Mike Street, TechFam; John Henry, Harlem Capital Partners; Nicole Valentine, Winly Playbooks
Tech platforms are on the rise, and with good reason. Published reports point to a 21st century U.S. job market heavily steeped in science, technology, engineering, mathematics disciplines. The number of tech startups also is growing, and they likely will have jobs to offer a skill pool already conversant in the language of tech. Predictions are that by 2020, millions of dollars will have been invested in tech companies. According to a 2017 USA Today article, “There were 1.3 million software jobs open last year, according to Trilogy Education Services. Code.org calculates 512,720 open computing jobs now, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in 2020 there will be 1.4 million more software-development jobs than applicants who can fill them. Schools and other tech education programs can’t seem to produce candidates fast enough.”
Felix Flores is the national director of #YesWeCode. “Too often, technology is seen as an ambiguous buzzword that our community doesn’t know much about,” he said, when his organization partnered with the National Urban League’s TechConnect Summit in 2017. “In the worst cases, it is vilified and associated with gentrification. Hack-a-thons offer a chance for people with different experiences to dive into the tech world by working in teams, learning from each other and showing how efficient and productive people can be using tech tools. It’s important that organizations band together to demystify tech and get people to change from consumers to creators. That is the key to our future economic empowerment.”
Against this backdrop, The Network Journal launched its first-ever, tech platform, @tnjTechExchange, which held its first event last October, with sold-out attendance. Themed “The Art of the VC,” the launch event took the form of a panel discussion and was held at the Microsoft Store in New York City. We partnered with Black Women Talk Tech, TechFam, and Metallic Ventures to create a compelling conversation about venture capital, joining other media companies that are creating outlets to dispense information about the growing tech economy. The new platform not only will feature expert panel discussions and host pitch competitions for founders to present new ideas or ventures to experts, but it also will connect startup founders with venture capitalists and other funders who are in a position to help scale businesses.
As its name suggests, The Network Journal magazine promotes networking and reports on business and entrepreneurship trends. The platform, @tnjTechExchange, will kick networking into higher gear with the goal of becoming a space where deals happen. “Tech platforms are needed because the business of tech is evolving, and in order to compete economically, it’s crucial to be up to speed on the way people are accessing data and information,” TechFam founder Mike Street, who moderated the discussion at the launch of TNJ?s tech platform, later told TNJ.com.
Panelist John Henry, venture partner of Harlem Capital Partners, also spoke to TNJ.com. “Many entrepreneurs, Black or white, have a poor understanding of venture capital,” he said, “But it becomes more acute in our communities because so few venture dollars go into our communities, and there?s no exposure to the concept of venture. Conversely, if you grow up in Silicon Valley, you grow up with an understanding of the word ‘equity’ among similar terms. To combat that, the onus should be on the entrepreneur to do his or her homework. I would also love to hold the media more accountable to accurately depict what venture actually is, what it looks like and what the stats are. That’s the whole purpose of these platforms, right?”