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Startups UTC 2020

Greycroft Investor Brentt Baltimore to Speak at UTC 2020

Plug In South LA proudly announces that investor Brentt Baltimore will be speaking at Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2020. Based in Los Angeles, he sources, evaluates, and executes venture stage investment opportunities for the leading VC firm Greycroft.

Baltimore received a BA from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He began his career in investment banking at Credit Suisse in Los Angeles, where he focused on leveraged buyouts and debt financing transactions.

Before he joined Greycroft, Baltimore led business development at Operator, a venture stage company in the conversational commerce space. He also worked on technology commercialization at the artificial intelligence research company Numenta. At Detroit Venture Partners, he led investment diligence and supported portfolio companies.

“The core learning of my journey is that I happened to be introduced to worlds that I didn’t know about — and I did everything in my power to close the gap,” Baltimore says.

Greycroft is a global firm focused on investing in internet and mobile companies with amounts that range from $100,000 at the seed stage to as much as $35 million. Last year Greycroft participated in a $200 million round of Series D financing for mobile game developer and publisher Scopely. Recently the firm helped lead a $15 million Series B round of funding for Public.com, a startup aimed at democratizing stock investing.

Baltimore says he’s passionate about investing in revolutionary products, and building businesses that redefine industries. This year’s Urban Tech Connect theme resonates with him.

“‘Forward’ is the action of pushing boundaries for myself, my family, and the industry that I work in,” he says. “Moving from ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ to ‘know what you don’t know’ is the most powerful jump forward in the knowledge cycle.”

Baltimore joins an impressive group of speakers virtually for the conference, September 15-17. Register to attend and learn firsthand what VCs are looking for before they decide to invest.

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UTC 2020

Verizon Signs on as Urban Tech Connect Crowdfunder Sponsor

Global technology and communications leader Verizon became a crowdfunder sponsor for Urban Tech Connect // Forward taking place September 16 and 17, 2020.

Verizon is collaborating with Plug In South LA to bring city stakeholders, business leaders, and the next generation of local startup founders together. Through this partnership, Verizon will facilitate conversations about what tomorrow looks like for tech-focused entrepreneurs.

Plug In South LA founder Derek Smith says he’s proud to partner with one of the world’s largest communication technology companies. “Verizon supports bold new business ideas in many different effective ways,” he said. “By working together, we’re helping entrepreneurs forge meaningful new connections.”

Urban Tech Connect, the premier tech conference focused on Latinx and African American founders, was moved to the fall. The Plug In South LA team is monitoring CDC recommendations to finalize logistics for the conference. Expect workshops, activation, and learning components aimed at serving founders’ needs, Smith says.

Confirmed speakers include LeaseQuery CEO George Azih, Mahmee CEO Melissa Hanna, SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway, Squad CEO Isa Watson, Lisnr CCO Rodney Williams, TechCrunch Editor Jonathan Shieber, Greycroft Senior Associate Brentt Baltimore, Rapper & Entrepreneur Stix, Ying Founder Karla Ballard, VSEDC and South LA Best Buy Teen Tech Center lead tech consultant Cassie Betts, and OPV partner Austin Clements.

Verizon will also be taking part. Last December, the company switched on its speedy 5G network in Los Angeles — one of the select cities to access the wireless technology before 2020. At Urban Tech Connect // Forward, Verizon plans to share details about the work the company is doing in South LA, and how 5G can empower local businesses.

“At Verizon, we’re on a mission to move the world forward together for good,” said Rudy Reyes, West Region vice president and associate general counsel at Verizon. “Verizon is excited to partner with Plug In South LA to make cutting-edge connectivity and technology more accessible, an initiative that will help prepare our communities for the future of work, reduce social disadvantages, and increase economic opportunity for everyone.”

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Startups UTC 2020

Squad Founder and CEO Isa Watson to Speak at Urban Tech Connect 2020

Plug In South LA is excited to share that Inc. 30 Under 30 entrepreneur Isa Watson will be speaking at Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2020 this spring. The Squad founder and CEO helps Millennials and Gen-Z build connections in real life.

Isa (pronounced EYE-suh) Watson has a background in science, with a BS in chemistry from Hampton University and an MS in pharmacology from Cornell University. She worked at Pfizer as a research chemist and a data scientist before deciding to attend business school.

Once she earned an MBA from MIT Sloan, Watson became vice president of digital strategy at JPMorgan Chase in New York and Hong Kong. She collaborated with senior management at the firm to build and execute initiatives across digital, product development, analytics, marketing, and client services.

