Robust Tech Economy Emerges for Black Entrepreneurs, to be Highlighted During Michigan Tech Week

For years, Silicon Valley has been the home of the nation’s technology startups, fostering an environment of savvy entrepreneurs and companies that would come to change the course of many Americans’ daily lives.


The advancement of technology and the companies that grow to employ and become major players in the tech space have, in many ways, revolutionized industries. The West Coast-headquartered social media giants have changed the way we communicate with one another. Companies that don’t have fleets of vehicles (Uber and Lyft) have changed the way we commute. Even companies that don’t own real estate (AirBnB and Vrbo) have changed the way we lodge and travel. And even companies that don’t employ chefs (UberEats and DoorDash) have changed the way we dine.


But the West Coast isn’t the only home to innovation. The Midwest might have something to say about that, as Detroit would become innovators of a great generation that began the automotive industry. While Silicon Valley has played an important role in fostering an environment of resources for new tech companies to expand their wings, Michigan hasn’t sat idly by.


More and more in the past ten years, the state and creative entrepreneurs alike have continued to generate the connectivity and network of tech hubs. It’s attracting more tech companies to places like Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids. It’s also a draw to tech minds locally based with an idea or product they’ve built in their home garage, that now one doesn’t have to move to another side of the country in order for their new innovation to be supported.


“We really want to help elevate Michigan in the national dialogue around being a tech innovator,” says Trista Van Tine, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Michigan Founders Fund and Founding Organizer and Co-Chair of the Michigan Tech Week.


“We’re a fertile ground for startups and founders and help the community feel more engaged in that ecosystem as well.”


It’s the reason for the creation of the multi-day conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from

Monday, October 9th through Thursday, October 12th at the University of Michigan football stadium. Michigan Tech Week will welcome over fifty guest speakers and new programming, including five pitch competitions offering more than $260,000 in funding and a chance to network with investors and industry leaders.


As much as tech startups contribute to the economy, places where they’re traditionally born, such as Silicon Valley, are places seen as overly saturated and expensive, making it ideal for companies and states alike, such as Michigan, to pivot and embrace a new home and industry.


“The best innovation can actually start in markets where you already have immediate knowledge and immediate base of support and there’s no better place to do than the Midwest.”


“In terms of cost of living, cost of talent, along with lifestyle and affordability for your family, and for balancing in building a tech startup with the rest of your time. There aren’t many better places to do that than in Michigan.”


In addition to Michigan having a deep automotive and manufacturing history, the state is also home to a history in computer technology, where some of the first computer networks were built.


“Fiber optic cable was partially developed by a person from Lansing …we really have a long history in leading the way in the internet revolution and computing and that’s a lot of future technology is focused,” Tine says.


Additionally, there are a lot of tech jobs empowering the state’s economy, such as financial technology (with companies like Rocket Mortgage and United Wholesale Mortgage), consumer goods that are marketplace-driven that are enabled by technology, along with a lot of new development underway due to artificial intelligence.


Keynote speakers at Michigan Tech Week include Charles Hudson, Managing Partner at Precursor Ventures; Devon Townsend, Cameo Co-Founder, and Chief Product Officer; Melissa Butler, Founder & CEO of The Lip Bar; and Stacy Philpot-Brown, Cherry Rock Capital.


Additionally, the conference will welcome nearly fifty guest speakers, such as Nia Batts, CMO and Managing Director of Union Heritage Venture Partners; Greg Schwartz, President and COO of StockX; and Carla Walker-Miller, CEO of Walker-Miller Energy Services.


Back in its second year, Michigan Tech Week will partner for the first time with Black Tech Weekend in Detroit, as the conference aims to be inclusive of tech opportunities that uplift all communities.


“The city’s growth in early-stage funding and investor activity makes it a great fit for BTW.” says Candice Matthews Brackeen, Founder and CEO of Lightship Foundation.


“When a startup ecosystem is so rapidly emerging, especially in a city so rich with Black entrepreneurial and professional talent, it’s really important that we are intentional about acknowledging and including resources specifically created and curated for those builders. We’ve worked in Detroit in the past and are thrilled to be invited back to share Black Tech Weekend with the city’s remarkable innovation community.”

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