Mimconnect Started as a Group Chat. Now It’s One of the Premiere Platforms for Diverse Media Professionals

Mimconnect was founded on accident.

A GroupMe chat called “Minorities in Media” inadvertently led co-founders Netta Dobbins & Bianca Jeanty to launch the career resource platform empowering underrepresented media professionals. 

“I moved to New York and I didn’t really have a network,” said Dobbins, who relocated to pursue a career in public relations.

Dobbins started the Groupme to network and gain connections and within three weeks, the group had grown to roughly 300 people. The pair of founders knew they were on to something. 

“They were all talking about how they were isolated at work and how they couldn’t get their foot in the door at companies,” Dobbins said. “That sparked something bigger. Everybody was having these same experiences.”

Across the media industry, people of color are grossly underrepresented. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 10.7 percent of public relations professionals in 2018 were Black. Of the people employed in marketing and sales roles, only 6.7 percent were Black. Numbers for newsrooms aren’t much better. According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of jobs at news outlets in the country — reporters, editors, photographers, etc — are held by non-Hispanic whites. 

“Mimconnect is a breath of fresh air,” said Jeanty, the company’s chief marketing officer. “You have solace in the idea that there is a network of people that are rooting. You know you have a tribe ready to put you in a position to win.”

Mimconnect members can currently access the community through their Slack channel where they can connect with about 4,000 professionals and participate in digital events hosted in Slack featuring industry veterans who bestow their media prowess onto the community.

The platform also has a newsletter dedicated to promoting exclusive offline events with partners like Nike and a list of curated job openings.

The founders are slated to launch a new product this year aimed at bridging the gap between companies looking to diversify their talent pipeline and professionals. They plan to integrate features like job listings and career advice into a single hub.

“We’re creating that access point,” said Dobbins. “You can easily access people of color who can help you get your foot in the door.”

Since officially launching the platform in January 2017, Mimconnect has doubled its audience annually with engaged members across the country—all while both founders juggle full-time jobs.  

“We’re running Mimconnect on the side, but it’s actually full-time because this doesn’t stop,” said Dobbins, who works as a social strategist at a multicultural advertising agency and is also Mimconnect’s CEO. 

“Execution is key,” said Jeanty. “If you want to keep moving to the next level you can’t be scared. We make mistakes every day, we forgive each other and we move on because that’s the only way to keep going forward.”

Mimconnect has partnered with advertising agencies and public relations firms like Anomaly, Translation, and FleishmanHillard who leverage the platform’s unique audience to recruit and advertise events.

The founders have carefully crafted programming geared towards a group of professionals with a shared experience of navigating the corporate world. 

“The most important thing is community,” said Dobbins. “That’s what we started with. That’s the only way that we’re gonna be able to close this gap.” 

Google Adds Childish Gambino Dances to Playground on Pixel

Google Pixel users can now add an interactive Playmoji of music artist, Childish Gambino to Playground mode, a feature that incorporates AR stickers into photos or videos.

Simply point the Pixel device, drop Childish Gambino into the scene and have him dance to “Redbone,” “Summertime Magic,” and “This is America.” The Playmoji can also respond to facial expressions in real time.

“We worked closely with Childish Gambino and his music video choreographer, Sherrie Silver, to make sure the Playmoji’s dance moves rival those of Childish Gambino himself,” Google said in a blog announcement.

Check it out below:

John Henry on His New Viceland Series ‘Hustle’ & His Mission to Build Generational Wealth

John Henry is a hustler.

The entrepreneur has been in hustle mode since he founded and sold his first company in 2014, and launched Harlem Capital, a diversity-focused investment firm, where he currently serves as a partner.

Now, the 26-year-old is taking his entrepreneurial prowess to Viceland with his new show, appropriately named Hustle.

The eight-episode docu-series, which is executive produced by Alicia Keys, follows Henry as he challenges New York City-based entrepreneurs to push their boundaries and scale their businesses.

“I set out to dispel myths and demystify the actual arc of being an entrepreneur,” he said. “The whole show is about the drive to make it. We want to capture ordinary people who had the bravery to do extraordinary things.”

