Startups UTC 2021

Make Valuable New Connections Through the UTC 2021 Platform

Take your business to the next level at Urban Tech Connect // Forward, the premier tech conference focused on Latinx and African-American startup founders. The virtual conference May 18 – 20 is ideal for meeting with experienced experts, honing skills, growing sales, and making valuable new connections.

This year the Urban Tech Connect // Forward platform offers many ways to network with the community. Take a closer look:

Office Hours Fuel Possibilities

Office Hours during all three days will be powered by sponsors including Verizon, PledgeLA, and Salesforce Ventures. Virtual meetings give founders, business operators, and job-seekers in tech and media one-on-one time with experts.

Mentors can help you build and expand your professional network, learn the ins and outs of startup funding, overcome persistent hurdles, and more.

Workshops Produce Ah-Ha Moments

Join fellow founders, entrepreneurs, and students for virtual workshops that will plug you into professional guidance from industry leaders at companies such as Salesforce Ventures, Snap Inc., and Stubbs Alderton. Pros who at the top of their game will lead these deep-dive sessions.

Gain customer relationship management (CRM) platform prowess. Discover best practices for taking your product live, scaling up e-commerce, expanding your business, and engaging customers through smart digital marketing.

Augmented reality enables endless customization and possibilities for artists and developers. Find out how this powerful technology can extend your reach on a large scale. A workshop powered by Plug In South LA will show you how to tune up a pitch deck. Stubbs Alderton will guide you through “The Fundamentals of Funding Your Startup.”

Are you ready to expand your network and plug into new opportunities? Register for the conference here. We look forward to welcoming you.

Photo Credit: Christina @ on Unsplash

Startups UTC 2021

Urban Tech Connect 2021 Spotlights Women Making Waves

We’re just going to say it: Badass women are coming to Urban Tech Connect // Forward. Our list of confirmed speakers and mentors for the three-day virtual conference includes many of the smartest, savviest professionals we know.

Being a female — especially one of color — in the tech industry can seem like a lonely uphill battle. But we’ve got your back. Urban Tech Connect is a chance to hear directly from the women shaking things up and opening doors in entrepreneurship and investing.

Lauryn Nwankpa, head of social impact at Dave, will be one of the conference hosts. Her passion is honing in on strategies that eradicate poverty, increase access to education, and alleviate wealth and income inequality. Tech pros can draw inspiration from Mamuna Oladipo, SVP of product, design, and engineering at Kickstarter and Erika Chestnut, head of quality assurance for the online appointment scheduling software company Calendly.

Speaker Morgan DeBaun built one of the largest media startups and lifestyle brands for Black Millennials with websites including,, and She’ll be speaking with ESPN host Rosalyn Gold-Onwude about what it actually took to grow her business.

Beatriz Acevedo is co-founder and CEO of the new platform SUMA Wealth. She raised a pre-seed round of more than $1 million — and it all came from women. We get to find out how during her live talk with Jessica Salinas, VP of investments at New Media Ventures.

Solving pervasive problems is top-of-mind for Regina Wallace-Jones, who worked for tech companies, including Motorola and Facebook, for years before becoming SVP of product and engineering at the business management software company MindBody.

Investors increasingly understand what it means to have a world-changing startup idea. That’s true of Cheryl Contee, chief innovation officer for The Impact Seat, which invests in women-led and women-of-color led innovative startups, and Juliana Garaizar, a lead investor of the Portfolia Rising America Fund focused on historically-overlooked founders. Speaking of impressive accomplishments, Unshackled Ventures investor Maria Salamanca talks about backing opportunities that bring us all forward.

The conference will also help hone your skills. Learn from Martie Burris, Salesforce’s director of product, and Britney Crooks, senior principal and lead for Accenture’s Global Blockchain and Multiparty Systems Alliance practice.

If you’re not already signed up to attend Urban Tech Connect May 18 – 20, register here. Who’s with us?

Photo: Blavity founder Morgan DeBaun. Credit:

Startups UTC 2021

Meet Your Hosts for Urban Tech Connect 2021

Are you ready to disrupt? Urban Tech Connect // Forward, the premier tech conference focused on Latinx and African American startup founders, is coming up May 18 – 20.

Forget about business as usual. This virtual conference is for those who think differently. Gain insights from the best entrepreneurs and VCs in the industry. Build skills. Meet with investors. Come together. Raise the bar.

Plug In South LA founder Derek Smith is excited to announce that Lauryn Nwankpa and McKeever Conwell will be joining him in hosting the conference:

Lauryn Nwankpa
Lauryn is a social impact strategist, startup advisor, and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles.

She’s head of social impact at Dave, the country’s highest ranked personal finance management app. Known as the financial version of David taking on Goliath, Dave empowers Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck with the tools they need to thrive. In her role at the company and as a Social Impact Capital venture partner and advisor, Lauryn focuses on developing and implementing effective strategies to eradicate poverty, increase access to education, and alleviate wealth and income inequality.

“From outreach and advocacy, to philanthropy and community engagement, I bring together critical stakeholders to increase access to key resources leading to the empowerment and self-actualization of marginalized communities,” she says.

Before joining Dave, she led social impact at Headspace, bringing the meditation and mindfulness company’s wellness tools into communities that want or need them, but lacked access.

Lauryn got her professional start in Baltimore working on college access, attendance programs, and community outreach. She received a Bachelor of Arts in comparative human development from the University of Chicago and a Master of Science in social entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.

McKeever Conwell
McKeever “Mac” Conwell II is the founder and managing partner of RareBreed Ventures, a Baltimore-based pre-seed stage venture fund that aims to invest early in exceptional founders who are outside of the large tech eco-systems. He is also a board member of the Digital Harbor Foundation and an advisor to the learning platform Osmosis.

Prior to starting RareBreed Ventures, Mac was fund manager for the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), where he helped find and build startups based in the state. He managed the Minority Business Pre-seed Fund, which was created through a partnership between TEDCO and Harbor Bank Community Development Corporation to address the needs of minority entrepreneurs in Maryland who often lack access to early startup capital.

Mac refers to himself as a “recovering entrepreneur” who launched two startups. One was the gifting platform, technology that he and his team successfully sold in 2014.

He attended Morgan State University, where he majored in computer science. At age 19, he joined a Department of Defense co-op program and obtained a top-secret security clearance. His experience includes working as a government contractor in software development for companies that include Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop Grumman.

More recently Mac completed Stanford University’s Venture Capital Unlocked invitation-only investor training program for emerging leaders who want to shape the future of the VC industry. In addition to being a guest on Huffington Post Live, Mac has been featured in outlets such as USA Today, the Washington Post, BET, CNN Headline News, and Black Enterprise.

Derek Smith
Derek is the founder of Plug In South LA. By trade, he’s a digital marketing evangelist and branding expert who has worked with leading global brands such as Corbis Images, SAB Miller Breweries, the NBA, Microsoft Advertising, Nestlé, Dove, and Ritz Crackers.

Throughout his career, Derek has held a number of key positions, including that of business development director, brand strategist at Young and Rubicam and Wunderman. He has a Bachelor of Arts in international relations from Morehouse College and a Master of Science from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Lauryn, Mac, and Derek look forward to welcoming you to the fourth annual Urban Tech Connect // Forward. Register for the conference, if you haven’t already.

We’ll see you soon!