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Facebook and Intel Report Diversity Improvement

Maxine Williams, Facebook’s Executive Diversity Chief

Facebook’s surprising diversity report showed marked improvement in hiring of women and minorities. While the report shows that Facebook is still overwhelmingly white and male the improvements show that Maxine Williams, Facebook’s Executive Diversity Chief, is having an effect on the company.   Facebook’s report revealed 35 percent of its staff  are women, up from 33 percent a year ago. The number of number of women in leadership positions is up a percent to 28 percent.

Even with these improvements retention of female employees in the tech sector is a another challenge. Women are leaving the industry after hire in the face or sexism and other bias. So these numbers for Facebook can only be considered an improvement if women stay on with the company.

The report shows an increase of Hispanic employees of 4 to 5 percent and African-Americans by 2 to 3 percent. However the guys at the top are still white men making up 71 percent of the company leadership. No change there.  The rest of the company leadership is held by Asians at 21 percent with other groups holding only 2 to 3 percent.

How is Williams making change happen? Along side the diversity report Williams blogged about initiatives she believes are improving Facebook’s hiring and workplace culture. She pointed out the  “Diverse Slate Approach,” which encourages consideration of applicants who don’t look like the hiring managers.  According to Williams Facebook has discovered that “the more people you interview who don’t look or think like you, the more likely you are to hire someone from a diverse background.”  Facebook’s “Managing Inclusion,” training program teaches managers to consider what issues affect under-represented groups.  Facebook believes that this training helps to build an understanding of how these employees or applicants arrived in tech the industry and what obstacles remain.

Williams believes Facebook is moving in the right direction but said, “We aren’t where we’d like to be.”

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich

Another major tech company is also touting its diversity improvements.  Intel has reported that its diversity program is actually two years ahead of schedule.  In a recent blog post Intel CEO Brian Krzanich claims Intel is two years ahead of its original diversity plan. “We set out to achieve by 2020 an inclusive workforce that reflects the diversity we see every day in the world around us,” he wrote. “Doing this would bring the number of female, Hispanic, African-American and Native American employees in Intel’s 50,000-strong U.S. workforce to full representation.” According to Krzanich the goal is now moved up to 2018.

Krzanich, in a stand against racism, resigned from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council after comments the president made about the events in Charlottesville that one left one woman dead. According to Krzanich he wants to “…call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues…”

Intel’s mid-year report shows the company’s five-year plan is on track to bring full representation of  women, African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans in both technical and non-technical jobs. According to Intel full representation is defined as the “full market availability of women and underrepresented minorities.”

“In December of 2014, our gap to full representation was 2,300 employees. Today that gap has narrowed to 801 people, a 65 percent improvement, said Krzanich.

But like Facebook and other tech companies white and Asian men still represent  almost all top management positions. More than 90 percent of Intel’s mid to senior-level technical roles are white and Asian men.  Intel is also dealing with a retention problem with women and minorities. The company says it has added “diversity playbooks” and other programs to help managers hire and retain under-represented groups.

Although diversity in the tech sector is a real issue, and progress is epically slow, there is progress. According to workplace culture and company review platform Comparably  companies are doing better.

Comparably has come out with a list of the top ten companies that are doing better than most in the area of workplace diversity. The scores of these companies are on a 0-100 scale and based how female employees rate their experience at the company. The diversity score is based on how employees of color rate their experience at a company. Here is Comparably’s list for women.

For diversity

 

 

 

The Tech Industry’s Missed Opportunity: Funding Black Women Founders

By Bari A. Williams

Originally published on FastCompany.com May 5th, 2017

Author Bari A. Williams

This is a tale of two tech startups.

The first is a messaging app that allows a user to send a one-word greeting to a friend and nothing more. There is no messaging functionality, filtering features, or ability to provide a longer message. In time, it will come to send notifications for followers, with the message, “Yo,” and a link.

