When Sherrell Dorsey started her career in tech show noticed that not only was the workforce of Silicon Valley predominately white and male, but also the media that covered the tech world lacked diversity as well.
With the goal of easing the white narrative when it came to Blacks in tech, Dorsey created The Plug in 2016, a weekly data-driven newsletter focusing on the perspective of Black people in tech.
Data-driven outlets use of large databases to produce stories, and focus on such things as Infographics, interactive visualization, and data visualization. The Plug offers industry insights, profiles, and the latest on Black innovators in tech, venture capital, future of work policy, and more.
“Starting The Plug was really a reflection of wanting to see deeper stories as the gig economy was taking off, as there were all these cool tech companies doing these innovative things,” Dorsey told Vice. “I really consider this community of people who want to see black business progress and news in a rigorous way … and I want us to continue to harness that.”
The five-year-old media startup now has more than 20,000 subscribers for the free newsletter, several hundred paid members at a fee of $300 annually who also gain access to its Black tech ecosystem databases, receive exclusive news coverage, and become part of an exclusive online community. The Plug has raised over $500,000 in equity-free capital.
Seattle native Dorsey has long been intrigued by technology. During she attended a computer and technical training program where she was mentored by Black computer scientists and informatics experts. Through the program she was able to snag internships at Microsoft. In college she began to explore the intersection of commerce and social media. She earned a master’s degree in data journalism from Columbia University. After graduation, she embarked into journalism, covering the tech world for such publications as Fast Company.
She decided there was something missing — a media outlet focusing on Black innovation in tech.
“But part of my challenge, and what really led me to launch The Plug … working in tech for a great majority of my, I guess, early career. I was also at Uber, and was also at Google Fiber … on contract. But part of the challenge was reading tech and business literature and not seeing a lot of well-examined, rigorous reporting on Black startups and Black business leaders. It just was such a dead space,” Dorsey explained to Forbes.
She continued, “And the articles we saw, talked about disparity, or they were like magical minority focused, versus why can’t we also talk about the growing sustainability green energy sector and be quoted as experts? That’s really the foundation of who I am, and the impetus behind The Plug.”
During its infancy, The Plug was a side hustle for Dorsey. But ultimately she quit her day job and committed full-time to newsletter.
“I’d start early every day to put together the newsletter, and then I’d go into work,” she recalls. “I never intended to create a business, but I soon realized that what I had on my hands could morph into something special.”
The Plug has exceeded Dorsey’s entrepreneurial dreams.
“Today, I employ four full-time staff members and about 15 contractors, and I plan to hire more in 2022,” Dorsey told Business Insider. “Because I now have many more resources at my disposal, I still have to be just as scrappy and judicious with how I use them.”