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Diversity and Tech: Part II

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Linda Baker
Friday, July 13, 2012


My July/August feature on Mike Green and the America21 project was a window on the world of black tech entrepreneurship, circa 2012. But a few voices, thoughts and factoids didn’t make it into the final edit.  Here are a few of the more interesting snippets culled from the interview files.

•  Last year, Deena Pierott, CEO of Mosaic Blueprint, a Vancouver-based diversity recruiting firm, launched iUrban Teen Summits, a program that brings together underserved and underrepresented teens in an all-day, immersive event at a university campus to learn about careers in technology. 

One such summit took place at the University of Portland this past spring. Future events will be at the University of Washington, WSU-Vancouver, Willamette University, Chico State University and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Pierott, who helped connect Mike Green with University of Portland officials to host the CNN Black Silicon Valley screening,  is also gearing up to launch Urban Spark, a Seattle tech incubator targeting women of color.  Why not launch in Portland?  Says Pierott:  “In Seattle, there’s more traction for it.”

Ben Berry, CEO of AirShip Technologies Group and one of entrepreneurs mentioned in the America21 article, is the son of Ben Berry senior, a Milwaukie resident and one of the famed WWII Tuskegee Airmen. After graduating from USC with an aerospace engineering degree, Berry senior also worked on the design of the Apollo spacecraft for North American Aviation. He is now working with his son on clean technology commercial drone design prototypes.

•  Jaymes Winters, CEO of Blue Leopard Capital, Oregon's first minority owned private equity firm, commented on the disconnect between pension fund contributors and the businesses on the receiving end of those contributions.   About 35 percent of municipal employees are people of color, Winters says.   But the amount of money public employee pension funds invest in minority businesses, including private equity funds, does not reflect those proportions. 

“Look at unions and retirement funds; we make up a larger portion of contributions but we don’t get the ability to manage the funds in a way believe would be good for the community."  Instead, Winters says, pensions typically entrust their money to traditional investment firms, such as Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

•  Andres Montgomery, chief executive of Dreem Digital, also featured in my OB story, relayed an anecdote from his days as Microsoft employee.  Back in 2000, when the software company faced discrimination lawsuits by women and African Americans, Montgomery got a call from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Does Microsoft really discriminate? Ballmer asked.  “I don’t know if there is institutional racism,” responded Montgomery. “But it’s a competitive environment, and if you are not a Stanford Grad or a Harvard grad or don’t come from the right circles, it’s going to be much more difficult. It’s human nature, the tribal nature.  And it’s the impact of the legacy of not participating in the economy that makes it hard to access capital in the economy.”

• And finally, another perspective on Mike Green, this one from Dave Works, president of Segway of Jacksonville,  an entrepreneur who worked with Green on 3D gaming/ecommerce and educational startups.    "I've never seen anybody who can open doors better than Mike," Works said. 
He singled out another one of Green's talents. "Mike's the most amazing power point guy I've ever met."

Linda Baker is the managing editor of Oregon Business


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