Keynote targets Harlem’s tech scene

Stephon Johnson | 5/7/2015, 3:31 p.m.
Last month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Digital.NYC Five-Borough Tour with the goal of introducing New ...

Last month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched the Digital.NYC Five-Borough Tour with the goal of introducing New Yorkers to the hub of the city’s tech ecosystem known as Digital.NYC.

The tour’s final leg found itself in Harlem at MIST, with a special keynote address from Mignon L. Clyburn, commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, followed by two panel discussions.

Those on the panel included Clayton Banks, co-founder of Silicon Harlem; Sam Sia, co-founder of Harlem Biospace; and John Henry, director of strategy for Cofound Harlem. The first discussion involved Digital.NYC and the second focused on the Harlem’s startup ecosystem.

A spokesperson for the city told the AmNews that the Harlem event was the most attended of all the events. All 400 seats were filled, and the aisles, back walls and side walls were filled with people as well.

“The energy was incredible,” Henry told the AmNews. “There wasn’t a single seat available. The community was super engaged. Digital.NYC did a great job in bringing in a bunch of like-minded people. Using entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to a brighter economy and being a part of it was fantastic to me. I’m genuinely excited that I was picked for interested Harlem.”

Henry talked about selling his startup and creating his current incubator, which obligates startups he works with to use their resources to headquarter business in Harlem once it goes to market.

Banks discussed the importance of diversity in tech and how Silicon Valley has just as much poverty as other areas, but has been branded a haven for entrepreneurs in the tech world.

Henry also touched on David S. Rose’s role in enabling entrepreneurs to collaborate with investors and angel-investor networks through Gust, a global funding platform for the sourcing and management of early stage investments. Rose is the CEO of Gust.

Representatives of the New York City Economic Development Corporation also talked about local initiatives designed to make Harlem more tech friendly, including the creation of what will become the largest continuous free Wi-Fi hotspot in the country in Harlem. Known as Harlem WiFi, the network will extend 95 city blocks and stretch from Fredrick Douglass Boulevard to Madison Avenue, from 110th to 138th Streets.

Henry also told the AmNews that it’s high time for Harlem to get a piece of the tech pie.

“Harlem is a good time to do that,” said Henry. “There’s different income ranges, so there’s a lot of demographics. There’s access to so many consumer bases. All of these companies are going to be prototyping out of this community. Within a couple of years and a couple of cycles, Harlem should be looking futuristic. Harlem will be our own booming tech hub.”