Black Women Talk Tech Is Here To Mobilize And Uplift Black Women Entrepreneurs Worldwide

- By

Esosa Ighodaro and Regina Gwynn - Black Women Talk Tech

Source: Courtesy of Esosa Ighodaro and Regina Gwynn / other

Black Women Talk Tech champions visionary Black women, supporting the growth of their startup companies by easing access to vital funding. With co-founders Regina Gwynn and Esosa Ighodaro at the helm, the organization has nurtured a community of about 150,000 people worldwide in under a decade. “The pillars around which we build all of our work is to educate, to amplify and to fund Black women entrepreneurs,” says Gwynn.

MadameNoire caught up with Gwynn and Ighodaro one week ahead of the eighth annual Roadmap to Billions conference. Roadmap to Billions is the organization’s marquee event, a space for showcasing the brilliance of Black women in tech, making connections and exploring funding opportunities. The gathering is a chance for founders, investors and industry professionals to mingle in a dynamic setting tailored for the diverse tech community. The 2024 conference will return to the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, on May 16-18, with more than 1,500 founders expected to attend.

Black Women Talk Tech - Esosa Ighodaro and Regina Gwynn

Source: Courtesy of Esosa Ighodaro / other

‘We Saw a Need For Ourselves’

The demand for a platform like Black Women Talk Tech was clear from the start. As tech founders themselves who were in the game long before BWTT became a reality, Gwynn and Ighodaro understand the challenges of scaling a startup company. “We saw a need for ourselves,” says Ighodaro. From raising money to hiring the right team, building a startup is an uphill journey for sure. “We intimately understand the challenges that women face as it relates to building these billion dollar businesses where technology is the core,” says Gwynn.

The co-founders met at an industry event and realized they were experiencing a lot of the same difficulties. This inspired them to connect with other Black women in tech. They got together a group of about a dozen founders and rented an Airbnb for their first unofficial founders retreat in 2015. “We had a roundtable. Each business was in the hot seat for an hour and we helped each other. There was no judgment. There were open and honest questions,” says Gwynn. “When we left, we were like, how can we create this experience intentionally for Black and Brown women?”

Growth of Black Women Talk Tech

In the first four years, Black Women Talk Tech existed as a side business while Gwynn and Ighodaro focused on their respective startups. “This was our passion project,” says Gwynn. It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit that it all started to come together. Amid the uncertainty of the time, BWTT continued to engage with the community despite social distancing rules. “We moved to digital. We started doing a lot of our events via Zoom and posted them on YouTube,” Gwynn recalls.

The pandemic forced the co-founders to pause and reflect as George Floyd’s murder sparked a renewed fight for Black lives worldwide. “This racial equity reckoning challenged us to think about what our role was in advocating for the community that looked like us,” says Gwynn. “It was really then that we were like, ‘let’s focus on Black Women Talk Tech — building it, growing it, expanding it.’ But the demand has always been there.” By 2021, both co-founders went full-time with their passion project.

Esosa Ighodaro - Black Women Talk Tech - OnStar

Source: Courtesy of Esosa Ighodaro / other

Challenging Inherent Biases in Tech

Aside from being an active hub for resources and community-building, BWTT calls out inherent biases in the tech world as well. They’ve challenged accelerator programs, which support the growth of early-stage startups, to rethink certain requirements built into the application process that tend to alienate many startup founders, like Black women, who would otherwise be excellent candidates.

“We did a research study with a small sample and realized that 70% of Black women are solo founders. But many accelerator programs want at least two or three founders on the team before you’re even considered,” says Ighodaro. “Even if it’s not intended, it’s a design flaw that we raised with a lot of accelerators which pushed the envelope to allow different thinking when it comes to considering startups overall.”

Regina Gwynn - Black Women Talk Tech - OnStar

Source: Courtesy of Regina Gwynn / other

Reaching a Global Community

Fueled by a growing community, Black Women Talk Tech made its global debut last October, launching the first Roadmap to Billions conference in London. And this fall, Roadmap to Billions will arrive in Toronto for the first Canadian conference.

By amplifying Black women in tech, Gwynn and Ighodaro are transforming the profile of a tech founder. “I want people to be able to rattle off five Black women tech founders the way they’re able to rattle off Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs,” says Gwynn. “The idea is to amplify their stories so that we’re normalizing the idea of women being tech founders and tech entrepreneurs.”

“The way you can generate independent wealth for ourselves and our community is through entrepreneurship. We think that’s the best way to create a legacy and opportunity for ourselves,” says Ighodaro. “When we are able to do that through investing in ourselves and investing in our communities, we can only go up from here. So the goal is to help improve the lives of everyone in our community.”

Want to attend the 2024 Roadmap to Billions conference this weekend (May 16-18) in Brooklyn, New York? We’ve got your exclusive discount. Enter code “RTB50_rg” to purchase your ticket for $50. Get started here.