Student Testimonials

Student Testimonials

It’s not every day that a student gets the opportunity to attend SXSW without spending a

dime. When you’re worried about tuition, food, housing, and the unknown expenses that

college undoubtedly incurs, who has $1,000+ to spend on a ticket?


It’s for this reason that HBCU@SXSW works with companies and organizations to

sponsor the next generation of leaders, so they can dream without strings attached.

Giving their time and being open to new possibilities in tech is all that is asked.

SXSW is the premier festival for music, media, and the interactive, and last year for

HBCU@SXSW 2017, Opportunity Ecosystem sponsored 100 students to attend the

event, filled with speakers, tech leaders, investors, and influencers. For many, it was a

whole new world.


Here’s what some of our attendees of the 2017 program had to say about their experience.


Imani Ward

School: Spelman College

Major: Comparative Women’s Studies with a Focus on Hip Hop Feminism

On what she gained from the program:

“I made a lot of good connections and gained a lot of experience. Now I can articulate what I want to do better. I was kind of scared going in because I wasn’t like everyone else. I wasn’t a STEM major. I’m one of the artsiest people around. They definitely made me feel really comfortable, and it showed me that there are more opportunities out there. I don’t have to go and stay within my field—there are other things that I can do.”

Faisal Gedi

School: Georgia Institute of Technology

Major: Computer Science

On learning new skills:

The best thing that I learned was more soft skills, learning how to network better. I really enjoyed the group of students that were there. They also had a lot of ambition and were also minorities. I actually don’t attend an HBCU, but I applied regardless. There were actually a decent amount of students from predominantly white institutions. There aren’t a lot of black or Latino students at my school– it was good to be surrounded by others who looked like me who are also striving toward important goals. The entire environment was so inspiring that I became close to people working in the cohort, and now we’re working on a startup together.”

Khrys Hatch

School: Fisk University

Major: Business Administration

On students who might have reservations about applying:

“My view is go for it. If it looks like something that you might not be into, at least apply to it. Being involved in HBCU@SXSW opened my mind to different experiences. It’s a great opportunity to meet other students, and leaders in the field—Rodney Sampson himself, Steve Case, people like that. You can’t beat having an experience like that. Even if you’re not even sure about technology, it’s a great place to understand what the field is about, and get a snapshot of what it’s like.”

Kelsey Gallant, Spelman College

“HBCU@SXSW has set the stage for the rest of my career. I want to thank this program and all of its affiliates for giving me the direction I so needed. I knew my whole life that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, I just didn’t know how! Through the different panels HBCU@SXSW setup along with all the resources at the SXSW conference, I now have a more clear picture on how to get the job done. I also now have a network of amazing Black and Latino students who also are aspiring to become the people who change the face of technology! Thank you so much for everything you have done. I can assure you that I will make good use of every ounce of knowledge I have acquired.”

Jordyn Smith, North Carolina A&T University

“HBCUSXSW was an amazing, loaded experience. I am the first and only representative from my school but this is an opportunity that I would love to share with many others from my university. I am grateful for the connections and more importantly the experience.”

Ferrisa Connell, Florida A&M University

“I am so grateful for my experience at HBCU@SXSW! I plan to pursue a career in the tech industry and I feel like this conference exposed me to the people, resources, and knowledge I need to be successful!”

Mariah Cowling, Spelman College

“I was truly honored to be one of 100 HBCU students, who are our brilliant future leaders in tech, to be selected for this life-changing occasion. As a student who is excited by the intersections of STEAM, health, and coding, I was able to gain many invaluable experiences at SXSW. Between learning more about the Internet of Things, AI, and onsite genetic sequencing, I had the opportunity to network with many leading companies in technology including Google, Snapchat, Microsoft, Twitter, and countless others. From this experience and the exposure to numerous entrepreneurs, I am more invigorated than ever to continue and amplify my pursuits towards innovation. Even more, HBCU@SXSW has provided a community and network for brilliant, black students in technology which is one of the most sacred things one could create as we enter a new and exciting phase in technology. I cannot thank the teams at Opportunity Hub, Huddle Ventures, and all of the HBCU@SXSW sponsors enough for this impactful experience!”

