August 7, 2023
It’s no secret that the channel is predominantly white and male-dominated. Some might even consider it somewhat of an “old boys network.”
Black Channel Partner Alliance’s Nyasha Tunduwani
“It’s something I noticed when I was at a large partner conference, and it took me three days of a five-day conference to find an African-American partner like myself,” Nyasha Tunduwani, founder of the Black Channel Partner Alliance, told Channel Futures in a recent sit-down.
Nonetheless, he maintains that there are measures to thwart this image, effectively aiming to turn a traditionally white channel into a rainbow of sorts. For starters, the Black Channel Partner Alliance was founded just over two years ago in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tunduwani said the organization wants to build and grow sustainable Black-owned technology companies in the channel. Since its implementation, he said, the association has gained more than 1,100 global members.
After Microsoft invested in his firm, he said he “significantly scaled up business.” Realizing he could do it, Tunduwani told Channel Futures he hoped to reproduce that success for other Black-owned tech firms and channel partners in the unified communications and collaboration space.
Acting as a catalyst, the death of George Floyd promoted countless firms to put their money where their mouth was. In so many words, corporations swore to fight systemic racism, leaping on the proverbial social corporate responsibility train, with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella committing some $70 million to do as much.
Microsoft’s Satya Nadella
In a letter penned to Microsoft employees, Nadella remarked: “I am heartbroken by the deep pain our communities are feeling. The results of systemic racism, which have impacted opportunities and exacerbated injustices for Black and African American communities, urge me to consider my role as a leader. I must continue my journey of understanding and empathy, and examine actions I take or don’t take every day.
He said that listening and learning from African American colleagues helped him develop a “better understanding of that experience,” further stating: “And I take accountability for my continued learning on the realities of privilege, inequity and race and modeling the behavior I want to see in the world.”
According to the National Urban League’s “State of Being Black Report,” otherwise known as the “Equality Index,” Black Americans still only accumulate 74% of the “American dream” their white compatriots obtain, highlighting, while not incredibly stark, there is still a disparity among races in the United States.
With the architecture already in place for the Black Channel Partner Alliance, according to Tunduwani, this caught the eye of Microsoft. That, paired with a pre-existing relationship with the collaboration giant, the alliance was born, creating an effort that resulted in the: Black Partner Growth Initiative — fueled by $70 million from Microsoft.
“And qualifying for these funds comes with significantly reduced requirements, making it easier for these business owners to acquire access to money to do things like pre-purchase licenses so they could sell certain Microsoft offerings,” said Tunduwani.
He reasons: This often isn’t easily within reach for many African American partners, as they have to have the cash on hand to do so in many instances, limiting them to lower revenue caps.
Microsoft Black Partner Growth Initiative Benefits
So, Tunduwani, along with the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), partnered with Microsoft in 2020, launching the Black Partner Growth Initiative, allocating some $70 million in funds to, in its words:
Expand the diversity of thought leadership and innovation within the Microsoft Partner Network by attracting Black and African-American-owned tech partners.
Support and nurture Black and African American-owned partners through the Microsoft Partner Network.
Said funds support …
… new and existing Black and African American partners within the Microsoft partner ecosystem, extending education courses, training and joint go-to-market materials.
The Black Partner Growth Initiative has proven invaluable for those business owners who lack access to capital funding, Tunduwani told Channel Futures. That is apparent when you look at the numbers. More than two years after initiating the initiative, Black-owned businesses of all sizes acquire a slim portion of the pie, receiving less than 2% of all venture-capital spend, according to Crunchbase.
Companies led by Black women typically get less than 1%, Crunchbase says.
Still, Tunduwani shared that Microsoft’s efforts are “not in vain.” He said he knows partners in the program who have benefitted from it, and the collaboration firm’s attempt at leveling the playing field appears to be functioning.
“There’s a significant amount of investment, which did not exist before the program,” Tunduwani added. “We just finished our fourth accelerator with Microsoft, which had 25 partners, and we’ve been able to provide resources that did not exist previously.”
Levels of support from planning and guidance around how to best develop and package solutions for selling, marketing and recurring revenue all exist in more considerable numbers, according to Tunduwani, thanks to the efforts of the Black Partner Growth Initiative.
There are also networking opportunities with executives and development managers, which Tunduwani notes, did not exist before the partnership.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to halt affirmative action in college admissions processes, Tunduwani said he does have concerns that programs built to support minority-owned businesses run the risk of being shut down in the future.
“Any progress we made or access derived could put us back. Perhaps there will be more pressure on corporations to remove these programs, whereas we have finally gotten to the point where we’ve started to see the impacts of an attempt at something good,” he told Channel Futures.
To qualify for Microsoft’s Black Partner Growth Initiative, a business has to be more than 51% Black-owned. There are several other requirements, but this is one of the principal ones.
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