The second startup is also a messaging app. It operates much like Gmail and Outlook’s “recall message” feature, but for text messages, and is well positioned for dating app expansion. All of the text messages a user has sent to exes, old friends, parents, and colleagues can be recalled by using this app as a primary messaging app.

The first app, Yo, received mainstream press attention and $1.5 million dollars in funding from a well-known VC firm with Facebook alum. Its founder is a white man.

The other app, On Second Thought, is available in almost 200 countries but has yet to have a major VC funding round. Its founder, Maci Peterson, is a black woman. “Some large VCs thought we were too early, some never responded, some we couldn’t get meetings with,” she explains. The company bootstrapped first, then raised money from a friends and family round, included angel investors, and won money from pitch competitions.

The different outcomes for these two startups highlights the hurdles that black women founders often face. Investors aren’t taking risks on startups run by the nation’s most credentialed, accomplished, and ambitious group. In an industry filled with tales of boys behaving badly, there is a growing group of women who are just looking for their break. The tech industry, one that thrives on creative solutions and innovation, is ignoring the opportunity for fresh ideas for new products, and improvements on existing ones.

THE LOST OPPORTUNITY OF BLACK WOMEN FOUNDERS

Black women are the most educated group in the nation, and black women are the highest percentage of any group enrolled in college, as per the 2011 U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 60% of black women are active in the labor market, but are grossly underpaid (Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is on August 1 this year).

They are also the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the country. According to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, there was a 265% increase in black women-owned business between 1997 and 2014, outpacing growth among all women-owned firms, which grew in revenues by 72% during the same time period. Black women are responsible for over 1.5 million businesses and generating over $44 billion a year in revenue, while being responsible for the livelihood of roughly 400,000 workers.

UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM

Women start companies at twice the rate of men, yet women comprise only 16% of tech founders.  According to a study by First Round Capital, founding teams including a woman outperform their all-male peers by 63%, but female CEOs get only 2.7% of all venture funding, while women of color get virtually none: 0.2%.

The fact that black women are educated and entrepreneurial yet so underfunded is a confluence of broadening thoughts of diversity, use of technology, and economic policy. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 increased limits for tax write-offs for startups, such as the ability to deduct cell phone bills and depreciation, and health care costs. This was great news for black women, who tend to be younger when they found their companies, have more debt, and less access to capital. Black women have greater difficulty receiving funding from investors and creditors, and difficulty securing lending due to racial bias.

But tax write-offs don’t make up for the funding gap. When black women are funded, they get the short end of the stick, with the average raise round totaling just $36,000. Compare that figure to the composite of the average white male startup founder, who banks an average of $1.3 million in funding. The secondary problem with not receiving mainstream large VC funding? Scaling.

There is a compounding problem with not receiving venture capital funding from heavy hitters. Certain venture capital firms can turn products, and their founders, into stars. Backing from a big VC firm can bring increased media attention. That creates a buzz that ensures any advertising generates more interest, as the public has heard of the product, founder, or both.

Without this “machine,” a founder has to work harder to get the word out about a product that hasn’t been adequately cosigned by the tech elite, which makes an already uphill climb even more difficult. According to digitalundivided’s Project Diane, more than 50% of black female founders received less than $100,000 in funding, which implies that these women are tapping resources outside of traditional venture networks such as loans from family and friends, retirement accounts, credit cards, and personal savings.

An example of this is Blavity, a website for black millennials that covers everything from music and movie reviews to how to organize with and for Black Lives Matter. The site was founded in summer 2014 by Morgan DeBaun, who bootstrapped her business for the first year. “Is it possible [VCs] may be biased and would fund the same thing if presented by someone else? Of course. My co-founders worked at Palantir, Bain, and LinkedIn, [and have] Stanford educations,” she explains.

The larger problem DeBaun faces is securing funding to expand and scale the business. Creating and curating content is expensive, particularly in the competitive tech entertainment industry. Still, DeBaun is hopeful; Blavity has held two successful conferences in the past year that have attached investor attention.

