How This Black-Owned Tech Ecosystem In Tulsa Aims To Breathe New Life Into Black Wall Street
A new destination is on its way on the map, and it’s called Black Tech Street.
Tyrance Billingsley II, a native Black Tulsan entrepreneur, founded the Black Tech Street national initiative and tech hub in 2021 to mobilize resources and cultivate an economy designed by, and for, black entrepreneurs. His direct lineage to the original architects of the Black Wall Street helped forge Billingsley’s path to witness a rebirth of an inclusive and equitable community for Black entrepreneurs and businesses.
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After commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Billingsley partnered with SecondMuse, an impact and innovation company that incubates entrepreneurial ecosystems to create self-sustaining, resilient and equitable economies. They came together to cast a new vision for the future of Black prosperity.
“What could Black Wall Street have been, had it been supported and not destroyed?“ Billingsley poses to 3BL CSRWire reporters.“When I thought about the level of tenacity that it took for these entrepreneurs to build these incredible businesses during Jim Crow, it really reminded me a lot of the tech industry.”
In partnership with SecondMuse, Black Tech Street is calling on investors to pour funds into Black-owned startups, large tech companies to open local hubs and recruit Black talent in Tulsa, and more. Groups such as Build in Tulsa, ACT Tulsa, Techstars, and Lightship Foundation are similarly collaborating with other businesses to collectively build the groundbreaking ecosystem.
“This is a really collaborative effort among the city, local organizations such as our regional chamber, and entrepreneurs,” said Arthur Johnson, senior vice president of economic development at the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve never seen this kind of intentionality around not only developing Black-owned businesses, but also Black tech talent.”
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According to a State of Tech Diversity: The Black Tech Ecosystem report, the Black community represents only 3% of workers in tech. Meanwhile, venture funding to Black-founded startups in the U.S. saw a dramatic drop this year with at least one Black founder having earned “1.9% of deal counts and 1.2% of overall venture dollars invested in the U.S,” per the report.
“Sometimes in the tech space, it’s not just what you know, but who you know, and for Black and Brown individuals, that can be a disadvantage,” explained Tim Butler, a founder who’s part of Build in Tulsa’s Entrepreneurs in Residence program. “Thank God for organizations like Build in Tulsa and this entire ecosystem, because they’re allowing folks that look like us to be able to get in the room and talk with folks that historically we wouldn’t even meet.”
To learn more, check out the Black Tech Street website.