Bringing Black Talent to Silicon Valley

CODE2040's Tristan Walker is helping entrepreneurs of color connect with tech-world gatekeepers.

Getty Images
Getty Images

After leaving Wall Street for Stanford, and later becoming director of business development for Foursquare, Walker now wants to inspire young students of color to pursue careers in pioneering fields. “Folks need to build products that understand the community,” he explained. “What will Facebook look like when the country looks differently? We need a diversity of perspective to connect with the expanding consumer base.”

Met with tremendous enthusiasm in the industry (all five startups would like to return next year, with many more interested in joining), CODE2040 plans to expand next summer’s fellowship from five students to as many as 20. To help ramp up the recruitment of engineers, the project recently hired a full-time program manager, Amy Schapiro. In addition, CODE2040 is considering expanding to budding tech hubs like Austin, Texas, and New York City as early as 2014, according to Weidman Powers.

“We have learned so much about what it takes to be a founder,” Alexandria Cattron, a CODE2040 fellow told The Root. “Hearing talented, high-impact individuals speak about their experiences has given us the confidence, tools and insight to start our own companies.”

Another fellow, Yuri Farias Gomes, spoke about the program’s networking benefits. “We can already see some of the immediate impact now,” Farias told The Root. “We know we’ll realize how important these talks really have been in the future as we begin developing our own careers and starting our own companies.”

In the way that young people emulate their favorite athletes and celebrities, CODE2040 hopes to do the same with entrepreneurs — showcasing the opportunities and dynamism of Silicon Valley. Walker explained: “We want to create role models to serve as beacons of light for future students to aspire to.”

Hamza Shaban’s writing has been featured on ReadWriteWeb, Thought Catalog and The Virginia Policy Review. Hamza keeps a blog on Web culture and technology at Follow him on Twitter.