Detroit, we’re ‘So Ambitous:’ Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition, Leads Black Tech Saturday Event

Detroit’s reputation as a city of relentless hustle and profound resilience is well-earned.

Historically known as the heart of America’s automotive industry, Detroit has undergone significant transformations across various economic and social upheavals. Yet, the spirit of ambition has not only persisted but thrived, permeating all facets of life and industry in the city, particularly now, in the realm of technology and entrepreneurship.

Detroit’s ambitious spirit is deeply rooted in its history. Originally a major industrial hub, Detroit became synonymous with American innovation through the automotive industry. This legacy of innovation set a precedent for a culture of ambition that pushed boundaries and redefined possible outcomes. However, the city also faced substantial economic challenges, particularly during the late 20th century when shifts in the global economy and manufacturing landscape led to significant job losses and financial hardship.

Despite these challenges, Detroiters maintained a reputation for hustling harder than perhaps any other city. This reputation stems from a collective resilience and a relentless pursuit of new opportunities, even in the face of adversity. The city’s history is filled with stories of individuals and communities that refused to give up, instead reinventing themselves and their city.

Detroit has seen a resurgence, particularly in the tech and entrepreneurial sectors. This resurgence is not merely a return to former glory but an evolution into new areas of opportunity. Tech startups, green energy initiatives, and innovative urban agriculture ventures are examples of how Detroit is diversifying its economic base and leveraging its culture of ambition.

Recognition from organizations like Black Ambition plays a critical role in this transformation. By focusing on minority entrepreneurs who have historically been left out of mainstream economic advancement, initiatives like these are not just funding tech businesses—they are fueling a broader movement towards inclusivity and economic equity. This aligns with the city’s ethos of hard work and innovation, ensuring that the next generation of entrepreneurs has the resources to bring bold ideas to life. What better place to showcase ambition than – Detroit.

Detroit is gearing up to host conversation and opportunity surrounding the influential Black Ambition initiative, spearheaded by Pharrell Williams and Felecia Hatcher, on Saturday, April 13, 2024, from 1pm-3pm at NewLab, in an event organized by Black Tech Saturdays. This event is part of Black Tech Saturdays’ mission to link Black Detroit tech entrepreneurs with an expanded array of resources and opportunities. Pharrell Williams, a veteran with over twenty years of impact in the music industry, and Felecia Hatcher, the original founder and visionary behind Black Tech Weekend, lend significant influence on this initiative. This engagement with Detroit reflects the city’s ongoing pursuit of higher ambitions and resilience, often portrayed in stories of renewal and consistent prominence, rather than just a mere comeback story.

“I think when you think about the word ambition, at its core, it is, you know, it’s courage,” said Felecia Hatcher CEO, Black Ambition. “It’s doing something for the first time, doing something new, standing out, showing up, showing out. It’s all of those things. When we think culturally and generationally about what it has meant to be ambitious, like, we always have to look at the sacrifices that our ancestors gave, ultimate sacrifice. Often the ultimate sacrifice for us to be able to be here and do the things we do. When Pharrell founded the organization four years ago, it was that. The ambition to dream.”

Detroit’s own, Co-Founders Justin Turk and André Davis, who serve as CEO and CFO respectively, helm Livegistics, a real-time software platform revolutionizing the traditionally paper-reliant construction industry by ushering it into the digital age of the 21st century. The Livegistics platform significantly benefits companies involved in construction and demolition, trucking/hauling, landfill, recycling, and quarry operations by saving time and money while reducing risks of fraud and litigation due to incomplete, lost, or damaged paperwork. Additionally, Livegistics customers experience reductions in vehicle emissions and fuel costs, thanks to decreased idling and fewer repeat trips, enhancing safety and productivity for people, vehicles, and facilities.

Photo: Co-Founders André Davis CFO, and Justin Turk CEO Livegistics

Turk brings a deep lineage of construction expertise as a third-generation professional, holding a master’s in civil engineering from Lawrence Technical University and a bachelor’s in computer science with a specialization in Business Systems Operations from Bowling Green State University. Both Turk and Davis were athletes, playing Division I football at BGSU. Their collaborative efforts led them to win Pharrell Williams’ $1 million Black Ambition grand prize in 2021.

“I think anybody who gets involved in tech is a part of all of our businesses,” Turk said. “You should be first looking out for solutions to solve a problem. The way people should look at tech is a way to improve efficiency.”

Turk and Davis win of the Black Ambition Grand Prize highlights the potential of local entrepreneurs who can leverage such platforms to gain significant recognition and resources, yet another solidified example of how Detroit is an ecosystem for all things tech and innovation. “In this industry it’s all about the network,” shared Turk. “The allies, the different people in that ecosystem who not only support it, but we support them as well. We’re partners. And then the education that’s being transferred. And one thing, we all intend to share the goals and things we learned. I always bring it back. I want to share with somebody else who can do it better than I did.”

Photo: (starting second from left) Pharrell Williams, Justin Turk, Felecia Hatcher

The broader vision of Black Ambition is especially powerful in its commitment to addressing systemic inequities in access to capital and resources. By focusing on Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs—groups traditionally underrepresented in venture capital and business investment—Black Ambition is not only promoting diversity but also investing in what they see as the foundational companies of tomorrow. “I think that the biggest contribution to detroit from our organization was our first-year prize winner,” said Hatcher. “Ever since I met them, before we even invested in it, I just knew that there was something different about them and Detroit.” This initiative’s approach to mentorship and significant funding opportunities (up to $1,000,000) could catalyze substantial growth and innovation within underrepresented communities, thereby helping to close the opportunity and wealth gaps that persist in the entrepreneurial landscape.

“The capital and the resources do not align with the vision and the resourcefulness in our communities,” Hatcher shared. “And that’s why the work is so important. Funding and investing in 101 entrepreneurs in the past three years is no small feat. And it is victories like that, why I really dedicated the last ten years of my life to it.”

Overall, the establishment of Black Ambition in Detroit is not just a symbolic gesture but a strategic move to empower a community that has shown resilience and innovation despite numerous challenges. This is a testament to the belief that opportunity should be as limitless as ambition, particularly for those who have historically been sidelined in the economic narrative.

“When I think about Black Ambition, I think about creating an ecosystem infrastructure that is bigger than just dollars,” shared Turk. “We’re in a world uncharted territory for a lot of people in our community and it helps you to make sure that you’re well informed, you’re sharing information with the next person. I think Black Ambition embodies not only the dollars they invest in companies, but in their actions.”

Ultimately, the spirit of ambition in Detroit transcends economic and social categories; it has become a part of the city’s cultural identity. Detroiters are known for their grit and determination, qualities that are celebrated and revered both within and beyond the city’s borders.

The ambition that defines Detroit is a testament to the city’s history and a beacon for its future. As Detroit continues to evolve, its culture of hustle and resilience remains a central narrative, inspiring not only the people within the city but also those looking to it as a model of rebirth and innovation.

“Detroit has always been on the map,” said Hatcher. “There is a resiliency, there’s a passion in Detroit that oozes out of anyone that you ever meet that’s from there. I don’t think there’s a way in which you can tell the American story without talking about Detroit. And if anyone tries to do that, they’d be lying.”

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