WORKING AROUND THE PROBLEM AND SOLVING IT FOR THE FUTURE

On the off chance a black woman founder is funded, the money comes from within her community. In recent years, several black-owned VC funds and firms have opened their doors, with a focus on funding black-owned businesses that wouldn’t find funding elsewhere. Some key funders include Magic Johnson Enterprises, with director of investment Ryan L. Smith heading up funding opportunities including Jopwell, ShotTracker, Walker & Co, and Uncharted Play; Erik Moore at Base Ventures; former Hollywood agent and entertainment VC Charles King at Macro VenturesMonique Woodard at 500 Startups, focusing on black and brown founders; and Arlan Hamilton at Backstage Capital.

Some other ventures these funders have invested in include Blavity, 21Ninety, On Second Thought, Airfordable, and Pigeonly. Five of the companies are headed by black women founders.

Having money to keep the lights on and grow the business has been key for the women running these companies. While having the support of one’s community is crucial, particularly for receiving initial support and feedback on the product offerings and positioning, without the backing and mainstream support provided by access to funding, these transformational companies won’t be sustained.

Considering that the nation will be majority minority by 2044, blacks are the largest and most engaged group of early tech adopters, black spending power is at $1.25 trillion, and Hispanic buying power is at $1.3 trillion (which includes those identifying as Afro-Latinos), it would be wise to invest in these businesses for the good probability of return on investment. This demographic determines the “cool” factor of a product once released, and provides access to influencers and a group that can determine the next “it” technology.

A possible solution is diversifying large VC firms. Associate and partner ranks are on par with tech company diversity employee numbers, and those sourcing investment opportunities for the large VC firms resemble the companies they tend to invest in.

While many firms support the efforts of their portfolio companies to diversify in terms of employees and c-suite, there is little being done in terms of their own firms. It takes those in touch with the community to spot talent, novel ideas, and the ability to scale and profit from those diverse perspectives. Employing and empowering more diverse VC associates and partners would be a viable start. It is also good business.

VC firms could also raise a fund or allocate a portion of their current fund to only investing in people of color. If paired with a diverse associate or partner devoted to sourcing founders of color to invest in, this strategy could bring us closer to parity.

Technology has the ability to change lives, not just for the founders but the consumers, creating access and opportunities to worlds and resources never seen before. To promote not just equity in the industry, but industry progress with new technology and audiences, venture capitalists will have to pay attention to these forces of nature: fund them, provide advice, media support, and watch them soar. The industry will be better for it.

Bärí A. Williams (@bariawilliams) is head of business operations, North America, at StubHub. She previously served as lead counsel for Facebook and created their supplier diversity program.

See also: Silicon Valley Cash? Not for Blacks and Women

Celebrity Cyber Report – Andre Iguodala, JayZ vs. The Prince Estate

iguodala-suit

Andre Iguodala

NBA players, like most pro athletes, make a nice income. Well lets be real; they make a helluva lot of money. Now one of their own, Andre Iguodala, is introducing them to a new game, tech investing.

Iguolada, the Golden State Warriors All-Star and NBA Finals MVP, is an investor in several companies with his business partner, Rudy Cline Thomas. Recently Inguodala and Thomas participated in a question-and-answer session with startup owners at LinkedIn headquarters in San Francisco.

Iguodala made a savvy business move by joining the Golden States Warriors. He became part of one of the greatest teams in NBA history but also moved closer to the Silicon Valley. Iguodala came to the Bay Area with his eye on a championship and the tech start up investment opportunities.

The NBA star is doing his best to get other players interested in the start up game as well.

“I’m just trying to get my colleagues to understand that there is a space for us outside of our normal investing,” said Iguodala. “You normally see players investing in the barbershop. You see the music companies. You see a lot of real estate. You don’t see many go outside of their comfort zones. We want to change that.”

