Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fear of Becoming a Man

The tale of a young Black male and his struggles with understanding what becoming a man should be. He's also faced with the realization that no one had ever explained to him the difficulties of being a Black male. With no true positive role models to help combat the negative impact of society's degenerate depiction of Black men, he faces this arduous journey all while being raised amidst the urban decay of Philadelphia. He's desperately trying to figure it all out, while being counted out due to his educational challenges and his own personal insecurities. Not only is the fear relevant, the fear is real...The fear of becoming a Man !

Monday, December 12, 2016

Diamond Cut The Pain How To Shine Like A Diamond

Unique, edgy, authentic and relatable, Diamond Cut The Pain How To Shine Like A Diamond is an interactive eye opening self-help guide that will not only give you a lift where you are on the road of life, but send you on an emotional tour and have you laughing at the bumps and curves all the way to your destination!

Filled with helpful tips, real-life quotes, hands-on-exercises, stories and poems that are sure to make you say "I've been there," or "I hope that NEVER happens to me!" Diamond Cut The Pain How To Shine Like A Diamond is a down-to-earth fun way to inspire you to change the way you view life and yourself.

Fasten your seat belts, and get ready for the ride of a lifetime, highlighted by events from some of Miss Tiff's life...and yours!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Average Skill Phenomenal Will: The Marcus Thigpen Story
Success isn't given. It's earned.
Sometimes the trauma of rejection makes success seem impossible; especially in the face of unyielding obstacles. How many times do you have to fall before throwing in the towel makes sense? How many doors have to close before you consider other options? 
NFL star, Marcus Thigpen, takes us through his journey of failures turned success in a riveting tale of how perseverance and iron will can change even the most average of circumstances. 
This is a must read for students and adults of all ages! 

*PRE-ORDER ITEM* Shipments containing this item will Start shipping out  the week of {JAN. 7, 2016}. Other items ordered along with it will ship on the same date.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Bring home both The Little Boy and Little Girl Who Could Special Edition Coloring Books!

**Coloring Books are only available as a set**

The Little Boy Who Could & The Little Girl Who Could series was created by Authors Nehemiah Davis & S.Deen, to inspire & motivate our children readers to be the best that they can be in all areas of life. These books discuss the importance of school as well as the importance of having & following your dreams. We understand that leaders are readers so we created not only fun stories, but stories with messages to encourage our youth to go from good to great. These Inspiring stories will keep our readers engaged from start to finish & they will encourage our youth to read more. These books are also read in MP3 audio format by international Speaker Naeem Hudson & International Entrepreneur Taylor Moxey.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

NFL star Martellus Bennett on his new children’s book and app, Hey A.J.

It’s not everyday that a 6 ft. 7 in. NFL star says he is going to spend his offseason designing and launching a new interactive children’s app.

So to learn more, we sat down with Martellus Bennett, tight end for the New England Patriots and founder of The Imagination Agency, a multimedia production company designed to bring Martellus’ ideas to life.

The first product out of the studio is Hey A.J., a children’s book with an accompanying interactive mobile app. The app lets you read along with different narrators and play a game where you help A.J. make breakfast.

It’s certainly unusual for an NFL star to be creating children’s characters and stories in his spare time. But as Martellus explained, it’s something he’s done his whole life. But now, using proceeds from his football career, Martellus is shifting his focus from creating characters to actually putting them to work inside content like books, apps and animated film.

While Hey A.J. is the only project released so far, Martellus explained he has “hundreds of characters in his head” just waiting to be turned into a story. And it seems that he’ll get his wish, as his startup is planning to release two more apps and books over the next year, as well as upcoming animated TV and film projects showcasing Martellus’ creativity.

Watch the above video to learn more about Martellus’ vision for The Imagination Agency, how he thinks technology like virtual reality will change entertainment and what it’s been like trying to start a new company while playing in the NFL.

Hey A.J. is available online now, and the app is available in both the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.


Monday, October 31, 2016

11 Black-Owned Businesses That You Should Know and Support

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, especially as a minority, given all of the competition. In fact, it takes diligence, perseverance, follow through, hard work, and a lot of it to be successful in any business. The thought of pursuing your dream is nice, but putting action behind that thought is just the preliminary phase, and where the hard work begins. And, the going doesn’t actually get tough until you start building your business with your blood, sweat, and your tears. As a fellow entrepreneur, I know about all of this a little too well, but in the end, it’s worth it, because dreaming isn’t just something that we do at night, dreams are meant to be lived.

Black-owned businesses have progressed rapidly over the years, and according to the most updated figures in 2007, provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 1.9 million companies owned by black entrepreneurs, so imagine how many more there are to date. Supporting these businesses not only helps the entrepreneurs but also puts money back into the black community. BOBs are depending on the support of their community in order to survive and to thrive. With so many competitors in each industry, things can take a turn for the worst quickly if a business is not careful, therefore, we must be there for each other, diligently supporting. There is power in the black dollar, so why not put that power into assisting a community that understands your heritage and history, and values your life in general. While doing all of this, you should expect a quality product or service in return, and it becomes a win-win for both parties involved.

I’ve made it easy by compiling this list. Included are 11 black entrepreneurs that I highly recommend supporting, along with detailed information on each of their businesses. The majority are online businesses and the others that aren’t, be sure to recommend to both friends and family located in the respective areas.

LeShawnda Fitzgerald is director of Ready For Spanish of Nashville, Tennessee. Fitzgerald created Ready For Spanish to meet parent demands for quality language instruction in her city. She has since expanded her program online with a training program for Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers and schools that want to teach Spanish to their students as well as an online program for adult learners who want to speak Spanish quickly and easily. Her business prepares children and adults to live and work in a global society.

