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National Minority Supplier Development Council 2018: Sharing Thoughts with MBEs Driving Tech Innovation

National Minority Supplier Development Council Conference

All images © 2018 Charlie Kaine Photography – Reproduced with Permission

Invited by Jason Trimiew, Head of Supplier Diversity at Facebook, I recently had the pleasure of participating in a panel at the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s 2018 Conference and Business Opportunity Exchange in Austin. The Conference is one of the key forums on minority supplier development. For four days, more than 6,000 corporate CEOs, procurement executives and supplier diversity professionals from the top multinational companies, as well as leading Asian, Black, Hispanic and Native American business owners came together to share success stories and leadership strategies across the global corporate supply chain.

The panel I was asked to participate in was sponsored by the Technology Industry Group (TIG), and it addressed Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) on the Technology Frontier. I was joined by Shayna Skolnik, CEO of Navteca; Chike Agbai, CEO of Azumo; and Maria Palacio, CEO of Progeny Coffee. We talked about our efforts building AI, machine learning, virtual reality and chatbot solutions to address real business problems.

MBEs on the Tech Frontier: AI, ML, VR, Chatbots
MBEs on the Tech Frontier: AI, ML, VR, Chatbot Talk at the NMBDC 2018 Conference in Austin, TX

We often hear about the possibilities of AI applications in theory, since it’s such a new field, but it was inspiring to hear how these true trail blazers are putting that theory into action. Chike Agbai spoke about the use of chatbots and the value they are generating for enterprises, particularly for internal customer service. Maria Palacio talked about how she is using virtual reality technologies to sell coffee, which allows her to put the coffee drinker right on the farm, letting them experience it first-hand and see the impact of their purchase on farmers. And, Shayna Skolnik spoke about her experience using virtual reality to visualize space exploration and science, as part of her work with NASA.

I shared Wovenware’s experiences building AI solutions that are augmenting human capabilities to solve business and environmental problems. A common thread throughout all of our endeavors is the role of technology for the common good.

While cognitive, new technologies are enabling true business growth, they’re also providing much more than that. For example, while Progeny Coffee is improving the customer experience, its virtual reality solutions are also helping farmers earn a living and gain greater appreciation and understanding among consumers. Chike Agbai with Azumo isn’t just building chatbots, but helping populations deal with epidemics like the Zika virus.

And, while I shared Wovenware’s best practices building AI solutions, I addressed how one such solution is helping scientists study and control the spread of mosquito-borne disease across Puerto Rico and potentially beyond.

While moving out of our comfort zones and pushing the boundaries of technology hasn’t been easy for any of us, we all share a common commitment to using technology innovation to improve the world in which we live. For each of us, it’s not about being minorities but being technology innovators that is the true common thread.

Tech Innovation by Minority Business Enterprises

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