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Meet Visionary Founder Elise Smith, CEO And Co-Founder Of Praxis Labs, An Immersive Practice-Based Platform

Elise Smith is helping to create better outcomes for diverse employees. She is the co-founder and CEO of Praxis Labs, an “immersive practice-based platform that drives inclusive, engaged, and higher-performing teams,” a press release mentioned. The platform offers has assisted companies including Google, Uber, and ServiceNow to help achieve benchmarks that boost engagement and lead to retention, enhance company culture, and increase equity and inclusion. “For me, it’s how do we use technology to help us become even better humans, to help us be able to give feedback across differences, to navigate difficult conversations, to provide performance feedback and expectations with accountability and care in a way that actually serves us all better, that creates more value for everyone, doesn’t cause harm,” she told AFROTECH™. “We’re seeing our workplaces need that more than ever.” To date, Praxis Labs has raised $23 million, per digitalundivided. As AFROTECH™ previously reported, Praxis...

Jul 3, 2024

Steve Stoute’s Bold Leap From High-Paying Music Executive To Leading His Own Companies

Steve Stoute forged his own lane in the music industry, rising to the cream of the crop. As AFROTECH™ previously reported, Stoute worked as a former Sony Music Entertainment executive serving as its president for urban music between 1990 and 1999. He worked alongside some of today’s industry giants including Mariah Carey, Will Smith, and Nas. However, Stoute would soon be convinced to venture further into the industry covering his own terrain when working on the “Men In Black” soundtrack with actor and rapper Will Smith. He was there when Smith’s single from the movie skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won the star a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1997, according to Pop Sugar. At that time, Stoute also learned of the amount of dollars that existed in advertising when he found out a small agency representing Ray Ban sunglasses profited from increased sales of the shades after Smith wore them in a well-known scene of the movie. After Stoute had...

Jun 3, 2024

Sandra L. Richards Talks About Becoming A Corporate Catalyst At Morgan Stanley, Leading DEI Efforts And A Financial Education Program

Determined to have her voice heard in the financial sector, Sandra L. Richards now leads with over 20 years of experience. Since May 2007, she has been a dedicated member of Morgan Stanley. Initially hired as a director, diversity specialist, she supported diversity strategies in recruiting, retention, and business development. Over the years, Richards has been promoted six times, including moving into roles as vice president, business development officer – diverse and multicultural markets; managing director, head of business development and segment marketing; and most recently, managing director, head of global sports & entertainment and segment sales & engagement group for the past five years, according to LinkedIn. In her current role, she focuses on helping entertainers, industry professionals, and athletes build wealth by providing advice, tools, and resources. She is spearheading the digital financial education program Money In The Making, which encompasses topics such as...

Jun 3, 2024

Vanessa Wyche Leads The Way At NASA, Destigmatizing Firsts And Advancing Diversity In STEM Fields

Vanessa Wyche is leading the way at NASA and made history in the process. Since 1989, the South Carolina native, with a Bachelor of Science in materials engineering and a Master of Science in bioengineering from Clemson University, has worked at the U.S. government agency. Her first role was as a project engineer managing several space shuttle missions, as previously reported by AFROTECH™. Wyche was fueled by her interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and has continued to rise in the ranks with her titles having included director, CX program operations and test integration (2010-2011); director, exploration integration and science (2016-2018); and deputy director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center (2018-2021), according to her LinkedIn profile. “I knew when I got to the Johnson Space Center, there were not a lot of people that looked like me doing the kind of jobs that I was doing,” she told KHOU-11 in Houston, TX. “So, I kind of had to just kind of decide...

Jun 3, 2024

Dynamic Investor Melissa Bradley Is On A Mission To Generate $100B In New Wealth For Black And Brown Entrepreneurs By 2030

Melissa Bradley is a dynamic investor leading a multi-billion-dollar initiative to uplift minority entrepreneurs. She is the founder and managing partner of 1863 Ventures, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit accelerator and venture fund that began to realize its purpose once it veered away from a “one-size-fits-all” mindset, AFROTECH™ previously reported. “Once we were able to identify what were the unique needs of each of those segments, then, we’ve now developed respectfully an award-winning set of programs around that, which has allowed us to generate over a billion dollars of new revenue by our businesses,” Bradley previously told AFROTECH™ at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in 2022. “We’ve created over 3,000 jobs in the last five years. And luckily, we had a 95% survival rate post-COVID for all of our businesses.” Furthermore, among 1863 Ventures’ efforts is the 3Rs (Recovery, Rebuild, Resilience) business development program, which launched in 2021 to provide...

Jun 1, 2024

Justin Shaifer Leads the Charge In Engaging Youth With STEM

Justin Shaifer, “Mr. Fascinate,” is enriching the minds of the younger generation. The Southside Chicago, IL, native raised in a single-parent household is dedicating his life towards educating the youth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “I was one of the kids that was really disengaged from STEM because it wasn’t really perceived as cool,” he told AFROTECH™ in an interview. “So it’s really important to engage your kids’ curiosities. Showing kids role models of people in STEM that look like them is a huge part of creating that intrinsic motivation that can make kids understand that a future in STEM is possible.” Among his efforts includes Fascinate Media, which he founded in 2016 to create educational content using cutting-edge technologies such as 3D effects, virtual production, and Generative AI at his Los Angeles, CA-based studio space, Fascinate House, his LinkedIn mentions. His content has impacted millions and can be viewed on his social media and...

