Students to Host #HBCUToStartup Conference Today

Alumni Kehlin Swain ‘16 and Isis Ashford ‘17 of Xplosion Technology will host the #HBCUToStartUp Tech Conference and Startup Competition today at 6 p.m. in the Business Agriculture Building. HBCU.vc, the event creators, have lined up speakers from around the tech world like Angelica Nwandu, founder of The Shade Room, Arlan Hamilton, founder and investment partner of Backstage Capital, Joah Spearman, founder and CEO of Localeur, and Preston James II, CEO of DivInc to speak to students and community members. “What we decided to do was create this conference for people who look like us and come from similar backgrounds and bring them to Prairie View so that students can see that they can do that too,” said Jordan King, a junior Electrical Engineering major from Shreveport, La.

HBCU.vc comprises of nine students from Prairie View A&M University, Fisk University, and Florida A&M University. Selected by founder Hadiyah Mujhid in 2017, the “PV Team” competed against 165 HBCU students to be on HBCU.vc.   The students representing PVAMU are Nia Scott, a junior Agriculture major from Kansas City, Missouri, Jordan King, a junior Electrical Engineering major from Shreveport, La., Michall Hall, a senior Electrical Engineering major from Houston and Briana Davis, a junior Business Management major from Houston. “HBCU.vc is a venture capitalist group that strives to increase minorities in venture capitalist as well as the education behind it,” said Scott.

As part of their program, the students are required to host events, and instead of thinking small, they thought to put on a conference. They said their goal was to have 100 students present. “Our whole goal is to shift the culture here at Prairie View,” said King, “because right now you see schools like Stanford and MIT producing startups, but the purpose of HBCU.vc is actually to put black people on the other side of the table so that we can invest in our own community.” Mujhid started the HBCU.vc program because of the lack of diversity in the startup ecosystem and to combat it, her goal was to put HBCU students on the other side of the table and grow HBCU.vc into its own venture fund to invest in minority entrepreneurs. “We need more of us in this world, honestly,” said Hall. 

The speakers and panelist were introduced to the students through various connections like the AfroTech Conference, contacts from PVAMU alumni and their venture capitalist groups. While at AfroTech in November of 2017, the PVAMU members of HBCU.vc met individuals from all walks of life that look like them and were having success in the tech industry, “#HBCUToStartUp is trying to create a pipeline for our HBCU students to get to that level,” said Davis. During the conference, HBCU.vc will also host a pitch competition where the conference speakers will serve as panelists, and three competitors will have three minutes each to pitch their idea. The winner will have the opportunity to interview with DivInc for their accelerator program. “We are excited to see what they are going to bring to the table,” said Scott, “We have some very innovative ideas coming forth.”

The event will start at 6 p.m. tonight in the Prairie View A&M University Business Agriculture Building. For more information about the #HBCUToStartup Conference click the link.