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First-ever AfroTech Conference in full swing in Austin, bringing diversity to tech industry

"Black people now see tech as a possibility," said AfroTech cofounder Jeff Nelson.

AUSTIN, Texas — From Silicon Valley to the hills of Austin, the AfroTech Conference made its Texas debut this week.  

From Nov. 13-17, the conference is taking over the Austin Convention Center.

AfroTech cofounder Jeff Nelson said the conference focuses on networking, recruiting, innovating and filling the gap.  

"We originally started AfroTech in 2016 because there was a problem where companies were saying, 'We can't find Black people to hire,'" said Nelson. "So we decided to bring a bunch of Black people to the doorsteps of Silicon Valley." 

Nelson said this year, they have 25,000 attendees, a huge leap from the 800 in 2016 when it first launched. He said that speaks to the increase of Black people emerging into the tech industry. 

"Black people now see tech as a possibility," said Nelson. "They see themselves right. Our first AfroTech, there weren't Black recruiters coming to recruit Black talent. Now we've got Black recruiters." 

Black recruiters come from big companies like Tesla, Meta, Google and dozens more.

There are dozens of panels led by Black CEOs and artists like Chamillionaire. The conversations range from climate change to cryptocurrency. 

"To make sure that Black people are educated early on about what crypto is about, what web3 means and how to be participants, not just observers, in that space," said Nelson. 

In true Austin fashion, AfroTech added a music portion to the conference, which kicks off on Wednesday. Some of the artists are Wale, Bia and Zaytoven.

"AfroTech is a vibe," said Nelson. "It's an experience."

Boomtown is KVUE's series covering the explosive growth in Central Texas. For more Boomtown stories, head to KVUE.com/Boomtown.

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