From coast to coast, a generation of Black entrepreneurs are making an impact on their local communities and the world at large with some bid ideas. In fact, Black Americans are more likely than any other group in the country to become entrepreneurs, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor .
To inspire you on your own business endeavors, we're highlighting six Black entrepreneurs who are actively changing the way that we think about tech, social justice, and professional development. Ranging in background and industry, each of these entrepreneurs demonstrates how a unique perspective and dedication to a new idea can bring about some of the biggest changes—in the world, in our communities, and in our lives.
Marques Brownlee is an American YouTuber with more than 15.2 million subscribers to his channel. Brownlee uploaded his first video as a high school student in 2009, just four years after YouTube’s launch. He's been changing the way we think about tech ever since.
Now a tech tastemaker, this new media entrepreneur leads one of the most successful tech channels on YouTube and a team of producers, graphics artists, and cinematographers. In addition to producing tech reviews, Brownlee has also interviewed such notable figures as Will Smith, Elon Musk, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mark Zuckerberg, and former president Barack Obama. Brownlee also runs a podcast and a smaller channel that documents the work that his team does on his videos.
Brownlee also runs a podcast and a smaller channel that documents the work that his team does on his videos.
Renée Cummings is a community scholar at Columbia University and the Founder and CEO of Urban AI, LLC, a New York-based company that researches the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on urban communities.
In addition to having a master’s degree in criminal justice and a graduate certificate in terrorism studies, Cummings worked for a decade as an international consultant in criminal justice and law enforcement. It was during that time that she became acquainted with risk-assessment software that routinely over-estimated recidivism rates among prisoners and, consequently, denied them parole.
In 2019, Cummings founded Urban AI to study the impact of AI and guide it’s ethical development as it becomes increasingly intertwined with the ways that cities – and their criminal justice systems—are structured.
Today, Cummings is an established AI ethicist, someone who identifies the ethical implications of AI on society. Focusing on the ways that algorithmic software impacts communities of color, Cummings has become a vocal proponent of transparency and accountability in how AI is created and used in the criminal justice system.
Cummings teaches courses as part of the CertNexus Certified Ethical Emerging Technologist Professional Certificate on Coursera.
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Chazz Sims brought big changes to the deliveries industry when he co-founded Wise Systems, a company that uses machine learning to autonomously route and dispatch deliveries—everything from parcels to retail goods to food and beverage. This innovation increases efficiency and reduces the carbon footprint to improve the delivery experience for drivers, dispatchers, and customers alike.
Sims received a Bachelor of Science in computer science and a master’s degree in engineering in computer science from MIT. Throughout his career, he has worked at the Human Dynamics Lab at the MIT Media Lab and for various health care, finance, and mobile technology startups.
In 2014, while still a college student, Sims co-founded Wise Systems to help businesses schedule deliveries and create route adjustments in real time by leveraging data and AI. Since then, the company has received over $24 million in venture funding, and its software has been added to 750 Anheuser-Busch beer delivery trucks and adopted by Lyft to schedule car repairs.
Follow Chazz Sims on LinkedIn.
Mandy Bynum McLaughlin and Dion McKenzie are the co-founders of the Race Equ(ai)lity Project, a company that is using AI to empower organizations to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
The Race Equ(ai)lity Project offers diversity consulting services, a marketplace featuring a range of diversity experts and tools, and the Race Equ(ai)lity Index – a detailed scorecard that describes how well a company is meeting its diversity goals.
McLaughlin is the Former Head of Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at New Relic, Inc and has worked as a strategic consultant in DEI through her own company, Mandy Bynum Consulting. She has previously worked with Yelp and Survey Monkey and is currently the CEO of the Race Equ(ai)lity Project. She is an instructor on several Courseracourses, including Foundations for Interviewing with Confidence and a Practical Guide to Navigating Professional Relationships.
McKenzie, meanwhile, has worked at numerous startups and is the co-founder of Colorintech, a company that advocates for people of color in the tech industry. Colorintech has partnered with such companies as Google, Microsoft, Meta, and eBay. McKenzie is the chairman of the Race Equ(ai)lity Project.
Janice Omadeke is the CEO and founder of The Mentor Method, a software company that’s revolutionizing how we connect at work. Instead of relying on chats in the break room, The Mentor Method algorithmically connects employees with mentors, with the aim of increasing retention and improving workplace culture with a more diverse environment.
Before founding The Mentor Method, Omadake worked in tech, attended Longwood University, and received graduate certificates in strategic management and entrepreneurship from Harvard and MIT. In 2017, she founded The Mentor Method in the hopes of breaking down the systemic barriers that hinder professional development in the workplace for women and members of other underrepresented groups. Since then, the company has worked with such big names as Deloitte and the US Department of Education.
In 2021, Omadake raised $1.4 million in venture capital funding and was selected by Google to be a part of the Black Founders Fund, a $5-million fund dedicated to Black entrepreneurs that offers recipients $100,000 in capital alongside hands-on support to help them grow their start-up.
Each of these visionaries demonstrates the ways that creativity powered by dedication and a willingness to act can change how we do business and think about the world around us. Celebrate Black excellence and build new skills to help you achieve your own dreams with this collection of courses taught by Black experts in fields like IT, finance, ethical technology, and health care. One bold step is sometimes all it takes to make a big impact.
1. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. “2020/2021 United States Report, https://issuu.com/babsoncollege/docs/gem-2020-2021-us-report.” Accessed January 25, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.