Ace Epps, director of inclusive entrepreneurship at Bounce, attended the 2022 Black Tech Week in Cincinnati, OH in late summer. Black Tech Week serves tech professionals and enthusiasts, funders, allies, and all members of the global Black tech community.
Black Tech Week was founded by Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson in Miami in 2016 and has been the go-to conference for Black tech founders, and enthusiasts for the last several years. According to its website, Black founders are the fastest-growing class of entrepreneurs in the United States. That’s a big deal since Black workers have long been underrepresented in the tech industry.
I attended keynotes, panels and sessions all tapping into topics such as app building, funding options, data importance and what it means to be a creative entrepreneur. These opportunities enabled me to get a bird’s eye view of the ups and downs of the Black tech world.
Black tech entrepreneurs face obstacles
Serena Williams, the keynote speaker for the event, discussed barriers to entry. She said as a Black woman, even with status and money, she still faced unfair obstacles that her white male counterparts did not have to deal with. People thought she should be using her own money to create her business ideas and wouldn’t take her as seriously because she was an athlete, a woman and a Black woman.
The playing field for Black founders is not the same, especially regarding access to capital and resources. According to this article, the share of venture capital dollars managed by Black tech entrepreneurs is less than 1 percent.
How can Black tech entrepreneurs succeed in Akron?
The climate for Black entrepreneurs interested in technology in Akron is minimal and limited, but we can change it. Here are some ways I think this can be accomplished:
- We can build stronger relationships between the tech community and Black entrepreneurs. Through all our GROW programs at Bounce, which focus on minorities and women, we are working to encourage participants to think about their ideas and how they can be applied to the tech industry, i.e., identify a problem that exists for the public and address it with technology.
- Make sure that aspiring entrepreneurs understand that they don’t need to be a developer or know how to code to be in tech. They can have great tech ideas and by making the right connections in the community, they can meet people with the skill sets you need to build out those ideas. Use the resources that already exist and network. They need to think like an entrepreneur!
- More Black-owned or managed financial institutions are needed to help increase Black tech entrepreneurs. Getting loans or investments from people who understand the plight of the Black entrepreneur can and will help. Investors need to think differently about Black tech and walk the walk.
To learn more about Black Tech Week, visit the website.