A little less than a year ago, Seattle Seahawks star running back, Marshawn Lynch, coined a phrase that still echoes through classrooms and office cubicles to this day: “You know why I’m here.”
On Monday, October 12th, I left the neighborhood that raised Lynch in Oakland and headed south toward Santa Clara to attend the Black Enterprise Tech Connect Summit (#TECHCNXT).
The event was held in the Santa Clara Marriott, a hail-mary throw away from where the Seahawks’ rivals, the 49ers, play. As I sat in the hallway of the five-star hotel, I took in the images of the young to middle-aged attendees. They were well dressed: charcoal and navy suits, shiny hard-bottom shoes and earth-toned blouses. There were handshakes, laughs and business cards being exchanged.
Because everyone isn’t Marshawn Lynch, I wondered why they were there.
We all know the weather is always a good reason to visit the South Bay, but I wanted to know specifically what brought the attendees of the conference to town. So, I sat in the hallway and asked entrepreneurs, recruiters, CEOs and a Reverend by the name of Jesse Jackson Sr. why they were in attendance.
Here are their responses:
Phillip Bauman
Phillip Bauman
“I’m here today because I feel like this conference is really needed, especially in Silicon Valley. Not a whole lot of black start-ups or software engineers are being funded at a rate that I think we should be funded. So we need more things like this to encourage the youth to get out there and focus on technology, since technology is a really big growth center for the United States right now.”
— Phillip Bauman, Software Engineer at Capital One
A.R. Shaw
A.R. Shaw
“Diversity in Silicon Valley is a big thing. We’ve been covering it for a while. We were here in June or July for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow P.U.S.H. diversity conference for tech. So we wanted to come out and support Black Enterprise and see what they had, their new ideas and some of the things they wanted to do to push for diversity in Silicon Valley.”
— A.R. Shaw, Rolling Out magazine

Ameka Ali and family
Ameka Ali and family
“I’m the co-founder of Higher Mind Apps, we’re an app development company that is producing interactive children’s books. And we’re here to make connections and get the word out about Ameka Love. She is a first female heroin, and she’s in an interactive series. It’s available now on iOS and Android.”
—Ameka Ali Co-Founder of Higher Mind Apps (Amekalove.com)
Michelle Ceran
“I came to the Black Enterprise Tech Connect Summit to learn more about diversity in tech. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. There is a great network that we’re not aware of when it comes to diversity, or diverse talent within tech. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of how we engage the diverse pipeline within tech, so there’s that aspect. I think, just coming out the panel about investments and investors, I think there’s a lot of work in terms of educating communities of color. In getting them through the door, understanding the barriers of entry, and whether or not they’re actually barriers.”
— Michelle Ceran, Diversity & Inclusion, Bloomberg LP
Elresa Snell
Elresa Snell
“I’m here today to learn more about how to increase diversity and how to promote diversity within our upcoming start-up. It has been absolutely amazing meeting people from all across the country, hearing from keynote speakers and learning about entrepreneurship within the black community.”
— Elresa Snell, Pivotal Software
Rodney Sampson


“I speak (on stage) tomorrow on building ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley. Where do you go to work amongst like-minded people that’s affordable? Where do you find mentors? People who have been incredibly successful or who have failed incredibly successfully? But it all matters where you go find these people. Where do you get the knowledge and the acumen to navigate what we’re calling the innovation economy or the entrepreneurial economy? And so that’s what an ecosystem is. The ecosystem has one rule: you must invest in the ecosystem to withdraw from it.”
— Rodney Sampson, Founder CEO of Opportunity HUB.
This post is brought to you by AT&T

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