My 2013 Year In Review

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In the spirit of my 2011 and 2012 Year in Review, I felt it was necessary to continue the tradition. My blog has emerged from my analysis of technology and entrepreneurship trends to more of a blog about what I’m passionate about and where I’m going. It only seems fitting to celebrate the wins, in hopes that we can continue the momentum. We have a considerable amount of work to do, to actualize our dreams. It’s amazing how many of the opportunities that were birthed in 2011 are starting to hit an inflection point. I won’t go as in depth into every opportunity as I used to, but I though links to the related information would be best.

In January 2013, I was appointed by City of Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel to the City of Chicago Technology Diversity Council, which was my first opportunity to bridge the gap between what we were doing with technology education and how to implement it on a city-wide level. Subsequent to that, I was appointed the Chair of Congresswoman Robin Kelly’s STEM Innovation Council, and recently appointed to Cook County’s New Media Council.

In February 2013, we filmed a short film, Ying and Yang in Brooklyn, New York. Our film screened at a dozen film festivals, and we won several awards, including Audience Choice, Best Short Film, among other awards. Our film screened on several continents. 

We birthed BLUE1647 in July (out of the ashes of a pivot in strategy), folding in many of the programs, projects, and companies all under one umbrella. This made it easy for me to leverage all that I’ve been working on, and housing it under one roof. We were able to ink partnerships with Groupon, the YWCA, and finally launch our Code Chicago program. We added board directors, Harper Reed and Dylan Richards to the mix, and we’re poised to make some noise in 2014.

2013 was also a year where I had a chance to speak at the Digital Undivided Focus100 conference in NYC (which was a blast), and join a couple of boards including the Illinois Technology Partnership and the Ministerial Alliance Against the Digital Divide. Additionally, I was awarded the Fred Hampton Image Award, by the Fred Hampton Scholarship Fund in it’s 46th year. 

We had a highly successful (and profitable) 2nd Annual Chicago International Social Change Film Festival, including selling out our opening night and I led a Youth Anti-violence Summit at Chicago State University for over 300, including city and state officials. 

We soft launched LeftForGood, which is Uber cab for perishable food and we kicked off our 1000strongForBLUE campaign. As my capstone for the year, I wrote an Op-Ed for Crains, almost two years to the date of my previous op-ed, as a call to action for the community to build new leadership and opportunities for those that need it the most. 

It was a great 2013, but 2014 will be even better. 

 

 

 

My Op-Ed for Crains Chicago Business: Black business is fading? Startups and collaboration can be the cure

Two years to the date of my first Opinion piece for a publication, I wrote a second piece in response to a Crains special report that I read about Black business in Chicago. The piece explains my frustration with the lack of collaboration, especially among generations and my hope that we can do something soon to change. There is so much power in our communities, and using the talent that’s eager and ready to make a difference, should be a priority. I tried to focus on solutions, because the problems are well-known, especially among those that are on the front lines affecting change. 

(Original Crains Article) 

Black business is fading? Startups and collaboration can be the cure

By: Emile Cambry Jr. December 09, 2013

In 2011, I wrote an op-ed for Crain’s asking African-American leaders to create an ecosystem that fosters more jobs, more startups and more opportunities for our communities. It’s still lacking.

According to Crain’s Nov. 22 in-depth report, “Why Chicago’s history of black business success is fading,” Chicago has its fair share of nationally recognized African-American politicians, entertainers, musicians and athletes. Despite that, the representation of high-growth minority entrepreneurs doesn’t mirror the diversity of the city. Meanwhile, Illinois ranks third in the nation for our disparity between the income of the top 5 percent and the bottom 20 percent of households. There is no evidence suggesting that gap is shrinking.

We need to build an ecosystem if we want to shift the tide of unemployment and underemployment in minority communities, foster minority entrepreneur and unleash innovation.