While navigating her professional and personal life — Watson is also a classically trained pianist — she recognized that successful people had a consistent commonality: community. She also observed that Millennials and Gen Z tend to crave in-person interactions.

Watson left Wall Street and created the software company now known as Squad. This invitation-only app helps users build their offline and IRL communities. Unlike many digital platforms, Squad creates a community rooted in values like respect and integrity. It’s a place where people feel like they can be their true selves.

“Connectivity is such a driver of productivity,” Watson told Inc. Magazine. “I saw a business opportunity that could be scaled to a huge degree with tech behind it — and at the same time could make a real difference in people’s lives.”

Squad received financial backing from investors that include Precursor Ventures, Harrison Metal, Newark Venture Partners, and the New Voices Fund. Steven Aldrich, chief product officer at GoDaddy at the time, was an early investor, TechCrunch reported. In 2019, Squad closed a $3.5 million seed round.

Now Watson is joining the impressive speaker lineup for the Urban Tech Connect 2020 conference May 20 – 21. Register to attend so you can be there when she shares her unique path from Silicon Valley outsider to fundraising phenom.

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UTC 2020

JPMorgan Chase Becomes Urban Tech Connect Angel Sponsor

Global financial services firm JPMorgan Chase signed on as an angel sponsor for Plug In South LA’s two-day Urban Tech Connect Conference in May.

JPMorgan Chase provided sponsorship for Urban Tech Connect in the past. By continuing its partnership with Plug In South LA, the firm helps support entrepreneurs from underserved and overlooked communities in and around South Los Angeles.

“This partnership provides high-impact mentorship and business development for the innovative tech founders who are shaping our future,” said Plug In South LA Founder Derek Smith. “JPMorgan Chase is underscoring their commitment to accelerating innovation in all communities.”

Urban Tech Connect, the premier tech conference focused on Latinx and African American founders, expanded to two days for 2020. Extending the conference amplifies the social component and creates a network effect for founders so they can come away with more strategic leads, Smith explained.

Hundreds of attendees are expected to converge at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center on May 20 and 21. The growing speaker roster includes LeaseQuery CEO George Azih, Ying CEO Karla Ballard Williams, Mahmee CEO Melissa Hanna, SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway, Squad CEO Isa Watson, Lisnr CCO Rodney Williams, VSEDC and South LA Best Buy Teen Tech Center lead tech consultant Cassie Betts, and OPV partner Austin Clements.

Making the economy work for more people is a key focus for JPMorgan Chase, which has operations worldwide and assets of $2.7 trillion. By leveraging the partnership with JPMorgan Chase markets throughout the United States, Plug In South LA is able to tap into more founders, broadening its outreach nationwide.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at JPMorgan Chase,” said Diedra Porché, California division director of business banking. “We’re excited to support Urban Tech Connect’s mission of identifying the next wave of diverse technology founders.”

Photo: JPMorgan Chase Tower. Credit: Kent Wang, Flickr Creative Commons

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Startups UTC 2020

Win an Opportunity to Demo Live at Urban Tech Connect 2020

Plug In South LA is challenging early-stage founders to share your best brief pitch or demo on Instagram and tag it #UrbanTechConnect. The strongest entries will get a chance to present virtually at the conference.

Prizes for each winner include three complimentary passes for the team to attend Urban Tech Connect // Forward, September 15 – 17, 2020. Winners also receive virtual one-on-one sessions with venture capitalists, designers, tech resource providers, and fundraising strategists during the conference.

#UrbanTechConnect Pitch Contest Instructions

  1. Record your pitch. It should be no longer than 2 minutes. Tell us the problem you’re trying to solve, what you’ve accomplished so far, and what you still need to scale up your business.
  2. Upload the pitch as an Instagram post.
  3. Tag it #UrbanTechConnect and Follow @PlugInSouthLA.
  4. Then, upload to Google Drive & send as a link to info@pluginsouthla.com with Subject “ UTC Pitch Contest”

All pitches must be submitted before 5 pm Pacific Time August 20, 2020.

Check out this video example to get started on your own pitch.

Once the pitches are in, Plug In South LA, our partners, and Urban Tech Connect Advisory Committee will select the best 5-8 pitches and invite them to virtually present live at the conference in September.

