Black Tech Weekend Detroit 3
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Innovation and Energy Abounded at Black Tech Weekend Detroit 

The building was filled with activity, conversation and music when I entered Black Tech Weekend Detroit, hosted at Newlab in the Corktown neighborhood. Thrilled by the opportunity, I met entrepreneurs still dreaming, investors seeking the next new idea and all who are part of the startup ecosystem of Detroit. 

According to Black Tech Week, “Detroit was selected to host Black Tech Weekend based on popular demand combined with the city’s growth in early-stage funding and investor activity, rapidly emerging startup ecosystem and abundance of Black entrepreneurial and professional talent.” 

There was art displayed throughout the open design building. People chatted in the many seating areas or rushed to their next sessions. Volunteers with bright yellow name tags guided attendees throughout the open-design building. The vibe was decidedly upbeat and welcoming. 

Black Tech Week staff told me more than 800 attendees were present, and over 25 speakers from across the country led sessions throughout the day. 60 percent of the speakers were women, and five percent were nonbinary.  

Naturally, I chose to attend sessions featuring female speakers. 

Learning about the entrepreneurial ecosystem   

Main stage

Candice Matthews Brackeen and Dug Song

Khalilah Burt Gaston, founding Executive Director at Song Foundation, and Dug Song, founder at Song Foundation – former co-founder and CEO of Michigan’s first tech unicorn Duo Security – answered questions from the audience about funding, startup life and entrepreneurial growth. They shared about their own professional journeys and launching the Foundation which actively supports the Detroit tech ecosystem.

Inclusive product design 

Alexandra Raymond

Alexandra Raymond of Amazon Studios defined inclusive product design and shared tools and strategies to apply to the design process. All designers, she stressed, should look through an inclusive lens.  

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change,” she said. 

When is it time to move on? 

Marlin Williams of Marlin Williams Enterprises and Gwen Jimmere of Naturalicious shared their stories and discussed the signs that it was time to move on, both in business and relationships. They answered audience questions about when it was time to leave a role or close a business. 

Williams’ perspective focused on how “self-limiting beliefs” should not guide entrepreneurship. Jimmere spoke of the need for purpose. She had grown so focused on numbers and increasing the bottom line that she lost her purpose – but it’s back, she said. 

Project management 

Tia Fowlkes

Tia Fowlkes, an experienced program manager at Google, shared her expertise in project management and presented decision-making strategies and processes. She led us through the thought process of managing a project and discussed systems that would help to improve productivity and communication for companies.     

Black Tech Weekend Detroit 2023 

Throughout the day, I met so many determined, passionate people, full of inspired ideas. Domonique Davis is one of the early-stage entrepreneurs I connected with. “It was really exciting to meet so many people who want to rally behind Detroit founders. They respect the Motor City grit.”  

I couldn’t agree more. The event overflowed with passion for tech innovation and entrepreneurial leadership. Everyone involved said that they look forward to the next gathering of Black tech innovation from across the nation. 

About the author

Suzanne Drapeau

Suzanne Drapeau taught writing at the high school and college levels for 30 years and recently joined Carlton PR & Marketing. She spends her “free” time working/volunteering for the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation, where her main role is managing social media and building partnerships with other maternal health nonprofits. She lives in Michigan but hopes to become a digital nomad when her children finish their educations.

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