Urban Tech Connect // Forward 2022 Beta

The PISLA Beat

“Making the industry of Video Games more inclusive”.

Video Games have been an integral part of the American pop culture landscape. It’s like Baseball and Apple Pie. It has now turned into a monetary endeavor sought after by large entertainment companies, vendors, etc. The Video Game industry has now crossed the $180 Billion mark as of 2020. Earning more than the film industry and North American Sports combined. This is due to sponsorship, e-sports, and streamers. But like Social Media Influencers there is an obvious lack of diversity in this ever-growing community. In research done by The International Developers Association only 2% of Game Developers are black. A number that will surely put fear in the hearts of any aspiring Game Developer. But now Black Creators in the industry are looking to change that.

On the development end of things; we have Chandana “Eka” Ekanayake. Ekanayake is a part of a movement meant to make the gaming community more inclusive. Ekanayake took initiative and started his own studio, Outerloop with his partner in 2017. Outerloop specializes in virtual reality experiences. Starting his own studio Ekanayake was working at Uber Entertainment. While there he saw the drive investors had for VR. So Ekanayake made the leap and pitched his ideas and released his first game, “Falcon Age” in 2019. During Ekanayake’s tenure, he never would emphasize his cultural history, “I was always worried about losing my job.”

But it’s not just about the development. Streaming games is a whole sub-industry within the gaming industry. But the similarities that the two share are a love of games and a heinous lack of inclusion. A wall that will be knocked down. 3BlackDot, the studio behind the acclaimed “Queen and Slim” is producing a new series called, “Gaming While Black”. A digital series designed to show representation in the gaming industry. CEO of 3BlackDot, Reginald Cash said, if you ask a fan who the top gaming creators were, they would maybe say Ninja or PewDiePie. Or if you asked them who some of the top game designers, engineers, or even characters were, there likely wouldn’t be much diversity on that list. Clearly, there is something missing, from just a representation standpoint, if half the adult population on earth says, ‘I’m a gamer,’ and you can’t think of any diversity, that’s a pretty massive problem”.

It’s apparent that the gaming community in the past has not been too welcoming towards creators of color, but with these creators of color. That will soon be a thing of the past.


BrainTrust Founders launch Founders Studio

BrainTrust is an organization seeking to fulfill the needs of Black Beauty and Wellness Founders. Founded by Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, The Studio is an innovative community-based digital platform that is also a marketing agency focused on brand development, social and experiential media, and creating brands from businesses at all stages of their journey.

“As you know as a Black Female Founder, I have survived the highs and lows of entrepreneurship and have first-hand experience being left out or not extended certain opportunities due to my race and gender. I have also found that whether I am building a brand with Halle Berry (actress), Super Dope Q (influencer), or Micha Brown (celebrity hairstylist), we are all in need of support, resources, knowledge, and capital said”, Bracken-Ferguson.

Bracken-Ferguson is an active participant in the UTC community and has participated in recent UTC-sponsored events. Using her knowledge in all aspects of the beauty and wellness sector, as well as her many years of brand building, she has dedicated herself to using her unique viewpoint inside the industry as a mentor and advisor to many Founders.

On October 19th, The Founders Studio was officially launched as an offspring of BrainTrust. A tech-led platform meant to aid the growing community in securing funding when they have too little. JPMorgan Chase and Shopify are two among many sponsors that have invested $100 million in the Founders Studio initiative to address any issues that these businesses will face in an ever-changing market.

The Founders Studio has launched with 25 beauty and wellness founders, including Tai Beauchamp of Brown Girl Jane, Kim Lewis of “CurlMix”, Lauren Napier of “Lauren Napier Beauty”, and Lucien Aymerick Eloundou of “Charbon Plus”, with the intention of launching more during the New Year.

In a press release The BrainTrust Founders studio says, “As part of this ecosystem, the tech-enabled platform will match participating Founders with supporting resources and relevant partners. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and business automation tools [that] will enable Founders to harness the value of dozens of ecosystem partners and advisors to create high-value branded product companies.

Founder Highlight The PISLA Beat

Steps To Being A Successful Black Founder.

We as African-Americans come from very different backgrounds both culturally and economically. As a result, we often have a variety of worldviews. We frequently encounter a variety of large-scale challenges and handle them using a variety of approaches. Pattern matching is the term you are looking for. You’re probably not used to hearing about market prospects you don’t understand if you don’t meet many Black founders.

