But the folding of once promising site Cafe Los Negroes, a New Yorkbased community site that closed last year after financial difficulties, and the financing woes of The Black World Today (tbwt.com) underscore the difficulty in convincing the mostly white world of the Net that people of color are penetrating this new economy.
According to the Forrester study, African Americans are the fastest-growing group online for 1999 at a 42 percent growth rate.
photo: Michael Sofronski
Seer of a black planet: Omar Wasow wants to shatter the digital-divide cliché.
"Last year the fastest-growing group was whites," says Ekaterina O. Walsh, the author of the Forrester study. "This year it's blacks. In 1999, 23 percent of African American households are online. By 2000, 40 percent of that group's households will go online."
Asian Americans are the most wired group overall, at 68 percent of households, or 2.1 million online by the year 2000. Hispanic households will increase by 20 percent, to 3.6 million in 2000. Community Connect plans to develop a Hispanic community site sometime next year.
Which brings up the question of when Community Connect plans to go IPO.
"I can't really say yet," responds Benjamin Sun, CEO and president of Community. "But it looks like 2000 will be a big year."
Community has so far raised $5 million in financing from angel investors such as Robert Goldhammer, CEO of Concord International Partners and former vice chairman of Kidder Peabody. The company will soon look to venture capital money.
"It's weird," Sun says. "When we first started back in 1996 we had the hardest time trying to convince investors that the ethnic space was viable. Now everyone's getting in the game."