Opportunity Ecosystem Promotes Program on College Campuses Throughout the Country

Opportunity Ecosystem Promotes Program on College Campuses Throughout the Country

Imagine a world where an underrepresented student has the opportunity to make $100,000 per year just out of college. A world where this student is well-versed in the ins and outs of a highly technical profession. A world where financial literacy and investing is the norm. A world where the creation of a new generation of wealth, yes, wealth, takes root. Can you dream a world?

Why dream—the reality has already begun, and Opportunity Ecosystem (OE) is leading the way in making this possibility a reality for more students.

Opportunity Ecosystem is working to expand its footprint across the United States by opening up and promoting its program on more college campuses. Opportunity Ecosystem will be able to continue to build on the four-part approach of the program: early exposure, education and training, ecosystem building, and capital formation.

“It’s here to give kids in these different schools basically the opportunity to connect with mentors who are people that are part of Opportunity Ecosystem in general. It would also give them access to all opportunities and resources that come through the ecosystem. When we get opportunities from partnering companies such as Microsoft, Pandora and Delta for example, we reach out to students within the ecosystem, who has access to these opportunities before we send them out to the entire database,” says Corey Smith, Head of Early Exposure at Opportunity Ecosystem.

The four-pronged approach is as follows:

Early exposure: With programs such as Startup High, CODESTART, HBCU@SXSW, Startup Summer, and OHUB@HBCU, Opportunity Ecosystem aims to build the next generation of entrepreneurs, leaders, investors, and even employees. Early exposure is key, as the organization intones on its website. HBCU@SXSW, now in its third year, is yet another way to put students before opportunities and in an environment that they otherwise might not have access to. HBCU@SXSW 2018 will be accepting applications in June.

Education and Training: Code Start is one program through Opportunity Ecosystem developed in partnership with Opportunity Hub, The Iron Yard, and TechSquare Labs. Code Start is a year-long program that immerses participants full-time to prepare for a career in technology as a software engineer or technical cofounder. Opportunity Ecosystem also offers mentorship, with more than 50 vetted mentors. Entrepreneurs are paid with more experienced professionals through monthly mentor meetups, meetings during office hours, one-on-one meetings, and live-stream discussions with influences and decision-makers in technology.

Ecosystem Building: Opportunity Ecosystem has existed on three different campuses, currently being housed at TechSquare Labs as a result of its 2015 merger. It was previously housed at the Giant Lofts from 2013-2015 and the Herman J. Russell Building from 2014-2015. Opportunity Ecosystem currently plans to expand its programming on college campuses and through high school programming as well.

Capital Formation: One of the first Opportunity Ecosystem programs for promoting capital formation is the Opportunity Hub and Atlanta University College Certificate in Investing In Startups and Early Stage Companies (Angel Investing). Topics covered include how to start investing as an angel investor, how to make informed decisions in angel investing in startups or early-stage companies, and the basics of financial leadership. The course is taught by experienced angel investors and venture capitalists.

By executing these four points across college campuses in the country, as it has done in Atlanta, Opportunity Ecosystem will continue to promote a national and global entrepreneurial ecosystem and provide access for underrepresented communities.

“We’re taking all four of these different initiatives and putting them on campuses to create a pipeline between campuses across the country, HBCUs and campuses with black and brown students, giving more resources and more opportunities to them,” says Matt Poole, Student Ambassador of OE.  “We put the network in one place so that what happens for them is that once they’re in the organization, their trajectory from freshmen to leaving college is drastically impacted for the better because we’ve given them pipelines to future careers, and the resources to ultimately change their lives and lay the groundwork at an early age for wealth formation. This program is a big deal.”

If you’re interested in partnering with Opportunity Ecosystem to promote the next generation of entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders, contact the team at