Tristan Walker Experiences Full Circle Moment With Black Enterprise

Tristan Walker

Founder and CEO of Walker & Co. Brands, Inc. Tristan Walker has dreamt of what’s to come since his days on Wall Street. What (or shall I say who) inspired that dream? None other than tech tycoon, entertainer, and CEO of MZRT, Ryan Leslie.

Leslie has long taken the tech industry by storm, and he has made exceptional strides ever since. His success with almost all he touched was the inspiration Walker needed to pursue his own grandiose dreams.

Fast forward to today, years after Walker was first inspired by Leslie to forgo the comforts of Wall Street and take on the streets of Silicon Valley; both tech disruptors now grace the cover of Black Enterprise magazine—together.

Below, Walker explains what this full circle moment means to him:



3 Ways Your Company Can Use Tech To Hook Customers

tech

The brave, new digital world of commerce is here to stay—and forward-thinking, growth-focused entrepreneurs must fully embrace it.

That was the unequivocal message taken from the engaging, energetic Black Enterprise TechConneXt panel, “Business Tech: What’s Hot, Next, and New.” With the verve of a talk show host, entrepreneur/journalist Ramon Ray pitched a series of questions to an all-star panel: Dele Oladapo, VP & CIO, Application Business Solutions for Prudential Financial; Laura Teclemariam, product manager of gaming giant Electronic Arts; Jerry Nemorin, CEO of LendStreet, an online lender; and Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, a firm that advises publishers on how to leverage digital assets.

The panel’s review of the latest tech trends offer clues on how your business can more effectively identify, engage, and serve customers.

DATA IS POWER

Ray kicked off the session asking panelists “Why do business owners need to understand the power of data analytics?”

To be a true innovator today, McDonald responded, speed is paramount in the application of data. “If you are in a small, medium, or large business and you are not accelerating the processing of all data available to make a better-informed decision, you are going out of business,” he says. “Almost every business of innovation from Uber to Airbnb have found ways to capture a digital data asset, run it through an algorithm, some version of machine learning to actually inform a next decision quicker than a human could. That’s the point of automation.”

For LendStreet, Nemorin said, interpretation of data has been vital in not only making the right lending decision but also gaining insight into consumer preferences and concerns. For instance, the impact of Hurricane Matthew on Florida customers distinguished their particular financial needs from those of other LendStreet customers across the nation. “Now we have an update to know consumers who are in zones where there might be natural disasters,” he says. “We can automatically send them a text. We can automatically call them and say, ‘Hey, we know Matthew is coming. Do you need to extend or skip a month of payment?’

Teclemariam zeroed in on “key engagement indicators.” Gaining “petabytes of information” on the first-person shooter game Battlefield, in which roughly 8.1 billion minutes have been played, she can identify revenue-shifting information such as points of  user disengagement for the billion-dollar franchise.

Prudential’s Oladapo says legions of entrepreneurs can benefit from today’s data-driven environment. “As entrepreneurs, if you are in a sector where you are being the open table for workshops, you are actually capturing demographic [and] behavioral information that companies like Prudential need to buy,” he says. “Smaller players that we weren’t technically working with now become the major part of who we have to bring into our ecosystem so we can make business decisions and by the way, that drives a much better customer experience. You are actually becoming the power holder.”

TEST BEFORE YOU LAUNCH

If you are introducing a consumer product and seek to determine its resonance with customers, Teclemariam says, engage in A/B testing, also known as split testing. For example, she has developed experimental testing for certain video game characters. “[I may want] to see if characters that are African American play better than characters who are Asian,” she says, gauging impressions from two consumer groups using data robots and other such tools. “I would A/B test to see in which demographics those characters are more successful. It’s a great way to test your products. You should be doing A/B testing with every single release you have. If not, you are essentially going in blind with your products.”

ENHANCE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE THROUGH AI AND BOTS

 These days, Ray maintains, e-commerce is being conducted using artificial intelligence embedded social media channels. He asked panelists how entrepreneurs can capitalize on such developments.

