All The ATL Black Techies Came From Far And Wide

Man, the scene was so sick: startup founders, corporate headz, notable names, nuthin’ but them angel investors. All the developers. All the designers. I’m talking about a black techie’s heaven here.

We feel like the outkasts of the national black tech ecosystem. Like the black tech ecosystems from around the country don’t really respect Atlanta.

But last night was epic. 808 people registered for the 2017 State of the Atlanta Black Tech Ecosystem, and 400+ packed into The Gathering Spot to start a movement toward improving the quantity, quality, and connections among people of African descent in the overall Atlanta tech ecosystem. Our objectives were to let people know this is the start of an “open source collaboration” (Credit: Xango Eyee), define what Atlanta Black Tech Ecosystem means, crowdsource major challenges as to why we aren’t reaching our potential, and start executing a plan to make it the #1 city for Black Tech in the nation.

And the major theme that emerged last night was “intentionality”.

Defining Atlanta.Black.Tech.Ecosystem

People have differing opinions on what constitutes tech, but we settled on a common definition:

Atlanta = the entire Metro Atlanta area — not just Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead. It also goes from East Point, College Park, Decatur, to the North.

Black = people of African descent, black-led companies/organizations, programs/initiatives targeted at black people, and those with an over-indexed black presence (e.g. General Assembly and The Iron Yard).

Tech = everything from ideation to execution and all of the support services (Credit: Candace Bazemore) for people 6 to 60 years old. The main thing is that tech isn’t just startups: it’s freelancers, corporate (the largest group), government (2nd largest group), etc. It goes across various industries, and it encompasses all types of skill sets.

Ecosystem = a community of entities in conjunction with their environment, interacting as a system.

Goals

We’ve moving toward making the following happen by the year 2020:

Quantity: Given the above definition of Atlanta Black Tech, estimates on the size ranged from 7,500 t0 25,000. For purposes of this exercise, we’re going to go with 12,500. But we want to double that to 25,000 people/companies/organizations by the year 2020.

Quality: On a scale of 1–5 with 5 being the highest, the general consensus is that 85% of us are 2–3’s, 13% are 4’s, and 2% are 5’s. By 2020, 60% of us need to be 4’s (at least).

Connections: Like Atlanta overall, we’re scattered (literally) and disjointed. Basically, we don’t work well together, but we want to increase our connections 10x.

Where We At, Where We Gone Be: 2017 Asset Scorecard

To get a general idea of where we currently stand, we came up with an overall Ecosystem Asset Score based on the quantity and quality of people/entities and how the connect together and perform relative to the quantity and quality. Black Tech Ecosystems like Silicon Valley, Miami, New York City, and Washington DC all scored 3.5.

Atlanta Black Tech is somewhere between a 2.5–3.

We also divided the ecosystem in six major asset classes (Credit: Startup Atlanta): Notable Names/Companies/Organizations, Education, Social, Financial, Physical, and Service Providers. Here’s where we sit on a scale of 1–5 with 5 being the highest:

Notable Names/Companies/Organizations: 1

Education Assets: 3.5 (defined as colleges/universities, youth programs, professional development programs, design & coding schools, scholarships, etc.)

Social Assets: 3.5 (defined as online communities, professional bodies/networks/associations, advocacy/policy groups, employee resource groups, organizations, events, media/storytellers)

Financial Assets: 1 (defined as investors: venture capital/angel/family & friend, non-profit grants, sponsorship, etc.)

Physical Assets: 4 (defined as co-working spaces, accelerators & incubators, private clubs, maker spaces, etc.)

Service Providers: 2(defined as dev shops, design agencies, tech-focused PR firms, tech-focused, marketing/advertising agencies, innovation firms, legal professionals)

Given more time, we could have scored the following black tech scenes: startup, corporate, government, and about 20 others.

Next Steps

The general consensus is that Atlanta can be a 5. Easy. Here’s what we’ll do over the next 90 days to start making that happen:

Building Community:

  • Creating ATL Black Tech Slack, Facebook, and LinkedIn groups
  • Allowing people to submit ideas to improve quantity, quality, and connections on www.atlblacktech.com
  • Crowdsourcing a complete list of Atlanta Black Tech Ecosystem assets via on a Google Spreadsheet, and, eventually a database with APIs

Improving Quality

The ecosystem is only as strong as its members. So we are challenging each person to:

  • Mentor one (1) person, and get two (2) new mentors by July 4
  • Improve their own skill sets by taking classes, reading articles, watching videos, etc.

Fostering Connections

Let’s face it. Black Atlanta in general has a “me first” culture. For Atlanta Black Tech, we want to create a “pay it forward” culture by having people ask others what they need BEFORE asking for help. And we’ll hold people accountable to this.

Continuous Improvement

  • We’re looking for people to join this volunteer project: developers and designers to build the site and tools, online community moderators, event planners, marketing people, etc.
  • Each of the asset classes (i.e. education) are mini-ecosystems and should have their own “State of” events around the year.
  • Turning the State of the Atlanta Black Tech Ecosystem should turn into a “milestone event” (Credit: Candace Mitchell). Maybe the 2018 edition is a day-long affair.
  • Open-sourcing our framework and what we’ve learned for other tech ecosystems in Atlanta (women, latino, social impact, etc) and other cities across the nation.

View the 2017 State of the Atlanta Black Tech Ecosystem Slide Deck, and log onto www.atlblacktech.com to join the Atlanta Black Tech Family.

Forever developin’, never slippin’. That’s how it is.