Building Black entrepreneurship with the support of AWS employees

How was this content?

To celebrate Black History Month, AWS Startups is featuring posts throughout February highlighting the contributions of Black builders and leaders in tech. Above all, these individuals inspire, empower, and encourage others—especially those historically underrepresented in tech—to prove what’s possible.

The most successful teams reflect the general makeup of society. Research shows that diversity is good for business: it leads to teams that make better, faster decisions, as well as higher employee satisfaction and higher financial performance.

Yet Black individuals are woefully underrepresented in tech: as founders, engineers, and in key leadership roles. Black adults comprise 12% of the US workforce, but only make up 7% of workers in computer occupations. It is astounding that, as of 2021, funding to Black entrepreneurs represented just 1.2% of US venture dollars (with only 0.34% going to Black women), while 14% of the US population is Black.

In celebration of Black History Month, it is crucial to shed light on the Black innovators in tech who are building and reconstructing an industry that underrepresents them, while also inspiring the next generation of Black innovators who will follow in their footsteps.

Step by step, we want to narrow the numbers gap and make the playing field more equal for everyone, and we must start by spotlighting Black innovators who are breaking barriers in the tech field. Here are a few ways AWS and its employees are working to achieve this.

Opening doors to accelerate success

Every startup faces challenges, and some face more challenges than others. Accelerators are a tool for founders that concentrate years of business experience into key learnings that founders can use to steer their business to success. The AWS Impact Accelerator Program is one way that Amazon Web Services (AWS) worked to provide equal footing among startups in 2022. The Impact Accelerator provides unparalleled resources to underrepresented founders, such as the coaching, investment, networking, and media reach needed to accelerate their business.

“It’s an enormous privilege to be able to put Amazon’s connections and capabilities to work on behalf of these amazing startups,” says Denise Quashie, Head of Worldwide Startup Marketing Programs at AWS. “If we can open just one door for each one of these startups, it really puts them on more equal footing with those who are considered the majority and have those doors open much longer.”

Recognizing Black AWS employees whose work supports Black founders

To celebrate the voices of Black employees at AWS and amplify their work’s impact, we are honored to share the stories of eight AWS employees working to advance Black entrepreneurs in ways that strengthen Black businesses and support economic growth in historically underserved Black communities. These include programs such as Impact Accelerator, REACH, and Amazon Catalytic Capital. They’re also sharing their advice for others who hope to follow in their footsteps.

Brandon Middleton, Account Manager
Brandon Middleton is an Account Manager with the AWS Fintech and Web3 startups sales team based in Palo Alto, California. He enjoys working with the builders defining the next generation of value on the internet that we call Web3. Thinking big, learning, and being curious are staples of every conversation and interaction he has with founders who leverage blockchain technology to redesign finance and digital ownership at scale. His specific focus is on supporting AWS Startups customers between the Seed and Series-C stages who are building in the Web3, crypto, and blockchain space.

What advice does he have for Black innovators in tech?

“Show up as your genuine and authentic self. Your voice is needed as a builder of this Web3 future as much as it is needed as a consumer of the products and services it will produce. The more points of view we contribute during these formative design years, the smoother the plane ride will be in the years to come, as we will have mitigated risk, shed light on vulnerabilities, and improved the overall quality of the tools future generations globally will be using daily.”

Charlotte Newman, Global Head of Underrepresented Founder and Investor Startup BD
Charlotte Newman is the Global Head of Underrepresented Founder and Investor Startup Business Development. She is located in Washington, DC, where she leads a team with a laser-like focus on how to accelerate underrepresented founders and investors. As a former founder, Charlotte says it is a privilege to use what she learned to enable other entrepreneurs to launch and scale their best ideas. She believes that what we do, at scale, has the power to democratize entrepreneurship and strengthen the role of historically-marginalized groups in entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world.

What advice does she have for Black innovators in tech?

“Throughout my career, I have found that achieving business objectives while driving positive change for historically-underserved groups at scale requires a combination of hard and soft skills. In leading a global set of programs and partnerships that advance Black entrepreneurs, I employ data-driven problem solving as well as curiosity, empathy, and humility. Ultimately, this ensures that the Black entrepreneurs served by my work achieve better outcomes and feel seen.”

Daniel Omachonu, Account Manager
As an Account Manager for Fintech startups sales in Brooklyn, NY, Daniel enjoys working with visionary startups disrupting various industries. Amazon and AWS radically disrupted retail and tech infrastructure; startups are disrupting the future of technology and everyday life, so it’s great to be a part of their journey while at AWS. Daniel’s focus is on fintech startups transforming the financial services industry.

What advice does he have for Black innovators in tech?

