Debates, football, and marching bands may be the most popular attractions for HBCU students and alumni. But pitching and possibly winning a startup competition brings an added dimension to the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic. Started by Ghost Note Agency, a digital marketing firm, in August 2014, Technoir 2.0 unites and celebrates black entrepreneurs.
A 2014 panel discussion devoted to promoting tech initiatives in diverse communities and his own observation of the lack of diversity in D.C.’s startup communities prompted Steven Jumper, one of Technoir’s co-founders, to create the competition. “We celebrate, showcase, and fund blacks in tech to put it simply,” says Jumper, partner and president of Ghost Note Agency. “That’s why we created Technoir 2.0.”
After a year of its existence, Technoir 2.0 partnered with AT&T Nation’s Football Classic to improve its reach of an African-American audience and entrepreneurs. Jumper believes HBCUs were a great fit for Technoir 2.0 because of their quality work and their complementary missions of wanting to celebrate black culture, be it through athletics and innovation.
Last year’s winner of Technoir 2.0 was Maci Peterson, who pitched the idea of an application called On Second Thought, which was born out of the universal experience of sending the wrong text message to the wrong person. After searching for an app that could take back an erroneous message and finding none, Peterson decided to create one that would. Thanks to Technoir 2.0, Peterson received an additional $7,500 for getting the research and development of the iOS version of the app. She was also introduced to many investors. “I was able to form a great relationship with National Venture Capital Association, and we [Peterson and her team] have received marketing services from Ghost Note Agency,” Peterson says. “It was one of those things where the cash was good, but it was really all about the other doors that were opened.”
Ever since she participated in Technoir 2.0, Peterson has seen her ideas become a reality. On Second Thought can be downloaded on Google Play for Android phones only. The app’s users doubled and she participated in the Google Demo Day in December. Inc. Magazine included the company in their Four Awesome Women-Led Startups list, and AT&T named the app “The Texting Savior.” Some cell phone carriers have even approached them about licensing the app, which is what the company is currently working on.
As for advice to anyone interested in pitching at Technoir 2.0 this year, Peterson says to just do it. “Even when things aren’t easy, it doesn’t mean that it’s not right,” she says. “Some things are just challenging, and it makes the victory and reward so much sweeter.”