Black founders are significantly underrepresented in tech and startups. Britney Robbins wants to change that.
This summer she launched The Gray Matter Experience, a nine-week entrepreneurship program for black high school students. Every other Saturday students gather at BLUE1647, a tech hub in Pilsen, attend workshops, discussions and presentations about marketing, business plans and ideation, led by black professionals and founders. But it's more than entrepreneurship education--throughout the program, students come up with their own idea for a business that could help their community, and will pitch their idea at a Demo Day in November for the shot at seed funding to get their venture off the ground.
Robbins, who previously worked at Future Founders (a local organization that trains high school and college entrepreneurs), is hyper-focused on encouraging black students to consider entrepreneurship as a way to build community and create a more diverse startup ecosystem. She's bringing in black professionals, founders and entrepreneurs to mentor students, even catering lunches from black-owned food businesses, to help students see that there are people who look like them in the startup and tech world.
"I’ve worked in several tech hubs, incubators, venture capital firms and the one thing that I see constantly across all those channels is the underrepresentation of minorities, especially black people, so I wanted to…change that narrative," she said.
In this interview, she talks why it is important to connect black teens with mentors who look like them, the connection between economic empowerment and social change, and the next steps to making Chicago a more inclusive tech ecosystem.