This past weekend social media was blowing up with excitement over the second annual Afrotech Conference hosted by Blavity, a black-Millennial-focused media company co-founded by Jonathan Jackson.


“Afrotech had over 2000 people in SF. It was amazing.”

“Morgan and my other two co-founders all went to school together. We’re all a year apart. The lunchroom had a big table that many of the black students would sit at to discuss social matters and find people who looked like us. We were wondering what it would be like to have that table on the internet.”

“Blavity ended up building up our own backend. About 60% of our content is user generated. The platform is for them. It’s for other people to have a voice. We knew what it was like not to have one.”

“We have a different model than BuzzFeed. What elicited that was the media company/creative enclave connection. We want black creatives to have a space and see what we’re doing.”

“The first Afrotech was at the Mall in SF. We had a big, big space. It opened at 9am with throngs of people waiting to get in. We wanted to see if it could resonate.”

“Diversity in tech is a good conversation but seeing a bunch of black faces and hearing what they’re doing is what I want.”

“We can just be. Our filter is lower and our expectation is higher. We’re all black but we’re trying to build things. Build the billion dollar companies. We need an Afrotech. I didn’t know I could get into tech without coding. My idea of tech was so warped before I moved to SF. ”

“This year Morgan wanted to go big. We did Pier 27 on the Embarcadero. They pull ships up to it. We focused on a lot of feedback. The room was so big last year people couldn’t find their tribe. We built out tracks. Engineering track, entrepreneurship tracks.  Our CTO Jeff gave a talk about Big Data.”

“We let people mix and mingle and connect. Outside we all had all black food trucks from all over the diaspora. We wanted to make sure everything was communal. All the security guards were black. We never wanted to make sure no one felt left out.”

“We gave people a mix of inspirational and tactical information. There can be elevation collectively.”

“Apple has stores. Who’s in a store, who’s working? It’s easier to count people in the stores. I go to the leadership page and scroll. If you have black executives who are in a Chief Diversity Officer role, I’m more interested in who’s tied to the dollar and cents to the corporation.”

“We know we’re here. We need to talk about getting people in. What is your retain strategy? Have you made a safe environment that’s also brave?”

“What makes my peer set interesting is that we don’t care why things didn’t work. I have found a lot of utility in inter-generational talks. I need to know what they were doing at my age and I will tell them what is happening. A lot of leaders don’t get the right feedback. I want to have a conversation about what they think. It’s allowed us to bring in new partners, too.”

“If you’re cool with how things are you probably don’t want to change.”

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Karen Lau is the CTO and co-founder of Furnishr, a personal furnishing platform that lets customers design their home and have all the furniture delivered and assembled in a single day.

“I graduated with CompSci degree. I worked in telecommunications for years. But I started reflecting on what I wanted to do with my career. I tried to get a formal education in interior decoration at night. Furniture was an area I’ve always loved.”

“On our e-commerce site, we work with wholesalers who handle the logistics and hold everything in their warehouses. They deliver and assemble everything.”

“We moved to NYC from Toronto last year because we were accepted into an accelerator program. NY is bigger for consumer products. New Yorkers are adaptable and willing to try new things.”

“The best things about accelerators is that you immediately have a community of people helping you succeed. Entrepreneurship can be lonely.”

“We’ve been evolving our business for two years now. In accelerator programs whatever you’re building or launching is tested, changed, and repeat”

“We won $50,000 at a pitch fest. It was a 6 day bootcamp and at the end only the top companies got to pitch.”

“You have to start young. There need to be more girls in tech and in the STEM world. I feel like we need to encourage kids to know how to solve problems and get confidence from that.”

“It’s always a small group of female CTOs. There’s not that many of us.”

“We’re adding more features for a whole design creation to rely more on tech.”