Austin is on the cover of another national publication.
The cover of the March technology issue of Black Enterprise magazine, however, does more than add to Austin’s traffic jams. Austin, similar to many other technology centers, has trouble attracting black professionals.
Five local African-American professionals appear on the March cover of Black Enterprise —a goal of Natalie Cofield, president of the Capital City African American Chamber of Commerce.
“Austin is on the map,” Cofield announced at a Saturday afternoon party to unveil the cover and celebrate the chamber’s new Black Technology Council. “I wanted to be sure African-Americans got it.”
Austin and its technology community doesn’t lack for exposure, but the African-American population has been dwindling for years and the lack of a critical mass of African-Americans has attracted the attention of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and several of the region’s largest tech employers.
On Saturday, African-American startups, such as Niran Babalola’s MetroRead, a local news aggregator with ambitions of becoming a local Wikipedia in cities across the country, got to shop their wares alongside Google and Dell.
It didn’t hurt that it all occurred during South by Southwest’s Interactive Conference.
The event was at the newly opened African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, 912 E. 11th Street, that doubles as the headquarters of the African-American chamber.
Marcia Wade Talbert, who wrote the article for Black Enterprise, a national publication headquartered in New York City, first came to Austin last year for SXSW. She returned this past year to do the story on a region that she says trails only the Silicon Valley on the technology front.
“We put a national lens on Austin,” Talbert said. “What they have going on here is something that African-Americans need to be a part of. We need to be part of the innovation economy. Otherwise, we’ll be left behind.”
Appearing on the “Black Enterprise” cover are Donell Creech with Blacks in Technology, Mykel Mitchell with Heatwave Interactive, Gina McCauley with Blogging While Brown, Pascal Nicolas with SalesVu and Cofield.
Talbert said her story is the magazine’s first extensive coverage of the Austin technology scene for black entrepreneurs, stressing Austin’s lower cost of living and its bedrock of large technology companies such as Dell Inc., Samsung, Apple and Facebook.
“If they are thinking about having a presence in Austin,” Talbert said, “the African-Americans in technology should also think about having a presence in Austin.”
Saturday wasn’t the last attempt this month to raise Austin’s profile in the African-American community.
Joah Spearman, 29, a serial entrepreneur, is hosting Black E.L.E.C.T. conference at the Austin Convention Center with the city’s backing March 28-29. He expects as many as 125 African-Americans from around the country to meet to discuss education, leadership, entrepreneurship, creativity and technology.
That conference — and the way it was organized — represents Spearman’s social media background. It grew organically as Spearman invited people he knew who, in turn, invited black leaders they knew in those fields.
Spearman said creativity leaders attending the conference will take back their impressions of Austin and that might lead to more African-Americans to come here.
“It’s building Austin’s reputation as a creative city for blacks,” Spearman said.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Niran Babalola's name.