CNN Presents “Black In America: Silicon Valley”

CNN aired “Black In America: Silicon Valley” last night. It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be. I would have done the show differently, but I’m me and CNN’s producers aren’t.

Disclosure: I’ll watch *ANYTHING* with Angela Benton in it! >:P~~~

CNN aired “Black In America: Silicon Valley” last night. It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be. I would have done the show differently, but I’m me and CNN’s producers aren’t.

Disclosure: I’ll watch *ANYTHING* with Angela Benton in it! >:P~~~

Yum, Yum, Yum, and a Liverwurst A La Mode!!! >:D

So I was gonna watch this show regardless of what happened in it.

I had no idea what the NewME Accelerator was before just now.

I knew Angela had gone to California for some reason, and that Wayne Sutton was there also, but I didn’t know what they were doing.

I wasn’t watching the show tonight, because my DVR was catching it, but I got a text about 15 minutes after the show started, from my aunt, asking me, basically, why *I* wasn’t in this particular CNN show. 😀

oh.. Disclosure #2: I’m also partial to Soledad O’Brien, because a homeboy of mine said he used to date her when he was at Harvard, but you know how dudes tend to exaggerate their interactions with females, so that’s an unconfirmed report. 😉

Anyway… This show was about people that are involved in founding startups.

Startup Culture

I’m “Internet Famous” (#6 of 154,000,000 Google results for “Bill”), (#2 of 1,440,000 Google results for “Cammack”), but that’s not what I do.

I’m a video editor and a content creator.

I edit television shows, corporate videos, web and personal content for my clients.

I also do my own videos and co-star in my friends’ videos:


YouTube Link => youtube.com/watch?v=wTHn5oFPmi8

That’s ENTIRELY DIFFERENT from what startup-people do.

With a startup, you think you have a good idea, you think you can technically implement it and make it into a website or an app, you think you can get people to recognize the value in using it, you think you can build a base of passionate users, and then you think you can get someone to give you money to go farther in your project than you could have on your own, or you think that someone will buy your company from you and roll it into their current set of offerings.

That’s a lot of thinking, hoping, and praying involved with that process, and I’m not interested. 😀

If I had wanted to do a startup, I would have done it already, and it would have been successful.

Friends of mine founded blip.tv:

Dina, Bill & Kathleen

and Makerbot Industries:

Rudy, Bill, Bre

and Tumblr:

Dave & Bill

and Rocketboom

Bill C. @ The Mandarin Oriental Bar

_DSC4036.jpg
Photo Credit: Francisco Daum

and I’m friends with investors like Jeff Pulver:

Jeff, Kathryn, Kfir & Keren

So, if I had wanted to do that, I could have done it, and I can still do it, but I’m not interested in it, because I’ve seen how DEDICATED my friends have had to have been in order to be successful, and how much of their actual lives they’ve had to sacrifice, and that’s not my idea of a good time.

I get in, do my work, output my video, invoice my clients, and then CHILLLLLLLL, and that’s the way I like it. >:D

Working on a startup starts *AFTER* you finish doing whatever else you do to get money, because it’s a huge gamble… An incredible gamble that depends on a lot of things working the way you think they will.. Some of which are under your control and many of which are not, such as when an internet bubble bursts or when an economy goes down the drain, or some other team beats you to market with a similar product and soaks up your projected user base that you were going to use to demonstrate demand for your site or app.

On a slightly-related note, that’s one of the reasons why women have such a hard time dating in Manhattan, NYC. The guys here are busy. We have things to do. We don’t have time to frivolously throw away, sharing gelato with you at some bistro. 🙂

Your window of opportunity to spend time with us is severely limited, because we always have more that we want to accomplish, and unless you work in the same field as we do, or you’re working on the same startup as us, you’re not going to see us much.

If dudes wanted to live the leisurely, waste-time life, they would have stayed in Kansas instead of moving to NYC to try to grind it out and make it happen.

Black In America: Silicon Valley

First of all.. Congratulations and Props to all the founders and participants for heading out to California to take part in NewME Accelerator and going for what they know! 😀

So, The first thing that happens is Angela says “For whatever reason, African Americans [edit] tend to be consumers of technology and not really creators of technology”.

IME (In My Experience), this is true. There’s a difference between UTILIZING technology and creating something that other people use.

