SXSW is traditionally known as a flourishing playground for techies, full of nonstop action where even your most experienced tech enthusiast can feel overwhelmed. So what happens when 100 students from HBCUs across America descend on the city of Austin? Greatness!
Huddle Ventures founders Rodney Sampson, Derrick Morgan, and Michael Peterson brought a massive group of bright-eyed students from historically black colleges and universities to see what all the fuss was about and boy were they excited. Some of them had never been out of their immediate cities before.
“This is the second year that we’ve done HBCU@SXSW,” said Peterson. “Rodney brought a smaller cohort last year with him and his wife as Opportunity Hub. The main reason why we will do HBCU@SXSW annually is to bring exposure to young, diverse college students who are underrepresented in tech. We brought over 100 students from 41 different schools represented and they were black and Latino.”
“The reason why we chose HBCUs is because it’s historic to our own personal history. I didn’t attend an HBCU but a lot of my family members did. Historically, I’ve seen these images of ecosystem builders and entrepreneurs so there is an affinity there and I think that’s really where our opportunity lies in terms of connecting and getting involved in the community,” said Peterson.
(Image: Loyall Hart Photography/Rodney Sampson, Steve Case)
“It goes into our thesis of identifying and giving opportunities to the underrepresented talent,” said Morgan. “HBCUs are notoriously overlooked by recruiters. If I’m a recruiter from Google, I might hit a Howard or a Morehouse but who’s to say I’m going to hit a Huston-Tillotson or a university of that scale; so we’re here to extend the opportunity. Out of the thesis, it’s one of our early exposure initiatives. A lot of students that were in attendance never heard of SXSW before this opportunity. It opened up a whole new world for them and exposed them to a lot of things that they weren’t aware of.”
Video: Osahon Tongo and Genie Deez
“We’ve created the opportunity ecosystem, which is based around four products: early exposure, which includes HBCU@SXSW; education and training, where we are building an entrepreneurship curriculum; ecosystem building, which are hubs that we will be launching in other spaces around the country; and the fourth is capital formation, which we will be launching an equity crowdfunding portal,” said Sampson. “Huddle Ventures is the parent company of Opportunity Ecosystem and Huddle Fund.”
As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done to increase awareness on both sides and from the looks of it, Huddle Ventures has rolled up their sleeves to get to it. They sent 100 students to SXSW this year. Their goal is to get that number to 500 students.
Sequoia Blodgett is the Technology Editor for Black Enterprise, Silicon Valley. She is also the founder of 7AM, a lifestyle, media platform, focused on personal development, guided by informed, pop culture.