McDonald says social media, chatbots, and other digital tools help create a personal experience between the customer and the brand. “With whatever product or service you make available to them and you need to keep up the high, intimate relationship without ever breaching their trust,” he says. “All of these opportunities to touch that consumer can be enhanced if you use the tools well. Social media and chatbots are some of those tools. They are not in and of themselves a strategy.”

Nemorin agreed. “A chatbot is a powerful tool to start that conversation, to keep that dialogue going and for the consumer not to feel like you are encroaching on [his or her] privacy,” he explains. “Think about the sort of messages [and] moments that you want to touch that customer. You want to have that engagement and you want to have that discussion.”

Teclemariam likens this form of customer outreach to tech-driven behavioral science. “Impulsive buying is still alive as ever. What the social platform provides for us is an opportunity to capture a time when a user is ready to impulse buy. That impulse buy nature in human characteristic and behavioral cognitive reasoning is still at large. [In similar fashion,] there’s a psychosis in gaming that makes me want to play. It’s not an accident that people play video games for hours at a time [and] get hooked on it like crack.”

[WATCH] Black Tech Founders Demo Products and Services at TechConneXt Innovation Lab

TechConneXt

A highlight feature of this year’s Black Enterprise TechConneXt Tech Summit, held last weekend in Burlingame, C.A., was the Innovation Lab. Several companies, including FedEx and black-owned tech startups, demonstrated a wide range of products and services. Here are a few of those founders in action:

Brock Christoval, founder and CEO of Flyspan, showed his company’s solution for enterprise drone fleet management. His intelligent drone management software allows businesses that operate multiple drones (for delivery, for example) to have granular, real time control over their drone fleet.

Christoval, an engineer with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Science Engineering from Tuskegee University, launched the company in 2013 along with another engineer, Vinny Capobianco.



The CEO of Amp.it, Derrick N. Ashong, was on hand in the Innovation Lab to demonstrate the power of his company’s software solution for building an engaged community around content.

Amp.it is a mobile optimized web platform. It has an embeddable video player that lets users log in directly from the player via Facebook. Users receive points when they consume or share content. As they do so, they rise through levels—from “Fan” to “Tastemaker”—receiving recognition and rewards from content producers, brands, and other creators competing for their attention.

The company’s first client was The World Cup of Hip Hop: Take Back the Mic—a two-time Emmy finalist in Original Interactive Programming.





Imo Udom, the founder of WePow, showed the future of the work interview and hiring process. WePow is a platform that lets companies create pre-recorded or live interviews with perspective hires. Businesses using WePow include Adidas, Lenovo, and Box. With WePow, Udom says that businesses “regain time, reduce costs, and recruit precisely.”

WePow is located in the same town as Apple, Cupertino and embodies Silicon Valley innovation, with its array of services, including company branded interviews and mobile apps.



 

 

 

 

Black Robotics Engineers on Whether Robots Will Kill Us All

Robots

On a lively panel at Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit, two black robotics engineers discussed artificial intelligence and robotics. Both weighed in on whether robots are harmful to human beings, and especially to the livelihood of people of color.

Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu (Image: File)

The panel, hosted by CEO and founder of facial recognition tech company Kairos, Brian Brackeen, included Terrence Southern, a tech founder and robotics engineer for GE. Also participating was Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, an award-winning and esteemed roboticist at NASA.

A portion of the panel focused on the anxious perceptions people harbor about robots and their threat of replacing human labor as well as their potential danger.

Many Jobs Will Become Obsolete

Southern was adamant that these machines would replace some jobs. “There is already a robot chef,” he told the audience. Indeed, German company Moley Robotics created a robot chef that can create a meal from scratch by mimicking the movements of a human chef.

He also mentioned that many fast-food enterprises are looking at robots as a way of automating business operations and cutting costs.

Trebi-Ollennu quelled some fears about job loss after an audience member asked about robot labor’s impact on blacks and other minorities, who are already at a disadvantage in the job market.

Robots mean that there will be more “high-skill” jobs available, said Trebi-Ollennu. He mentioned that it is important that classrooms provide adequate skills young people will need to work in a high-tech world.

