Over the weekend more than 300 leaders and diverse innovators gathered in Silicon Valley for the Culture Shifting Weekend.
The invitation-only event consisted of convenings to promote networking and strategic partnerships, culminating with awards to honor African-American trailblazers in technology, innovation, and social impact.
Handpicked attendees included the President and CEO of eBay, Devin Wenig; Chief Legal Officer for Google, David Drummond; VP Diversity & Inclusion for SAP, Danny Allen; and tech-savvy millennials such as the co-founder of On Second Thought, Maci Peterson, among others.
Organized by Andrea Hoffman, CEO of the management consultancy Culture Shift Labs (CSL), the bicoastal event takes place in Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley. This is the third annual Culture Shifting Weekend in Silicon Valley. Last weekend’s activities took place at various venues, including Google’s sprawling headquarters in Mountain View.
“Culture Shifting Weekend is the only event of its kind and the most important gathering of influencers of color,” said Hoffman, a 20-year veteran of the D&I space and an authority on inclusion-driven revenue growth and product innovation.
The New York native is motivated by a deep-rooted passion. Hoffman says she’s on a mission to catalyze business growth for corporations by designing strategies that enable them to connect with off-the-radar influencers and innovators of color.
“What’s also unique about the Weekend is that it actually changes belief systems and behaviors,” she added. “And given the current political environment and challenges to our American ideals of inclusion and equality, it’s not surprising that this Weekend we heard many executives renew their commitment to inclusion—and to leveraging inclusion to increase revenue growth—moving from conceptual thinking to measurable results: what I call ‘Inclusion 2.0.’ The Weekend was really an urgent call to action, with a laser-focus on generating greater results than ever before.”
Silicon Valley has a diversity problem. However, Hoffman’s ability to bring together influential leaders of color and major tech companies speaks volumes. She is well known for her bulging contacts book and ability to facilitate impactful professional relationships between high-level influencers.
In fact, the exclusive gathering is an unprecedented opportunity for accomplished senior executives, entrepreneurs, tech firms, and social impact leaders to celebrate diversity’s achievements and collaborate on ways to advance strategies for inclusion – as well as make deals.
“Silicon Valley is not known as a diverse place, especially in tech, for both minorities and women,” said Shellye Archambeau, CEO at MetricStream, in a face-to-face an interview with UrbanGeekz. “So for Culture Shift Labs to come out and celebrate the achievements of African-Americans in technology is quite special. It’s the only organization I’m aware of that does this on this type of scale on the East Coast and West Coast.”
Jim Brown, founder and managing director of Arena Growth Partners, a newly established Venture Capital firm in Austin, Texas, said he’s keen to develop profitable partnerships.
“I’m here primarily to network and get to know other folks and offer my help where I can be helpful and also leverage their networks where they can be helpful to me,” said Brown, a graduate of Harvard Business School’s MBA program. “There are a lot of great personal connections taking place.”
“We were excited to participate in today’s event because we had an opportunity to share a really important story around our social impact program, Sephora Accelerate,” said Tiffany Stevenson, VP, Talent Management & Development for Sephora Americas, who gave a short presentation during Saturday’s Social Innovation Think Tank.
“Culture Shifting is a chance to refresh and elevate our ideas. An event like this is a great opportunity to take one or two ideas that you can implement as well as making connections with people to make it happen. Both are achievable goals in a forum like this.”
Alongside the immense pool of talent from this side of the pond, there was also representation from Africa. Gbenga Oyebode, an investor, philanthropist, and renowned lawyer flew in from Nigeria with his wife Aisha to attend.
“I’m at Culture Shift because I think it’s important to share experiences from Africa with African-Americans in the U.S.,” said Oyebode, Managing Partner of Lagos-based commercial law firm Aluko & Oyebode. “It’s important because of the network. The ideas we’re sharing here are ideas we can replicate in our different markets and own networks.”
The Weekend’s agenda featured interviews with world-class innovators such as CEO Mary Spio of Ceek, a state-of-the-art VR company; panel discussions with cutting-edge inventors such as Cabrice CEO Baratunde Cola (who has raised more than $1 million for his company); Think Tank sessions led by venture capitalist Kwame Anku, and a VIP dinner highlighted by a discussion on tech and West Africa.
