Need for Black Angels
Given that nearly all net new jobs are produced from the innovation ecosystem of entrepreneurs and risk capital investors, it should come as no surprise that nearly all net new jobs created in America benefit primarily those connected to the ecosystem.
The fact that politicians promote a magical recovery of the manufacturing sector as the best approach to addressing historically high Black unemployment demonstrates a profound disconnect. Manufacturing has transitioned dramatically over time into an "advanced" manufacturing sector that doesn't employ nearly as many Americans as it did decades ago. And even then, Black unemployment was still twice the rate of White unemployment.
For Black innovators, the lack of Black angels in the space relegates most Black startup founders to the unenviable task of roaming a landscape of primarily White angel investors that have closed networks and unfamiliar relationship territory to traverse. It’s akin to Black entrepreneurs cruising the streets of wealthy White suburban communities alone, hoping to be well-received. The result isn’t good. Black tech entrepreneurs receive just 1% of investments. That won’t change the catastrophically high unemployment rate, which has devastated Black America at double the rate of White unemployment for more than four decades.
In 1980, I was headed to the University of Houston as a freshman while Ronald Reagan was headed to the White House and ultimately into the hearts of American conservatives. Reagan’s political tip of the hat to the White private sector set the tone for a consistent mantra of smaller, less intrusive government and rugged individualism. Pulling oneself up by the bootstraps became a metaphor that characterized a new economic age of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship was viewed as key to elevating the economy out of the doldrums. And economic angels began to rise on the horizon, joining the risk capital sector that was, at that time, primarily comprised of venture capitalists.
Disconnected from Innovation Economy
I didn’t know anything about bootstrapping, angels, or venture capital back then. I had never heard of the risk capital sector and likely would’ve chuckled if someone had openly admitted he was an “angel.” Certainly, I had never heard of a Black angel, much less known one.
No one told me the nation was transitioning from a 20th century manufacturing economy into a 21st century innovation economy. No one advised me that the country needed job creators in order to accommodate the three million new jobs that job seekers like me were demanding every year.
I was stuck in a 20th century mindset, relegated to a lower socio-economic class that was completely disconnected from the knowledge of the changing economic landscape. And I was diligently following a path leading toward a maze of economic disappointment.