ICABA, which stands for Identifying Connecting Activating the Black Accomplished, is a private social networking community that officially launched Tuesday night. The website, icabaonline.com, has directories, video profiles, a lifestyle channel, blogs as well as a social networking tool. It's headquartered in South Florida, but is designed to be a global network.
I spoke with Davie resident Jerome Hutchinson Jr., 49, chief executive officer of ICABA Media Holdings, who said he came up with the idea in 2007 while he and his wife worked on the book "Who's Who In Black South Florida." He said he realized there was a need to go beyond just reading about successful individuals, but rather have a way to connect with them.
"We're not LinkedIn or Facebook in that our goal is to connect with the world," Hutchinson said. Rather, it's about connecting the connected. "We're giving individuals who have already reached a level of accomplishment in their life, who don't necessarily need to network at every opportunity ... the chance to grow business or career opportunities."
He said there's a lack of institutional networking environments that target a black audience. And the network is not just virtual -- there will be events for members to get together in the real world.
"Another thing that is missing in the social fabric of the black professional community -- particularly in South Florida -- is that there are not many venues where black professionals can meet, greet and interact."
The few events ICABA has already hosted have been well attended, he said. About 175 people came to last night's launch party, which he said shows there is "a very strong appetite for the opportunity to connect with other accomplished black entrepreneurs."
The website also offers a place for members to share information about their expertise and promote their business. An advisory board chooses which members to spotlight with a profile on the homepage.
The only way to join is to be invited or referred by someone who has been profiled on the site. There is also a print publication that will go out to members quarterly that includes a directory of members.
Aside from networking, Hutchinson said ICABA is working with the Urban League of Broward County to set up network members to mentor at-risk youth.