Meet Tristan Walker

A bold entrepreneur with a radical startup. An African-American. In tech, those two phrases usually don’t go together. Enter Tristan Walker. Tristan Walker is a celebrity in Silicon Valley. Walker's hustle and charisma aren't the only reasons for his fame. Walker is black. In Silicon Valley, even in 2014, a visible, successful African-American is big news. The technology industry's lack of minority representation is horrendous. Walker has set Walker & Co. on a decidedly unorthodox course for a Silicon Valley enterprise.  As he tries to turn this startup into what he considers a great company, Walker will face all the usual obstacles that confront a young entrepreneur. But he will also be carving out a narrative with unique challenges. More often than not, the tech industry's heroes are boyish white males from wealthy suburban enclaves—the Zuckerbergs, Dorseys, and Systroms. Despite the fact that African-Americans have risen to the highest levels of every other aspect of business and popular culture, not a single black entrepreneur has attained that level of success and influence in tech. Against considerable odds, Walker is working to rewrite that playbook,
Tristan Walker, founder of Walker & Company Brands.
Tristan Walker, founder of Walker & Company Brands.
Walker's challenge is multiplied by his unusual goal for his company. Walker & Co. isn't an app; it won't make you instantly famous for kooky videos; it doesn't even automate anything in your life. Instead, Walker & Co. aims to be the "Procter & Gamble for people of color." While the company is armed with Silicon Valley money and infused with Silicon Valley concepts of design and startup culture, it will try to create health and beauty products for minorities, solving problems overlooked by the reigning consumer-goods giants. Its first product is a single-blade razor system, called Bevel, which makes it possible for men with coarse or curly hair—the kind that I and most other black men have—to shave without developing razor bumps or other skin irritation. Can a razor be the foundation of a great business? Can it lure young black men and women to Silicon Valley? Can it be a catalyst for real change? Code2040, a not-for-profit Walker cofounded in 2012 with a former business-school classmate, Laura Weidman Powers. (The organization's name nods to the fact that current demographic trends suggest that the U.S. will have more "minorities" than whites by 2040.) Its mission is to connect young black and Latino engineers with tech companies such as Facebook, Jawbone, and LinkedIn.
Tristan Walker, founder of Walker & Company Brands.
Tristan Walker, founder of Walker & Company Brands.
Walker was raised in a couple of the roughest neighborhoods of Queens in New York City. He was one of the 50% of black children in the U.S. who grow up in fatherless homes—his was shot and killed when Walker was only 4 years old. In eighth grade, he tried out for a basketball team that played against a variety of prep schools around New England. He didn't make it, but one of the coaches knew that Walker was a straight-A student and suggested he take the SSAT and apply to one of the boarding schools the team played. He did, and one day found himself with a full scholarship to Hotchkiss, a prep athletic powerhouse perched aside bucolic Lake Wononscopomuc in Connecticut. Walker readily acknowledges that attending Hotchkiss gave him an experience that was "markedly different from a lot of folks." He calls his time there the "four most transformative years" of his life. Instead of navigating the shoals of New York City's public school system, he went to a place where the average class had just 14 students. Computers and other technologies were plentiful and up-to-date, and classes are offered in AP statistics, microeconomics, and computer science, along with Java programming and robotics. "I got to see how the other half lived," Walker says. Walker would learn much more than math and science at Hotchkiss. The air among his peers, mostly offspring of the economically elite, could easily become racially charged. It was during these years that Walker would develop and hone something widely considered a requirement for the survival, and success, of young black professionals in a white-dominated environment: the ability to be, essentially, two people at once, allowing one's true self to coexist with an "other" self that is just authentic enough to be unthreatening and to avoid unwarranted stereotypes. Walker has a more euphemistic way of explaining this. "I've been given so many experiences to understand how to weave in and out of different social group types," he says. "That's where I [first] learned how to do that." After graduating from Hotchkiss and then excelling at Stony Brook University in New York, Walker landed on Wall Street through SEO, an organization that offers training and internship programs to underrepresented minorities in business. Hotchkiss, Wall Street, Stanford, Twitter, and now Foursquare: Bit by bit, Walker had been accepted by an establishment he could never have imagined accessing as a child. Walker finally founded Walker & Company Brands in spring 2013. The company shipped its first Bevel last February. Through the brand's website, customers purchase a $59.95 starter kit, which includes the Bevel razor, brush, and an initial 30-day supply of shaving cream, priming oil, and restoring balm. Ongoing subscribers pay a monthly fee of $29.95 and receive a steady supply of replenishments. tristan5         Tristan Walker, the young Silicon Valley entrepreneur building a modern personal care line for people of color, has raised $24 million from top venture capitalists and celebrity investors such as Earvin "Magic" Johnson, John Legend and NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. Walker & Co. Brands has also inked a deal with Target to sell its flagship product Bevel in select Target stores in the United States and on Target.com. Bevel is a single-blade razor system for men and women with coarse, curly hair which addresses the problem of razor bumps and skin irritation that affects up to 80% of African Americans and up to 30% of people of other races. Tristan-Walker4         On September 26, Walker and Amoy welcomed Avery James into the world at 6 pounds 13 ounces. Between his parents and the Glow fertility calendar app they used to help conceive him, he is already a product of his environment.
Expectant: Amoy Walker was eight months pregnant. "I really do not want my child to walk down those aisles [of health and grooming products] and feel ashamed," said Tristan.
Expectant: Amoy Walker was eight months pregnant. "I really do not want my child to walk down those aisles [of health and grooming products] and feel ashamed," said Tristan.

Who is Tristan Walker?

Age: 30 Childhood home: South Jamaica Houses, Queens, New York Current home: Palo Alto Education: New York City public schools Hotchkiss School, 1998–2002 SUNY Stony Brook, 2002–2005, class valedictorian Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2008–2010, MBA Professional experience: Intern, Twitter, 2009 Director of business development, Foursquare, 2009–2012 Entrepreneur-in-residence, Andreessen Horowitz, 2012–2013 Founder and CEO, Walker & Company Brands, 2013–present

About MimisThoughts

My close family call me Mimi, you will too. A 53 year old black female with many thoughts and opinions. I am vocal and passionate. I was raised old school and am proud to know most children that I had any influence over are carrying on the right way. 'Please, Thank You, Yes Ma'am, No Sir'. Divorced a couple times and no children of my own. I have lived a full and diverse life. Well educated and very liberal a Baptist raised in the church. I hope my posts, information, and opinions in my blog inspire you to open up a conversation. Pass along the usually hidden unheard of and unknown facts of how life is being lived today. Welcome to my thoughts....
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