Tech Cypher: Highlights from #Tech808 Oakland

952808D9-BABC-407D-B58F-DE00AB8D5FF7This past Saturday I attended Tech808, a one-day Hip Hop inspired tech conference for minority and millennial entrepreneurs hosted by The Phat Startup. For those less familiar, The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that produces premium content for all levels of entrepreneurs with a mission to bridge the gap between Hip Hop culture, tech, and entrepreneurship. Oakland was the second stop in the 3-city tour, with the last stop in NYC.

The idea for the #Tech808 Tour emerged after having hosted more than 100 live events with notable entrepreneurs and tech magnates like Ben Horowitz, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Ryan Leslie to name a few. But it also developed from the realization that many tech conferences lacked diversity among its participants.

As an information leader, cultural worker, and creative, I find great value being in spaces where information is shared and ideas converge. I had a great time learning more about startups, meeting other conference participants (entrepreneurs and “wantrepreneurs” like myself), and thinking more deeply about my role as a creative and information professional. The value tech provides is not just in the technology itself, but the idea as well as the people (designers and users). Tracy Sun, co-founder of Poshmark will tell you quite simply that part of her success came from understanding that “technology and algorithms can’t replace people.”

Here are some of the photos with tips and quotables that I took during the event.

Tech808 Oakland Conference Program
Tech808 Oakland Conference Program
Keynote Speaker Tracy Sun (Co-Founder and VP of Merchandising at Poshmark)
Keynote Speaker Tracy Sun (Co-Founder and VP of Merchandising at Poshmark)

“Don’t give up, give your idea some room to breathe” and “Get used to the fact that you’re going to be different.” Tracy Sun, Co-Founder Poshmark

Anthony Frasier (Co-Founder, The Phat Start Up)
Anthony Frasier (Co-Founder, The Phat Start Up)

For Phat Start Up co-founder Anthony Frasier, part of Side-Hustle 101 includes “testing and validating ideas early on.” If you’re promoting your business or a product across multiple platforms “figure out what works for each platform.”

Divine - The 4th Letter (Rapper, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker)
Divine – The 4th Letter (Rapper, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker)

Divine – The 4th Letter (@4thlettermusic) was an inspiration as he shared how he was able to transform his life after incarceration, how his friendship with tech mogul Ben Horowitz developed and changed his life, and how he’s using his music to make a social impact and help others elevate. For Divine, spirituality, knowledge, perseverance, and social impact go hand in hand. His advice: “Never let anybody tell you your value. Value is what value does. Never negotiate your value.”

I call this the “Divine Cypher”. After sharing his story, a small group emerged to listen to him drop more jewels and lessons about life, spirituality, and more.
Divine speaking with one of the Tech 808 participants after his talk.
Tech 808 Digital Content Panel (seated L-R): Benoni Tagoe, Julian Mitchell, Danielle Leslie, and Morgan DeBaun

The conference also included a panel, moderated by Morgan Debaun (Founder, Blavity) on “How to Use Content to Build a Thriving Online Community” with Benoni Tagoe (Content Strategist and Founder, The Bizz Plan), Julian Mitchell (Sr. Branded Writer, BuzzFeed), and Danielle Leslie (Director of Revenue Growth, Mayvenn).

Here’s what the panel had to say when asked what it takes to make ‘good’ content and on building community:

For Danielle Leslie (@danielleleslie), knowing the right language to use, location (or the appropriate platform to place your content), and knowing people’s pain point and how you can connect is key.

Julian Mitchell (@AllAboutMitch): “A compelling story trumps quality” as well as “having a point-of-view that’s unique” that “provokes conversations” or gets to the to “the why of content” are all important.  He later encourages content creators to “Create more opportunities than you ask for. Do what you’re already doing.”

Benoni Tagoe (@nonibizz): “Content is king and consistency is queen…Collaboration is an important balance between the two. You may not be able to put out the perfect product, but the world will reward you if you follow these principles.”

Morgan DeBaun (@blavity) emphasized the importance of recycling content as your community grows as a way to introduce new readers to previous content they may not yet be familiar with.

Joah Spearman (Founder, Localeur)
Joah Spearman (Founder, Localeur)

Joah Spearman (@joahspearman, @localeur) on “How to Raise the First Million for Your Startup”

Tip #1: When raising capital start with friends and family first then explore angel network investors in your city.

Tip #2: “Raise 40% more than you think you need.”

Tip #3: Kickstarter, in his opinion, works best for tangible products

Tip #4: “Share your thoughts” and “Get used to talking about things that don’t exist yet.”

Sheen Allen (Founder, Sheena Allen Apps)

Sheena Allen (@whoisSheena) gave an insightful presentation “Build a Rockstar Mobile App Company as a Non-Techie.” With no tech background, Sheena Allen has managed to create a portfolio of popular apps with over 2.4 million downloads including PicSlit and Dubblen Split Pic, Orange Snap. Here are some of her tips for non-techies:

  • Get your idea out of your head and onto paper.
  • Find a technical co-founder or a freelancer. (though she advises to be careful when selecting freelancers)
  • Test your own app.
  • Find mentors.
  • Be optimistic, be persistent, and be creative.
  • Be strategic. Don’t do all the bells and whistles at first.

564A9EB7-DD7E-43E7-9BD9-904BBCFF25C3** Not pictured Mike Seibel (Partner, Y Combinator @mwseibel), provided his thoughts and expertise starting a tech company and how to get into YC accelerators reminding the audience that “A lot of people try, but not a lot of people make it” and “Raising money is the result of doing good work.” If you can build something in 2 weeks or less, you’re in a better position to get something into user’s hands and be able to start learning and growing.

Here is a link to the slideshow on his website that was included in his presentation.

**Also not pictured is Tiffani Bell, Co-Founder of The Detroit Water Project, which is launching as part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2015 class. As a non-profit, funds are directly paid to municipal water departments. The Detroit Water Project has received donations of more than $180,000 for water bills that have helped over 900 families in Detroit. The project has since expanded to Baltimore with plans to expand to third city, which will be announced in coming weeks. Through the Detroit and Baltimore Water Projects, Bell has been able to use utility data and her background in computer science for social good. Her advice:

  • Plan nothing. Simply put, release expectations and be flexible to change as there are likely to be several changes throughout your cycles of development.
  • Let it be ugly. The example she provided here was the original bootstrap site for the project vs. the active site).
  • Iterate. As part of the cycles of development, a startup must put out their best basic product to better gain an understanding or what works or what doesn’t work.
  • Tell a story. Every great product or company has a story. Tell a unique one.
  • Know metrics. No metrics. Basically, in order to iterate, you need to know the metrics or analytics behind your project. Know what people are gravitating towards, and what is or isn’t working.
  • Be cheap as hell! (Don’t spend a dime if you don’t have to)

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