5 “Probably Not So Shocking” Facts & Steps To Take: Tackling Access to Capital for Minorities & Diversity in Tech

This is serious. A recent report estimated that the median black and Latino family networth will be zero ($0.00) by 2053. Did you hear me? ZERO. NADA. (Source) While things that contribute to this grim report may be outside of the control of minorities, some things are. There are two (2) things I believe that will either contribute (or not) to this statistic. One is the is the ability of minorities & women to obtain access to capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. The second is the ability of minorities & women to fully integrate into every aspect of technology as an evolving and innovative industry. Again, this is serious.

Doing, Not Just Saying

Many of you know I have long been an advocate for minorities, particularly African Americans and women, getting access to capital and in diversifying the technology industry. Most business owners will tell you that access to capital is still the no. 1 struggle of starting or growing a business. That’s why in 2016, I started my non-profit Minority Access to Capital, Inc. (“MATC”) with the goal of educating, empowering and exposing minorities and minorities about how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. As I started to integrate myself into my new role as Founder of this organization coupled with my corporate law practice on raising money for tech companies, I soon begin to discover two things: (1) There is a lack of access to adequate funding to minorities and women and (2) there is a a lack of diversity in all stages of the technology infrastructure.

The following year in 2017, I made the decision to wean myself from the practice of corporate law into the diversity consulting field. That’s when I started Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC (“KAAG”) with a focus on diversity consulting in tech and policy, 2 fields that I am intimately acquainted with and have a passion to see more diverse. You will hear more from me and MATC at the upcoming July 26th event we are planning with some other partners. But here is some background information in preparation for this event that I hope will intrigue you and spur you to action!

“Shocking” Facts & “Easy” Solutions

Here are some facts and resources about access to capital for minorities and diversity in tech:

  1. Denying access to capital [to minorities] has a negative impact on our economy. (Source)
  2. Minority owned firms are much less likely to be approved for small business loans than white owned firms. (Source)
  3. Almost 70% of Google employees are male. (Source)
  4. White men dominate computer science departments by a lot. (Source)
  5. A report found that African Americans only represent 9% of the STEM workforce. (Source)

Do these facts surprise you? I assure you there many, MANY more facts like these that may surprise you about access to capital for minorities and diversity in the technology space. But I am never one to complain without offering solutions so here are my 5 steps you can take towards diversity in tech and access to capital for minorities.

My 5 steps for tackling the diversity in tech & access to capital problem:

  1. STEP 1: Admit that there is a problem. As anyone who has went through any accountability process will tell you, admission is the first step. So admitting there is a lack of diversity in tech and there are still problems with access to capital for minorities is the very first and most fundamental step. “There can be no solution where one does not admit there is a problem.” – Anon. If the above sources didn’t convince you there is a problem, I encourage you to take at this latest report by the Minority Business Development Agency (See Report) and article by Forbes this year (See article) on these issues. If these sources don’t convince you, nothing will.
  2. STEP 2: Self-reflect. We all know that sometimes it is easier to point to an organization or company and accuse them of not being diverse or not offering opportunities. But how many times have we stopped at looked at our own biases and organization? It’s a great starting point to reflect on your own environment after admitting that there is a problem. If your organization doesn’t look like your customer base or potential customer base, you may have a problem. If you find yourself hiring people that look and think and work like you, you may have a problem. If you only offer opportunities, no matter how unintentional, to those that look the same, you may have a problem. As in anything, it’s important to take a look at yourself before trying to influence others in the same area.
  3. STEP 3: Follow the data. It’s that simple. I am not asking you to give unprecedented, unwarranted special treatment to women and minorities to create diverse work spaces in tech or to supply minorities and women with vital access to capital they need to start or growth their business. I am telling you what data has already proven—and that is minority businesses are growing, women are outperforming men, there is a need for more women in tech and blacks have been some of the BEST contributors to tech. Take a look for yourself in the following articles: Black Women Are the Fastest Growing Group of Female Entrepreneurs, 5 Reasons Why Women Entrepreneurs Are Better Than Men, Invest in Black entrepreneurs because its good business, not out of social obligation ,Why We Need More Women in Tech, The 25 Most Important Black Tech Pioneers. How that you have the data, what will you do with it?
  4. STEP 4: Ask the Question “Why”? I am sure this is a loaded question but you have to ask yourself why. Why is there is a disconnect between the data that supports diversity in tech and minorities getting access to capital and actually making these things a reality? And don’t be afraid to be honest—some behaviors are unintentional, while others are. Some behavior is direct while other behaviors have a disparate impact on minorities and women. Of course, there are many theories and opinions to answer this question but why do you think there is that disconnect? What can you do about it? Once you find your “why”, it’s easy to find your “How”. Try it.
  5. STEP 5: Join the conversation. The beginning of any cultural change and revolution is getting involved. It is of no use to identify a problem, go through the above analysis, and then sit on the sidelines. Advocating for diversity in tech and access to capital are no different. Conversations are being held around Georgia on diversity in technology and it’s up to each of us to JOIN the conversation—the ones having the right, productive and effective conversations that is. My non-profit, MATC, does just that. Find your place to have your voice heard then get involved. There is power in numbers—and the prospect of a ZERO median net worth is, indeed, a powerful number.

