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20 Millennial Tech Innovators of Color You Should Know

It’s common knowledge that the tech industry has a diversity problem. Employee demographics clearly show a dearth of women and untapped minorities in the leading technology firms. Then when black and Latinx founders do decide to start businesses of their own they often struggle to raise capital. Research by the #ProjectDiane, for example, reveals African-American female founders raised a mere 0.2 percent of venture funding from 2012-2014.

With that being said, there are many young and talented innovators and entrepreneurs of color making waves. Last month a handful of these trailblazers attended the Culture Shifting Weekend‘s ‘Millennial Breakfast’ at SAP in Palo Alto. Founders were given a platform to talk about their startups to a room full of industry heavyweights.

The mission is simple. Create a safe space for diverse talent to secure support, expertise, and partnerships with key players in the tech ecosystem.

Co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought Marci Peterson (center) at the Culture Shifting Weekend. Peterson was just one of the founders who presented her startup at Millennial Breakfast (photo credit: Culture Shift Labs)

Lloyd Carney, CEO of Brocade Communications Systems, was just one of the influencers in attendance. Carney, a Jamaican immigrant, recently sold his company for $5.5 billion. Other attendees included Danny Allen, VP Diversity & Inclusion, SAP; Jacqueline Jones, Strategic Partnerships, Global Inclusion, LinkedIn; and Rachel Spivey, Diversity Specialist, Google, among others.

“I added an element to the event,” said Andrea Hoffman, CEO of the management consultancy Culture Shift Labs, who organized the annual Silicon Valley event. “We had a Millennial Tech Entrepreneurs and Influencers Breakfast that was sponsored by Vista Equity Partners. It was an experiment and it went really well. There’s more to come from in terms of millennial tech entrepreneurs of color.”

From software to recruitment, check out this list of 20 black and brown millennial innovators and founders who all presented their startups (except two bonuses #19 and #20) at the Millennial Breakfast.

20 Millennial Tech Innovators of Color You Should Know

1. Stephanie Lampkin – Blendoor

Stephanie Lampkin is a TEDx speaker and founder & CEO of Blendoor, a recruiting application that reduces unconscious bias in hiring. With a 14-year professional career in tech, she is all too familiar with the difficulties faced when one doesn’t look like the typical software engineer. Through technology and data, her mission is to reduce bias and challenge the assumption that homogeneous environments are a meritocracy. Stephanie holds a BS in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from MIT Sloan.

2. Harold Hughes – Bandwagon

Harold is the founder & CEO of Bandwagon, an online marketplace and fan community designed to improve the game day experience for sports fans everywhere. As a leader in the growing startup community in Greenville, South Carolina, he is the co-managing Director of Collective: a coworking space for small teams and entrepreneurs. He is also Director of the Founder Institute-Greenville chapter, a member of NEXT, and involved in the Greenville Chamber of Commerce. He recently participated in the Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange Program in Durham, NC.

3. Maci Peterson – On Second Thought

Maci is the co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought, a messaging app whose patented technology lets users take back text messages before they get to the other person’s phone. She has been recognized on Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30 List” of 2016, and Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40 List” of 2015. In addition, Maci has been identified as a rising leader in technology by Revolt TV, and one of the “29 People You Should Know” by BET. Maci began On Second Thought after winning first place in the #StartupOasis pitch competition at South by Southwest in 2014.

4. Lamar Wilson – Love Will Inc.

CEO, full-stack developer, and expert blockchain architect, Lamar Wilson has been creating enterprise software for almost a decade with a recent focus on financial and blockchain technology. A serial entrepreneur, he co-founded the software development firm 212ths and created Pheeva, a mobile bitcoin wallet. Most recently, Lamar Love Will Inc, Creators of Hijro (formerly known as Fluent), where he serves as CEO and CTO.

5. Lafe Taylor – Hijro

Hijro is the financial operating network for global trade powered by distributed ledger technology. Lafe Taylor is co-founder and Chief Design Officer at Hijro, a blockchain fin-tech startup. With a background in corporate branding and a passion for entrepreneurship, Lafe Taylor leads the direction for product design innovation and ideation. Connect with Hijro and bring your organization into the future of trade.

6. Adriana Gascoigne – Girls in Tech

Adriana is the founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization devoted to empowering, educating, and mentoring women in the tech industry across over 60 chapters internationally. She is also a partner at Founders Den in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA district. No stranger to growing brands and building amazing companies, Adriana has also served in executive roles at Ogilvy & Mather, hi5, Interpublic Group of Companies, and SecondMarket, the largest secondary trading platform, where she was responsible for the branding strategy, event production, and digital media efforts.

7. Akmann Van-Mary – MyLumper

Akmann Van-Mary’s inspiration to start MyLumper was fueled by years of executive experience in logistics. Prior to MyLumper, he served as the Director of Logistics for the largest seed and garden company in the nation. Following was his next role as Founder and CEO of Track Logistics Group, which he held for 10 years before developing the electronic payment-based company that offers the solution to an age-old stressor in the trucking industry. Akmann’s insight and passion for the hardships of truckers were at the forefront of his mind when forming MyLumper and remains his motivating force today.

8. Felix Ortiz III – Viridis Learning

Felix Ortiz III is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Viridis Learning, an educational technology company aimed at building the middle-skill workforce. A serial entrepreneur, Ortiz has started several companies, including Visionary Trade & Export, a venture he founded at age 20 that led to multimillion-dollar deals. He was recently appointed to the Board of Directors for the New York City Technology Development Corporation. Ortiz also serves on the Board of Directors for the Osborne Foundation. Ortiz was a member of the U.S. Army 18th Airborne Corps and JAG Corps. He attended St. John’s University.

