Black Tech Week (BTW 22) was an essential vibe for Black founders in all walks of entrepreneurship. The 5-day conference hosted by Lightship Foundation took place in Cincinnati, Ohio July 18-22. This multi-day festival brought in over 50 tech influencer speakers including investor and tennis legend, Serena Williams. Inspiration and empowerment were in the atmosphere throughout the whole week, renewing many tired entrepreneurial spirits. The truth is, taking an idea and turning it into a business takes an incredible amount of energy and courage. Being a Black person living in America also takes an incredible amount of energy and courage. Combine these experiences and you’re at the intersection of odds stacked against you.
Black Tech Week and similar conferences reinforce the power of community and its importance in the entrepreneurial journey. Surrounded by innovative entrepreneurs of color, there was much to gain but here are my key takeaways:
Iron Sharpens Iron
You’ve heard this before, it’s a little cliché, but in the context of community it must be stated. Something beautiful happens when a group of creatives, innovators and ambitious minds connect with each other. Sharing thoughts and experiences with like-minded people creates the perfect environment to foster new ideas and ways of thinking.
Economies of Network
You may be familiar with economies of scale (production cost decreases with mass production), but let’s talk about economies of network. No matter what type of entrepreneur you are, your ability to grow your business is directly connected to your network. However, instead of quantity being the variable driving value, it’s quality. When your network is fortified with quality people that can make warm introductions to leaders and opportunities you may not have access to, your business has a greater opportunity to grow. Every panelist and attendee I had the privilege to talk to at BTW was ready to extend their network to me in any way that would help me along my journey.
Relationships with Investors That Get It
Tech startups or businesses designed to scale in valuation, may be a good fit for institutional investment at some point along the journey. But just because your startup is good fit for investment, doesn’t mean every investor is a fit for your venture. Being plugged into the right startup community can lead to quicker introductions to investors that are in alignment with your industry and vision. Needless to say, BTW2022 had a wealth of investors that just “get it”. They were familiar with founders of diverse backgrounds and were excited to connect.
Community Catharsis…because we all need to vent
Jumping into entrepreneurship is probably one of the most traumatic self-inflicted scenarios we can choose for ourselves. Entrepreneurship is an incredibly emotional journey and at many times, it can feel like a very lonely road. This is why having a community of people that are going through the same ups and downs you’re experiencing is so valuable. Simply having understanding and empathetic ears to listen to the details of your latest fiasco can relieve some of that stress and elevate your mood. Many BTW panelists spoke about how community “outlet” helped them navigate tough times in their journey.
Web3 Is Empowering Communities With Blockchain Technology
If you haven’t already heard of Web3, you will soon. Web3, or the newest version of the internet, is powered by blockchain technology, allowing people to own digital assets, as well as crowdfund, co-own, and co-grow projects. Perhaps most exciting, Web3 has opened up access to technology and decentralization for women and people of color everywhere, bringing equity to a space that hasn’t always been known for inclusivity.
As a tech founder and ecosystem builder, I’ve made my rounds in the startup acceleration and networking circles. Resources and education are certainly valuable to any founder, but the most impactful experiences that informed my startup journey have been rooted in community. No matter where you are in your journey, find your tribe to thrive.