How A 1-Time Event Became Black Tech Week: Felecia Hatcher And Derick Pearson, GHOGH Podcast Episode 9

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Written by Dana Sanchez
Black Tech Week
Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson during GHOGH podcast recording. Photo: Anita Sanikop/Moguldom

What started as a one-time, week-long conference in 2015 connecting Black tech entrepreneurs with startup support and capital has evolved into Black Tech Week, an ecosystem-building festival and model of year-round, countrywide support for Black founders and innovators.

Blacktech Week is the brainchild of Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson, a Miami-area husband-and-wife team who wanted to use their background in math, science and marketing to support entrepreneurs of color in South Florida and connect them to the startup and tech scene.

A $1.2 million grant in 2017 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation enabled Blacktech Week to expand with year-round programs to empower Black innovators, creatives and technologists.

BlackTech Week offers six-day conferences for investors, entrepreneurs, and techies in partnership with founders, corporations, and the community. Since its launch in 2014, events have convened more than 2700 participants, 150-plus speakers, and three pitch competitions.

Expanded programs include Blacktech Weekends – a condensed version of Blacktech Week.

Recent Black Tech Weekends were held March 8-10 at SXSW in Austin; April 5-6 in Los Angeles; May 10-12 in Philadelphia; and May 17-19 in New York City. Upcoming weekends are planned July 5-7 in New Orleans. Upcoming: Washington, D.C., Charlotte, NC; Tulsa, Boston, Detroit, Kansas City, and Cincinnati.

Digital media pioneer Jamarlin Martin launched the GHOGH Podcast Franchise — Go Hard Or Go Home — at SXSW 2018, aimed at multicultural millennials.

Jamarlin speaks to Hatcher and Pearson about Black Tech Week, economic empowerment, and the potential impact of Atlanta landing Amazon HQ2. They also discuss the politics of diversity favoring women of privilege, and whether or not Silicon Valley is the global capital of white supremacy.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Derick Pearson on technology as an equalizer:

“It allows you to play. It allows you to compete. So it’s all about inclusiveness and competitiveness. It’s about Black people being competitive at everything that we do in creating wealth for ourselves. We have to provide our people with enough resources and tools so that they can compete on a global scale because they’re not competing with just the people in the U.S. They’re competing with people from other countries. You’ve got to have your own in this society. People are five times as likely to hire people that look like them. (If) we don’t have these entrepreneurs, we don’t have these tech professionals in positions to hire our people. Then we’re going to be left out of this new economic revolution.”

Felecia Hatcher on arriving at the name “Black Tech Week”:

You know, there’s a reason Black Tech Week is called Black Tech Week and that came with a lot of issues. (People said) ‘Why don’t you do it like Urban Tech Week/’ or ‘Why don’t you do Diversity Tech Week?’ Or like all these other terms that kinda take the bite off of Black, right? Or people will come to us and say, ‘Well it just feels like it’s excluding people.’ And I’m like, ‘Do you know how many people and ethnicities and nationalities are represented under the umbrella of when we say Black?’ There’s a reason why we have been steadfast in not changing the name. Corporations have said to us, ‘Hey, if it was called something else it would seem more inclusive and then we could fund that.’ And we’re just like, ‘no’.”

Hear more of Felecia Hatcher, Derick Pearson and Black Tech Week on Episode 9 of the GHOGH Podcast.

Other GHOGH episodes:

Episode 15: Clarence Wooten, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, sold his first tech business for $23 million. He discusses his new venture — STEAM Role — meritocracy, and common mistakes founders make. He also talks about Bitcoin’s long-term prospects and how blockchain has opened up new capital-raising opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Episode 14: Barron Channer, founder of Miami -based Woodwater Investments, talks about turning down Harvard Business School, and whether Black-on-Black murders need to be prioritized over police-on-Black murders. He also debates what is to blame for the Black murder rate in Chicago and whether most U.S. police departments are racist in the second of a 2-part podcast.

Episode 13Barron Channer, founder of Miami-based Woodwater Investments, shares how he got to work for billion-dollar real estate developer Don Peebles. This Wharton MBA’s business focuses on real estate development and tech. He revisits how Barack Obama handled Rev. Wright in the first of a 2-part podcast.

Episode 12Keenan Beasley, co-founder and managing partner of New York digital analytics company BLKBOX, talks about his early mistakes, how NY and Silicon Valley investors differ, and the advantages of getting experience in an industry before trying to disrupt it. The Westpoint grad and former P&G brand manager also discusses M&A activity involving Richelieu Dennis, Byron Allen and Robert Smith.

Episode 11Travis Holoway, founder and CEO of peer-to-peer lending startup SoLo Funds, discusses Mark Zuckerberg as a liberal tech version of Donald Trump, Jake Tapper’s double standards on CNN towards Black leaders, and whether Silicon Valley has “negro helpers” who set the community back.

Episode 10: Karen Fleshman, the founder of Racy Conversations, talks about women of privilege exploiting civil rights and diversity movements, and whether Kamala Harris can be trusted on criminal justice reform. She also discusses Facebook’s problems, and whether these can be primarily sourced to Mark Zuckerberg’s and Sheryl Sandberg’s values and ethics.

Episode 9: Felecia Hatcher and Derick Pearson talk about Black Tech Week, economic empowerment, and the potential impact of Atlanta landing Amazon HQ2. They also discuss the politics of diversity favoring women of privilege, and whether or not Silicon Valley is the global capital of white supremacy.

Episode 8: Marlin Nichols, co-founder of Cross Culture Ventures, talks about the culturally-themed fund he started with Troy Carter. He discusses the burger-flippin’ robot, Flippy, and socially responsible investing. Marlon offers advice to founders seeking investment, and answers questions about whether there is too much “shut-up-and-dribble” in Silicon Valley.

Episode 7: Tayo Oviosu, founder and CEO of leading Nigerian mobile payments company Paga, discusses bitcoin prospects, superior Nigerian academic performance in the U.S., and why Nigeria is the African economic opportunity. The podcast also touches on Elon Musk, Aliko Dangote, and whether Oviosu would ever run for president.

Episode 6: Rodney Sampson, founder of HBCU@SXSW and the Atlanta-based Opportunity Hub, discusses investing in Atlanta blockchain startups and the importance of connecting HBCU endowments to Black tech. He covers the intersectionality of oppression, discrimination, and holding SV leaders accountable for inequality.

Episode 5Angela Benton talks about starting NewMe Accelerator, building her personal brand as a single mother while battling cancer, and whether or not most of the “diversity” gains in Silicon Valley will go to privileged white women.

Episode 4Detavio Samuels, president of Interactive One, leads a $30M digital media business that in 2017 acquired Bossip, Madamenoire, and HiphopWired. He discusses Richelieu Dennis’ acquisition of Essence, Facebook’s recent fumbles, and whether Complex Media is a culture vulture.

Episode 3Arlan Hamilton talks about Backstage Capital, the VC fund she dreamed up while she was homeless. She talks about the Silicon Valley establishment and about Tamika Mallory, who attended Saviours’ Day with Louis Farrakhan.

Episode 2Rodney Williams, founder and CEO of Lisnr, talks about raising $10 million in venture capital, HBCU endowments that invest in black tech, and how to fire loyal employees you like.

Episode 1Brian Brackeen talks about his path to starting his facial recognition firm, Kairos, how blockchain can be applied to the NFL, and whether Disney’s’ “Black Panther” is revolutionary.