The lack of Blacks in the American tech sector is more than alarming;
many are working to make Silicon Valley more inclusive. Recently, a
group of Black entrepreneurs met at Technoir, the first in a series of
Washington, D.C., networking events aimed at addressing the challenges
Black tech entrepreneurs.
Organized by digital marketing firm Ghost Note Agency, Technoir was hosted at tech hub 1776. “Our company, Ghost Note, a DC-based integrated marketing and web development agency, has been fortunate to work with a variety of District region startups. Currently, we, ourselves, are building a tech startup.? These experiences revealed to us an obvious lack of exposure for Black and brown leaders in the D.C. tech community. Thus, Technoir was born,” explains Steven Jumper.
There were panel discussions, which included the likes of Jamal Simmons, political analyst and cofounder of FLYCLIQUE; Justin Maddox, CEO of Crowdtrust; Chika Umeadi, cofounder of TipHub; Dag Gogue, founder of TransitLabs; Jason Green, founder of Skillsmart; and Amadou Gaffe, founder of Coders4Africa. “We were looking to convene a dynamic conversation, and include a diverse group of leaders, that uncovers unique insights on diversity in tech. We wanted to include executives from business, government, and nonprofit communities. Our panel offered a variety of perspectives on this important topic,” says Jumper of the choice of panelists.
Keith Alexander Ashe, CEO and founder of Spendology, a financial intelligence blog/agency, was one of the participants in Panel 2, “The New Face of Black Innovation.” “It was important for me to participate in Technoir because of the dearth of black tech entrepreneurs. Furthermore, I wanted to motivate aspiring Black entrepreneurs and demystify some of the myths about the journey of entrepreneurship,” says Ashe.
While the event and panel discussions were a start, much more needs to be done, Ashe and Jumper agree. “A panel discussion alone will not help create diversity in tech. The harsh reality is that Black entrepreneurs need to create their own opportunities. Many doors will be shut but we need to be extremely creative and persistent. Success may require that we learn how to build our own doors,” says Ashe.
Jumper adds, “Like most issues concerning a lack of diversity, it ultimately comes down to access. We have to continue to encourage the introduction of opportunities in the tech community for those who do not fit the traditional profile of the Silicon Valley founder or executive – white and male. From empowering young people to master coding to connecting minority-owned companies with venture dollars, there must be a comprehensive effort to foster real and valuable opportunities for new faces in the tech and entrepreneurial communities.”
According to Jumper, Black entrepreneurs can do their part to push diversity in the tech industry. “As a marketing agency, we are inspired by the challenge of designing ideas and campaigns that excite people and compel action. In addition to continuing to serve our clients and grow our business, with the Technoir brand, our goal is to develop the initiative in ways that create a pipeline for new, diverse tech talent; fund minority-owned companiesl; and celebrate minority leaders in the industry,” he says.
To that end, Technoir has more informative events ahead. “Working with the District’s Digital D.C. initiative and other partners, we are currently confirming final details for the next installment of Technoir, to take place in Q4 this year, and are planning a unique calendar of events for 2015. Stay tuned,” says Jumper.