Everette Taylor is somewhat of a rarity–an African-American insider in Silicon Valley.
He has launched or has helped launch more than a few successful tech ventures. He is a much sought-after consultant as well.
Taylor started young–launching his first company at the age of 18. His company hosted parties and social events at different clubs and venues.
When he ventured into marketing, he worked with companies and brands such as United Way and celebrity author Neil Strauss. He was also on the team that started the popular website and brand GrowthHackers, a site that aggregates content from around the web to help assist marketers and other people trying to grow businesses. He was named Chief Marketing Officer at ecommerce company Sticker Mule – where he spearheaded the launch of the new brand Button Frog and its new product Wall Graphics. The experiences with co-developing these brands built the foundation for his own marketing consulting firm MilliSense, which is named after his mother, Millicent.
During undergrad at Virginia Tech, Taylor majored in Business IT but marketing was his first love. After graduation, he began consulting and assisting with small tech startups in Virginia. His big break in the tech scene happened when he was offered the opportunity to run marketing for the software company Qualaroo.
Next up, Taylor plans on starting his own non-profit organization that mentors inner city youth and helps those who are less fortunate.
TNJ.com: Can you tell me some of the companies you’ve started?
TK: I started two companies by myself, but I’ve also helped to launch other companies as either an employee or a consultant. My first company, which is defunct, was started when I was 18 years old. It was an event company that hosted parties and social events at different clubs and venues. It was fun and I made decent money but it wasn’t a sustainable business. My second business, which I also started by myself, is the marketing consulting firm MilliSense. It was named after my mother Millicent and it focuses on helping companies and brands grow. Prior to MilliSense, I was a marketing consulting for years. The demand for my consultancy started to get overwhelming so I started the company and brought in some reinforcements to make it widely available.
In the past couple years, I was on the team that started the popular website and brand GrowthHackers which is a site that aggregates some of the best content around the web to help inspire marketers and other people trying to grow businesses. Also, after taking the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) position at the e-commerce company Sticker Mule I spearheaded the launch of the new brand Button Frog and our new product Wall Graphics.
TNJ.com: How did you become interested in the tech sector?
Everett Taylor: In all honesty, I kind of just fell into it. I took my first marketing job just because I was a broke college student. My first few years working in the marketing industry included working with companies and brands like United Way and celebrity author Neil Strauss. They weren’t necessarily tech companies, but I always had a natural interest in the tech world. While at Virginia Tech, I majored in Business IT which sparked more of an interest. Additionally, I began consulting and helping out with small tech startups in Virginia. My big foray into the tech scene was when I was offered the opportunity to run the marketing division for the software company Qualaroo, a well-known company within Silicon Valley started by Sean Ellis.
TNJ.com: There has been a lot of talk about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley. Your thoughts?
ET: There is a racial and gender diversity problem in Silicon Valley. I know some pretty amazing minorities within Silicon Valley that are continuing to pave the way as the people did before them. We are still far away from being where we need to be. I’ve never, personally, worked at a tech startup that had more than two African Americans working for the company, including myself.
Recently, I did a podcast where I talked about how I ended up deleting my LinkedIn profile due to possible discrimination when applying for jobs. It was super difficult for me to break into Silicon Valley, but that’s the case for many African Americans in a lot of fields. I’ve dealt with discrimination my whole life, but I just try to do what I can within my means to make things better. Programs that I advocate for like CODE2040 and Black Girls Code are making major strides in the tech industry.
Unfortunately, the diversity problems don’t just lie within hiring practices. It’s deeply rooted within the culture of the companies. There are frequent instances of unsupported work environments for minority employees. If you’re an African-American in the tech industry, you can feel like an outsider, like no one understands you and can make you feel like you’re on island by yourself. It can truly be detrimental to the development of young minority entrepreneurs and employees.
Racist and discriminatory comments are said openly in a “joking” manner and it’s expected to be taken lightly. Offensive, racially insensitive behavior has to stop not only in the offices of Silicon Valley, but everywhere. Period.
I can say that there are some companies making a conscious effort to hire the under-represented cultural and gender groups. Kudos to them! But this shouldn’t be an initiative that companies should have to force themselves to do. It should be a natural thing that’s just a part of the company culture. I just want the “powers that be” in Silicon Valley to know that little minority boys and girls dream to be successful just like white children dream. Give them a fair shot and watch us work.
TNJ.com: There was also a new study that showed Black men are making the least amount of strides in the field. How would you account for your major success?
ET: I know so many intelligent, hard-working Black men that haven’t had the breaks that I’ve had. I count my blessings everyday. To be in the position that I’m in is something that I don’t take for granted.
I attribute my success to countless hours of lost sleep, old fashioned hard work, a natural gift for marketing and understanding people and networking which afforded me some great opportunities. However, great opportunities are pointless if you can’t perform. I’m extremely driven to the point of almost obsession in being successful in anything I do.
There are other Black men out there, just like me, that haven’t gotten an opportunity to perform. Everyday, I work for them knowing that the strides I make can possibly open up the doors for other Black men.
TNJ.com: What are your goals for this year?
ET: From a business perspective, I want to make Sticker Mule and our new brand Button Frog as successful as possible. That’s my first priority for this year. I want to expand growth to new audiences and grow internationally. We just launched in Italy. We have an amazing team here and I just look forward to making great things happen.
From a personal perspective, I want to use my platform to continue to stand up for what I believe in and against the social injustices happening in our country. I want to use that platform to continue to do good in the world. One of my projects is a partnership between me and NFL Player Brandian Ross on the clothing line Unity Over Self, which raises money for children with autism. I would love to continue to grow that as much as possible.
TNJ.com: Long term goals?
ET: Sticker Mule is the type of company that I can see myself being with for life. With all that we’ve talked about earlier in this interview about the struggles with diversity in tech, this has been the most accepting and unbiased company that I’ve ever been a part of. The co-founder, Anthony Thomas, has created a company culture where acceptance of people’s individualities and happiness are not only a priority, but it happens naturally because of the people who work for the company. So any long term goals involving them are on my list as well.
As far as long-term goals go, I hope to start my own non-profit organization mentoring inner city youth and helping those who are less fortunate to make a difference in their life. I really want to make a positive impact on as many lives as I can. I don’t want people like me to be an anomaly. Instead, they should be a common occurrence in society.
TNJ.com: Biggest business lesson you’ve learned?
ET: The biggest lesson I’ve learned has less to do with business and more to do with personal life choices. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to stay true to yourself. Don’t sacrifice your morals or what you believe in to make a dollar. Companies come and go; they fail and succeed. Just don’t get so caught up in everything that you forget who you are. Stay true.