Marvette Cofield, Realtor of Berkshire Hathaway Home Service, Select Realty is located in Dumfries, Virginia. As a Realtor, Cofield’s desire is that each and every client has a hassle-free real estate experience, as she partners with and helps them to attain their goal. Through communication, education, and information, she assists in locating the perfect home for her client’s lifestyle. Cofield’s clients are in good hands when working with her!

Latorie Walker, owner & CEO of Aspire Early Learning Academy I & II located in West Columbia and Lexington, South Carolina, offers a boutique-style learning environment where children are taught with individualized developmental plans and a curriculum that adequately prepares each child for kindergarten. AspireELA, strives for excellence while preparing their students for a bright future in a safe, loving, and fun environment that focuses on academics. The teaching team at AspireELA are patient with all of their students and are well experienced in the field of Early Childhood. They are committed to ensuring that every child receives the best opportunity to produce the foundation for a fruitful, educational, and life-long experience.

Brittney S. Carter, CEO of B. Carter Solutions L.L.C. located in the Washington, DC metro area was launched in April 2015. Carter decided that she wanted to start a company that offers “solutions” to a consumer’s problem under one umbrella. As a one-stop shop for public relations, social media management, and professional development needs, she relishes the opportunity to provide consumers with operational convenience.  B. Carter Solutions is committed to elevate imaginative solutions by focusing on the mission behind the vision. They desire to measure the success for their clients through awareness, innovation, and out-of-the-box strategies sticking to their mantra, “Where Vision Meets Strategy.”

Shanta Johnson, the owner of Designed by Shanta L.L.C. is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Johnson offers web design and development services to entrepreneurs and businesses of all sorts. She is passionate about her craft and enjoys making websites to fit her clients’ needs. When choosing to work with Johnson, you are guaranteed not only a website that serves a purpose but a positive experience that exceeds your expectations. She is professional, experienced, and committed to going above and beyond for her clients.

Dyron J. Stephens, DrPH, CPH is president and senior partner, along with Richard Stephens II, MBA, who is the vice president and managing partner of Pierian Spring Innovations, L.L.C., located in Decatur, G.A. Pierian Spring Innovations, L.L.C. is the premier management consultancy and health innovations firm, which is founded in and on the belief that improving the well-being of others is the greatest enterprise any entity could embark upon. As a result of this, every action and initiative taken by the firm reflects this dedication to bettering the health-related quality of life of all individuals. The firm operates globally with a professional network of offices throughout the United States and Nigeria.

Keli N. Burke of East Lansdowne, P.A. is the independent business owner of Total Life Changes, which has been around for the past 16 years. The results-driven company has products that include all natural ingredients, which allows gradual weight loss, detoxification, and improved digestive system, and that is just a few of many benefits. Keli is committed to the health and wellness of her clients, and she goes above and beyond to ensure that her clients receive one-on-one care and attention based on their personal needs and goals.

Shade Adu of Savvy Solutions Consulting, L.L.C., located in Union, N.J., believes that entrepreneurs benefit from leveraging social media and live-streaming. Savvy Solutions aims to create digital branding and online marketing solutions for women entrepreneurs who need support. Savvy Solutions is here to provide strategic solutions for coaches and creatives online. Social media isn’t going anywhere, and small businesses that learn how to strategically leverage these platforms will have a competitive advantage. Entrepreneurs should support Savvy Solutions because our goal is to serve women entrepreneurs who want to turn their idea into a profitable online brand.

Ahesha Catalano and her team at Profitable Retreats in Burbank, C.A., assist individuals, couples, speakers, entrepreneurs, health and fitness professionals, organizations, and corporations plan and execute profitable retreats. They give clients a step-by-step guide to ensure the retreat is a wonderful experience for all, and of course, profitable. Anyone who has been thinking of planning a retreat or traveling with a group of friends or family owes it to themselves to see just how profitable their trip can be.

Chantilly Oliver-Cross is CEO of Elegant Cuisines, located in Fredericksburg, V.A. Elegant Cuisines, L.L.C. is a personal chef and catering company with over fourteen years of phenomenal service, and has been in business for two years. Their services are available for all business, private, and social events. When choosing Elegant Cuisines for a special event, it’s the marriage of southern hospitality with a touch of elegance. Elegant Cuisines has been voted a locally renowned, best personal chef and catering company in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area.

Melodie Narain, CEO and founder of Sole Savers, located in Maryland, launched her business in September 2015. Melodie realized that she could no longer wear heels for more than a few hours. After discussing this for a few months with her mother, Teresa Thomas, who could no longer wear heels due to numerous knee surgeries, she realized that there had to be others who faced these same challenges when it came to fashion and comfort. After months of studying trends, Melodie developed a product that she believed would be a perfect remedy which would be a stylish, affordable, and convenient alternative to their fabulous heels.

Given all of this “black magic,” which black-owned businesses will you commit to supporting today?


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Black Girl Long Hair - BGLH


Black Girl with Long Hair is a natural hair turned beauty and culture website created by and for black women. Started in April 2008 by Leila Noelliste, the community has grown into a global platform for celebrating the unique beauty, language and culture of black women.
Our diverse writing staff includes women of Black American South, Black American East, Black American West, Nigerian, Jamaican and Haitian ancestry, giving us unique insight into the multifacetedness of black woman culture.

Our goal is to provide daily content that is interesting, enlightening, thought-provoking and addictive.

BGLH is one of the highest-traffic websites for black women aged 18 to 34, with 2.6 million monthly visits and 4 million monthly page views. Join our 418,000 member Facebook page, or find out how you can work with us.


Monday, October 3, 2016


The Little Boy Who Could & The Little Girl Who Could series was created by Authors Nehemiah Davis & S.Deen, to inspire & motivate our children readers to be the best that they can be in all areas of life. These books discuss the importance of school as well as the importance of having & following your dreams. We understand that leaders are readers so we created not only fun stories, but stories with messages to encourage our youth to go from good to great. These Inspiring stories will keep our readers engaged from start to finish & they will encourage our youth to read more. These books are also read in MP3 audio format by international Speaker Naeem Hudson & International Entrepreneur Taylor Moxey.


