Black Women Talk Tech’s second annual Roadmap to Billions conference commenced on Feb. 28 and concluded on March 1 at the Microsoft building in Times Square. Motivational speakers graced the stage, a $10,000 pitch competition ensued, and there was networking far and wide. The conference was hosted by Black Women Talk Tech founders Esosa Ighodaro, Lauren Washington, and Regina Gwynn so there was a very “For Us, By Us” mentality.
The first day was specifically catered to black women founders and included talks from Shea Moisture Founder and CEO of Sundial Brands, Rich Dennis and a keynote from Tonya Lewis Lee. The event was hosted by yours truly, so Black Enterprise was definitely in the building. Additional panel topics included Building Rocket Ships; The Reality of Scaling; Managing the Mental Health Roller Coaster; and Creating a Compelling Brand Story.
Managing the mental health roller coaster was a standout discussion. So many times we work in silos and when ish hits the fan, black women (or men) have no one to turn to. The message behind this talk was, don’t be the hero. Create the support group that you so desperately need in order to succeed. Tonya Ladipo, founder of The Ladipo Group, was excellent at bringing this conversation to the forefront.
The second day of the conference was created for founders and their allies. Former pitch competition winner Angel Rich returned to give the new group of candidates some advice and it seems that they all took it in stride. Each contestant did a phenomenal job, but the standout for the judges was Kobi Wu of VisuWall, a marketplace of vacant storefront windows where advertisers can discover smart eye-level media. Other contestants included Crystal McDonald of Acrew, Davielle Jackson of Femi Secrets, Elsie Amoako of Mommy Monitor, and Tami Garcia of Mully Lingua.
Everything wasn’t all fun and games. There were some hard truths brought to life by Sarah Kunst, founder of Proday, and investor Lauren Maillian.
Addressing an audience member who asked about mentors, Maillian responded, “think about the way you’re showing up. Think about the way you’re asking. You should not have to ask someone to be your mentor. I’ve never had someone say, will you be my mentor? It’s a relationship that’s created and if it’s not organic, nobody wants it,” said Maillian.
In regards to a question asked about allies, Kunst’s response was, “the person who gives you the biggest opportunity might not be somebody who wants to sit in this room.” In other words, stop focusing on race and gender and focus on whether or not someone is supportive and what they can add to the deal.
Some things to think about.
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