June 6, 2023

Black Tech Week Has No DEI Talks; That’s By Design

Black Tech Week, an inclusive tech conference focused on empowering entrepreneurs of color, is set to return to Cincinnati from July 18–20.

“There isn’t a single DEI talk at Black Tech Week. That’s by design,” Brian Brackeen shared on Twitter. “‘No DEI talks’ are something that we are proud of.”

Brian Brackeen is the founder of facial recognition software company Kairos and managing partner at Cincinnati-based venture capital fund Lightship Capital, which invests in companies led by underepresented founders. He is also the organizer of Black Tech Week.

“Black Tech Week is for founders to grow their businesses & themselves. Not for corporations to give the same DEI talk we have all heard 1,000,000,000,000 times,” Brackeen added.

Black Tech Week 2023

Acquired by the Lightship Foundation in 2022, Black Tech Week has become a hallmark event for tech entrepreneurs of color. The conference is set to feature over 60 talks, more than 3,000 attendees, and 100+ venture capital introductions.

With a combination of growth-focused content, social events, and startup programming, Black Tech Week covers various areas, including small-business law, marketing, Web3, and board selection, while spotlighting successful Black entrepreneurs who often remain unrecognized outside of Black tech ecosystems.

This year’s event will also see the introduction of BizDev Day, which will provide corporations with the opportunity to connect with Black suppliers among the 3,000 founders attending the event.

Tech’s Broken Promises

Following the nationwide conversation on systemic racism triggered by the murder of George Floyd, many companies made commitments to combat racial injustice. According to McKinsey, US companies have pledged over $340 billion to promote racial equity since May 2020.

“Imagine meeting an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs and knowing they’ll never have the dollars necessary to change the world, independent of their talents.”

However, Brackeen highlighted the waning efforts and broken promises in an interview with Inc.

“All of the numbers–and, quite frankly, all of our hearts–show the difference between the six to 12 months after the murder of George Floyd and today. The efforts are certainly waning. And a lot of opportunities are starting to be taken by non-Black firms, in the name of Black founders.”

“You’ll have White venture capitalists or White organizations see that there’s money and suddenly say they’re going to do a ton of diversity work–but they don’t have the network, training, background, or even intention to serve those founders well. So, what are already dwindling dollars are now being siphoned off by what I would consider bad-faith actors.”

Read: Mark Your Calendars - September 30 Is Now National Black Funding Day!

“Ultimately, I think if you want to invest in Black businesses, you have to invest in Black VC funds,” he continued. “Even those who are well-intentioned may not see themselves in a Black founder. Imagine meeting an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs and knowing they’ll never have the dollars necessary to change the world, independent of their talents.”

Black Tech Week emerges as a tangible solution to address these challenges and foster genuine growth opportunities for entrepreneurs of color.

Impact on the local community

Black Tech Week’s significance extends beyond its immediate impact on attendees. Last year, the event generated an estimated economic impact of $7.8 million for the Greater Cincinnati region.

“Last year’s Black Tech Week was an extraordinary moment for Cincinnati, with pioneering Black innovators coming together from around the country to build exciting momentum for the future, Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval shared in a press statement.

“This kind of programming is exactly what our city needs more of to foster a thriving, diverse ecosystem, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Black Tech Week back for 2023.”

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Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)