A Conversation About Tech, Entrepreneurship and Diversity

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A Conversation About Tech, Entrepreneurship and Diversity

Silicon Jungle Convos

It’s Monday, and you may still be recovering from your long weekend, or you’re starting the  week off like the energizer bunny. Well, we want to kick off our week with a few words from our very own, Jordan Sterling or J-Sterl as our team calls him — co-founder of Alibi X. We asked him about diversity, technology, and life as an entrepreneur. We sat down with Jordan, who when he’s not working on his own company (Alibi X)  he is also acting as  the VP of Sales, at a funded start-up in Austin, Texas. Silicon Jungle is a part of the Alibi X brand.

Silicon Jungle Editorial Staff (SJ): So tell us about Alibi X, did you know that you would be here?

Jordan Sterling When we started Alibi X, we had no idea where it was going to go, we knew where we wanted it to go, but sometimes life has a funny way of taking you down paths that you’re not exactly sure of. I am also a believer in the theory that there is also some value in ignorance in startup life; but I am very excited about where we are now, and the potential of where we can go. We see technology as a way to build infrastructure in our communities and ultimately help our children. In fact, this is how Silicon Jungle came about. I personally wanted to take on the responsibility to push technology in our communities.

SJ: And when you say community, what community are you talking about?

JSterl: Well, let me just say that technology is important in all communities both nationally and globally alike, but I was specifically referring to persons of color, especially black people. Bringing more diversity in technology is a dream of mine.

SJ: Okay, speaking of diversity in technology. You work in the tech space, do you think more diversity in technology would have made a difference for you? I mean. You have a pretty good gig now.

JSterl: Yes it would. I wouldn’t have had to work as hard as I did to break into tech initially, I didn’t know anyone in tech when I finished school. Now that I am here, no not really, more diversity will not affect my career personally. One thing I like most about startups is that they reward results over everything. So if you’re good at what you do, you won’t have many problems. The thing is, I am not just worried about me.  I had a lot go my way to get my opportunity in technology, and frankly most was luck. This is what has to change.  Let’s get more folks into the industry.

SJ: But what would more diversity in technology improve?

JSterl: Innovation —  Innovation is diversity. Innovation is a very small window of opportunity for individuals to create. Technology is just a tool to innovate. But let’s not be mistaken, innovation is driven by the individuals pushing the bounds of the status quo each and every day. Therefore, the more diversity the greater the probability of innovation. People have the diversity of ideas, experience, etc. So if a race, gender or socio-economic status is alienated it spurns innovation. I do not think this is always intentional, but diversity remains an issue. My guess is folks are pattern matching, naturally.

SJ: Patterning matching? Do tell

JSterl: It’s pattern matching and proximity. So what that means is that it’s naturally easier to invest or bet on something you have seen be successful before. So the reality is that we have seen the white guy from Stanford become the successful startup guy time and time again, so naturally we look for next one to fit the mold. For my basketball fans, everyone is looking for the next Michael Jordan, but without Scottie, does Mike have 6? Why aren’t we looking for Scottie too? Proximity is pretty simple, we are going to invest in who/what we know. If we are never exposed to these things, it’s really difficult to benefit from proximity. So, I think about it this way, here’s a list of things that increase the probability of success in entrepreneurship:

  • Ideas
  • Credibility
  • Experience
  • Exposure (not color blind)
  • Execution (mentors are key here)
  • Infrastructure ( maturation of market)
  • Access to capital  (a real struggle point for black folks)
  • Platform to grow and sell your business quickly

While, these are just some of the many things it takes, I find it much more difficult to have all of these things apparent in black founded companies. I believe tech moves very quickly, and so diversity wasn’t valued early on, but slowly we are beginning to see proof of its value.  We should look at diversity as an asset and not a quota.

SJ: So what would you like to see happen?

JSterl: I would like to see buy-in by the larger Tech companies on the fact that diversity breeds innovation. Tech companies key advantage is the speed in which they can innovate, what better way to do that then to be diverse?

SJ: Aren’t the large companies buying into this whole idea of diversity. What do you mean?

JSterl: What I see now is more of a quota thing. We need to think about it from the core. It’s not about having a certain number of black people in in your organization that is not enough; this is just a start. Of course, I realize there’s no way to overcome prejudice, we are human, but there is so much more we can do to increase diversity in tech. I challenge these larger organizations to reach beyond the work place and into the communities and show them the incredible opportunities they can take advantage of.

SJ: So tell us, what’s coming in tech that gets you excited?

JSterl: Slack might have video messaging soon!!! Woo-hoo! Google hangouts will be the death of me. But in all seriousness, some of the coolest things I see in technology is the complete optimization of self. Google and Tesla have been in the news lately about self-driving cars. I am just thinking of all the emails I could answer in traffic if I did not have to actually drive.

SJ: Thank you for your thoughts. Until the next time.

Silicon Jungle Editoral Staff – siliconjungle.co 

Silicon Jungle is a part of the Alibix.co family


Also published on Medium.