Harlem: New York’s Next Silicon Alley?

Harlem is known for many things – as the breeding ground for the cultural-artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, as a major hub for African-American business… and soon, Harlem might be known for being the next tech hub in New York City.

Despite being on the opposite side of Manhattan’s Silicon Alley, the Uptown neighborhood has received a series of economic development initiatives on both public and private sides – including free Wi-Fi and tech incubators that only cost $15 per day. One of the people trying to play his part in the tech uprising is Glenford Patterson, a professor at the City College of New York.

Breaking Hoops interviewed Patterson to find out how he’s launching a tech summit in a place most tech entrepreneurs and VCs may overlook.

BH: Tell us a bit about your background.

GP: I’ve been doing work with startups for 15 years and moved to Harlem four years ago. I started teaching entrepreneurship at City College and working at the school incubator/accelerator, The Zahn Innovation Center. One evening, I wanted to go to a tech conference, and realized there was only one hiccup – I couldn’t find one at the time! There are existing tech conferences in Harlem, but work still has to be done to increase the visibility of Harlem to the tech world. So I decided to become of part of the solution and that is how Harlem Tech Summit was started.

BH: What is Harlem Tech Summit ?

GP: It’s an upcoming tech conference in May. We’re inviting entrepreneurs and investors to educate the locals about entrepreneurship, give founders access to mentors and investors, and also get investors interested in projects that are already going on.

BH: What sets Harlem Tech Summit  apart from other tech conferences?

GH: Well, first thing is that it’s in Harlem., We aim to eventually reach a wide and diverse target audiences, to foster technology interest in entrepreneurship amongst Harlem’s youth and potentially work with other large players in the tech ecosystem to showcase Harlem entrepreneurs and the tech talent pipeline.

BH: Who are you working with to bring this idea to life?

GH: We are in talks with Daymond John’s team at Blueprint + Co (Star of ABC”s Shark Tank), and also Startup Grind (community of entrepreneurs in 98 countries), to potentially showcase more tech events in the community.

BH: Many tech conferences charge an incredibly high fee – TechCrunch disrupt, for instance, charges up to thousands of dollars for one ticket. How are you pricing Harlem Tech Summit tickets?

GH: The goal is to get as many people interested and educated about what it takes to build good tech businesses, and much of our target are students in the area. People are surprised to learn that many students can’t afford $35 in Harlem. So while the event is open to everyone at only $35, we are only charging $5 for students.

BH: As a professor, what are the differences between teaching entrepreneurship in the classroom and organizing a tech conference to teach kids about entrepreneurship?

GH: There are a lot of parallels between the two. A huge part of it is generating interest in people. Harlem’s young people are still not very exposed to entrepreneurship, and that’s part of what the summit is trying to change.

BH: Any advice for students in Harlem reading this and looking to start their own companies?

GH: Go to events – not just ours, not just in Harlem, but all across the country, if you can.

BH: Where can people learn more about Harlem Tech Summit ?

GH: On our website – http://harlemtechsummit.org  

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Jason Choi

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