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Black Tech Pioneer Edward Chow, who overcame racism to build one  of the largest data computing firms IN L.A. dies at 83

Edward Chow, an Army veteran and Black-owned tech founder who founded his company in Los Angeles in the 1960s, passed away at the age of 83.

According to the Kansas City Star Chow died of lung cancer last month, leaving behind his wife, Maggie Robinson, four children, two brothers, two sisters, and a slew of other relatives and friends.

Chow and his seven siblings were raised by their Black mother and Chinese father in Greenville, Mississippi, during the 1930s, and faced overt racism, before starting his company in the the 1960s.

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Local Black-Led Tech Startups Get Funding Boost from Google

  Two Black-led startups in the community recently received encouraging news.

The founders of Eventnoire, an event management platform, and Buoy Pricing, a revenue management tool for the vacation rental industry, each received $100,000 from the Google for Startups Black Founders Fund. The funds are given to promising Black tech ventures that have historically had difficulty accessing capital.

According to Crunchbase, U.S. companies raised nearly $150 billion in venture capital in 2020, but Black startup founders received less than 1% of that total.

Read more here.

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We need more talented Black VCs.

In the venture capital community, things are changing. Two Black celebrities have become venture capitalists, partly to make the industry more inclusive. Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, The Roots’ lead rapper, joined VC firm Impellent Ventures earlier this year and spoke with Forbes about his approach there. And, from the archives, here’s a 2019 cover story about tennis superstar Serena Williams and her venture capital firm Serena Ventures, which she’s expected to focus on more after she retires from the sport. “I want to be remembered for things I’ve done off the court,” she told Forbes, “lives I’ve had an impact on and voices that have been heard through mine.”

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Urban Tech Connect Conference: Metamorphosis 2022

Back in-person, PISLA hosts conference for Black & Brown founders and tech-talent October 20th, 2022 — 9am to 4pm

Los Angeles, CA – September 12, 2022 – Plug In South LA will be hosting its 5th annual tech conference, Urban Tech Connect (UTC) at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles on October 20th.

UTC is a game-changing conference platform that nurtures diverse ideation, innovation, and entrepreneurial grit in and beyond South LA. This conference provides attendees, primarily founders and professionals from underrepresented communities, the opportunity to plug in to the greater tech ecosystem and network with fellow founders, investors, industry leaders, and tech influencers. 

After two years of virtual gathering, UTC returns in-person with this year’s theme:Metamorphosis’, where conference leaders will focus on the continuous evolution of the technology industry and urge individuals and businesses from the Black and Brown community to consider the question: “what is my capacity for big, meaningful change?” Attendees will learn to constantly disrupt and adapt their own offerings to ensure success amidst an industry that never ceases to evolve rapidly. A stacked attendee list of VCs, industry leaders, and sponsors will be present and eager to discover new talent, offer support, and provide insight on the state of the tech industry and where it’s headed. 

Leaders will speak on a variety of current trends from Web 3.0 to sustainability and health technology. Among confirmed speakers will be Jesse Draper, Founding Partner of Halogen Ventures, Natalie King, CEO of Dunamis Energy, and Crystal Adesanya, Founder of Kiira Health. Big sponsors join the roster as PocketCFO, Verizon, and SNAP support the mission!

UTC Metamorphosis features collaborative sessions across three (3) tracks focused on founders, investors, and tech professionals.  

“We are extremely excited to be back in-person after the pandemic changed the world as well as the tech industry. This year, our community comes together to navigate forward, empower our diverse pool of talented founders and entrepreneurs, and hear new and vital insights from a variety of industry leaders and executives.” — Derek Smith, Founder of Plug In South LA.

UTC: Metamorphosis — Student Bridge Program

Thursday October 19th, 10am-2pm

While active founders, entrepreneurs, and tech professionals are the key focus for the UTC conference on October 20th, students are also a critical component of Plug In’s overall mission. On October 19th, the day before the conference, Plug In is hosting the UTC Student Bridge Program in partnership with Pledge LA and SNAP Inc. This half-day program of interactive workshops and networking is specifically designed for students who are interested in entrepreneurship and/or eager to enter the tech workforce. 200 Black and Brown high school and undergraduate college students will gain insights and resources on how best to make an impact and find their place in the industry. Students, administrators, and school officials can register here.

About Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA brings together entrepreneurs, founders, VCs, innovators, and emerging talent for networking and conversations focused on creating a community and hub for innovation in South LA. From conferences and tech demos to workshops and intimate salons, Plug In offers members innovative and disruptive programming aimed at nurturing entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders in tech. Beyond UTC, Plug In runs an equity-free Tech Accelerator that equips a small cohort of founders with the tools they need to build and scale their businesses through mentorship immersive programs such as Power Huddle sessions, which provide underrepresented founders at any stage the opportunity to present their business ideas, challenges, and opportunities to a network of mentors, advisors, industry experts, investors, and more. 

To learn more, please contact Plug In South LA at info@pluginsouthla.com or visit utc.pluginsouthla.com.

