In Largely White Male Tech World, Why Capitalism Needs an Upgrade

Mitchell Kapor and Benjamin T. Jealous, CNN, March 28, 2014

When Frederick Hutson left prison in 2012 after serving four years on marijuana-related charges, he realized he had gained something more than his freedom: insight into an overlooked consumer market.

Many inmates are stuck in an age before Instagram or Facebook, relying on envelopes and pay phones to connect with family on the outside.

So Hutson founded Pigeonly, a photo-sharing and low-cost phone call service that has already helped 50,000 incarcerated individuals connect with their loved ones, maintain their ties to society, and remain a presence in their children’s lives.

The story of Pigeonly is statistically unlikely: a disruptive technology created by a member of a disenfranchised community, in order to solve a problem within that community.

It is also a model for the type of entrepreneurship that can revive American capitalism: both inclusive of and responsive to America’s changing demographics.

{snip}

{snip} Our nation’s failure to achieve equal educational opportunity has exacerbated race-based economic disparities and produced two starkly different American economies.

{snip}

Last year there were eight states where zero Latino students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science, and 11 states in which no black students took the test. In three states, not a single female student sat for the exam.

It is no surprise, then, that 99% of venture capital-funded startups in 2010 were founded by whites or people of Asian descent, the vast majority of whom were men. The result of this pipeline problem is an enormous amount of untapped talent and a tech sector that fails to reflect the demographics of its users.

To be sure, government can play a crucial role in leveling the playing field. But it can only go so far. The leaders of the innovation economy can and should play their part in reviving capitalism by making it more responsive to a changing country’s full range of widespread needs and more inclusive in the process.

This is a practical demand as much as a moral one.

Underrepresented populations are uniquely prepared to do what the tech sector claims to do best: innovate.

{snip}

In Silicon Valley, we like to say that every problem is a potential opportunity. But it takes a diversity of backgrounds to identify the real-world problems begging for a solution. Simply put, startups like Pigeonly are shattering expectations of what the market demands.

Smart investors are looking at firms like Regalii, which helps immigrants send cash remittances back to their home countries, or Plaza Familia, a Latina-founded multilingual education software platform that helps parents track their children’s’ school progress in their native language.

Our firm, Kapor Capital, invests in these companies and dozens of others that work to close gaps. We saw that startups like Pigeonly were launched by entrepreneurs who identified an unmet need in the market as a result of their life experiences.

{snip}

We will be there when companies like Pigeonly, Regalii, and Plaza Familia and their founders–African-Americans, Latinos, women of all colors, and others historically excluded–are no longer the exception to the rule.

Capitalism remains our nation’s operating system. The current version needs an upgrade. Investing in the people who are too often locked out, and their ideas, can advance our economy and our country to the next level.

Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • D.B. Cooper

    I remember Lotus 1-2-3, back in the days of the green and black, or orange and black monitors. I had a little cheat sheet posted by the monitor so I can remember those commands. Excel made it obsolete.
    On second thought. I don’t remember Lotus much, at all.

    • MekongDelta69

      Lotus Uno – DOS 6.1 – Tres

      • DOS 6.22 was my favorite.

        • RisingReich

          It’s interesting that many of the old DOS 3 commands I used when I was 12 to explore my Father’s (now archaic) 80286 DX 33 megahertz machine can still be utilized on modern day workstations and servers. Many of those commands are quite necessary, to save time and prevent hunting around the GUI for stuff.

          As a matter of fact, with Windows Server 2012 the default option is to install without a GUI – and use M$’s powershell scripting tool to configure most of it.

          • evilsandmich

            33Mhz is a bit speedy for a 286; I think that you might be thinking ‘386’, especially if you were playing Doom on it.

          • RisingReich

            This was before such graphics were possible.

          • evilsandmich

            Not to give my age away, but from what I vaguely recall the 386 came in two varieties: the DX which came with a math-co and the SX which didn’t (and as legend has it were just DXs which failed the math-co test at the factory). Although a 486dx-66mhz was optimal for running Doom, it would run on the 368DX with some of the graphic goodies turned down.

