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Global culture is influenced by American culture that is shaped at its core by people of color. In 2017 we saw diverse figures from Yara Shahidi’s status as a smart young actress to Edward Enninful taking the helm as the Vogue UK’s first black editor.

Marlon Nichols in a recent interview with AfroTech mentioned that the thesis at Cross Culture Ventures is to invest in culture. Why? Because Black & Brown consumer culture is a strong early indicator of mass culture, and therefore investing early on cultural indicators provides a massive opportunity.

Below we share 20 movers & shakers to watch out for across various sectors and three different continents. These are influencers that provide early signals of consumer habits and trends that align with cultural change.

1. Joy-Ann Reid

The MSNBC anchor Joy-Ann Reid often represents a voice for the culture on TV and social media. She doesn’t hold back when analyzing the Trump administration. Joy-Ann Reid wrote a 2015 book on politics and race: “Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide”. Fans of the Brooklyn-born straight talker often referred to as #Reiders can catch her documenting her journey on Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow her here: @JoyAnnReid


2. Arlan Hamilton

Arlan has a true nothing-to-something story, she went from having no money in the bank and sleeping on a blowup bed in Houston to creating Backstage Capital which has invested over $5million in over 60 underrepresented founders. Despite not having any experience previously in tech, let alone as an investor, she managed to attract reputable LPs such as Marc Andreessen and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield.

You can follow her here: @arlanwashere


3. Everette Taylor

Forbes included Everette in their Marketing and Advertising 30 under 30 List this year. However, he had humble beginnings and was once homeless. He has developed a reputation as a social media guru and amassed an incredible following. Last year he launched a social media brand building software Popsocial. In just over a year it has generated over $2 million in revenue. He is also the founder of marketing consultancy Millisense and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Cross Culture VC.

You can follow him here: @Everette


20 Diverse Influencers to Watch in 2018

20 Diverse Influencers to Watch

4. Quinetha Frasier

Quinetha Frasier, commonly known as “Que” is on a mission to disrupt philanthropy through tech. She is the CEO of Social Impact Technology and co-founder of MyPledger set up to accelerate the acquisition and collection of funds for fundraisers. The SAAS-based Atlanta startup has served a variety of clients from the Mary Parker Foundation to TechBridge.

You can follow her here: @QueFrasier 


5. Kunbi Tinuoye

Kunbi is the founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz, a groundbreaking digital news platform focused on technology, science, business, and the entrepreneurial sector. 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 Ebony and Evening Standard in the UK.

You can follow her here: @Kunbiti


6. Shawn Wilkinson

Shawn is the founder of Storj, which is like Dropbox on the blockchain. It enables open source cloud storage to be distributed and stored safely. Shawn started mining Bitcoin back in 2012, he fell in love with the possibilities of blockchain, where cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are built upon. In 2014, Storj raised half a million through a token crowdsale and is now is focused on building support applications through Storj Labs.

You can follow him here: @super3


20 Diverse Influencers to Watch in 2018


7. Yvonne Orji

Yvonne plays Molly in the HBO hit series Insecure alongside Issa Rae. The Nigerian-born, American actress had typical African parents who expected her to become a doctor or a lawyer, but instead, Yvonne started off her career to their dismay in comedy. She is a devout Christian and has recently created a sitcom titled, First Gen Show which draws on her personal experiences growing up as an aspiring comedian in a Nigerian household.

You can follow her here: @YvonneOrji


First Gen is a new family sitcom written by and starring comedian Yvonne Orji

8. Letitia Wright

Guyanese-born British actress Letitia Wright plays the role of the sister of King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in the movie, Black Panther. In the last 12 months, she also appeared in Humans and Netflix hit Black Mirror. Before that, she featured in the UK hit Doctor Who and Top Boy. We are undoubtedly looking forward to seeing her grace our screens again in the Avengers Infinity Wars movie.

You can follow her here: @letitiawright


9. Monique Woodard

Until last year, Monique was a Venture Partner at global startup investment fund 500 Startups. She has led on investments in startups created by underrepresented founders. Investments include Blavity, O School, and Mented Cosmetics. In 2011, she founded Black Founders, dedicated to increasing the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech.

You can follow her here: @MoniqueWoodard


10. Jackie Aina

Jackie has grown a tremendous and loyal following across social media with over 2 million followers on YouTube alone. Her influence as a beauty vlogger has grown to provide encouragement and inspiration to women of color that align with her authentic content. In the last year, she has expanded her fanbase further through sharing her travels with her UK partner Denis aka “Mr Work Smarter.”

