Can HBCUs Create a Black Silicon Valley?

Public and private black colleges could be cornerstone for African American tech movement.

Public and private black colleges could be cornerstone for African American tech movement.

Students from North Carolina A&T State University are the winners of Black Enterprise Magazine’s TechConneXt Summit BE SMART hack-a-thon held last week in San Francisco.

Angelica Willis, Brandon Long, Ashana Evans and Jean Beya comprised the winning Aggie team which designed ‘Let’s Go Black,’ a mobile app allowing users to geotarget black-owned businesses along their travel routes.

HBCU students are at the center of an effort to spur interdisciplinary creation in the nation’s STEM innovation imperative. And in the way that HBCUs helped to create the black middle class and helped to cultivate black legislative power at federal and state levels, is the next great HBCU creation an independent tech culture meeting black consumer and business needs?

Which HBCUs Can Build the Valley?

Several HBCUs are well-positioned with degree programs in computer science, engineering and applied sciences that could meet black tech development needs, even within the highly-segregated sector of tech startup culture.

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But which schools are best prepared to inspire and train those future moguls? Colleges with strong baccalaureate programs in tech-specific fields (in no particular order):

  1. North Carolina A&T State University

  2. Morgan State University

  3. Morehouse College

  4. Delaware State University

  5. Spelman College

  6. Bowie State University

  7. Shaw University

  8. Claflin University

  9. Howard University

  10. Jackson State University

  11. Alabama State University

  12. Hampton University

Between these schools, and the leagues of alumni which have come out of them to forge exceptional careers in the sciences, there should be optimism about our chances to develop mobile app development companies, video game design studios, virtual reality design firms, medical technology, solar power devices, and a few other tech areas which many of us don’t think about more than twice a week outside of shopping at Best Buy.

Where Would the Black Silicon Valley Be?

The requirements, seemingly, would have to be a metropolitan or metropolitan-annex with a growing black population, relatively liberal politics that wold allow for bank and municipal funding to help black folks start these kinds of companies, affordable space for offices and commercial development around them, and connectivity to major industries like transportation, manufacturing, military, finance, and government.

  1. Raleigh, NC

  2. Hampton, VA

  3. Houston, Texas

  4. Baton Rouge, LA

  5. Petersburg, VA

  6. Albany, GA

  7. Orlando, FL

What’s Does the Market Need?

Given that the future of American industry is digitized, here are the industries in which HBCU graduates can develop immediate impact for black consumers and corporate entities working to reach them. And given that the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund are in partnership with tech giants, the logical next steps for developing a black tech hub are in place for seed funding or preliminary partnership with students and graduates.

  • A better system of online college course access for working professionals

  • Personal systems of healthcare monitoring (heart, brain, lungs)

  • Financial management (retirement, social security, budgeting, investment monitoring)

  • Crowdfunding systems for black startups

  • Credentialing bootcamps for tech, educational, social service certifications

  • Transportation support systems

  • Boutique personal service apps (food, grooming, fashion, dating)

  • 3D printing

There’s talent, there’s opportunity, and there’s a foundation. All that is missing, seemingly, is the shared idea that it can and must be done.