HBCU@SXSW are letters to know. They signify the involvement of students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the outstanding tech conference South by Southwest Conventions and Festivals, better known as SXSW.
Launched in 2015, SXSW is “an incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, featuring five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer.”
According to an article posted on USA Today’s website, SXSW teamed up with organizations such as Opportunity Hub, Huddle Ventures and Stemmed to form HBCU@SXSW, an initiative formed to underwrite the costs of the conference, so that more students of color can attend.
“SXSW Interactive is excited to be working with Opportunity Hub on helping to bring more HBCU students and young people of color to Austin in March,” Hugh Forrest, Director, South by Southwest Interactive Festival, said in a recent statement. “Exposing these entrepreneurs to all the opportunities for learning and networking that SXSW has to offer is important in their development as cofounders. These young HBCU entrepreneurs are likewise important in the continued development of SXSW as a more diverse and inclusive ecosystem for all. Initiatives such as this one are a strong step towards achieving the goal of a more diverse tech industry.”
Yet another initiative to help close the diversity gap in the tech space, HBCU@SXSW brought 100 students to the Austin, Texas, event on Saturday. Over 440 students applied. “We picked the students who wanted to solve the biggest problems using technology and had some pretty good ideas about it,” Rodney Sampson, tech entrepreneur and HBCU@SXSW organizer, said.
Event organizers say their goal is to raise the number of students in attendance to 500.
The initiative has attracted more than 30 companies that have shelled out $3,000 per student to experience three days of connecting with tech leaders and participating in a technology and entrepreneurship ecosystem onboarding boot camp. This year’s event took place over the weekend beginning with an opening reception on Friday, March 11 followed by panels on coding, entrepreneurship and STEAM on Saturday.