In today's world, social media—and certain career circles—can leave us drained or even feeling like the connections we're making are superficial. For CEO and app founder Dayo Akinrinade, being the only Black woman in many of her professional communities often left her feeling shut out from certain spaces or subjected to micro-aggressions. These often disheartening moments were the driving force behind her creating her platform—Wisdom—a social-discovery app for advice, conversation, and deeper connections. 

Akinrinade's love for tech started in childhood. While watching her mother pursue and earn a Ph.D, she fell in love with the sounds and functions of computers, and their accessories. So much so, she asked for a computer for her 7th birthday.

"From an early age, I had a sense that computers were important and fun. Inspired by my mother, for my 7th birthday, I requested and received my first computer, and it all started from there," shares Akinrinade.

As an adult, the Wisdom founder landed in IT as a management consultant at one of the top companies in the country, and she quickly rose through the ranks. But, even in her roles, she often found herself alone as the only Black person and the only woman in the room.

"This lack of diversity meant I was occasionally subjected to microaggressions. At the time, there were virtually no senior Black employees to seek mentorship from," shares Akinrinade. "Also, as a first-gen Black woman, I lacked access to exclusive networks to accelerate my career."

With a desire to bypass the closed networks, Akinrinade took a leap to create Wisdom. We chatted more with the founder to learn more about the app as well as her journey to breaking into the tech space.

Screenshot of the Wisdom app live talks functionality. Image: courtesy of Wisdom.

EBONY: As a Black woman in the app/tech space, what does that mean to you? How does it feel to break into a space where you aren't necessarily a majority?

Dayo Akinrinade: There are great institutional obstacles for a Black woman in tech to break through. As one, I am aware that racial and gender stereotypes mean I face double the challenge, although I do not lead with a mindset of being disadvantaged. It’s a challenging business environment where we still receive just 0.34% of venture capital. I was one of the few who raised $2 million thanks to the support of First Round Capital and a number of angels. 

I dedicate time to guide younger women in tech, and I strive to be the Black female mentor I didn’t have when I embarked on my career. When Wisdom achieved milestones like being named Apple App Store App of the Day, I realized this was not just a win for Wisdom; it was more significant than that; it’s a contribution to the overall body of work that black women in tech have achieved. Power structures don’t change quickly, but individual mindsets are changing. It’s easier to be a Black woman in tech than a generation ago, and my hope for the next generation is that it will be easier still.

How did Apple's Entrepreneur Camp for Black Founders play a role in the creation of Wisdom?

It was a game-changer for Wisdom. The camp’s content helped us level up our approach to the design and user experience of the app. Getting one-to-one time with Apple experts and engineers was an invaluable opportunity. As a founder, it was important for me to be receptive to the Apple team’s feedback, and we applied many recommendations from the camp into the product pipeline.

I was particularly impressed that the Apple Entrepreneur Camp did not avoid the hard conversations about diversity in tech. The camp included a session where we openly shared experiences of being Black in tech; we talked about the role of therapy and allyship, which was emotional, yet empowering. 

Are there plans to develop additional apps? What's next for you overall?

My current focus is on developing Wisdom; although we are venture-funded, it is an early-stage startup. In my view, the interactions on the most popular social media apps can feel superficial and even toxic, with a strong emphasis on one’s appearance. Communications are limited to 3-letter-abbreviations: ‘likes’, ‘lols’, ‘omgs,’ and brief comments. I believe these interactions leave us feeling momentarily entertained, but still empty.

I want Wisdom to be the antithesis of the toxic and superficial interactions so prevalent on mainstream social media platforms. On the app, women are having deeper conversations and sharing advice on sensitive topics like mental health, women’s rights, domestic violence, leadership, and wellness. My priority is to make it a safe, welcoming space for meaningful, one-to-one connections with humans who communicate authentically as if they were in the room with you. Coming soon we have a new way to connect like-minded people to each other, the ability to leave voice comments on answers, and never-seen-before creator monetization features.