A pivotal focus this year for the BEN (Black Excellence Network) community is the opportunity gap - underrepresentation of Black Americans in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) - which impacts Box and society at large. We understand the importance of embracing our past, but we should also acknowledge the positive impact we are making now and in the future; hence, celebrating Black History Month as Black Futures Month!
For the first time in Box history, an employee resource group took over a Box Friday Lunch. Kicking off with a traditional dance routine from one of our own Senior Engineers, Ashanti Johnson, accompanied by a Congolese performance group. The lunch room was filled with high energy and the sounds of African hymns as dancers moved throughout the room to the beat of open palms hitting drums. Following the opening dance Aaron Levie led a fireside chat with none other than Arlan Hamilton, Founder and CEO of Backstage Capital.
Hamilton's story is profound as the only black queer female to build a venture capital fund from scratch; she has continuously exceeded and beat expectations. Hamilton's direct attitude and perseverance of disrupting the way venture investors select winners to create wealth is one of Backstage's driving forces. Today, Backstage has invested roughly 4 million dollars in hundreds of companies. This investment equates to roughly 3% of companies that have pitched their ideas to the Backstage team. Most recently, Hamilton has announced that she has set out a new goal to raise 36 million to exclusively invest in startups founded by Black female entrepreneurs. The end goal for Backstage is to raise awareness of the underrepresented communities in tech and provide funding to create generational wealth for the families of the founders. Hamilton will continue to forge the path for companies that are transformative and scalable.
Following the Friday lunch takeover there was an African dance work shop. Boxers were given an opportunity to practice traditional Congolese dance routines. Continuing the festivities of Black Futures Month, BEN hosted the Black Future's Fair - Re-imaging the future of STEAM through the Black Lens. The happy hour and non-profit pop-up featured a curated group of local non-profit organizations - The Hidden Genius Project, Black Girls Code, Braven, Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula, YWCA-SV, YearUp - who are crushing it in this space. Each company showcased their organization and the impact they're making in the community, and expressed ways that Boxers could get involved. To wrap up Black Futures Month, our Austin BEN members hosted a "Black Family Feud" and passed out hot meals to approximately 60 people in the local Austin community.
BEN wants to continue to cultivate and uphold an environment for the Box community to highlight the Black leaders of yesterday and today. By creating opportunities for you to get involved, we can all help to drive change in representation in STEAM fields.