Here’s How You Join the Conversation.

Well, I am fortunate enough to serve on the board of the Technology Association of Georgia’s (“TAG”) Corporate Development board since 2017. Last year, TAG Corp. Dev. Society and MATC partnered together to host an event titled “Capital-Raising and Growth Strategies: Solutions for Women, Minority-owned and all companies” at the Georgia World Congress Center. It was attended by 80 or so entrepreneurs looking for capital raising and growth strategies for their business.

The event was so successful and helpful last year, we are doing it again! I hope you get your ticket TODAY before we sell out! We are partnering with TAG Corp. Dev. and TAG Diversity (another TAG society) to bring you an exclusive and new event! Proceeds from MATC sells go to educate and empower minority businesses about how to access capital to grow their business and create generational wealth. I hope you will support!

If you need more information about the event like speakers, agenda, sponsorship opportunities, etc., please visit the KAAG webpage as the planner for this event. You don’t want to miss our GREAT line up of speakers below who will discuss “Diversity in Tech” in Georgia through NGOs, non-profits, governmental entities and corporations in Panel 1 and “Capital Raising Concepts” in Panel 2. Breakfast is included and networking is expected.

Pictured: See below.

Panel No. 1- Barriers & Breakthroughs: Diversity in Tech (Click on name for bio and pic)

o Julie R. Ancis, Ph.D, Associate VP, Office of Diversity at GA Tech, Moderator

o Joe Robertson, Business Advisor for Minority Business Development Agency Business Center—Atlanta –

o Danielle McPherson, President of Women in Tech

o James Truitt, Senior Engineer with Microsoft & Tech Evangelist

o Ryan Wilson, Founder of The Gathering Spot

o Jen Bonnett, Former General Manager of the Advanced Technology Development Center

Panel No. 2- All panelist pics and bios can be found here.

  • Syed, moderator
  • Louise Wasilewski – CEO, Acivilate
  • Allyson Eman – Executive Director, Venture Atlanta
  • Sammy Courtright – Co-Founder & COO, Fitspot
  • Duriya Farooqui – Executive Director, Atlanta Committee for Progress
  • Phyllis Newhouse – CEO, Xtreme Solutions Inc
  • Tim Cobb – Managing General Partner, Tandaver

I hope to see you there so make sure you register today and share!

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I am Chief Diversity Activist and Consultant of Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. We curate and execute customized initiatives, programs and events for organizations to meet their specific diversity & inclusion objectives. Visit us online to request me as a speaker, set up a time to chat about your diversity goals or view upcoming events. My signature program is the GA P.A.T.H. Program for minorities and women interested in careers in lobbying & my signature event is the GA Blacks in Tech Policy Conference.

I practiced private securities law for over a decade before this transition to more meaningful work. I was featured in the Huffington Post as 1 of 25 People Poised to Scale Atlanta’s Growing Technology Start Up Ecosystem for Black Americans and Beyond.

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010, serving over 54,000Georgians in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties under the Georgia State Capitol each year.

