PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia and Black & Brown Founders, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, announced they are partnering to bring Project NorthStar to life this fall. The 3-day tech conference and pre-conference “NorthStar Mayor’s Summit” will take place October 2-5, 2018, providing connections, education, and opportunities to 500+ current or aspiring entrepreneurs and knowledge workers from the Black and Latinx community that want to participate in the innovation economy.
Project NorthStar began with an ambitious vision from Mayor Jim Kenney. After visiting Austin, Texas in 2017 for South by Southwest, Mayor Kenney was disappointed by the lack of diversity he noticed at the country’s premier tech event; and as the leader of a majority-minority city, he saw the value in creating a high-caliber tech conference for communities of color in Philadelphia and beyond.
The content of the NorthStar conference will be focused on tech entrepreneurship, working in tech, and navigating the industry from a Black and/or Latinx perspective, though anyone eager to learn is welcome to attend and take part.
“Philadelphia is experiencing a renaissance, spurred in large part by the tech and innovation companies who call our city home,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “We have the fastest growing tech sector in proportion to total job growth after the San Francisco Bay Area, but we have to make sure our progress is inclusive if we want the city to flourish well into the future. In Philly, we have to do tech in a way that is authentic to who we are.”
The data behind eroding wealth in America has created a moral and economic imperative to create initiatives such as Project NorthStar. The country is undergoing a dramatic demographic shift, and alongside it is a growing wealth gap that is particularly evident in communities of color. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median net worth for Black and Latinx households is $9,211 and $12,458 respectively, compared to $132,483 for a White household.
Philadelphia has a population of more than 1.5 million people, including 44.2% Black and 14.4% Latinx residents. The city has a poverty rate of 25.7%, with Black and Latinx people making up 72.6% of the city’s poor.
Technology and the innovation economy offer great opportunities to create and grow wealth today, especially in diverse communities, but many barriers to entry still exist for people of color and women. Black & Brown Founders and the Kenney administration agree that the key to a thriving economic future in cities like Philadelphia, and America as a whole, is opening up the tech industry in ways that allow everyone to participate. Project NorthStar is meant to accelerate this objective by lifting up those who are often the most marginalized.
“NorthStar is a collaborative effort with many organizations contributing to make this an unforgettable event,” said Aniyia Williams, Executive Director of Black & Brown Founders. “I love that our community is coming together to move the needle for Black and Latinx innovators, and to be doing this in my hometown makes it even more important to me, personally. Our team is thrilled to be working with the City on this project.”
Finding ways to support entrepreneurs of color has been the mission of Black & Brown Founders (BBF) since its creation in 2017 by Aniyia Williams, a Philadelphia native. By collaborating with partners who are engaging with the core needs of the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, the BBF team, its advisors, community partners, and the City of Philadelphia are committed to creating a structure with NorthStar that can connect people to useful information, much-needed resources, and each other.
The goals of NorthStar are threefold:
Business Development: Help entrepreneurs understand how to cultivate the most powerful tool for getting past socioeconomic barriers: a sustainable, cash-flow positive tech or tech-enabled business.
Pipeline Development: Expand the skills and networks of talented workers and youth that will diversify the tech workforce, while helping companies understand how they can leverage untapped talent.
Business & Talent Retention: Establish partnerships and programs that will continue progress for entrepreneurs and workers of color beyond the conference.
On the first day of NorthStar, the City will convene a select group of local, regional and national thought leaders from the private, public and academia sectors for the “NorthStar Mayor’s Summit”. The Summit will be a hands-on working session with an aim to develop an initial blueprint for effectively leveraging technology, business innovation, and workforce development initiatives to continue NorthStar’s progress after the event.
“If we can create a future Philadelphia with a thriving, intersectional tech community, not only do we win ourselves, but we also create a model for other American cities to follow,” said Francisco Garcia, Director of Business Development: Innovation & Technology for the City of Philadelphia. “At NorthStar, we are giving a platform to local leaders to make deeper connections and bringing in incredible experts from the outside to expand the way we think and see things on the inside.”
Advisors to Project Northstar include: Francisco Garcia (Philadelphia Department of Commerce), Jon Gosier (Southbox Ventures), Brigitte Daniel (Wilco Electronic Systems and Mogulette), Kahiga Tiagha (Wellstone Technologies), Sylvester Mobley (Coded by Kids), Tracey Welson-Rossman (Chariot Solutions and TechGirlz), Cristobal Carambo (STEM – Benjamin Franklin Academics Plus School), Dr. Jamie Bracey (Temple University – Center for Inclusive Competitiveness), Kiera Smalls (Philly Startup Leaders), and Keenan Corrigan (Venture for America).
NorthStar Mayor’s Summit: Tuesday, October 2, 2018
NorthStar Tech Conference: Wednesday, October 3 – Friday, October 5, 2018
To sign up for updates about Project NorthStar, visit northstarphl.com.