The talent is in our backyard.
Every year, the National Society of Black Engineers – Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter (NSBE-BMAC) holds Minority Innovation Weekend, also known as MIW. The NSBE-BMAC realized years ago that there is a great need for startup founders and cofounders of color to receive the financial, educational, and long-lasting support that they deserve. Therefore, MIW focuses on providing opportunities for founders and cofounders of technology startup companies to take their ideas to the next level.
Nationwide data shows that minority innovators receive less funding and support, but their ideas are priceless. For that reason, Minority Innovation Weekend continues to use its resources to help startup companies maximize their full potential. On July 17, MIW hosted a pitch competition alongside investors that are ready to support the success of these technology startup companies. Through an intriguing, exciting, and insightful event, startup companies that are founded or cofounded by individuals of color got to bring their best pitch to the table.
The 2021 MIW Summer Pitch competition was completely virtual, as the coronavirus continues to shift normalcy. However, the pandemic didn’t stop the show. Over a dozen companies participated in the competition. They included:
- MindStand Technologies (Catonsville)
- CoTripper (Silver Spring)
- Pet Connect (Silver Spring)
- Kalm Studios (Washington, DC)
- Roadi (Baltimore)
- Flave App (Baltimore)
- SpreadKarma (Baltimore)
- CyDeploy (Baltimore)
- SmartBridge Health (Washington, DC)
- 1787fp (Virginia)
- Employable (Virginia)
- Jammin’ Together (Annapolis)
- Bloc By Block News (Baltimore)
During the pitch competition, each company received five minutes to prove to the judges and investors that they deserve the winning prize. Following their pitch, the judges were allowed less than ten minutes to ask any follow-up questions. The Minority Innovation Weekend’s main goal is to recognize and highlight technology start-up companies, and following the pitch competition two companies took home prizes.
However, opportunities like this wouldn’t be possible without people that understand the importance of investing in startup companies. Delali Dzirasa the founder and CEO of Fearless is the title sponsor of the 2021 MIW Summer pitch competition. Fearless team member LaToya Staten said the downtown Baltimore digital services agency wants to be a part of building up other businesses in their neighborhood.
“Fearless wants to change the world and we know we can’t do it alone,” Staten said. “By investing in the next generation of civic tech companies, we are multiplying the number of businesses who want to do good. It’s why we started our Hutch incubator and it’s why we participate in events like Minority Innovation Weekend. We don’t see other companies as competitors, we see them as potential partners in our quest to build software with a soul.”
The judges said Ogunsanya pitched an idea that had great potential. MindStand was founded in 2018 and “helps coach employees around inclusive language and provide trackable metrics around diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Ogunsanya said.
Ogunsanya said he was so happy to take home the first place prize.
“I practiced my full length pitch multiple times, consulted with my pitch coach, Mac Conwell. I knew if I paced myself and told stories about MindStand’s vision, I would do well,” Ogunsanya said. Now, Ogunsanya plans to use the $10,000 winning price to expand the marketing of MindStand and develop case studies.
Minority Innovation Weekend will continue to assist startup companies. The next pitch competition is coming up in spring 2022. Find the application here.
“There is an immense amount of talent in our backyard and a community of people ready to foster and nurture their talents,” Staten said. “A lot of people will tell entrepreneurs they need to move to Silicon Valley or another so-called tech hub to build and grow a business, but it can be done in Maryland and is being done in Maryland. Baltimore is a very supportive community for up and coming entrepreneurs. People want to help one another.”