T-6 weeks until the Chicago tech community comes together to rock out at the first ever Chicago Tech Rocks concert! And, before we introduce you to our third beneficiary organization, we want to give an enormous “thank you” to everyone who has already bought an event ticket or raffle tickets! We are on our way to reaching our fundraising goal but aren’t quite there yet. So, if you haven’t already gotten your tickets, what are you waiting for? Help us help organizations like Black Tech Mecca train and retain remarkable tech talent; our city deserves it!
What is Black Tech Mecca and why does it exist?
Founded in Chicago, Black Tech Mecca (BTM) is a non-profit organization filling a much-needed void in the city. Chicago’s tech community is thriving, however much of that momentum has yet to be realized in the Black community. A community that is equally active in tech but struggles to receive the dollars, awareness, and support needed for it to thrive. This lack of investment has limited the growth and development of the Black tech community, whose members are coding, creating, innovating, and launching ideas that will change the world. In turn, there is a lack of measurable data that could provide key insights on the impact of the local activity within the black tech ecosystem, in turn affecting how the black tech community is viewed as a viable and profitable arena for investment.
Black Tech Mecca exists to challenge this reality and to provide simple navigation of the opportunities in the city’s tech ecosystem, for black tech educators, students, professionals and entrepreneurs, starting in Chicago. BTM hopes to serve as a key resource and advocate of the Black tech community, and become its patron of opportunity. The young organization already holds a unique position in the marketplace. One that allows them to coalesce the city’s and community's resources in a new, innovative way, helping to impact change in a community that has been vastly overlooked.
Their major goal is to develop an all-encompassing, thriving tech ecosystem in Chicago that can be scaled and replicated across multiple U.S. and global markets. Ideally, this ecosystem will provide the Black tech community with; greater awareness of local tech resources, greater access to experienced tech leaders and veterans, specialized and relevant programming, mentors, capital investment opportunities and data that informs how to reinvest in black communities and, ultimately, drive local economic empowerment.
How do they do what they do?
It’s no small feat to accomplish what they’ve set out to do but Black Tech Mecca has developed a strong, three-pronged strategy to make it a reality:
Create Connections: BTM facilitates connections between members of the black tech community and vital resources in Chicago’s tech ecosystem. Specifically, connections among veteran entrepreneurs & investors and customized solutions that meet the distinct needs of educators, students and professionals in the community. BTM accomplishes this through their Ecosystem Network.
Provide Measurement: BTM provides valuable data and analysis of activity and growth happening within the black tech ecosystem using their State of the Black Tech Ecosystem report.
Direct Growth: BTM leverages the data from their platform and report to inform and impact the strategies they use to develop and grow the black tech ecosystem.
To better facilitate this strategy and directly address some of the challenges they see, Black Tech Mecca has developed two tools for the community.
The Ecosystem Network is an interactive resource network that connects Chicago’s black tech community to the resources needed to foster and develop their ideas, and streamline access to local tech opportunities. It’s a simple idea with a major impact on the black tech community. Aside from creating a direct pipeline to the greater tech community, it will facilitate the development of innovative apps that address the needs of the community and encourage greater collaboration. While BTM recently announced their MVP, they will be rolling out a testing group to provide feedback and suggestions. If you’re interested in joining, sign up here.
Along with developing an interactive network, Black Tech Mecca will be releasing a comprehensive research study that will chart the current state of the black tech ecosystem.
In partnership with the UIC Natalie P. Vorhees Center, and the Department of Innovation and Technology, this study will be released in 2017, and will gather insights on the current state of Black people in: tech occupations, academia related to tech degree and entrepreneurs operating in the tech space for Chicago. It will also look at what the black tech community needs to do to get ahead of the curve as the ecosystem evolves.
Catch up with Black Tech Mecca
A huge part of what BTM is doing requires them to know their target demographic. And they’ve taken this responsibility seriously. In the last year, BTM has hosted five different events open to the public. Between a hackathon, their State of the Black Tech Ecosystem event and #ChiTech2.0: Welcome to the Mecca, they’ve learned so much more about those who rely on their services, those who are looking to BTM for investment opportunities and younger students who are interested in becoming a part of the community.
Want to meet the BTM team? Aside from catching up with them at Chicago Tech Rocks, plan to attend their 2017 State of the Black Tech Ecosystem in January! The event will center around the development, success and growth opportunities in the community and tech ecosystem.