“I have had the pleasure of meeting some incredible Black founders with great companies and ideas. AWS is in a position to improve its access to funding opportunities and support. My advice would be that there is room for everyone to help somehow, so raise your hand, show up, and get involved.”

Dottie T, Senior Account Manager
Dottie T is a Senior Account Manager with the AWS Greenfield Early Startup Account Team. He enjoys working with early stage founders who leverage the AWS platform to solve complex issues and advance the civilization of mankind. His Focus area is Pre- Seed, Seed, and Series A-funded startups.

What advice does he have for Black innovators in tech?

“AWS is beyond a technology platform. It’s also a platform for positive change—and every employee can be part of this change, either by volunteering at the Black impact accelerator, being a soundboard for underrepresented founders, or being an internal voice of conscience that helps AWS build more programs and processes to support Black founders. We are all capable of being a source of inspiration.”

Jarman Hauser, Global Tech Business Leader
Jarman Hauser is a Global Tech Business Leader in Seattle who likes to tinker and explore unique approaches to solving complex, multi-dimensional problems. Jarman finds ways to use tech for good by leveraging the innovation at Amazon to better communities, environments, and our society. He is constantly impressed and equally inspired by the new generations of startup founders solving the world’s most complex problems. Jarman will continuously focus on equity, investing in underrepresented entrepreneurs, and creating “longer tables.”

What advice does he have for Black innovators in tech?

“Inclusion is a virtuous cycle. Continuous innovation depends on diversity, but more often than not, underrepresented founders lack the same levels of access and opportunities. We’re starting to see change, but in order to build equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems, we have to collectively take active approaches in breaking down the systemic barriers that perpetuate inequality.”

Nehemiah Green, Global Business Development Partnerships Manager
Nehemiah Green is a Global Business Development Partnerships Manager in Washington, D.C., who feels privileged to meet and build relationships with incredibly founders, every day, as they leverage technology to change the world. He finds it invigorating to learn from them and to help identify solutions to their biggest challenges. Nehemiah will continue to focus on helping under-represented founders and investors grow and succeed at different stages throughout their lifecycle.

What advice does he have for Black innovators in tech?

“After reading Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, a few years ago, I’m a big advocate of getting proximate on issues of systemic racism and bias. In my conversations with Black founders, I hear their stories and listen to their experiences which has been critical to my ability to support and problem solve. Being proximate builds our capacity to build solutions that are driven by empathy.”

Sekai Ndemanga, Principal Fintech Business Development
As a Fintech Business Development lead in New York, Sekai is constantly learning in her role; Fintech is broad and covers various industries. In her day-to-day work, she speaks to customers and founders influencing the future of financial services, be it the fascinating world of insurtech or proptech. She’s also the host of the popular Fintech in the Cloud podcast, and a key contributor to the 2022 State of the Industry: African Fintech report.

What advice does she have for Black innovators in tech?

“It does not have to be a grandiose initiative; start small. If you are cognizant of underrepresentation in your space, think of small ways to make a difference. Fintech can be an exclusive community with representation that reflects systematic structures not built for people of color. Therefore, we must showcase founders that are advancing against the odds.”

Tiffany Johnson, Global Business Development Manager, URFs Program
Tiffany Johnson, of Seattle, Washington, is a Global Business Development Manager on the Underrepresented Founder/Investor Business Development Team. She finds fulfillment in connecting with founders and understanding their needs as they build their businesses through engagement such as workshops, summits, dinners, and more. Listening to the customer’s voice is a key aspect of her work. Tiffany’s area of focus is on creating global initiatives to support startup founders from underprivileged backgrounds.

What advice does she have for Black innovators in tech?

“My advice to others who hope to make a positive impact in the Black community through their work is to first, understand the unique challenges and barriers that Black entrepreneurs face, and second, to actively seek out and build partnerships with organizations and individuals who are already working to address those issues. Only by working together can we truly drive meaningful change.”

Black founders building successful startups on AWS

We hope that, through our platform, we can provide an innovative and inclusive space to underrepresented communities that will inspire the next generation. AWS is committed to supporting equitable and inclusive access to building on the cloud.

Explore more content that celebrates the achievements of Black innovators, such as:

AWS Startups Twitter stories of inspiring, innovative, and game-changing Black founders

The AWS Impact Accelerator Program opened the doors to creating access and resources for underrepresented leaders and founders in tech. If you are interested in applying for the upcoming AWS Impact Accelerator: Latino Founders (or if you know a great candidate), learn more here.

AWS Editorial Team

AWS Editorial Team

The AWS Startups Content Marketing Team collaborates with startups of all sizes and across all sectors to deliver exceptional content that educates, entertains, and inspires.

How was this content?