More than 20 tech founders affiliated with TechTown attended the annual conference in July.
A major part of TechTown Detroit’s mission is to support the development and growth of tech startups and the founders behind them. So, when the opportunity arose to attend the Black Tech Week conference in July, members of TechTown’s Tech-based programs team jumped right on it and brought 21 tech founders with them!
Black Tech Week is an annual conference that connects Black tech entrepreneurs, investors and professionals with education, resources and opportunities nationwide. This year’s conference took place July 18-20 in Cincinnati, Ohio. More than 3,000 attendees gathered at Cincinnati Music Hall to take their pick from more than 50 workshops and enjoy live performances. More than 100 speakers participated in Black Tech Week; one of those featured speakers was award-winning actress, producer and author Issa Rae.
During Michigan Night, the conference celebrated the tech founders and ecosystem right in the Mitten State. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation led a panel that featured three entrepreneurs, all of whom have gone through programs at TechTown: Darren Riley of JustAir, Lonna Hardin of VoiceBlocks and Alexa Turnage of EvenScore. Each panelist discussed Detroit’s contributions to the tech industry, as well as their own ventures. Immediately after the panel, members of Lightship Capital, the founding company of Black Tech Week, announced that Black Tech Weekend will come to Detroit Oct. 12-14! Team members of TechTown, Venture 313 and the Song Foundation then went on stage to celebrate the announcement.
Here, three of the Detroit entrepreneurs affiliated with TechTown’s programs and funding opportunities share their experiences attending Black Tech Week.
Darrell Marshall, founder of Total Analysis
Recipient of the TechTown Startup Fund
Darrell Marshall is a bioanalytical chemist and the founder of Total Analysis, a company focused on diagnostics for pathogen testing. Marshall says his takeaways from Black Tech Week included the emphasis on diversity and inclusion, which was evident through the events at the conference; learning about technologies and industry trends; and marketing and branding.
“I had a significant and motivating experience at Black Tech Week,” Marshall says. “Connecting with many founders who looked like me gave me the motivation and confidence that I am on the right path.”
Lotoya Vongrechin, founder of Genuu
Start Studio MVP and Traction alum, and recipient of Venture 313 funding
Lotoya Vongrechin is a full-service wedding planner and the founder of Genuu, an app providing financial saving tools and resources to couples as they plan their weddings. Vongrechin says it was a “truly eye-opening and refreshing” experience to witness the exchanges between tech founders, venture capital funds, developers, entrepreneur incubators and others at the conference.
“Black Tech Week proved to be a pivotal milestone in my journey as a new tech founder developing an app for engaged couples,” Vongrechin says. “This conference offered an empowering and dynamic space that allowed me to connect with brilliant individuals hailing from diverse industries. The opportunity to learn from fellow founders was a true highlight, providing me with invaluable insights into the ever-evolving tech ecosystem in the Midwest.”
Shay Bailey, founder of My Beauty Kit
Start Studio Discovery, Start Studio MVP and Traction alum
Shay Beauty is an entrepreneur with experience in corporate beauty sales. She used her experience as a sales manager, makeup artist and brand strategist to create My Beauty Kit, an online brand offering specialty beauty accessories as well as an app for consumers to discover and organize their favorite beauty products from retailers near them.
Bailey says a key takeaway from Black Tech Week was learning to trust herself and follow her gut for her entrepreneurial pursuits, a message she says came up during several presentations. Another takeaway for Bailey was the importance of community, which she says she found not only in members of TechTown who attended the conference but also other Michigan-based founders in attendance.
“My experience at Black Tech Week 2023 was nothing less than amazing!” Bailey says. “My favorite moments involved connecting with other founders I’ve followed for years. The environment made it easy to connect; it felt very intimate and inviting the entire time. The speakers and presenters never felt ‘off limits.’”