Similarly, there’s a difference between posting videos on a website and CREATING VIDEOS that you post on a website, like Jay Smooth does, for instance:


YouTube Link => youtu.be/7_z0TUN_DwQ

Bill C. & Jay Smooth

As a member of the content creation community, this was one of the shortcomings of CNN’s show. They never explained what it means or what it requires to think up and attempt to implement a startup, and then attempt to gain traction, get it funded and get it sold.

It was literally impossible to go into the actual intricacies of this field in an hour-long show, which is actually only 44 minutes of show time plus commercials.

Not only that, but CNN didn’t go into *HOW* they prepared in between their “pop quiz” pitch and their actual pitch at the end of the 9 weeks.

They didn’t show *ANY* of the process that takes you from doing a wack pitch to a good one. This show needed to be at least two hours long, and probably three, to do it properly.

As someone who knows startup founders and knows the amount of work that they put in, every single day, to make their projects successful, I was entirely set up and then short-changed by the show.

The way they started it, I thought we were going to experience the process. We didn’t. There was a lot of good information, and it was entertaining, but it was the equivalent of saying “Bill is going to mix a record now”, and then you hear the mixed record. What happened in between? o_O

On top of that, CNN never showed what a pitch actually is.

Basically, a pitch is a terse explanation of why people would use your product, how they would benefit from it, and, in this case, how you intend to provide ROI (Return On Investment) to your investors.

This is a completely different skill from a) coming up with a product idea, b) being technically able to create an actual application, c) being able to recruit a team to work with you if necessary, and d) networking and publicizing your app.

For instance.. My pitch, which I never use in actual conversation, is “Bill Cammack helps you create quality video & audio effortlessly. Working with Bill ensures quality control and on-time delivery of your presentation,
freeing you up to do other things with your time.”

What that means in English is that (amongst other things) I’m a video editor, and the reason you should give me money to spend MY time on YOUR project is that I’m better than you, I’m faster than you, I know what actual quality is in video presentations, so you’re purchasing quality control, as well as not having to waste your own time that you could have spent getting money doing what YOU do well, in the process of creating an inferior product in a much longer time period.

Of course, things are different for me, because I don’t pitch to companies. Companies pitch their projects to me. My job is to point out my stellar track record and the companies and networks I’ve worked for that all require top-notch work.

There’s no such thing as 99% of a television show. You get ‘er done, or you fail.

I can’t afford to fail, so I go in loaded for bear and make it happen.

No Wack Demos

Navarrow Wright told the group “No Wack Demos on demo day”, which amounts to “You’re going to be ON-POINT by the time you have to give your presentation that counts”.

I thought this part was important because people don’t tend to realize that there are people better than them at what they do or what they’re trying to do, and that they can receive valuable information from those people, including “Your presentation sucked, and here’s why”.

There’s no point in wasting your time reinventing the wheel, when you can just get the goods from someone that knows more than you and then move forward, look good, present well, and be successful.

It’s like with mixing music. I personally don’t believe in people being able to do their own “mastering”, which is some kind of finishing process that people do.

DIY Mastering doesn’t make any sense, because it’s the same person listening to the track on the same amplifier and speakers in the same room, so what’s different? o_O Nothing. If you want a track mastered, you send it to A MASTERING ENGINEER that has better equipment than you have, a better room than you have, and better sensibilities than you have when it comes to finalizing records.

I felt like their session(s) with Navarrow did exactly that. It gave them a window into what they SHOULD have been aiming at, from someone that knows the drill and can accurately inform them how far along they’ve progressed, or not.

Arrington, Conway, Kapor & Meritocracy

They aired a preview of “Black In America: Silicon Valley” several days ago, and some people were crying about what Mike Arrington had to say on the program.

I had been looking forward to hearing whatever controversial statements he made, but there weren’t any. As far as I can tell, he was accurately recounting his personal experiences in his field and location.

That’s like if I were to say that 80% to 90% (anywhere from 4 out of 5 to 9 out of 10) of the people that have hired me as a freelance video editor are white, you don’t get to cry about that because, not that I care enough to count clients, but that would be my honest guesstimation of historical reality.

