Cheryl V. JacksonBlue Sky Innovation
BlackInTech founder Thomas K.R. Stovall likely will feel right at home in a residency program designed to boost diversity in the tech industry.
Stovall, founder of a micro-survey company, will become Entrepreneur in Residence at 1871 through the Code2040/Google For Entrepreneurs program.
The post, which hopes to expand opportunities for underrepresented minorities, comes with $40,000 in seed money, workspace at the tech hub, and training, networking and mentoring through Google and Code2040.
Stovall, 36, succeeds Riana Lynn, founder of FoodTrace, whose yearlong stint began last April.
Stovall created the BlackInTech series of events for black and Hispanic founders last year. It quickly proved to be popular. It has expanded to address corporate careers and is moving to match companies with investors.
The events typically feature panels of accomplished industry players and take place at 1871. BlackInTech also hosts regular networking functions.
The additional resources, combined with higher visibility, will result in a bigger impact faster, he said.
"Now I do it with a budget, a team of seven other EIRs (entrepreneurs in residence) across the nation, the entire weight of Google and Code2040 behind me, and national media now paying close attention," he said.
The residency program, piloted last year in Chicago, Austin, Texas, and Durham, N.C., is expanding to Detroit, Minneapolis, Nashville, Tenn., and Denver.
Code2040 is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports diversifying the tech workforce and entrepreneurs. It says black and Latino students earn about 20 percent of computer science degrees but make up just about 9 percent of the tech industry and less than 1 percent of tech company founders. Google For Entrepreneurs funds the residencies through a grant.
Stovall is founder of Candid Cup, a software firm that facilitates single-question, on-the-spot surveys to smartphones, essentially turning rooms of people into focus groups in short order.
The process provides a targeted group with a URL to access the survey — delivered on a coaster under a drink, on a digital screen or on a bathroom mirror decal. Visitors to the dedicated site see a question crafted by the organization seeking business intelligence.
Questions are limited to 140 characters.
An example from spirits company Diageo at a party during a National Society of Hispanic MBAs conference in Chicago: Does tonight's experience impact your affinity for our brands? In your opinion, tell us what "Diageo" is, and what makes us unique.
Stovall said answers helped Diageo — owner of Smirnoff, Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Captain Morgan brands — realize respondents didn't know that many brands they liked were in its portfolio.
"When you're limited to the amount of characters you have, it makes you write and rewrite your statement until you're asking the most bare-bones question you can ask," said Stovall, who connected with a Tennessee State University engineering classmate who runs software development firm Sciberus to build the technology.
Cheryl V. Jackson is a freelance writer.