Grassroots Initiative HBCU@SXSW Doubles in Size

Top-level sponsors for 2017 include Google, Delta and MailChimp

Around 50 students from historically black U.S. colleges and universities participated in the inaugural effort at SXSW in 2016. This time around, HBCU@SXSW is bringing more than 100 bright young minds to Austin.

For these excursions, the students can thank Opportunity Ecosystem, an Atlanta-based startup created by angel investor Rodney Sampson and Tennessee Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan. (Morgan also has his own company called Huddle Ventures.) The centerpiece of the company is an ecosystem-building platform, which is being officially launched this weekend at SXSW.

At this afternoon’s “Student Onboarding Bootcamp,” which runs from 1-4 p.m., the speakers list is impressive. Among those set to share wisdom are AOL founder Steve Case, Snapchat lead recruiter for diversity and inclusion Jarvis Sam and Microsoft diversity recruiter and strategist Keisha Ebbesen. It’s part of an exciting movement, as outlined recently in a feature by

Opportunity Ecosystem seeks to create a network of angel investors, black-owned banks, pro athletes and regional business associations to invest in and grow minority-owned, early-stage tech companies. Ultimately, Morgan and Sampson hope to create a scalable model for economic development that can be replicated in low- and middle-income communities across the country. Such efforts could lead to purchasing real estate to establish a co-working space to house an accelerator and coding program.

OE is an inclusive ecosystem building platform that it modeled after the work that Sampson was doing in Atlanta via Opportunity Hub, shares Michael Peterson, a co-founder of Huddle Ventures. “A lot of football players are ingrained to do philanthropy—to give back. We started to look at the investment model in terms of social impact,” adds Peterson, who uses his affiliation with athletes to leverage their funds and businesses as an adviser.

One of the 2016 HBUC@SXSW participants, Alston Clark, framed his experience this way:

There is this “thing” called SX magic, a term coined to describe the various magical moments that happen during SXSW. I am not talking about flying carpets. I am referring the large amount networking opportunities. For example, while walking down Castro St. you might run anybody. While I was in the tech-expo, Mike “Rooster” McConaughey from the CNBC show West Texas Investors Club walked right past me.

We wish all of this year’s HBCU@SXSW participants the best as they chase after their respective moments of “SX magic.” The plan is to up the amount of participants for HBCU@SWSX to 500 in 2018.