Southern California’s premier tech conference, Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2021, continued with lively, insightful, and informative sessions.
Day 2 of the virtual conference featured office hours powered by PledgeLA, a networking lunch powered by ChowNow, an expo with booths and on-demand videos, an investor workshop about uncovering new VC opportunities, and a Lens Studio workshop led by Snap Inc. showing how AR helps you build brand and product awareness.
The second day was also packed with incredible live sessions:
Keynote: The Secret to Spotting a Winner Before Anyone Else
Marlon Nichols, founding managing partner of MaC Venture Capital spoke with RareBreed Ventures managing partner McKeever Conwell about the journey of launching a venture capital firm or joining one. Nichols touched on how Gen Z and people from non-traditional backgrounds can start a career in VC.
“Entrepreneurship, to me, is synonymous with value creation,” he said, adding that when you create value and put points on the board, the reason for your existence becomes undeniable.
Founder Bite: Persist and Move Forward
Ayinde Alakoye, co-founder and CEO of Nēdl, shared his personal experiences raising his first $1 million and offered insights as a Black startup founder. “Tenacity cannot be taught, it must be earned, learned,” he said.
Inside Emerging Funds for Black and Brown Founders
McKeever Conwell, Slauson & Co. co-founder and partner Austin Clements, Chingona Ventures founding partner Samara Hernandez, Zeal Capital Partners founder and managing partner Nasir Qadree, and moderator Stefanie Thomas, investments, Impact America Fund, dove into emerging funding opportunities, lessons learned, and best practices for investors.
Samara Hernandez pointed to a lesson she learned: “Sometimes you only need one person to believe in you,” she said. “You can get a thousand ‘Nos,’ but that one person can be your first check to help catalyze the round.”
Conwell observed that corporations moved faster than imaginable on diversity initiatives in the past year. At the same time, he cautioned that the funding represents a short-term test. Clemens agreed. “There is a lot of pressure on us, but as one of my mentors always says, pressure is a privilege,” he said. “You gave me the ball. I’m running with it.”
Clearing Software Engineering’s ‘Culture Fit’ Landmines
Rhonda Allen, CEO of /dev/color, Google software engineer Anthony Mays, director of product for Salesforce Martie Burris, Kickstarter’s SVP of product, design, and engineering Mamuna Oladipo and moderator Lauryn Nwankpa unpacked this pressing topic.
Their conversation balanced philosophical and tactical elements based on first-hand experiences. Mays recommended being relentless about “keeping your receipts” — tracking every instance where you’ve helped bring in revenue or made a positive difference.
Transparency was a recurring theme. “It’s okay to build bridges. But it’s okay to have boundaries, too,” Burris said.