Since joining the Warriors Iguodala has jumped on the Silicon Valley tech scene like an errant pass.  He joins other NBA stars that include his teammate Steph Curry who invested in a online coaching service app, and a  social media platform. L.A. Clippers star Chris Paul co-created Game Vision, an app that uses games it claims will increase court vision awareness. Laker great Kobe Bryant has launched a $100 million dollar venture capital firm and Carmelo Anthony has created his own firm, Melo7 Tech Partners.

Many NBA players and other professional athletes have made millions outside of playing sports. But Iguodala points out that there is more to be made than just standing in front of a camera and endorsing a product.

“That’s the biggest thing, because the way we dealt with businesses in the past is a direct transaction: You pay me this amount and I’ll take a picture or endorse your product. I think the landscape has changed as far as endorsements are concerned because consumers are smarter. They know what’s authentic, what’s organic and what’s genuine.”

Because of this belief  Iguodala and Cline Thomas launched the National Basketball Players Association’s inaugural tech summit. This gathering took place last July and hooked up current and former NBA with key tech execs in San Francisco. Using his influence as the vice president for the player’s union Iguodala made it happen.

More than 30 NBA players participated in the three-day event.  “The response was amazing,” said Iguodala. “A lot of them, said, ‘Wow, we didn’t know what you meant?'” Cline Thomas added, “Some players are already investing. All it took was some exposure.”

JayZ vs. The Prince Estate

Prince’s record label NPG has gone to war with JayZ’s Roc Nation and it’s parent company Tidal.

Prince’s record label, NPG Records, filed the lawsuit in Minnesota accusing Roc Nation and Tidal of copyright infringement. NPG claims Tidal streamed Prince’s music without permission after his death. NPG Records gave Tidal exclusive streaming rights to the album, Hit ‘n Run Phase One, but for only 90 days. But NPG claims that after Prince’s death, Tidal began streaming as many as 15 of Prince’s other albums. NPG never agreed to that and characterized the move as exploitation.

Roc Nation disputes the claim. JayZ’s label says they have paperwork proving “various agreements between the relevant parties”  giving them rights to the music. NPG says it hasn’t seen any of these “agreements.” Roc Nation/Tidal and NPG have been at odds for some time, but Tuesday’s lawsuit has opened a new front in the battle.

Like all wars the sides and the issues are often complicated. This legal battle is complicated by a recent deal between Prince’s estate and Universal Music Publishing Group. According to Minneapolis Star Tribune Universal was named “the exclusive worldwide publishing administrator” for all of Prince’s music. Tidal took issue with the agreement and filed its own paperwork claiming that a previous contract gave it exclusive streaming rights. 

After the death of many celebrities and artists their estates become worth far more than they ever were in life. And Prince is no different. So the war has begun.

LinkedIn Must Pay for Spam

Linkedin-LogoIf you belong to LinkedIn the company may owe you money. A judge has ordered the company to pay its users for spamming email  in boxes.

LinkedIn was the target of a class action lawsuit and has agreed to pay $13 million to users who were spammed by the company’s overzealous email habits. Members of LinkedIn’s “Add Connections” program between September 2011 and October 2014, are eligible for a payout. You can submit a claim on this website. Applicants for compensation can expect to receive about $10.

The suit was filed in California and focused on users of the program who uploaded their personal contacts so LinkedIn can then send out invitation emails suggesting they connect through the service.

Recipient’s of the email who did not respond after a certain amount of time would then be sent additional emails.  

The suit points out that although a user may have given their permission to send out the initial invitation, they didn’t consent to the repeated emails or to the use of their name and image in those emails. According to the lawsuit an average of two additional emails were sent.

The court decided on the judgement based on the lack of clarity in LinkedIn’s terms of service about those follow-up emails. The lack of clarity will cost the Silicon Valley-based firm $13 million.

LinkedIn responded to the decision with a statement that said in part that the court should be clearer “about the fact that we send reminder emails about pending invitations from LinkedIn members, we have made changes to our product and privacy policy.”

