Over the years I've worked with hundreds of minority and women entrepreneurs in the tech industry and they all have one thing in common. They all want to make money. That's not to say they don't have other personal goals for their business like impact, helping others, etc. But it's clear, after speaking with them, what initially drew them into the technology industry. It was the opportunity to change their lives and current economic situation through this fast growing industry.

So it was always a curious thing for me that, while living in Silicon Valley and running my accelerator for the past 5 years, 90% of the thought leaders, executives, and overall tech elite believed the solution to getting more entrepreneurs involved in the industry was to teach them to code. My viewpoint had always been counter to that. Let's teach them how to run and grow successful businesses leveraging the resources available, one of which includes technology. Why swim against the current when we can swim with it?

A new survey on African-Americans and their interests in mobile technology for economic empowerment by Brilliant Corners and Mobile Future just might have the data that we've been looking for. The study revealed that there is significantly more interest in mobile tech as an entrepreneurial tool (48%) than as a career path (33%). While there was still a gender gap between men and women surveyed both were more interested in starting an online business (64% of men vs. 53% of women) than becoming an app developer (45% men vs. 31% women), or a programmer/code (43% men vs. 35% women).

When asked outright to choose from a list of skills they thought they needed to pursue a career in the mobile tech space they ranked as most important: training on how to run a business (65%), financial training on how to access capital (64%), exposure to career opportunities (64%), and mentoring (63%) as the top 4. Technical training like how to code came in last at 50% of respondents finding it important. It's even more fascinating when you do a deeper dive into the data and look at the subsets. 72% of Millennial women saw training on how to run a business as most important compared to 53% saw learning how to code as important.

The study, whose respondents range in age from 18-34, speaks volumes to what is most important to potential African-American entrepreneurs. So even if you are among the people who still think learning how to code is the best way to diversify the technology industry, at minimum, entrepreneurship is the way to get them there.

Ultimately, getting more minority entrepreneurs into the mobile and tech industries is not just about diversity and doing the right thing. At its core, it's about economic empowerment and freedom. This is how a group of people who aren't currently represented can be empowered through information, training, and capital to achieve the best versions of their lives and their communities.

Published on: May 19, 2016