The series is only one part of Henry’s quest to change the face of entrepreneurship and build generational wealth in communities of color.

Harlem Capital has raised $2 million of a targeted $25 million fund for underrepresented entrepreneurs, according to SEC filings.

“The reason that there are very few founders of color that are funded is that there are even fewer fund managers that are diverse,” he said. “When you’re the gatekeeper of the capital you know there’s a subconscious bias that you have to invest in folks that look like you.”

White investors make up 70 percent of the venture capital industry, according to a report by Richard Kerby, a partner at Equal Ventures. One percent of venture capitalists are Latinx, and only three percent are Black.

We spoke with Henry about his new series and how he’s building a fund to invest in diverse entrepreneurs. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

AfroTech: What was the vision behind launching Hustle?

John Henry: Me and my executive producer felt like there was an opportunity to bring to market a more realistic picture of what entrepreneurship looks like. What happens when dozens of publications, each with really massive distribution channels, all continually reinforce this perception of a founder who started at 22-years-old, raised five million dollars and is the next Mark Zuckerberg?

We packaged that in the form of a series and Viceland was incredibly interested to tell that story. Vice speaks our language, so when they emerged as interested I was really excited to partner with them because they were gonna give me the platform for me to express myself.

The show is trailing me as I help founders push their boundaries. We tell the stories of everyone from a jam maker to apparel companies. We didn’t just focus on tech founders we really painted a nice broad picture of what starting a business could look like.

AT: What were some of the things you learned about yourself or about entrepreneurship while filming the show?

JH: I learned about the power of our narrative and our experiences. I’ve been working on this show for three years. I’ve been hustling on this show, and I think the most important thing I learned is the way this media machine really works. There’s a reason Viceland and other networks were interested in telling this story. They’re running a business and they saw a legitimate market opportunity in creating content and storytelling around our communities. That’s not lost on me.

This is a multi-million dollar production. It wasn’t something that we did on a whim. In order for a big corporation to justify spending this kind of capital, they really have to believe there’s a market opportunity there.

AT: What do you hope viewers will take away from the show?

JH: My hope is that people walk away with a greater sense of appreciation for someone who’s out there hustling. When you walk past 125th Street [in Harlem] and you see all those vendors selling stuff—oils, hair products, garments—we’re all busy in New York, so we walk past and we might not think twice about it. That is that person’s whole hustle right there.

AT: What’s your approach to building generational wealth?

JH: I was running a fund for a multi-generational real estate dynasty family here in New York City, and that’s really when I learned what generational wealth was. We were driving down Fifth Avenue, and it wasn’t sightseeing they were doing. They were looking at their assets. Until I was exposed to a family that controls dozens of thousands of assets in the greatest city in the world that was passed down four generations, that’s when I understood we’re missing something. We’re missing a certain mindset.

There are tons of very nuanced complex reasons why that mindset is not present in our communities. But, I think it’s up to us to recognize when a community has done it well, and look to emulate those things. Once I discovered that, that’s when it clicked for me and I left that fund thinking: “We got to bring this back Uptown.”

The reality is that it’s a complex problem and there are various stages along the pipeline that you can address. I believe you have to pick a slice of the pipeline you want to tackle. I’ve tried with my incubator to address it end to end, and you end up doing a pretty diluted job across the board. So, for us at Harlem Capital, we are laser focused on venture capital—a relatively new asset class. These are the companies that have the opportunity to capture meaningful market share. These are the next public companies.

There are all kinds of really good things that you get when you can enable founders to go and change the world.

AT: What have you appreciated most about your own entrepreneurial journey?

JH: I’m just really glad I stayed the course because there were some really hard times for me personally throughout my journey. This is true of anyone who’s walking the path and this is why I have an incredible amount of respect and camaraderie with my fellow entrepreneurs.

For me, the reward has always been that we have the opportunity to craft our own narratives. I went all in on this concept and I really can see people’s eyes light up when I put them on to the fact that you can live your life completely by design and empower others.

AT: What advice would you give to aspiring founders?

