New Partnership at Ross Inspired By AFROTECH™ Helps To Close The Gap
In Tech, Entrepreneurship, and Venture Capital
AFROTECH™ AS A CATALYST TO CREATING CHANGE
“Technology is changing, the market is changing but so are we. It is essential that we do not let the traditional path of the tech industry silence us or prevent innovation from taking place, as these movements MUST be led with US at the forefront.
My challenge to you this week is to connect with someone new, rediscover what inspires you, and stand loud and proud as you build a meaningful career of IMPACT.”
This was part of the opening speech of AfroTech founder, Morgan DeBaun, at the first-live conference since 2019. This was also the first time the conference convened in Austin, Texas or outside of San Francisco in its short history. She had successfully attracted over 15,000 attendees to close the gap between tech, culture, and capital. Her and her team also secured high-profile speakers like billionaire Mark Cuban, 15 Percent Pledge Founder Aurora James, Career Karma CEO Ruben Harris, Backstage Capital Founder Arlan Hamilton, and The Gathering Spots Founder, Ryan Wilson.
But, what exactly is AfroTech, you ask?
It is a multi-day conference started six years ago by Morgan and her parent company, Blavity. She and her leadership designed the conference for the Black community and those who support Black advancement in professional spaces in tech and entrepreneurship. The AfroTech Conference is dedicated to building access to resources within the tech and investment communities. Some of the world’s fastest growing startups, highest executives, and largest corporations show up to speak and present the strategies they’ve employed to ensure their success in communities are scaled beyond the too often exclusionary and unwelcoming culture at companies that consistently overlook talent.
SEIZING AN OPPORTUNITY TO CLOSE THE GAP AT U-M
Austin was not just a first for AfroTech – it was also a first for the University of Michigan and Business+Tech. In October, George Okpamen (MBA ‘23) approached Business+Tech with an innovative idea to expand upon the success of last year’s Defining Fintech Initiative. Focused on a similar theme of elevating and supporting talent among underserved students, George proposed the “Closing the GAP (CTG) Initiative” which includes: engineering a partnership with Entrepreneurial Venture Club, participation in the AfroTech Conference in Austin, and then bringing learnings back to Ann Arbor for an inaugural Black History Month program in February.
Closing the Gap Mission
- Exposure – increase U-M student’s exposure to historically overlooked and underestimated leaders
- Experiences – increase our school’s experiences to non-traditional on-campus and off-campus opportunities
- Examples – increase our society’s examples of multidisciplinary, multigenerational, and multipronged solutions
“The goal of my proposal was not to just do some event or program to check the box. I wanted to help unify the tech, entrepreneurship, and venture capital ecosystem at U-M while also making long-terms systematic change for historically overlooked and underestimated communities” – George Okpamen
To execute the mission and vision of this new initiative, George recruited two +Tech Scholars, Peter Akande (BBA ‘23) and Grace Sanders (BBA ‘23), and EVC Co-President Richi Kanu (MBA ‘23).
In Peter’s words, “Going to AfroTech and being a leader on the Close The Gap Initiative team allows me to have a real impact on outcomes and innovation. Business+Tech and the leadership team continue to literally put their money where their mouth is in terms of creating equity and exhibiting innovation. I’m proud to serve as a driving force of change for my community and university”
Together, they’ll work to close the gap at U-M campus next semester and leave a lasting legacy within Business+Tech and U-M.
The team is excited to continue to work toward producing a live recapped experience of the AfroTech Conference live in Ann Arbor, on February 17th, 2023. Sign-up here to receive up to date information about the event as it gets closer.