A tech startup founded by two Black entrepreneurs is getting a $1 million boost, thanks to Pharrell Williams and his Black Ambition prize competition.
Black Ambition, a non-profit started by Williams, announced the winners of its competition on Tuesday. The mission of the non-profit is to fund ideas and companies led by Black and Latino entrepreneurs while also working to break down barriers that they may face. The organization was founded in December.
According to CNN, the top prize winners were Justin Turk and Andre Davis, who co-founded Livegistics–a Detroit-based company responsible for software that uses the cloud to improve the efficiency of civil construction projects and to eliminate the need for paperwork that can bog these projects down.
Livegistics is also helping the environment through the elimination of tons of paper each year and helps local communities accelerate the elimination of blight in urban cities and neighborhoods.
“We knew we had something special, but you don’t go in thinking you will walk away with $1 million. But when it happens you are like, ‘Wow, we just won $1 million,’” Turk said.Turk and Davis said this win is bigger than them. It’s about opening the door for the next person.
CNN reports that Livegistics was selected out of nearly to 1,700 applicants for the top Black Ambition prize.
Dosso Beauty, which sells organic pre-stretched, hypoallergenic braiding hair, won the non-profit’s HBCU Grand Prize of $250,000.
I don’t know anything about operating a business, but I do know that it’s in no way, shape or form an easy thing to do. This rings extra true for Black-owned businesses, many of which still struggle to overcome barriers that are reinforced by structural racism. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated things. CBS News reported back in February that an H&R Block survey found that 53 percent of Black business owners said their revenue dropped by half since the pandemic began. White business owners reported a 37 percent drop-off.
But, as the Los Angeles Times reports, the pandemic also led to a surge of Black-led startups in the United States.
Where these startups go from here largely depends on access to capital, which is something that’s been on the minds of Turk and Davis.
“Winning this competition is bigger than just the prize money,” Turk said. “When we first entered the tech start-up world as two Black entrepreneurs, we had no idea how to navigate in this space.”
Turk said they are not only being taught how to navigate, “but also to dominate in an industry that just recently decided to grant access to people of color.”
The win will break open doors. And Turk has an another goal.
“We don’t just want an invite, we want to create the guest list,” he said.