I’m Danielle Forward and I’m the CEO & Founder of Natives Rising. Our mission is to economically empower Indigenous communities through careers in Silicon Valley's tech industry. We’re also working on providing an incubator for Native founders, who are incredibly underrepresented and lack the network and resources that other Silicon Valley founders often have.
Before Natives Rising, I spent about 5 years as a Product Designer at Meta. It was and still is rare for an indigenous person to be working in big tech at all. At first, I just wanted to find out if there was anyone else like me. Most people around me came from Ivy League schools and had a lot of parental support. I started in junior college and paid for everything on my own. It took me ten years to earn my bachelors degree, taking classes part-time while working full-time along the way.
For context, indigenous folks are the most impoverished group in the US. There are over 9.7 million of us in the US alone. We have the lowest high school and college graduation rates. This has nothing to do with merit, but everything to do with intergenerational trauma from colonization, lack of role models, broken familial and social support networks, and exclusion from privileged institutions and networks due to financial means. Over 70% of indigenous people live in urban areas, but for the ones that live in rural areas, these statistics are even worse, and the list goes on.
It was an incredibly long journey to get to where I am now, and I wanted to create a product that could redesign how I got here. Natives Rising was birthed from the question: how might we economically empower indigenous communities? At Natives Rising we provide mentorship, networking, community and job placement assistance for our tech fellows. For founders, in addition to the above, we’re raising money to give them a seed round and access to skilled volunteers that can help them with marketing, brand, design, distribution, engineering, or anything else they might need to launch their company.
Outside of work, I enjoy reading nonfiction, learning everything I can to become the best version of myself, meditation (specifically I follow the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza), studying mind-body healing for chronic conditions, making roadmaps and spreadsheets to track my personal growth, and training to continue transcending myself again and again :) I’m also studying to become an NLP practitioner and life coach.
Ask me anything about product design, systems design, social impact, social justice, economic empowerment, running a nonprofit like a startup, personal growth & transformation, NLP, or anything else!
And do let me know if you’re interested in volunteering with us or donating :) we’re looking for volunteers or mentors in finance / accounting, marketing, design, HR, business development, recruiting, and operations!