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Angela Benton: Entrepreneur and Advocate for Opportunities for All

This profile on Angela Benton is the sixth post in a month-long series of profiles on Black STEM innovators in honor of Black History Month. Check back each weekday to read a new profile, the next of which celebrates World Radio Day by focusing on Rufus P. Turner, a radio engineering expert, which you can read here.

Modern day inventions are often lost in the sea of new products available due to increased advertising and accessibility for consumers. For Inventors from underrepresented backgrounds, the odds can be stacked even more heavily against them and their products no matter how innovative and practical they may be1. Angela Benton saw this pervasive problem and took action to create more opportunities for underrepresented inventors. Benton is now a beacon of hope in the crowded entrepreneurial market.

Before beginning her work helping entrepreneurs, Benton graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communications with a specialization in Digital Design American from InterContinental University in 2004 before working for InterActiveCorp (IAC) in a variety of capacities across many of the brands in the IAC family.

After gaining experience with IAC brands such as RealEstate.com and LendingTree.com, Benton began her own entrepreneurial career by creating BlackWeb 2.0 in 2007, a technology news website focused on serving African-Americans interested in tech2,5. In 2011, Benton created her own business called NewMe, to serve as an incubator for minority entrepreneurs3. This first-of-its-kind business has raised more than $40 million in funding for hundreds of entrepreneurs from the company’s original location in Silicon Valley then in Miami when Benton moved the headquarters in 20173.

“On the platforms that we launched we were just trying to talk about the issues and shine a light on people doing great work who weren't getting much exposure at the time,”Benton said in an interview with Forbes. “I think making a conscious effort to look at the problems those entrepreneurs are solving and generally just getting out of the "bubble," which means people may not look like a young white guy coding or running a startup.  It might look like a mom of 3 who is changing careers.4

Benton has been recognized for her work by prestigious companies such as Business Insider, Marie Claire, and Ebony and in 2010 became the youngest inductee of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) Hall of Fame.

“It started out as a project that took on a life of its own that I had to develop into a self-sustaining business,” Benton said of NewMe in an interview with Black Enterprise. “I learned a lot of life lessons, but most importantly, I learned a lot of business lessons from that process. I’m proud of the path we paved, but in 2018, looking at the landscape of activity around black tech the work seemed duplicative,”

In 2018, after battling cancer Benton decided it was time to move on from NewMe in favor of new projects.

“I had a broader outlook on life and business. I was able to look at the landscape and see that, frankly, it was a lot of people doing the same thing,” Benton wrote on her blog. “It was no longer intellectually challenging for me and there were a lot of options for people to get the help they needed.”

Once this decision was made, Benton sold NewMe to LightHouse, the parent company Hillman Accelerator, and moved on to her next venture – Streamlytics.

“After selling my last company, I was looking for another muse; something that would put me knee-deep in the future of what our world will look like. I wanted to get back to my roots, but this time, I wanted to leverage technology to make more informed decisions on what content I would produce or choose to invest in,” wrote Benton in her first post for Streamlytics’ website. “This sent me down a rabbit hole searching for a software, or at minimum a dataset, that would give me some insight.6

The search process did not yield any results, but it did give Benton the idea for Streamlytics which aims to empower users of streaming services by providing them access to data collected from and about them.  

Over Benton’s diverse and forward-thinking career, she has garnered much attention including a feature on CNN’s documentary series Black in America: The New Promised Land: Silicon Valley and as an essayist for the Wall Street Journal’s 125th Anniversary edition focused on The Future of Entrepreneurship.

Benton who is “extremely excited about what is to come and the amount of innovation that might be birthed from users having access to their data” according to the Streamlytics blog, remains a passionate advocate for providing opportunities and autonomy for all.

For more information, read Benton’s interview with SmallBizTrends.

References

  1. The Quarterly Journal of Economics. (2019, May). Who Becomes an Inventor in America? The Importance of Exposure to Innovation. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/qje/article/134/2/647/5218522.
  2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Angela Benton. Retrieved from https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/angela-benton.
  3. Black Enterprise. (2019, January 9). Angela Benton Sells NewMe Accelerator to Lighthouse. Retrieved from https://www.blackenterprise.com/angela-benton-sells-newme-accelerator/.
  4. Forbes. (2013, September 13). Angela Benton on Success, Hard Work, and Thinking Outside the Tech Bubble. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lesliebradshaw/2013/09/13/angela-benton-on-success-hard-work-and-thinking-outside-the-tech-bubble/#5cd1bc2c5276.
  5. Angela Benton. (2020). Angela’s Bio. Retrieved from https://www.angelabenton.co/about-angela-benton#new-page-4.
  6. Streamlytics. (2019, July 31). Welcome to Streamlytics. Retreived from http://blog.streamlytics.co/news/welcome-to-streamlytics/.