People of color are not having a great time in Silicon Valley. All too often, we hear stories reminding us that the traditional power structure in Silicon Valley is still hostile to Black and brown workers. However, if you’re a Black techie with enormous talent and a passion for creating world-changing technology, what are your options? It might seem like Silicon Valley is still the only place you can work on the coolest projects, but maybe we can look to a prominent entertainer for the alternative. At this year’s BET awards ceremony, Tyler Perry said to a group of fellow entertainers, “…while you are fighting for a seat at the table, I’ll be down in Atlanta building my own.”
On that note, here’s a list of cities filled with Black techies and entrepreneurs building their own table.
1. Atlanta, GA
Home to three Historically Black Colleges and Universities — Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University — and the prestigious Georgia Institute of Technology, the city of Atlanta has seen an uprising of Black entrepreneurship in recent years. While the city has a longstanding reputation as a city for musicians and artists, Atlanta is now home to numerous well-known tech startups, including Black-led Calendly and marketing platform Mailchimp. Blavity — this publication’s parent company — also has an office in Atlanta.
Founded in Atlanta in 2016, The Gathering Spot — a members-only club — seeks to provide a space for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups to collaborate, connect, and grow with each other.
2. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill form what’s referred to as North Carolina’s Research Triangle. The Research Triangle has been staking its claim as one of the East Coast’s major tech hubs for years, and Black entrepreneurs have been thriving in the region. Home to Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill, the Triangle is awash with talent. It also benefits from the migration of graduates from HBCU North Carolina A&T University in nearby Greensboro, NC.
In fact, since 2016, Google for Startups has hosted a summit for Black founders in Durham to help Black-led startups navigate the unique obstacles they face.
3. Charlotte, NC
Another North Carolina city has been attracting tech companies and talent in droves: Charlotte. Centrally located between the Research Triangle and Atlanta, GA, Charlotte benefits from the influx of talent and education from both cities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Charlotte’s population is 35 percent Black or African American, and sites like Black-Owned CLT help people find some of the many Black-owned businesses in the town. BLCKTECHCLT serves as a hub for entrepreneurs and technologists of color to find the resources and connections they need to grow their businesses.
4. Huntsville, AL
Already known for its thriving aerospace industry, Huntsville, AL is making a name for itself in the startup world. Organizations like Urban Engine bring engineers and entrepreneurs together and aim to be a catalyst for economic growth in Northern Alabama. Huntsville also benefits from nearby HBCUs like Alabama A&M and Fisk University. In general, Alabama’s tech industry has been on the rise recently, which brings us to the next city on our list.
5. Montgomery, AL
A 3.5-hour drive south of Huntsville, another Alabama city is angling itself as the Southern Silicon Valley. Listed in Fast Company’s article about cities with the most Black entrepreneurs, The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce even offers programs to help budding entrepreneurs launch their businesses. Nerd Wallet also named Montgomery as one of the best cities for Black-owned businesses.
6. Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati is on fire, with Black entrepreneurs paving their own paths. As the home of LISNR — which just received an investment from Visa — the city is teeming with Black-owned businesses across several industries. Organizations like Mortar helps founders from historically marginalized communities develop their ideas by giving them access to the resources needed to run a successful business. A diverse group of passionate entrepreneurs operates Mortar itself.
If you’re a Black or brown techie looking for a city that looks and feels more like home — where you can help solve the problems facing communities of color — give these cities a look. You just might find your new home.