TechConneXt Backstage: Bevel Prioritizes Tech Skin Care


TechConneXt ’16 in Silicon Valley was truly an exciting way to kick-off my official introduction as a new team member of Black Enterprise. During TECHNXT, I was fortunate enough to chat with Tristan Walker (Walker & Co. Brands), Stewart Butterfield (Slack), Michael Seibel (Y Combinator), Michael Green (Intel), Lo Toney (GV), Renee Forney (Department of Energy), Julian Watts (International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals), and Everette Taylor (Skurt).  

From left to right: Renee Forney (Dept. of Energy), Nathaniel J., Tristan Walker (Walker & Co. Brands)

In the video below, Black Enterprise captured three #digitalGrace moments of Tristan Walker that include Walker & Co. Brands men’s skincare line Bevel, family priorities, and the evolution of tech + skin care.

Check the video and the “Major Key” DJ Khaled shout out.


Three weeks ago Tristan Walker shared on Instagram that Walker & Co. Brands received its official U.S. federal trademark registration for BEVEL. This is not a swift process (trust me, I know. Presently, I am registering a few trademarks) to navigate.  

Walker & Co. Brands’ trademark of BEVEL is under Class (008) – Hand tools and implements (hand-operated); cutlery; side arms; razors. This trademark was filed 12/22/2015.

Congrats Tristan & Walker & Co. Brands! In the words of Nas please help us all to continue a “… signature fade with the BEVEL blade … that’s a major key.”

Next up … Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack.

The Tao of Lo Toney: Words of Wisdom for Funding a Tech Startup

Lo Toney

Acclaimed Silicon Valley venture capitalist Lo Toney took part in a one-on-one session about how tech startups can secure funding at Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit. The session, moderated by Black Enterprise Associate Tech Editor, Sequoia Blodgett, was a windfall of great advice from Toney for both early and later stage funding. Here are the important takeaways from Toney in what he looks for before giving a funding check to a startup:

– When a company is first getting started that’s a good time to look to an angel or individual investors.

– As a company goes further down the road, it’s a good time to talk to institutional investors (usually venture capitalists).

– Most institutional investors want to see some traction; they want to see you’ve identified your product market fit.

– As an entrepreneur raising money, know the right person to go after [for funding].

– I want to see […] what the problem is that [the entrepreneur] is going to solve.

– I want to understand the company’s solution.

– I want to understand why that solution is better than the other available solutions on the market.

– What makes the entrepreneur’s solution better or different?

– I want to see a “persona”; a description of the person who is going to buy the service (picture of the person, a name, where they live, their occupation, income, if they have kids, how many kids they have, …etc.) I want to see a complete picture so I can understand their customer.

– I want to see how big is the market itself. Is this a big market? Is this a market that even makes sense to raise venture capital?

– I also want to understand revenue models. How is the company going to make money? How much does it cost to acquire customers?

– How much does it cost to be able to produce that item?

– If it’s a consumer company, once they get to me, I want to see millions of users.

– If it’s a marketplace, I want to see they have transactions happening.

– For enterprise services, I want to know, do you actually have customers paying you?

– I like to see if it’s a technical product…at least one of the founders with a technical background

– [A startup] needs a leader who thinks like a product manager.

TextConneXt Summit: Ascending Into The C-Suite

The lack of diversity in the C-Suite in corporate America extends beyond major tech companies in Silicon Valley.  African Americans lead just 1% of America’s top companies.

A candid conversation about what it takes to move into senior management and make the leap to the executive level took center stage on Monday at the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit at Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara, California. Director of Product Management at Yahoo, Erin Teague, hosted the BE Tech Talk: Ascending to the C-Suite in Silicon Valley, which featured COO of TaskRabbit, Stacy Brown-Philpot.

TaskRabbit is the San Francisco-based startup that runs an online marketplace for outsourcing household errands and tasks to trusted people in the community. Two years ago the company hired millennial tech star Brown-Philpot, who worked for nine years in various management roles at Google before joining Google Ventures as an entrepreneur-in-residence in 2012. She became the first ever COO for TaskRabbit, which is headed up by founder and CEO Leah Busgue. That move brought the number of C-level executives at TaskRabbit to three — Busque, Brown-Philpot, and Chief Revenue Officer Anne Raimondi.

A key decision that positioned Brown-Philpot to move into the C-Suite, was first to take the step to leave Detroit and move to Silicon Valley, bidding farewell to a traditional career path in finance and going to work for a then relatively unknown company. The Detroit native worked in high-level finance jobs at the Silicon Valley search engine giant. What’s more, she worked on global operations for a wide range of products — including as head of online sales and operations for Google India. It was that decision to live abroad, without her husband and children, which set her apart from other employees by affording her the chance to lead over 1,000 people in a country that is male-dominated and hierarchical.