Friday, September 23, 2016

The Librarian Who Saved Timbuktu’s Cultural Treasures From al Qaeda

For custodians of the ancient heritage of the Middle East and North Africa, the recent rise of Islamist extremist groups has posed a dire challenge. Since its seizure of the historic Iraqi city of Mosul in early 2014, Islamic State has pillaged and demolished mosques, shrines, churches and other sacred sites across the region. The group continues to launch “cultural cleansing” operations from Tikrit to Tripoli.

In this grim procession, there have been occasional victories for culture over extremism, like the recapture last month of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, which may now be restored to something of its previous glory. A less familiar case of cultural rescue features an unlikely hero: a 51-year-old book collector and librarian named Abdel Kader Haidara in the fabled city of Timbuktu, in the West African country of Mali.

The story begins in April 2012, when Mr. Haidara returned home from a business trip to learn that the weak Malian army had collapsed and that nearly 1,000 Islamist fighters from one of al Qaeda’s African affiliates, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, had occupied his city. He encountered looters, gunfire and black flags flying from government buildings, and he feared that the city’s dozens of libraries and repositories—home to hundreds of thousands of rare Arabic manuscripts—would be pillaged.

The prizes in Mr. Haidara’s own private collection, housed in his Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library, include a tiny, irregularly shaped Quran from the 12th century, written on parchment made from the dried skin of a fish and glittering with illuminated blue Arabic letters and droplets of gold. His collection also boasts many secular volumes: manuscripts about astronomy, poetry, mathematics, occult sciences and medicine, such as a 254-page volume on surgery and elixirs derived from birds, lizards and plants, written in Timbuktu in 1684. “Many of the manuscripts show that Islam is a religion of tolerance,” he told me.

Historic Timbuktu Texts Saved From Burning (Feb. 1, 2013)
Mr. Haidara knew that many of the works in the city’s repositories were ancient examples of the reasoned discourse and intellectual inquiry that the jihadists, with their intolerance and rigid views of Islam, wanted to destroy. The manuscripts, he thought, would inevitably become a target.

A few days after the jihadist occupation began, Mr. Haidara, who worked full time as a book restorer, archivist and fundraiser, met with his colleagues at the office of the Timbuktu library association, which he had formed 15 years earlier. “I think we need to take out the manuscripts from the big buildings and disperse them around the city to family houses,” he told them, as he recalled the conversation for me two years later. “We don’t want them finding the collections of manuscripts and stealing them or destroying them.”

Months earlier, the Ford Foundation office in Lagos, Nigeria, had given Mr. Haidara a $12,000 grant to study English at Oxford in the fall and winter of 2012. The money had been wired to a savings account. He emailed the foundation and asked for authorization to reallocate the funds to protect the manuscripts from the hands of Timbuktu’s occupiers. The money was released in three days. Mr. Haidara recruited his nephew, and they reached out to archivists, secretaries, Timbuktu tour guides and a half-dozen of Mr. Haidara’s relatives.

The result was a heist worthy of “Ocean’s Eleven.” They bought metal and wooden trunks at a rate of between 50 and 80 a day, made more containers out of oil barrels and located safe houses around the city and beyond. They organized a small army of packers who worked silently in the dark and arranged for the trunks to be carried by donkey to their hiding places.

Over the course of eight months, the operation came to involve hundreds of packers, drivers and couriers. They smuggled the manuscripts out of Timbuktu by road and by river, past jihadist checkpoints and, in government territory, suspicious Malian troops. By the time French troops invaded the north in January 2013, the radicals had managed to destroy only 4,000 of Timbuktu’s nearly 400,000 ancient manuscripts. “If we hadn’t acted,” Mr. Haidara told me later, “I’m almost 100% certain that many, many others would have been burned.”

Mr. Haidara was especially proud of rescuing one manuscript: a crumbling volume about conflict resolution between the kingdoms of Borno and Sokoto in what is now Nigeria, the work of a Sufi holy warrior and intellectual who had briefly ruled Timbuktu in the mid-19th century. This man, Mr. Haidara argued, was a jihadist in the original and best sense of the word: one who struggles against evil ideas, desires and anger in himself and subjugates them to reason and obedience to God’s commands. It was, he thought, a fitting rebuke to all that the militants stood for.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Jo Ann Jenkins - AARP CEO

Jo Ann Jenkins is a nationally recognized leader and dynamic change agent with a 25-year track record of growth and innovation at some of the nation’s largest public and nonprofit organizations. As CEO of AARP, she is at the helm of the world’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization, where she leads a nationwide network of staff, volunteers and partners helping the more than 100 million Americans 50 and older achieve health security, financial resilience and personal fulfillment. Her signature rallying cry to Disrupt Aging! is designed to revolutionize society’s views on aging by driving a new social consciousness and sparking innovative solutions for all generations.

Jenkins, a proven innovator, joined AARP in 2010 as president of AARP Foundation, AARP’s affiliated charity. She led that organization’s far-reaching development and social impact initiatives, including Drive to End Hunger, a national effort by AARP and AARP Foundation to help the millions of older Americans who struggle with hunger every day. Under her leadership, the foundation’s overall donor base increased by 90 percent over two years. Prior to joining AARP Foundation, she served on the board of directors of AARP Services Inc., beginning in 2004 and becoming its chair in 2008.

She came to AARP Foundation from the Library of Congress, where she served as chief operating officer, responsible for managing the library’s day-to-day operations, its 4,000-person staff and its budget in excess of $1 billion. During her 15-year tenure, she developed and directed the library’s most high-profile projects, including the renowned National Book Festival and the Library of Congress Experience.  

