CNN shows Charlotte woman's dot-com plan
11/11/2011 12:00 AM
11/11/2011 12:15 PM
A Charlotte woman's innovative strategy for nurturing technology talent is the topic for Soledad O'Brien's "Black in America: the New Promised Land - Silicon Valley" at 8 p.m. Sunday on CNN.
Angela Benton, a 30-year-old single mother of three, worked in various Internet ventures in Charlotte, including Lending Tree and American Business Journals.
"I really started becoming more interested in the entrepreneurial end of things and where African-Americans were in that space," she says. "In many of my jobs, I was the only African-American, and the only woman."
O'Brien notes that less than 1percent of venture capital investment in 2010 went to digital start-ups with African-American founders.
Benton founded the NewMe accelerator program, an initiative that brings in people with dot-com ideas and helps them develop them through mentoring and finding venture capital backers.
Her plan, though, came with a twist: In addition to working together, the participants would also live together in a modest home in Mountain View, Calif., in Silicon Valley.
"Not many people got the concept of a start-up house," she says. "We put that residential piece into it."
Benton grew up in Northern Virginia and moved from suburban Washington to the Steele Creek neighborhood of Charlotte six years ago because of the region's lower cost of living.
CNN's cameras followed the experiment in Silicon Valley for nine weeks. Among the participants were a man from Newark who was interested in developing computer games and an Ivy League dropout from New York who founded a music-sharing platform. Other North Carolinian entrepreneurs in the accelerator program were Wayne Sutton of Raleigh and Tiffani Bell of Fayetteville.
Benton says the accelerator experiment was successful. Supported by Google, her program is now accepting applications from entrepreneurs for two cycles next year.
She is now moving to Silicon Valley, where the nation's technology community is centered. Charlotte, she says, has a strong social media community, but doesn't have the structure to support many technological entrepreneurs.
"Good entrepreneurs tend to be relentless and persistent. Many of the people in our program in their own lives have been really persistent in what they want to achieve," she says.
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