Innovation Ideas Delivered from HBCU Tour

Sinclair Skinner (left) and Roger Roman, co-organizers of the "I Love Black People" pitch competition (Brenda C. Siler/The Washington Informer)
Sinclair Skinner (left) and Roger Roman, co-organizers of the "I Love Black People" pitch competition (Brenda C. Siler/The Washington Informer)

A TransAtlantic tour is out to find new technology ideas from people of color through the “I Love Black People Pitch Competition.”

The unique approach is designed for people of color to pitch ideas that can resolve a financial or humanitarian crisis. The tour will visit historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), churches and student associations across the U.S. before heading to several universities in Zimbabwe.

The competition is organized by HBCU alumni Sinclair Skinner, co-founder of BitMari, a payment platform for international financial exchanges, and Roger Roman, managing partner of Push Consulting and Marketing.

By taking the tour to HBCU campuses, the two give up-and-coming entrepreneurs an opportunity to present ideas before a team of judges, audiences of interested citizens and potential funders. The pitch events are similar to the premise of the television show “Shark Tank,” though the exposure is unlike what many people of color get to experience.

“We have real challenges in our communities that need solutions,” Skinner said. “So let’s leverage brains of the wonderful people we will meet on our tour to solve some of these problems.”

The Pitch Competition tour kicked off at Howard University’s Inclusive Innovation Incubator (in3 Lab) during TechWeek, the nation’s leading technology conference and festival, co-sponsored by AARP. The tour stops at 13 HBCU campuses, then travels to six universities in Zimbabwe.

“The tour is designed to enlighten student and non-student entrepreneurs about what are the possibilities,” Skinner said. “We are going directly to the community where we can educate about relationships and solutions.”

Both Skinner and Roman had been entrepreneurs and minority business activists for many years before launching the competition. Skinner, who has a degree in mechanical engineering, has known the heartbreak of starting a business and then having to file for bankruptcy. Roman, who majored in English and African American Studies, was co-founder of a tech industry incubator before starting a marketing consultancy. Roman also is an advisor to BitMari, Skinner’s company.

Winners of the HBCU Pitch Competition held at the in3 Lab were Jason Moore, CEO/co-founder of the Black Diaspora Exchange and Scott Selandy-Defour, CEO of Magnet Smart Networking. The Black Diaspora is a business finance initiative that aspires to connect business owners with expertise globally to grow and sustain businesses, while Magnet is a networking app that aims to eradicate subconscious biased hiring practices.

Two winners will be chosen at each pitch event. The HBCU winners are qualified to compete in a Hackathon, a virtual event in November, where they will present a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The MVPs must show a level of completion of their idea through software development and also produce an actual working model of their innovation pitch. Whoever can demonstrate the best completion of their innovation idea at the Hackathon will be the winner of the nationwide HBCU Pitch Competition.

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