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Ally Financial Celebrates Black Business Month with $30M investment to support black entrepreneurship

Did you know that Black Founders begin their startup journey with at least $72,000 less than their white counterparts on average? Aside from receiving less capital, Black businesses are three times more likely to experience lower profits as a result of less funding. Many more issues have been addressed by Black founders in recent years. In honor of Black Business Month, Ally Financial has pledged to address the issues and help founders of color rise back up in their businesses by investing $30 million in venture capital funds. 

Ally Financial will also partner with Fearless Fund as a primary investor to develop programs that advocate for and encourage Black entrepreneurship, as well as education on opportunities to grow their wealth, inspiring an entire generation of future Black business owners.In addition to assisting and honoring Black-owned businesses across the country, the finance firm will make a consistent effort to assist businesses and their founders with any necessary funding and consultative services. Fearless Venture Capital Week, a celebration of women entrepreneurs, will be held now that Ally is a top investor with Fearless Fund. 

Ally Financial, an industry-leading digital bank holding company committed to its saying of “Do It Right,” has a reputation for standing by its consumers on a commercial and corporate level. Ally is made up of independent auto finance and insurance operations and has won awards for its digital bank service, which offers unique mortgage lending, POS personal lending programs, and an array of deposit products not offered by other competitors. 

Read more here

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Great Non-Profit Alert!

Minor-I.T., a black-owned tech nonprofit, provides opportunities for African American and black minority children to participate and excel in the information technology sector through education, equity, and empowerment. This organization hopes to have individual volunteers who are also people of color available to answer questions and provide additional mentorship, in addition to providing tools to learn programs within the I.T. career path.

According to the nonprofit, it will ensure cultural competency for all young people who express an interest and will remain committed to seeing them develop into the next generation of information technology leaders

Minor-I.T. operates in a similar manner to a tech start-up, but students learn how to support, stand up, code, lead, and build almost every aspect of I.T. in a corporate setting.

Read more here.

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Founders Unplugged: Re-inventing Women’s Apparel with Mitchella Gilbert

The entrepreneur space is competitive enough with everybody fighting over which VC they will land and who will come out on top. That is all without even mentioning being an African-American woman in a male-dominated space. As competitive as it may get though, Mithcella Gilbert always comes out on top. Mitchella, also known as “Mitch,” had a competitive spirit from an early age. Gilbert knew that she was going to come out on top and that nothing would stop her. Gilbert is the Founder and CEO of OYA Femtech Apparel, which specializes in high-tech clothing designs that promote happiness and health by utilizing natural ventilation to help prevent bacteria growth and skin irritation. Plug In had the opportunity to sit down with Gilbert to discuss her company, brand, and everything that drives her to succeed where others have failed. 

How did you come up with your startup and then who or what influenced you?

Gilbert:  I started my first business at six. I had a door-to-door rock selling business. I had always wanted to be an archaeologist. That business had great profit margins but was dangerous according to my mother. She shut it down very quickly, but fast forwarding to college, I went to the University of Chicago. I played rugby, I was state ranking for two years and, I was playing with olympians. I lived in leggings and since I wore them constantly, I had problems with recurring yeast infections. At the time, I was like, “no-one will ever love me”. I felt so insecure and gross. So it took me years to really work up the courage to talk to my friends who were training for the top events in their lives. Just to learn that they were suffering from the same issues with no real solutions. 

From there Gilbert would be accepted into the UCLA Anderson business school. While there she would discover the connection between sportswear, fashion, and feminine hygiene. 

Gilbert:  I was recruited to the business school and had the good fortune of going to UCLA Anderson, cause I knew I wanted to create a business in fashion and L.A made the most sense and there are three ways to start a profitable fashion business, you can take the Louis Vuitton approach and spend a lot of money on marketing, which makes who doesn’t have your clothes more important than who has them, the second, you can take the fashion nova model where you are competing based on profit margins and so you are creating lots of styles not as much focused on quality but on the style count and getting those out as quickly as possible and the third you can be like Nike and fix a problem for a consumer who is underserved and who wanted to use a functional use for your product, like Nike creating the first running shoe or Gortex helping Skiers be outside more. So at UCLA my teammates and I were working on a school project together for 2 years and we were looking for our moment. So I go to the OBGYN’s office and she’s like “Stop wearing leggings,” and I was there with another yeast infection, and I was like “What! No, It can’t be true. How am I almost thirty and no one’s told me this”. We then did over 200 hundred hours of research talking to men and women about feminine health.  Once we gathered all of our information together, we entered business competitions and once we had funds, we created prototypes and just had fun with it.

Gilbert’s fierce athletic background had a lot of commonalities with her new life as a founder. One being that she plays hard to win and plays with a team at all points. 

Gilbert: Your team is critical. In Rugby, you can play with 15. There are a lot of people involved at OYA who are playing their very specific roles together to win. The second thing to know is that you need to know how to get hit. You can’t just get hit and not know what to do. If that is happening, then it is already too late. You have to be able to get hit and get back up. You are going to get hit. That really applies to startup life.  There are so many setbacks on this journey, nothing is set in stone and at OYA we are creating a category. The teamwork and being able to take a hit are important.

