Ok, things are clearly getting out of control with this whole Michael Arrington, black Entrepreneurs, CNN, Black In America 4, Silicon Valley documentary. From someone who lived it and was in the middle of this whole thing let me tell you my view point and why I think a lot of the unnecessary attacks, blog post, tweets and all needs to slow down. You can call this a butt kissing post, make up or whatever but here’s my story/opinion.
When I met Arrington twice this summer in Silicon Valley.
While working on NewMe Accelerator this summer and going to Silicon Valley there were a hand full a people I wanted to meet who were not a mentor/speaker such as Sean Parker, Mark Zuckerberg, Ron Conway, Jack Dorsey, MG and Michael Arrington. I saw Ron Conway passing through 500Startups one day and waived hello, (almost counts). No luck on Sean Parker but I really didn’t try(sorry Pius) and both times when I visited Facebook HQ, Zuck wasn’t in the building (dang). I saw Jack when I had a meeting at Twitter HQ but he was busy talking and I didn’t want to look like a crazy fanboy so I kept it moving. As for MG I saw him at the TechCruch August Capital party after the Mobile First CrunchUp. We talked and he was like, Wayne…. we met at SXSW a few years ago…. Ok MG.
As for Michael Arrington, I first met him walking into the Mobile First CrunchUp with Angela Benton. I was caught off guard cause I wasn’t’ expecting to see him and I had a “geek shock” moment. I introduced myself and said by the way I was a friend of MC Hammer. Yes, I went the name drop route. Bad move, very, very bad move. A lot of people in the Valley do this (name dropping) and I guess it rubbed off on me but don’t name drop as a first introduction/impression ever. Either way Arrington was cool and said ok, we shook hands and he had to run off. I knew later that day he was being interviewed by CNN for Black in America 4 and was hoping to have a chance to talk with him again the same day but it didn’t happen.
Arrington does know Black Entrepreneurs:
Luckily I did see and talk with Arrington again a few days later at the Google Ventures BBQ. Ironically he was walking around with a “Black Entrepreneur” and we talked about the CNN Black In America 4 interview. This time I did a better job of introducing myself. One of his first statements was “how do you think I did”, “I don’t want to look like an asshole”. My response was, Mike, I haven’t seen your interview. He seemed generally concerned about how he was going to be portrayed in the documentary on CNN. He mentioned about being asked if he knew any “Black Entrepreneurs” at the time it kinda threw him through a loop but him and the “Black Entrepreneur” he was with at the time was starting talking “lightly” how they know each other.
From there Arrington and I talked about having TechCruch host a pre-screening for Black In America 4 when it comes out. Now Arrington is no longer at TechCrunch and with the way CNN is using his quotes, good luck with that happening now. Arrington and I talked a little more, I made a few introductions to him of other “Black Entrepreneurs” while at the Google Ventures BBQ and said keep in touch.
Arrington’s foot in the mouth moment?
I know for a fact that Arrington did know “Black Entrepreneurs” before the interview, before his CrunchFund and before he invested into a few Black Entrepreneurs with his CrunchFund. Some may not be considered the traditional Entrepreneurs but I know that Arrington knows Charles Hudson, Clarence Wooten, Tristan Walker, Adria Richards (who has attended and reported from TechCrunch Disrupt, the last two years) and artist turned entrepreneurs Chamillionaire and MC Hammer, all Black/brown. Speaking of Hammer, when I first met Arrington I texted Hammer and was like, hey I just met your boy Arrington and Hammer replied Arrington is the man.
So did Arrington stick his foot in his mouth when he said ‘I don’t know a single black entrepreneur’ or did he say it to stir up controversy as some have suggested, or was he caught off guard and said what he really meant or was he being to some would say, Arrington being Arrington. I don’t know and only Arrington can answer that but that doesn’t mean at all that he’s a racist. Trust me, there were times in Silicon Valley where I was thinking/feeling am I the only one here? Heck there’s times like that in Raleigh, NC. So for Arrington to say he doesn’t know any “Black Entrepreneurs” is somewhat surprising being I know how many Black Entrepreneurs would love to have been featured on TechCrunch or may have tried to reach out, myself included. That still doesn’t mean he’s a racist or all of Silicon Valley is.
