Atlanta tech conference bridges the gap between music, tech and Black entrepreneurship

A group of tech leaders are gathering in front on a Render ATL backdrop for a photo.
Render ATL CEO Justin Samuels (center), Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens (right), and his Senior Tech Advisor Donnie Beamer (left) posing for a photo alongside members of Atlanta's tech ecosystem at the conference's kickoff event in April. (Marlon Hyde/WABE)

Atlanta-based tech conference Render ATL begins Wednesday. The three-day event seeks to be a platform for Atlanta’s innovators.

The event’s CEO, Justin Samuels, says Atlanta’s innovator ecosystem sits at the intersection of hip-hop and the business world, redefining innovation through the lens of young Black and brown creators. 

“What I’ve built rendered to mean is that the South is tired of being picked over and tired of having our talent taken away,” Samuels said. 

This year, Render is expected to have over 5,000 attendees and over 100 speakers, including Georgia’s Pro Football Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe, who will deliver the keynote speech. Tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon are event sponsors. 

“We wanna be a top-five tech hub,” said Donnie Beamer, Atlanta’s first-ever Senior Tech Advisor. “But the thing I’ll call out is [that] the fine print around that is to do it equitably.”

Organizers hope to leave attendees with meaningful connections in fields like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and software development. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, about a third of the tech industry is non-white. And among workers in high positions at tech companies, over 83% are white, according to federal data.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said he would’ve loved something like this when he was growing up. 

“These are things that people 20 years ago didn’t see much of, didn’t see much of African Americans being able to lead in the technology space,” Dickens said.

He said it’s a great thing for the next generation of innovators to witness. 

“Folks that are coming generations behind us and even kids that are in high school, college now are saying, ‘How can I be a part of that?'” Dickens said.

Dickens hopes Atlanta will see more events that promote growing local innovators so the city can benefit from the tech industry’s economic impact.

This is all happening during Atlanta’s Tech Week, a series of events across Atlanta to engage the city’s local startup community. The main conference will take place at AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta until Friday, June 14.

DJ Pee Wee, a.k.a. Grammy award winner Anderson.Paak will perform at the conference’s after-party concert.