Every year the National Society of Black Engineers – Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter (NSBE-BMAC) holds Minority Innovation Weekend, also known as MIW. The NSBE-BMAC realized years ago that there is a great need for startup founders and co-founders of color to receive the financial, educational, and long-lasting support that they deserve. Therefore, MIW weekend focuses on providing opportunities for founders and co-founders of technology start-up companies to take their ideas to the next level. 

Research proves that minority innovators receive less funding and support, but their ideas are priceless. For that reason, the Minority Innovation Weekend continues to use its resources to help start-up companies maximize their full potential. On July 17, 2021, MIW hosted a pitch competition alongside investors that are ready to support the success of technology start-up companies. Through an intriguing, exciting, and insightful event, start up companies that are founded or co-founded by individuals of color got to bring their best pitch to the table. 

The 2021 MIW Summer Pitch competition was completely virtual as the coronavirus continues to shift normalcy. However, the pandemic didn’t stop the show. Over a dozen startup companies founded or co-founded by people of color participated in the competition. Including MindStand Technologies (Catonsville, MD), CoTripper (Silver Spring, MD), Pet Connect (Silver Spring, MD), Kalm Studios (Washington, DC), Roadi, LLC (Baltimore, MD), Flave App (Baltimore, MD), SpreadKarma (Baltimore, MD), CyDeploy, LLC (Baltimore, MD), SmartBridge Health (Washington, DC), 1787fp (Virginia), Employable (Virginia), Jammin’ Together (Annapolis, MD), and Bloc By Block News (Baltimore, MD). 

During the pitch competition, each company received five minutes to prove to the judges and investors that they deserve the winning prize. Following their pitch, the judges were allowed less than ten minutes to ask any follow-up questions. The Minority Innovation Weekend’s main goal is to recognize and highlight technology start-up companies, and following the pitch competition two companies took home prizes. 

MindStand founded by Michael Ogunsanya won the Fearless Innovator prize of 10,000 dollars, and CyDeploy founded by Tina Williams-Koroma won the Pitch Creator Hustle Award of 1,000 dollars. 

However, opportunities like this wouldn’t be possible without people that understand the importance of investing in startup companies. Delali Dzirasa the founder and CEO of Fearless (fearless.tech) is the Title Sponsor of the 2021 MIW Summer pitch competition. Fearless tech employee, LaToya Staten says Fearless tech wants to be a part of building up other businesses in their neighborhood. “Fearless wants to change the world and we know we can’t do it alone. By investing in the next generation of civic tech companies, we are multiplying the number of businesses who want to do good. It’s why we started our Hutch incubator and it’s why we participate in events like Minority Innovation Weekend. We don’t see other companies as competitors, we see them as potential partners in our quest to build software with a soul,” Staten said. 

Michael Ogunsanya was the first place winner of the 2021 MIW Pitch competition and he co-founded MindStand. The judges said Ogunsanya pitched an idea that had great potential. MindStand was founded in 2018 and “helps coach employees around inclusive language and provide trackable metrics around diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Ogunsanya said. 

Ogunsanya says he was so happy to take home the first place prize. “I practiced my full length pitch multiple times, consulted with my pitch coach, Mac Conwell. I knew if I paced myself and told stories about MindStand’s vision, I would do well,” Ogunsanya said. Now, Ogunsanya plans to use the $10,000 winning price to expand the marketing of MindStand and develop case studies. 

The Minority innovation weekend will continue to assist start-up companies. The next pitch competition is coming up this spring. “There is an immense amount of talent in our backyard and a community of people ready to foster and nurture their talents. A lot of people will tell entrepreneurs they need to move to Silicon Valley or another so-called tech hub to build and grow a business but it can be done in Maryland and is being done in Maryland. Baltimore is a very supportive community for up and coming entrepreneurs. People want to help one another,” Staten said. 

Are you a Founder or Co-Founder of Color headquartered in Washington DC, Maryland, or Northern Virginia? The application for the MIW 2022 pitch competition is available now at the link below. 

MIW 2022 Pitch Competition Application: https://www.minorityinnovationweekend.org/news/miw-2022-impc/

Minority Innovation Weekend (MIW) 2021 presented by Fearless (fearless.tech) is a technology and innovation conference that will occur on Saturday October 2, 2021. MIW 2021 will cover:

  • Tech Startup Fundamentals,
  • Cybersecurity Technology Innovation,
  • Healthcare Technology Innovation, and
  • Environmental Technology Innovation.

MIW 2021 is online and FREE so register for MIW 2021 at https://hopin.com/events/minority-innovation-weekend-2021.