Thursday, June 17, 2010

Black Gatwick Airport owner inspires community

he purchase of Gatwick airport by Nigerian entrepreneur and businessman Adebayo Ogunlesi has been heralded as a sign that black business leadership has entered a new era.
Rising up the ranks of international finance

‘It is tremendous that the head of the team which secured this deal was led by a Nigerian. We know that African men have the instinct for the big deals and we hope that we will see more of this.
It shows that along side the Tidjane Thiam at the Prudential we are finally seeing men from our communities rising up the ranks of international finance,' Henry Bonsu director and presenter on Colourful Radio told Black Mental Health UK.
Ogunlesi is the Chairman and Managing Partner, of the $5.64 billion joint venture, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) .  A company that invests in infrastructure assets worldwide with interest in power, transport, oil, gas, water and waste.
In 2009 Ogunlesi completed the £1.46bn deal to buy Gatwick Airport, with a further £55m linked to future passengers and buyer's capital structure.  Ogunlesi has said publicly that  GIP's aim of buying Gatwick is to upgrade and modernise, the airport and airlines, and he has  welcomed the ‘break up of the BAA airport' monopoly.
Make Gatwick a first class experience
olu_alake_-_100_bml_president.jpgIn an exclusive interview on Sky television with Jeff RandallAdebayo Ogunlesi, also known as Bayo, said he is going ‘to make Gatwick a truly first class experience'However he cautioned it would take ‘somewhere between 12 and 18 months' before passengers started noticing a difference at the airport.
‘This is something very significant as this it is the second largest airport in the UK. Everyone passing through Gatwick will now be benefiting from the leadership and vision of Adebayo Ogunlesi. It appears that his intention is to totally change the airport industry across the world. The progress that he has made as a businessman is something that we haven't seen among the business professionals and entrepreneurs from our communities living here in the United Kingdom yet,' OluAlake, President, 100 Black Men told Black Mental Health UK.
Ogunlesi is the first son of a medical professor who graduated from Oxford University with honours. He was then accepted to by Harvard Law School as one of three foreign students in his class, even though the school did not usually admit students who had been born and educated outside the United States at the time. At Harvard, Ogunlesi and W. Randy Eaddy became the first two editors of African descent to serve together on the prestigious Harvard Law Review. 
While studying for his law degree Ogunlesi also also enrolled at the Harvard Business School. Although he did not intend to pursue a business career, he thought that courses in finance would help him overcome his fear of numbers. While he was enjoying a successful legal career he was approached by bankers at First Boston who needed help in facilitation a  $6 billion deal with the Nigerian government. This change in career turned into a 20 years of working in the investment banking sector.
Inspired by Ougnlesi's sucess
deborah_gabriel200x200.png‘This confirms how diverse black people are; there is a portrayal that we see in the media black communities  are only ever associated with crime, social exclusion and low achievement, but the reality is we are as diverse as any other ethnic group with divisions on the basis of class, religion, education and wealth.  
This Ogunlesi ownership of Gatwick is a very inspirational story, whilst many of the young people from our communities living in the UK may not be able to identify with his background, they can still be inspired by his success. ' Deborah Gabriel, lecturer, entrepreneur and founder of People With Voices told Black Mental Health UK.
Research shows that there is a complete absence of any people from African Caribbean backgrounds who are on the board of any FTSE 100 Company.
Observers also note that the black professionals who have made it to the top positions in Briton's financial industries have been born and in many cases educated overseas.
‘The top black British chief executives are not black British, they are from the US.  This means that black business professionals are not getting the opportunities those talented professionals who have moved abroad are able to take advantage of. Tidjane Thiam at prudential is the first black CEO of a FTSE 100 organisation, he would not have been appointed as chief executive if he was born here. We know that because there aren't black people on the board of the FTS organisations much less coming close to becoming chief executives,' Olu Alake, President, 100 Black Men said.

Affirmative action needed
This should serve as a reminder that other countries, despite their  levels of discrimination  are still offering better opportunities to black people, that the majority of people in this country are not getting access to so we should not be surprised that we don't see so many black men here rising to such position.
‘The majority of people in this country are not being presented with the type of opportunities that Ogunlesi  has had - so we should not be surprised that we don't see so many black men here rising to such position. 
There are one million NEETs  (Not in Employment, Education or Training) in the UK, and recent studies show that black males  are over represented among with group, and are being seriously impacted by the recession and the levels unemployment.  There needs to be affirmative action to address this so that the Ogunlesi of this generation are denied their chances in life, 'Gabriel said.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Latimer Education Inc. raised a $1.25 million seed round for creating an online university to serve African Americans

Back in April Maveron LLC, along with participation from several high net worth individuals and the company’s founders, announced the closing of a $1.25 million round of financing in Latimer Education, Inc. (“Latimer”), a Washington, DC-based, for-profit education company that is developing an online university for African Americans.

“Latimer’s founding management team, Scott Royster and Brian Jones, have successful track records building African American focused brands and leading education sector enterprises,” said Jason Stoffer, a Principal at Maveron. “We believe they have identified a significant market need and opportunity that fits perfectly with our broad Internet investment strategy and our specific focus in the online education market, as demonstrated by our investments in companies like Capella Education Company (NASDAQ: CPLA), Livemocha and Altius Education.”

“Maveron shares our vision and their unique combination of online education sector expertise and success in guiding the creation of enduring consumer brands, makes them the perfect choice as a financial partner,” said Scott R. Royster, Chairman and CEO of Latimer. Mr. Royster is an accomplished investor and business executive who spent nearly 12 years as the Chief Financial Officer at Radio One, Inc. (NASDAQ: ROIAK), one of the country’s largest and most diversified media companies targeting the African American community. At Radio One, Royster was instrumental in completing the company’s initial public offering, and multiple follow-on offerings, and helping lead a ten-fold increase in enterprise value during his first six years as CFO.

