Turn on the television, open any newspaper, or visit any online news outlet and the number one thing on people's minds today is jobs, jobs, jobs. With American unemployment still hovering around 9.7% for the general population, and at 15.8% for African Americans and 12.4% for Hispanics, our greatest hope for economic recovery lies not in a return to traditional trade, manufacturing or corporate jobs, but in our ability to transition to the future, to actively take part in America's burgeoning digital economy.
For more than 15 years, I have spent my career exploring the ins and outs of tech startups. Having worked for companies like Digitas Health and BET, some of my greatest career success and enjoyment came when I was able to translate my knowledge of technology and online environments to the creation of new entrepreneurial opportunities. My time with Global Grind, a venture funded by ACCEL Partners, comes to mind.
Today, I have the pleasure of watching other budding entrepreneurs learn, grow and perfect their crafts, pave new roads and tackle uncharted territory. I easily spend 50% of my time each day monitoring the activities of startups, watching the creative business models that people come up with to leverage new business opportunities, and sitting back in amazement as a great idea becomes a really successful company -- think Facebook, Ning and Digg.
But like all things, there are two sides to every story, and while I revel in the success of the few, I find myself frustrated at the lack of opportunity or active engagement in entrepreneurial activities by the many, particularly for members of low-income and minority communities. What strikes me most is that in the midst of all this potential for economic success and opportunity, for most Americans the ability to create a sustainable online venture is not within their grasp.
Despite the lower barriers to entry that the Internet provides for new media startups and tech entrepreneurs, the fundamental barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurship, especially for traditionally marginalized communities still exist - lack of funding and almost no access to capital, insufficient understanding of business development and partnership opportunities, and an underwhelming commitment from established companies to "give back" and lend a helping hand for future generations of entrepreneurs.
In addition to these traditional hurdles, the lack of diversity among tech entrepreneurs is partly caused by a deficient understanding of the value, power and versatility of Internet business models and an insufficient appreciation of how technology today is really being used to change lives.
In the online world lies a powerful means of stimulating economic growth and promoting new opportunities for success. Yet for the nearly one-third of all Americans who are still not online, or do not take advantage of the broadband opportunities available to them, the rich potential of the online world can never materialize into successful entrepreneurial ventures.
Many kids who look like me and who are growing up like I did are still looking to be athletes and entertainers to make their mark on history. While some in our communities represent first adopters of the technologies of the future, many do not yet appreciate that they can write their ticket to success and stardom by using the Internet to expand their potential.
This entrepreneurial gap is endemic of the larger digital divide that has plagued our communities for far too long. It continues to disadvantage more and more Americans by the day. It is yet another reason why we must be proactive in increasing the value proposition of broadband and getting all Americans connected and online. That should be the FCC's top priority.
Our economic recovery hangs in the balance as people the country over are trying to find opportunities to create new career prospects for themselves and their families. Economic opportunity, in theory, is only a click away, but in order to make that theory a reality we must get much more serious about increasing broadband adoption and use within our communities. There has never been a more important time to get all Americans online! I have started a series about this topic in more detail on my own blog Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 are here.