The trio behind Black Women Talk Tech is gearing up to host their fourth Roadmap to Billions conference in the heart of New York City later this month.
This year’s engagement gets a boost with a new grant for select attendees. There will also be a non-partisan town hall discussion on the agenda ahead of the 2020 election.
The Black Women Talk Tech (BWTT) grant is being awarded by Grasshopper Bank. The digital commercial bank led by CEO Judith Erwin has recently announced a new initiative to divvy out grants to cover admission fees for select founders to attend nationwide events throughout the year as part of their diversity and inclusion efforts. As an inaugural recipient, ten lucky women have been awarded grant to attend BWTT.
BWTT cofounders Lauren Washington, Esosa Ighodaro, and Regina Gwynn are the dynamic team spearheading Roadmap to Billions. Their goal is to build a community of profitable, scalable businesses for self-identified Black women in tech.
“It’s amazing to have Grasshopper Bank show great leadership and ensure that access to these events is not limited by a founder’s ability to pay to attend, especially when most early-stage founders have exceptionally scarce resources to begin with, of at all,” said Esosa Ighodaro, co-founder of Nexstar. “We are excited to have Grasshopper Bank as a partner who aligns with BWTT’s mission and values. Also, there are huge announcements that you will hear only at the conference. You have to be there to hear it first.”
Regina Gwynn, co-founder of TresseNoire, said that the team, which also includes Lauren Washington, co-founder of Fundr, understands the financial decisions that entrepreneurs face in building their businesses. “If we can help remove just one barrier for founders to access the right kinds of resources and opportunities they need at our conference, it’s a win for the ecosystem,” she said.
Another new development at this year’s event (27-29 Feb) is the political town hall. The idea is to create a safe space where founders gain insight into how they can drive the needle of policy to benefit the endeavors of their communities.
“It is an election year and we have to talk about the power of our vote and how our needs are being met through the candidates running,” said Ighodaro. “It’s important to have our voices be heard and our ask be clear. We have some heavy hitters sparing the stage to give perspective.”
Featured speakers for this year’s conference include keynote speaker Courtney Adeleye, founder and CEO of The Mane Choice hair company; Bari A. Williams, Mandela Schumacher-Hodge Dixon; founder and CEO of Founder’s Gym; and Crystal Etienne, founder and CEO of Ruby Love, a $10 million company she built in just four years. She also recently secured the fourth largest round of funding in history for a company founded by a black woman.
The agenda is stacked with topics such as VC funding, creating multiple revenue streams, and even being an intrapreneur as an employee at a large company. Not to overlook the need for self-care in the entrepreneurial journey, the founder’s retreat will include a dance therapy class with Nike, beauty services, dating and relationships advice for entrepreneurs and using therapy to conquer anxiety. There will also be a pitch competition, brand activations, and more.
With sponsors Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs, Walmart, and AARP Innovation Labs among others, more than thousand attendees last year, and ten national and international chapters launched since its inception, what does the success of Roadmap To Billions and Black Women Talk Tech say about black women in the tech space?
“Black women are killing it in the tech space, and you need to get to know her,” said Ighodaro. “Hence, we started The Face of a Founder campaign that kicks off at the conference and features black women founders killing it all year long. At the end of the day, we just want to create a space where Blackwomen are supported by everyone. The leadership is recognized and their equity is valued.”