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Students at AT&T Foundry

3 Truths Reconfirmed @ Tech ConneXt

Location matters. HBCUs rock. And honor your roots

During the course of the three-day 2016 BE Tech ConneXt Summit, more than 500 attendees got a chance to learn from and interact with start-up tech superstars such as Michael Seibel, Everette Taylor, Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green and Ty Ahmad Taylor and more. Here’s what we took away.


Map of San Francsico

You Don’t Have to Live in the Valley, But You Do Have to Go—Rodney Williams, co-founder and CEO of audio-tech firm Lisnr, does not live in the Bay. He has no intention of moving there anytime soon, either. The cost of living is cheap in Cincinnati where he’s based. And, he’s able to recruit young, hungry, smart people with something to prove. Yet, Midwest ethos aside, Williams makes it a point to have a presence in the Palo Alto ecosystem. The venture capitalists based there know his company and its numbers.

Takeaway: You can launch a start-up anywhere in the world. But the biggest pool of investors who get it is in the Bay area.


HBCUs are Churning Out Some of Our Brightest—A highlight of TechConneXt was watching students from 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (Morgan State, Hampton, Howard, Tuskegee, Alabama A&M, FAMU and Tuskegee, among others) talk ideas around design thinking, virtual and augmented reality and the Internet of Things with Palo Alto AT&T Foundry team members. AT&T’s five Foundry centers are filled with some of the most innovative and forward-thinking people within the company. They stay steeped in what’s next. The HBCU students held their own—and then some. And, it was a beautiful sight to see.


Takeaway: HBCUs remain a strong pipeline for the best STEM talent. When we support them, we’re supporting the voices of people of color in tech.



VR Goggle Display
Cynt Marshall at AT&T Foundry

We Do it for the Culture—Coding and content, incubators and VCs were not the only topics of discussion during three-day summit. Again and again, panelists talked about their moral imperative to innovate, create and rebuild in service of people of color. “We need all people of all races—black, brown, yellow—to embrace and innovate technology,” AT&T Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer-Human Resources Cynthia Marshall told the Tech ConneXt crowd. “The more diverse the teams that develops our technology, the more inclusive the solutions.”

Takeaway: The start-up world is about more than cashing out. It represents an opportunity to level playing fields and drive real societal changes.


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