Next week, I’ma be back in NYC (NEW YOOORRRKKK, CONCRETE JUNGLE WET DREAMS TOMATOESSSS…) for 4 days. I’ll be there because I’m attending (and speaking) at Digital UnDivided’s FOCUS100 Conference, happening on Oct. 5 & 6. What is it? WELLS… lemme tells you. And I’ma be long-winded about it and you will deal. Because the motivation behind it really makes this event important.
I talked to Kathryn Finney, the founder of Digital UnDivided (and Editor-at-Large at BlogHer), and asked her a bunch of questions about FOCUS100 and why she decided to have this conference. I woulda had the traditional interview Q&A but I didn’t record our conversation because I don’t have a recorder and you will not judge me for it!!! SHARRAP! I ain’t fancy yet! (-__-)
FOCUS100 is a conference that will bring together investors and Black women who are interested in technology. The point is to bridge that gap, because there’s a huge one.
In the tech space and the conversation about all thinks geek and nerd and technology, Black women are MIA. We’re not included in it and it’s for multiple reasons. It’s because we don’t fit the mold of “tech” when folks think about it. It’s also because we don’t see ourselves as part of that community too. And what that means is that we’re left out of the growing field of startups and we’re not benefitting from any of the growth or the wealth that is coming from it. AND WE NEED TO BE.
What’s a tech or startup company? According to Kathryn, it’s any business or idea that is heavily technology-based. From people like Monif Clarke (AKA MonifC) who launched an eCommerce-based clothing business to folks like Rachel Brooks, whose company CitizenMade allows companies to offer customization of their products. WE ARE TECH.
“We consume so much tech but create so little of it.” – Kathryn Finney
Kathryn’s own discouraging experience in the tech space led her to create this conference. A couple of years ago, she was part of a tech accelerator program and out of a group of 40 people, she was ONE of FIVE women total. And she was the only Black person in the collective. Besides being talked down to, Kathryn also felt dismissed, and when she mentioned her accountant to one of her colleagues, he had the nerve to tell her that she wasn’t relatable to other Black women. A white man told her that she wasn’t relatable because she had an accountant. I’da been all chile, how you gon tell ME that I don’t relate to my own people? WOMP.
Also, here’s the thing. Kathryn ain’t no small cookie. GOOGUH HER and you’ll see her RAYSUMAY. The blog she created way back when The Budget Fashionista gets over 13 million visitors a year, she’s sold hecka books and she’s been named to AOL’s Top 10 Women in Money. And even in that group, she couldn’t get respect. This made her realize that there’s a need for Black voices in the tech space, particularly women’s.
It was because of that and then some, that the idea for FOCUS100 was borne.
The FOCUS100 (#FOCUS100) symposium connects thought leaders, tech start ups founded or co-founded by black women, brand managers, and innovators. The symposium features one-on-one mentorship sessions, keynotes with game changers, panels on emerging technologies, and a PITCH session with top Angel and Venture Capitalists.
There’ll be investors from firms like Andreesen Horowitz, one of the first to pour money into Facebook and they’ve helped back Instagram too. So mmhmmm.
I am SUPER excited to be attending this conference and would have been happy enough doing just that. But when I was invited to speak, I hit my dougie and said yes so fast, it grew up to be Sir Douglas McDougieton. I’m on a panel about “Tech Opportunities in Politics” and we’ll be talmbout how technology can be used in the political and community development space. My fellow panelists are Imani Perry, Shireen Mitchell and Faye Anderson. They’re all so gahtdamb epic. Iunno what I’m doing there but hey.
And Newark Mayor Cory Booker is keynoting, along with Majora Carter. Constance C. White of Essence will be speaking too. So much epic in one room. I can’t e’em WAIT!
So if you’re interested in anything tech and are a Black woman, this is the event for you. Who knows what you might walk away with? All that awesome in little space. And the price for two days of the conference is $499. But you can register for one of the days if you can’t do that.
Now, I’m not about that life. I was supposed to have put this post up last week because I really wanted y’all to take advantage of the scholarships that were available. But applications ended last Friday. MY BAD, Y’ALL! I’ma do better next time. BUT if you’d like to go, you can still register and get 20% off if you use the code: FOCUSSept.
I asked Kathryn “when FOCUS100 is over, what do you want people to walk away with?” And she says she wants there to be a feeling of community. But even more important, she wants to have 100 tech companies founded by Black women by 2015. And FOCUS100 is the starting point.
Is anyone thinking about going?
Category: My Life