            The 286 ran dos 3.3/win 3.0 and Wolf3D, on a good day at least 😉

        • evilsandmich

          I believe 6.22 was the last M$ version, no? It game with that banana tossing gorilla game that, as legend has it, was written by Bill Gates himself.

          • I liked DOS 6.20 a bit better, but it had features that had not been properly licensed, so 6.22 did not include them.

  • MekongDelta69

    To the left, “diversity and inclusion” > Talent, brains and merit.

  • LovelyNordicHeidi

    Capitalism remains our nation’s operating system. The current version needs an upgrade. Investing in the people who are too often locked out, and their ideas, can advance our economy and our country to the next level.
    —————————————————————-
    Nice, nice, nice! Except for the fact that none of the proposed investments are going to advance any economy and country to the next level.

    • NorthernWind

      Indeed. Meanwhile in China: hysterical laughter.

  • sbuffalonative

    Many inmates are stuck in an age before Instagram or Facebook, relying
    on envelopes and pay phones to connect with family on the outside.

    The result of this pipeline problem is an enormous amount of untapped
    talent and a tech sector that fails to reflect the demographics of its
    users.

    The demographic is people who have been incarcerated for long periods of time and know little about current technology?

  • leftists are delusional

    Is anyone else as shocked as I am that demographics with room temp average IQs do not take many AP exams?

  • superlloyd3 coon

    ‘The result of this pipeline problem is an enormous amount of untapped talent.’

    Who the hell are you kidding? Blacks, in particular, are too cognitively deficient to contribute anything more than their meagre, marginal contribution to date. Their underdeveloped pre frontal lobes are not up to this level of intellectual challenge. As if we didn’t know.

    • Luke N

      I wonder why the two idiots writing the essay don’t lead by example. They ought to fund some black and Hispanic companies and see how they fair. Give the darkies all the help, contacts and advice you can, and tell us how you did. If you are successful, come back and write about it, so that other people can follow.

      Of course, they don’t want to waste their own money on the darkies.

  • Just what we need, black prisoners on social networking. If you read Charleston Thug Life, then you know that plenty of black prisoners are already on social networking.

    Just what we need, an easier way for Hispanics to wire money back to the not so old country.

    While this might fill a need, these are hardly the routes to future prosperity and real economic growth.

    And also, if the technology pipeline is too white, then the school to prison pipeline has enough diversity.

  • dd121

    I’ll say one thing, these lefties have a rich imagination if they think blacks will EVER make a contribution in the tech sector. Maybe wombats will too.

  • Investing in the people who are too often locked out, and their ideas, can advance our economy and our country to the next level.
    ________________________________________
    The next level is down to third world status when decisions are made to satisfy egalitarian politics rather than for sound economic reasons. This loon sounds like a walking advertisement for why MJ should NOT be legalized. We need people who can make the next UP, not down.

  • So CAL Snowman

    “Smart investors are looking at firms like Regalii, which helps
    immigrants send cash remittances back to their home countries, or Plaza
    Familia, a Latina-founded multilingual education software platform that
    helps parents track their children’s’ school progress in their native
    language.”

    This is the black and white liberal definition of the tech sector; Western Union for mexicans. I mean who needs Intel, AMD, Intuit, NVIDIA, Oracle, Cisco Systems, etc. when you have wise Latinas that wish to track their children’s school progress in their native spanish?

    • IstvanIN

      Those are much more important than any of the contributions made to society by the now extinct Bell System or the old, pre-muslim NASA.

    • Who Me?

      Latinas and baby mommas won’t track their kids progress in school for 2 reasons.
      1) They don’t care, and
      2) They can’t read in any language

      • Mexican illiteracy is actually pretty shocking. A few years ago, a Mexican co-worker had to have me explain to him what one of his text messages said. It was in Spanish! And I don’t even speak Spanish! I had picked up some basic words and phrases, but that’s it.

