The Icon Project was created in 2019 by Wayne Sutton, serial entrepreneur, co-founder, and CTO at Change Catalyst. As a Black man in tech, Wayne has founded several programs to assist in the success of underrepresented founders including accelerators, hackathons, conferences, and pitch events.
In 2015, after attending a couple of Black Men in Tech brunches hosted by Brian Martinez in San Francisco, Wayne saw the need to reach more Black and Brown men. So he created an invite-only Slack group called Black Men In Tech. The Slack group led to hosting an Ask Me Anything (AMA), covering topics from the success of Black men in tech, pitch deck feedback, and mentor opportunities for Black men in tech around the world. The group has since grown to over 970+ members.
The Slack group was a huge success but, while co-organizing and hosting international Tech Inclusion conferences with Change Catalyst and simultaneously sharing his years of experience through a variety of mentorship programs, Wayne continued to see ample opportunities to support the growth of Black and Brown men in tech.
In 2017, Wayne wrote a transparent Medium article sharing his struggle with depression and imposter syndrome in Silicon Valley as a Black man in tech. The article went viral and was one of the Medium’s top posts of 2017, after being read over 46,000 times. The feedback from the article showed the need to have more conversions around mental health in tech and especially for Black and Brown men.
As Wayne continues to his own career journey, he believes providing mental health and professional development opportunities are the keys to Black and Brown men in tech to thrive.
After numerous conversations with mentors and successful Black and Brown entrepreneurs, as well as hosting several Black Men In Tech panels at Tech Inclusion conferences over the years, the time has come to create a new movement for Black and Brown men in tech.
Thus, the Icon Project was born.
The Icon Project’s mission is to provide access to therapy and professional development opportunities for Black and Brown Men in Tech.
In December 2019, Wayne held the first Icon Summit in New York in partnership with Instagram. The event was a huge success with over 30 speakers, 350 attendees, lives changed, and impact made. You can read a recap of the 2019 Icon Summit here (Black Men in Tech Heal: The Icon Project Summit @ Instagram).
Just before the pandemic changing everything, the Icon Project started off 2020 with three check-in events for our community of Black and Brown men: one in San Francisco and two virtual events. The Icon Project paused activity in the middle of 2020.
Starting mid-2021, the Icon Project lives again.