There are a ton of efforts going on now in the United States, focused on teaching young people to code and become entrepreneurs. I feel like today is almost like a gold rush of information, and all you really need is your mental pickaxe to take advantage. But there are segments of young people from urban areas who don’t quite get the message, not because they don’t want to improve, your just not speaking their language. So the challenge is making sure these kids dont get left behind.
A 14 year old boy emailed me after seeing me on CNN’s Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley. He wanted to know how he could build a startup and get involved in technology. He spoke about asking around to teachers and other local business people, but he just couldn’t understand or they were giving him the run around. I knew just what he was going through, because the same thing happend to me. Time after time people were trying to teach me and nothing would ever materialize. I had to find a way to make myself understand business and how to be an entrepreneur.
We have too many leaders teaching on top of a stage instead of walking into the crowd. I have grown tired of watching panel discussions on what to do in our community and decided to take a side of the culture people claim is killing the youth and embrace it. So I emailed the young man back breaking down what a startup was and how it worked using Cash Money Records and their rise as an example. It was cool and refreshing, and most of all he understood me.
Eric Ries best-selling author of “The Lean Startup” is the most relevant book to date that breaks down building a startup specifically a tech startup. Using lean methodology entrepreneurs can measure their success early, by experimenting with their value proposition and product until they hit gold. There are workshops across the country teaching these concepts such as “Lean Startup Machine” and i’m happy to be apart of the effort bringing it to Newark, NJ. But how do you appeal to young people who don’t know why they should care about lean? And most importantly how do you teach an non-technical entrepreneur how to scrap something and start over when resources are so low in urban areas.
There is nothing new under the sun. The more research I do, I continue to find the answers and parallels in hip hop culture that can be translated to building a business outside of music. Learning to identify key metrics, how and when to pivot, legal paperwork, raising money, networking, and a slew of other topics can be taught to young people and they will understand it. So lets take a different approach with the younger generation.
I look like them. I dream like them. I listen to the same music as they do as well. We need to show that its just as cool to be an entrepreneur as it is to be a rapper. If we approach it this way, the results will be much better. There is absolutely no one doing this on a major scale. Sure you may get a motivational speaker here or there, but this message has to come from the top. I’m still fighting for success everyday, as I continue to build startups and build tech communities in inner cities such as Newark. Like every entrepreneur in our field we want Mark Zuckerberg or Instagram levels of acquisitions. I’m not afraid to admit it. But I want it not just for myself, but for my people. We can’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, and most certainly can’t be afraid to step off the stage and walk into the crowd.
I’m writing “The Phat Startup” with my partner James Lopez and we are looking to achieve this goal!