By Sherrell Dorsey, publisher and CEO, The Plug
Black tech leaders are breaking barriers and making a huge impact in the tech industry across sectors. As they defy the odds, raise capital in an industry in which they have historically been overlooked, and build sustainable businesses that are shaping the world, their growth demands attention.
These leaders are using their skills and knowledge to develop innovative technologies and bring diversity to the field. Here are five Black tech leaders you’ll want to watch as their companies define the future.
1. Ciara May, Rebundle
May founded Rebundle in 2016, setting up shop in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, turning banana stems into sustainable, non-toxic braiding hair—a patent-pending technological process called ReGen Hair . Boasting a variety of colors, Rebundle hair was created as an alternative to plastic synthetic hair that often causes scalp irritation and wreaks havoc on the planet. The direct-to-consumer brand leverages a recurring revenue model helping customers order online and find a braider all at once.
“As expectations from conscious consumers continue to evolve, brands like ours must exist to provide healthy and sustainable alternatives in industries overdue for innovation,” says May.
To close the loop on single-use, plastic hair, Rebundle also offers customers the opportunity to recycle their old braiding hair products from competitors.
“We believe–and our customers agree—that we are forging a new path and will continue to fight vigorously for what we want to see in the future of hair extensions.”
Brands like ours must exist to provide healthy and sustainable alternatives in industries overdue for innovation.
—Ciara May, founder, Rebundle
2. Chandler Malone, BootUp
As new technologies and automation define the future of work and reduce many of the jobs of yesteryears, training up the next generation of tech workers to fill in the gaps, is a significant undertaking.
Malone launched Bootup in 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to bridge the skills gap for American workers.
“Our current education-to-employment pipeline is failing both employers and individuals. This can be seen by poor employment rates post-graduation and massive skilled worker shortages in industries like tech, healthcare, construction, and financial services,” explains Malone.
Working with clients like JP Morgan Chase, Best Buy, and Home Depot to co-create training materials provided through Bootup’s on-demand course and learning platform, BootUp is working to ensure that employers are actively involved in the educational process and that candidates are adequately prepared for the jobs of the future.
“Education is a public good, and it is important that information is offered for free in order to maximize who has access to opportunity. Our work at Bootup proves that creating more accessible pathways creates a more inclusive industry, as evidenced by 78% of our placements being Black and Brown people and 46% being women.”
3. Karissma Yve, Gildform
With just a few clicks of a button, brands and creators can print on-demand jewelry designs with Gildform, the brainchild of founder Karissma Yve who has worked with major companies and even designed some of the jewelry featured in the Marvel film Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Gildform’s on-demand jewelry production facility helps brands fully customize collections, and provides upfront pricing, no minimums, drop shipping, and quick turnaround from their manufacturing plant in Detroit. After a designer uploads the 3D design of their jewelry to the company’s platform, Gildform will 3D print a prototype or sample of the piece for review, and following approval, cast the design along with selected finishes, assemble and plate each piece, and ship the line directly to the designer.
“We are on a mission to empower creators all over the world with on-demand jewelry design and manufacturing. Gildform is the only platform of its kind helping creators design, produce and fulfill their jewelry products all in one place,” says Yve.
The company recently landed a spot in the Techstars JP Morgan accelerator program and has caught the attention of innovators and entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Pharrell as she carves a path as one of the only print-on-demand jewelry manufacturers in the U.S.
4. Omi Bell, Black Girl Ventures
Launched in 2016, Black Girl Ventures was built on the belief that tech-enabled businesses founded by Black and Brown women deserve to reach their fullest potential.
“Access to financial and social capital should not and cannot continue to hinder their companies’ path to growth, and our organization has spurred real, transformative change in bridging those gaps. We have funded 450 Black and Brown women founders representing over $10 million in revenue and 3,000 jobs for the U.S. economy,” says Bell.
Bell’s journey with Black Girl Ventures has taken her to the New York Stock Exchange and partnerships with major brands like Nike to help expand access to capital to Black women founders.
“As I evolve as a systems disruptor, I hope to continue cultivating innovative solutions and knowledge sharing with underserved founders, supporting their evolution beyond the disparities existing within our industry.”
5. Justin Turk, Livegistics
Turk comes from a long line of family members who have worked in construction, so naturally, with a background in computer science and business systems operations, once he joined the industry, the Detroit native put his knowledge to use transforming many of the myopic systems of the industry by building software to increase efficiency and make smarter business decisions to help reduce waste across the board.
“Around 39% of carbon emissions and a third of the world’s waste is produced by the construction industry. Half of the raw materials are used in building. To have a sustainable future, the inner workings of the construction industry must be addressed,” says Turk.
With over 30 employees and contracts with city governments and waste management departments, Livegistics is doing the dirty work of smarter waste management through cloud-based software solutions.
“These industries are hindered by outdated processes and paper-based systems, but Livegistics provides a digital solution with real-time data to improve processes and impact sustainability.”
These are just a few of the many talented Black tech leaders who are making a difference in the industry and driving the next wave of innovation across categories and sectors.
Lead image courtesy of Guilherme Stecanella/Unsplash.