I’m not demeaning black businesspeople by saying they make up either 1/5 or 1/10 of the people that have put money in my pocket. It’s just, AFAIK, a fact.

I also agree with what Ron Conway said, which is that it’s not necessarily what you know, but instead, it’s who you know.

You can have as many Facebook and Twitter and Google+ followers as you like, but if none of them are relevant to your professional field, you actually have approximately zero influence when you create a “call to action”.

If you have good ideas, but don’t know anybody that will forward you to someone that can actually help you get to the next level, you’re either going to be stuck on the ground floor or moving very slowly, as you’ll only be able to do as much work as you can afford to do around your regular work schedule, instead of being able to devote all your working hours to your startup because you received some funding that will sustain you and possibly a couple other coworkers until you get the product working well enough for a beta test, build your community and go for the big bucks.

Mitch Kapor said “The part that is meritocratic is great, but there’s a big part of it that isn’t”. I would agree with that, however, that statement applies to the United States in general. People hire who they like and want to spend time with and want to see succeed, so long as those people have the base amount of skillz to actually get the job done in the first place.

If nobody wants to look at you, nobody’s going to hire you.
If nobody wants to tell you “Good Morning” when you walk onto their job site (assuming it’s an on-site gig), nobody’s going to hire you.
If nobody has any “checks and balances” references for you, such as 500+ Linkedin Connections, nobody’s going to hire you.

Yes.. These things could be a function of some kind of racial or ethnic bias. They could also be a function of, let’s call it a “social bias”, because regardless of what your heritage is, you don’t know anybody who investors or potential clients trust to vouch for you or vet you as someone worth doing business with.

Unfortunately, we can’t change people’s skin color and get a do-over so we can see how much better or worse their lives and careers would be, so all that’s left to do is be the best you can be and get what you get from your own hard work and diligence.. Not only in learning to program, but also in authentic networking that results in your being connected to the right people that can and WILL put you in touch with the right people when you need it.

Otherwise Known As “Having Friends In High Places.” >:D

Hire A Front For Your Company

So, next up, Professor Vivek Wadhwa dropped some REAL SCIENCE on the NewME Accelerator team, which I can tell from looking at their faces during the reaction shots.

They only aired a couple of his statements, but I can tell he said a whole bunch of stuff that CNN didn’t have time to air (again, because this should have been a 3-hour show instead of a 1-hour show).

Part of what he said was “Get a white guy to be your front man”. This was advice that had been given to him at the time he was doing HIS thing, and he was informing the NewME team about this technique.

Of course, that’s not going to work for me because I have my own props.

My name and face are branded all over creation, so I don’t get to send anyone else out to network for me or get me business under the guise that they’re the ones doing the video editing, because who the *** are THEY? 😀 haha I’ll get LESS WORK instead of MORE if I send anyone but myself as my personal representative.

However.. Like I said above.. Internet startups are mainly ideas and programming. It’s recognizing an underserved market and filling that void. The hands-on part is behind the scenes. It doesn’t matter who you send as the representative of the company. Dude’s job could merely be figurehead/front-man, and the money you’re paying him will be worth all the extra opportunities you get to pitch investors and clients if things work out the way you suspect.

In fact, I would advocate this style for anyone that has a WACK PRESENTATION, whether they’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic, whatever.

If you look busted, or you mumble when you try to speak English, or even though you know how to program, you sound like an idiot when you try to articulate your thoughts, or you have serious issues with public speaking, it’s really in your best interests to hire someone better looking, more articulate, and more confident in public than you are to be the spokesperson for your company.

Fortunately, I’m genetically predisposed to being gregarious, which is why I have 3,000 Facebook Friends, 3,000 Twitter Followers 4,000 Google+ Followers, etc, and I do my own networking as well as connecting other people that I determine should know each other for business or personal reasons.

Nobody’s better at being me than I am. >:D

Relationship Issues

I was glad to see a dude from my school alum.MIT.edu/www/BillCammack on the show, and I was also glad that he and his girlfriend created a site/app about dating, being that there’s just about NOTHING I enjoy talking about more than women! >:D

However.. And I realize that CNN may have edited this to look a certain way to craft a storyline, but if you’re dating a chick, her safety is ON YOU and her transportation is ON YOU! 😀

For a few months while I was at school, I had an official girlfriend, like people actually knew we were together.

