A brand new conference seeks to give black-led billion-dollar companies in the making a leg up. Taking place in Miami, Florida, the first-ever Black Men Talk Tech Unicorn Ambition Conference aims to give black technologists, creatives, and innovators the resources to scale their startups.
“We all independently thought something like this was needed,” said co-founder Boris Moyston. “A conference for people of color, where we are trying to gather resources and support to help them scale their startups. We believe that a lot of success and in being able to start your startup is having support.”
Unicorn Ambition will be the first and only national conference focused on male black tech entrepreneurs. It will take place on October 23rd and 24th at Miami’s latest and most exclusive events space, The Penthouse at Riverside Wharf. The producers behind the event are also launching Black Men Talk Tech. The organizers include Moyston, co-founder of Fundr with Lauren Washington of Black Women Talk Tech; Abiodun Johnson, co-founder of COSIGN/ Nextstar; Evan Leaphart, co-founder of Kiddie Kredit; and Temante Leary, co-founder of Class Updates.
As the title suggests, there’s a big focus on capital increasing the odds of churning out high growth companies. “We’re generally not getting the $50K or $100K check from mom and dad to go test out a startup hypothesis,” said Moyston, speaking on the notoriously low friends and family round in the black community. This puts black founders at a disadvantage.
Another challenge for black founders is less access to vetted angel investors, compared to their white counterparts. “We’ve been at the forefront of starting tech companies, raising money and trying to raise money,” said Moyston. “We’ve experienced what I wouldn’t call racism or discrimination, but a level of indifference that the establishment brings to the investment table in many cases when they deal with people of color.”
On top of that, Moyston also mentions the need for wealthy black individuals to get comfortable with being real angel investors. Putting money into real estate, for instance, is more predictable and follows a linear path that they’re accustomed to, also making them less eager to invest in tech companies with 80-90 percent chance of failure. “There has to be some education around why and how people make money around doing that,” said Moyston, noting that investors need many companies in their portfolios to see a handful of unicorns or killer companies. It’s a conversation that hasn’t taken place on a national basis.
Consequently, attendees will get a strong footing on the process of achieving unicorn status. Topics include a legal discussion for founders of color, making the pitch, and building distributed tech teams in Africa is on the agenda for the two-day gathering. There will also be sessions on contemporary fundraising like ICO’s, crowdfunding, and VCs closing on an acquisition.
Featured speakers include Tony Abrahams, Founder of Tweedle & Former CFO of Comb Enterprises, Brian Brackeen, General Partner at Lightship Capital, Raul Moas, Director of the Knight Foundation and Kelly Burton, CEO of Founders of Color.
The event will close out with a pitch competition with $2,500 up for grabs. Early-stage startups can sign up by buying a ticket and filling details for a founder pass. The team is looking for companies with a built-out platform and proven traction and product-market fit.
“We needed to plant this effort in an ecosystem that was in the early stages of forming,” said Moyston. “So that we would latch on and make sure the distribution of resources is equitable. And that we could help the overall community, our constituents, and the greater constituents in terms of growing a tech ecosystem in that city.” They found Miami to be the most worthwhile place. Part of the agenda includes tours of local co-working spaces, CIC Miami and Space Called Tribe. Ultimately, they want to highlight and position Miami as a major growing tech hub to the rest of the country, which is brimming with potential according to Moyston pointing to its government, talent and education centers.
Though the marketing is targeted at a specific demographic, Moyston says they don’t discriminate. They also want to support Latinx, women, LGBTQ, and anyone dislocated because of regional issues. Everyone is welcome to register for the conference and apply to pitch.
“We’re here to help black men and other underrepresented groups, we’re all here to talk about Miami growing,” he said. “The ecosystem right now is budding.”