By Rachel Stengel
Rider graduate Navarrow Wright, ’93, spoke about the ease of becoming an entrepreneur and previewed his appearance on the CNN special Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley in the Fireside Lounge on Thursday.
Wright is a leader in the field of technology, Dean of Students Anthony Campbell said.
“He is a premier expert on how the convergence of technology, the Internet, mass media and social media can change lives and the society,” Campbell said.
Wright has held many notable titles including chief technology officer (CTO) of Black Entertainment Television (BET) Interactive and founder of GlobalGrind.com with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.
The Black in America specials focus on different aspects of African American life and showcase them to mainstream culture, according to Wright. The question that this documentary tried to answer is, “Does race matter in this world of entrepreneurship and technology?”
Wright acted as a mentor to eight African American Internet entrepreneurs who sought startup investments for their businesses. Less than 1 percent of Internet startups that received funding in 2010 were founded by African Americans and 80 percent of startups fail, according to the documentary.
Despite these statistics, anyone can be an entrepreneur, according to Wright. People need to push themselves to make the transition from being users of technology to being creators of it, he said.
“The challenge that we face in society is that we’re all aggressive users of technology,” Wright said. “We think nothing of going on Facebook or sending Tweets out, but we don’t make the leap to say, ‘Hey, I can build that.’”
Wright made that leap and pitched the idea for a website that catered to hip-hop culture to Russell Simmons, who later funded its development. He said that he was fortunate to encounter a well-known entrepreneur who was interested in the idea, but that is not always necessary to start a business.
“You don’t need that kind of partnership or scenario,” Wright said. “There are businesses that people start today out of their homes and make significant dollars. We all know Twitter and Facebook, but there’s thousands of businesses that you guys, right now in college, can make $100,000 or $200,000 a year building.”
Wright said that college students have the ideal lifestyle because they do not have other monetary commitments. He used Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as an example of how easy it can be to start a business.
“There was a guy in a college dorm who was using free software and eating a college meal plan, just like you, who in five years was worth more than Puffy, Jay-Z and Russell Simmons put together.”
Also, students do not have to attend Ivy League universities, like Zuckerberg, in order to become successful entrepreneurs. Wright said that as a Rider graduate, he has had many opportunities for success.
“I’m here to tell you that coming from Rider and coming from Trenton, N.J., I’ve had better opportunities than almost anybody that I know,” Wright said. “That’s not a barrier. I can tell you full well that the opportunities that are here are the same opportunities that are in those places. It’s how you guys take advantage of them. You can actually make more of those because you recognize the importance of them.”
Wright said that entrepreneurs must be prepared at all times to pitch their ideas because they never know where they will find opportunities. Entrepreneurs should never be afraid to approach others with their ideas.
“Everywhere you go there’s an opportunity to start that business,” Wright said. “You don’t know who’s in the room with you so anytime somebody asks you about your idea, you need to be willing to talk about it and give a clear vision very quickly of what you want to do. The opportunity is bigger than your fear.”
Navarrow’s appearance on CNN’s Black in America: The New Promised Land – Silicon Valley will air November 13 at 8 p.m.