Speakers this year include LeaseQuery CEO George Azih, Mahmee CEO Melissa Hanna, SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway, SLIC Sports / Business Inside the Game Founder Baron Davis, Squad CEO Isa Watson, Lisnr CCO Rodney Williams, Planet FWD CEO & Co-Founder of Zume Pizza Julia Collins, Greycroft Senior Associate Brentt Baltimore, Rapper & Entrepreneur Stix, Ying Founder Karla Ballard, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayvenn Founder & CEO Diishan Imira, and much more!

Urban Tech Connect 2020 // Forward is the premier platform to showcase your business, share ideas, and create possibilities. We’ll see you there!

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Startups UTC 2020

Mahmee CEO Melissa Hanna Joins UrbanTech Connect 2020 Speaker Lineup

Plug In South LA is proud to announce that entrepreneur and innovator Melissa Hanna joined the speaker lineup for the Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2020 conference. The co-founder and CEO of maternal and infant health tech company Mahmee will be taking the stage in Los Angeles this May.

Hanna co-founded the company in 2014 with her healthcare expert mother Linda and the veteran tech exec Sunny Walia. The three of them built Mahmee to prevent moms and babies from falling through the cracks of a fragmented healthcare system.

The HIPAA-secure care management platform delivers care coordination and support to new moms, filling the gaps. It has a network that includes more than 1,000 providers and healthcare organizations such as UCLA and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Mahmee links health records and provides comprehensive guidance around pregnancy, nutrition, childbirth, lactation, emotional health, and returning to work. Predictive analytics provide personalized on-demand support to new mothers and infants, Melissa Hanna explained in a Q&A with the Helm.

In 2019, the company closed a $3 million round of funding from investors that included Mark Cuban, Arlan Hamilton, and Serena Williams. “Given the bleak data surrounding maternal death and injury rates, I believe that it is absolutely critical right now to invest in solutions that help protect the lives of moms and babies,” Williams told Forbes. “Mahmee’s data-driven approach is the right solution to one of the most significant problems in the system: that of fragmented care.”

Los Angeles native Hanna has worked in operations and on strategy at healthcare, education, digital media, and consumer goods startups. She received an MBA from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University and a JD from Southwestern Law School, where she’s an adjunct professor of corporate and technology law. Publications featuring Hanna include Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, Cheddar TV, Black Enterprise, and USA Today.

Last year Inc. Magazine named Melissa Hanna to its Female Founders 100 list, and the Huffington Post put her on their inaugural Culture Shifters list for 2020 as one of the people “shaping today’s culture in exciting ways and setting the tone for what is possible for our future.”

Register to attend Urban Tech Connect 2020 so you can be there when Hanna shares her remarkable experiences as an entrepreneur.

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Startups UTC 2020

LeaseQuery CEO and UTC 2020 Speaker George Azih Secures $40 Million Investment

Plug In South LA is proud to welcome LeaseQuery founder and CEO George Azih to our growing speaker lineup for Urban Tech Connect 2020. Azih is an expert on lease accounting, and his company recently received a $40 million investment from Goldman Sachs.

Azih graduated from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia with a BS in accounting. Before founding LeaseQuery, he worked as a senior auditor at a CPA firm, and performed accounting research and technical accounting for a Fortune 500 company.

New lease accounting standards are incredibly complex, and accountants found themselves searching for purpose-built software to comply, Azih says. In response, LeaseQuery developed CPA-approved software and an implementation process to help accountants and other finance professionals eliminate the lease accounting errors that lead to material misstatements.

Azih’s company reported 708% year-over-year revenue growth in 2018, and opened a new office last year. Their client base grew from 500 companies at the end of 2018 to nearly 1,000 in late 2019. LeaseQuery also won a 2019 Pacesetter Award for its impressive expansion.

In November, the company secured Series A funding from Goldman Sachs’ Merchant Banking Division. “George and his team are a prime example of an executive team that is succeeding by bringing innovation to space that is in need of disruption,” Goldman Sachs’ chief strategy officer Stephanie Cohen said at the time.

Now Azih is joining the speaker lineup for Urban Tech Connect 2020, where he’ll share fundraising insights and discuss industry-disrupting tech development. This May, Azih takes the stage at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles along with MISLA founder Cassie Betts, OPV partner Austin Clements, SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway, Squad CEO Isa Watson, Lisnr CCO Rodney Williams, and other pros.

Urban Tech Connect empowers the next generation of South Los Angeles founders and entrepreneurs. This year, the conference expanded to two days, and more than 700 attendees are expected to bridge the gap of diverse ideation in technology. Register to attend here.

