Get to Know Your Urban Tech Connect Hosts Bonin Bough and Lauren Maillian

The Urban Tech Connect // Forward virtual conference is coming up in just a few weeks. Our team is excited to introduce our hosts, Bonin Bough and Lauren Maillian. Let’s get to know them:

Bonin Bough
One of the world’s foremost-awarded marketing executives, Bonin Bough is the host of LeBron James’ and Maverick Carter’s CNBC show “Cleveland Hustles,” and author of the book “Txt Me: Your Phone Has Changed Your Life. Let’s Talk about It.”

He’s worked for billion-dollar CPG brands such as Mondelez and PepsiCo, and grew beloved brands including Oreo, Cadbury’s, Pepsi, Gatorade, Sour Patch Kids, and Frito-Lay. As the chief growth officer of the personal care company SheaMoisture, Bough helped grow the business by close to 50% in 12 months, leading to the company being acquired by Unilever for nearly $1 billion dollars.

Fast Company named Bough to their “100 Most Creative People in Business” in 2011, and he’s been featured on Fortune’s “40 under 40,” Ebony’s Power 100, and the Internationalist’s “Internationalists of the Year” lists. The American Advertising Federation inducted him into the Advertising Hall of Achievement.

Bough is the founder and chief growth officer of Bonin Ventures, which connects the best startups with the world’s biggest brands to accelerate their growth. This year he joined the entertainment platform Triller as their chief growth officer.

Lauren Maillian
Lauren Maillian is a consumer brand strategist, award-winning marketer, chief operating officer, and technology startup investor and advisor. In June, the board of social startup Digital Undivided unanimously tapped Maillian to lead their organization as interim CEO.

Maillian got her entrepreneurial start at age 19, when she cofounded the boutique winery Sugarleaf Vineyards. She went on to graduate magna cum laude from FIT, join Walmart’s Board of Disruptors innovation council, and become the first Black woman to start an early-stage venture capital fund as a founding partner and managing director at Gen Y Capital Partners. She has advised and invested in more than 40 startups, which have generated more than $200 million in revenue.

Maillian is an advisor to the social enterprise Pipeline Angels, she founded the professional development company Straight Up and Successful, and is the founder and creator of the Collab, an arts and culture club that champions artists of color. She is also the founder and CEO of the strategic marketing and brand advisory company LMB Group.

She wrote the best-selling memoir “The Path Redefined: Getting To the Top On Your Own Terms,” and brought her passion for innovation to the docu-series “Quit Your Day Job” on Oxygen. Accolades include a 2011 Kauffman Foundation Empact 100 “Top 100 Entrepreneurs Under 30” Award, being named a “shot caller” to watch in business by Essence, a Smart CEO Brava Award, and a spot on Walker’s Legacy’s WL50Power List.

Lauren and Bonin will tag-team hosting Urban Tech Connect September 15 – 17, 2020. Our three-day virtual conference features keynotes, fireside chats, talks, workshops, one-on-one interviews, and office hours for personalized professional development.

Don’t forget to register for the conference, if you haven’t already. We’ll see you soon!

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: $50 Million Fund Launches for Underrepresented Founders

Black entrepreneurial duo Candice Matthews Brackeen and Brian Brackeen want to prove that capitalism is for everyone. This summer their venture capital firm Lightship Capital, along with the agency SecondMuse, created a $50 million fund — the first of its kind.

The fund focuses on underrepresented founders in the Midwest, which includes racial minorities as well as LGBTQ and disabled communities, Nick Fouriezos reported in OZY. He added that the fund plans to initially invest in around 35 businesses across AI, e-commerce, sustainability, healthcare, and consumer packaged goods. Comedian Hannibal Buress signed on as an early investor.

This is not a social impact fund, Candice Matthews Brackeen clarified to OZY. “We’re capitalists at heart. We’re here to respect the money and get a market rate return,” she said. “When people see our teams win, then you’ll see a model that works.”