Friday’s Breakfast with Millennial Tech Entrepreneurs and Influencers, sponsored by SAP and Vista Equity Partners, gathered 25 Latino and African-American company founders and tech influencers to accelerate collaborations between Millennials and corporate America. During the breakfast, Lloyd Carney, CEO of Brocade Communications Systems, made a surprise visit and Maci Peterson talked about her app, On Second Thought, which recalls text and email messages. She has raised more than $1.4 million to-date.
At Friday’s Fireside Chat on the Future of Black Hollywood and Tech, held at SAP, Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Coker, and The Virtual Reality Company CEO Guy Primus, delved into the ways business leaders and artists impact global media, reach new audiences, and develop fresh revenue streams. Mr. Primus, a Georgia Tech alum and former COO of Will Smith’s production company, Overbrook Entertainment, has raised $25 million to-date, while Luke Cage has crushed Netflix records.
Saturday’s Social Innovation Think/Action Tank, produced in partnership with Babson College Social Innovation Lab, included a curated group of c-suite executives, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors, and influencers of color, such as renowned CEEK CEO Mary Spio; neurosurgeon and Talamus Health CEO Dr. Murisiku Raifu; and serial entrepreneur Clarence Wooten, who demonstrated his new role model app, STEAMrole. Panelists and attendees executed the theme of Inclusive Entrepreneurship & Innovation by transacting deals in real-time.
Sunday’s Culture Shifting Awards recognized African-American leaders and pioneers who broke barriers within their fields and contributed to progress for people of color in business and society: Lloyd Carney, CEO of Brocade Communications Systems; Pamela Joyner, businesswoman and art collector; Issac Vaughn, CEO of Ooyala; and Robin Washington, EVP/CFO of Gilead Sciences, Inc. The honorees shared intimate stories about their personal journey and their efforts to advance diversity and inclusion.
Best-selling author and CSI: New York actor Hill Harper humorously hosted the awards ceremony, stating afterward, “I was proud to host the ceremony for the second-consecutive year because I share Culture Shifting’s commitment to a diverse workforce and its mission to promote an inclusive economy.” Harper’s Manifest Your Destiny Foundation is dedicated to empowering underserved youth through mentorship, scholarship, and grant programs. At Saturday’s VIP dinner Harper forged a partnership between his new skin care line and one of Mr. Oyebode’s Nigerian companies.
Romanieo Golphin Jr., the adorable 7-year-old physics genius featured on Jimmy Fallon for being both a CERN and NASA ambassador, was one of eight “Culture Shifters” who spoke on stage.
The Weekend’s sponsors included Ford, Salesforce, Vista Equity Partners, Brocade, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Honeywell, Infor, Intel, The Joyner/Guiffrida Collection, Mercedes-Benz, Ooyala, RBC Royal Bank, Visa, The Williams Capital Group, Apple, Donnelley Financial Solutions, Google, eBay, Oracle, Ernst & Young, HBO, SAP, Moët Hennessy USA, Twilio, and Uber. UrbanGeekz and Diversity In Action were Media Partners for the weekend.
CSL is a management consulting firm that advises companies, senior leaders, and philanthropists on growth and innovation through inclusion. Taking clients from conceptual framework and intention to activation and measurable outcomes that impact financial performance, CSL utilizes an integrated, results-oriented approach combining Consulting,
Ms. Hoffman is an entrepreneur, speaker, author, and the founder and CEO of CSL. Leveraging more than 20 years of strategy, business development, and advisory experience, she consults with senior leaders across a wide range of industries on finding new growth opportunities. By helping clients see past long-held perceptions regarding the intersection of innovation, inclusion, and diversity, she guides them to insights that unlock growth. Ms. Hoffman’s second book, 50 BILLION Dollar Boss: Stories from African American Women Entrepreneurs on Leadership and Success (Palgrave Macmillan) was published in 2015, and nominated for a 2016 NAACP Image Award. She has been featured or quoted in a wide range of media outlets, from Bloomberg and the Christian Science Monitor to Fast Company and Ebony.
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The video footage is from the Culture Shift Labs Brunch at Palo Alto in 2014. The bicoastal event takes place in the Hamptons and Silicon Valley.