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Startups UTC 2020

Let the Introductions Begin: Urban Tech Connect 2020 Keynote Speakers

You already know that Urban Tech Connect is on track to be bigger and better than ever in 2020. Now it’s time for some intros. We’re excited to begin introducing keynote speakers who will be taking the stage at Plug In South LA’s two-day conference in May:

Travis Holoway, Co-Founder and CEO, SoLo Funds

Travis Holoway is the co-founder and CEO of SoLo Funds, a mobile lending exchange that provides affordable access to loans under $1,000. SoLo was created to disrupt the predatory payday lending industry, and it’s currently considered to be one of the fastest-growing fintech companies in the country.

Before co-founding the company, Holoway worked in the financial services industry as a financial advisor. During that time he noticed a disconnect between the wealthy clients he met with on a daily basis and the 78% of Americans who live from paycheck to paycheck, and are often forced to take loans from family, friends, or predatory lenders charging annual percentage rates averaging 400%. SoLo offers a direct path to financial stability with loans ranging from $50 to $1,000. Lenders can earn appreciation tips while borrowers set their own payback terms. Holoway has been quoted in outlets that include American Banker, Black Enterprise, Forbes, and the Los Angeles Business Journal. He lives in Los Angeles.

Rodney Williams, Co-Founder and CCO, Lisnr

Rodney Williams is the co-founder and CCO of Lisnr, a data-over-sound platform that enables secure wireless device to device communication for payments, mobility, and connected devices. Lisnr’s software powers connected experiences across the customer journey. Lisnr has been backed by leading partners like Visa, Synchrony Financial, Metro, Target, and Intel. Prior to co-founding Lisnr, Rodney served multiple brand roles at Procter & Gamble.

Williams is a former trustee of the board of directors for the University of Cincinnati, a member of the board of advisors of Howard University as well as chairman of the board and co-founder of SoLo Funds. He has received recognition including being named one of Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 in 2013. Lisnr received a Cannes Gold Lion in 2015 for innovative technology and made CNBC’s Disruptor 50 companies list in 2015, 2016, 2018, and 2019. Williams is a graduate of West Virginia University and Howard University. He is a member of the 2019 class of Henry Crown Fellows at the Aspen Institute.

Early Registration Open

Urban Tech Connect begins May 20 with a focus on tech opportunities for Gen Z. The first day of the conference features co-working and office hours followed by breakout sessions, workshops, and demos. Inspiring expert panels, fireside chats, and talks take place throughout Day 2.

Early registration for Urban Tech Connect 2020 is available here. Stay tuned for details about conference sessions and scholarships.

Interested in becoming a sponsor or partner? Connect with us at partner@pluginsouthla.com.

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Startups UTC 2020

Urban Tech Connect Conference Expands Big Time for 2020

Plug In South LA’s annual Urban Tech Connect Conference will be bigger and better than ever in 2020. For the first time, this can’t-miss event is expanding to two days.

Founders, entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalist, corporate executives and stakeholders in South Los Angeles are invited to connect, collaborate, create, and receive counsel on May 20 and 21 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. The largest gathering in SoCal of African-American and Latinx founders has become known as the premier conference for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs.

Urban Tech Connect offers an opportunity to fine-tune your fundraising strategies, target angel investors and venture capitalists to raise money, vet alternative funding options, consider automation technologies, overcome insecurities — and keep it all moving even when the odds feel like they’re against you.

“We packed a lot into one day. Expanding to two days amplifies the social component and creates a network effect for founders so they can come away with more strategic leads,” said Plug In South LA Founder Derek Smith. “It also allows us to include additional workshop, education, and learning components that serve founders’ needs.”

The 2020 conference kicks off on May 20 with co-working and supportive office hours followed by breakout sessions, workshops, demos, and a specific focus on tech opportunities for Gen Z. Day two of Urban Tech Connect continues with insightful panels, illuminating fireside chats, and powerful talks.

Over the course of the event, attendees will have a chance to meet angel investors, venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs, fellow tech and digital media founders and executives, city officials, and local nonprofit and philanthropic stakeholders who want a more diverse innovation economy in Los Angeles.

In 2019, Urban Tech Connect featured speakers that included Talent Venture Fund founder Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, rapper and technologist Arabian Prince, Christopher Lyons, the leader of the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz, Anastasia S. Tarpeh-Ellis, managing director of Backstage Los Angeles, Joymode CEO Joe Fernandez, and Karim Webb, the CEO of 4thMVNT.

Register to attend Urban Tech Connect 2020 right here.