For our ongoing curation of the innovation and tech news our team is reading, the Plug In South LA Beat, we can see why this pioneering fund attracts so much attention:

A Power Couple with a $50M Venture Fund for the Overlooked

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: A Black Founder Beats the Fundraising Odds

Joseph Heller, founder and CEO of the on-demand manufacturing platform The/Studio, experienced scores of rejections while speaking to venture capitalists for his company’s Series A. The Black tech entrepreneur recently described how he raised $11 million anyway.

“Instead of the usual startup route — creating a PowerPoint deck, getting a few meetings on Sand Hill Road, and raising a few million dollars — I had to prove that I was worthy of attracting VC money before I even got that opportunity to pitch,” Heller wrote in Fast Company.

His win rate with white VCs was 0%, and around 17% with non-white VCs.

Heller said he put years of his life, soul, and own capital into the company. That included taking more than 150 meetings over 18 months just to get a seat at the table. The hoop-jumping was “a soul-draining necessity,” he says. But it ultimately resulted in a successful strategic Series A round led by Ignition Partners in late 2018. Today The/Studio has offices in four countries and more than 100,000 customers.

In this Plug In South LA Beat, our ongoing curation of must-read innovation and tech news, we’re taking a closer look at Heller’s relentlessness, and the silver lining he uncovered:

I’m a Black Startup Founder. Here’s How I Raised $11 Million After 150 Rejections

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Court Decisions Have Ripple Effect for Black Entrepreneurs

When it comes to high-level tech deal making in Silicon Valley, court decisions have watered down the legal protections that emerged from the civil rights movement, the Washington Post found.

One of them was a Supreme Court decision earlier this year. “Byron Allen, an African American and the founder of Entertainment Studios, sued cable TV companies Comcast and Charter after the providers refused to carry Allen’s channels,” Reed Albergotti wrote.

The Supreme Court sided with Comcast in March, agreeing that Allen needed to prove Entertainment Studios would have earned the contract were it not for race, according to the news outlet. In June, however, Comcast reached a cable TV network carriage deal with Allen’s company, Los Angeles Business Journal reported recently. Litigation with Charter is ongoing, the journal noted.

For today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of must-read innovation and tech news, we’re diving into the legal hurdles that Black startup founders face — and getting an inside look at where Allen sees opportunities for growth:

Black Start-up Founders Say Venture Capitalists Are Racist, But the Law Protects Them

Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Is Hungry for More Acquisitions

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Latino SaaS Startup Raises $1.2 Million

Most city government communications are stuck in the past, but three Latino entrepreneurs came up with a tech-savvy way forward. And their startup raised a $1.2 million seed round.

Alberto Gomez, Beto Altamirano, and Eduardo Bravo co-founded Irys to help cities and other groups improve community engagement, Igor Bosilkovski reported recently in Forbes.

“The problem here is that governments are reactive, they are not proactive. They react to the challenges when they are presented to them,” co-founder and CEO Beto Altamirano told Bosilkovski. “What we are trying to do is bridge the gap in communication.”

Irys is a customizable software as a service platform that allows users to flag issues like potholes and broken lights through a mobile app. Geolocated info goes to a smart government dashboard. Good Growth Capital led the company’s recent funding round, according to Forbes.

For today’s Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of must-read innovation and tech news, we’re learning how the San Antonio-based co-founders expanded their community-building platform to 15 cities:

Meet the Latino Entrepreneurs Whose App for Urban Services Just Raised $1.2 Million

Photo: (Left to right) Irys co-founders Alberto Gomez, Beto Altamirano, and Eduardo Bravo. Credit: Josh Huskin


New Speakers and Sessions Added for Urban Tech Connect

Urban Tech Connect // Forward, the premier tech conference focused on Latinx and African American founders, will be taking place virtually September 15 – 17. The best entrepreneurs and VCs in the industry will be in attendance, sharing insights and offering support to founders.

We’ve been busy striving to make the third annual UTC the best one yet. The Plug In South LA team is excited to share the latest conference news with you.