Some of the new jobs that will be in demand according to both panelists will include robot programmers, technicians, builders, and people that can fix and maintain automated vehicles.

How Deadly Are Robots?

One woman in the audience asked the question that was surely in the back of many minds: With artificial intelligence and robotics, can intelligent machines hurt or even kill humans?

Southern pointed out that many industrial robots are huge machines with the ability to crush or maim any humans working next to them. He said that “collaborative robots” are a big area of research because they allow robots and humans to work safely side-by-side.

Trebi-Ollennu insisted that any notion of robots eventually dominating or killing humans was the stuff of science fiction. “We use them as tools to help humans,” he assured.

 

 

10 Riveting Moments from TechConneXt, Part 2

TechConneXt

Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit 2016 is over. Although the event was a success in total, there were a few moments that really captured how unique, fun, and imperative TechConneXt is in bringing together those interested in furthering diversity in STEM.

Some moments were poignant and stirring, others, funny and light-hearted. Here are more of my favorites. See my first 10 highlights here.

Just “Everette” and “Tristan”

Left-to-right: Everette Taylor, Tristan Walker (Image: File) Left-to-right: Everette Taylor, Tristan Walker (Image: File)

 

There was standing room only in an incredible one-on-one session between millennial tech powerhouses, Everette Taylor, CMO of Skurt and marketing guru, and Tristan Walker, founder, and CEO of Walker & Co. Brands. Both are so well known in Silicon Valley that if you simply mention “Everette” or “Tristan” people know to whom you refer. The audience barely made a sound, captivated, as Everette interviewed Tristan about his life and lessons learned as an entrepreneur.

 

10 Riveting Moments from TechConneXt, Part 2

TechConneXt

Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit 2016 is over. Although the event was a success in total, there were a few moments that really captured how unique, fun, and imperative TechConneXt is in bringing together those interested in furthering diversity in STEM.

Some moments were poignant and stirring, others, funny and light-hearted. Here are more of my favorites. See my first 10 highlights here.

Just “Everette” and “Tristan”

Left-to-right: Everette Taylor, Tristan Walker (Image: File) Left-to-right: Everette Taylor, Tristan Walker (Image: File)

 

There was standing room only in an incredible one-on-one session between millennial tech powerhouses, Everette Taylor, CMO of Skurt and marketing guru, and Tristan Walker, founder, and CEO of Walker & Co. Brands. Both are so well known in Silicon Valley that if you simply mention “Everette” or “Tristan” people know to whom you refer. The audience barely made a sound, captivated, as Everette interviewed Tristan about his life and lessons learned as an entrepreneur.

 

TechConneXt Recap: Seibel’s 7 Rules Every Tech Startup Must Follow to Succeed

seibel

Entrepreneurs who attended our Silicon Valley-based TechConneXt Summit were treated to a master class from Michael Seibel, a partner at Y Combinator, the seed accelerator that’s propelled scores of startups to stratospheric heights. This world-class innovator offered lessons on tech entrepreneurship the way the late Thelonious Monk played jazz—straight no chaser.

There are a number of reasons why company founders covet Seibel’s advice. For one, he’s applied his technical chops and business prowess to co-found and operate Socialcam, acquired for $60 million in 2012, and Justin.tv/Twitch, purchased for $970 million in 2014. Today, he’s affiliated with YC, which has funded 100 to 120 companies in a range of sectors—from software to aerospace—every six months. Moreover, African American entrepreneurs can fully appreciate Seibel’s approach: “I want every minority founder that goes to YC, to be in the top 20% of the batch. I want every minority founder  to have such a good team, so much growth, such a big market that investors look like idiots if they let race get in the way of making an investment.” At YC, he says roughly 15% of its portfolio companies have either a black or Latino founder—unheard-of within the Silicon Valley venture community.

In his 20-minute talk, he laid out the real deal of scratching, surviving and making it in the Valley: “This place is not about realizing your dreams. This place is about making money.” And although blunt in his delivery, Seibel proved to be refreshing, engaging, and motivational in his candor.

