Inaugural Conference to Focus on Diversity, Inclusion

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Jamal Smith is the co-founder of the InnoPower Conference. Jamal Smith is the co-founder of the InnoPower Conference.

A two-day conference kicking off Friday is designed to promote a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem in central Indiana. InnoPower Conference Co-founder Jamal Smith says the goal of the event is to create a platform to give everyone a seat at the table to bring their innovative thoughts and energy and create the access that traditionally hasn't existed. The event will feature a variety of local and national speakers, as well as a pitch competition and the InnoPower Ambassador program.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Smith talked about the importance of the event.

"This is important because our city is growing. The world is changing and opportunities exist and they exist for those who have that access," said Smith. "Traditionally, that hasn't existed for folks of color or people who come from a particular zip code and we want to erase that and create that opportunity so no matter what your profession is or what your level or title may be or what your background is or zip code is, if you've got some energy, some creative thought, an amazing startup, or an idea that could help move our city in a positive direction or change the world, we want to make sure you have an opportunity to bring that to the table."

The conference will feature keynote addresses from Florida International University Clinical Professor Dileep Rao, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago CEO Dorri McWhorter and Roland Williams, who won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams in 2000. Other speakers include Kristen Cooper, CEO of Indianapolis-based The Startup Ladies and Alan Bacon, senior director of the social innovation fund for United Way of Central Indiana.

Also as part of the event, there will be the InnoPower Power Pitches featuring up to 10 finalists giving five-minute pitches of their ideas to a panel of judges and investors. The winning pitch will receive $5,000 cash and all finalists will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with investors and receive more than $10,000 in entrepreneurial services.

Smith says he hopes the conversation of diversity and inclusion doesn't end with the conference. "The aftermath to this is make sure that we carry this over in a variety of different ways, document that data so that next year when we come, we're not starting over. We're not recreating that wheel but we're talking about how the needle has moved and then what the next steps would be to keep moving our city, our state, our country in the right direction." 

You can learn more about the InnoPower Conference by clicking here.

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