Huddle Ventures Sends 100 Students to SXSW

Huddle Ventures

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.


Loyall Hart Photography/Rodney Sampson, John McElligott (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 BlodgettSequoia 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.

Angel Investor Rodney Sampson and NFL Player Derrick Morgan Team Up to Help Minority Startups

Derrick Morgan

NFL Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan seeks to tackle major issues facing minority and women-owned business, including capital access. A graduate of the University of Miami’s executive MBA program, Morgan partnered with veteran angel investor Rodney Sampson to start Opportunity Ecosystem to develop inclusive startup technology ecosystems in cities throughout the United States in an effort to increase diversity in the innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment economy.

Morgan’s new effort, Huddle Ventures, is the parent company of Opportunity Ecosystem, which officially launches at SXSW (March 10–12). Opportunity Ecosystem will launch their ecosystem building platform at SXSW by hosting a series of talks, panels, special events and receptions that will feature conversations with Van Jones, Steve Case (billionaire founder of AOL and Revolution Fund), Johnetta Elzie (co-founder of Campaign Zero), Janice Bryant Howroyd (founder & CEO, ACT-1, No. 2 on the BE 100s list of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses) and Russell Okung (Denver Broncos).


Building a Model for Economic Development


“We are huddling everyone in the ecosystem from students to corporate executives to investors,” says Sampson, Kingonomics author and Opportunity Hub founder, which partnered with Tech Square Labs (a tech incubator and venture fund) and launched the Tech Opportunity Fund, a $100 million diversity scholarship fund for coders and software engineers.

Opportunity Ecosystem seeks to create a network of angel investors, black-owned banks, pro athletes, and regional business associations to invest in and grow minority-owned, early stage tech companies. Ultimately, Morgan and Sampson hope to create a scalable model for economic development that can be replicated in low- and middle-income communities across the country. Such efforts could lead to purchasing real estate to establish a co-working space to house an accelerator and coding program.

OE is an inclusive ecosystem building platform that it modeled after the work that Sampson was doing in  Atlanta via Opportunity Hub, shares Michael Peterson, a co-founder of Huddle Ventures. “A lot of football players are ingrained to do philanthropy—to give back. We started to look at the investment model in terms of social impact,” adds Peterson, who uses his affiliation with athletes to leverage their funds and businesses as an adviser. In fact, the next Opportunity Hub and Ecosystem will be in Morgan’s hometown of Nashville, which has a great sports franchise, HBCUs, coding programs, and black banks. “We want to take this to 100 cities across the nation over time.”


Increasing Investment Capital in Black Businesses


Morgan, 28, cites the fact that less than 1% of angel and venture fund investments go to African American or Latino-owned startups, a crippling number given that small businesses account for the majority of new job creation. OE aims to change that by launching an equity crowdfunding platform, creating new angel investors and connecting new companies to capital opportunities.

Morgan is an angel investor, having funded a few tech startups. “One of my first technology investments was Monsieur, an automated bartending system. It was developed by one of my frat brothers [Barry Givens] at Georgia Tech. I wanted to diversify my portfolio and was looking at how the tech industry was rapidly growing and evolving,” he explains. “I also invested in an app called Fitbit [wireless tracker].”

New Tech HBCU Initiative In Support of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper

(Image: File)

The South by Southwest Interactive Festival teamed up with Atlanta co-working space Opportunity Hub, the black collective MVMT50, and several historically black colleges and universities.

In support of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper, a new initiative was launched at this year’s festival to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color.

[Related: President Obama Speaks On Apple, FBI Issue and Using Tech for Civic Duty at SXSW]

Students were able to participate in a hackathon, attend workshops, panels, and pitch competitions. Participating HBCU students included Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, University of the Virgin Islands and Huston-Tillotson University.

“Exposing these entrepreneurs to all the opportunities for learning and networking that SXSW has to offer is important in their development as co-founders,” noted Hugh Forrest, director, SXSW in a statement. “These young HBCU entrepreneurs are important in the continued development of SXSW as a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem for all. Initiatives such as this one are a strong step toward achieving the goal of a more diverse tech industry.”

2015 report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers explores the barriers that disadvantaged youth face, particularly young men of color, and quantifies the enormous costs this poses to the U.S. economy. In particular, this report focuses on the significant disparities in education, exposure to the criminal justice system, employment, and access to opportunity that persists between young men of color and other Americans.

