Creating opportunities for local black tech entrepreneurs

When James Faison discovered the growing technology scene in Tampa, he was thrilled and eager to learn more.

There was only one problem.

“At the local events I would attend, I’d see I was one of the only – or the only – person of color in attendance,” recalls Faison, a Tampa native. “I saw an opportunity to really address that.”

Faison began reaching out to tech industry leaders from around the country. He met with influencers at the local level. He put the word out on social media. And that’s how The Mainframe came into existence. The initiative’s goal was to create growth opportunities for African-American technologists, innovators, and entrepreneurs statewide. Now Faison is taking a big next step toward doing just that. He’s seeking to raise $10 million in venture capital to fund black-owned businesses.

“People are already reaching out to me about it,” says Faison, who has worked in sales and marketing in the insurance industry for the last 12 years. “The thing that has really taken me by surprise is the reception I’ve gotten around the region and even internationally.”

Faison is currently going through the vetting process and hopes to launch the fund sometime this summer.

“I feel like there’s an opportunity from a macro point of view, and that in two or five or 10 years, we’re going to see large companies being built by black individuals addressing consumer needs,” he says. “There’s an opportunity here to build a brand that would be the first place these founders come when looking for capital.”

His overall goal is not just to invest in black business founders but to create generational wealth that will lead to future investors, nurturing an ongoing ecosystem of entrepreneurship.

Aside from raising funds, The Mainframe has other plans on the horizon. Another networking and education event is being planned for March or April, along with skill-building workshops aimed at giving black entrepreneurs guidance on navigating the business landscape.

Faison is encouraged by the fact that now when he attends tech events, such as the recent Synapse Summit, he is starting to see more diversity and more blacks, including people who have attended past Mainframe events.

“I see more people like me who are being invited to be featured guests at these events,” he says. “It really puts a smile on my face.”

To learn more about The Mainframe, visit their website by clicking here.

Read more articles by Jaymi Butler.

Jaymi Butler is a writer and editor who enjoys telling the stories of growth and innovation in the Tampa Bay Area, which she has called home since 2003. A former reporter for the Savannah Morning News, The State, and The Tampa Tribune, she has covered a variety of topics ranging from business to features to public health -- and she even got to sit in on an American Idol audition just feet away from Simon Cowell!
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