black tech saturdays

Black Tech Saturdays: Empowering Detroit’s Tech Ecosystem

In the resilient and innovative city of Detroit, Black Tech Saturdays is paving the way for Black entrepreneurs and founders to succeed.

We caught up with the visionary founders Johnnie and Alexa Turnage, to learn more about their transformative initiative and its impact on the Detroit tech community.

Black tech Saturdays
Alexa Turnage (L) and Johnnie Turnage (R)

The inspiration behind Black Tech Saturdays

The journey into the world of tech can often be challenging, and for founders of color, it can feel like the odds are stacked against them. Alexa and Johnnie shared their motivation, stating, “We had to learn really fast and oftentimes felt like the spaces weren’t designed for us to succeed.” Recognizing a shared experience among many in the community, they decided to take action.

Black Tech Saturdays began organically while working on their MVP fundraising platform at Newlab in the Michigan Central building. They started inviting other tech enthusiasts to join their weekly meetings, and it soon became clear that there was untapped potential in the room. The initiative gained momentum, and when the first public meeting was announced on April 29th, 25-30 individuals showed up. From there, the movement continued to grow, evolving into what it is today.

Milestones and Accomplishments

Since its inception, Black Tech Saturdays has grown from just a handful of participants in a conference room to nearly 500 attendees on Saturdays. With approximately 3,500 unique attendees in total, the impact is undeniable.

The organization’s accomplishments extend beyond numbers. They’ve helped founders secure significant deals, connected entrepreneurs with access to capital and networks, and provided essential soft skills training.

Support from federal, state, and local governments, as well as partnerships with foundations and VC firms, have reinforced their mission. Elected officials, celebrities, and government representatives have also joined the cause, elevating the narrative around Black Tech and sharing invaluable knowledge and resources.

Hosting events like the Venture 313 2nd annual celebration and participating in national conversations about entrepreneurship advocacy have further solidified Black Tech Saturdays’ position as a driving force for change.

The Future of Detroit’s Tech Ecosystem

When asked about the future of Detroit’s tech ecosystem, Alexa was optimistic. She emphasized a shift in the narrative, with a focus on abundance, collaboration, and a movement they call “#Togetherwecan.” The culture of supporting one another and celebrating successes is key to this transformation.

Detroit is on the path to becoming a federal tech hub, opening doors to more resources for the city’s growth. By centering the innovation conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion, the city is poised to become a thriving tech hub that welcomes and empowers everyone.

Advice for Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

Their advice for individuals, companies, or organizations looking to make a positive impact on diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is clear. They stress the importance of supporting entrepreneurs, building communities, and creating safe spaces for authentic growth. Addressing specific areas needing improvement within an organization is also crucial.

Johnnie and Alexa invite those interested in improving their ecosystems or organizations to reach out, as collaboration and strategic planning can help advance the mission of diversity and inclusion in tech.

Getting Involved with Black Tech Saturdays

To get involved with Black Tech Saturdays and support their mission, interested parties can explore various avenues:

  1. Sign up as a founder.
  2. Sign up as a job seeker.
  3. Sign up as a partner.
  4. Connect with Johnnie and Alexa on Linkedin.
  5. Follow Black Tech Saturdays on Instagram 

As Black Tech Saturdays continues to grow and make a significant impact in Detroit and beyond, these opportunities offer a chance to be part of a movement that’s redefining the future of tech.

by Tony O. Lawson

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