AfroTech: Could Detroit Be the Black Tech Capital of the Country?
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Silicon Valley. Guterson, who has worked for Microsoft and Duo Security, is the woman who set the Detroit event in motion. She says she was blown away when she attended AfroTech last year.
“Being surrounded by bright, brilliant, and generous people and connecting with mentors—I wanted it to be year-round,” she says. “Immediately after I got back, I wanted to hijack it and bring it to Detroit.”
She spent three weeks “listening to everyone I know in Detroit’s black tech space,” talking to them about the barriers they had experienced. “Everyone was interested in AfroTech. Detroit should be the black tech capital—we have all the pieces, but we haven’t worked together.”
She points to the Black Tech Detroit Slack channel as a “really vibrant community. There’s a disconnect between black brick-and-mortar startups and black tech startups, but the Slack channel breaks down silos.”
All of the content for the Detroit event has been crowdsourced, Guterson says, and it revolves around how one can find success. “For me, creating vibrancy in the black tech community is important, but it doesn’t stop there. I also want to fold in other marginalized people. Diversity and inclusion should be deep and wide.”
Guterson sees a lot of “incredible companies” paving the way for more inclusion in Southeast Michigan. “Diversity of thought is really important, especially in entrepreneurship and innovation,” she adds. “There’s a lot of room to grow, but the framework is there.”
Fiscal support for diverse entrepreneurs is top on the list of things that need changing, she says. “People of color often have no access to friends and family funding, which is crucial to getting a business off the ground and testing ideas to scale.”
She hopes that by hosting AfroTech, Detroiters will have an opportunity to tell their own stories and counter the negative narratives that often surround the city, creating a platform to elevate the local tech community.
“Detroit is not Silicon Valley, but it could be better than Silicon Valley,” she says. “I want to position the city as a black tech hub. If Detroit can grow, attract, and retain talent, VCs will have no choice but to support. I’m recklessly optimistic.”