Blackwell jumps through hoops for Chicago kids
July 3, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Miami Heat guard Dwyane
Wade is the basketball star of the moment. The Chicago native
and Marquette alum is the NBA finals MVP. I watched Wade play.
He's an awesome athlete. But if Nike is planning new TV commercials,
tell Chairman Phil Knight to profile Robert Blackwell Jr. over
Blackwell? Because the 45-year-old is an all-star Chicago area
high-tech entrepreneur who believes African-American and Hispanic
kids should study math and consider careers in technology.
"There is not
enough knowledge about the opportunities that math and science
education create," says Blackwell, who wants more African-American
and Hispanic entrepreneurs. With more entrepreneurs there would
be more role models, and "then more people would see technology
as a vehicle for success," Blackwell adds.
That's why I want Nike
to promote Blackwell over Wade, Michael Jordan or even Tiger Woods.
Blackwell is founder
and CEO of Chicago-based computer consultancy Electronic Knowledge
Interchange (EKI). EKI helps organizations such as Wal-Mart, the
City of Chicago, Kraft and Motorola get the most out of their
technology investments. His consultancy employs about 100 people
and generates nearly $20 million annually in revenues.
Blackwell is a talented
athlete. He earned a black belt in martial arts, and he's active
in American table tennis. He knew early on the odds of success
in athletics were slim, but the potential for winning as a tech
entrepreneur was good. Athletic talent like Wade's is unique,
but Blackwell believes we can all develop our minds. And he says
there are jobs in high tech despite all the outsourcing to India.
"Wade is a talented
and articulate man who seems to be a good person," Blackwell
says. "The fact is not many people make it in professional
sports. The people we hire are going to make between $75,000 and
$150,000 per year. You can have a decent life with that kind of
The only catch is you
have to be educated and have solid math and computer skills.
Blackwell offers advice
for kids from Chicago's neighborhoods: "You can do whatever
it is you want to do in life if you are willing to put in the
work and willing to focus. Performance can overcome a lot."
Blackwell knows the
importance of mentoring youth. He serves on Mayor Daley's Advisory
Council on Closing the Digital Divide. He wants kids across the
city to have access to technology and education.
"We have the responsibility
to create a better environment so that poor kids have the opportunity
to be successful," he says.
Phil Knight should
cast him in a Nike commercial.
Sharnell Jackson, Chicago
Public Schools chief e-learning officer, co-chairs the International
Society for Technology in Education Digital Equity Summit Thursday
in San Diego. The summit is part of a three-day conference attended
by an estimated 18,000 educators. It explores ways of assuring
equal access to technology tools, computers and the Internet.
Says Jackson, "We're
going to be developing action plans for creating digital equity."
Center President David Weinstein and Sonnenschein, Nath &
Rosenthal law partner Michael Rosenthal sponsored nine Chicago
companies at the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance Venture
Forum held last week in San Jose.
Representing our local
entrepreneurs were: Advanced Diamond Technologies President Neil
Kane, Bias Power President John Muntean, Ecto founders Truls Henriksen
and Christopher Salvo, Firm58 President Sam Mele, ForceLogix President
Patrick Stakenas, Freerain Systems CEO Josh Karp, LiquidTalk Networks
CEO David Peak, Starthis CEO David Naylor and Swap Simple President
Says Weinstein, "We're
showcasing Chicago's brightest emerging technology startups to
the venture community. It is a great way to highlight Chicago's
untold success stories in Silicon Valley."
Karenann Terrell, 45,
is the new chief information officer at Baxter International.
Previously, Terrell was chief information officer, Chrysler Group
and Mercedes Benz North America. In addition to IT Terrell is
an expert on hybrid cars. The Purdue grad says she's excited about
the opportunities in biotech at Baxter and to participate in growing
the tech community here in Chicago.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.