During that time, if I needed to export her from my dorm room in West Campus, *I* had to walk her ass all the way to Mass Ave so she could get the bus back to her school.

It’s all in the game. It’s part of the deal. If there are 8 people living in a 3-bedroom, small-ass-house, and your girlfriend isn’t invited to make it 9 people, how you interact with her is ON YOU.

Word to Herb. That’s what Skype is for. iChat. Do something! 😀

On top of that, Angela left 3 daughters back at her crib. Wayne left one son at his crib. I saw some other video of at least one other person having a wife and child, so they’re not likely to be too sympathetic to “My girlfriend has to take the bus” when their loved ones don’t even have that option.

It was cute that CNN brought up the “white girlfriend” storyline and then cut up a bunch of sound bites, so we really have NO IDEA, WHATSOEVER what anybody thought about dude’s girlfriend’s skin color, but, again, it barely, barely, BARELY skimmed the surface and short-changed us AGAIN as far as something that might have been interesting and relevant about this situation and could have sparked important conversation.

Seriously.. CNN left so much material on the cutting room floor that it’s just embarrassing.

Hopefully, they won’t recycle the tapes they used and they’ll do a WAYYYYY extended version of this program (which I doubt), but my suggestion to Angela and friends is to get your hands on the raw footage before they delete it, because there are at least 3 more documentaries y’all can make from this.

Anyway.. The point is that he’s the only one that came with a co-founder. Everyone else in the house was a standalone. That’s automatically going to put you at a disadvantage, because half of your team wasn’t invited to the house.

It’s going to be on you to figure out how to make that situation work for you.

Everybody there was scrambling to make a good demo in the time they had in the house. Nobody has extra time to take care of someone else’s business.

For next season, secure a sponsor like Ford, so there’s at least one car dedicated to the house, so if someone brings extra team members, he or she can make moves without inconveniencing other NewME members.

Walking While Black

So, Wayne was walking down the street between a cafe and the NewME house when he was apparently stopped for WWB.

I would have enjoyed seeing the actual footage, but either CNN decided not to air it or they didn’t have a camera crew with Wayne when the incident occurred.

Arrington had already said that it’s a white and Asian world out there. In situations like that, WWB is going to happen one time, so local cops can put an eye on you, check your ID and check your demeanor.

After that, it should never happen to you again, because the rest of the team should be informed that you’re in the area and liable to be walking around in the middle of the night.

In fact, this goes back to what I was saying about getting a Ford sponsorship, so NewME members don’t have to be walking all over creation.

If it happens to you more than once, *THEN* it’s a potential harassment problem.

I know this sounds dumb, but life isn’t fair. Deal with it.

In fact, it’s not even really a police issue, it’s a guy thing.

When you’re used to an environment being a certain way, and then it changes (in this case, going from having essentially ZERO minorities around to having several, who don’t appear to own cars), you’re going to want some information about the new person/people.

I went to a bar on Long Island one time with a “well-tanned” friend of mine, and we had been hanging out for for a while, when this guy with a fancy Italian nickname walks over and introduces himself to me.

I shook his hand, and eventually, he got around to asking me what we were doing there.

I looked him in the eye and told him we were there to drink some brews and check out some chicks.

He nodded, and then I asked him if that was a problem. He said it wasn’t, so the three of us hung out until he walked back over to his 7-8 local homeboys and told them what he had found out.

My friend and I chilled, without incident, until the bar closed down. Meanwhile, the dudes that had sent their envoy over had proceeded to get in a fight with another crew of 5-6 white dudes, right there on the dance floor of the bar, which was rather entertaining. 😀

The point being.. If someone’s concerned that you’ve entered “their space”, it’s actually BETTER FOR YOU that they step to you and decide for sure whether they have a beef with you or not, than it is for them NOT to approach you and then if you eventually have to interact with them, they’re working off of entirely unfounded and incorrect conclusions that they made up about you in their own minds.

Go For Yours

Even though CNN devoted all of like 25 seconds to it, I think that Anthony Frasier‘s storyline was the most currently relevant and compelling narrative amongst the NewME members.

The only way out from under the current American economic crisis for a lot of people is going to be reeducation.. PREFERABLY in a field that doesn’t leave you relying upon local people and companies for job and career opportunities.