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My 5 “Points of Persuasion” That Influence Me as a Georgia Lawmaker

For those of you that are in Georgia and have ANY sense of timing, you’d know that the 2018 Georgia General Assembly session is upon us. We convene on Jan. 8th, 2018 at 10:00 am, per our state Constitution. And we will meet up to forty (40) days per our constitution, although not consecutively. Sidenote: Did you know the Georgia constitution happens to be one of the longest in the nation behind Texas? That’s not a compliment folks….

Become a Citizen Lobbyist

Anyway, I am in my 4th term or 8th year as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. My! How time flies when you are having fu…..well, not having much fun since I am in the minority party. Although, that’s an upgrade because I used to be a member of the SUPER minority party until recently but I digress. During my time in the legislature, I have seen my law degree, my undergraduate communications degree AND my M.B.A. all serving me well in terms of persuasion with others. But it doesn’t take degrees to understand the art of persuasion when it comes to influencing your lawmakers. And let me take this personal point of privilege to STRONGLY encourage you to pester your lawmakers as much as you can and hold them accountable. But aside from that, don’t let the media tell you only paid lobbyists are the ones that persuade legislators. I assure you that is NOT the case. Citizen lobbyists are some of the most persuasive people I know. They are passionate. They are pithy (which is important). And most importantly, most of the time they are my constituents, which is of the highest priority for me.

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My 5 Persuasion Points

Anyway, I am in my 4th term or 8th year as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives. My! How time flies when you are having fu…..well, not having much fun since I am in the minority party. Although, that’s an upgrade because I used to be a member of the SUPER minority party until recently but I digress. During my time in the legislature, I have seen my law degree, my undergraduate communications degree AND my M.B.A. all serving me well in terms of persuasion with others. But it doesn’t take degrees to understand the art of persuasion when it comes to influencing your lawmakers. And let me take this personal point of privilege to STRONGLY encourage you to pester your lawmakers as much as you can and hold them accountable. But aside from that, don’t let the media tell you only paid lobbyists are the ones that persuade legislators. I assure you that is NOT the case. Citizen lobbyists are some of the most persuasive people I know. They are passionate. They are pithy (which is important). And most importantly, most of the time they are my constituents, which is of the highest priority for me.

 

Point No. 1: Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I am looking for whole truths and not half truths or puffed up lies. There are competing interests on every piece of legislation so eventually the truth will get back to me. So, to avoid my rage and your embarrassment, just be upfront about the whole situation in the process. If you can accurately convey the pros and cons of your argument, you would have gained the respect of me as a legislator and as an attorney. I mean, attorneys…most of them anyway…like facts and knowing all of the arguments. So perhaps this is why I put the most emphasis on this persuasion point.

 

Point No. 2: Give me data.

I love data. You can lie about a number of things—-but numbers don’t lie and neither does the data and conclusions that come from those numbers. I am particularly a fan of charts and infograms. It helps me digest the millions of information I receive each session. So take that load of information, numbers and data and put it into a form that is easily digestible and distinguishable among the piles of paper that sit on my legislative desk everyday. But remember when you are giving out that data to refer to point no. #1. That’s important.

 

Point No. 3: Think about those I represent.

The majority of constituents I represent are middle age, African American females with 2.5 kids and a post graduate degree from DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. Relate your position to how it affects MY district specifically. If you can combine points number 1, 2 and 3 you have hit the jackpot as far as I am concerned! I know as a citizen lobbyist that can be a daunting task. Indeed, I know it would be hard to specify your argument based on 180 distinct House district—-but it goes a LONG way in persuading me. I need to know the impact on those I serve and it’s easier to get me to your position if you can tell me how it affect those 54,000 Georgians I serve.

 

Point No. 4: Advise where the bill is in the process.

Seriously, don’t talk to me about a bill that hasn’t even had a 2nd reader. Or hasn’t been assigned to committee. Or has been assigned to a committee I don’t serve on. Or has no chances of seeing the light of day. Why? We vote on thousands of pieces of legislation which means thousands more have been filed. I need to focus on the forest as opposed to the trees—specifically the forest that is ahead of me and not the trees behind me. It’s a waste of both of our time to discuss bills that are far on the horizon. In fact, I will forget what you told me by the time the bill becomes relevant anyway. It takes a little patience but prioritizing your arguments are the best way to get my full attention when I have a million other things on my mind. And I can talk competently about it when it is in my radio. And THAT is a win-win for all of us!

