Black entrepreneurs in Miami feel they have been bypassed by the tech boom

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Chandler Malone, 27, the CEO of Boot Up, whose company is helping various bootcamp and college graduate communities meet their hiring needs, is photographed at his shared office in Miami on Wednesday, November 3, 2021. (Carl Juste / Miami Herold via AP)

AP

Black hair care is often overlooked by venture capitalists, a world far removed from Black and Brown communities. Only 2% of venture capitalists are black men and only 1% are black women.

Miami-based entrepreneur Rishielle Giscombe is unwilling to be put off. In an effort to transform hair care in South Florida’s technology space, Giscombe used her interest and expertise in beauty to create an app that connects stylists with clients.

Their business, Glamo, grew out of providing rides for the elderly in 2015 and treating them to free cuts, blowouts, and crocheted braids once they got home. When Giscombe started attracting customers, she posted flyers on gas station windows, left them at beauty stores, and distributed them at the Coral Square Mall. Giscombe even went door to door.

A black female immigrant from Jamaica, Giscombe said that she can easily be left out in technology, but she does not allow what she calls “cookie-cutter” tendencies in technology to deter her pursuit of excellence .

“I want people to judge me based on my determination to actually have a successful business,” she told the Miami Herald. “That’s why I’m where I am today.”

Launched in 2018, Glamo connects consumers with more than 100 nail, hair, and makeup stylists in South Florida. Glamo receives a fee every time an appointment is booked through the app.

In the midst of the #MiamiTech wave that swept the city last year, black entrepreneurs are shaping their own paths to success. Their goals are the same as those of other technology founders – but with greater urgency: to create generational wealth while at the same time strengthening and strengthening black and brown communities through innovation.

“I rely on the resources I already have and the relationships and resources that I know will work,” said Dani Spikes, founder of BeLoved Box, a monthly subscription self-care and beauty boxing company that is now seven years old. Figure sales since it was founded in 2016.

Spikes said the new tech boom in Miami did not live up to its diversity ideals. In fact, the list of top 40 venture capital deals in Miami for 2021 through Aug. 3 consists of just one black-owned startup: Toast Distillers, one of the few black-owned distilleries best for their Toast brand Vodka are known to be less than $ 100,000 in an angel investment, according to Pitchbook.

“I was over-cared for and under-funded,” said Spikes.

“I DO NOT SEE DIVERSITY”

For eight years, Felecia Hatcher has been at the forefront of getting black tech workers involved in broader Miami tech. Before she co-founded The Center for Black Innovation (originally called Code Fever) in 2013, there was virtually no black tech community in South Florida.

“There was no plan for black entrepreneurs,” said Hatcher. “There was no plan to build a black tech community, and that’s how we created it.”

Hatcher says some big companies have even asked her to change the name of Blacktech Week, another initiative she started to raise sponsorship money. Venture capitalists would attend the expo so they could say they attended a diversity event and made false promises to the black founders, ignoring their calls and investment meetings, she said.

“Miami is diverse, but still a very racist city,” said Hatcher, now CEO of Black Ambition, a funding initiative for black and Latinx entrepreneurs.

Black founders, Hatcher said, are not seeing the surge in investment in other parts of the technology ecosystem. Meanwhile, tech spaces like the Center for Black Innovation in Overtown are underutilized by the larger tech community.

“When you say diversity, what do you mean by that?” She asked, referring to the initiatives of the Miami city government. “Because I don’t see diversity in terms of location, I don’t see diversity in access, I don’t see diversity in your reach, I don’t see diversity in your program.”

The city of Miami donated $ 500,000 to help program the Center for Black Innovation and hosted a 5000 Role Models of Excellence innovation tour in October to educate students about cryptocurrencies, according to city communications director Soledad Cedro.

“As our Miami strives to become the ‘Capital of Capital,’ it is critical that we create robust avenues for Black and Brown founders to be at the center of the narrative of what we are building together,” Mayor said Francis Suarez in an email. “The ethos of our movement comes first and that starts with each of our residents standing at the table of opportunities.”

SUPPORTING MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES

Doris Jean Pierre founded AccessBridge in 2018 after encountering rejection in the health administration space for lack of experience. AccessBridge aims to prepare diverse talents for the workforce through career exploration, leadership development and the placement of participants through internships.

“Healthcare organizations said the reason they don’t have a diverse workforce is because they don’t know where to find black and brown talent,” said Jean Pierre, 27. “So to me it means, ‘Here we are ‘ are. You come to us. ‘”

Jean Pierre would like more accelerator programs and mentoring services that not only provide resources but also provide adequate funding for black start-up founders.

“They say they welcome the founders of Black and Brown, but you are more likely to get into a program where there is no funding than a program where they would give you funding,” said she.

BootUp founder Chandler Malone moved to Miami from Tulsa, Oklahoma, in search of capital and talent. BootUp supports tech bootcamps and vocational training programs in the search and placement of candidates and makes it easier for people with no experience to enter the tech field.

Although Boot Up, which launched in June, doesn’t have a focus on diversity and inclusion, Malone said the pipeline to acquiring software engineering or digital marketing skills is more accessible than studying, with 78% of candidates coming out come from under-represented communities. Candidates do not pay anything to enroll in a program, he said, and fees are only charged once they have found a job with a certain income limit.

“We’d like to see people who have been underrepresented in tech in the past use us to get into tech faster, more cheaply, and with higher fidelity,” said Malone, 27.

His company supports around 600 candidates a week, from single parents with minimum wage jobs to young immigrants who cannot make financial decisions about college. They got jobs at Tesla, Uber, Facebook and Google.

As an angel investor and venture partner at Atento Capital, a Tulsa-based mutual fund, Malone said he found fulfillment by investing in black founders. He recognizes the benefits of black networks and promotes the seeds for younger generations who can bring unique value to the technology field.

“I really want to help people improve their quality of life by getting started with technology,” said Malone, “and as a secret that is close to my heart, I would like to see more blacks getting into technology and what that is for could do to us. “

CREATING EQUAL PATHS

Derick Pearson, President and Executive Director of the Center for Black Innovation, wants to ensure that black tech founders can move to or from Miami to participate in the growing tech economy rather than the barriers that exist in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York to transplant.

Pearson said he continued to attend to the needs of black communities. He co-founded Tribe, a co-working space in Overtown that combines minority-led startup founders with opportunity and capital, and helped found one of the first groups to join the Ecosystem Builders Fellowship program in June the entrepreneur raised more than $ 400,000 for their business.

Black people have influenced everything from culture to purchasing power, Pearson said. By depriving people of livable wages and resources in order to build wealth and prosperity, you are causing cancer across the country, he said. In the long term, he wants the Center for Black Innovation to become irrelevant in a future city where #MiamiTech means that innovation deserts are extinct and equitable routes to capital exist for black entrepreneurs and communities.

“If you want a more resilient, ruthless, and reactive civilization in the United States, you need to ensure that all parties that make up the bodies of American citizens or active participants are looked after,” Pearson said. “They are not disenfranchised, they are not marginalized, they are not calmed down, they are not suppressed and they are active.”


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