Her federal career began at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and she was rapidly promoted to progressively more responsible leadership positions in the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Advocacy and Enterprise. Jenkins was a delegate and founding fellow to the U.S.-Japan Leadership Program, a 1999 graduate of Leadership America and a Malcolm Baldrige fellow (2013). She serves as a member of the National Advisory Board of Caring for Military Families. She received the Black Women’s Agenda Economic Development Award in 2013 for spearheading investments undergirding innovative social impact programs and is the recipient of the 2014 Peace Corps Director’s Award. Jo Ann is one of the NonProfit Times’ Power and Influence Top 50 for 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as winner of SmartCEO’s 2015 BRAVA award honoring top female chief executives. Washington Life Magazine named her one of its Power 100 in 2015.

A native of Mobile, Ala., she earned her B.S. from Spring Hill College. She is a 1998 graduate of the Stanford Executive Program, offered by the university’s Graduate School of Business, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters by Washington College in May 2014.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Brave: S. Cherry

Athena Davenport is a young woman going nowhere fast. On the outside, everything seemed to be perfect, but on the inside, there was an outcry for more than her average job, normal safe home and she was still in search of real love. She could feel a storm brewing and it was becoming impossible to ignore. Come step into her accidental journey of self-discovery and wild trial and error romances. Have you ever wondered what you were born to do? Well, so did she and through wobbly knees and shaking hands she went in search of the life she wanted but discovered exactly what she needed. Will she choose what’s comfortable or will she go get the life she secretly covets in her dreams? You will laugh, you will cry, but most of all you will come to understand we are all a part of the greatest love story that has ever been told and we are all Brave!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Girl Overcomes A Hard Childhood To Become A Ballerina

Michaela DePrince ended up in an orphanage in Sierra Leone after her parents died. In this orphanage you were ranked from 1 - 27 depending on how much they liked you with 1 being the best and 27 being the worst. Because of her skin condition she was ranked 27 and constantly called a devil child. One day she saw a picture of a ballerina without knowing what it was. It was that day that she decided that is what she would strive to be. Check out the video to hear her whole story.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Trust Your Journey: Raelia Lewis


Trust Your Journey is an ode to dreamers. This book is an inspirational story that encourages readers to believe. It includes visionary exercises, and real life experiences that strengthen the mind, change perspectives, and promote positive thinking. All things are possible if you believe that they are!


Friday, July 22, 2016

Why Banking Black Is Good For The Black Community

By Robert Stitt

In 1865, the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company was created by Congress to help Black men and women after the end of the Civil War. Despite the efforts of such notable benefactors as Fredrick Douglas, the bank would close in 1874, taking with it much of the $57 million that over 100,000 African Americans had deposited. While there was mismanagement, and a number of bad investments took place, the bank’s demise was mostly due to bad luck. After all, the first major U.S. depression started when the Panic of 1873 led to financial devastation throughout the country.

While the Freedman’s Bank may have gone under, the FDIC notes that “there were over 130 African-American owned banks between 1888 and 1934.” Today, there are just 22.

OneUnited Bank is the largest Black-owned bank in America. The CEO of One United is Teri Williams. She notes, “Part of what we realized is there were a lot of Black banks with a great mission, but they didn’t have the economies of scale to invest in new technology.” Yet, she told the Atlanta Black Star that it was not just Black banks that had problems keeping up with the technology, increased federal regulation, and compliance. “There has been a decline in banks in general. There also has been a decline in community banks that were the size of a lot of the Black banks that went out of business.”

Not all Black banks went under, however. OneUnited saw the struggle of several smaller Black banks and rescued them. “We acquired four banks and combined them into one,” Williams explained.

The struggle of minority banks goes beyond issues with technology and the government, though. The biggest problem is public perception. Even though many big banks just went through very rough times and had to be bailed out by the federal government, people still trust them more. “If you ask the Black community, ‘Where do you put your dollars?’ most will say they put it in the larger banks,” Williams says, adding, “It is difficult for black banks to attract dollars from their own community.”

According to Williams, the key to bettering the situation is to improve knowledge in the Black community about the role of the bank. She feels that most Blacks do not understand that the primary purpose of a bank is to recycle money. “What that means is people place deposits into the bank, and the role of the bank is to take those funds to the community, to build wealth or for buying a home. That, in turn, results in additional deposits that go into the bank, and the recycling goes on.”

Instead of investing in their own community, however, Blacks put their dollars in banks that invest outside of the Black community. Maggie Anderson once noted during her TED talk, “In the African-American community, our dollars leave the community in 6 hours.” She accented the tragedy of those numbers by explaining, “If black people were to increase spending within our own community from 2 percent to 10 percent, we would create 1 million new jobs.”

Williams says there is no reason not to invest in a Black bank. Speaking of OneUnited, she states, “Our rates are higher, our fees are lower, and we have 25,000 ATMs where you can get your money for free. So, in fact, we have better services than national banks, and we have more services that are targeted to meet the needs of our community than national banks.”


List of African American Banks

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Meet Dr. Ayanna Howard: Roboticist, AI Scientist, and Old School #Blerd

It’s not every day you meet a sister who not only builds robots, is an expert in Artificial Intelligence, and worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, but is also a down-to-earth, humorous, old-school Blerd (Black nerd) who was inspired by The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, and all things Sci-Fi as a little girl.

Today, Dr. Ayanna Howard is a respected roboticist and a Motorola Foundation Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines.

[Related: Diversifying Google: Meet Three Black Google Engineers]

She received her B.S. in Engineering from Brown University, her M.S.E.E. from the University of Southern California, and her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California. Her area of research focuses on humanized intelligence (what we informally call “Artificial Intelligence”). She is renowned for creating robots for studying the impact of global warming on the Antarctic ice shelves.

At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, she led research on various robotics projects and was a senior robotics researcher, eventually earning NASA’s Honor Award for Safe Robotic Navigation Task, among many other distinguished science awards and honors. interviewed Dr. Howard about her early days, about Artificial Intelligence, and her thoughts on diversity and inclusion in STEM. How did you find your way into robotics and AI/humanized intelligence research?
Dr. Howard: Robotics has been something I wanted to do since middle school. I was a Sci-Fi nut. I loved the original Star Trek. The Next Generation was okay, but nothing like Kirk.