In the wake of COVID-19 getting your business back together may seem like a hardship, one that you may or may not be able to overcome. For generations, those founders who didn’t even have to put up with the cruelty of COVID-19 still had a difficult time having to navigate the hardship that is being a founder of a new startup. Looking to the future I have taken it upon myself to come up with ways to overcome the challenges that might await new generations of founders.

Believe it or not
If you believe in a Black founding team’s abilities but you don’t understand the unique market opportunity they’re presenting, recognize that you should go and learn about that market and verify whether or not you’re missing out on returns for investors. Recognize that even when our companies focus on a more common market opportunity, we will still likely have different solutions. The reality is, most of the large competitors don’t have any people of color in leadership or on their product teams. There is a reason they don’t see the opportunities we see, and they won’t until we’ve made it relevant.

It’s all about the money
Black founders typically do not have access to the same caliber of VCs that most companies do. So more often than not we have to innovate how we receive our funds. Crowdfunding is one of the most innovative ways you can do this. It’s even gaining traction as the Issac Hayes III founded company, Fanbase has proven.

Speak the language.

Speak the vehicular! We each have our own set of cultural norms. “Blacks and whites read verbal and non-verbal cues differently, resulting in frequent errors in communication,” says Thomas Kochman, author of Black and White Styles in Conflict. The founder, however, bears the entire responsibility for identifying and bridging these communication gaps. Say what you mean and mean what you say. More often than not that will take you where you want to be.

Following these examples right here there should be nothing that you can’t achieve making your life as a fonder easier to navigate while avoiding all the Indiana Jones-inspired pitfalls.

This story was originally covered by the Harvard Business Review.

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“Empire State of Mind”.

For a Billionaire like Jay-Z money is truly no object. Unless it’s a digital one. Jay-Z has now turned his head towards a real game-changer as of late, Bitcoin. Jay-Z and his Mercury Venture Partners are investing in spatial Labs (sLabs, a tech incubator that focuses on meta-verse and blockchain-related products.

SLabs was founded by Iddris Sandu, a Ghanian born and raised in Southern California at a young age Sandu showed an aptitude for tech. Sandu has worked with major businesses such as Apple, Google, and Facebook since he was 13 years old.

In a statement, Sandu said, “Aligning with Marcy Venture Partners supports our mission for uplifting the kids as it relates to access and a means to actual technical empowerment.” “This relationship’s long-term significance is characterized not just by the work we’re doing now, but by the immeasurable impact it will have on future generations of creators.” Sandu’s other credentials include Uber, Instagram, Beyoncé’s Ivy Park, Kanye West’s Yeezy, Rihanna’s Fenty brand, which are among the 24-year old’s very impressive partnership portfolio.

LNQ, the tech incubator’s first product, will be released next year. According to Billboard, Sandu’s goal with LNQ, a blockchain-enabled hardware platform, is to “give youthful innovators with better tools to leverage the metaverse when it becomes a reality.”

In a statement, JAY-Z said, “Iddris has a mindful world view and a youth-centric vision that is creative and refreshing to behold.” “We have similar ideas about how we want to affect people throughout our lives. Partnering with him on this journey and others is very exciting.”

This story was originally covered by our friends at Afrotech. Remember to subscribe to Urban Tech Connect Newsletter and get access to information, education, and people who can help accelerate your journey.

The PISLA Beat

Get your life in order. Digital Life Insurance company, Ladder raises $100 Million.

In a new round of funding, the company, Ladder, the digital life insurance company, accomplished a significant step in their company. Raising 100 Million Dollars for those aged 20 to 60, Ladder offers life insurance term coverage ranging from $100,000 to $8 million. Users can enroll using smartphones and can customize their coverage as their circumstances change. Depending on what they need, they can increase their coverage using the Ladder app.

For instance, if they have another child and require more life insurance, they can choose that option. If they pay off a mortgage or that child grows up, they can lower their life insurance and premiums. The company expects to provide $30 billion in coverage by the end of 2021. Along with that, the revenue has increased by more than 4x times since 2020. Ladder intends to use the new Thomvest Ventures and OMERS Growth Equity co-led capital to extend its engineering team, expand its codebase, and improve its digital interface with clients. It will also be focused on expansion and partnering with new companies.