“My Brother’s Keeper is focused on expanding opportunity so all of our young people can build the skills and networks needed to succeed in the 21st century economy,” stated Michael Smith, special assistant to the President and senior director for White House My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. “We commend SXSW, MVMT50 and Opportunity Hub for this exciting new partnership to advance this goal, providing a one-of-a-kind learning experience about innovation and entrepreneurship to students who otherwise may not have had this opportunity.”

Opportunity Hub, inspired by MBK, worked to encourage directors at many of the HBCUs to look at SXSW as an important opportunity to expose their students to tech, STEM, the startup ecosystem, and the opportunities for internships, connections, and mentorship. Founded in 2013, Opportunity Hub (OHUB) builds diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial centers and startup ecosystems from the ground up. Opportunity Hub merged with TechSquare Labs, a 25,000-square-foot incubator, co-working and innovation space anchored by a $25 million venture fund.

“Early exposure to innovative environments, tech entrepreneurship, and the opportunities it can provide as a software engineer, technical or business co-founder can be the difference maker in a person’s career and life,” added Rodney Sampson, chairman, Opportunity Hub; chief of diversity & inclusion initiatives, TechSquare Labs.

“Long term, it allows entrepreneurs from underserved and underrepresented backgrounds to work on solving big problems which can lead to the development of high-growth companies that create high-growth jobs and can transform entire communities.”

White House Names Atlanta A TechHire City

The City of Atlanta has been named an official TechHire city by the White House. The Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, The Iron Yard, and TechSquare Labs will partner to lead and implement the Atlanta TechHire Initiative. The TechHire Initiative was launched by President Obama in March 2015. It is a multi-sector initiative and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need, through universities and community colleges but also nontraditional approaches such as “coding boot camps,� and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying job, often in just a few months.

Atlanta is among the top 10 U.S. cities with the greatest supply-demand gap in IT jobs. In 2016, through the Atlanta TechHire Initiative, The Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, The Iron Yard and TechSquare Labs will train at least 100 individuals in software development and other high-growth IT occupations, and more than 400 individuals by 2020. Individuals trained through the Atlanta TechHire Initiative will be guaranteed interviews with the initiative’s employer partners. “Atlanta’s designation as a White House TechHire city cements its position as the Technology Capital of the South,� says Rodney Sampson, chief of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at TechSquare Labs, an innovation hub for entrepreneurs.

“This branding increases our responsibility to create an innovative and entrepreneurial workforce and technology ecosystem for all. TechSquare Labs stands at the ready to lead this task in collaboration with The City of Atlanta, Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, The Iron Yard, and our employer partners.�

[Related: Two Atlanta Startup Hubs Merge To Diversity Tech Sector]

“In order for our city to be competitive in an ever changing hyper-connected economy, we have to ensure local residents have access and opportunities for training and employment in the growing technology industry, and Atlanta’s designation as a TechHire city is key in our work to create more rapid IT training opportunities,â€� adds Michael T. Sterling, executive director, Atlanta Workforce Development Agency. “As the workforce system for the city of Atlanta, we will work in a collaborative and unrelenting fashion with public, private, nonprofit, local, state, and federal partners to make certain that Atlanta’s workforce is equipped with the tools needed to navigate the innovation and entrepreneurship world.â€�

The Atlanta TechHire Initiative has engaged several employer partners to participate in the initiative and interview TechHire-trained candidates including Turner, The Weather Co., Pindrop, SOLTECH, Luma, Springbot, WhatCounts, and the City of Atlanta Department of Information Management, among others.

“Pindrop is committed to advancing the precedent of ensuring that Atlanta attracts, builds, nurtures, and retains highly skilled engineering and technical talent, particularly given the opportunity this City has to impact the world in terms of rapidly evolving innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment trends,� says Pindrop Chairman Paul Judge.

Two Atlanta Startup Hubs Merge to Diversify Tech Sector

Rodney Sampson, founder and CEO of Opportunity Hub (Image: File)

TechSquare Labs, a technology innovation hub for startups and corporations, has merged with Opportunity Hub, a diverse and inclusive entrepreneurship center and multicampus co-working space. The two Atlanta-based startup hubs have come together for the purpose of increasing diversity in the technology sector.

