Nov 15, 2022 - News

AfroTech conference arrives in Austin

CEO and founder Morgan DeBaun welcomes attendees at AfroTech Conference 2022. Photo: Robin L Marshall/Getty Images for AFROTECH

One of the largest tech conferences for Black entrepreneurs kicked off in Austin this week, bringing more than 25,000 attendees to the convention center and downtown Hilton through Thursday.

Why it matters: It's the first in-person AfroTech conference since 2019, and a chance for Black founders, musicians, investors and more to converge.

What they're saying: Morgan DeBaun, the co-founder and CEO of AfroTech's parent company, Blavity, told Axios that she saw Austin as the perfect city to bridge the tech conference with an inaugural music experience.

  • DeBaun added that she hopes the conference will help Black tech workers feel supported in the industry.
  • "When I speak to the black tech professionals that leave, they often say their reason for leaving is lack of inclusion and belonging," DeBaun said. "My hope with AfroTech is that we can help these companies recruit and retain Black talent in a way that makes them feel empowered and creates a sense of community within these tech companies — whether in Austin or any other city worldwide."
Funding to U.S. Black-owned companies
Data: Crunchbase; Note: Includes seed, venture, corporate venture, and private equity to venture-backed companies; Table: Axios Visuals

Details: The conference includes panels on blockchain, NFTs, Web3 and more.

  • DeBaun told Forbes that the conference will skip basic conversations about what it's like to be Black in tech.
  • “You're not going to see that in any of our panels … We're going to talk about, ‘Should I be using Kubernetes in my code? Or, how do I become a director at my company? Or, how do I get on the board at this company? Or, how do I ace that interview?’ We're trying to make sure that the learning and development that happens on site actually accelerates and doesn't tokenize our own community,” DeBaun told Forbes.

The big picture: Black entrepreneurs — and others from communities that have been marginalized — have long been left out when it comes to accessing capital, an important piece in the success of a startup.

  • White men overwhelmingly occupy the top ranks of venture capital and private equity firms, and they tend to invest in companies led by people who look like themselves.
  • Recent Crunchbase data shows roughly $2 billion went to Black-owned companies in 2022, a more than $2 billion dip since last year.
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