Urban Tech Connect 2020 Day 2 Shows Us What’s Possible

That was incredible.

Virtual Urban Tech Connect 2020 had a power-packed first day hosted by Triller’s Bonin Bough. SoLo Funds’ Travis Holoway and Lisnr’s Rodney Williams showed us how to challenge the status quo. We got fundraising insights from VCs like Lo Toney, cracked the product development code with Ying’s Karla Ballard Williams, envisioned the Black video game studio of the future, and discovered how the pandemic is spurring tech innovation with Snap Inc.’s John Imah.

But everyone really brought it for Day 2. In case you missed any part of it, here’s a recap of the highlights:

Learning a new skill is brave. Squad founder and CEO Isa Watson shared that, despite everything that’s happening in our world, this is actually the best time to imagine what’s possible. She emphasized honing the ability to communicate with technical talent at the idea stage, even if you don’t have a technical background.

Immersive tech bridges the divide. The expert panel moderated by Ryot’s Jake Salley featured PLLAY Labs’ Shawn Gunn, USC’s Jessica Brillhart, River LA’s Ed Reyes, and Destination Crenshaw’s Jason Foster. They explored how using immersive technology can bring control back to the community — and inspire everyone who has been affected by the pandemic.

Stay focused. ActOne founder and CEO Janice Bryant-Howroyd sat down with innovation advocate Chris Denson to discuss growing a $1 billion company with the right talent. “Keep your career goals in front of you,” Bryant-Howroyd said. “It will guide you on what you accept — and what you do.” Building your team must be directly aligned with your goals for the business, she added.

Complete the cycle. “How can we galvanize people in all aspects of the startup ecosystem to support Black founders?” That was the core question for our national community roundtable. Black Girl Ventures founder Shelly Bell emphasized that Black vendors complete the cycle by helping keep money in the community. “Change is incumbent upon us,” said Jessica Santana the CEO of America On Tech. “We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for.”

Be an innovative rockstar. We welcomed host Lauren Maillian, the CEO of LMB Group, an award-winning marketer, consumer brand strategist, and technology startup investor and advisor. “Something has to happen to close the gap between idea and action, desire and deliverable,” she said. “We can create a future that is big and bold and bright — and possible.”

Never settle. Melissa Hanna, co-founder and CEO of Mahmee, discussed representation in Silicon Valley. Previously she would have said that the market of investors just needs to see and hear more of us, which would force them to raise the bar. “Now, I realize that a new market of investors that looks like us — or at least appreciates our world views and lived experiences — is the path forward,” she observed. “I won’t settle for anything less.”

Hold onto your equity. LeaseQuery founder and CEO George Azih sat down with Forbes reporter Brianne Garrett to talk about retaining a bootstrapping mentality despite raising millions. During the conversation he shattered long-held ideas about what you need in order to raise money. The moment someone pays for your product or service, that’s the validation of your business, Azih said. Make the journey to getting paid as soon as possible.

Minimum delightful product. One big takeaway from the “Essential Steps To Build Tech Experience for Non-Technical Founders” panel was advice for launching a new product. Have a product that delights first, rather than focusing entirely on one that is considered viable, the expert panelists agreed.

“Define your vision.” Alexandra Zatarain, Eight Sleep’s co-founder and VP of brand and marketing, led us through how to design and market a startup with purpose. Connect with people who support your vision, measure the difference you’re making, and let your followers actively participate in the process, she said.

Relationship management is huge. Investor and former NBA All-Star Baron Davis opened up to Snapchat’s John Imah about what he looks for in founders. “How much passion do you have in the space you attack in? What is your knowledge base? And what is your willingness to learn more?” Davis said. Looking ahead, he’d like to see the culture own its own platforms, distribution platforms, and social media. “I believe that the future of technology is data transparency, even if it sounds crazy right now.”

Day 3 of Urban Tech Connect takes place on the virtual conference platform Hopin Thursday. On deck: The Black hair king of Silicon Valley Diishan Imira, SVP’s DeMarcus Williams, rapper and Think Watts Foundation founder Stix, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, LMB Group CEO Lauren Maillian, Expedia Group’s Zuhairah Washington, and more. Check out the full agenda.

Haven’t registered to attend? Not a problem — you can still grab a Day 3 ticket. Join us as we wrap up the conference with an amazing lineup of conversations, workshops, and talks plus an inspiring community call to action. We’ll see you there.


Urban Tech Connect 2020 Begins with a Power-Packed Day 1

The virtual Urban Tech Connect conference kicked off Tuesday with exciting conversations, fundraising insights straight from VCs, informative workshops, a futuristic next-gen tech showcase, and live judging for our pitching contest.

In case you missed any part of it, here are some of the highlights:

Move forward, together. Bonin Bough, chief growth officer of Triller, opened the conference with Plug In South LA Founder Derek Smith and Verizon’s executive director of community affairs and government relations Sophia Garcia.

Disrupt your industry. SoLo Funds co-founder and CEO Travis Holoway and Lisnr co-founder and CCO Rodney Williams did a fireside chat with TechCrunch editor Jonathan Shieber about challenging the status quo.

VCs are entrepreneurs, too. Henri Pierre-Jacques of Harlem Capital Partners, Jeff Cherry of Conscious Venture Lab, Noramay Cadena of MiLA Capital, Candice Matthews Brackeen of Lightship Capital shared their experiences raising capital with Mack Kolarich, chief product officer of Different Funds.

Startup pitching contest live judging. Our judges asked contest finalists tough questions. Tune in on Thursday to find out who they picked as the winners.

“We need to see money getting wired, people getting hired.” Lo Toney, founding managing partner of Plexo Capital, let us into his thinking as a VC entrepreneur during a fireside chat with J.P. Morgan Asset Management executive director Tiffany Johnson Lewis.

Leverage your networks. Greycroft investor Brentt Baltimore and Cleo Capital managing director Sarah Kunst discussed how to reset your fundraising strategy in 2020 with OPV partner Austin Clements. Use social platforms to gain access to high-level networks that historically underserved communities didn’t have the advantage of inheriting.

Spotlight on next-gen talent. We got a glimpse of the future from the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation’s showcase, where students harnessed advanced coding language skills to build an impressive photo-based app.

Keep your business SAFE. Karla Ballard Williams, co-founder and CEO of Ying, highlighted the SAFE acronym for “simple agreement for future equity” during her talk on how to crack the product development code, even if you’re not a tech developer.

“Stay scrappy, keep your vision as long as you can, maintain your control.” Our panel on building the Black video game studio of the future sparked an energetic conversation about representation, ownership, design, and creating completely new systems.

The pandemic is spurring tech innovation. John Imah, head of gaming and entertainment at Snap Inc., gave us the state of play with Covid-19. He encouraged founders to keep innovation and ownership front of mind.

Day 2 of Urban Tech Connect takes place on the virtual conference platform Hopin. On deck: Squad founder Isa Watson, Mahmee’s Melissa Hanna, LeaseQuery’s George Azih, Eight Sleep’s Alexandra Zatarain, “unicorn” tech founder Julia Collins, and investor and NBA great Baron Davis. Check out the full agenda here.

Still haven’t registered to attend? No problem. You can still grab a ticket for Day 2 and Day 3 for an engaging lineup of keynotes, workshops, and conversation. We’ll see you online.