NEW YORK, Oct. 20, 2015 — Black Enterprise presented its inaugural Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit on Monday, Oct. 12 through Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, in Santa Clara, California, with presenting sponsors AT&T, Intel Corp., Capital One and EMC. Students, engineers, executives and tech pioneers gathered for two days of collaboration and networking with venture capitalists and angel investors.
The Summit included a live BE SMART hackathon with five groups of students from HBCUs: Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, Morgan State University, Southern University and Spelman College. Each team was made up of computer science and engineering majors.
The hackathon was sponsored by Capital One, which provided an API to each team. The students were tasked with turning the API into a useful financial app for budgeting, saving, or making purchases on a mobile device. Whichever team developed the best app would win the hackathon and an assortment of prizes from BE and event sponsors.
The hackathon winner was chosen by an elite group of judges that included Mark Mathewson, vice president, Technology from Capital One; Dawn Chirwa, senior advisor at The Giving Practice, Philanthropy NW; Shavonne Gordon, director of diversity recruiting, Capital One; Shannon Green, senior technology manager, Capital One; and Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code. The judges’ criteria for the winning app included the social impact the finished app would have, how innovative a solution the app was, and whether the students delivered the product that was asked of them on time.
All of the students presented great ideas, and each team offered innovative and impressive ways of creating a financial app for mobile devices. The winning team appropriately named Bear Squad, was comprised of Benjamin Hall (team leader), Khir Henderson, Kevin Proctor and Myles Wright-Walker from Morgan State University. Their app, “Oculus,” was a predictive thinking app designed to help college students avoid debt. The app’s features included spending alerts and a visual gauge that let users know whether they were on target with their budget goals. The app also had a social media element as the students created an algorithm that would create a budget score. The budget score increased as long as the user stayed on budget, and the score could be shared via the usual social media channels.
During the Summit, 35 students were taken to the AT&T Foundry; a center of innovation where employees of the multinational telecommunications corporation devise questions, hatch ideas, and try out compelling solutions to customer problems and difficulties affecting the wider world. The AT&T Foundry tour was led by Jerry A. Higgs, senior product development engineer, Yigal Elbaz, vice president, Ecosystem & Innovation and Xavier Williams, executive vice president, Global Customer Services – AT&T Business Solutions. Students also visited the Google Visitor’s Center on the campus of its Mountain View headquarters. Several African American Googlers chatted with the students, including Lo Toney, a venture investor at Google Ventures.
Another one of the many highlights during the Summit included the BE Tech Talk with David Drummond, of Alphabet (formerly Google) who is one of the most powerful executives in Silicon Valley. Drummond provided insight into Silicon Valley and the role black entrepreneurs can play in the tech ecosystem. Additional speakers included Tim Draper, founder of Draper University, Kevin Johnson, Mayor of Sacramento, Young Guru, and more. This year’s TechConneXt Summit also covered topics such as pitching to investors, millennial tech stars, guides to senior management positions, industry diversity, opportunities in gaming, keys to Silicon Valley success, innovation showcases, powerhouse conversations, hacking, and more.
The Summit also presented the Trailblazer Award to Silicon Valley pioneers Kenneth and Caretha Coleman and the godfather of Silicon Valley, Roy Clay, all of whom continue to make significant contributions to the quality of life of the people who live in Silicon Valley.