“I got leadership opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten had I stayed where I was,” she added. Then she did the opposite of what most industry insiders expected her to do—she left Google to do something more “mission minded” by joining a startup.

Also joining Brown-Philpot was Laurence “Lo” Toney, who is the newest partner at Google Ventures, having come from Comcast Ventures, where he focused on the Catalyst Fund; leading a group of investments in early stage technology companies. Previously he served as general manager at the social video game service Zynga, and CEO of LearnStreet, an online education provider.

“How do you know when it is the right time to make a transition, to leave a job and to land a position that was better than the one you had before,” asked Teague. “Mentors,” stressed Toney. “Once you build a brand and become known for certain things, opportunities flood your inbox. When I transitioned from Zinga, one of my mentors was Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream. She is an absolute rock star who sits on the boards of Nordstrom and Verizon. She asked me serious, poignant questions. She said I was really to become a CEO.  She made the introduction for me at LearnStreet.”

[Related: Mentoring Pays Off]

Brown-Philpot also noted that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is an ongoing mentor. It was a relationship that she has built over the years from when she first interviewed for Google and Sandberg was then a VP. “For four and a half years we built a strong working relationship. I was a part of her staff as her . . . business partner,” she added. “I was helping her solve problems. She started to trust me to make decisions on her behalf. I made good decisions and then I started making bigger decisions. She bought me in to manage a 200 person team. Eventually I graduated from her and went out on my own, but I can still call her for advice.”

Top 5 takeaways from Ascending into the C-Suite:

  1. Take on global assignments
  2. Move beyond your comfort zone
  3. Don’t be afraid to take risks
  4. Work for small companies/startups
  5. Advocate for yourself

TechConneXt Summit Students Tour AT&T Foundry, Google


The first full day of the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit started off with a tour of the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto, and finished with a visit at the Google Visitor’s Center—both just a short drive from the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, the site of the conference.

Under a blue California sky, 35 students, including 20 student hackers, were taken to the AT&T Foundry;  a center of innovation where employees of the multinational telecommunications corporation devise questions, hatch ideas, and try out compelling solutions to customer problems and difficulties affecting the wider world.

The tour exceeded all expectations. The Foundry “disrupted” the students’ ideas about AT&T. You hear “AT&T” and think typical corporate America—a large steel-and-glass building somewhere where employees wear suits, men wear ties, and everyone speaks in modulated tones. But the Foundry was in a smallish building that was inviting; not corporate. There wasn’t any steel, but there was a cavernous meeting space of concrete walls and ceilings of exposed ductwork. The industrial feel of the space lending itself to works in progress, works in ideation, unfinished projects that call for more experimentation and greater risk than one might try in, say, a very finished, carpeted office space.

After a tour of the working areas, several of the Foundry staff spoke with the Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit students. Jerry Higgs, Ph.D., senior product development engineer at the Foundry, who is African American, supervised the tour and introduced his colleagues.

Two data scientists spoke about their work and advised students interested in pursuing data science, or in incorporating data science into another field, to take courses in statistics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. A former entrepreneur who now handles outreach to small businesses spoke of AT&T’s interest in solving customer problems and in working with small businesses, as well as large businesses, to do so.

A female development engineer started out as a philosophy major, but is now working on ideas that could expand the range from which drones can be controlled, and perhaps allow them to be used in dangerous places: for example, near forest fires. Another female engineer in product development solutions, said that the “greatest thing about math and science is that you get to develop your analytical skills.” Inspiring words indeed; even to this English major.

The tour ended with the group splitting up to work on idea creation and development with engineers from the Foundry. Each group of five developed an idea, and later one group presented to the whole gathering.

Next stop? The Google Visitor’s Center on the campus of Google’s Mountain View headquarters. Several African American Googlers chatted with the students: Lo Toney, a venture investor at Google Ventures; also an engineer who started out as an elementary schoolteacher, and a lawyer who works on Google’s law team, as well as others, including at least two diversity recruiters, made themselves available to chat with the students.

Google in all its quirky glory—brightly hued bicycles, androids, even a small ball pit in the Visitor’s Center—made the visit fun. A stop at the Google store to pick up mementos finished off our morning of tours, inspiration, and exhilaration.

For photos and commentary about this morning’s tours, search the Black Enterprise Instagram account using the hashtag #TECHCNXT.