As we shine a spotlight on the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley, it’s worth highlighting some of the people who have been working to bring more diversity to the tech scene for years.
One prime example is James Norman, now CEO of Pilotly, a focus group company. He also co-founded and runs an organization called the Transparent Collective, a non-profit that aims to help early-stage minority founders.
The organization hosts groups of entrepreneurs from around the country for a four-day program of coaching and panels to help them hone their strategy, improve their pitch, have one-on-one meetings with potential investors and ultimately present to a group of potential backers at a demo day. Over the last four years, Norman said that 40 companies from this program have raised over $35 million in early-stage funding,
“We’re pulling people from around the country that had some great ideas and passion for what they were doing,” said Norman. “The main thing I want to do is get these people out here and have them interface with the right people to expand their network and their horizon for their vision … getting people in position to actually raise the capital they need.”
Norman said he and his fellow co-founders, including Clayton Bryan and Rohini Pandhi, bring perspectives that are different than many other programs trying to help bring in new voices to Silicon Valley.
“The people who run those programs haven’t been on the journey of a Black founder, or haven’t been on a journey of a woman founder…. There are nuances to each one of those situations that we can specifically speak to, that allows us to be more effective in what we do,” Norman said.
“Almost instantly, you’re immersed into an environment that’s unlike any other,” Norman said. “I had been around Michigan and Chicago and other places, thinking about what does it mean to raise money, trying to reach out to a few VCs in the Bay Area, but not really understanding the game.”