Hip hop and modern technology have been going steady as of late. With Jay Z acquiring Tidal, the first artist-owned music-streaming service, Nas creating scholarships for young people of color to learn coding, and Apple Music partnering with Drake in its recent launch, the two worlds have collided. Hip hop has given technology a cool factor like never before.
Although these artists are highly visible, the majority of the movers and shakers in the tech industry do not look like the hip hop kings. Most are white and male. One in 14 tech workers are Black or Latino. People of color are more often the consumers of these products and not the creators.
Additionally, attending tech conferences — essential to networking and learning new industry trends — can be a fish out of the water experience for Black and Brown tech workers. Many lack diverse speakers and women. Anthony Frasier, the founder of the Phat Startup, and Jesal Trivedi have filled that void by creating a hip hop-inspired event that speaks to Millennials of color: the Tech808 conference.
“It’s good to have a safe space to learn about entrepreneurship to learn about innovation and not feel like you don’t belong there. I feel like this is important for that reason,” Frasier told BET.com.
On Nov. 9, the Phat Startup will present the next Tech808 conference with the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. Frasier had already been hosting influential speakers for talks through the Phat Startup when Trivedi brought him the idea to create a day-long event.
"A lot of people realize that hip hop could be a catalyst for innovation," said Trivedi, who said his alma mater immediately hopped on the idea upon learning about it.
The individuals highlighted at Tech808 are currently investing, creating partnerships and building successful brands in tech and business right now.
"Sure you can learn from people like Jay Z and Diddy,” said Trivedi. “You can learn everything that they've done, but actually getting advice from people in the trenches actually doing it is hard to come by," said Trivedi.
Aubrey Flynn, VP of Sean Comb Enterprises, is one of the speakers this year. Flynn manages the digital strategy across all of Diddy’s multi-million dollar brands. “Having someone like Aubrey come and give jewels and tips on not only how to build up a brand but manage it in an effective way, the way Diddy likes them, I think that would be a valuable thing that can help someone who is running a small e-commerce shop selling iPhone cases or something like that,” Frasier said.
Husband-and-wife team Jamal and Felicia O’Garro, founders of Code Crew, will also speak. They help educate minorities and women in coding through their startup. “Two years ago they weren’t coders but now they work in the technology industry making a really good income. But how were they able to go from people who didn’t know how to code to full-fledged careers actually coding? I feel like what you can learn from these people is invaluable because they look just like you and me.”
Chief Technology Officer of New York City Minerva Tantoco will also be at the conference weighing in on how the Big Apple is helping young entrepreneurs in the digital space.
Earlier this year, Tech808 Conferences were brought to Washington, D.C., and Oakland, urban areas that don't get the same attention that Silicon Valley gets for these kinds of conferences, Frasier said. “A lot of what’s happening in San Francisco isn’t moving to the people in Oakland."
Future host cities include Atlanta and Chicago. Also, the co-founders envision taking Tech808 abroad to London, throughout Africa, Japan and Korea. These areas have growing tech communities. “Plus, those markets really love hip hop,” added Trivedi.
Moving forward, Frasier and Trivedi are excited to help fill a void for young people hungry to turn their ideas into businesses.
“We’re starting to see a lot of young people of color realize that they can do this, too,” Frasier said.
Some have dubbed Tech808 the “new urban TED,” he added.
As the Millennial generation continues to take the entrepreneurial route more than those before them, Black and brown young people deserve a seat at the table of this economic shift as well.
"When I see a list of top tech CEOs, I want to see 25, 30, 40 people of color on the list," said Trivedi.
Find out more information about Tech808 conference here.
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(Photo: The Phat Startup via Facebook)