Ignite, Imagine and Innovate!
Baltimore, MD – On Saturday, November 3rd and Sunday, November 4th, 2018, the National Society of Black Engineers – Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter (NSBE-BMAC) hosted Minority Innovation Weekend (MIW) 2018 at the University of Baltimore. The weekend summit consisted of two conference tracks, Startup Fundamentals and Emerging Technologies, and an Innovation Showcase featuring minority-founding startup businesses.
Leading tech entrepreneurs, students, scientists, and engineers discussed tech trends and business strategies helpful for launching tech-focused startups. Participants attended panel discussions and speaker sessions that addressed augmented reality, cybersecurity, blockchain, artificial intelligence, women in the startup world, pitching your startup, and more.
One highlight of the conference was the Emerging Technology track’s panel on blockchain. Blockchain is an open-source, encrypted, distributed ledger that allows information to be stored without being manipulated. Blockchain technology initiatives are now being piloted in the healthcare industry in order to improve the lives of patients. Dr. Tiffany Grey, Co-Chair for the United Nations (UN) Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development, stated “one of the goals of the committee is to create blockchain-based initiatives designed to help patients interact better with the healthcare system and providers.”
As another application of blockchain, Alston Clark, Co-Founder at Howard University Blockchain Labs, spoke about tokenization and local farmers markets. “Tokenization is the concept of transferring a physical asset into a digital asset,” Clark said. Howard University Blockchain Lab produced a video on YouTube featuring Clark transferring cash into farmer market tokens. Johan Greene, Founder at PixelBloc and Co-Founder at Howard University Blockchain Lab reflects on the long-term ramifications of this technology: “What we now call the Blockchain is a socio-revolutionary framework that creates a disruptive decentralized paradigm.”
On the business side, the Startup Fundamentals track featured several workshops and speaker presentations including Competitive Analysis, Minimal Viable Product, The Pitch, Going to Market, and more. Sherika Wynter, Co-Founder & CFO of Thomas & Wynter R&D, discussed “The Minimal Viable Product” model. Wynter expressed the importance of understand a product’s true “fit” in a desired market.
McKeever Conwell, Co-Manager of the MD TEDCO Pre-Seed Builder Fund, gave a strong and detailed presentation on how to perfectly “pitch” your startup to potential investors. Conwell stated, “try to tell a short story about your venture, make good analogies.”
DeShuna Spencer, Founder & CEO of kweliTV, delivered a powerful keynote. Spencer is the head of a video streaming network that curates award-winning content of the global black community. She spoke transparently about her startup journey. Although she faced many setbacks and trails, she endured her struggles in order to reach success.
MIW 2019 planning is already underway, with consideration for new tracks specific to topics such as game development, healthcare, and cybersecurity.
MIW is part of the National Society of Black Engineers – Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter’s (NSBE-BMAC’s) Minority Innovation Entrepreneurship Program (MIEP). The main objective of MIW is to provide minority innovators with knowledge to launch science and technology startups in Baltimore and to attract capital providers to aid in supporting their success (https://www.minorityinnovationweekend.org, 2018).”
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