Oakland's Tech Renaissance

There is a tech renaissance going on in Oakland, California.


This is not the first renaissance in Oakland.  There was Oakland of the ‘Great Migration, during the first half of the 20th century, when millions of blacks fleeing the racist South came west for jobs in the factories, and ship yards. Or, Oakland of the 60s civil rights movement, birthplace of the Black Panther Party, and sports legends like Bill Russell and Curt Flood.


But this renaissance is taking place in the shadow of Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and it's transforming the city one block at a time.  Don't believe it?  Check out First Fridays every month and you'll see why the NY Times ranked this city one of the top five places to visit in 2012.

This renaissance is real, and it's happening now.  The question is, will blacks be part of it, or left behind?


In Oakland's Uptown District change has taken the form of Impact Hub.   The neighborhood around Broadway and 23rd had fallen to urban blight, as, one by one, businesses shut down during the recent recession.  Impact took an old, abandoned auto dealership and transformed it into a 'collaboratory' -- part of a worldwide network of co-working spaces that is revolutionizing the way people work. 


"One of the things we like to share is the story of how we raised the first $100,000 for the space... Kickstarter... folks from Oakland," says co-founder Ashara Ekundayo.  "This is an idea whose time has come, and they showed up for it."  Already, Impact Hub is garnering awards and accolades for its vibe and amazing architecture.  East Bay Express named it the 'Best CoWorking Space & Best Transformation of a Building.'


When you ask brothers like venture capitalist Erik Moore and tech entrepreneur MC Hammer about the so-called 'digital divide', their answer is not necessarily what you want to hear.  Both were in Oakland's Jack London Square at Vator Splash, a roving, international tech event where start-ups pitch their ideas to VCs and angel investors.


"If we're talking about a playing field that's so large, it's not easy to get into anyway and it's not meant for everybody," says Hammer.  "It's meant for certain people from all walks of life but not for everybody." 


"It's old and it's boring and it's tired," says the Dartmouth-educated Moore.  He acknowledges that racism exists in this business. "It's horrible and it's debilitating, but you can't let that be a hindrance to your success."


Like so many before him, Moore found his way to the top through education. When you talk to social media experts Kevin L. Nichols and Kumi Rauf, they tell you education and re-education is crucial. 


"Math, science and engineering," says Nichols, "especially if you are a black male or female." 


"When you reach the youth," says Rauf, "you see the seed of change start to grow through the rest of society." 

TBR asked Rauf and Nichols about their favorite tech resources and recommendations. 

Nichols  is known as the Social Politician.  Check out his websites, KLNConsultingGroup.com and KevinNichols.com.  He highly recommends the Social Media Examiner.  "It helps businesses master social media marketing to find leads, increase sales and improve branding using Facebook LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube."


Rauf is the founder of I Love Being Black, the most popular Facebook page in the world.  You can find him on LinkedIn as well.   He recommends, NSBE Professionals (National Society of Black Professionals), TechCrunch and All Facebook.  Another favorite is Socialmouths a website that shows individuals and businesses can get free, "kickass" advice on what it takes to be successful online. 


You Tech can find out more Northern California-based blacks in high-tech and stay abreast of upcoming tech events on VIP Registry Blacks in Technology

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

Anti-spam: complete the task

Don't miss the Bronze Report--Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays  at 5:30 on Comcast 104