  • Einsatzgrenadier

    More government-mandated diversity in the tech sector and other industries will inevitably lead to more technological stagnation and decline. The multicultists are only interested in upgrading capitalism to a socialist economic system that redistributes wealth from whites to blacks and hispanics.

  • RisingReich

    It is very disturbing to me that my career field very recently has landed in the cross-hairs of the PC thought police.

    The reason engineering and tech is mainly WHITE, is because you can’t bluff your way out of a network not working, or a server not functioning properly. It either works or it doesn’t. It’s why I’ve always been drawn to this sort of work, because (at least up until recently) accurate work speaks for itself.

    I was literally told that last time my review came up. No BS metrics and hand-wringing were necessary. “Your work speaks for itself.”

    We can kiss that goodbye….

    • Jesse James

      More and more it makes a person feel like just pushing the whole rotten structure down and lighting a match.

      • RisingReich

        No need for that. If they keep this up it’s going to burn itself down.

    • obot

      Look at the obamacare website, contract given to a minority owned business. Nearly a billions dollars and they can’t get a website to work.

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    “The leaders of the innovation economy can and should play their part in reviving capitalism by making it more responsive to a changing country’s full range of widespread needs and more inclusive in the process.”

    Notice not one word on how exactly they plan on doing this.

    “it takes a diversity of backgrounds to identify the real-world problems begging for a solution”

    The 306,554 apps available for the iPhone alone says otherwise.

  • DonReynolds

    Yeah, Lotus was an expensive improvement on spreadsheets that existed (and I used) for years before any Lotus product existed…….specifically MultiPlan for the Apple machines and VisiCalc for the Tandy platforms. No, Lotus did not invent the spreadsheet, nor was it made obsolete by Excel. Borland made a very good spreadsheet QuattroPro. The Twin was an imitation of Lotus, that cost a tenth as much, and had better graphics capabilities. So what happened to Lotus? They were crushed by monopoly power, aka Microsoft, which went for a few years buying competitors or bundling competing software with windows, which shipped on every computer. Dbase? FoxPro? Same story.

    • MBlanc46

      I used 1-2-3 back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I never had a problem with it, unlike Excel, which I find quite wonky.

      • DonReynolds

        Yeah, I was forced to make the switch to Excel when I went to work in a office that only had Apple computers. I liked Lotus enough to own several generations and used it for years. My only complaint was that it was a bit pricey at the time, and that was why there were cheaper alternatives like QuatroPro from Borland.

        • MBlanc46

          There was one version of 1-2-3 for the Macintosh. I finally had to move to Excel when I migrated to OS 9.

      • Pro_Whitey

        I’m not a software aficionado, but I’ve used both 1-2-3 and Excel a lot, and I think 1-2-3, had it survived, would still have been preferable to Excel. The problem in my field is that so many short-sighted managers among our clients, rather than choosing the best software, determined that Excel was good enough and came with the bundle anyway, and we eventually had to knuckle under because it was too time-consuming and error-prone to translate spreadsheets from one to the other and back. The same issue with WordPerfect versus Word. With Excel, I am always flummoxed when I test a sum of integers and find that the result is a few ten-trillionths off. The figures summed were a bunch of integers!

        • Strider73

          When I built my current PC (2007) I said “to hell with Microsoft” and went with the Open Office suite. It works great, it’s available for Windows, Linux & Mac, and it’s free! I now have it on my laptop as well.

          • Libre Office is a fork of OpenOffice that I think is even better.

            If you don’t need the open document format, then another good option is the free version of Kingsoft Office.

          • Strider73

            I have heard of Libre Office, but haven’t tried it. Looks like a download is in order. Never heard of Kingsoft — have to check that one out. Thanks for the info.

            Imagine the money businesses and governments could save by using any of those free office suites instead of MS Office. (Not to mention the added advantage of keeping money away from MS.)

          • Microsoft buys a lot of politicians to make sure governments keep buying seat licenses for Windows-Office.