I remember watching. I wanted to do something in Sci-Fi. Wonder Woman, The Bionic Woman … I was totally fascinated. I wanted to be The Bionic Woman, which of course, is not a career.

I started working at JPL (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab) after my freshman year in college. That’s when I became involved in programming. I was never classically trained as a computer scientist. I had to learn db4 and Pascal. JPL — they do robotics. So, I paired up with a group focused on AI. When I started grad school I had to figure out if I could use what I was doing at JPL with what I was doing at grad school.

It’s one of those fields where you simply don’t see many, if any, women of color. Do you feel like an anomaly, and if so, how do you deal with that? Or is it something you don’t really think about?
It would affect me — when you go into a room and there is no one in there that remotely looks like you. It does affect you when you are younger; when you get questions from others, “Are you supposed to be here?”

You think, “Maybe there is a reason why I am the only one.” You need people to say, “Yeah, you can do it!”

My mom always called me stubborn. You told me I couldn’t do it is best way for me to try and figure out how. I wanted to do a Ph.D., I was challenged.

Can you talk about robotics without talking about AI? Are the two independent areas of research?
You can talk about AI outside the domain of robotics because intelligence and learning can be applied to computers; one that learns how you type, for example. It’s a learning system, not a robotics system.

At a CES 2016 panel on AI, there was a discussion that AI is moving away from “science project” territory and becoming something with more practical, real-world application? Do you agree?
I do. Although, I don’t think people realize it. For example, if you use your phone and you use Siri and you are always asking for a new Thai restaurant in Atlanta, eventually it learns, “This person is not interested in Chinese or Soul food.” We don’t even think about it — it learns as you use it. If you go to Google and you search on different machines you get different results.

There was also the discussion that the use of the term “artificial” is outdated and not quite accurate … that there needs to be a new way to think about AI. Your thoughts on that?
I never use the term “AI.” I use the term “humanized intelligence.” The whole aspect of intelligence is that learning is done in the context of people. It’s our environment. We are using these systems to enhance our quality of life. We would not be happy with an artificial system that does stuff that might be optimal but not in the way we do things.

What do you see as the difference between business uses of AI versus consumer uses?
I see at least in the startup space, a lot of the companies getting investments are in the data-mining space. Look at Netflix — that’s enterprise learning people’s preferences — [to] deliver ideal content. Machines really help out our own quality of life, on the consumer side. For me, it’s my own personal preference — individuals listen to one song [for example] and then with preferences, the next time [you sign-in] you get better [selections].

It’s almost kind of scary … once you use these learning apps they are pretty good at “getting it” in a short time. Algorithms are getting better, and of course there is more data.

Steven Hawking, Bill Gates, and other tech leaders wrote a letter about the danger of AI after the military announced it was funding research to develop these autonomous, self-aware robot soldiers. Hawking wrote,“humans, limited by slow biological evolution,” couldn’t compete and would be superseded by AI and that AI could be more dangerous than nuclear weapons. What are your thoughts on this?
I am on the other side of the camp. [AI] is no more dangerous than any other kind of tech. If I give you anything, there is a good and a bad; by nature we have good people and bad people. You can’t stop that.

The problem is if you say ‘no,’ the good people cannot work on it. All you have in society are those who are not following the rules — just creating the bad. So then, we are destined to go down the path we don’t want to go down. We can create tech that is good and has social impact.

What will AI be like in 20 years?
I do predict that it will just be “programs” not called “intelligence.” I see learning intelligence algorithms integrated in any tech you can think of; appliances, cars, phones, to our education system. And I also see it integrated into hardware; into robotics, trains — physical things … as well as [continued integration] into smart homes.

Finally, do you see, especially as a professor, progress in the numbers of minorities in STEM studies or careers?
I do, but [there’s] a caveat. It’s better — and although I see an increase in the number of females and minorities, it still doesn’t reflect the demographics, there is still that gap. Is it widening if you include the world’s demographics? Yes, that gap might be widening, but if I look at year-to-year increase, it’s better.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Being F1's first black driver is important


When I first started in Formula 1, I tried to ignore the fact I was the first black guy ever to race in the sport.

But, as I've got older, I've really started to appreciate the implications. It's a pretty cool feeling to be the person to knock down a barrier - just like the Williams sisters did in tennis or Tiger Woods in golf.

I get kids from all different cultures and nationalities coming up to me now, all wanting to be F1 drivers. They feel the sport is open to everyone. That's why it was so great to do the Top Gear festival in Barbados last weekend.

I had so much fun, although being there meant so much more to me than having a good time. My immediate family are from the West Indies - from Trinidad and Grenada - and I have relatives all over the Caribbean.

I am the only representative of that part of the world to drive in F1, so when Top Gear told me about the event I immediately said: "I'd love to do it." It was really cool to go there and it was so busy. Thousands turned up. I heard people flew in from Jamaica and Trinidad just to see me. It was weird. It was almost like it was my event.

In fact, Jeremy Clarkson said to the crowd at one point that "15% of the people are here to see Top Gear and 85% to see Lewis". It was unbelievable, really one of the best weekends I've ever had... the feeling, the energy I got. The fans were so excited - the most excited I have ever seen in my life. I don't think they have ever seen anything like that before, never heard an F1 car anyway, so it was surreal to be the person to bring that to them and represent F1.

 Cricket and football are the biggest sports in the Caribbean, but I've noticed that F1 is increasing in popularity. The event was just a blast. I drove a Mercedes F1 car and 'raced' against rally stunt driver Ken Block. We did 'doughnuts' and everything. I've been wanting to do something like that with Ken for a while and hope we'll be able to do something similar in the future.