[RELATED: Digital Renaissance: 3 Signs Detroit Is the Next Tech Hub]

Opportunity Hub’s Founder and CEO Rodney Sampson, together with TechSquare Labs co-founder and angel investor Paul Judge, will focus on creating curriculum, products and solutions to increase diversity and inclusion in tech; build a platform to start, accelerate, incubate and fund diverse co-founding teams; help corporations meet their own internal strategies, goals, and initiatives in this area; and bridge the divide between corporate innovation and supplier diversity.

Opportunity Hub produces more than 300 educational events and classes per year, has pre-accelerated 25 startups, and awarded more than $60,000 in code school scholarships. The startups in the Opportunity Hub ecosystem have raised over $5,000,000 in pre-seed and seed capital. TechSquare Labs offers 25,000-square-feet of work space, including an incubator, venture fund, and corporate innovation programming in Technology Square, an Opportunity Zone and ground zero for innovation in the Southeast. The team uses their prime location and business experience to leverage connections between corporations, technical co-founders, and educational institutions accelerating startups and fostering innovation within large enterprises.

“Over the last three years, Opportunity Hub has led the nation in launching diverse and inclusive startup and technology ecosystems garnering greater access to vetted mentorship and early stage capital for minorities and women,” notes Sampson who joins the TechSquare Labs team as the chief of diversity and inclusion initiatives. “TechSquare Lab’s Co-founders Paul Judge and Allen Nance have a proven track record of starting and investing in scalable companies that create jobs and increase shareholder value. Their willingness to invest in the building of a diverse and inclusive end-to-end technology ecosystem demonstrates their commitment to developing Atlanta’s economy and our city’s attractiveness to the global markets.”

Atlanta is home to some of the largest coding schools in the Southeast, a quarter million higher education students, and two of the top five historically black colleges and universities. This talent pool, combined with the burgeoning startup scene and concentration of large corporations, creates an unparalleled opportunity to Build Something from Nothing at TechSquare Labs. TechSquare Labs’ first diversity initiative includes the launch of a pilot code school and co-founder’s college in collaboration with Atlanta’s Workforce Development Agency. Led by Michael Sterling, the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency has committed up to $200,000 toward the training of new software engineers (coders) from underserved and underrepresented communities in the City of Atlanta.

The code school and co-founder’s college will be led by Sampson, who has a long track record of creating inclusive platforms and advocating for minorities and women in the technology market. He was awarded the Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency 2015 Access To Capital Award.
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President Obama Hosts First-Ever White House Demo Day

Rodney S. Sampson (Image: File)

President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Demo Day, celebrating the important role entrepreneurship plays in America’s economy. Unlike a private-sector Demo Day, where entrepreneurs and startups pitch their ideas to funders, these innovators from around the country got to “demo” their individual stories.

The Demo Day event showcased the need to give entrepreneurs from all walks of life a chance to turn their ideas into indispensable products and services, and included new announcements from The National Venture Capital Association, Kapor Capital, Opportunity Hub and other organizations expressing their commitment to inclusive entrepreneurship.

[RELATED: Treasury Secretary, SBA Chief Host Listening Session for Entrepreneurs]

What’s more, Opportunity Hub (OHUB) revealed its multiyear, inclusive entrepreneurship initiative on Periscope (follow @OHUBATL). “Fifteen years ago, I was probably the only black co-founder of a high growth, scalable, tech startup in Atlanta that had successfully raised seven-figure seed and series A rounds from angels and VCs. Today, I can count them all on one hand. This is tragic and must change,” says Rodney Sampson, OHUB’s founder and CEO. “Opportunity Hub, in solidarity with President Obama’s first-ever White House Demo Day, is excited to announce a multiyear initiative specifically designed to address the talent, knowledge, and early funding gaps impacting underrepresented communities as they strive to navigate their way through the innovation economy.”

Atlanta-based OHUB is launching a new inclusive innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment initiative in collaboration with The Iron Yard, CodeU, Troy Carter’s AF Square and Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center. The goal of OHUB’s multiyear initiative is to increase the number of investable minority, high-growth technology and technology-enabled startups and early-stage companies in the United States.

