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Mar

Black Tech Week Miami Coaches US Techies On ‘Frontier Opportunities’

Miami-area tech entrepreneurs and innovators got coaching on frontier opportunities in Africa at the inaugural Black Tech Week Miami, underway through Feb. 28.

Organizers at the first-ever event hope that the conversations started there will accelerate Miami as the U.S. tech and startup gateway to the Caribbean and the entire African diaspora.

Some regional tech experts say bringing minorities into technology careers has been a challenge, according to the Miami Herald. So they created Black Tech Week and brought investors from Africa and around the world to South Florida to celebrate black innovation with local black tech entrepreneurs and innovators.

There was a sense of excitement and optimism at the inaugural event. Investors and entrepreneurs alike were happy to be surrounded by other innovative players in the community and beyond.

Miami is the gateway to the Caribbean…and Africa — that’s what Black Tech Week co-founders Felecia Hatcher and Michael Hall wanted participants to come away with on Day 1 of the inaugural event held Feb. 23 at Miami Dade College.

Hatcher and her husband, Derick Pearson, came up with the idea for Black Tech Week to change the narrative surrounding the black community and replace it with innovation, technology and creativity, Pearson told the Miami Herald. They are co-founders of Code Fever, an organization that teaches minority youth how to code, create technology and become entrepreneurs.

“Currently the only conversation in Miami is that the city is the gateway to Latin America,” Hatcher said. “The current narrative is that there are no tech opportunities in the Caribbean and Africa and that needs to change.”

Andre Kay is CEO and co-founder of Sociallybuzz, a Miami-based company that helps brands and businesses develop a foundation in social media and marketing.

“Companies like Sociallybuzz … might face fierce competition here in the U.S. with Yelp, but Jamaica and Africa are ripe for what he is doing,” Hatcher said. “That is the case with many U.S.-based businesses.”

Speakers at Black Tech Week Miami highlighted the huge opportunities for the African diaspora. Speakers included African venture capitalist Erik Osiakwan of Angel Africa, and investor and data scientist Jon Gosier, who co-founded data company MetaLayer.

U.S.-based Gosier has lived and worked abroad, including holding executive leadership roles at Kenya’s Ushahidi, a tech company that makes data tools for disaster response.

Gosier told the Black Tech Week audience that the environment for doing business is very different in Africa than in the U.S.

“(Africa’s) economic output has risen almost four fold since 2000 to over $2 trillion,” Gosier said. “In Africa there are frontier opportunities. You don’t have to compete and push anyone out of the way. You can build amazing companies there. So don’t get hung up on not being able to get your idea off the ground here in the U.S.”

Other speakers scheduled to speak at Black Tech Week Miami (per Miami Herald) included:

– Chinedu Echeruo, Nigerian founder of HopStop, which Apple bought for $1 billion in 2013.

– Kanyi Maquela, venture capitalist with the New York-based early-stage Collaborative Fund.

– Justin Washington, a music producer, songwriter and an engineer for Snapchat.

– Brian Dixon, social impact venture capitalist with Kapor Capital based in Oakland, Calif.

– Ingrid Riley, founder of KingstonBeta and Startup Weekend Jamaica.

– John Lewis, global chief diversity officer for Coca-Cola.

– Executives from New York-based Maker’s Row, an online platform connecting designers to U.S. manufacturers.

– Miami entrepreneur Stonly Baptiste, co-founder of Urban.Us, a fund for urban tech solutions.

– Miami entrepreneur Brian Brackeen, founder of facial recognition software company Kairos. Brackeen was recently selected to join Endeavor, a global nonprofit that supports “high-impact” entrepreneurs.

– Miami entrepreneur Pandwe Gibson, founder of EcoTech Visions, an incubator supporting green businesses in underserved communities.

Black Tech Week events included a hackathon, pitch competitions, a two-day summit at Miami Dade College North Campus, and other networking events around the area.

During Black Tech Week, the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce announced a trade mission to South Africa in October 2015 to explore business opportunities. Ricardo Forbes and Dr. Pandwe Gibson are spearheading that initiative. For more information contact pandwe@ecotechvisions.com.

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