Tristan Walker's Challenge: 'How Can I Be the Best CEO I Can Be?'

He's a tech darling turned high-profile spokesman for diversity in Silicon Valley. But to truly succeed, he's rethinking everything.

 

"I recognize that in my place as a black man," Tristan Walker says, "everything I do is judged two times in either direction. Two times positively, or two times negatively."

 

The 40 or so students sitting before him nod. They’re assembled here at the Stanford Graduate School of Business for a class called Entrepreneurship from Diverse Perspectives, where female and minority entrepreneurs and investors are invited to speak. The hope is to cultivate an appreciation for the value of diversity among the country’s next business leaders.

 

image from entrepreneur.com 

 

If you’ve ever heard Tristan Walker speak, diversity was almost certainly the topic. A Stanford grad himself, he keynotes conferences on the subject. He’s been a fixture at SXSW. Almost any newspaper article, radio segment or magazine story about diversity in business (including, full disclosure, a few written by me) will quote Walker, if not focus on him almost exclusively. And it makes sense that he’d find himself in this position. After all, he’s the black man who rocked his way through some of tech’s hottest companies, raised $33.3 million to launch a startup of his own and then, like an action-movie hero who just leaped across a chasm, immediately started pulling other people across with him. “You gotta succeed,” he implores the students. “If you’re not succeeding, you’re not recruiting anybody.” He’s good at this: natural, earnest, and yet never lecturing. He makes people want to succeed. And in turn, they want him to succeed. Because his success is their success. His success makes more success possible. 

 

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