If your job is to put doors on cars and they move the plant to another country to maximize profits, you’re not getting another car-door-putting-on job. You have to learn a new skill.. ASAP.

I really like Anthony‘s response to “How can I buy my mother a house?”, and wish him the best of luck with his startup, playd.it, which is described as “Foursquare for gamers. See what your friends are playing on everything from Xbox to mobile. Discover new games and rate the ones you already played.”

This is “Hustle” or “Grind”, even though currently-popular music would have you believe that both of those words have negative, illegal connotations.

Without this type of work ethic, people waste their time instead of improving themselves, learning a new skill, networking, or publicizing their products.

You have to have a goal.. Something to look forward to.. Something you want, like buying your mother a house, and then you have to use the fuel you receive from that to propel you forward into potential greatness.

Whether you succeed or not, at the end of the day, you know you did all you could to create the future you wanted for yourself, instead of slacking, brooding, lamenting, and dreaming about what might have been if you would have applied yourself.

It’s Easy To Talk. It’s Hard To do.

Regardless of CNN trying to tell a 3-hour story in 1 hour, I’m glad they did this installation of “Black In America” about a sector of the society that isn’t typically focused on.

Hopefully, as several of the NewME members stated in the final block, people who “look like them” will get the idea that THEY can do the same things in life if they apply themselves.

Programming isn’t the point. Moving to California isn’t the point. Being an internet-famous blogger or social media personality isn’t the point.

The Point is that all of these startups began with an idea and progressed into implementation.. The Point is that you don’t have to accept the 1-5 ways that society claims you can make money or gain fame or pull chicks or whatever your goal in life is.

Sit down. Lay down. Stand around. Think about what’s missing for you or for someone else. Think about whether you can fill that need. Think about whether it’s economically feasible for you to attempt to fill that need. If it isn’t, sell the idea to someone else, or recruit other people that already have the equipment and skillz you need to pull it off, and offer them some kind of ROI for getting involved with your idea.

It doesn’t even have to be elaborate. You might be really good at using clippers to cut hair and shape up lines. ok, fine.. You look all fresh ‘n fly when you go to the club, but how about lining up a few customers at $10 each, then investing $80 in a shiny, new set of clippers & trimmers, making your money back immediately, and then letting all the rest of it be profit? o_O

Maybe you didn’t even KNOW that there are people that will give you money in return for a percentage of ownership of your company if they believe in your idea.

Maybe you didn’t even consider attempting to get investors and sponsors and passionate consumers and family members to assist you in realizing your goals and dreams.

So I think the show made some important points, although, like I said, being someone that knows what it takes to do what we do on the internet, even to write a long-ass blog post like this one, I’m aware that CNN skimmed over A LOT of the technical aspects of what needed to be done over the weeks that the NewME team was in Silicon Valley.

I’m sure the production goal was to show social issues and not technical ones, but I think that if you’re going to attempt to tell a story detailing bias in a community, you have to describe and display the technical merits and prowess of the people that the bias is supposed to be against.

Like, I can’t just say that someone didn’t hire me to do a video for them because I’m not white.. I’d have to demonstrate that I’m better than the person they hired, and then demonstrate that the potential client KNEW I was better than the other person and still hired them instead of me.

CNN didn’t delve far enough into the individual members’ skillsets to potentially make the case of “This startup should have been funded, but wasn’t, and it’s potentially because of a societal bias in this field”.

Anyway.. I enjoyed the presentation. It was good to see some social media people on the big screen. 🙂

Good Luck to them on their startups, and Good Luck to Angela on season 02 of the NewME Accelerator! 😀


YouTube Link => youtu.be/UHceXqOMFrI


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6 thoughts on “CNN Presents “Black In America: Silicon Valley””

  1. You know…If I tried to or even wanted to sum u up with 1 word…I couldn’t…lol Definitely a rare breed,but the type that’s to be cherished and protected from extinction at all costs,simply because what you have to offer the world,is hard to find and definitely lacking.Very Interesting…I loved this,you broke things down,for all to understand,and all without being condescending while you did so.Great Job! =-)

    1. Thanks much, Tanaya! 😀

      Like I said in the article, this is what I do, edit television shows.