JH: Spend more time focusing on your customer than your competition. You see the headlines when your competitors make moves, but it’s not always what it seems. They might report something a certain way, but when you lift the hood you get a clearer picture of the business.

I would encourage founders to spend more looking inwards, how can they get better day by day and grow a healthy business.

AT: What do you do when you’re not hustling?

JH: I love to read the newspaper. I love whenever I can carve out time to really have some high-quality thinking time. I think people confuse brain activity for thinking, it’s not the same thing.

Most of the day we’re on autopilot and that’s fine because we’re executing. But, I love to journal and read and continue developing my vision for what I want to do.

Hustle premiers February 10, on Viceland.

Harlem Capital Invests in Logistics Tech Startup Sudu

Harlem Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm, yesterday announced its investment in Sudu, a logistics technology startup founded by Amari Ruff in 2015.

The Georgia Tech engineering grad launched the company to connect smaller trucking companies to large corporations that ship goods. The Atlanta-based startup now supports a broader network of 300,000 carriers.

“Amari embodies the type of founder that Harlem Capital wants to invest in,” Jarrid Tingle, managing partner at Harlem Capital said in a statement. “He is solving an important problem and tackling a massive market opportunity while helping to create more wealth for women and minority business owners.”

Sudu leverages machine learning and voice technology to helps customers like Walmart and UPS increase supply-chain efficiency and lower carbon footprints.

The company previously raised $1 million in seed round funding led by Plug and Play and Engage Ventures.

Other investors include Comcast Ventures Catalyst Fund, UPS, Georgia Pacific, and Cox Enterprises.

Black Women Talk Tech Partners with Richelieu Dennis to Host Pitch Competition

Black Women Talk Tech (BWTT)—a collective of Black women tech founders—is collaborating with Richelieu Dennis of Essence Ventures to host a $100,000 pitch competition at the Roadmap to Billions 2019 Conference in New York City.

With the mission to uplift Black women entrepreneurs, the three-day conference is geared toward founders with scalable tech companies. It features workshops and panels to help entrepreneurs build billion dollar companies.

The line up includes speakers such as founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital, Arlan Hamilton and award-winning author and digital strategist, Luvvie Ajayi.

The first two days of the conference are for founders only while the final day is open to all attendees. To be eligible for the founders’ days, entrepreneurs must identify as a Black woman and have a scalable company.

Visit the website to purchase tickets for the conference which takes place February 27–March 1.

Spotify Buys Podcast Companies Gimlet and Anchor

Spotify is on a quest to build the world’s leading audio platform.

The music streaming giant today announced it has acquired Gimlet Media, the podcast network behind featured shows like The Nod, and Anchor, a startup helping podcast creators record and distribute content.

“There are endless ways to tell stories that serve to entertain, to educate, to challenge, to inspire, or to bring us together and break down cultural barriers,” Daniel Ek, Spotify co-founder, and CEO said in a statement. “The format is really evolving and while podcasting is still a relatively small business today, I see incredible growth potential for the space and for Spotify in particular.”

The terms of the transactions were not disclosed, though Recode reports Spotify planned to purchase Gimlet for more than $200 million.

With the acquisition, the company will focus on helping podcasters establish and grow their audience while leveraging Gimlet’s podcast studio with dedicated intellectual property development, production, and advertising capabilities.

Our podcast users spend almost twice the time on the platform, and spend even more time listening to music,” said Ek. “We have also seen that by having unique programming, people who previously thought Spotify was not right for them will give it a try.”

Diversity and Inclusion Tech Market Reaches $100M, Study Finds

Researchers looking at the global market for diversity and inclusion technology predict new software has the potential to disrupt patterns of bias and drive organizational change.

“After years of spending time and money on diversity and inclusion, there is a palpable feeling of fatigue: the representation of historically underrepresented employees has not changed commensurate with those efforts and many organizations are still far from reaching their goals,” researchers wrote in the report.

The report identified 105 diversity and inclusion tech firms and found the market size is roughly $100 million and growing. Forty-three percent of providers focus on software used in talent acquisition and management. Twenty-six percent of the market is geared toward analytics, followed by development and advancement (19%), and engagement and retention (12%).