The initiative also includes: $1 million in full and partial code-school scholarships, allowing more than 100 minority students to attend The Iron Yard; financing for up to 10,000 students via a partnership with CodeU; $1 million in full and partial scholarships to OHUB’s Pre-Accelerator, which will provide a pipeline for over 100 diverse entrepreneurs to over 70 accelerators for pre-seed funding; and more angel investors of color via the Angel Investing Certificate Program with Troy Carter’s AF Square and Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center. This builds on OHUB’s past track record of housing and pipelining more than 100 inclusive startups that have gone on to raise more than $5 million in seed capital.

Related Story: Morehouse College To Increase Pool of Minority Angel Investors

Morehouse College To Increase Pool of Minority Angel Investors

The Center for Venture Research estimates that U.S. angel investors invested $24.1 billion in 73, 4000 small businesses in 2014. Many of the investments were in startup or very early stage companies. Yet, less than 1% of all U.S. private equity is invested in black owned businesses. What’s more, minorities account for less than 5% of the angel population, providing startup and early stage capital to companies.

[Related: See 20 Black Angles Worth Knowing For Minority Startups]

One historically black college is looking to change that dynamic. Morehouse College through its Entrepreneurship Center has launched the nation’s first Certificate in Investing In Startups & Early Stage Companies (Angel Investing) offered at a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The certification program is in partnership with Opportunity HUB, an Atlanta based multi-campus co-working space, pre-accelerator, and incubator.

The program will cover a broad range of topics on how to begin investing as an angel investor or “micro-angel” and or make wiser choices in angel investing. Skills acquired from the program will teach investors how to identify potential investment opportunities and how to properly execute an investment in a startup or early stage company.

In the U.S. there are more than 7 million accredited angel investors or individuals who earn $200,000 or more each year or whose net worth (not including their home) exceeds $1 million. According to Washington Post analysis of data from the Federal Reserve 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, there are at least 400,000 black Americans worth more than $1 million dollars and 12,000,000 black Americans with a net-worth between 50,000 and $1 million.

“Angel investing is the pioneering final frontier for black Americans and people of color in business and corporate America to embrace and engage. It is our responsibility to pay it forward by investing in the next generation of innovative, high growth startups, particularly in technology – the industrial revolution of our age,” says Rodney Sampson, Founder & CEO, Opportunity Hub.

The Certificate program consists of nine cohorts. Instructors teaching the courses will be experienced angel investors, serial entrepreneurs, securities attorneys, and financial professionals. Instructors and mentors include Venture Capitalist KP Reddy (General Partner, CTW Venture Partners); Business Appraiser and Entrepreneurship Advocate Michael Blake (Founder, Startup Lounge); Social Impact Investor, Jeffrey Cherry (Founder, Conscious Venture Labs); Consumer Products Investor, Brandon Rickman (Founder, First Mondays Angel Group); and Morehouse Alumnus, Entrepreneur and Investor, Paul Judge (Founder, Judge Ventures).

This new angel investing certificate program, particularly as it aims to connect new investors to the mainstream investment community and pipeline that is developing between Atlanta, Silicon Valley and beyond, adds Sampson. It designed for individuals who are interested in learning more about making investments in private companies. It provides benefits for those who qualify as an accredited investor, according to SEC guidelines. On a case-by-case basis, non-accredited investors will be admitted to the certificate program.

Tuition to the certificate program is $15,000.00 US. Of this amount, $10,000 will be allocated toward the program practicum in which the participating students in each cohort will combine their monies to make investments in three startup and early stage companies in exchange for a negotiated equity stake. Opportunity Hub, Morehouse College and its partnering startup ecosystem partners will pipeline, vet and select the companies to pitch the new angels.

“This program is important for as we continue to foster our entrepreneurial ecosystems on and off campus. Access to capital is pivotal and cultivating capital through this workshop is an essential node of the ecosystem,” says Tiffany Bussey, Director, Morehouse College Entrepreneurship Center. Morehouse College and Opportunity Hub believe that that mew program will be a tremendous asset to the Atlanta startup ecosystem, Atlanta University Center (Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark College, ITC) and interconnected community.

Hundreds of Black Entrepreneurs and Executives Gather for Entrepreneurs Summit

Some of the nation’s top black entrepreneurs and executives are heading to Atlanta for day one of Black Enterprise’s 2015 Entrepreneurs Summit.

