You might be wondering what a relatively unknown mobile data company could possibly have to say about the state of race relations in the United States. To be honest, I struggled with this myself. Maybe that's why we're a bit late to the party, but I needed time to think (which, with kids at home all the time, is tough to do.)
I'm writing today to announce a new program for journalists and non-profits to access MightySignal app and SDK intel for free so they can continue to understand, expose, and report using the best data available.
There's a common denominator and silent ally in the fight against racism and police brutality in the United States today: the smartphone video camera.
At MightySignal we don't make cameras, the hardware casing around them, or the software that powers them. But our business is part of the broader mobile solutions community, just as we as individual people are part of the broader human community.
Being a member of a community means helping to quell any threat to the ecosystem. So even though SDK intelligence has no direct connection to the murders of black people by police, it matters to me, and I want to say something about it as CEO of MightySignal.
I write in support of the Black community and the people who are suffering as a result of inexcusable violence from police around the country.
I'm also ashamed that it took four years since the quarterback of my hometown football squad, Colin Kaepernick, famously knelt during the national anthem for me to write a post like this.
Maybe these feelings just take a while to surface. Or maybe there's something deeper at play. That's what I want to address here.
We don't employ any Black people at MightySignal. In fact, in my decade as a startup founder and CEO, I've never hired a Black person because I also haven't ever interviewed a Black person. I've never met with a Black investor, never even seen one, in fact, and only signed paper with one Black advisor, an entertainment executive named Roger Wood, who helped out my first startup.
In San Francisco, where I lived in the Marina District from 2009 to 2015, I had no Black neighbors and no Black friends. In Walnut Creek (see #walnutcreek), where I've lived since 2015, I have exactly one Black neighbor (in a bi-racial household) and I still have no Black friends. That one neighbor is a few blocks away. I wave when I see him, but that's about it.
So while I care about these issues, I can't say I'm proud of my track record. It's the consequence essentially of living this part of my life in cruise control. I haven't met Black friends, and they haven't met me. I haven't hired Black employees, and they haven't applied.
To be very clear, this is an explanation, not an excuse. I'm not excusing myself from having a severe lack of diversity in my professional and personal life. I'm just saying how it came to this: It's because I did nothing to change it.
So, what now? I go back to the smartphone camera as an example of how technology can shine a light on the difficult problems in our society. There would likely be no Black Lives Matter movement without the video evidence to expose the crimes and enrage our community. And there would be no video without the tremendous strides that engineers around the globe have made to put this incredibly powerful tool into nearly everyone's pocket.
So to the extent that technology can help to expose, and that exposure can help to lift up, make safer, or otherwise aid any part of our population, I want to help.
First, the engineering team at MightySignal has agreed to follow these guidelines from Sentry about phasing out references in our code and documentation to "master / slave" and "blacklist / whitelist" because words do matter.
Second, MightySignal is going to make our asset, years of SDK and app store data, available for free to journalists and non-profits doing investigative work because our SDK intelligence can be a goldmine for anyone looking into privacy and location-tracking activities.
I'm not sure how exactly these two actions might serve the under-served, but right here, in our little neck of the ecosystem, it feels like the right thing to do. It may be a small contribution to the overall movement but I have to believe that every bit counts.
If you'd like to take us up on the data offer, please write to me directly for access: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Third, and finally, on the personal front, I'm going to try harder to meet some more people.