Technoir 2.0 — the second iteration of a gathering for black D.C. entrepreneurs — was a success in many more ways than one.
First off, it drew some important VIPs. In a short speech, Mayor Vincent Gray suggested with usual bravado that Silicon Valley should become the D.C. of the west. “One of the things that is now attracting people to Washington, D.C.,” he said, is the “technology community.”
The aim of the event also struck a chord with the public, during a time of heightened solidarity, just days after the Eric Garner grand jury decision sparked fresh outrage and protests.
What black entrepreneurs need first and foremost, explained organizer Steven Jumper in between endless handshakes and pats on the back, is “resources and access to capital.”
But, he added, black entrepreneurs also have another challenge to grapple with. “A lot of times in our community, we don’t believe enough in ourselves,” Jumper said.
Mentioning those living in Ferguson, Mo., he added: “This is about showing them that they aren’t [alone].”
It’s a sentiment Jumper sought to overcome personally as he entered the D.C. tech bubble himself.
Jumper is president of strategy at Ghost Note Agency, a digital consultancy founded in 2010. When the company joined 1776 last year, he was startled. Out of 250 companies there, “maybe six were black-owned,” he said.
That’s why he created Technoir, which made a splash with a write-up in the Washington Post its first time around in August.
At 1776 on Friday night, more than 600 entrepreneurs were there to celebrate, and reflect.
Radial, which seeks to plug in African and Caribbean countries with a service similar to Pandora, won the pitch contest, going home with a $5,000 cash prize plus $15,000 in services from Fish & Richardson; IP Legal Counsel; Fleishman-Hillard; Strategic Communications; Ghost Note Agency and the General Assembly.
The other contestants were:
After the winner was announced, Friday night kicked into gear.
There was music from local band the Black Alley.
And some pretty amazing glowing art:
And some video games, too:
Knowledge is power!
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