With over 150,000 members worldwide, the BYP Network is connecting Black young professionals with each other and corporations

BY Preta Peace Namasaba March 28, 2024 10:58 AM EDT
Kike Oniwinde Agoro. Photo credit: Kike Oniwinde Agoro

A Great Britain athlete and top student, Kike Oniwinde Agoro was afforded many opportunities during the start of her career. She had access to preeminent internships, and scholarships and was awarded for her accomplishments. However, she soon realized that there was not much Black representation outside of sports and entertainment. Oniwinde consequently founded BYP Network, a platform that connects Black professionals and corporations. Often dubbed ‘the LinkedIn for Black professionals’, the platform has over 150,000 members worldwide and is focused on changing the narrative about Black professionals to one focused on aspirations, attainability and achievement.

“What drives me is the mission to change the Black narrative and I am very passionate about it. I started BYP after my sporting career, when I noticed there was a problem in terms of the representation the black community was given. Me wanting to be an athlete was because that was success. As a Black person that’s what we see, athletes and musicians, we don’t really see ourselves in any other industry,” Oniwinde said of the inspiration behind BYP Network.

Oniwinde has always had the entrepreneurial gene. She participated in a pitching competition when she was 18 and got to go to the Institute of Directors. Oniwinde was inspired to start her own company and tried to start a clothing line with a friend. The enterprise didn’t go well as its novice founders didn’t know what to do. Oniwinde never envisioned herself as an entrepreneur and rather saw business as just something to dabble in. Her worldview was limited to thinking that successful Black people are either musicians or athletes, and she was intent on following that path.

She attended the University of Nottingham as a Great Britain junior athlete in the javelin on a sports bursary and a Sutton Trust Bursary. Oniwinde was a three-time medalist in the British University Championships. She completed an internship at Citi Investment Bank and gained a fully funded track and field scholarship to the University of Florida to study a master’s in Management and compete in the women’s Javelin. Although Oniwinde met many talented Black students in Florida, she was struck by the lack of diversity in the workplace when she went to work in finance.

The difficulties in meeting other Black professionals were stark and it was troubling to see the lack of role model visibility. It was clear that the standard for entry for a Black person into the corporate world was much higher. Oniwinde quickly realised that she wanted to be at the heart of innovation, her future was in tech. The harrowing videos of African Americans dying at the hands of police brutality and the knife crime epidemic in the UK gave her clarity. She wanted to address the lack of Black people in senior corporate positions and find positive role models outside of the entertainment industry for the coming generation.

In 2016, Oniwinde founded the BYP Network to connect black young professionals with each other and corporations. She sought to ‘change the black narrative’ by bringing a Black professional global community together to solve common problems via economic empowerment and connectivity. The platform facilitates employment, mentoring, networking and up-skilling for its members. BYP Network works with numerous companies ranging from start-ups to large corporations. It focuses on recruitment, retention and reputation through the job board, shortlisting of candidates, webinars and connections to Black internal networks to help mobilise change.

In 2020, Oniwinde successfully led a crowdfunding campaign with over 1200 investors and raised over $1 million. The company has been able to grow tenfold despite pandemic disruptions. BYP Network currently has over 150,000 community members across the globe. It has worked with 1,000 leading corporate partners such as Sky, TikTok, Meta, and Morgan Stanley. More than 15,000 of our members have been up-skilled through mentorship, thought-leadership events and industry-specific insight, with some even being hired through the mentorship programme.

Oniwinde is ensuring that Black people in the corporate world can network and build relationships authentically. She is leveraging the BYP Network to create change.

“I wanted to change the narrative so we can create our own solutions as a community through connectivity and economic empowerment. It’s a journey, and I’m aware that BYP alone cannot be the solution to tackle structural racism and biases. It’s a two-faced coin. Companies need to hire us, but as a community we also have to help ourselves and elevate each other. We can create real change because global businesses are coming to us for D&I strategies and how to attract and retain talent,” said Oniwinde.