Inside RenderATL, the tech conference infused with an Atlanta flavor

Rap and DJ performances entertained amid talks, expert panels and networking

Thousands of software engineers, developers and other technology professionals converged on downtown Atlanta last week for a conference that is quickly becoming a marquee event in the global Black tech community, RenderATL.

A neon sign hanging above a merch table at the conference summed it up neatly: “The South got something to Render,” a reference to both André 3000′s iconic proclamation at a hip hop awards ceremony and programming language JavaScript — RenderATL’s distinct mix of tech with Atlanta culture.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Attendees had the opportunity to go to workshops, expert panels and in-depth tech talks — with rap performances and rooms decorated with graffiti. Even the conference pass was a cultural mashup — a floppy disk with the attendee’s name and workplace hung on a lanyard made to look like a Cuban link chain.

The conference was founded in 2021 by Justin Samuels, a senior engineer at Mailchimp. Just 350 people attended the first conference, while about 2,800 attended this year, about 10% of whom came from overseas, Samuels said.

Samuels said he wanted to create an inclusive community unlike what he was seeing at other tech conferences.

“They were all cookie cutter,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Everything that was deemed attractive and cool to do wasn’t really for people of color. So I said, ‘I’m gonna take the educational piece that we have, I’m gonna make it to where it is more interactive, more open to everybody.’”

The conference featured workshops on topics ranging from artificial intelligence for JavaScript to building decentralized apps. Expert panels were offered on being a tech founder, using augmented reality and how to be better product managers.

Memphis rapper Duke Deuce (a labelmate of Atlanta superstars Lil Baby and Migos) performed some of his hits in a room where attendees also could relax and play video games. Grammy Award-winning DJ Kaytranada performed at a Friday night concert.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

For Desiree Morton, CEO and co-founder of tech startup Aginci and a recent Atlanta transplant from the Bay Area, RenderATL was not like other conferences she’d been to before.

“A lot of times in tech conferences in the Bay Area, I have felt like an outsider,” said Morton, 33. “Here, I feel like yeah, like I belong here and like I can be on the stage, you know, in a coming year.”

As a DJ played R&B and afrobeats in the background, attendees networked with major companies that sponsored the event, including Delta, Netflix, Intuit, Zillow and Amazon Web Services.

Angelica Sius, attending RenderATL for the first time, said she hopes her networking will help her pivot her career from HR to tech. Sius, 40, was struck by how welcoming the companies were in discussing her career ambitions.

“They’re actually coming to you and saying, ‘Hey, are you looking for opportunities because we’re looking for workers. This is what we can provide for you. These are, you know, some of the benefits of coming to work with us,’” Sius said. She submitted several applications and hopes to have interviews soon.

By mixing in-depth tech talks with networking opportunities, fun performances and cultural events, Samuels is hoping to impact more than just those who attended.

“Atlanta for too long has been regarded as a place that isn’t about tech and I’m here to tell you that Atlanta is about tech,” Samuels said. “People just often overlook us and it’s time that people put some respect on our name.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Report for America are partnering to add more journalists to cover topics important to our community. Please help us fund this important work at