BUSINESSES: Cued — a service that connects what you like to do online to what you do in real life; uses online behavior to suggest offline activities; BlackWeb2.0 — a blog dedicated to connecting and informing African-Americans working in the digital space; NewMe Accelerator — a “greenhouse” for African-American tech startups.
At first glance, Angela Benton might not fit the prevailing stereotype for a web pioneer and serial entrepreneur.
But she is one. And, for Benton, that’s the point.
As a young, single mother, Benton made her own way into the world of design and coding in digital media, working in a number of capacities for the web giant, IAC. But Benton found her true calling when she launched BlackWeb2.0, which filled a true gap in becoming a vital nexus for African-American professionals and aspirants in the digital space.
In early 2011, with Benton’s founding of the NewME Accelerator, her calling became a quest to shepherd new Black tech entrepreneurs to the digital promised land of Silicon Valley. That journey is the subject of CNN’s latest installment of Black In America.
Watching Benton in action — organizing and obtaining funding for NewME, maintaining her blog, and developing her own startup, all while continuing to raise her children and coordinate a transcontinental move from Carolina to California — is to witness an almost superhuman productivity.
“All of these different women are asking how I balance it all,” Benton says. “My balance [feels] like chaos to me. If I’m happy and my kids are happy, that’s balance to me. I take things one day at a time.”
In the weeks prior to this weekend’s debut of Black In America, an advance screening provoked an avalanche of online controversy — particularly around the comments of venture capitalist Michael Arrington, who while touting Silicon Valley as a “meritocracy” couldn’t name one Black tech entrepreneur when prompted. Benton felt that chatter threatened to overshadow the real work she was doing.
Much of it was “noise,” according to Benton. “No one was saying much of anything.”
Benton’s work has prevailed. Newly ensconced with her family in the Bay Area, Benton has already re-signed Google as the presenting sponsor of next year’s NewME program, and will herself be working out of the “Googleplex,” a beachhead in what Benton hopes will be a growing movement of Black Americans into the white- and Asian-dominated Silicon Valley.