Black entrepreneurs and creatives have long been a driving force of innovation in the Canadian tech ecosystem. Yet, Black people face some of the most systemic and complex barriers when seeking tech opportunities. Calls to action around diversity in tech are everywhere, but that has not necessarily changed this story for Black entrepreneurs.
Black tech workers are:
Black Innovation Fellowship (BIF) Founding Partner Isaac Olowolafe (Founder, Dream Maker Ventures & DMZ Advisory Council Member) understood this only too well and decided to do something about it. Other organizations that shared the same vision as Isaac decided to be a partner include Shopify, BMO, and Canadian Women’s Foundation.
“At the DMZ I learnt how to effectively express my ideas in a world that was dominated by people who did not talk or look like me. This is a bridge to being legitimized, to be able to figure out what your style is, on your own terms.”
– Manu Kabahizi DMZ Alumni Founder & CFO of Ulula
The DMZ values equity over everything and puts founders first. Our BIF program takes a personalized programming approach, that is tailored for each founder so they can learn, develop and scale their business while staying true to themselves.
The stories of black entrepreneurs in tech are diverse and full of innovative excellence. This should be celebrated.
So, we have decided to feature a few Black entrepreneurs in our network that are making big moves: their achievements, their experiences, and what Black entrepreneurship and Black history month means to them.
|Alexandra McCalla, DMZ BIF Founder and COO, AirMatrix.
“I really appreciate that BIF is not separate but is seamlessly integrated into the DMZ.We do not need separate programs, we just need space held for us… There is so much history here (black people in tech) and there may only be two black people in your office but it’s really important for you to take the time to think about how their experiences are different than yours.”
|Manu Kabahizi, DMZ Alumni Founder & CTO, Ulula.
“As an entrepreneur, I know how important it is to put people first. My staff, my customers, partners. People matter and that’s something I really saw at the DMZ.”
|Farah Brunache, DMZ BIF Founder and CEO, Lagatos.
“What attracted me most to the BIF program was how candid they were about the experiences of black founders, especially black women founders. There was a realness and transparency. No gloss, you don’t usually see that.”
|Renee Raymond, DMZ BIF Founder and CEO, Daya Lens.
“There are barriers for black entrepreneurs and they need to be acknowledged. BIF does that. The DMZ community here has taught me how to see potential mistakes as a part of knowledge production. There is so much knowledge here.”
|Leon Nsengiyumva, DMZ BIF Founder and CEO, Odessu.
“Representation matters, it’s cliche but it’s true. It is hard to not be around anyone that looks like you. We have a little community at the DMZ, it’s awesome… (Black history month) is an important time to reflect and programs like this are a step in the right direction.”
Utilizes AI to fight the biases of the fashion industry.
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