Edward Thornton was naturally drawn to technology as a child and would often disassemble all of the electronics in his household to feed his curiosity. Over time, that curiosity pushed him into an established career where he strengthened his skills while obtaining his degree in Information Systems and Computer Technology at the University of Missouri St. Louis and traveling around the world as a software developer. 

Street Genius

In 2018, Thornton launched his company, Street Genius, to help bridge the gap between underrepresented communities and technology. Since its founding, the firm has expanded offering a wide range of digital products and services, including the popular social media app, Loop, designed to prevent crime and police brutality. 

Black Tech STL

After growing tired of the lack of Black representation in the technology field, and in his hometown of St. Louis, Thornton founded Black Tech STL to create a networking space for Black IT professionals with a goal to learn best industry practices and to help advance their careers. To that end, the Tech and Chill networking events were established to turn St. Louis into the next big tech hub by connecting some of the most talented and innovative people in the city.

What was the purpose and passion behind founding Black Tech STL? What can attendees expect at the Tech and Chill networking events? 

Black Tech STL is an organization I founded to help the ecosystem of Black IT professionals in St Louis foster a space for working together. After attending many industry events all across the world, I was discouraged by the lack of the tech community in St. Louis and set out to solve the problem. 

There is an even bigger problem with Black representation in the industry. Just one percent of venture capital dollars are invested into Black startups. Most venture-backed startups fit a specific profile, which is white male founders. We plan on working hard to help the Black tech professionals of St Louis secure better positions and also help startups receive backing and funding for their companies. My passion is to change the face of tech and dispel common misconceptions of what tech should look like. 

Tech and Chill

At the Tech and Chill events, attendees can expect to be ready to network with other tech professionals. Ideas will be shared, connections will be made and relationships will be formed. 

Can you tell us more behind the launch of “Rhyming Words” and why it was developed? 

Rhyming Words is a voice application that was developed to help users increase their creativity and brain functions. It was developed with the idea that freestyle rap unlocks creativity in the brain. Research has shown that unfocused, improvised music vocals were responsible for higher activity in the frontal cortex of the brain – an area associated with human creativity. 

Rhyming words was developed for Alexa and is distributed by Amazon. After you enable the skill on Alexa, you will be able to say “Alexa, open Rhyming Words” to use the app on a daily basis. There is a free version of the skill and a paid version that unlocks more features. Users will be able to increase their freestyle skills with the help of the Alexa Voice Bot.

What are your future plans for Black Tech STL? Where can people go to be a part of the network and find out about future events? Any goals for increasing membership or engagement? 

We are looking to build Black Tech STL into a bigger organization as the tech community in St Louis continues to grow. Our goal is to help turn the city into the Silicon Valley of the Midwest, making it a hub for startups and investors. We are currently planning bigger and better events and the future is looking very promising. We are looking to partner with companies that have shared visions and would like to be more inclusive. 

How to Join

If anyone is interested in joining Black Tech STL, please visit the website https://www.blacktechstl.com

We are currently at 84 members from several different cities and even a few different countries. We accept people of all backgrounds and cultures and we are always looking to add more members to our network. 

Tech and Chill Series

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Tiffany Byndom