As I become more immersed into the tech industry, I find myself as a “grass Roots for the people kind of girl”, questioning and side eyeing once again the way Black people are “integrating” into a space that is still not accepting of Black people–especially Black women. Now that’s not to say we haven’t already made massive gains–many that were stripped of us, re purposed and reclaimed by white men. It just means that this space hasn’t been accepting, aware nor have they presented a resolve for the lack of inclusion, diversity and at times truth within the technology industry.
As I’ve navigated this space the one thing that’s stuck out to me the most is that networking is essentially at the forefront of the industry. Which Black Founders have easily adopted. I’ve been told over and over, “your network is your net worth.” And we know this to be true as we’ve always been weary of white privilege, and the opportunities given effortlessly because of who you know. Yet, does this even come close to being true, or even effective for Black Founders?
African-Americans have an average net worth of $11,000 compared to $144,000 for white Americans. This means even if a Black Founder has invested 20-50K into their company, they still wouldn’t be worth half. Not only that, but most likely investing into your company certainly causes for a lack in other areas which includes traveling, tech events, etc.
Although, it has been amazing to see the amount of Black Founder events increase, when I inquire about ticket prices I’m almost always discouraged. With flights, tickets and accommodations many times investing into networking can equate to thousands. However, many Founders spend an abundance of money attending these events, as opposed to their companies believing they will meet the people needed to catapult them to the next level. News flash: Majority of us are doing the SAME thing.
Many attending these events are on the same playing field. Meaning they are gunning for that one introduction, that one conversation, that one person who actually puts that business card to use. We go to these events high powered, eyes set–to only be met by people who are trying to figure it out just like you. People who have spent thousands they don’t have, to try and expand their Network with people who can’t assist them in their goals. Because, let’s face it less than 1% of American venture capital-backed founders are black and the percentage of Black’s in decision making roles within Venture Capital isn’t much better. So, within a Black Tech event the chances of meeting, or securing a VC–is certainly slim to none. They are literally a speck of pepper in a mountain of sea salt, they are being hit from EVERY direction–as Black Founders are usually seeking them out, hoping to find the light. They too are feeling the pressures of the “good boys club” mindset we have adopted.
To be honest, networking hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Many of those who have committed to working together often fall off, because essentially they aren’t looking for someone to build with–they are looking for someone to build them up. They need help themselves, so how can they assist another company? I know, I too have been a victim to this mindset. I’ve tried to play the game, and networked until I was exhausted and I have absolutely nothing within my Company to show for it. Yes, I’ve gained some great supporters, but nothing that would help me take my Company to the next level.
We have become so wrapped in this mindset of networking up, that we’ve forgotten that building with those by your side can be more beneficial. We have dismissed the art of strategic partnerships, collaborations and community. We have adopted a mind frame that has historically, and presently created a barrier for us–and in turn create barriers for one another.
Not only that, but we are once again allowing an industry to capitalize off of our talent, and tenacity. I’ve become Leary of the amount of Underrepresented pitch events, vendor events, etc. that are organized by white people. Only for us to pay a great deal of money to be seen, by those who statistics show aren’t investing in us in real life. Or, Black founders who have been through “the struggle” only to turn around and break the pockets, spirits and dreams of other Black Founders.
So, needless to say I wouldn’t pay attention to attend another networking event. It’s just not worth it. For me, meeting a Founder by happen stance, that hasn’t been corrupted by the tech industry has proved to be more valuable than any industry event.