The evening began with the DJ delivering sounds from the balcony of the Google Fiber space. It was the type of energy that could be felt from the lots surrounding First Ward Park, inviting you into the noise of side discussions people shared as they talked about their ideas for a better tech community in Charlotte.
Since launching my daily tech newsletter, ThePLUG, I’ve wanted to create a special footprint in the Charlotte community that fosters conversation, interactive experiences, and a lens into diverse talent helping to shape the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Last week, I hosted the very first #BLKTECHCLT event — the first interactive event designed to immerse black tech entrepreneurs, professionals, and enthusiasts in the Queen City’s local startup ecosystem.
Folks learned about what new innovations were happening close to home and who’s who in black tech.
The new quarterly after-work event featured notable business leaders, young professionals, venture capitalists, and those thinking about how to include tech in their business, over drinks and appetizers while getting a sneak-peak at new products.
There was even an idea board guests used to write their ideas for the future of tech in Charlotte.
The pathway to inclusive networking and problem-solving
In my experience as a near three-year Charlottean, most of our networking and tech-related events are vehemently segregated — mostly involuntarily. I show up as usually the only brown person in the room in a sea of white faces sharing incredible insights and expertise on topics relevant to us all.
#BLKTECHCLT purposely reached out to the greater community of folks working to challenge the digital divide and invite into the discussion those building businesses under the radar.
But so many of us haven’t been seen. Our ideas haven’t been vetted to sit on the stages of our most prized startup communities. And that’s got to change as we enter a new era.
I wanted to build something that was about collective problem-solving.
In Wednesday’s issue of ThePLUG, I wrote:
“The way we see our communities our colleagues and our public officials alters the way in which we envision our city to be shaped by our most complex problems when readily available solutions are only moments from discovery by the systems that produce the talent that will solve the equation.”
What I learned
(1) Charlotte’s black tech community exists. They simply needed to be invited to the floor.
(2) There’s a micro group of private equity investors looking for healthy startup ideas and talented entrepreneurs.
(3) Jeff Brokaw still has the greatest beard in town.
(4) Students who came through from Livingston, JCSU, UNCC, and Queens are hungry for mentors, mentorship, programming that will help them build their ideas. They’re techies and engineers and they are asking for help to navigate their careers.
(5) People want more. Programming that meets real life, feels personal, and also helps them to walk away with a sense of development they can get right here at home. Skip the trips to Silicon Valley.
We’re building something unique here. All of us. With our big ideas, our penchant for innovation, and a love for a city that is finding its footing between community and a changing landscape that’s open to all.
So thank you: For showing up, participating, and doing your part to push us forward.