In acknowledgement of Black Tech Week, which celebrates African American innovators during the last week of Black History Month, we’re focusing this week’s article on five innovative black-led technology companies.
I happen to work at a black-led technology company. I didn’t know it before, but being a black CEO in tech is surprisingly rare. I enjoyed putting this list together as the black men and women in the industry are exceptional – I just wish there were more of them!
Metalayer – Co-Founder: Jonathan Gosier
Organizations are swamped in data. Much of this data remains unused and untapped. There is simply too much data for most organizations to cope with. Metalayer was set up with the purpose of making this data understandable to the non-specialist users within an organization. In many ways, Metalayer is designed to make data scientists out of everyday people.
It has developed a number of products, both in the area of data visualization to help make sense of data, and in the area of data science, to help scientists and analysts undertake predictive analysis, as well as utilising data in new ways.
One of Metalayer’s founders is Jonathan Gosier, who along with Matthew Griffiths, set the company up in 2011. Gosier is pleased to see how Metadata has helped customers in such fields as disaster relief and countering violent extremism in Somalia. It has been used to monitor health trends and patterns, using social media channels, of combat veterans.
In 2013 Gosier was nominated as one of three Innovators of the Year by Black Enterprise Magazine for his work with MetaLayer. In 2015 he was named by Time Magazine as one of their 12 New Faces of Black Leadership.
Since he set up Metalayer, Gosier has continued to be a venture capitalist and serial entrepreneur, focusing mainly on tech companies, in both the United States and Africa.
PubMatic – PRESIDENT: KirK MCDONALD
PubMatic provides the technological nous behind the automation of advertising across various sales channels. Amongst their specialities is real-time bidding, enabling the winner’s ads to be displayed seamlessly on publishers’ websites. Of course, if an advertiser knows that you have expressed an interest in their product they will be far more willing to pay for an ad on your computer screen, than they will for someone who has never shown any interest in them before.
PubMatic focuses on ensuring that advertising performs at its best on a wide range of technology platforms. One of their goals is to provide consumers with a personalized advertising experience across display, mobile and video screens.
The leadership team at PubMatic is a veritable example of the United Nations, with the team having representatives from a variety of different nationalities. Kirk McDonald, the company’s president, is a force to be reckoned with. Before joining PubMatic, Kirk had leadership roles ranging including the President of Digital at Time Inc., the Chief Advertising Officer of the Fortune|Money Group, the Senior Vice President of network sales at CNET.
Pigeonly – CEO: Frederick Hudson
Pigeonly focuses on using technology to improve communication between prisoners and their loved ones. Their products range from methods for enabling cheap-local rate phone calls that bypass the expensive prison systems to simple methods of allowing the friends or family to quickly share photos from social media sites like Facebook to prisoners via prison-approved mailing methods.
Founder and CEO, Frederick Hudson, actually came up with the product concepts when he was in prison himself, having difficulties communicating with his family. He knew there must be a better, less costly, way for prisoners and their families to keep in contact. The products of Pigeonly are his solutions to the problem he saw first hand.
Virtual Instruments – CEO: John Thompson
Virtual Instruments provides infrastructure performance management, to ensure that any mission-critical applications flow seamlessly across physical, virtual and cloud-computing situations. The Virtual Instruments technology is the glue that keeps a number of America’s largest corporations systems functioning.
They made it into position number 3 on Forbes list of Most Promising Companies in 2013.
As we have seen, the fact that they have a black CEO, John Thompson, is very much a rarity for large technology companies, particularly ones that works with enterprise-level clients. I certainly can’t argue with one of his quotes, “I’ve always believed that your work had to be exciting or your life would be pretty darn boring”.
Kairos – CEO: Brian Brackeen
Kairos provides tools that make it easy for developers to use facial recognition and emotion analysis in their applications. Facial biometrics is a rapidly growing industry as companies look to add features ranging from identity detection to audience engagement metrics in out-of-home advertising. Unfortunately, that technology is frequently too expensive or too complex for most companies to solve. Kairos aims to bring this tech to the masses.
Kairos is the brain-child of Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO. He worked at IBM and Apple before founding Kairos to develop his original idea: a facial recognition powered employee time clock. He quickly discovered that some of the technology used in the clock which related to facial recognition actually had more potential than the clock itself.
Full disclosure, I work at Kairos, but I truly believe they’re one of the most innovative black-led companies in America so I feel with total sincerity they should be on this list. Thankfully companies like the WSJ also happen to think they’re one of the most interesting new start-ups around too!