Twin Cities Startup Week 2021 Twin Cities Startup Week 2021
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Lessons from Black Tech Leaders

Eri O'Diah
SIID Technologies LLC, Founder

Eri O'Diah is the founder of SIID™ Technologies, which applies big data and emerging technologies to evaluate, uncover, and correct the influence of unconscious human biases on decision-making and communication. Eri has a rare combination of technical expertise paired with a decade of experience using artificial intelligence (AI) technology in media and marketing. Her professional and entrepreneurial experience is built upon a strong technical foundation in software development gained through a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) training — She seeks to understand how AI and other emerging technologies can be leveraged to reduce the impact of unconscious bias on marginalized groups and communities. 

Eri is a Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) and TechnovationMN Board Member, she was named 2020 Emerging Business Owner by NAWBO - Minnesota Chapter and recently accepted into the 2021 MIT Solve Incubator.

Dr. Chris Brooks
Brown Venture Group, Co-Founder + Managing Partner

Dr. Christopher Brooks is the proud son of a Jamaican mother and an American father. Born and raised in South Minneapolis, he is a lifelong resident of the Twin Cities Metro Area.

With a strong reputation as a results-oriented leader, he is a solution-focused Executive, Educator, Advisor, and Change Agent with more than 25 years of success across nonprofits, investment banking, real estate, and higher education. His broad areas of expertise include entrepreneurship, leadership development, team building, coaching & mentoring, DEI, diversity, equity, & inclusion, venture capital, fundraising, business development, and community outreach.

He earned his Doctor of Theology and Masters Degree in Organizational Leadership from Minnesota Graduate School of Theology. He also studied Strategic Leadership at North Central University and Business Communications with a mini MBA from St. Thomas University. Chris is currently serving as a Board Member for Social Enterprise MSP, is on the University of Minnesota Venture Center Advisory Board, and serves as a Chaplin for Hennepin County Community Corrections.

His chief passion is the intersection of race and economics, and he has focused his research and work on advocating for individuals, families, and communities caught in the vicious cycle of generational poverty.  Chris is a co-Founder and Managing Partner for Brown Venture Group, where he is actively involved in raising a $50M inaugural fund. Chris also serves as part owner and Founding Partner of Firehouse Commons, where he is intently involved in strategically redesigning a physical building to become a business incubator in South Minneapolis.

Chris and his wife have 4 children, and are actively involved in the Twin Cities community. 

Qiana Hicks
Rise Against the Odds, Author, Speaker, IT Leader & Founder

Growing up, I experienced, and witnessed, the effect of poverty on people, families, communities, and environments. I overcame poverty through academic attainment, career development, and long-term career success. My mission is to help youth with a similar background envision a future of achievement and long-term success by providing them with the tools and resources so that they can believe it, build it, and achieve it.

Marlaina Love
Pipe Dream Academy, CEO & Founder

Marlaina is the founder of Pipe Dream Academy - an EdTech startup empowering learners to explore affordable, alternative pathways to a more fulfilling and meaningful career.

She currently works as a Software Project Manager in Autonomous Machines. Marlaina’s prior experience includes 5+ years as a technical project management professional servicing many industries, including Data Migrations, Medical Device Technologies, Retail, Supply Chain and Manufacturing.

Marlaina is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) enthusiast and is passionate about serving her community, living the motto "Paying It Forward." Marlaina founded the Minnesota AI Network (MaiN), a 1400+ meetup community of AI enthusiasts, and is the current chapter president for Blacks in Technology - Twin Cities, a global non-profit organization with over 11,000 members, providing support and resources for existing and future technology workers.

Cordell Hardy
3M, SVP, Corporate R&D Operations

Cordell was recently appointed Senior Vice President, of Global R&D Operations, Corporate Research & Development, at 3M Company Headquartered in St. Paul, MN. Reporting to the Chief Technology Officer, this role provides a range of critical capabilities required within 3M's corporate technical organization. Examples include hiring/HR processes, crisis management (COVID-19 workplace risk mitigation, for example), analytical laboratories, digital media technical support, and product stewardship.  Cordell has a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Florida A&M and the University of Minnesota, respectively. After joining 3M, Cordell worked in the Consumer Business Group, first as a product developer for consumer adhesives and tapes, then in various management roles within Stationery Products and Home Care laboratories. He then joined the Safety & Graphics Business Group in 2012, taking on a number of managerial assignments prior to his current role.   

Cordell is an active community advocate and serves on the Boards Minnesota Community Care, The Sanneh Foundation, and The 3M Foundation.

Tuning in virtually? Watch live on Hopin on the Stage here.

Join us for a powerful and insightful session as Black leaders in the Minnesota tech community share their journey to success. Our panel of technologists, entrepreneurs, and investors will share their experiences in tech and insights on how to break into and thrive in the space. We'll also hear thoughts directly from leading venture capitalists on how the increase of BIPOC VCs can impact the growth and successes of diverse-led startups.

This session is for all aspiring BIPOC professionals that want to learn lessons, resources, and insights to making an impact in tech.

Attend this event in person or participate from the comfort of your home or office through Hopin.


  • Parking options: Gopher or Maroon Lots.
  • The entry point for the event is the Premium Entrance which is located under the Benton County sign.