The time has come for the formation of a minority-oriented Leadership Greater Chicago or New Leaders Council-type program to mold and cultivate future leaders. We need an Asian American Action Fund-like organization to fund, train and empower future public servants. We need an Emily’s List-type organization that holds current elected officials accountable for workforce development, job growth and ensuring that our children have access to a 21st-century education. We need our analogue to the New Orleans Startup Fund, targeting economic growth in communities that need it. Such pipeline programs would create the business climate necessary for the next generation of corporate leadership to better reflect the diversity of the city. The beauty is that we can do this ourselves.

TIME FOR ACTION, TIME TO CONNECT

We have all the tools to create those ecosystems and pipeline programs right now. Illinois features a bevy of elite minority talent. Now we need to put some muscle behind those who are eager and ready to lead. And I’m not referring just to recent graduates of good schools. I’m also referring to the men and women with a commitment to economically empowering our communities.

We live in Chicago, an international city with limitless potential. It’s also the city where 30-year-olds are working McJobs usually reserved for teenagers. A city where youth violence has garnered national attention. A Chicago where, according to Built In Chicago, $265 million in funding was raised in the third quarter of this year for digital startups, while there were $846 million in exits. Despite this inflow and outflow of capital, too few minorities are benefiting.

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I am not just trying to identify a problem, I’m also trying to be a part of the solution. I foundedBLUE1647 and the 21st Century Youth Project to provide these very opportunities.

BLUE1647 is an innovation center where engineers and entrepreneurs build and accelerate their businesses, and the 21st Century Youth Project is a program that teaches technology classes on mobile and web development for youth. This sort of community economic development aims to open doors for those who would otherwise have them slammed in their face while also providing true alternatives to those who may otherwise get caught up in the violence going on in our communities.

We need a new breed of high-growth businesses founded by African-Americans to build a better Chicago. While it’s critical to acknowledge the accomplishments of current minority business owners, we should ensure more minority men and women can join their ranks.

We can do that by nurturing high-growth businesses like local manufacturing, 3D printing and rapid prototyping. We can do that by asking all of the leaders from Crain’s report to embrace intergenerational collaboration and be willing to meet with up-and-coming leaders. We can do that by creating the programs that allow Chicago’s most talented men and women to shine.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

We talk about the work that needs to be done and only few respond. We’ve already established where we are. Yes, rhetoric fills part of the void, and is beneficial for inspiration, but we need the skill, passion and innovation of those willing to do the work required to pick up where others left off. To solve this problem and many others, it is going to take much more effort.

Let’s pair those who have amassed wealth and influence in Chicago with those who need mentorship. I’m envisioning public-private strategic partnerships and sponsorships, workforce development programs for 21st-century jobs and careers, inclusive events and awards ceremonies to celebrate young talent and established enterprises, and an impact fund utilizing those with resources and willingness to affect change.

Can this happen? I’m hopeful it will, and I’m willing to help any way I can.

1,000 Strong For BLUE Campaign

It all started when we were deciding what would make BLUE1647 powerful, not just from a monetary standpoint, but from stakeholders who were focused on making BLUE a place that we always dreamed of. With all of the bells and whistles an innovation center should have, with the people that are laser-focused on creating products and services to create jobs and opportunities for our communities. Collaboration and forming a coalition is the only way we change Chicago for a better Chicago, one where investment is tightly linked to outcomes, and on true metrics that impact lives, not vanity metrics. Below is some more information linking investment to outcomes, but we feel that the days of qualitative metrics are over, and by us showing everything that’s built out of our facility, we’ll differentiate ourselves from other organizations.

By joining our movement, these are the benefits:

  • Private newsletter with opportunities to vote and provide input on future programming and events
  • Adopt-an-entrepreneur program where we’ll provide a complimentary membership for an entrepreneur, and they’ll send you updates on their progress
  • Special social network to have access to content and programming within BLUE and our member companies.
  • First dibbs on any special products and services built from BLUE
  • Access to the space as a BLUE1647 member
  • And many, many more as we progress and hit our milestones.

Here’s more information, but join our campaign!

CHANGE CHICAGO ONE LIFE AT A TIME.

The Race to One Thousand Campaign is BLUE1647′s funding initiative. BLUE1647 is a next generation innovation center located in the heart of Chicago’s Pilsen community.