Ladder’s clientele is younger, with an average age of 37, and the majority of them are first-time life insurance buyers. Nearly two-thirds of its customers use their phones to submit their life insurance applications. The organization has had rapid growth in the last year. CEO Jamie Hale believes that part of that is due to a shift in mindset during the pandemic, “It made them really think about their people. These people are important to me, I want to make sure these people are taken care of.”

Ladder is an excellent application for those looking towards the future and making safe and sound decisions—it has never been easier.

Remember to subscribe to Urban Tech Connect Newsletter and get access to information, education, and people who can help accelerate your journey.


CannaGo: The Delivery System you will want to know about.

“Let’s be buds,” is a heart-warming sentiment from a group of young entrepreneurs who want to see a better world. Matthew Gaffney, N. Victor Nwadike, and Kevin Tolliver came together at a Morehouse info session. These three young men quickly realized that their talents could be brought together to advance something more significant than what they ever thought was possible. Each of them had assets in marketing, development, and engineering. So like any classic superhero origin story; they assembled and started their first endeavor, CannaGo.

In the age of CBD and its promotion, CannaGo takes the two things that people love in the age of COVID-19 home delivery and worry-free attitudes. If someone were a medical marijuana user, imagine being able to have a delivery option. USPHARMACIST.COM did a study that revealed that 80% of medical marijuana users are in chronic pain. The advantage of a delivery option speaks for itself. The team, though, has taken steps to ensure that they handle this most responsibly. Age verification is required to put an order into CannaGo, and the team dots their I’s and crosses their T’s with a secure dropoff and certified drivers.

“I hope this changes people’s lives by bridging the gap and ensuring that the masses have a standard way of accessing safe products,” stated N. Victor Nwadike, an engineer based out of Atlanta, Ga (where the recent Georgia Hemp Farming Act, HB 213 was passed). Canago is the first step into a brave new world for the three co-founders. They are currently in private funding as they take a step that will echo across the world.

Remember to subscribe to Urban Tech Connect Newsletter and get access to information, education, and people who can help accelerate your journey.

Founder Highlight

“In the land of VCs these two Latinx members choose to break the mold”.

When Co-Founders and Co-Presidents Maria Salamanca and Rami Reyes founded LatinxVC they wanted to not only change the tech industry but overcome the statistic that only 2 percent of partner-level development professionals were Hispanic as reported by the Pew Research Center.

Early in his career, Reyes found himself in a situation when he was a freshly appointed partner. Reyes was at a Venture Capitalist convention he happened to meet two VCs at two different companies, At the end of their meetings with me, they asked me if I spoke Spanish. And they were super-shocked, as they said I was the first Latino VC they’d ever encountered. And they were much older than me so that was pretty shocking to hear.”

Only 14 percent of VCs have Latinx investment teams. A number not looked upon fondly by many. This is what inspired Reyes to launch an organization aimed at giving Latinx members a platform where they can finally take a seat at the table.

Salamanca had her beginning working at All Raise, a non-profit aimed at supporting female investment partners. Early they both noticed that there was not only a discrepancy with partners but with junior investment professionals as well, “One of the things we started to notice, from both pulling the data as well as from our own networks and understanding of what was going on, was the analyst and associate class is pretty light. We actually have a significantly larger number of folks at the partner level and up or founding GP partners,” Salamanca said.

Salamanca and Reyes though are choosing to combat this problem head-on. They plan on using capital acquired from the Silicon Valley Bank to staff fully employ their company which was managed by volunteers. It will also be used on other projects too like grow its existing fellowship program, job platform, and mentorship platform.

LatinxVC also has ties with the larger minority programs. They engage in Bi-monthly meetings with All Rise and BLCK VC to double up their efforts and engage in more thoughtful conversations that affect the community as a whole.

The PISLA Beat

“It’s time for The Black Bitcoin Billionaire Group to get Kraken”.

If you were to tell people in 2015 that bitcoin would be where it is today they would probably laugh you out of the room. Now those same people are shaking their pockets for loss change in the wake of COVID-19. It seems as if everybody and their mother bought into the bitcoin hysteria of 2020 surcharging its value.
 Digital currency is official the commodity of the future. Now in October of 2021. The Bitcoin Exchange, Kraken has pledged $150,000 or for those familiar with Bitcoin, 4.5 BTC.  This comes in the form of a grant to the Black Bitcoin Billionaire, an organization centered on diversification and un-wavering inclusivity in the Bitcoin space. 