You can follow her here: @jackieaina


11. Maci Peterson

Maci is a devout Christian and co-founder and CEO of On Second Thought (OST), the messaging app allows users to recall text messages. OST has expanded to 190 countries and is clearly a simple solution that users really value. Maci was recognized on Inc Magazine’s “30 Under 30 List” of 2016, and Washington Business Journal’s “40 Under 40 List” of 2015.

You can follow her here:@MaciPeterson

20 Diverse Influencers to Watch in 2018


12. Bozoma Saint John

Uber’s chief brand officer is making it a “personal mission” to help repair employee morale,” she commented in a recent CNN interview.  She was previously at Apple Music and is a positive voice for women and people of color in tech. Ghanaian-born Bozoma has an increasingly popular Instagram as she wears an array of colorful outfits.

You can follow her here: @badassboz


13. Marlon Nichols

Marlon is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Cross Culture Ventures (CCV). Their portfolio includes Catalyte io, the software coding bootcamp in urban areas as well as Wonderschool. CCV is mainly focused on investing in diverse companies that are changing the world with technology. Marlon also published reports last year on the inflection point between Culture and Tech.

You can follow him here: @MarlonCNichols


14. Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon

Mandela is the founder and CEO of Founders Gym, an online training center that helps underrepresented founders build successful startups. She is committed to doing work that fosters social good and is excited by the power of entrepreneurship, technology, and community-building to be a catalyst for personal transformation, societal development, and global improvement.
You can follow her here: @MandelaSH


15. Inky Johnson

Inky Johnson has made his name inspiring and sharing his story of overcoming a career-defining injury and life’s hardships. He nearly lost his life as a college football player for the University of Tennessee, after an injury that permanently paralyzed his right arm. His big break came through an appearance he made on Eric Thoma “The Hip Hop” Preacher’s YouTube channel. He often speaks at corporate events and sports team across the U.S. sharing his story and empowering hundreds of thousands of people to pursue their purpose.

You can follow him here: @InkyJohnson


16. Andrea Guendelman

It is not widely documented but Latinos have the lowest participation rate on LinkedIn of any minority demographic (just 18%). Andrea Guendelman is the founder of BeVisible, a social network for authentic Latinx connections and participation in career opportunities.

Andrea is a Harvard Law graduate and she co-founded the company with CTO Jose Barrios. The company started off at the Boomtown Accelerator in Colorado and received seed investment last year from Backstage Capital.

You can follow her here: @futureofwomen

20 Diverse Influencers to Watch in 2018

17. Ellen McGirt

Ellen is an award-winning business journalist and senior editor at Fortune. She covers diversity and culture for Fortune Magazine and shares her daily insights and news through her newsletter Race Ahead. She previously worked for Fast Company and TIME Magazine and has a passion for leadership, culture, and diversity in Corporate America.

You can follow her here: @ellmcgirt


18. Japheth Omojuwa

Political activist and blogger, Japheth Omojuwa is the Chief Strategist at African Digital Media Company Alpha Reach. He has appeared as a guest speaker for the African Union, United Unions General Assembly, and many others. His articles have appeared in the BBC and Financial Times.

You can follow him here: @Omojuwa


19. Gareth Pon

Gareth is one of Africa’s top Instagrammers, with nearly 300K followers and a feed full of mouth-watering photos. He hides a rocket in each of his photos as a signature and has appeared on CNN and MTV. Gareth is also the Creative Director of Havas Chicago as he moved from South Africa to America.

You can follow him here: @garethpon

20. Kwame Anku

The Black Angel Technology Investment Fund (BATIF) aims to bridge the gap in technology funding by helping Blacks develop and launch entrepreneurial ventures. Kwame and five other Stanford alumni set up BATIF in 2015 in Atlanta. They exist to solve the problem that less than 1% of VC-backed startups are black-owned. Even starker, less than 0.3% are black-owned and female. Kwame served as the National Director of Strategic Development for #YesWeCode and has been featured as a subject expert on CNN,  BBC, and NPR, and MSNBC.

You can follow him here: @kwameyaoanku


Be sure to follow the influencers shared above and take note of 20 of many positive diverse role models our youth can look up to. Any Influencers we’ve missed on the list above? Feel free to add any others below in the comments.

Andy Ayim is a regular writer for UrbanGeekz. Follow Andy on Twitter@AndysHVC

Main image: Bozoma  Saint John the Chief Brand Officer at Uber



    Andy Ayim
    Andy Ayim
    Andy Ayim is a contributor to UrbanGeekz. Ayim is a product leader and business builder. He is currently the Managing Director of Backstage London, which invests $100K and supports women, people of color and/or LGBT founders.