 

Point No. 5: What’s in it for you?

It’s an honest question and one I think, as a lawmaker, I am entitled to know. I don’t judge motives; only outcomes. However, knowing motives does allow me to determine how I process information coming from someone. If the answer is “because I am being paid by a client” or “this affects me personally”, fair enough! I am a lawyer. I have clients. I know what it means to have a duty to zealously represent a client. I’m not mad. But be honest. We are all humans so self-preservation is a thing…a real thing…a thing none of us should hide from. Now, some of my colleagues won’t appreciate the honesty but I do.

 

Conclusion

Where there you have it! My 5 points for how to personally persuade me, Dar’shun Kendrick, the State Representative from House District 93. I hope that this list will be helpful as we embark on the 2018 Georgia General Assembly session. It is my particular wish that each of you reading this blog post will put these skills to use and come visit me at the “velvet rope” outside Chambers.

 

Need more “hands on” training and expertise?

Then I have THE workshop for you, hosted by my private business Kendrick Advisory & Advocacy Group, LLC. Tickets are VERY limited so I hope you will join me, others and pitch expert A.C. Chan to learn more about the art of “pitching” and persuasion. The best part—I will be there since it’s my program so you can try your “pitch” out on me. You can’t get better beta testing than that so join me!

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Blacks in Tech Make History in the State of Georgia

A Super Proud Moment in My Life & for the state of Georgia

I have been elected to the Georgia House of Representatives since 2010. I have met diplomats, Presidents, and other high level officials, traveled to 8 different countries representing the state of Georgia and been a part of some great legislative changes to help the 9 million Georgians within this state. But I have NEVER had a prouder moment, outside of being elected by my constituents, than I had on Nov. 8th, 2017 at Atlanta City Hall. Over 150 attendees flooded Atlanta City Hall Old Chambers for a historic event in the state of Georgia: The 1st EVER Georgia Blacks in Tech Policy Conference, an intersection of technology and innovation and policy making and policy makers. Epic is an understatement. (Pictured above: Me and co-chair Rodney Sampson before event.)

The Vision Is Born

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So how did I come up with this event?

Well, I had an opportunity to attend a blacks in tech networking event in Atlanta in May of this year. I expected there to be up to 100 blacks in tech at the event. But when I entered the room, there had to be almost 1,000 blacks involved in tech! Imagine my shock and excitement at the same time. The purpose of the event was to talk about the Atlanta black tech scene and how to move forward for creating better opportunities. After I heard presentation after presentation, while the suggestions were good, I realized there was something that was missing: policy. To be honest, for whatever reason, policy seems to almost ALWAYS be missing from the conversation whenever an industry in the black community wants to discuss change. Something had to be done to underscore the importance of involving policy makers in tech change. Luckily, I had to the ability to do something about this. And so I set to work.

NOTE:

I had NO money, NO volunteers, NO co-chair, NO venue and NO way of knowing how I was going to pull this off in May of this year when I came up with this event so let me take the time to say THANK YOU to not only the planning committee, but each one of the sponsors that took a leap of faith to put their trust in me for this 1st time event.

 

Policy Meets Technology

No matter if you vote or who you voted for, policy affects us all….every last person in the United States and Georgia. So either you get in the game or you will find yourself only being able to talk about change without actually doing it. As it is often quoted in politics, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu.”

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I was lucky to have been just featured in a Huffington Post article by Mr. Rodney Sampson, who is one of the most politically active technology personalities I know in Georgia. In this article, he listed 25 people best positioned to scale Atlanta’s growing inclusive technology ecosystem. I thought to myself that these individuals should form the Host committee for this historic event. No vetting necessary! I was off to a good start!

After some discussions with Rodney, he accepted my offer to become Co-Chair for this event. His participation was VITAL to it’s success. I can bring the policy makers to the table but if there is no tech credibility behind this venture in the black tech community, it’s dead on arrival. So what you ended up having for this event is a leader in state policy and a leader in tech joining forces for to advance the black tech ecosystem here in Georgia through policy. This conference was well on its way. So I booked Nov. 8th for use of the Georgia State Capitol House Chambers, appropriations room, South wing and 2 of its largest rooms. I was ready to go!

