After Diversifying Silicon Valley, Angela Benton is Tackling Data Ownership

A seasoned entrepreneur and tech executive, Angela Benton has successfully launched three companies. Her latest is Streamlytics, a next-generation data ecosystem that provides ethical, human-powered data, to democratize data collection that compensates consumers for opting in to share their data.

Angela made her first impact as an entrepreneur when she launched BlackWeb 2.0 in 2007. The multimedia platform provided black tech professionals a space to connect and discuss the intersection of Black culture and tech and ensured that an underrepresented group was involved in an emerging space that would undoubtedly dominate and transform the world. Angela’s following venture, NewMe, helped minorities and women raise over $47 million in venture capital funding and is largely responsible for diversifying the tech industry.

A groundbreaking tech exec, mother to three daughters, and breast cancer survivor, Angela shares why she is no longer waiting for acceptance and instead showing up and creating her own path.

Angela Benton, Streamlytics CEO

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

No, I actually started my first company while I still had another job. The startup I was working at closed and laid everyone off. At that point, I had to decide on whether to pursue my passion, which was running the company I started, or apply to jobs. It was a big risk, but I ended up taking it. It wasn’t the safest route, but it was worth it. 

Q: After launching two successful startups, how did you decide it was time to step away and start a new company?

I felt that I had contributed enough to the world under my leadership. I helped companies raise over $47 million at a time when there were almost no Black people in Silicon Valley. After that, I was ready to do something more intellectually challenging. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be, but I allowed myself to explore different options to figure out what was interesting and exciting to me. 

Q: How did surviving breast cancer impact your worldview and the way you run your business?

It made me realize that not everything is so serious. My previous two businesses were mission driven, and we were the first ones doing what we were doing. We were really diversifying the industry, and it felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.

Surviving breast cancer was a reminder that you’re living life with a limited amount of time, so it’s important to have fun. I stopped having fun at my second company because of its intensity. Anytime I find myself slipping back into that mindset, I check myself, and make sure that I’m still having fun and I ask myself, did you laugh today?

Q: Streamlytics introduces an entirely new concept to the tech world, community-driven data. Where did the inspiration to spearhead this category come from, and why do you believe the industry is moving towards a more democratic approach to data collection?

The inspiration for Streamlytics and community-driven data came when I noticed that privacy regulations were changing globally. Having been in the tech industry since the first boom, I have a deep understanding of how the Internet business has been running. And from that, I realized that consumer data hasn’t changed, but the world around it has. 

I saw a huge opportunity to create something new around fast-growing communities and the individuals within them having ownership over their data and participating in the transmission of data between consumers and companies. I realized that there was a more ethical way for this to happen. 

The way we are solving this problem is also different. It’s not just about monetizing consumer data, it’s creating a data standard that makes it easier to transfer data between different entities. 

Q: In 2019, only 3% of venture capital was invested in female-only founded companies. Did/do you feel welcome and accepted as an underrepresented group in the VC space?

I don’t feel accepted, but I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t need to be accepted. I do what I’m going to do. I did that with my past two companies. No one accepted us into Silicon Valley. We stepped in and said we’re here. 

Q: What advice have you learned from founding 3 startups that you would give to your past self?

Remember to have fun, it’s not life or death. 

Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success?

I’m very creative in how I solve problems, and I’m willing to create my own way, regardless of if it’s been done or not. 

Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned from raising funding?

The story that you’re telling is the most important part of your pitch. To tell an impactful story, you can’t focus on the high-level narrative or the one your traction and revenue numbers tell. You need to do a good job telling both. You need to balance the opportunity that exists and how you’re going to solve the problem. 

If you have a product to market, you need to explain how you’re getting closer to success. However you define your KPI’s is essential to highlight. 

Founders often make the mistake of looking to other people to tell them how to pitch their startup and tell their story. You can define that yourself. Every startup has a unique story, even if there’s a high-level framework, it still has to be your story. 

Q: How did you know you were choosing the right investors? What have they brought to the company?

I knew I was choosing the right investors because they provide different areas of expertise and don’t pretend to have a wealth of knowledge about an industry they’re not familiar with. 

We work with investors in tech, tech enabled companies, or even CPG companies. The CPG investors didn’t try to pitch me on tech. They had a level of self-awareness to acknowledge that they have a unique skill set they bring to the table, and don’t pretend to be an expert in what Streamlytics is doing if they’re not. 

Everyone has a superpower. I like to work with investors who know what their superpower is, and advise us accordingly. 

Q: What challenge are you most proud of overcoming in your career?

I’m most proud of my ability to create original ideas and innovate on those ideas. I’m also not easily influenced by what other people think I should be working on. In the tech industry, many people don’t make their own decisions. I’m proud of my career as a whole, and how for over 10 years, I’ve been able to retain a level of curiosity.

Q: How did you network, find communities, and make the connections you needed to succeed?

The way you network changes based on where you are in your career. When social media emerged, I used that for community building. Now, I already have a network, and I put most of my energy into nurturing the network I already have. 

When you begin networking, you might spend 90% of your time making new connections, but as you grow, it flips. I spend 75-80% nurturing old connections, and 20-25% making new ones. 

Q: What problems are you trying to solve with Streamlytics?

We are trying to unify disparate pieces of data that are produced over multiple platforms into one unified data stream. 

Q: What is your advice for other female founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys?

You can create your own lane, your own journey. Your journey doesn’t have to be like Angela Benton or Michelle Obama. At the end of the day, you should be doing it the way you want to.

  • Originally published June 3, 2021