to start new businesses. Inspired by my work with startups, I resolved to create my own innovative solution – BOLD Guidance – a web-based mobile and computer app that helps students navigate the college application process, making it less stressful and more efficient for everyone. Inspiration for BOLD Guidance grew out of my own understanding of the impact education and access to resources can have on a person, their family, and their community.

Growing up in Cleveland in the United States, my local high school was failing. However, my mom recognizing the incredible importance of education, worked three jobs to send me to a college prep school, which included valuable support and resources to navigate the college application process. Many of my neighbors, however, did not have access to the same opportunities and have had very different life outcomes. Today, less than 60 per cent of Cleveland high school students are enrolling in college, yet another systemic challenge to pursuing a college degree. By tapping into mobile technology, I was able to develop a tool that provides knowledge and resources that can open doors to all types of opportunities.

Part of my journey toward further developing BOLD Guidance was looking for ways to increase market awareness and authority. Once again, mobile technology offered me an opportunity. I entered BOLD Guidance in The Mobileys, an annual competition that recognizes cutting-edge, wireless innovations making a difference in our world. By participating in the competition, we were able to refine and improve our vision for the app. BOLD Guidance has been enabling students, particularly African American students who too often do not have access to college prep resources, to boldly track their college application process in an efficient and effective way. 

Technology and innovation have been entrepreneurial game changers for me and have the potential to boost economic opportunity, particularly for African Americans. Working in the tech space can open doors and shatter barriers for African Americans – but only if these entrepreneurs view tech as a viable career option and have the proper access, training, and resources. African Americans working in tech have a responsibility to serve as role models and provide mentoring to build up a network in our community. Having few role models to look up to myself, I strive to be a model for future women and African Americans to show them the promise and opportunity available in the vast world of tech.

Nichelle McCall is a speaker and Startup Strategist. Since 2007, Nichelle has provided startup advice to hundreds of entrepreneurs and startup business owners. Many of them have gone on to raise millions in early-stage funding.