Tell us about one challenge you’ve overcome personally or professionally and what did you learn from the experience?

Gilbert:  I look young. The other night, I was sitting at dinner with one of my employees’ parents and the waiter said, “oh you are going off to school”? I had to tell him that I wasn’t going off to school. I had to tell him that I had adult problems- older people problems. You often hear that looking young is important, especially in our society. Where your worth can be impacted by your image. But when you are talking to investors, especially when there is so few of you in the room and you are talking to these movers and shakers, who influence your category, when there are so few women, when there are so few people of color, age can be perceived as a weakness.

How has Plug In’s Accelerator program (or PISLA) helped you build your company?

Gilbert:  We had access to a lot of advisors, which is pretty cool! We were listening to their stories, while they listened to ours. One woman came in and talked about GOYA marketing strategy, which the team used to be successful. I was blown away by that and remember really admiring that. I was also introduced to a former senior executive at NIKE at Plug In, which has been a really great relationship. I would even say that this journey can get very lonely and sometimes it’s hard for people to understand some of the things you experience as a CEO of a startup. Especially a woman of color and female-presenting CEO. In the wake of 2022 with all these macro-forces that are against us, it’s important to create spaces where we can heal and find community for when we do get knocked down. 

How do you define success? 

Gilbert: At OYA, success is in every woman that we help in getting to grow. That can look like a lot of things. I once met a softball player in middle school, who came over, because she thought our clothes were cute. She was listening to what they do and it was like a light went off in her head and she ran away. I didn’t think anything of it and she came back with a credit card and she said that she needed the pants. You could tell that she didn’t have the words to describe what was happening to her, but OYA helped give her language. OYA helped her learn about her own body and when she learned about her body, she then knew how she could take care of it. Success is measured in every customer whom we have helped. 

What’s your advice to anyone (especially black and brown folks) interested in starting their own company?

Gilbert: Figure out how to work for you or someone who looks like you as quickly as possible. Do not fall into yourself. There are a lot of spaces that we don’t have access to, equitable access to. Do not be afraid to go into spaces and take up space. Do not be afraid to work for leaders who inspire you. When you feel like you are attacked and start looking in the mirror for things you can work on, remember to puff your chest out. All brown people come from long lineages of strong people. We have culture. Nobody knows how to manage a schedule better than a mother of color, who is coming from a working-class where you have to be concerned about how to feed your children, and how to educate and clothe them against a system that doesn’t want you to have much. You have to lean into the people who believe in the future for you as long as you can.

How can listeners help you with anything in your startup right now? (Immediate needs, open positions, etc.)

Gilbert:  Go listen, go get informed, go figure out how to help people with vaginas. Talk to them, show up for women in whatever way you can. Be an advocate. You don’t have to buy our products, but take care of your health. Sleep more. Be happy. Be healthy. The worst thing you can do is be cooped up inside.  

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The black tech community takes over Disney World

 Blacks In Technology, LLC and the Blacks In Technology Foundation (BIT) hosts their 4th annual conference for Black IT professionals, entrepreneurs, gamers, and afro-futurists. Hundreds will descend on Disney World October 26-28, 2022.

The in-person conference will feature global brands, world class speakers and business leaders. Sponsors include Google, Disney, Northwestern Mutual, Bridgewater Consulting, Ally Bank, Block, TIAA, CapTech Ventures, Red Ventures, Intuit, ADP, Spotify, and many more.
The 50 plus speaker lineup will be led by writer, activist, comedian, and techie, Baratunde Thurston­, author of the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black and host of television series Lenovo Late Night I.T. and PBS’s America Outdoors.

Read more here

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US Startup Surge Is Driven by Growth in Majority Black Areas

According to the Alliance for Entrepreneurial Equity, US entrepreneurial growth has been particularly strong since the pandemic. Particularly in areas where minority groups make up the majority of the population.

According to the AEE, from 2019 to 2021, majority of Black counties in America, saw a 103 percent increase in new business applications, compared to a 54 percent increase nationally. The organization is a collaboration between the center-left think tank Third Way and the civil-rights organization National Urban League.

According to the US Census Bureau, a record 5.4 million new businesses were formed in the United States last year as a result of a combination of economic necessity and increased support. According to the report, the disruption of how Americans live and work played a role in the entrepreneurship boom during the Covid-19 crisis.

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Embarking as a Solopreneur? Here’s what you need to know

Solopreneurship promises a lifestyle for you to be your own boss and get the full benefits of your efforts. The first benefit is flexibility,  you will have more control over your working hours and can achieve a better work/life balance. 

The second and most incentivizing benefit is the earning potential. Solopreneurs have a significantly larger earning potential and can swiftly enhance their own income by bringing in new clients. The third one being, YOU CAN DO IT ANYWHERE! Solopreneurs can work and travel at the same time, unlike employees, who must request time off and are generally limited to only two or three weeks of vacation per year. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began and offices across the country were closed, this option has become even more appealing.

These, being a Solopreneur is easy and the internet has a lot of the tools that you need at its disposal.

Read more.