      SOOOOO many times, I watch the majority of the content get left on the cutting room floor (meaning that none of it is used in the final edit) that I’m very sensitive to flash-edited sound bites that are used to craft narratives, like when they were talking about giving dude’s girlfriend a ride to the house.

      So when they had just finished setting up the house members and the scenario and I looked at the time and it was about 22 minutes into the hour-long (including commercials) presentation, I knew they were either going to skim over EVERYTHING and end the show after one hour, or they were going to have to do at least two hours and maybe three.

      I’m glad they did what they did, and it was nice to see people I know and know of on television, but if you think about it, they said they were at the house for 9 weeks.

      9 weeks is about the amount of time that MTV films JERSEY SHORE, and then that becomes a full 11-episode season.. More than TEN TIMES the final output of this one show.

      There’s no way AT ALL that CNN could have gone in-depth into this situation in 44 minutes. It’s too intricate a situation to talk about all the aspects decently.

      That’s why I’m hoping that Angela can get the raw footage from CNN, because there have to be HOURS and HOURS and HOURS and HOURS and HOURS of content that’s relevant to NewME and useful, but CNN’s never going to do anything with it.

      Cheers, Tanaya! 😀

  2. Everyone who watched “Blacks In The Silicon Valley” was terribly misinformed about what has been going on there(here) for
    decades. Blacks have been and continue to be very involved in the technology sector in very important roles. As proof do a Google search for John Thompson of Symantec, Kenneth Coleman of Silicon Graphics, Eric Kelly of Overland Storage (all CEOs) and many others.
    Too bad CNN and O’Brien did not consult with any black locals but rather relied on either White people or the young adults that they temporarily moved to Mountain View. This was a very shallow and disappointing documentary.

    1. Thanks for those insights, Valarie! 😀

      I hadn’t really thought about what you bring up, because there’s so much that CNN left out of the experience of the actual NewME housemates that I never really got to think about the surrounding community, socially or business-wise.

      Something I found extremely strange about the show was that CNN didn’t bother to explain how the Google “Dragon’s Den” or whatever it was called happened to be a panel of four obvious minorities. o_O

      It’s like “Where did they come from?” “Were they imported for the documentary?” “Do *THEY* live and work in Silicon Valley?” “What do *THEY* think about the racial climate, etc?”

      I wrote the article the way I did because CNN did a VERY SHALLOW job of explaining what the NewME group was doing in Silicon Valley in the first place, like the underlying technology and requirements.

      For instance, I’m writing this reply to you at 4:40am on a Tuesday.

      People don’t realize how much you have to sacrifice if you want to have a successful social media presence, much less think up and attempt to implement a startup, gain traction, and then pitch to investors.

      They would have been better off introducing the members of the house and then going IN-DEPTH into one of their presentations, preferably one that got funded, like becouply.com.

      But yeah.. I hear you. There’s A LOT that CNN didn’t bother to cover or discuss in this show, and there’s a lot that they mentioned in passing that someone like myself that’s involved in the internet community will catch and understand, or someone like you that’s involved in the Silicon Valley community will recognize, but most people will just look at the show and not really get the importance of what they’re seeing.

      The good thing is that they bothered to focus on black tech people AT ALL, so I have to give CNN credit for deviating from the common topics and scenarios.

      Like I said above.. It doesn’t take 9 weeks to videotape 44 minutes’ worth of footage. There’s A TON of that story left to tell, if Angela can get the raw footage.

  3. This was one hell of a post. I enjoyed the documentary but it was WAY too short to be anything more than moderately inspiring. I was pleased to see the focus on black entrepreneurship from a tech startup perspective but, to your point, there are other entrepreneurial routes to self-sufficiency. Although CNN is to be credited for covering the topic, it was a bit glossy and doomed to lack depth given the timeframe and distracting social conflicts used to spice things up.

    1. Thanks, Iceman. 🙂

      I agree with your comments. I’m just glad they bothered to focus on this aspect of the black experience AT ALL, instead of sticking to their normal topics of poverty, crime, and other bullshit that actually plagues *ANY* community with low income, not much opportunity for self-improvement, and a general lack of hope.

      Hopefully, the people that recognize that CNN only scratched the surface will create a budget to get way more of this story told, instead of letting it be some kind of anomaly that occurred one time in 2011.

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