In conversation with Morgan DeBaun, co-founder and CEO of Blavity, it doesn’t take long to realize the pint-sized powerhouse is wise beyond her years. Her drive, determination and hunger to affect change are admirable, and her infectious personality will likely lengthen any discussion with the millennial entrepreneur.
DeBaun, 24, has many talents, ranging from product management and business development to drawing (yep, she’s skilled like that)---each one enhancing her overall strategy in how she approaches her business and, ultimately, life.
Her laser-focused vision has allowed the Silicon Valley ‘trep to remain prepared. With the extreme competition and day-to-day grind, it’s challenging for any entrepreneur but particularly those within underserved communities in tech (translation: African Americans, Latinos and women). The Silicon Valley-based startup founder isn’t fazed by it. However, she’s candid about her experience and invested in shifting the current paradigm.
“There’s just not that many of us here [Silicon Valley],” says DeBaun. “There’s not that many tech startups founded by people of Color, let alone people of color who are also women…it can get lonely.”
While the number of Black and Latino venture capitalists and tech chief executives are few and far between, there are several out there and based in San Francisco. In an effort to further connect techies of color and establish a support system, DeBaun started Women of Color in Tech in Silicon Valley. Although it’s an online community, they host events and in-person gatherings. Most recently, the St. Louis, Missouri native hosted a brunch at her house with eight other women of color in tech.
“It’s been a lot of fun growing with that group and kind of getting a network of sister-friends that are supportive,” says DeBaun. I can say like, ‘Oh my gosh, I had this investor meeting and I didn’t know what to wear. Are they going to think I’m his girlfriend walking through these halls? Should I wear the T-shirt or the heels?’ Those aren’t conversations I can have with my executive team members because they’re all men. They’re not that many [of us], but the women that I’ve connected with have been an amazing support group. I, personally, am a strong advocate of groups that come together online as a support network for one another to share ideas, to be a safe space.”
Peer mentorship has played a vital role in DeBaun’s growth as an entrepreneur, which is why she, too, makes herself accessible to other startup founders looking to connect and build.
In short, as DeBaun puts it, “it’s been a blessing.”
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Culturally Relevant Morgan DeBaun is fresh off a trip to Los Angeles, California. The founder and CEO of Blavity, a platform connecting multicultural creatives to their audience, is now roughly 400 miles away in today’s leading technology hub, Silicon Valley. The San Francisco resident has spent the last six months alongside her team working on what the startup calls “the voice of the Black millennial generation.”