A reality check While Barbados and a lot of other places in the Caribbean are beautiful, they're not wealthy. My auntie, for example, lives in Grenada in a shack that is no more than 15ft square. That's how my dad's dad lived before he came to England. I went to Barbados after visiting Haiti as part of my work as a Unicef ambassador. Every year, I'm trying to do more with charities. I've been working with Unicef for a couple of years now and I signed up with Save the Children in 2013. Haiti is a beautiful place in many respects, but poverty is a real problem.

 A lot of money was raised for Haiti after the terrible earthquake in 2010 and things got a bit better there for a while, but conditions have started to deteriorate again and the child mortality rate has begun to increase. No-one should have to live in the conditions that I saw some kids in there. They were malnourished, not eating. We've all seen pictures of children with flies on their faces, sad and hungry, but television simply does not do justice to the tragedy of it.

When you see a two-year-old kid who doesn't have the energy to move, it's devastating. It brings tears to my eyes thinking about it now. I want to bring as much attention to that sort of thing as I can and the film I made there will be shown as part of Sport Aid on 8 June. The next stage in a long battle It's Monaco this weekend, a race I always look forward to. I love street tracks and this is one of my favourites, although my feelings about it have changed over the years.

My win here in 2008 was one of the most significant events of my career, but this is my eighth year in F1 now and I've come to realise that there are so many other great races. Now Monaco is my home, the race is still special but it's different. The first few times I came here, I wanted to emulate Ayrton Senna and win, drive through the tunnel and around all those iconic corners. I lived the dream - and still am living the dream - but the rose-tinted spectacles I once had have gone.

 Maybe it's like a relationship... there is the honeymoon period, then it settles down into normality. It's still great, but it moves to a different level. I will still get a buzz every time I climb into the car this weekend - and I still want to be on the top of that podium on Sunday - but, more than anything, I hope it's a good battle. Those first two years I was in F1, Monaco was great, fighting with McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso in 2007 and then the Ferraris in 2008. Since then, very few races here have been a proper battle between teams vying for victory.

Whoever has the superior car has won. For me, that has taken the passion away a little bit. Competition is what I live for. That's why I never play mind games. Of course, sometimes you say things without realising the implications, but I want to win on the track through pure ability. It's the way I was raised. I certainly don't want to handicap a rival before a race. I want him to be at his best. Then, when I beat him, that's bigger than any psychological ploy.

 I was talking to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson


Monday, May 9, 2016

The First African-American Piano Manufacturer

At the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in February, one couldn't help but notice the striking new grand piano on the main stage, emblazoned with the name SHADD. When the many accomplished pianists that wee­­kend sat down to strike those keys, it was equally easy to spot their delight in the instrument.

That piano was the product of a trailblazer in his field. The Shadd in question is jazz drummer Warren Shadd, the first African-American piano manufacturer. That makes him the first large-scale commercial African-American instrument manufacturer, period.

For Shadd, piano making is part of his birthright. His grandparents were musicians: His grandmother was a ragtime pianist in the South in the '30s, and his grandfather invented (and performed on) a collapsible drum set. (He never patented it, a lesson his grandson learned.) Shadd's father was himself a piano technician, restorer, builder and performer — as well as a trombonist. And Shadd's aunt was the NEA Jazz Master pianist and vocalist Shirley Horn. A child prodigy, young Warren made his own concert debut at age 4.

Shadd Pianos are now in churches and concert venues across the U.S. — including the set of American Idol, where house keyboardist Wayne Linsey will play it on Wednesday night's episode. On a recent visit to Warren Shadd's home in a suburb of Washington, D.C. — a home that doubles as the Shadd Piano showroom — he spoke about his life and work.

Willard Jenkins: What sparked your original interest in pianos?

Warren Shadd: My father was the exclusive piano technician for the Howard Theatre, so I would go down there with him four times a week and see James Brown, Count Basie, [Duke] Ellington, Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers ... rehearsing. I'd see this all day long, every day. From the time I woke up, there were band rehearsals. Shirley Horn rehearsing in my basement with Billy Hart and Marshall Hawkins ... We had pianos everywhere in my house, from the garage to the basement, sometimes even one of the upright pianos sitting in the kitchen, [Laughs.] And musicians would come over to our house after the gig and play all night: Dude Brown, Bernard Sweetney, Steve Novosel, Roberta Flack ...

My father would have me do little repairs on the piano. When he went on these piano [repair] jobs, he would take me with him to see what the whole thing was about ... and I would never want to go. I just wanted to stay home and play the drums; just wanted to be Warren Shadd the drummer. Except when he said he was going to the Howard Theatre — I was in the car before he got there! I wanted to see all these cats rehearse, see the show ... I met Grady Tate when I was about 6 years old, playing with Jimmy Smith, then went full circle and played with Jimmy Smith myself.

Warren Shadd at age 13.
Warren Shadd at age 13.
Courtesy of Warren Shadd
As I progressed and learned more about piano technology, I never aspired to; I just knew how to do it. I would say, 'Piano is what I know, drums is who I am.' As I went out there and toured with different acts, did a bunch of Broadway shows and got a little tired of the road, I learned how to tune, rebuild and restore pianos. I would take these pianos down to the nuts and bolts and build them back up just for fun, just for a hobby. I would take whole grand or upright pianos apart, build them back up with everything refinished — new strings, new soundboard, new keys, new ivories — for fun. And then my father would sell the piano. [Laughs.] I was about 12, 13 when I started doing this.

The record player was always going, from Sonny Stitt's Low Flame album, to Count Basie, to Buddy Rich, to Miles, to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, the James Gang, Iron Butterfly — I had a real potpourri and understanding of all genres of music. While I was doing this piano thing just for the heck of it, I was also performing with a bunch of folks. After I got through high school, I went to Howard University and was in the big band with Wallace Roney, Geri Allen, Gary Thomas, Noble Jolley Sr., Carroll Dashiell and Paul Carr.

