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Black Tech Nation is expanding its reach to the Philly tech ecosystem

The Pittsburgh-founded org hosted its first networking event in Philadelphia this week with the goal of meeting local entrepreneurs and hearing how it can be useful in a new market.

Kelauni Jasmyn (center) with Alex Vaughn King of Plain Sight Capital (left) and Christopher G. Simmons of LRR Partners at Black Tech Nation's first Philly networking event. (Photo by Sarah Huffman)

Kelauni Jasmyn wants to create connections between the people who work in tech in Philly and Pittsburgh.

Jasmyn is the founder and CEO of Black Tech Nation (BTN), a nonprofit that supports Black entrepreneurs and technologists through programming, networking and funding, including with its two-year-old VC arm, Black Tech Nation Ventures.

BTN has been operating in Pittsburgh since 2017, but Jasmyn told Technical.ly she noticed that a lot of people based in Philadelphia were becoming members, or asking how they could get involved. From the very beginning, she knew she wanted to find a way to connect the two.

“Especially with the Black community and in this space where there’s not too many of us,” she said of the tech sector, “I always felt a pull to want to figure out how to bridge the two.”

BTN hosted its first networking event in Philadelphia last  week with the goal of meeting people in the local tech space and learning how BTN can contribute. A few dozen founders, investors — for instance, Alex Vaughn King of Plain Sight Capital and Christopher G. Simmons of LRR Partners — and other supporters gathered in the garden of the Morris House Hotel. One person traveled from New York to attend, and noted that he hadn’t been aware Philly had a tech scene before Jasmyn invited him.

The org plans to follow it by hosting monthly events in Philly through the rest of the year. (Follow BTN on Eventbrite to find future details.) Jasmyn expects these events will help the org to be better informed about what the local ecosystem needs, whether that be workshops, education, access to capital or community-building opportunities.

“You can never have too much space for Black folks in this particular industry because again, historically, it’s just been lacking in every city,” she said, “but particularly in Pennsylvania, I feel like.”

Jasmyn said she’d been worried about stepping on the toes of tech leaders who are already based in Philly and doing connective work, but most of those who attended this first event were people she met in the last year who welcomed her and BTN to the city.

“Never in history has this much money and this much attention and this much resources been given to our community in this space,” Jasmyn said, referring to recent years’ influx of pledges to fund Black entrepreneurs and other DEI efforts. “So I just want us all to utilize and be able to take advantage of it. And my hope is that Black Tech Nation, on the community side and the fund side, can be a conduit to be able to do that for our community and create all of these amazing Black founders.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Black Tech Nation

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