9. Jessica Adomako – Genentech

As of May 2016, Jessica has worked as a scientist for Genentech, a company focused on putting patients first through prioritizing the research, development, and access to treatments for groups of people with little or no viable treatment options. Jessica has already managed to organize an entrepreneurship and investor panel in the Bay area. The panel brought five entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley from the African continent. Two of the five companies have now secured investments and joined incubators. Jessica recently became a board member of the American chapter for the University of London SOAS.

10. Sheldon Callahan – iO Genesys

Sheldon is an entrepreneur, tech evangelist, community leader, and native of the Bay Area of California. He is the CEO and Founder of iO Genesys. Sheldon and his team design and implement software solutions for business and nonprofits. He has worked with and for some of the top Software Companies and Web Firms and a variety of different projects.

11. Jaren Glover – Robinhood

An engineer who lives at the intersection of code, economics, and culture, Jaren was born and educated in Louisiana. There he attended Louisiana Tech University. He then joined GE’s Information Technology Leadership Program where he learned how to build enterprise products and teams at a global scale.  Currently, he works at Robinhood as an Infrastructure Engineer where he is responsible for real-time monitoring, alerting, and deployment of distributed systems in the cloud. He is uniquely positioned to partner with data scientists, product, and back-end engineers to ensure the firm can democratize access to the financial markets.

12. Talib Graves-Manns – Point AB, Life on Autopilot, and BWS Homecoming

From 2015-2016, Talib served as the Entrepreneur in Residence with Google for Entrepreneurs and Code2040 at the American Underground in Durham, NC. Talib is the Co-Founder of three businesses: Point AB, Life on Autopilot, and BWS Homecoming. He was most recently appointed Executive Director of the IEC, a partnership between Shaw University and Carolina Small Business Development Fund. Talib holds a Bachelor of Science from Hampton University and a Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University School of Business. He is also the 2015 recipient of the Triangle Business Journal’s Corporate Leader in Diversity Award.

13. Sahas Katta – Smartcar

Sahas is a Silicon Valley native who grew up in the South Bay and attended Saratoga High School. He studied Computer Science at UC Davis but dropped out a year before graduating to pursue a startup opportunity. In 2013, he was the first person to hack the Tesla Model S after borrowing his father’s car. This led to him discovering an opportunity in the automotive world. Today he’s the co-founder and CEO of Smartcar.com which he co-founded with his brother Sanketh Katta who serves as CTO.

14.  Tanya Menendez – Metas

Tanya is a social impact entrepreneur and CEO of Metas. Metas empowers workers to thrive in the 21st Century while increasing their income through job placement, classes, and vocational training. Prior to Metas, she co-founded Maker’s Row in 2012 to help democratize American manufacturing for small businesses. With over 130K businesses using the online platform, Maker’s Row has helped hundreds of American factories stay in business, and they have produced over 3 million products in the United States. Tanya has been named one of People en Español’s  “Most Powerful Latinas”, and has been included in the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Before her entrepreneurial life, Tanya worked at Goldman Sachs and Google.

15. Wahab Owolabi – Andreessen Horowitz

Wahab is a Partner at Andreessen Horowitz where he works on the Technical Talent team. Previously, he built startup recruiting programs internally at Carnegie Mellon and Stanford. An entrepreneur at heart, his first startup CollegeZen won the College Knowledge Challenge, a 100k grant award competition awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, diversity, and education.

16. Tejas Pandey – iO Genesys

Tejas is passionate about leveraging technology to build wealth for people and organizations. Currently, he is working on iO Genesys with his partners and team to help small businesses and nonprofits increase organizational efficiency and productivity and gain deep insights into their work.

17. Gautam Rao – FinVoice

Gautam is the co-founder and Head of Product at FinVoice. He has startup and financial technology experience, having worked on a previous startup and in technology at Barclays Capital. He has lived and worked in several countries and holds a Masters in Engineering from Stanford.

18. Merlin Yamssi – SAP

Merlin is Solution Advisor Expert for the Internet of Things (IoT) at SAP. He’s an enthusiastic Technology and Architecture visionary with a wealth of experience, focusing on Internet of Things, Data Management, Mobile Technology, and Cloud. Merlin has 20-plus years of experience designing, architecting, and selling software solutions in a broad range of roles and environments. During the past three years, Merlin has focused on working with SAP Strategic Customers and OEM partners, architecting, and designing Innovative IoT Solutions. His passion for the High-Tech business is matched only by his love and dedication to his family and soccer.

19. Adekunle Ayodele – DataBox Technologies

Ade is the founder of DataBox Technologies, a software development company in Atlanta, GA. With over 15 years of IT experience consulting for Fortune 500 companies such as Cisco, Comcast, and Verizon, he created Mixle (winner of Atlanta Braves App Challenge), a social mobile application that enables faster connections by matching people nearby who share similar interests for an instant offline meetup.

20. Christian Zimmerman – Qoins

Christian is the founder and CEO of Qoins, an automated micro-payment platform that uses your spare change from your everyday bank account transactions to help pay off your debt faster. Think Bank of America’s Keep the Change — but for your debt. Then, each month, Qoins calculates your spare change from the previous month and makes an additional payment to your student loans or credit cards.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter@Kunbiti

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