When my father passed in 1993, I took over the piano business full tilt, because he had all of these clients for tuning, rebuilding and restoring. He pretty much had Washington, D.C., totally sewn up with all the church pianos. So when I took it over, I already had a client base — it wasn't like I had to start over fresh. We had all these contracts with churches. Coming in as the second generation of this business was phenomenal for me. Secure from being a musician on tour, it was a built-in job.

As the industry changed a bit, I found that rebuilding pianos was not so much what I really wanted to do financially. I would take these pianos and beautifully restore them ... and somebody would say 'OK, I'll give you $600 for it...' [Laughs.] I'm like, 'Dude, even the new strings I put on this cost four times that much!' So I kind of migrated out of that restoration business into doing tunings and repair work.

I would also exchange parts. I'd take a soundboard out of a Steinway and put it in a Baldwin to see what kind of reaction it would give, understanding the engineering, understanding which side vibrates the most. I'd exchange strings, put on heavier strings, lighter strings, to achieve a certain type of sound. Being a musician, I have an advantage of understanding what musicians want and what they want to hear. If I can compare here — Mr. Steinway doesn't play piano, Yamaha no, Kawai no, Bosendorfer no, Fazioli a little bit ... They are engineers and businessmen; I'm a musician and an engineer and businessman. I have somewhat of a musical advantage. What I'm crafting is a musical instrument and all those different components that go into that, especially the musical parts.

At what point did you decide to actually manufacture pianos?

From churches and especially symphonic tunings, you understood that the piano had a disadvantage in terms of the pianists especially being able to hear themselves play, because in church you're in total competition with the Hammond B-3 organ or the pipe organ, the drums, the bass, the percussion, the choir and the congregation. They would put microphones in the piano, but they weren't placed right to give you the most opulent sound of the piano. You would have to totally jack up that sound for the pianist to feel really comfortable. In the symphony, there'd be a floor monitor, but you're totally surrounded by all these string instruments and you're still at a disadvantage ... and you just play the part.

My first notion was enhancing the volume of the acoustic piano by itself, without any kind of electronics. Even if you add electronics, you'll have more sound, because the origin of the piano will have more sound, more volume to it without distorting it — which is important, too. There's a piano on the market that is somewhat loud, but as you play it louder, it has distortion. The soundboard is not made so well that it can take that kind of pounding. My pianos: You can stand on them and you will not get any kind of distortion.

I studied and researched in the library and wrote a dissertation. I went back to some of those old pianos I restored, and I would experiment with the soundboard. I wrote this stuff on sheets of notebook paper and just put it away, didn't really think that much about it. One day, I was tuning a piano at this old man Mr. Tucker's house. As I'm tuning his old upright piano, he started whimpering. I said 'Mr. Tucker, what's going on?' He said, 'It's all right, Shadd, it's all right.' So I go on tuning the piano, then he really starts crying a lot. 'What's wrong, Mr. Tucker?' He said, 'Shadd, see that piano? See that name on the front of it? That should say Shadd, because you're the only one!' I said, 'OK, Mr. Tucker, I've got these ideas, I'm gonna go back and study.' He pretty much planted the seed.

I went back and blew the dust off of these old ideas that had been sitting in a cabinet, and I started trying to engage some of these parts and put some of these old ideas I had together. And then I said, 'Why not try to do some of this stuff electronically?' So I built this prototype piano. It took me two summers and there it is [pointing to a high-tech grand piano in the adjoining room]. I put an audio system in the piano where speakers are right in front of the piano, so the sound would come right to the pianist and the pianist can hear themselves play. And I put speakers under the piano and a subwoofer so you can get the full gamut of the piano and control the volume and graphic equalize each section of the piano — bass, alto, tenor and treble — so you could go to each section of the piano and customize it just like that. I went another step and made it MIDI, so you could play all of your electronic synthesizer sounds on the piano.

For educational purposes, I made this piano interactive. I put a computer under the piano and I built this 24" touchscreen on the front and a 13" screen on the left and encompassed video cams throughout the piano. So on the other side, interactively, your piano teacher can see you, you can see your piano teacher, they can see our face, torso, left hand, right hand, pedal movement, and teach intelligently anywhere in the world ... distance learning right there at the piano.

From that point, you can also have your band on the other screen, so you can even cut tracks with your band live and in real time. You can teach and you can score on your touchscreen as you're watching that, so it's like a total workshop right in front of the piano. Now you can compete in a church environment, in a symphonic environment, because now you have the volume right in your face. But even taking it to another level ... I have a [piano] bench that has surround sound; it has a subwoofer in it. So now, you don't only just hear the music; you feel the music, so that every little nuance that you play on the piano down to the triple pianissimo ... you feel everything that you're playing.

From there, I said, 'Let me go back to the acoustic piano and see how I can apply some of that stuff to these new pianos.' So I incorporated a lot of the soundboard technology that I invented — and I have patents on all of this technology, unlike my grandfather with the collapsible drum set. I assembled an A team of piano manufacturers around the world and sort of cherry-picked the best of the best. I said I want you to make this ... in accordance to my patents and designs.

My first piano, I sold to the Setai Hotel in New York, now called the Langham Place Hotel, and they play jazz there on this piano — seven days a week. I was trying to get a particular piano company to build my pianos. When I called, they said, 'We'll build your pianos if you bring us 1,000 signatures of people who would buy your pianos.' A friend of mine suggested going to the Gospel Workshop of America, the big convention of all the ministers of music and trustees. It happens annually, and I'm thinking at that time all I had was paperwork: I had a provisional patent, but no prototype piano.

