How Chicago Can Build a Thriving Black Tech Ecosystem by Fabian Elliott

How Chicago Can Build a Thriving Black Tech Ecosystem by Fabian Elliott

Chicago is a very special place. We live in the world’s 4th most economically powerful city with one of the fastest growing tech scenes, with 275 digital startups launched every year. Yet even with all the resources, activities, and opportunities flowing through our city, access for all Chicagoans is not a reality, especially for the black community.

There are obviously opportunities, but there seems to be a frightening disconnect. Something just isn’t quite right. Connective tissues that should exist to enable the black community to contribute and benefit from the robust tech activities taking place in the city, do not. The Black Tech Ecosystem is not healthy, and even with all of the amazing initiatives and work being done to improve the situation, there is still a long way to go.

Building a thriving black tech ecosystem is vital for the future of Chicago. Such an ecosystem supports citywide aspirations for the tech sector and breathes new life into the black community. To sustain Chicago’s position as a top global city, Mayor Emanuel has set a bold vision for Chicago to be a city fueled by technology ­­a city where we have realized our full potential for technology to fuel opportunity, inclusion, engagement, and innovation for all. This means that we need as many Chicagoans plugging into the tech and innovation economy as possible.

For the black community, technology is far from the silver bullet to solve all challenges, but it is a powerful catalyst for new levels of empowerment never seen before. Imagine an ecosystem, where blacks are able to leverage technology to improve their lives whether it is to solve community issues or obtain financial gain. Imagine an ecosystem, where there is a collaborative culture, aligned resources, and guidance to go from zero to hero if you are willing to dedicate yourself.

How can we bring this about? How can we bring this “thriving black tech ecosystem” to life?

Think of it this way, when you were sick growing up, you probably recall that one of the first things your parents would do is take your temperature and try to assess what is wrong. Then they might give you some medicine to treat your illness. And if it worked for the trickiest issues, they might even spread the word to the neighbors. To improve the health of the black tech ecosystem, we can take a similar approach. That is exactly what my organization, Black Tech Mecca, is firmly committed to doing with our 3 Big Bet projects to create a thriving black tech ecosystem.

To take the temperature, we are working with the City Department of Innovation and Technology and the UIC Vorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement to complete the State of the Black Tech Ecosystem research study to better assess the landscape. To treat the known symptoms, we are releasing an online platform called the Ecosystem Network to simplify the navigation of the tech ecosystem for the black community. Lastly, to spread the word, we are spearheading a global campaign to re­-position Chicago as the place to be for black people seeking to make their mark in tech.

At Black Tech Mecca, we believe that our 3 Big Bet Projects will help create this reality, which will help Chicago become a city fueled by technology and to breath new life into the black community. We will be providing updates on these projects and rallying support at our upcoming fundraising celebration Chi­Tech2.0: Welcome to the Meccaon Tuesday, June 21st at 6pm. Join us and/or spread the word if you wish to join the movement to move our city forward!

Black Tech Mecca is a social enterprise that is developing a thriving tech ecosystem in Chicago for the global black community through scalable, data driven solutions and specialized initiatives, that empower people to radically enhance their lives and change the world through technology. Launched in June 2015, Black Tech Mecca is currently building the BTM Ecosystem Network ―a digital resource platform that will simplify the navigation of the resources in Chicago’s tech ecosystem, for the black community. For more info, visit:

Fabian Elliot is the CEO & Founder of Black Tech Mecca Inc. and an AdTech Consultant with Google. Elliot is also the former global co-chair of the Black Googler Network, the search giant’s black employee group, and he was named a 2016 New Leaders Council Fellow.


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