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Tech Rising Summit: Creating Digital Equity


The second annual Tech Rising Summit is being held at the AvidXchange headquarters on April 6th and is  presented by the AvidXchange Foundation and Equitable Foundation. This groundbreaking initiative brings together corporate partners, strategic partners and local nonprofits all to create digital equity in our community. SHARE Charlotte is proud to partner with these organizations to host this important networking and learning event.

The goal of this year’s summit is to feature the work of the Center for Digital Equity, led by Bruce Clark  and the 5 work streams they have created with the goal to make Mecklenburg County the most digitally inclusive county in the United States.   Additionally, the summit will feature examples of private, public and nonprofit partnerships that have made a significant impact to foster digital equity.

The two presenting partners for this event, the AvidXchange Foundation, led by Rob Phocas, and Equitable Foundation, led by Jarian Kerekes, are excited to partner together this year to support this event.  Read below to learn more  from these two leaders as to why fostering digital equity is important to their foundations.

The AvidXchange Foundation, led by Rob Phocas:

Q: How did the Tech Rising initiative at AvidXchange begin?

A: People know AvidXchange as a tech company, but we are also a people company, and we wanted to create a flagship project that facilitated economic mobility  for our Charlotte community. 

Our Foundation already had a focus on digital equity, by providing STEAM and essential skills programming for youth and through our partnership with E2D-Eliminate the Digital Divide, but we realized there was a bigger opportunity, especially as the pandemic showed a brighter light on the digital inequity in Charlotte. 

As we began to formulate a vision, we realized the opportunity, and need, to bring the corporate community together to collaborate on solutions. Initial conversations with a few corporate partners validated this notion and their desire to work together to break down silos and create more impact.

Q: Why is digital equity important to AvidXchange?

A: There are two reasons. From a human-centric point of view, digital equity is key to economic mobility, and we want to see our neighbors have the opportunity to thrive. Without intentional efforts and collaboration, we will not be able to bring about digital inclusion and equity. 

From a business point of view, we want to be able to attract talent from Charlotte to work at AvidXchange; this is true of all companies in Charlotte. By creating an ecosystem to address digital equity, we are creating a larger talent pool from which we can all draw.

Q: What do you hope this year’s Tech Rising Summit will accomplish?

A: There is an education and awareness element  to the event; a lot has happened since we last met as a community at the first Tech Rising Summit. 

More importantly, we want attendees to be inspired and understand how they can collaborate and take the actions needed to bring about digital inclusion and equity. This is a systemic challenge that we must all be involved in and work together to address.

Equitable Foundation, led by Jarian Kerekes:

Q: Why is the Equitable Foundation focused on digital equity?

A: The past two years have highlighted the digital divide in our backyard and many other communities. Whether a lack of adequate technology or wifi bandwidth, students are being left behind when they lack these essential tools. 

We believe it’s critical for our community and those with various forms of capital to advocate for and help close this divide that exists within Greater Charlotte.

Q: Historically, Equitable Foundation has invested heavily in Education initiatives, how do you see these two priorities intersecting?

A: Education and the workforce is becoming more digitized, online, video and other forms of technology.  In our business, we have a noble purpose to help clients secure their financial well-being by providing advice, protection and retirement strategies to individuals, families and small businesses. 

All students should have access and support to help them with their education and career pathways and we feel this cause is something that aligns our business principles and demonstrates our goal to be an enduring force for good.

Q: What do you hope this year’s Tech Rising Summit will accomplish?

A: I was inspired to get our organization involved after attending last year’s first ever Tech Rising Summit. My hope would be for those with access to human, social or financial capital, they’ll leave the half day summit with tangible next steps to help further advance our collective goals to create digital equity.

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