The Opportunity Hub (OHUB) debuted #OHUBFriday at the Art Barn in New Orleans last month. Rodney Sampson, the co-founder of OHUB, and his wife, Shanterria, brought an entrepreneurial spirit, a pop-up vendors market, a famous inventor, and exciting news to New Orleans.  

“OHUB is excited to launch its proven model for building Black innovation, startup, and venture ecosystems from the ground up in New Orleans,” says Rodney Sampson, Executive Chairman and CEO of OHUB.

“I did my undergrad work at Tulane University. I was here from 1991-1995. When you experience that much of New Orleans, you always look for a way to get back,” Sampson says in an interview.

OHUB is the leading technology, startup, and venture ecosystem-building platform created to ensure everyone, everywhere, has equitable access to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (technology) and beyond as a path to multi-generational wealth creation, with no reliance on pre-existing multi-generational wealth, according to the organization’s mission statement.

OHUB’s networking event featured a talk with Dr. Lonnie Johnson. Dr. Johnson is the engineer, and entrepreneur who invented the Super Soaker®, a best-selling toy generating well over $1 billion in sales over its lifetime.

“I grew up in Mobile, Alabama,” Johnson, 73, told the audience. “Segregation was a big part of my life. It dictated where I could go and couldn’t go. It’s very different now,” he explains. “I was running for my life from White people in Alabama.”

The inventor knew he wanted to become an engineer before he knew what an engineer was. “I used to take my siblings’ toys apart.” Erector sets and Tinker Toys were his favorites. And he remembers watching his dad work on the family’s car.

Johnson carried his dream of becoming an engineer into high school. After taking a science aptitude test, Johnson was told he shouldn’t become an engineer. “They told me to be a technician.”

The inventor’s soft-spoken, humble persona belies his determined spirit. Not to be denied his career aspiration, in 11th grade, Johnson built a robot in his mother’s kitchen that won first place at the University of Alabama-sponsored Junior Engineers Technical Society Science Fair.

Rodney Sampson and Dr. Lonnie Johnson  
Aly Media Photo

“Imagine a world with 1,000 Lonnies. People were doubting him.”

“I thought a high-performance water gun would be fun and could use the money to buy my freedom. It took about five years. When people ask me if there’s a magic word for problem-solving, I tell them it’s perseverance. The human brain is powerful that way. Commit yourself to your goals. Don’t give up, and you’ll eventually succeed.”

During the speakers’ events, Sampson announced OHUB’s partnership with Greater New Orleans, Inc. and Louisiana Economic Development as a part of the “H2 the Future Build Back Better Hydrogen Energy Innovation Initiative” and the State Small Business Credit Initiative to launch a New Energy Technology Incubator (NETI), that will prioritize racial equity in innovation in the region.

Each year, the NETI will invest up to $500,000 in five new energy technology venture-backable, high-growth startups in New Orleans.

 In a Shark Tank-style diligence process, NETI’s startup support programming will introduce 100 aspiring high-growth new energy, climate, hydrogen, and sustainability company builders to best practices. It will take 50 startups through its High Growth Company Building Certificate.

Upon completion, founders will be ready to pitch investors and set up business development meetings with target customers. Five high-growth, new energy startups will receive up to $100,000 each in seed-stage investment. A demo day and fundraising event will be planned annually during New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week.

“Recent federal programs such as Build Back Better and State Small Business Credit Initiative in organizations like ours help ensure that all of New Orleans is equitably included in the future of opportunity,” Sampson explains.

Shanterria and Rodney Sampson

The H2 the Future project perfectly fits OHUB’s presence in New Orleans. The organization connects emerging Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous innovators and entrepreneurs with opportunities and investors.

As the parents of six, the Sampsons are passionate about closing the racial wealth gap and seeding companies that can amass intergenerational wealth.

Data Driven

“Data doesn’t lie. When I go into a region, I always ask leaders to tell me how many Black founders have raised over a million dollars in venture capital. It’s typically few to none, and this is where we work to create change.”

Techcrunch’s Dominic-Madori Davis reports that just 1% of all venture capital goes to Black-founded high-growth firms. In New Orleans, the percentage of Black founders raising equity capital is even less than the national average.

Sevetri Wilson

New Orleans is home to successful Black technology entrepreneurs like Sevetri Wilson, who raised nearly $50 million in venture capital for her SaaS startup, Resilia. OHUB aims to increase the number of Black-owned venture-backed startups in the region by 10x over the next four years.

Greater New Orleans, Inc. and its coalition of 25 organizations across south Louisiana were awarded $50 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The State of Louisiana is allocating $24.5 million in matching funds. The total project size is $74.5 million.

“GNO, Inc. was thrilled to welcome OHUB into the Louisiana market as part of our H2theFuture initiative,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc. “Through OHUB, Louisiana has an opportunity to develop a diverse, equitable entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem that directly supports the renewable energy transition occurring locally and globally.”

Rodney Sampson co-founded OHUB in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2013 after releasing Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Sampson holds large-scale conferences in Atlanta, Georgia, and Washington, D.C., based on the book.

Technology is the next great frontier

OHUB is the leading technology, startup, and venture ecosystem-building platform. It is created to ensure everyone, everywhere, has equitable access to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (technology). OHUB provides a path to multi-generational wealth creation, with no reliance on pre-existing multi-generational wealth.

At OHUB, Sampson is focused on scaling its collaborative and interconnected technology products, programs, and initiatives.

Growing up in Atlanta, Sampson taught himself to code in sixth grade and studied advanced computer science in high school.

“Sampson was a psychology major in the pre-med department at Tulane University. He attended Penn State College of Medicine in Pennsylvania before becoming a tech entrepreneur. “I got an MBA while I was working on my startup (Multicast Media Technologies),” he said in an interview.

Rodney Sampson co-founded several companies before launching OHUB, including Multicast Media Technologies Inc. in 2000. The Atlanta-based company was a pioneer in streaming video,” according to an article in Syracuse.com about leadership.

“One of our verticals was churches,” he said. “We were one of the first to stream churches live and on-demand and on a 24/7 continuous basis over the Internet.” His company sold in 2010 for about $24 million and lives on sites like www.streamingfaith.com.

Sampson is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and he teaches as a visiting professor at Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and Morehouse College in Atlanta. Sampson previously served as the 1st Head of Diversity at Mark Burnett Productions, the producer of ABC’s Shark Tank.

OHUB subsidiaries include OHUB Futures, OHUB Talent, Equity District, Grit, DEIS, and 100 Black Angels and Allies Fund.

Aspiring innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors can apply for membership to OHUB to access skills development programs, career opportunities, high-growth company-building resources, funding, and investment opportunities to build multi-generational wealth.

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