In the following edited excerpts, we reveal seven powerful nuggets he shared at TechConneXt:

Take the entrepreneurial journey:

I tend to tell people they need to have a year’s worth of cash. When you’re younger, this is a lot easier, this is like a year’s worth of cash to live with two, three, four roommates and eat ramen. You need to be willing to quit your job. One of the things we say all the time is that “If you’re not in 100%, how do you expect us to be?” These prerequisites are really, really, really hard. It’s the pattern that people are looking for. What I would tell you is take all the genius you’re applying to the product and start thinking about how you can get yourself set up in this kind of life.

Discard the myth you’ll gain financing on the strength of your idea:

Ideas change; ideas are a commodity, and the lesson that’s being taught out there in the world is just simply wrong. It’s not you come up with a genius idea and you get the money and then you build something. That’s just a lie. Whom you’re working with is primary. When you think about what you want to work on, I tend to tell people to brainstorm the problems with people who you might want to be your co-founders because when you all get excited, bam, the same people you’re brainstorming with can be the people you can start a company with.

 Be passionate about problem solving:

Ideas are solutions. The first solution that can be released won’t be good, and that’s OK. Investors are completely happy with that. If you’re not passionate about the problem that you’re solving, you’re not going to be coming up with the second, third, fourth, fifth idea. You have so many more opportunities to help your customer if they have a problem every day than if they have a problem every other day.

Know the size of your market:

One question every investor wants to know is how big is your market. There’s a very simple answer to why. They don’t make money unless you build a billion-dollar company and it’s hard to build a billion-dollar company in a small market. There’s really two ways of doing this. It’s really easy if you’re building a company in a space that already exists. Let’s say you’re building an online small business bank. All you have to do is look up online how big small business banking is and, bam, you know your market size. If you’re looking up something that never existed before all you have to do is figure out how many potential customers there are, how much you’re going to charge per year and, bam, there’s your market size. This isn’t rocket science but it’s one of those sneaky things that can disqualify you without you really knowing.

Achieve MVP status:

Minimal Viable Product. Once you have that team and once you have that product that has a problem you will solve, this is what you get to work on. Let’s be clear, you don’t start with this. You don’t say, “Let me hire someone to build an MVP and prove that there’s something good here, and then hire my team.” There are seven different reasons why that’s a bad idea but the most important one is most investors will not invest. You need their money. Most of them will look at outsource development team and say, “No thank you.” When you think about your minimal viable product, this is the first opportunity you have to get something in customer’s hands and it’s very scary. A lot of people delay this because they think, “If I release something that sucks, I’ll never be able to get my business off the ground.” In fact, some business gurus talk about this. It’s complete bulls**t. Very few of you remember the day that Google launched. Very few of you remember the day that Amazon launched or the day that Facebook launched. Those guys are doing pretty well. Just get anything in your customer’s hands. If you’re solving a video problem that the customers have often, they will use whatever piece of crap you release because it’s better than nothing. Then from that point forward you’ll learn what they like and what they don’t, and you’ll make it better.

Learn the value of launching and leverage:

What we tell startups: “You’re nothing until you launch.” I don’t want to hear about your idea. I don’t want to hear about your great strategy. I don’t want to hear about your delusions of grandeur. I want to hear you launched. Then we can have a conversation. Nowadays, launching is significantly less expensive. One thing I always try to tell founders is that you want to own leverage. You don’t want to give the investor the leverage. If you tell me—this good investor—that you can’t launch until you have my money, now I have all the leverage. I can take my time. I can go on vacation. If you tell me we’ve already launched, well now I’ve got to pay attention because the next time you talk to me, you might be growing and the price might go up. By launching, you put fear into me and fear is a great way to get someone to take you seriously. Way better than love.