[Related: ‘Shark Tank’ Investor Daymond John Advises Minority Entrepreneurs]

Hosted by Nationwide Insurance at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, attendees will enjoy three days of networking and learning as each panel session will give them the tools they need to take their business to the next level. In the first session, our March cover subject Don Charlton will share tips on how he secured $18 million in venture capital funding for his company The Resumator. He, along with Paul Judge from Judge Ventures and Erica Duignan Minnihan from DreamIt Ventures, will sit on a panel moderated by angel investor and CEO of Opportunity Hub Ventures, Rodney Sampson, and share insights on how to secure the capital you need to jump-start your business.

Then in a highly anticipated elevator pitch competition hosted by AT&T, Black Enterprise’s CEO Earl Graves, Jr., American Black Film Festival Founder, Jeff Friday, and CEO of Motivating the Masses, Lisa Nichols, will judge the selected group of finalists who each will have 60 seconds to pitch their business for a chance to win $10,000. Hosted by Black Enterprise’s Executive Editor-at-Large, Alfred Edmond, Jr. this fast-paced and engaging session is one that attendees won’t want to miss.

Finally, we end the day with an American Black Film Festival Buzz Party hosted by Nationwide that will celebrate the kick-off of the 20th Anniversary Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Summit and Black Enterprise’s new partnership with ABFF. Remarks will be made by Nationwide’s Associate Regional Vice President for the Southern Region, Dena Silveri, as well as Jeff Friday and Alfred Edmond, Jr. DJ Nabs will keep the party jumping, while winners of the American Black Film Festival Comedy Wings and “Hey Ladies” tour will keep guests laughing all night.

Stay tuned to for daily updates and business-building tips from the summit.

‘Shark Tank’ Investor Daymond John Advises Minority Entrepreneurs

At the Michigan Minority Procurement Conference and Opportunity Fair, Shark Tank investor Daymond John gave an inspiring and informative speech during the event’s Thursday luncheon.

[Related: Shark Tank Investor Mark Cuban’s Rules For Startup Success]

The crowd of both investors and entrepreneurs listened as John explained that it was harder for minorities to successfully operate their own businesses because often times we don’t grow up in environments with resources or people teaching us the value of money, according to Detroit Free Press. However, “‘On the flip side,’” he said, “‘it makes you harder. It makes you learn — and you learn by baptism by fire, so when you get to that certain level, it makes it much harder to fail because you’ve failed forward so many times.’”

The Founder and CEO of FUBU told the audience, “‘Everybody here pitching has their own dreams, aspirations and problems.’” He also challenged them to consider what their business can offer the person they are pitching to. “‘Too often people go on Shark Tank and they pitch to sharks and they have no idea what the sharks want,’” said the fashion trailblazer.

John allowed three of the entrepreneurs to join him on stage to pitch their ideas and ask him questions. While he wasn’t investing that day, he saw it as an opportunity to get the attention of other investors who were in attendance.

The Michigan Minority Procurement Conference and Opportunity Fair took place at Detroit’s Cobo Center without about 2,000 people in attendance. The Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, which aims to help minority-owned businesses grow and secure contracts, hosted the event.

Rodney Sampson, angel investor and advisor to One Three Media, the TV production company that produces Shark Tank, will be at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit next week in Atlanta, Georgia. Sampson is set to moderate the discussion session, How to Secure Millions for Your Business.

The Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit hosted by Nationwide is set for May 13–16, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Expect innovative sessions, high-powered speakers, and an early peek at the products, trends, and services you’ll need to stay ahead of the curve. To register and find out more, Join us at the Entrepreneurs Summit, Where Innovation and Capital Meet.

[RECAP] Twitter Chat with Rodney Sampson on Angel Investors

Founder and CEO of Opportunity Hub Rodney Sampson joined Black Enterprise for an engaging Twitter chat today. He shared knowledge regarding entrepreneurship and securing angel investors. See all he had to Tweet below, and join Sampson at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit in Atlanta, May 13-16, at his session, How To Secure Millions for Your Business.

[Related: [JOIN US] Learn How to Secure Millions for Your Business During Black Enterprise Twitter Chat]

In case you missed out, check out the recap below.