The Hidden Genius Project: leading incubator of young Black male entrepreneurs and technologists

By: Alyssa Haywoode, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation
Date: Friday, April 23, 2021

In 2012, five entrepreneurs, all African American men, wanted to create a program for young Black men that would open the doors to technology, entrepreneurship, and leadership. They launched The Hidden Genius Project in Oakland, CA with no staff and no money.

Since then, the program and organization has grown, engaging more than 7,600 students in 442,400 hours of direct training through its programs, as the organization’s 2020 Annual Report explains.

“We’re trying to elevate the potential of our young people as leaders who can change their communities,” says Brandon Nicholson, the executive director and one of the five who launched The Hidden Genius Project.  “We want them to pursue their dreams, achieve their goals, and leverage technology along the way. We anchor in the genius piece because we want young Black men to know that you can’t wait for somebody else to validate you.”

The heart of The Hidden Genius Project is its 15-month, Intensive Immersion Program for high school-aged boys, which starts with a 40-hour per week summer program followed by after-school and weekend classes. The program runs in Oakland, Richmond, and Los Angeles, Calif., and it’s a crash course in technology, business, and being part of a community of brothers. Participants design apps, create businesses, and talk about life. African American mentors provide instruction, insight, and support.

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