BLUE1647 is already making meaningful differences in the lives of Chicago area people from grade school youth to seasoned business people embarking on entrepreneurial ventures. BLUE1647 needs your support to execute on the next phase of our strategic plan. With one thousand supporters, BLUE1647 will be able to provide educational and functional programming to under-served stakeholders. As a beacon of resource through physical space and curated programming, BLUE1647 is a place where diverse people working for a better world can quickly access relationships and support to bring their ideas to life.

WHY CONTRIBUTE TO BLUE1647?

Simply put, our staff and programming generates results, and promises to deliver higher and better returns with your support. Our unique educational background led to the development of a one-of-a-kind business model that promises to build lasting opportunities that you can see.

Here’s what we’ve done on a shoestring budget:

3,500+ hours of business and tech classes

6,000+ visitors to BLUE

Here’s our goals for 2014:

15,000 hours of instruction

1,000 digital or physical products created

100 internship and jobs created

For $25/month donation, we can provide a Chicago Public School’s student with the education and mentoring of a technological expert on a weekly basis. The student will learn the details of the application programming interface for the Apple and Google platforms, how to plan and design an application on various platforms, and how to move from concept to customers. For your contribution of $50.00 per month, we can provide a veteran with job training and relevant skills to jumpstart their career and avoid the common pitfalls of the reintegration process. For your contribution of $100.00 per month, you provide a budding entrepreneur with the resources to develop their idea and into a functioning business, and create job opportunities for the veterans and students who participate in the training and programming that you support. That includes coursework in business planning, marketing, accounting, and tax as well as the back office support staff to provide daily feedback and assistance to budding entrepreneurs at any stage of their business cycle.

Soft Launch of LeftForGood.com

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It all happened at a hackathon we hosted in February. As with most hackathons, there are orders of magnitude more food than there are people. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hackathon come remotely close to running out of food. The idea of all you can eat for a weekend while you code away is the only way it’s done.

We were left with a dilemma: throw the food away or find some way of donating it. None of the participants wanted to take it home and we were left with a stockpile of perishable food that needed a refrigerator. But, we ran out of space in our fridge and some of the food ended up spoiling and as we threw out the food, I couldn’t help feel irresponsible that we left perfectly good food go to waste.

On the second day of the hackathon, I was determined not to let the food waste. So after everyone ate, I took the remaining food to the a nearby homeless shelter and I instantly felt better. As with any moment where you have an idea, I immediately researched all avenues for donating perishable food. As with any food or clothing drive, we can all donate all of our goods and clothing every day of the week, the challenge was, it’s a pain to go through that process. Then I thought: can we make it easier? Can we make this process financially beneficial to donate? There are 190 million pounds of food that goes to waste every year that should have been consumed at our homes, restaurants, and other venues. There’s any opportunity to bridge that gap using technology. And that’s what I set out to do.

In my Code Chicago course, I decided to build an app to be an UBER for perishable foods. One button click to get someone to your door to pick up food and donate it to the individuals that need it the most. I built the MVP from scratch and after testing it out, I realized that it could be much better with the help of a very experienced coder. So Kenneth Watkins, a member of the BLUE1647 team jumped in and built the real-deal, LeftForGood, a platform that aims to solve the problem of hunger with food that’s good to eat. We’re starting with restaurants as a source of food and we’ll be updating you soon as we hit some key milestones on our way of putting a little dent in this growing problem. With the economy being so tough for so many, with very little signs of getting better any time soon, this is an opportunity to affect change and do our small part in impacting lives. If you know someone that owns a restaurant or anyone that runs a homeless shelter, please get in touch. The mobile apps will be in the app stores soon.

Expect many more of these in 2014: collaborations, companies, products, and services out of BLUE. It’s the kind of community that Chicago will be very proud of. Simple solutions to complex problems. We’ll start calling them “BLUE originals”.

Community Thanksgiving Dinner Recap at BLUE1647

Every time I write a new blog entry, I check out the previous entry and realize over and over again how infrequently I update my blog. Then I write a new entry and declare that I will write more often. This time, I mean it!

