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HBS Students Launch “Uncharted” Weekend

The Harvard Business School campus is located across the Charles River.
The Harvard Business School campus is located across the Charles River. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Haemaru Chung, Crimson Staff Writer

A pair of Harvard Business School students launched two new events this weekend — the Black New Venture Competition and the Black Tech Masters Series — which they say are meant to help black entrepreneurs clear hurdles in the business world.

Created by Business School students Tyler Simpson and Kimberly E. Foster, the new events combined with the African American Student Union’s 47th annual conference to form a two-day experience dubbed “Uncharted: Black Visionary Leadership and Redefining What Is Possible.”

Simpson and Foster partnered with multiple external sponsors, including General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Google for Startups, and eBay, to put on the events.

Simpson and Foster said they created the events to ensure that black entrepreneurs both inside and outside the Business School have access to the skill sets and knowledge to succeed, adding that most attendees were not Harvard affiliates.

“Our goal for the project this weekend is to really invite and enable people within the black community to gain an understanding of entrepreneurship in a way that is much more dynamic than looking things up online or trying to understand resources that they don’t have access to,” Simpson said.

“The hurdle to get capital is so much higher for this demographic,” Foster added.

The Black New Venture Competition is designed to connect aspiring black entrepreneurs with resources, mentors, and advisors to develop and expand their ventures, according to the competition’s website. Competitors pitch ventures to a panel of judges and audience members, vying for $175,000 in prize money.

Simpson and Foster described Friday’s Black Tech Masters Series, meanwhile, as a “one-day masterclass on how to be a good entrepreneur.” The day consisted of workshops and panels covering subjects like “how to build a winning team” and “brand value and marketing in the digital age.”

Jewel Burks Solomon, the head of Google for Startups, gave the morning keynote address. Damien Hooper-Campbell, the Chief Diversity Officer of eBay, closed the event with an afternoon keynote session, in which he shared advice about diversity in networking and discussed his experience hiring an eBay CEO who was actively engaging in diversity and inclusion.

Alfred Y. Jackson, who traveled from St. Louis, MO, to attend the Black Tech Masters Series, said one of his main takeaways from Hooper-Campbell’s speech was that employees should actively attempt to intervene when their workplaces fail to adequately address concerns of diversity and inclusion.

“We have to be the ones to raise our voice when things are not going the way things should be going, sometimes we have to provoke our coworkers to action and our team members to action,” Jackson said.

Another attendee — Amoi S. Nelson, who works for American Express — said she came to the event because she wanted to better understand the trials and financial struggles that business owners and entrepreneurs go through.

“It actually exceeded my expectations, because I was able to take even just little bits, although I am not an entrepreneur myself, that I can apply to my own career — hiring, learning how to balance diversity within work,” Nelson said.

Simpson and Foster stressed that they want their projects to continue even after they graduate, saying that “we want this to be a part of the institution in some way.”

—Staff writer Haemaru Chung can be reached at haemaru.chung@thecrimson.com.

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