[ Melissa S. Jackson is self- described ‘tech enabler’ based in Newark NJ. As a certified project manager at Rutgers Business School, Jackson’s latest project includes a Black and Latino Tech Initiative whose objective is to increase the number of successful Black and Latino owned technology companies in the U.S. by providing access to educational resources, incubated business environments, mentorship and facilitating active bridges to the investment community. She is the owner and operator of Normel Solutions where she is a consultant who provides tech training to non-technical entrepreneurs and small business owners.This contribution was written as part of our Story of the Year 2016: Newark’s Tech Renaissance.]
In 2016, Newark experienced a wealth of progress and new ideas related to the tech and innovation space. What’s most fortunate about this renaissance is that it has managed to maintain a strong focus on inclusion and intersectionality.
In October of this year, I sat down with Mayor Ras J. Baraka at the Tech Town Hall, hosted at =SPACE. We spoke about everything, from his “Newark 3.0” initiative to the concept of an inclusive tech community built for and by the citizens of Newark.
Newark is a predominantly black and Hispanic community possessing resources and infrastructure within reach that need to be exploited in ways that will better serve the community in and around Newark. Education and access are the first steps. And while we’ve done a lot so far, there’s much more that remains to be done. I’m excited to be working at the Rutgers Business School to help founders of color gain access to the resources (financial and otherwise) that they need and deserve.
This year, Rutgers’ Center for Urban Entrepreneurship & Economic Development (CUEED) planted the seeds to ensure that historically disenfranchised communities like Newark have a seat at the table for the onset of a huge tech renaissance that will carry on into 2017.
We secured resources to launch a technology initiative focused on helping Black and Latino entrepreneurs pursue high growth, high value technology business opportunities. The Black and Latino Technology Initiative (BLT) will highlight 10-15 companies, many of which are based in New Jersey, who have viable products, services, ideas and/or early-stage companies. BLT will facilitate access to the Rutgers Business School faculty, staff and expansive network of experts to help technology entrepreneurs get admitted into an accelerator and attract meaningful capital investment.
In addition, the CUEED Pipeline to Inclusive Innovation (PII) is a federal initiative led in partnership with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, under the U.S. Small Business Administration. This highly competitive program encourages small businesses to engage in federal research and research and development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. PII wants to encourage minority-owned businesses to explore their technological potential and to profit from commercialization opportunities offered by the government.
I’m excited about the prospect of continuing to advocate for inclusion here in Newark and to explore tech at various intersections beyond race and culture.