Yesterday, we hosted a thanksgiving dinner at BLUE1647 for the entire community of Pilsen. When I first developed this concept, I wanted it to be the exact opposite of a soupkitchen: the volunteers on one side serving the “people” on the other side. To me, it suggests we’re different, which is contrasts with the fact that we live different lives. I wanted rich and poor, old and young, unsheltered and sheltered to eat together at the same table, and serve themselves like a family. And that’s what we did, and we did it well for Version 1.0.

As with this Tribune article on BLUE1647 that was published last week, we could either be a gentrifying force, or be a part of the community. This year, we had our first community dinner and we expect to have many, many more! We had a great turnout from all walks of life, and the energy and love in the room was infectious.

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Latest Updates! It’s been busy!

I should have updated my blog many, many months ago. There’s been so much going on, but I will make more effort to update my blog on what’s going on in the land of grassroots social entrepreneurship. Here’s a lineup of the updates.

On August 20, 2013, I led a Anti-Violence Youth Summit in partnership with Chicago State University, 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City of Chicago. It was an amazing experience to hear the youth explain what things are going on in their community, the lack of services and resources, and we were pleased that the Mayor spoke at the event.

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BLUE1647 Updates

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We have had an opportunity to release some of our impact figures:

3,500+ hours of business and tech classes

5,154 people have walked through our doors

We’ve hosted over 43 events and meetups

We hosted the Chicago Music Hack Day

We forged some great partnerships with Englewood Codes, MsTech, Young and Powerful, and Women Empowerment

Our 21st Century Youth Project is a Semi-Finalist for the A Better Chicago grant competition.

Chicago International Social Change Film Festival

We were beyond pleased with the reception, press and turnout for the 2nd annual film festival. We sold out opening night and all of our screenings were well attended. We can’t wait for the 3rd Annual Chicago International Social Change Film Festival!

Here’s some links to our press:

http://www.cityvida.com/social-change-you-the-world-and-films-the-chicago-international-social-change-film-festival/#more-5376

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/movies/ct-mov-0927-chicago-closeup-20130926,0,7366404.column

http://www.productionhub.com/events/index.aspx?type_id=3&state_id=3166

http://www.choosechicago.com/blog/post/2013/09/A-Guide-to-Chicago-International-Social-Change-Film-Festival/1003/

http://industryhappenings.com/?event=chicago-il-meet-the-founders-of-the-chicago-international-social-change-film-festival-hosted-by-harvardwood-chicago

http://casadelosangelesfilm.com/2013/09/15/the-chicago-international-social-change-film-festival/

http://www.modernluxury.com/cs/events/chicago-international-social-change-film-festival

http://www.law.stanford.edu/frontpage/film-from-sls-visual-media-project-students-accepted-to-2013-chicago-international-social-change-film-festival

http://www.artwithimpact.org/node/1373

http://www.timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/film/16419596/chicago-international-social-change-film-festival-2013

http://pescadorarte.wordpress.com/tag/chicago-international-social-change-film-festival/

http://www.kartemquin.com/event/63-boycott-sneak-preview-chicago-international-social-change-film-festival

http://www.cityvida.com/chicago-international-social-change-film-festival/

http://www.thewhitehallhotel.com/events/chicago-international-social-change-film-festival-.aspx

Fred Hampton Image Award of 2013

I was pleased to have been awarded the Fred Hampton Image Award, for my commitment to service and making the community better.

FOCUS100

I was a panelist in NYC for the FOCUS100 event, sharing some insight on how to build a pipeline of talent. I must say, it was the best conference I’ve attended. I can’t wait for next year!

BLUE1647 is born!

ImageHi everyone, it’s been a long, long while since I’ve posted on my blog. The past 5-6 months have been filled with many changes, one being that I have branched out and have founded a technology and entrepreneurship innovation center, BLUE1647. As with anything entrepreneurial, you have to pivot and rotate towards the opportunity that generates the greatest ROI and the least path to resistance. I had to go back to my roots of education and opportunity, and position our center as a place where people get started through education, workshops, and targeted events. Check out our facebook page for more updates, but we’re able to accomplish so much, in such a short amount of time.