“In 2020, approximately 13% of black households in the U.S. were unbanked. This is a massive failing of our legacy financial system, for which there is no public alternative of last resort,” Jesse Powell, CEO of Kraken said. Following up on that Powell is also quoted as saying, Being unbanked is costly and it disproportionately affects our poor and minority communities. Bitcoin offers a reprieve to the estimated 1.7 billion unbanked adults in the world – a new financial system by the people, for the people. The only barrier now is education”.  

The Black Bitcoin Billionaire will be able to use the gift however they see fit. One of the things that the money will be used for is to start a succession of Tech Demo Days.  These Demo Days would be aimed to provide pitch experience to Black startup companies in the country.  The first of these demo days will take place on October 20, 2021. 
This is a great opportunity for exposure and awareness in a field that is predominantly owned by white males. In a report done by Cheddar.com, 74% of Bitcoin owners are male and 71% of them are White males. Having the ability to change the narrative and diversifying those numbers is no easy task, but we certainly are moving in the right direction. 

The PISLA Beat

Ruined to Recovered: Tulsa the new black mecca?

It was only recently that the Tulsa race massacre was put into the public consciousness. The magnanimous cruelty and uninhibited savagery finally brought into daylight. In 1921 a mob of white terrorists brutalized, beat, and destroyed the neighborhood famously penned by educator and leader, Booker T.Washington as “The Black Wall Street” in 1913. This capital of black entrepreneurship and business had been turned to rubble in a matter of a few hours. 176 people were killed and numerous amounts of the un-tapped potential lost.

Fast forward more than 100 years later and the town is going through a resurgence like no other. Numerous amounts of black businesses and tech leaders have gotten together and have decided to dedicate themselves to the revival of this once beacon to the black economy. This renaissance includes billionaire, George Kaiser and John Rogers who is the founder of Arial Investments which is America’s largest Black-owned asset management firm.

This new venture is called, “Build in Tulsa”. Launched in 2020 the initiative is meant to be a direct line for black businesses to thrive and prosper in this new tech lead world. Tulsa is also engaged in the development of young professionals as well. “The Tulsa Remote Program” offers remote opportunities and if applicable $10,000 in grants if you need to relocate.

There have been 209 black businesses that have benefited from the resurgence in the Tulsa community. This is a long time coming for the town once plagued by nothing but pain and suffering.

Startups Uncategorized

Tech Companies, let’s grow!

2020 saw new challenges that many of us have never faced before. Part of these new challenges offered new solutions that required innovation and outside-the-box thinking. At the forefront of this is the tech industry.

Thanks to a report done by Crunchbase. A record $137 Billion was invested into startups in the first half of 2021 alone. Sadly amongst that number, only 1.2% went into startups led by black entrepreneurs. This report was put together by Crunchbase over 1,393 contributors. The contributors are made up of Crunchbase Venture Program Partners, tech-journalists, Crunchbase’s data management team, and venture capitalists themselves. The Crunchbase researchers also added that Black entrepreneurs in the U.S raised nearly $1.8 Billion in the first half of 2021.

Within the decade tech companies have been scouting the city of Atlanta for its brightest and best. Atlanta has seen numerous startups within the last few years. Georgia also takes the cake with the highest record of funding with 8.4% of the venture funding going to founders of color. Georgia has become a hotspot for the industry with Silicon Valley and other high-profile companies now recruiting out of Atlanta.

Crunchbase’s senior data journalist provided ZDNET with some insight on this report,

“There is an increased interest and awareness around issues of racial justice in the venture world. Some positive signs are that more Black-led firms and funds have invested in Black and other underrepresented startup founders, more Black investors at traditional firms are being promoted to partner level, and a greater percentage of VC funding to Black startup founders is going into early-stage rounds, several of which have been quite large.”

Despite these disadvantages, Black startups have still been providing crazy numbers in funding. 1.2% is an increase from last year as black startups in 2020 raised approximately $1 Billion. The field for diverse and black-run tech companies is growing with expediency. The next step is getting these companies the materials to help support them.