The company went on to say , “Ultimately, we decided to resolve this case so that we can put our focus where it matters most: finding additional ways to improve our members’ experiences on LinkedIn. In doing so, we will continue to be guided by our core value – putting our members first.”

For related information about collecting money from class action lawsuits please the AACR report Class Action Lawsuits Issue Free Dollars

Now you know

 

 

Facebook Patent Means Your Friends Determine Your Credit Rating

facebook-logoOn Tuesday Facebook was granted a patent that would allow banks and lenders to check you social habits to determine your credit worthiness. According to the patent your lender can check the credit rating of your Facebook friends. Your friend’s average credit rating will need to meet a minimum score for your loan to be approved. Facebook has to explain how they plan to use this patent but there are laws in place that mandate what criteria lenders can use to determine your credit worthiness.

Facebook is one of, if not thee, largest data collector in history. The patent claims to have multiple uses including filtering email spam, and helping with search queries. But the paperwork also stated explicitly that it could be used to determine your credit worthiness based on your social network. Facebook actually obtained the patent when it purchased the Friendster.com website.

It is not clear if Facebook will actually use the patent for that purpose. Many companies will file for patents with more applications than they actually plan to implement.

Using alternative means of measuring a person’s credit worthiness is not new. There are some up and coming lenders that are using social networks to measure credit risk. These companies believe that social networks can be a good indicator of a person’s credit worthiness.  Lenddo uses your Facebook friends to determine if you’re a credit risk. If you have friends who are late paying back Lenddo or have bad credit you could be negatively affected.

Lenddo co-founder and CEO Jeff Stewart said, “It turns out humans are really good at knowing who is trustworthy and reliable in their community. What’s new is that we’re now able to measure that through massive computing power.” Currently Lenddo only operates in the Phillipines, Columbia and Mexico.

There are U.S. based lenders using social media to measure credit worthiness include San Francisco-based LendUP. This company inspects the Facebook and Twitter profiles of potential borrowers to count their friends and how often they interact. LendUp believes an active social media life reflects a person’s stability. Neo, a Silicon Valley start-up, uses the quality and quantity of an applicant’s LinkedIn contacts to determine how soon a laid off borrower will be re-hired. New York based Moven, checks Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites in their lending reviews.

Both Neo and LendUp see an opportunity to provide loans to low-income borrowers. These borrowers don’t have bank accounts and are strapped wth a credit rating that is poor or worse. Neo and LendUp see themselves as an alternative to payday lending. Employment, finances and on-time payments are normally used to evaluate credit-worthiness But these lenders measure a person credit risk using social media indicators believing it allows them to better serve what traditional banks consider to be risky borrowers.

Facebook has not commented about their intended use.

Breaking It Down

This this patent could become troublesome in the vein of payday loans. Have we not seen how much trouble a payday loan can cause.? And let’s be real, how much of a credit check do payday lenders really perform. Answer; none!

Predatory lenders could find easy targets using these methods. Critics of this patent have complained that this is a tool to discriminate in lending practices. And that is exactly what it is. Lets look at this for what it really is. Its a trap for those people who

The question that must be answered is how is it fair for your friend’s financial troubles to be used to judge your credit worthiness? Would banks value the added information to the lending process? Probably. But would doing so create highly suspect and restrictive lending practices? Yes! Black people have been through this before and still go through it every time we go to a bank. Research has shown that black people are subject to higher interest rates, more stringent borrowing standards and are turned down more often than whites with equal credit scores. Now we have to face the hurdle of having credit worthy friends? I believe that this is illegal, or probably should be. Fairness in lending should be the same as fair employment and fair housing. But as black people we still struggle with that as well. This practice, if widely adopted, can become a socially and financially coercive tool. It can force you to explain you friendships and social media activity. Social media, especially Facebook, collects so much information that it becomes a challenge to make money from it. This is exactly what Zuckerberg is trying to do.