May 31, 2024

Lisa Dyson's Sustainable Protein Vision: Feeding 10 Billion People By Mid-Century

A deeper dive into NASA’s research led Lisa Dyson to become an innovator leading a multi-million-dollar company. Call To Action Dyson founded Air Protein, a startup developing an alternative to animal protein using air fermentation. As previously reported by AFROTECH™, the company drew from NASA’s 1960s research that allowed astronauts to convert carbon dioxide into food. “A colleague of mine, Dr. John Reed, and I, we were interested actually in carbon recycling here on Earth,” she said during a Ted Talk in 2016. “We wanted to come up with technical solutions to address climate change, and we discovered this research by reading some papers published in the ‘ 60s, 1967 and later articles about this work. And we thought it was a really good idea. And so we said, ‘Well, Earth is actually like a spaceship. We have limited space and limited resources, and on Earth we really do need to figure out how to recycle our carbon better. So we have the idea, can we take some of these NASA type...

May 31, 2024

Meet The 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50 Who Are Actively Shaping A Better Tomorrow

It’s officially time to announce the 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50! The AFROTECH™ Future 50 is celebrated in our digital hub and social media platforms. During previous years, the individuals have also been honored in person at the annual AFROTECH™ Conference. The categories for the 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50 are Dynamic Investor, Future Maker, Visionary Founder, Changemaker, and Corporate Catalyst. The criteria for each are as follows, as previously shared by AFROTECH™: Dynamic Investors are venture capitalists who have made significant contributions to advancing underserved tech founders. Future Makers have spearheaded groundbreaking tech innovation. Visionary Founders lead remarkable company growth and promote diversity and inclusion. Changemakers have made a significant social impact in the tech industry. Corporate Catalysts actively promote diversity and redefine and implement initiatives to do so. Established in 2022, the AFROTECH™ Future 50 aims to spotlight contributions Black tech...

May 30, 2024

Gardening During Her Early Years Planted Wawa Gatheru's Passion For Launching A Climate Organization Empowering Black Women To Become Leaders

Wawa Gatheru is striving to make the world a better place. Changemaker As previously reported by AFROTECH™, the Connecticut native and Rhodes Scholar founded Black Girl Environmentalist (BGE), an organization creating a more equitable space in the climate sector by empowering “Black girls, women, and non-binary people across environmental disciplines.” Her focus on the environment was born while gardening with her mom and grandmother during her early years, and she learned “the ethic of reciprocity and care for the planet,” her website mentions. It would not be until high schoo l that Gatheru would identify as an “environmentalist.” At 15, she took an environmental science course that framed it as a justice issue, revealing to her the lack of intersectionality in the field, and she recognized the field’s intersectionality gap. In higher learning, Gatheru further engaged in the climate space by pursuing environmental science and policy at the University of Connecticut (UConn), per...

May 30, 2024

How Partake Foods Founder Denise Woodard Disrupted The CMG Space And Raised $30.5M In Capital Fueled By A Commitment To Her Daughter's Health

Responding to a fundamental calling, Denise Woodard became a visionary in a $2 billion industry. Her Calling Woodard was looking to find a solution to help her daughter who had various food allergies, as previously reported by AFROTECH™. She was searching for snacks that would help her daughter but ultimately started creating her own recipe for cookies made without wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, fish, sesame and shellfish — launching vegan company Partake Foods in 2016. Woodard saw great promise in her products and believed others would too. She received checks up to $10,000 from family and friends through a Kickstarter campaign to scale the business into Whole Foods and Wegmans, she told Forbes. “I was cobbling together $5,000 and $10,000 checks to keep the lights on, from anyone who would listen,” she told Forbes. “The dribs and drabs were not enough, so I sold my engagement ring. But we were seeing traction, which led us to raise our first institutional round.” A...

May 30, 2024

Sian Proctor Has Been Chasing Space Throughout Her Lifetime And Became The First Black Woman To Pilot A Spacecraft

Representation in space exploration is crucial, and Sian Proctor stands among the luminaries. A woman on a mission, Proctor aspired to have an impact on society. The geoscientist had been “chasing space” throughout her lifetime, mentions. Born the same year Neil Armstrong made history with his first steps on the moon during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, and raised with a father working at the NASA tracking station on Guam, Proctor would go on to make her own significant contributions. Historical Firsts As previously reported by AFROTECH™, Proctor became the first Black woman to pilot a spacecraft. This was accomplished after she earned a Ph.D. along with a pilot’s license and SCUBA certification. She also completed a four-month mission in a building located near a Hawaiian volcano for an experiment imitating the conditions and stresses on a habitat like Mars in 2013. Ultimately, Proctor’s expertise, creativity, and dedication to her JEDI space initiative — a just, equitable,...

May 30, 2024

Submit To Be Considered For The 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50 List

The time has come once again for AFROTECH™ Future 50 to celebrate those who are actively shaping the future. Launched in 2022, the annual list honors dynamic investors, future makers, visionary founders, changemakers, and corporate catalysts. Familiar faces that have been featured on previous Future 50 lists include Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver, Topicals’ Olamide Olowe, The Gathering Spot’s Ryan Wilson, Fanbase’s Isaac Hayes III, and more. In addition to being celebrated on AFROTECH™’s digital hub and social media platforms, the Future 50 are honored at the AFROTECH™ Conference — the largest Black homecoming. To kick off the 2024 AFROTECH™ Future 50, we’re highlighting five individuals who embody each category to help you shoot your shot before this year’s list goes live. Check them out below:

Apr 1, 2024