 

No pain, no gain

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Here is the ugly truth, pure D.K. style: There are those that were scared and did not want a bunch of black people at the State Capitol. Period. End of story. Nothing can change my mind about that. And they had a reason to be scared; there is POWER in numbers and 30% of Georgia is black. And we were coming with specific, policy requests from influential technology leaders in the state. I was ruffling some feathers…as I tend to do at times.

Long story short, we ended up having to change the location from the Georgia State Capitol to Atlanta City Hall. To that end, I would like to personally thank Councilman Andre Dickens and his team, specifically Ali Carter, for whom I shall be eternally grateful for helping us through the location crisis. Kiona Byrd, Logistics Chair for the conference, helped tremendously being an employee of the City of Atlanta and working on the ground everyday. Their contributions to the success of this event cannot be overstated. (For those of you that are the Christian faith, Romans 8:28 comes to mind.)

Just when you thought an abrupt change in location would be the only catastrophe that happens when planning an event, there was more in store. ANY and EVERYTHING that could go WRONG with a conference, went wrong with this one. Ladies and gentlemen, I am NOT exaggerating. And although I have planned literally thousands of events, all with their own hiccups and problems, this conference has specifically prepared me to take on ANYTHING I may encounter for future events. And for that reason, I “count it all joy” each of the problems below.

  • I had a large sponsor who tried to get out of sponsoring, i.e. paying the money, for the event at the last minute after almost 2 months of promoting and expenses incurred. Luckily, that was resolved rather quickly.
  • I lost members of the planning committee. When I say “lost”, I mean they either decided that they could no longer participate or were removed from the committee. We went from 26 people who wanted to “help” to 10, the “Talented Ten”. My standards of execution, even if on a volunteer basis, are remarkably high. I don’t do mediocre.
  • I had a caterer charge my credit card for an amount I didn’t authorize and having to wait days for it to credit back to my account. Ultimately, we went another more FABULOUS caterer.
  • The program and policy proposals had to be updated several times due to unread emails and misunderstandings. This cost us time and money—neither of which we had much to spare as a planning committee. We eventually got it all worked out.

I have never had an event where I have experienced every type of emotion there is to experience: happiness, sadness, excitement, anxiety, frustration, anger, delight, and everything in between. It was quite a learning experience—-but keep reading! It was well worth it.

 

In the end, we did it!

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However, after all of the above, we did it! (Pictured above with Ali Carter from Councilman Andre Dickens office, Planning committee member/Logistics Chair Kiona Byrd, myself, Rodney Sampson, conference Co-Chair and Councilman Andre Dickens present us with proclamations from the Atlanta City Council.)

•             Over 305 registrants, 105 attendees

•             27 GA legislators

•             Over 25 volunteers, including 12 full time volunteers on the planning committee

•             14 black tech vendors displaying products or services

•             13 sponsors, including TriNet and Microsoft

•             8 superstar honorees making a significant impact in the Atlanta black ecosystem

•             Press: 1 interview on WABE-FM’s “Closer Look” with black tech entrepreneur Ben McFarlin, GA House Press Release and Article in On Common Ground News and UrbanGeekz article (more to come in the following weeks and will be posted on webpage)

•             Comprehensive and direct policy proposals for consideration by members of the Georgia General Assembly made up of 180 House Representatives, of which I am one, and 56 Senators

Call to Action: We are not done!

What I told attendees at the conference is what I am telling you all reading this: We are not done! The conference was only the beginning—policy proposals are one thing; getting them introduced and passed are a whole DIFFERENT ballgame. We need your continued involvement to see positive change in the state.

I invite you to sign up for my enewsletter and to join the Facebook group to stay informed about what is going on from blacks in tech from a policy perspective. I will also upload future pictures from the event and video once available.

 

Additionally, I have developed a follow up “Day of Action” and on the same day a Communications & Tech Symposium, hosted by the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. These are two (2) separate events so if you would like to attend BOTH, please separately register for BOTH.

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*Email is best UNLESS you have an immediate question then text me.

Email: DKendrick@DarshunKendrick.com Phone: (404) 919-0660

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