Recap: Google’s Black History Month Event – LA

Last Wednesday, Google held its annual Black History Month event in Los Angeles. Technologists, entrepreneurs, and tech groupies came to what was an awesome evening.

I moderated an awesome panel of blacks in and around tech here in LA. Great advice flowed from the panel so I’m recapping some of the awesomeness here for anyone who missed the event. You can read the panelist bios here.

Advice on starting a business: Janice McNair and Troy Davinci shared the honest truth: Entrepreneurship is hard. If you’re going to start a business, you have to be dedicated. You also need as much information as possible. Read, listen, and research as much as you can to prepare yourself. But don’t get analysis paralysis – at some point, you have to just do it. Be willing to fail and learn as you go. Seek out seasoned entrepreneurs and offer them something of value in exchange for teaching you what they know. A great mentor is invaluable.

Advice on networking: Arnold Hackett emphasized the importance of relationships. He stated that networking should be a priority for every technologist. Business is done among people, and much of what you need to know is in between the ears of another person. Get out and connect with people as much as you can.

Advice for content creators: Benoni Tagoe did a great job explaining how he helped Issa Rae build her YouTube presence and create an audience. He noted that hustle is essential to success. He also asked whether the audience listened to the Jonas Brothers and I had to remind him that the event was “Blacks in Tech”.

Advice on staying current: I shared a few hacks for keeping a steady flow of great industry news. I recommended sites like the Skimm and also noted apps like Pocket that aid the process of saving and managing articles from around the web. I explained to the audience that it’s supremely important to stay abreast of what’s happening in tech and their respective verticals. In the age of Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, not knowing what’s happening is not an excuse.

Advice on being black in tech: The panel agreed that while being black in tech is difficult, it’s not impossible. We recommended approaching technology from the perspective of a producer rather than consumer. We discussed shifts in technology that are lowering the costs to starting and running a successful tech company.

Advice on raising capital: Troy and I took a question from the audience about raising venture capital. We reminded them that venture capitalists are interested in sizable returns in exchange for equity. This means that startup founders need to think about whether their venture truly justifies outside investment. Additionally, any business going out to raise venture capital should have a clear value proposition, and ideally, some idea of how it will make money now or in the future.

Book recommendations: The Startup Owners Manual, Business Model Canvas

Special thanks to John Malonson and Chris Clark for coordinating such an awesome event!