Latimer’s President, Brian W. Jones, is the former General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Education and the current Chairman of the Washington, DC Public Charter School Board. Additionally, he was Senior Counsel at Dow Lohnes PLLC, a Washington, DC-based law firm, where he served as a strategic and legal advisor to various for-profit education stakeholders. After leaving the Department of Education and before joining Dow Lohnes, Jones was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of College Loan Corporation, a leading student loan company with $10 billion in assets. He also currently serves on the board of directors of Apangea Learning, Inc., an online education company that provides tutoring services. “As the for-profit education sector continues growing, we believe institutions will begin focusing more attention on serving specific student segments,” said Jones. “Just as we saw the creation and growth of African American targeted businesses in the media industry, we plan to establish Latimer as the premier choice for African Americans seeking a culturally relevant, quality post-secondary online education.”

We will be reporting on this company extensively, so please stay tuned to the Urban Network blog for all thats hot in the web, and mobile 2.0 worlds!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spelman's Winning Robotics Team De-Programs Bias

he SpelBots aren't a band, they're a robotics team from Spelman College in Atlanta. They are breaking down stereotypes about computer programmers, engineers and African American women wherever they go.
This humanoid robot, Charles, must be programmed to "see" the ball, kick it and defend its own goal. ATLANTA (WOMENSENEWS)--College junior Jazmine Miller showed off a soccer-playing robot to prospective members of the Spelman Robotics, or SpelBots, team.
"His name is Charles, he's very difficult. That's why it's a he," she laughed. "We kind of see him as human; we talk to him, we yell at him."
As Charles got its bearings, it spoke to the crowd in the computer lab. "I don't see the ball yet I'm sorry. [Pause] Oh, I see the ball." The crowd cheered as the 4-foot-tall robot kicked the ball.
Creations such as Charles must be programmed to find and kick the ball and prevent an opposing team of robots from scoring in the annual RoboCup World Championship soccer competition. Since 1997 the matches have been held in Asia, Europe and the United States.
Once a competition begins, the robots are on their own. The team's programming skills have to account for every soccer player scenario, from kicking and blocking to getting up after falling down.
Spelman, the historically black women's college here, has been sending robots to the competition since 2005, often beating graduate students from prestigious tech universities from Germany to Japan. They had their best finish last year in Osaka, Japan, when the team tied for first place with Fukuoka Institute of Technology in Japan in the humanoid robot category.
Along the way they've attracted enough interest--whether in a local campus cafeteria or an airport in Amsterdam, the Netherlands--to make Miller accustomed to attention.
"Around campus people do recognize our faces; they say, 'Oh, you're on the SpelBots, you're doing the robotics thing. I saw you in Jet magazine.' I really see it when I go abroad," said Miller, a computer science and engineering major.

Early Romance with Robotics

Miller's romance with robotics started early. A self-described "world-traveling military kid," she was on the robotics team at her high school in the Netherlands.
Jonecia Keels, from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is Miller's co-captain. She was a little less sure of a computer career.
"For a long time I didn't think I was smart enough to get into computer science. I only saw males in the industry and I just didn't think I had what it took to be a computer programmer," said Keels.
Two things helped change her mind. First, the confidence she gained at this women's college.
"I know a big reason why there's not a lot of women in computer science is because of intimidation. At an all-women's school, they already know your capabilities. So it is easier to take leadership roles and go that step further without added stress," said Keels.
Keels adds that false perceptions--of being stuck in a basement lab, all by yourself--also hurt young women's interest in the field. "That's not what it is at all! It's a very social environment, because there's a lot of teamwork involved," she said.
Andrew Williams, the professor who is head of the computer science department and SpelBots' founder and coach, is Keels' second reason for gained confidence.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chad Ochocinco makes one young fan's dream come true

Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco(notes), formerly Chad Johnson, may have a slight strain of the diva receiver characteristic, but there's a humanity that has always separated him from the Keyshawns and T.O.s of the world. You get the sense that when he struggles, it's more about finding his way and when he showboats, it's more about entertaining than a driving need to be obnoxious. If anyone doubted the true nature of the man, the video you're about to see, which was shot at the third annual gala fundraiser for the Children Mending Hearts organization in Hollywood, CA, should take care of that.
Nine-year-old Ruben St. Hilaire, Jr, who lives with this mother in a homeless shelter in New York City, received an autographed jersey from Ochocinco after sending a letter. He then sent a second letter that would have melted the heart of the hardest individual.
Mr. Johnson, you really make me happy. One of my goals in my future life is to be just like you when I grow up. I wonder who was your role model when you were little? I have three role model(s) in my life that's my mom, Mr. President Barack Obama and my favorite football player Mr. Chad Johnson. To me you are the best football player in the NFL. May God bless you and your family happy holidays.

Ruben's dream was to go to a football camp, and that particular prize was donated by Deion Sanders. Presenting the certificate for camp attendance, unbeknownst to Ruben, would be the very same Mr. Ochocinco. Ruben's hero was introduced after the young boy read his letter. Bonus - it was Ruben's birthday! Rich Eisen of the NFL Network set the scene at the podium, and what followed was a pretty great moment.If that wasn't amazing enough. Ochocinco then led the crowd in a verse of "Happy Birthday" for his biggest fan. It was an amazing day for Ruben St. Hilaire, Jr, and probably a pretty special for Chad Ochocinco, as well.