It’s been 100 years since the death of Madam C.J. Walker*, the first African American (and first woman!) millionaire in the United States.* She used technological innovation, ahead-of-her-time marketing savvy, and plain hard work to build a cosmetics empire. Today, people of color face different challenges when it comes to achieving success, though one common thread remains: the strategies they use to get ahead. To successfully reach one's customers, businesses must use technology and data to get a sense of who their customers really are. This article explores how minority-owned businesses are using technology and data to do just that.
According to The Business Journals, the number of minority-owned business has doubled in the last 10 years, to 11 million. And the number of specifically African-American businesses has increased by 34%.
One of the interesting commonalities between minority-owned businesses is that they are more likely to stress the importance of technology in their operations as compared to non-minority businesses. As Jeff Jeffrey of The Business Journals writes:
Eighty-five percent of minority business owners said wireless services and applications were extremely critical or very critical to their companies, compared to 68 percent of non-minority business owners who gave similar responses. Additionally, 42 percent of minority business owners said they were likely to add a cloud-based solution to their business in the next year. That compares to 25 percent of non-minority business owners who said the same.
But it is not just staying with the times that make businesses successful. Finding innovative uses for technology and data is what makes some minority-owned businesses rise above the rest. Here are a few examples of minority-owned businesses setting the stage for using technology to succeed.
Ralph A. Clark, the president and CEO of ShotSpotter Inc. focuses on data and technology to become the leader in gunshot detection, location and forensics, all in an effort to help reduce gun violence across the United States. His technology is already in use by the NYPD. Recently, Mr. Clark acquired “HunchLab technology… which will enable the company to apply risk modeling and AI to help forecast when and where crimes are likely to occur and provide deterrence recommendations for specific patrol missions.”
In Hollywood, Guy Primus is the co-founder of The Virtual Reality Company, which has done work on hit properties such as Jurassic World. Recently, Mr. Primus announced that he will be expanding his technology’s applications, especially towards education and building soft skills. The goal is to use VR to change perspective, according to Mr. Primus: “Imagine how the conversation would improve if police officers actually had the ability to feel what it’s like to be a black man in a socioeconomically deprived neighborhood.”
Imo Udom is the co-founder and CEO of Wepow, a human resources tech company that was recently acquired by OutMatch. Wepow uses video interviewing to make the hiring process more cost-effective, personal, and easier for candidates and companies to connect, regardless of location. The business is heavily dependant on data and technology, “through a convergence of unparalleled data, AI and machine learning, IO science, and a personal touch that matters to people seeking ideal jobs.”
David L. Steward is the founder and Chairman of World Wide Technology Holding Inc, one of the largest African-American owned business in the United States. WWT provides digital strategy, technology, and supply chain solutions to large corporations around the world, and made part of their focus on developing STEM skills needed to compete in the modern workforce, particularly among minority-communities. On Feb 7-9 of this year, WWT announced that 9 of its technologists and engineers were named as “Modern-Day Technology Leaders” and awarded during the 33rd annual BEYA Global Competitiveness Conference, which helps illustrate their commitment to diversity. As Ann W. Marr, WWT’s Vice President Global Human Resources states, “A diverse and inclusive STEM-based workforce is what is needed to drive innovation and bring leading edge technology to both the public and private sector.”
These are just a few of the minority-owned businesses that are succeeding in no small part due to their understanding of the importance of technology and data. Lineate has created a program called Technique, which provides minority- and women-owned businesses with access to cross-channel marketing software, discounted development services, and so much more.
* - Madam C.J. Walker died with a personal fortune of $600,000, which would be worth around $8 million today. Plus, her business, in which she was sole owner, was worth over $1 million, so most historians consider her to be the first African-American and first woman millionaire in America.