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Tech Entrepreneurs Bring the Silicon Valley Experience to Detroit

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(Image: JOURNi)

JOURNi co-founders, Richard Grundy, Quiessence Phillips, and Brian McKinney are on a mission to position the city of Detroit as an emerging market for tech startup education. With the founders bringing work experience from Silicon Valley, the regional home to the world’s most innovative tech companies, JOURNi solves the problem of access—mainly for minorities and women. “We provide courses, workshops, and events that allow individuals who’ve historically been left out of the growing tech scene, a safe space to develop their tech-related interests,” says McKinney.

BlackEnterprise.com talked with JOURNi co-founder Brian McKinney about their plans to pay it forward.

How does working in Silicon Valley differ from working elsewhere in the U.S.?

Technology and its impact are valued at a premium in the Valley because the evidence of the economic impact is apparent everywhere. For comparison, in Detroit, the auto industry is revered, rightfully so, because of job creation, philanthropic support, and worldwide impact.

Everything in the Valley moves faster. When you speak with someone regarding their ideas or startup you see the faster pace. The expectation of ideation to scale is everywhere. Just working in that culture and learning the process is tremendously valuable to creating outside of the valley as much as it is in the valley. As far as the benefits, I think failing and failing fast is embraced at a different level in the Valley. In my experience, making mistakes and learning from them was widely embraced as long as you could measure what you learned. That’s definitely benefited my professional portfolio, that along with the relationship building.

What sets JOURNi apart from other organizations?

Student engagement really sets us apart. By offering 100% of our programs within neighborhoods in Detroit, as opposed to the Downtown/Midtown, an area that sees investment and attention, we reduce not only barriers to access, we increase comfort by giving students familiar environments to learn. To date, all of our instructors are either women or minority. Partnering with organizations like Campaign for Black Male Achievement and the Skillman Foundation allows us to focus on coding for black males.

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