UPDATE: See Michael Arrington’s blog post response to CNN: Oh Shit, I’m A Racist
Arrington is not Silicon Valley
Still, I’m not saying I agree with Arrington and/or a lot of his comments about Silicon Valley but what I can say is that living in Silicon Valley for the summer it’s an entire different world. You can say there are not a lot of blacks in Silicon Valley or tech and be part right just like you can say that Atlanta is the black capital of USA and be part right based off of opinion, demographics and culture.
Sadly for Silicon Valley, Arrington is a loud, public figure and CNN knows that. I know that. But his comments and/statements do not represent all of Silicon Valley or Silicon Valley VCs;it also doesn’t mean he’s right. Just Arrington perspective. Media is media and always be careful what you say to media on camera and off. Some of my comments will be used not the way I like and it’s life. Lesson learned.
What I would like to see are the interviews from Mitch Kapor, Ron Conway, Jay Jameson and others who talked more about the need for the NewMe Accelerator..
Back to NewMe Accelerator, CNN and the documentary. I have yet to see a pre-screening. A few friends have seen it in NY, ATL and other cities. I’ve seen the tweets, had a few phone calls but I’m clearly disappointed that so far out of the pre-screenings most of the conversation is about Michael Arrington one sound byte! I mean there was hours and hours of footage being recorded about NewMe Accelerator and the eight of us living in one house. Note there were 11 startups in NewMe Accelerator but CNN only covered the eight of us in the house. But I mean Arrington was only interviewed for two or three hours out of the countless hours of footage and sadly this is all of what people are talking about so far? The closer it gets to the documentary being aired the more nervous I get.
There were so many great things that happen this summer. I met a lot of great entrepreneurs (Black, White, Asian, Hispanic) who wanted to see all of the entrepreneurs in NewMe Accelerator succeed. I hope this story is told in the Black In America 4 documentary too. Yes, we had challenges and situations… trust me. You’ll see but there was so more good things that happen versus what I’m currently reading about and seeing online.
Where are the Black Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley?
Why the ratio of Black Entrepreneurs vs other races in Silicon Valley may be very low? There are a good number of Black Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Groups such as Black Founders and more are doing a good job connecting Black Entrepreneurs in the community to support one another.
Where are the Blacks In Tech?
There are tons of blacks in tech! Another blog post on that and how to find them later but check out http://28daysofdiversity.com for starters.
Race, gender and relationships matter in technology, in business, in life!
This is a very sensitive subject but all I’m going to say and address at this time is that race matters. I’ve experienced it, seen it, doing it, living it and have stories to tell why and how it matters. You may or may not have seen or experienced anything “racist” yourself, well…lucky you! Sadly a lot of others across the world have. In the words of Kanye West “Racism still alive they just be concealing it”.
Regardless of what you build, how smart you are, a lot of factors go into play in terms of success no matter if you’re in Silicon Valley or Raleigh, NC. Be a good, smart business person and do the best you can.
The big picture!
Let’s talk about the big picture here and why Black In America 4 decided to cover NewMe Accelerator. The NewMe Accelerator after learning that only 1% internet start-ups founders are African-American and we wanted to do the following:
Increase exposure to talent,
Connect founders to access of early stage capital,
Provide mentorship from qualified individuals,
Collaborate and build successful companies in the heart of Silicon Valley,
And most importantly, we want to…
It’s not going to be easy (but nothing is) and the life-cycle starts here.
The negative attention, racist comments, and more is not what I wanted to see happen.
Arrington, Race, and Silicon Valley by Hank Williams
Why Arrington is NOT a Racist & Don’t Believe the Hype by Angela Benton
Have an idea… do it and don’t talk about it.
Have a vision… complete it.
Have a problem.. solve it.