Hosts Confirmed

  • Bonin Bough, Marketing guru, Investor, and Author
  • Lauren Maillian, CEO, Author, and Entrepreneur

New Speakers Added

Our conference program grew significantly since the last update. More speakers joined the lineup, which was already impressive to start. Meet the newest additions:

  • Baron Davis, Investor and Former NBA All-Star
  • Julia Collins, Founder and CEO, Planet FWD
  • Hamet Watt, CEO, Share Ventures
  • Cavel Khan, Chief Revenue Officer, Tumblr
  • Sheila Marmon, Founder and CEO, Mirror Digital

Check out the full list of confirmed speakers. We’re also finalizing big keynote plans. Stay tuned!

Tap Into Expert Insights

The three-day virtual conference features keynotes, fireside chats, talks, workshops, one-on-one interviews, and office hours. We recently added sessions to the agenda with these focus areas:

  • Taking fresh virtual connections to new professional heights
  • Building the Black video game studio of the future
  • Steps for success from Mayvenn co-founder and CEO Diishan Imira
  • Optimizing your infrastructure during Covid-19
  • Workshops with practical guidance around moving forward during the pandemic
  • Emerging employment opportunities in South LA’s creative economy

Shout Outs

Going virtual is a huge undertaking that we couldn’t do without the support of our sponsors:

  • Verizon
  • Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, County of Los Angeles Second District
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • AnnenbergTech
  • SoLa Impact

The global nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) just joined as our charity partner for Urban Tech Connect // Forward.

Confirmed Partners

Please join us in welcoming to our latest partners for the conference:

  • Silicon Valley Bank
  • Amazon Studios
  • Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC)
  • Mailchimp
  • Bixel Exchange
  • Splunk
  • Stubbs Alderton & Markiles, LLP

Grab a Social Media Toolkit

We prepared a toolkit to help you share the Urban Tech Connect experience with your network. Download shareable artwork, use our hashtags to stay connected, and copy customizable digital assets for social media updates.

Access the UTC social media toolkit here.

Don’t forget to register for the conference, if you haven’t already.

Connect with Us

The conference support team is here for you:

We’ll see you soon!

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: First Black-Owned Stock Exchange Launching

Investor Bill Ellison, chairman of Cadiz Capital Holding, and securities lawyer Joe Cecala plan to launch the country’s first majority Black-owned stock exchange.

Ellison and Cecala told Built In Chicago’s Nona Tepper that they plan to take their new stock exchange, called the Dream Exchange, public as a listing site later next year. To date, executives from around 6,000 Black-owned businesses have expressed interest in being listed, the outlet reported.

“The Dream Exchange plans to act as a platform for listing companies whose valuation falls below the $40 million minimum listing threshold required by the New York Stock Exchange,” Tepper wrote.

For the Plug In South LA Beat, our regular curation of the innovation and tech news that our team is reading, we take a closer look at how this new stock exchange could break down the institutionalized barriers that Black founders face in accessing capital:

The First Black-Owned Stock Exchange Will Soon Open in Chicago

Startups The PISLA Beat

The Plug In South LA Beat: Startup Unites Global Black Talent

Meaningful Gigs has a goal of creating 100,000 jobs over the next decade for Black talent. The startup co-founded by Ronnie Kwesi Coleman launched early last year, and is building a network of Africa’s best digital designers for hire.

“We started off getting talent from Africa because I’m from Ghana, and I knew there were so many incredibly talented Africans that needed job opportunities,” Coleman told’s Michelai Graham. “So we’ve been connecting African tech talent to remote jobs ever since.”

The way Meaningful Gigs works: Designers go through a vetting process before being selected to be featured on the platform. Clients, including entrepreneurs and startups, talk to a design concierge, and within days the company connects them with a new designer for a trial period.

In today’s curation of must-read innovation and tech news, the Plug In South LA Beat, we’re learning about this unique startup, including how the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement are affecting their growth:

Meaningful Gigs Is Connecting Black Designers to Jobs Through its Platform