Black tech entrepreneurs get $ 1 million from Pharrell Williams | New
Entrepreneur Justin Turk knew his startup was special, but a million dollar award from Grammy-winning singer and producer Pharrell Williams came as a shock.
Williams announced the winners of its Black Ambition Award competition on Tuesday – and Turk and his business partner, Andre Davis, are in the national spotlight.
Williams’ nonprofit was founded in December to help black and Latino business owners close the wealth gap through entrepreneurship.
Turk and Davis, co-founders of Livegistics, won the top prize of $ 1 million. The Detroit-based contractors run a cloud-based materials management software company that eliminates paperwork in heavy civil construction and demolition. The company also provides data and metrics that construction experts can use for efficiency.
Livegistics also helps the environment by eliminating tons of paper each year and helps local communities accelerate the elimination of the scourge in cities and urban neighborhoods.
“We knew we had something special, but you don’t think you’re going to walk away with $ 1 million. But when that happens, you’re like, ‘Wow, we just won $ 1 million,'” said Turk.
But the 40-year-old said he never knew joy and pain can coexist simultaneously.
Success can be bittersweet
The day he learned his tech startup had won the grand prize, his stepfather passed away before he could share the news.
“All in 24 hours were the greatest and worst ever linked moments. We were there with our greatest business success to date as well as the worst day of our lives in 24 hours,” Turk said. “It’s weird. Sometimes I feel guilty for being so happy about what’s going on, but I know he would have been excited.”
Turk, who co-founded the company three years ago with Davis, said hours after learning he had won he saw a team of medical professionals attempt to revive his wife’s father, he admired. He was a veteran who loved architecture. And they shared the same passion for construction.
Instead of throwing a party for friends and family, Turk said he was burying his stepfather on Saturday in a private ceremony.
“He would have been in love with what was going on. If he could have seen it all, it would have blown him away,” Turk said. “He was walking around the city of Detroit and looking at the buildings for himself. It would have just been his decade.”
More like brothers
Turk and Davis’ friendship goes back decades. The two met in elementary school when they were 5, Davis said. Then they were roommates at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Davis, the chief financial officer, said it had never been a goal to become business partners, but it made sense.
“He’s been in just about every special moment in my life,” Davis said. “Not only are we solving the number one reason construction companies go bankrupt (cash flow), but we are doing it in a way that creates less work and makes life easier for our clients. “
Davis, 41, said he worked at Financial One as an outsourced CFO to clients in the Detroit metro area. He started and operated his own accounting and financial services firm for 10 years, managing to keep a foothold in the non-profit sector to give back. He wants to encourage other black and minority entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses to take the leap of faith.
“A thought today, supported by today’s effort, is one more step towards your dream of tomorrow. Justin is brilliant. His journey is the foundation of what I envision as a unicorn in the making.” said Davis. “A third generation, minority business owner who understands all the facets of large construction projects at an expert level … who also has a computer science degree to speak the language of tech geeks You can’t find a Justin Turk who walks around every day. “
Together, the hybrid team defeated nearly 1,700 candidates to win the grand prize. Williams, who announced the initiative in December, praised the team for Twitter Tuesday, saying, “We are so inspired by you and can’t wait to see how you are changing the world.”
Turk and Davis said this victory was more important than them. It’s about opening the door to the next person.
“Winning this competition is more important than the cash prize,” Turk said. “When we first entered the tech startup world as two black entrepreneurs, we didn’t know how to navigate that space.”
Turk said they are being taught not only to sail, “but also to dominate in an industry that has just decided to grant access to people of color.”
Victory will open doors. And Turk has another goal.
“We don’t just want an invitation, we want to create the guest list,” he said.
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