“We know that companies are renewing their focus on D&I,” said Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst of RedThread Research in a press release. “As a result, we’ve seen a flood of new entrants into this market sector. There is very little insight, however, into who they are or what they are offering. We wanted to understand who the players are, exactly what problems they are trying to solve, and how successful they have been, both financially and in the eyes of their customers.”

Seventy-four percent of diversity and inclusion tech vendors surveyed are small companies with fewer than 50 employees and 60 percent are less than four years old, the report found. Their customer base is primarily found in the finance/banking, technology, and professional services industries.

“Diversity and inclusion has long been a priority for many of our clients and other organizations,” said Carole Jackson, co-author of the report and Senior Principal in Mercer’s Diversity & Inclusion consulting practice. “It wasn’t always a top ‘business priority’ for CEOs. It was often considered ‘the right thing to do’ and with that came nominal budgets and superficial support from leaders.”

Diversity and inclusion across the tech industry is well-documented as companies make small strides towards progress. 

“With more and more research demonstrating a direct link between greater diversity and improved business results, CEOs are putting real budgets in place to eliminate bias, ensuring equity in all talent processes, and demanding inclusive working environments,” Jackson said. “This is proving to be the fuel for change and creating space for these technologies to grow.”

 

Artist Launches GoFundMe Campaign After The Destruction of His Colin Kaepernick Mural

Artist Fabian  Williams has set up a GoFundMe page in response to the demolition of Atlanta’s Colin Kaepernick mural.

The mural of Kaepernick standing next to Muhammad Ali was created on the side of an abandoned building that was demolished ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday. The Mural showed Kaepernick in an Atlanta Falcons Uniform. 

“I just happened to be driving by when they were doing it and it took a minute for me to mentally recognize that it was happening,” Williams told the AJC.  “Symbols matter man. You destroyed the whole building it was on? If I were an interpreter of performance art, what message would you take from that?”

Williams has created murals all over the city, including one of civil rights leader Hosea Williams.

A former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick took a knee on during the National Anthem in 2016 in protest of police brutality and racial injustice, sparking controversy.

Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by an NFL team since 2017, inspiring Williams to paint a mural of the former player in an Atlanta Falcons uniform.

“I thought Atlanta, because of our civil rights history, would be a perfect place for him,” Williams said.

At the time of publication, the GoFundMe fundraiser had raised $10,356, exceeding its $10,000 goal.

Starbucks COO Rosalind Brewer Named to Amazon’s Board

Amazon has added Starbucks executive Rosalind Brewer to its board of directors, making her the second Black woman on the tech company’s board.

Brewer was also appointed to Amazon’s leadership development and compensation committee.

Currently Starbucks’ chief operating officer, she’s previously served as chief executive officer of membership warehouse business Sam’s Club. She also served as a director of Lockheed Martin Corporation from April 2011 to October 2017. 

Last May, Amazon agreed to adopt a policy that requires women and people of color to be considered for all board openings. This came after the company was pressured by the Congressional Black Caucus to adopt a proposal to increase the diversity of its board.

Myrtle Potter, former president and COO of Genentech, was the first Black woman to be appointed to the online retail giant’s board of directors. Potter began to serve in 2004 and stepped down in 2009.

Brewer’s appointment brings the number of women on Amazon’s 10-person board to four, according to a securities filing from the company. She is currently the only person of color.

Chamillionaire to Invest $10,000 in a Black-owned Business

Grammy award-winning artist Chamillionaire kicked off Black History Month by announcing plans to invest $10,000 in a Black founder’s company.

“In my circle of peers, we’ve been having a lot of conversations about better ways that we can support black founders and entrepreneurs and ways we can invest more money back into our communities,” Chamillionaire said in a video posted to Instagram and Twitter.

Black startup founders only raised 1 percent of the U.S. venture capital funding in 2015, according to CB InsightsThe median amount of funding raised by Black women is $0, just .0006 percent of all tech venture funding since 2009.

Interested founders must download the Convoz app and send a 15-second pitch video to Chamillionaire.

“We’re doing this for the culture,” he says. “Because Black is beautiful.”

The rapper will pick a winner on March 1.