Grow or die:

The second that you launch, every week that you’re not growing, you’re dying. Don’t think about this as some kind of complicated setup. We have to do a lot of prep work and a lot of extra stuff to prepare yourself to grow. A startup is constantly in the state of failure. You say, “Why doesn’t it grow every week?” You’ll never get ahead of your technical debt. You’ll never get ahead of your operational problems. You’ll never get ahead of your personnel problems. The bigger you are, the more problems you will have, guaranteed. So you might as well grow. Also, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that growth was the No. 1 thing to help start your culture. Everyone wants to be on the winning team, and a winning team grows every week.

10 Riveting Moments from TechConneXt, Part 1

TechConneXt

Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Tech Summit 2016 is over. Although the event was a success in total, there were a few moments that really captured how unique, fun, and imperative TechConneXt is in bringing together those interested in furthering diversity in STEM.

Some moments were poignant and stirring, others, funny and lighthearted. Here were a few of my favorites:

Sponsor Steals the Show:

Cynthia Marshall (Image: File) Cynthia Marshall (Image: File)

 

AT&T’s Cynthia Marshall, the telecom giant’s senior vice president of Human Resources and chief diversity officer, brought the house down with a hilarious recount of her first AT&T phone (a garish pink RAZR), and her attempt to get AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to create a Bitmoji of himself. Marshall grew serious, though, when talking about the need for diversity in tech and AT&T’s efforts in this cause.

That’s a Wrap on the 2016 Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit

TechConneXt

It’s officially a wrap on the 2016 Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit and to call it a success would be a complete understatement.

Who’s who of the tech industry gathered at the San Francisco Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Burlingame, California where attendees embarked on a journey through all things innovation, opportunity, and diversity in technology.

Though the Summit was based in Silicon Valley, influencers from all over the nation came together to bring their expertise, ideas, insight and advice to over 500 eager attendees.

In addition to those who attended the conference to learn, connect, and be inspired, 4 students from 10 top HBCUs also attended to participate in a 4 day BE Smart Hackathon, sponsored by Toyota. Throughout the Summit, these students were charged with the opportunity to hack away while competing to create an infotainment app to be judged by industry insiders. This year, the students from North Carolina A&T University took home the highest honors having created an app that helps one find all things black anywhere they are in the nation.  

The TechConneXt Summit’s overall success is much credited to the event’s gracious sponsors and partners including AT&T, Intel, Toyota, Prudential, American Airlines, Microsoft, Symantec, Dell Technologies,  Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lockheed Martin, FedEx Express, Hennessy, Miller-Coors, IBM, Kapor Center, LinkedIn, Uber, Fitbit and Airbnb, who all fully support and uplift the call for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Be on the lookout for videos and photos from the event and be sure to check out #TECHCNXT on social media outlets to get a glimpse of what you missed.

Already looking forward to seeing you in Silicon Valley next year!

That’s a Wrap on the 2016 Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit

TechConneXt

It’s officially a wrap on the 2016 Black Enterprise TechConneXt Summit and to call it a success would be a complete understatement.

Who’s who of the tech industry gathered at the San Francisco Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Burlingame, California where attendees embarked on a journey through all things innovation, opportunity, and diversity in technology.

Though the Summit was based in Silicon Valley, influencers from all over the nation came together to bring their expertise, ideas, insight and advice to over 500 eager attendees.

In addition to those who attended the conference to learn, connect, and be inspired, 4 students from 10 top HBCUs also attended to participate in a 4 day BE Smart Hackathon, sponsored by Toyota. Throughout the Summit, these students were charged with the opportunity to hack away while competing to create an infotainment app to be judged by industry insiders. This year, the students from North Carolina A&T University took home the highest honors having created an app that helps one find all things black anywhere they are in the nation.  

The TechConneXt Summit’s overall success is much credited to the event’s gracious sponsors and partners including AT&T, Intel, Toyota, Prudential, American Airlines, Microsoft, Symantec, Dell Technologies,  Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lockheed Martin, FedEx Express, Hennessy, Miller-Coors, IBM, Kapor Center, LinkedIn, Uber, Fitbit and Airbnb, who all fully support and uplift the call for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry.

Be on the lookout for videos and photos from the event and be sure to check out #TECHCNXT on social media outlets to get a glimpse of what you missed.

Already looking forward to seeing you in Silicon Valley next year!