To build inclusive tech hubs, we must educate, collaborate and build past weaknesses


Anthony Frasier, the founder of ABF Creative and Brick City Tech, shared his thoughts on inclusive tech hubs during a Next City webinar on Wednesday. 

men working on computers

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Anthony Frasier, the founder of ABF Creative and Brick City Tech, shared his thoughts on inclusive tech hubs during a Next City webinar on Wednesday.

Using lessons learned from the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was called the "Black Wall Street" due to the success of the black businesses in the early 1900s, Frasier developed three themes for creating an inclusive tech hub in Newark, New Jersey. First, make your weakness your strength. Second, collaborate. And third, educate.

As a Newark native, Frasier knew he wanted to return to his hometown to plant roots and create his businesses. Using his three strategies, he created his grassroots, tech meetup group Brick City Tech, which provides exclusive networking events, workshops and information to the tech and startup community in Newark.

But growing in Newark also meant facing challenges head-on.

"Every community has its problems, but for Newark, it was crime and reputation," Frasier said. "People already had their opinions about Newark. Even if they'd never really even stepped foot in the city, they let the news tell them everything." He added that a lot of the bias stemmed from the 1967 riots, which resulted from a police brutality case.

Instead of trying to brush that history under the rug, Frasier embraced it by being a consistent force in the community. "The first meeting only had about three people in the group," he said. "The second, 10 people came. The third, 30 people came. Today, the group has more than 3,000 members. What helped people to look past all of that reputation and bad news was the fact that we just kept coming out with something new. Then people took us seriously."

Frasier is in constant pursuit of collaboration and partnerships. "The difference between success and failure is a follow-up email," Frasier said. "I got a lot of no's, but I then, I would have a bunch of yeses, too." The yeses have connected him with speakers and authors specializing in startups and developing businesses with very little capital.

An additional consistency strategy is to boast about the successes of an event after it's happened, according to Frasier. "The best way to market a tech event is actually not before the event, it's after the event," Frasier said. "It's less about the build-up and more about what happened. You have to take pictures. You have to have testimonials. You have to grab videos. That's what gets people to come out."

Education is the third part of growing an inclusive tech hub. Through innovative education, a group can reach all corners of a community, from the single mother of two to the college dropout who works nights as a security guard, according to Frasier.

"We were for the untraditional," Frasier said. "The people who mostly looked like Newark."

Ultimately, building an inclusive community with collaboration, education and consistency was the goal for Frasier's founding of Brick City Tech.

"For me, building an inclusive tech community means not focusing on tech," Frasier said. "I think if we really want to build an inclusive tech community, you have to start figuring out how to help businesses and people from the community."

Heather Leighton


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