Felecia Hatcher knows there are a lot of challenges in the black tech community.
So, she and her husband, Derick Pearson, who are also co-founders of Code Fever, began BlackTech Week.
“We started it for two reasons: one to increase the number of African-American and Caribbean people that are entering the tech space,” Hatcher says, "then launching startups.”
BlackTech Week began in 2014 to curb the rise of “innovation deserts.” The four-day conference emphasizes networking on e-commerce and entrepreneurship.
Hatcher has been honored at the White House as one of the Empact Top 100 Entrepreneurs under 30 in 2011 and a 2014 White House Champion of Change for STEM Access and Diversity. She’s had a varied career in product launch and social media campaigns for tech companies, including Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. She’s also written five books ranging from a scholarships guide for high school students to start-ups.
On WLRN's Sundial, Hatcher dove in with host Luis Hernandez on BlackTech Week, the challenges minorities face in the tech world and what having a tech giant like Amazon here could mean for South Florida.
Hatcher: You know we like to describe it as a family reunion, right. But you know for a lot of us in this space that means a number of things from techies to entrepreneurs to ecosystem builders. A lot of us see each other in passing at different conferences, right? So, my goal for black tech is always, "I need all of you to come to Miami." So, in one sense that's where we talk about this as a family reunion. The other part of that is the moments that we have there, from the people that come, the speakers that are there and the variety of the conversations — anywhere from talking about Jay-Z and Beyonce and their daughter at the Grammys to talking about cryptocurrency and everything in between.
I feel like those are real family conversations that happen, but it just happens to be a tech conference.
Sundial: One of the things that's missing is having a huge tech company and that goes to Amazon. We've talked a lot about Amazon possibly coming here. We’re one of the regions in the running. If we get it, what would that mean?
Hatcher: If we get it, it will be transformational for Miami -- one, just the sheer number of jobs, two, just their presence. This has been a very public bidding war and with that comes a really nice kind of mantle you can put Miami on if we do win this. Hopefully, it lands in Miami.
And I think for us with the work that we do with our young people [and] the adults that we interface with our programming, being able to have a major tech company here that people recognize... because everyone almost interfaces with Amazon one way or the other. There are a lot of tech companies that are here that are not as known. So for a young person to say, 'Hey, I'm going to pursue this field because I can see Amazon. It's in my backyard. It's a part of the conversation. I'm interfacing with these kind of people every single day.' That's really important.
Sundial: We've heard over the years about the challenges that women have in the tech world. We don't hear the story about what it's like for minorities, but especially for African-Americans in the tech world.
Hatcher: There are a lot of challenges. That's why we started BlackTech and we started it for two reasons — one to increase the number of African-American and Caribbean people that are entering the tech space from a career standpoint and then also launching startups because we need both of those two things that happen. It's not for lack of ideas in the black community. It's for lack of resources and the lack of deal flow.
I always give people that prime example like you look at crowdfunding platforms Kickstarter and GoFundMe. The black community crowd-funds every Sunday in the church passing the plate.
That kind of utility ... that’s not new to our community. What is new is when people value our ideas. Because we've always kind of created these ideas out of necessity, of problem-solving. [And] us also valuing our ideas and then putting a technology overlay on top of that idea so that it can reach a global audience, that becomes the difference.
If you go:
Feb. 6-10, 2018
The Historic Lyric Theatre, 819 NW Second Ave., Miami, FL 33136
For more information, visit http://blacktechweek.com/