On November 15, technology entrepreneur and tech veteran Hank Williams passed away from pneumonia-related complications. He was 50 years old.
A technology influencer who had the ear of some of the nation’s top technology companies such as Google and Microsoft when it came to making the case for diversifying hiring pools, Williams was one of eight entrepreneurs to star on Soledad O’Brien’s “Black in America” documentary, which was shot in Silicon Valley and addressed the lack of African Americans in the tech space.
He was the founder and CEO of Kloudco, a startup developing information management and communication services.
When he wasn’t launching startups, Williams could often be found speaking on panels and participating in initiatives that sought to bring more diversity to the field. And last year, Credit Suisse tapped him to be a part of their Entrepreneurs Circle to support African American entrepreneurs in the U.S.
In fact, rarely was Williams’ name not mentioned when it came to a conversation about diversifying the technology industry.
Earlier this year, he was on a technology panel at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Wall Street Economic Summit.
Just last month, Forbes wrote this about Williams’ latest initiative, Platform:
Platform’s leader, Hank Williams, deserves credit for helping to alter the narrative about diversity in tech, and for accommodating partners like Morehouse and Google. But like all smart leaders, Williams too is thinking about scale. The future of Platform? To become an online platform for the long tail of diversity that he’s been building offline. In beta today, Platform is looking to extend its offline community “to the online world and to expand to tens or hundreds of thousands,” says Williams.
When I interviewed Williams in November 2014, I asked him to tell me what the biggest challenge was in bringing diversity to the tech landscape. He said, “There are two. If you ask people in the Tech industry, they would say there’s a pipeline problem. There are not enough people being educated to do the work. And that is true on the engineering side, which is to say we need more engineers of color. But that does not explain the numbers because the numbers are bad even on the marketing and sales side. There are plenty of young, people of color graduating from competitive colleges. The question is why aren’t they being hired? One word that Google uses a lot to describe the problem is unconscious bias. It means that people aren’t purposefully singling out people and saying I’m not going to hire this person because they’re Black, or a woman, or Latino, but the net result is that they have biases that lead in directions that are not supportive of diversity. On the other side, there is an educational pipeline issue, though even there it doesn’t explain the numbers, which are incredibly small. But there is a pipeline problem and it’s important to acknowledge it out loud. And we want everyone in the Tech industry to help invest in fixing that problem.”
This is what he had hoped to conquer through his tech platform, Platform, “a new non-profit organization with the important mission to increase the interest and participation of underrepresented groups in the fields of technology and entrepreneurship, with a particular focus on African-Americans, Latinos and women” launched in 2013 at M.I.T.
He advocated until the end.
Read more at USA Today.