This year has seen Silicon Valley on trial for a lack of diversity and impartial treatment of women. From Google employee, James Damore’s ‘Anti-diversity’ memo to sexual harassment claims against former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, and 500 Startups founder and former Partner, Dave McClure. In light of all of this, as an advocate for tech inclusion and promoting more diverse leaders in tech, I believe we need to select and honor a different set of winners in tech. Startups are not relegated to the just the stories we hear coming out of Silicon Valley, The Facebook story or what we read in popular publications such as TechCrunch. These sources often marginalize and overlook the female and minority-led startups.
Today, I will share 10 inspirational stories of Nigerian-Americans making waves in tech. The common strand is that each of these stories shows the vision, drive, and desire to make an impact. Despite the fact that less than 1 percent of VC-backed startups are black-owned, these influencers and entrepreneurs are striving to change the face of tech.
“I put in about $500 total in the beginning, and I flipped that into over $100,000 in sales in our first year.” - Kelechi Anyadiegwu (Good Money Interview)
New York based founder of African inspired clothing marketplace, Zuvaa. ‘Zuvaa’ originates from the word ‘Zuva’ which means sun or sunshine in the language of the Shona people from Zimbabwe. Growing up Kelechi often wore clothing made of African print and was asked on her travels “where did you get that from.” This sowed a seed in her mind that there could be demand for her custom made outfits.
What I loved most about her story is that she started first by building a community online through her social media accounts before connecting merchants across the diaspora with consumers. In 2016, Zuvaa was estimated to have made $2 million in sales. Although this 27-year-old entrepreneur is only 3 years into her journey she has already been recognized Forbes 30 under 30 list.
You can follow her here: @ShopZuvaa
Last year Ime played an instrumental role in Mark Zuckerberg’s surprise visit to Nigeria. He is often quoted as one of Zuckerberg’s running partners. Earlier this year, Facebook CEO and founder, Mark Zuckerberg revealed the company’s new mission. “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Ime Archibong is working at the heart of this new mission as Director of Global Partnerships at Facebook. He oversees the company’s efforts to bring the next 4 billion people online, as well as programs for developers and entrepreneurs around the world. If only his mother knew that the computer she bought for him in 1987 would lead to the incredible career Ime has had to date.
You can follow him here: @Ime
Makinde is the founder of /dev/color, a non-profit organization that aims to advance the careers of Black software engineers. Alongside his role as founder and CEO, he is also a senior engineer at Pinterest after an illustrious career in Silicon Valley, working at Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Dropbox along the way.
Makinde is humble in admitting that he wouldn’t have been where he is without programs that supported engineers from different backgrounds. That is what gave him his initial opportunity and he is determined to give others a chance too through /dev/color.
You can follow him here: @Makinde
Kunbi is the founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz, a groundbreaking digital news platform focused on technology, science, business, and entrepreneurship. The startup is based in Atlanta Tech Village but before she started, she was an award-winning British-born journalist and broadcaster in the United States. She is a Cambridge graduate and has worked at the BBC, NBC and published articles in The Daily Mail and Evening Standard in the UK.
In the not too distance future, Kunbi plans to announce details of ‘The UrbanGeekz 100’ — an annual list of emerging and established multicultural leaders, who have demonstrated power and influence in technology, science, and business.
You can follow her here: @Kunbiti
Chike is the founder of Startup52, a NYC-based technology accelerator championing diversity through fostering the growth and development of ethnically diverse startups. The Nigerian born entrepreneur recognized the opportunity in investing and nurturing startups by underrepresented founders.
Less than 10 percent of all venture capital deals go to women, People of Color, and LGBT founders. Chike stated in an interview with UrbanGeekz that:
“Our focus extends to people of color, women, LGBTQ, veterans, immigrants, and people with disabilities. So basically if you feel like you don’t belong, you actually belong with us.”
Both a powerful and noble reminder of the importance of having a community by your side.
You can follow him here:
With a career spent at the likes of IBM, Perceptive Software and EMC, Tope is well equipped with enterprise software. However, it wasn’t until he moved to Atlanta and plugged into Atlanta Tech Village did he create Calendly on his own in his apartment. The scheduling software company now has over 15 employees and projected to make over $4 million this year.
With over 8 million meetings scheduled to date, he is a shining example of what a black, solo founder outside of Silicon Valley can do. Again with a strong community supporting him in Atlanta.
You can follow him here:
Serial entrepreneur Chinedu Echeruo has two spells creating value at startups. The more recent is the tech for good startup MindMeet, which allows users to share knowledge and raise money for charity whilst doing so.
He is probably more commonly known for his startup HopStop, the city transit app which was acquired by Apple in 2013 for $1 billion. One thing that was clear was that he obsessed on Product, especially simple and elegant user experience. It is for this reason that so many users were disappointed when the app was discontinued by Apple, although the tech was used within other Apple products
You can follow him here: @cuecheruo
Yet another serial entrepreneur, Ade previously was the founder of Formspring the anonymous Q&A site. Along his journey, he moved to Nigeria for schooling at a young age, sold his first app for $50 to his basketball coach and graduated in Computer Science and Mathematics before trying his hand as a radio DJ.
With such a colorful life it is no surprise the creative spark in Ade led him to become an entrepreneur. He is now working at Jell, a software startup that provides teams with collaboration tools. Like a true creative, he is also working at Formstack, a startup focused on creating intelligent forms for companies.
You can follow him here: @adeolonoh
Nigerian born Morin is a colleague of Ime Archibong at Facebook, however, she started a whopping 7 years ago when Facebook had only 8 million users in comparison to over 1.2 billion people today. She previously worked in management consulting at Sachs Consulting in New York.
Morin also sits on the board of Kathryn Finney’s digitalundivided, a social enterprise that increases the participation of urban communities in the digital space.
You can follow her here: @MorinOluwole
Muoyo is the host of the Daily Spark Podcast and the founder of Daily Spark Media alongside being a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He manages the Daily Spark Entrepreneur Community, a fast-growing online community dedicated to the empowerment, education & support of entrepreneurs.
He previously worked at both Microsoft and IBM before going on to create a top 10 listed app which had over 80,000 users which he sold.
You can follow him here: @DailySparkTV
As a London (UK) born former entrepreneur that originates from Ghana, I uniquely understand and empathize with the story of the Nigerian entrepreneurs above. The true benefit of supporting more founders from different backgrounds is that they deliver a diversity of thought to the market and therefore create more value for consumers like you and I. You can start in supporting them by following them on social media, supporting their products and spreading the word.
You can follow me on Twitter to learn more about founders and investors across the globe from diverse backgrounds: @AndysHVC
Facebook’s Ime Archibong