This Amazon Scientist is Investing $25m to Create a Tech Hub in Mississippi Hometown
Nashlie Sephus wants to change the face of downtown Jackson, Mississippi
Nashlie Sephus is a science manager, working for Amazon’s artificial intelligence division. She is currently on a mission to transform downtown Jackson, Mississippi into a national technology hub. She is currently investing more than $20m to transform 12 derelict acres of land and abandoned buildings into a tech district to train the next generation of technology innovators.
“My goal is to turn this space into a self-sustaining village where people can live, work, play and eat.”
The long-term plan is to renovate seven buildings over a five-year span. The development will consist of a makers space, a photography studio, electronics lab, apartments, grocery store, restaurants and an innovation hub.
Sephus works at Amazon as an applied science manager, working in its artificial intelligence department. Prior to taking up a role at Amazon, she was CTO for a startup called Partpic, which is a visual recognition tech company.
Amazon acquired Partpic in 2016, Sephus then started her own company, Bean Path, an incubator and tech consulting nonprofit. The company has provided its services to more than 400 small companies in Mississippi.
Sephus was inspired to create a tech hub when she was searching for an office space for Bean Path in 2018. She searched extensively in the downtown Jackson area where black businesses were previously thriving. However, she struggled to find a decent space for her company.
“It’s clear that people don’t expect anything good to come from Jackson..So it’s up to us to build something for our hometown, something for the people coming behind us.”
Sephus also said:
“It had never occurred to me, even though I had sold a company to Amazon and was working with some of the top people at Amazon and having led a whole startup, started our own nonprofit. It had just never occurred to me that I, a young black female could buy a building in downtown Jackson, Mississippi.”
Sephus’ sheer determination and ambitious vision to create a tech hub in downtown Jackson has caught the attention of investors such as Toni Cooley, a previous client of Bean Path.
Amazon has also shown some interest in the initiative through its Amazon Future Engineer program, a scholarship program for teachers interested in developing their technology skills.
Sephus has faced some challenges such as difficulty raising funds to finance the project. She has invested $500,000 of her own savings into the project and she has also raised more than $150,000 from family and friend donations.
The project requires more funds currently and Sephus aims to raise more funds through crowdfunding, private investments and grants.
Sephus has a degree in computer engineering from Mississippi State University. She has also a master’s degree and PhD in computer engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
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