            Though when he was Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney had a state CTO who wanted to migrate the state to open source document formats. Microsoft was sweating bullets until they found a hail mary pass to the end zone that stuck — At the time the open document formats had very little if any accessibility (for the disabled) options. Now they do, but it’s just the excuse MSFT trotted out at the time to save its monopoly.

      • r j p

        I love Excel, especially Excel 2003. Excel is the only spreadsheet that can do DDE. Hate newer versions that use picture menus rather than drop down menu bar.

        • MBlanc46

          It’s not the features that I don’t like in Excel, it’s the bugginess. And the new MS icon menus are almost completely baffling. It’s as if they’re intentionally trying to make the software harder.

    • dd121

      Microsoft surrounded the market by bundling Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into one seamless integrated package. Eventually they added a relational database and work process software. What’s not to like? I thought it was brilliant innovation brought to us by a brilliant capitalist. Who knew what Gates’ politics were.

      • Pro_Whitey

        I can’t agree. Microsoft won by appealing to short-sighted management rather than by putting out the best product. Perhaps all’s fair, but it’s a result that does not provide us excellence, but mediocrity. It’s a disappointing result.

        • evilsandmich

          All three of M$’s first-gen Windows app packages were arguably inferior (and in the case of PowerPoint, unbelievably inferior) to their competitors but they were ‘good enough’. I also didn’t hurt that Microsoft was (as many suggested at the time) very loosy-goosy with their copy protection so that the already affordable package could be cheap as free, especially at home.

  • DonReynolds

    More specifically related to the article itself…….I have to wonder how many hits, drug deals, assaults and murders, this new system has enabled…..by providing the worst of the gang convicts with a way to continue after they are behind bars: Communicating, laundering, and directing revenge against witnesses and rivals outside the prisons? How many undercover officers and narcs have been killed using this system?

  • MBlanc46

    Then I noticed “Benjamin T. Jealous” and stopped reading.

  • r j p

    Ad campaign: Pigeonly: Connecting criminals with criminals and future criminals.

  • Brian

    The result of this pipeline problem is an enormous amount of untapped talent

    ===

    If Diversities aren’t even taking the AP CS test, there obviously is no ‘enormous untapped talent pool’.

    and a tech sector that fails to reflect the demographics of its users.
    ===
    Since when is that a requirement for any endeavor? Most nurses are female, but patients are about 50/50. So what?

    To be sure, government can play a crucial role in leveling the playing field.
    ===
    It IS level. But the players aren’t equally skilled.

  • NorthernWind

    “Underrepresented populations are uniquely prepared to do what the tech sector claims to do best: innovate.”

    What evidence is there to support this claim? If these so-called underrepresented population are so great, then why don’t they just… innovate?

  • If you force diversity on the tech world, then the tech world will end up like all other diversified fields – destroyed! Diversity is only needed if you are building a house: you need architects, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc.

  • dd121

    There is a fundamental error in the way liberals think about the tech world. They think that the tech world is just like blacks in school. Get it 66% right and that”s perfection in black schools. Tech is either right or wrong. In programming 99% right is an “F”. Nothing but perfection is acceptable. (you know that software that runs you airplane?). You just can’t fake it.

  • cecilhenry

    Sometimes laughter and derision is all these people deserve for this rhetoric.

    Tell me why you don;t encourage and appreciate the proven and demonstrated talent you have from white males.

    Wait, I know: you;re anti-white, and catering to envy and resentment from the left.

    Enough

  • Benjamin Jealous only makes money by crying racism. Only blacks can view a half-white man as their hero and still say we’re evil.

  • evilsandmich

    Last year there were eight states where zero Latino students took the Advanced Placement exam in computer science

    I cannot speak directly to the test, but in the tech sector, generally, ‘computer science’ degrees are frowned upon. I only mention this since he may have been ‘cherry picking’ in order to make whatever situation he’s trying to paint worse than it actually is.

  • haroldcrews

    Didn’t Stephen Hawking give up on his search for geniuses in Africa?

  • IKE

    I don’t believe this . . . another racist article ..