Issa Rae is the keynote for this year's Black Tech Week. Here's what else to expect
Beginning Tuesday, 3,000 entrepreneurs and investors will be in Cincinnati with hopes of increasing the number of African Americans in the tech sector. This is the ninth year for Black Tech Week, July 18-20.
It was moved to Cincinnati in 2022 by Candice Matthews Brackeen, the CEO of the Lightship Foundation, after she acquired the event. For years, the technology entrepreneur has been urging private fund managers and local and state governments to invest in minority startups.
Matthews Brackeen has seen improvements in the number of Black fund managers. "We're seeing more and more Black women, Black men coming into venture funds as analysts, associates and growing into partners," she says. "I would say the numbers are getting better in that space and as that happens, I think we'll see more folks getting funded."
Getting funding as a Black entrepreneur in the tech industry is still an uphill battle. Less than 1% of all venture capital goes to a Black-led company. The Knight Foundation says more than 98% of all managed assets are managed by white males.
Part of the problem is a lack of relationships. That's according to the founder of Black Achievers Michael Moore.
"If you're a VC (venture capital) funder and you just don't have African Americans as part of your network — which is why Black Achievers exists, to get more African Americans with their white colleagues together in the same room to have those conversations, then what starts to happen is people begin to understand they have shared interests," he says.
Moore is a former IT project manager for Fifth Third Bank. His organization is now one of the largest professional Black professional networks in the country, with 12 chapters and 100,000 members.
Black Achievers is hosting a panel discussion Wednesday during Black Tech Week on how to achieve more diversity and get more Black funders. It's at Union Hall on Vine Street from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Black Tech week has 120 speakers, including actress and tech investor Issa Rae and Detavio Samuels, CEO of REVOLT.
As the tech sector gets bigger, Matthews Brackeen, Moore and others want Black entrepreneurs to get more organized and take advantage of what could be a gold rush in artificial intelligence.
According to Moore, "AI is revolutionizing the industry and we want as many African Americans as possible to get into this AI space so they can build their companies utilizing this new technology, and hopefully get funded and become the next Microsoft or Mark Zuckerberg."
Black Tech Week is being held at a variety of venues including Music Hall, Memorial Hall, Washington Park and the Transept.