It is not a secret that there is a void of African-Americans in the field of technology. Well, now a new program is hoping to close this gap. The NewMe Accelerator program, organized to encourage African-American technological entrepreneurship, recently had its welcome event on the campuses of Google, Inc. The NewMe Accelerator was created by Angela Benton and partner Wayne Sutton.
“The NewMe Accelerator was launched due to a two-part problem and opportunity. Both Angela and myself have separate startups that we founded and wanted to be successful and there is no other place to launch a web/tech startup than the Silicon Valley,” explains Sutton. “The second part is with the data showing only 1% of Internet start-up founders are African-American. We saw this as an opportunity to help others launch successful startups as well. Therefore, we decided to partner up and launch the NewMe Accelerator. Other data such as from the recent Startup Genome Report says startups that have mentors are more likely to succeed than startups that don’t.”
For the NewMe kickoff event, 12 Black digital entrepreneurs came to pitch their product and business ideas to an executive panel of venture capitalists, which included leaders from Syncom and David Krane from Google Ventures.
“The goals of the NewMe Accelerator are to increase exposure to talent, connect founders to access of early stage capital, provide mentorship from qualified individuals, help support and fund the community, be examples for current and future entrepreneurs and collaborate and build successful companies in the heart of Silicon Valley,” says Sutton.
The NewMe Accelerator will include 9 weeks of one on one mentorship, and a live “Real World”-like experience where the entrepreneurs will all live together under one roof as they work on their start-ups. Participants will be eligible for substantial business investments.
“There is a need for the NewMe Accelerator in 2011,” says Sutton. “Mitch Kapor said it best in a recent mentorship session about the NewMe accelerator: Access is inequitable. Not everybody has a shot, so give them the support they need to compete on a level playing flied. Then they’ll do really well. There’s no question that there’s a dramatic underrepresentation of people of color in the Silicon Valley eco system.”
According to Sutton, the digital divide remains real for minorities, especially in Internet startups. “In 2010, women angels represented 13% of the angel market. Women-owned ventures accounted for 21% of the entrepreneurs that are seeking angel capital and 13% of these women entrepreneurs received angel investment in 2010. Both the number of women seeking angel capital and the percentage that receives angel investments are low compared to the overall market. This data indicates that when women do seek angel capital, they lag behind the market yield rate by 5%,” he points out. “Minority angels accounted for 2% of the angel population. The minority-owned firms represented 6% of the entrepreneurs that presented their business concept to angels. The yield rate for these minority-owned firms was 19%, which for the fourth straight year, is in line with market yield rates. However, the small percentage of minority-owned firms seeking angel capital is of concern,” he adds.
The questions persist though. With African-Americans being major technology consumers and high Internet users (eMarketer estimates that African-Americans will make up 11.8% of all U.S. Internet users in 2011), why does the divide continue to exist? “I list the digital divide into five categories: location, access to information/technology, race, income, and gender,” explains Sutton. “With that said, many homes across the country are limited in at least one or multiple categories that can’t provide the same opportunity as those who have access to information and/or are not judged by gender/race or limited by the lack of income or location to have access to resources. But at the same time almost everyone has the opportunity to learn and teach others to help decrease the digital divide.”
Sutton and NewMe are hoping to do just that.