How am I going to go there without a piano? Hammond Organ, Yamaha are going to be there, and they're going to have instruments. So I'm just going to be there selling a piano without a piano? I had these big posters made to put on easels and put all this stuff into an SUV and traveled up to Detroit. I bought a corner booth because people were going to be coming to you on both sides as opposed to being in the middle of a straight line in the exhibit hall. I had these banners made that said, 'First African-American piano manufacturer.' I made a video of all the proposed technology. But I still didn't have a piano. [Laughs.]

I've got a lot of family in Detroit, so I got a couple cousins with clipboards to stand outside of my booth to get these signatures — the name of their church, their minister of music's name, what kind of piano they had in their church, how many pianos would they replace if they were able, and how many would they replace with the Shadd Piano based on the technology you see [in his booth presentation]? I ended up with 864 signatures in four days. I got the rest of them from DC Public Schools.

I had six people across and three deep the whole time. I had no idea there was going to be this much interest. This little church lady with a pillbox hat points up to the poster and says, "You mean, we've got a piano!" When she said that, it was like the whole place stopped — it went silent to me, I did not hear a word. At that moment, I knew that this wasn't about me; this was much bigger than me. I'm thinking I'm a conduit, being the first African-American piano manufacturer, and some would say the first African-American musical instrument maker — we don't make trumpets, trombones, tubas...

What's been the reaction of the players to your piano?

Pianist Christian Sands stands with a Shadd Piano at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in 2014.i
Pianist Christian Sands stands with a Shadd Piano at the Mid-Atlantic Jazz Festival in 2014.
Courtesy of Warren Shadd
It was kind of tough initially to get cats to come out here and play the piano. One cat — after he came out and played the piano and was overwhelmed — said 'You know, I've got to apologize. I didn't come out at first because I didn't want to be disappointed!'

How are you going about connecting with piano players?

One player at a time. I call folks, they come over, they play the piano, and they're wowed. Barry Harris was here three weeks ago and he's brought some attention to some other folks about this piano. Church musicians are in here all the time now. I do know there's a responsibility with this, to make the best piano — not one of the best — the best piano, period, in the world, and that's what I believe I've done. As a people, we can't be parallel; we've got to be three times as good. I'm a perfectionist, so every nuance that goes into this piano has to be the very best.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Entrepreneurs make strategic deposit in Black-owned bank

(—In a strategic effort to continue the movement of “Black-on-Black economics”±circulating dollars in the Black community to every extent possible—a group of Black male entrepreneurs led by the U.S. Black Chambers Inc. has opened accounts with the D.C.-based Black-owned Industrial Bank.

“In order for there to be a strong Black America, you must have strong Black businesses. In order for there to be strong Black businesses, we must have strong Black banks. So, from my standpoint, this is just a reciprocation for what Industrial Bank has done for our communities for the last 80 years,” said USBC CEO Ron Busby Sr. “There’s a trillion dollars of spending power in our community and we want to make sure that dollar stays within our community. Twenty-eight days a dollar stays in the Asian community, twenty-one days a dollar stays in the Hispanic community. In our community, our dollar leaves within six hours. We have got to change that…Until we have total control of how we circulate our money, our power and respect will continue to be marginalized.”

The 15 young men who gathered in the lobby of the historic Industrial Bank are members of the Black Male Entrepreneurship Institute, which is in partnership with the USBC. The meeting took on a celebratory mode as Industrial President/CEO Doyle Mitchell congratulated Busby for his influence.
“I’m just humbled at the presence of mind that you have displayed since you first came to town and started taking a leadership role with the Chamber of Commerce and came to Industrial Bank and made a $5,000 deposit. You put your money where your mouth is,“ said Mitchell. “Our only solution for us to get out of the situation that we are in as Black people is Black on Black economics. I love and appreciate the way you have taken that forward with this effort.”

Busby recalled that when he made that $5,000 deposit five years ago, he was intentionally choosing Black businesses in every area of his life. Buying a house at the time, he said he made sure he had a Black mortgage company, title company, home inspector, pest control company, and moving company. “Everybody that touched the transaction was a Black firm. The service was superior and the price was right.” Since then, Busby has become a leading advocate for support of Black banks and Black-owned businesses. In that regard, USBC has now launched an ongoing fundraising effort for the BMEI, co-founded by Randall Keith Benjamin, Jr. and Howard R. Jean, who accompanied the young entrepreneurs to the bank.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Homeless at Age 13 to a College Graduate: An Autobiography

In this autobiography, Anthony takes the reader through his harrowing past of ending up homeless at age 13 in Washington, D.C. after the death of his grandmother and escaping being murdered by his mother with a meat cleaver one night due to her habitual drug use. Despite not being able to attend high school because the need to feed and clothe himself at such a young age, he was able to earn his GED and leave a homeless shelter behind after getting accepted into a University in North Carolina in 2009. From being a 4.0 student and apart of numerous honor societies since freshmen year, Anthony prepares the reader to experience what it was like being homeless at age 13, to becoming one out of 14 homeless students in the country recognized by the United States of America's Interagency Council on Homelessness and being elected Student Body President of the university his junior year all while graduating Magna Cum Laude in the top percentile of his graduating class in year 2013. This is his story.

Friday, February 19, 2016


There have been several women who have risen to power and greatness in Africa. These women led troops to victory and protected their land. Here is a list of 5 incredible African leaders who gained the respect of both women and men during their reign.


1.  Amina-The Queen of Zaria, Nigeria, in the 15th Century

Amina is credited as the architect who created the strong earthen walls around the city of Zaria, which was the prototype for the fortifications used in all Hausa states. Amina was 16 years old when her mother became queen, and she was given the traditional title of magajiya. Amina honed her military skills and became famous for her bravery and military exploits, as she is celebrated in song as “Amina daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.”


2. Candace-The Empress of Ethiopia, 332

Candace is noted as being one of the strongest female military tacticians who had excellent skills at commanding a military. It has been told that King Alexander pulled back his army from attempting to invade Ethiopia during 332 BC because of the fear of the great African Empress.


3. Nefertiti-Queen of Ancient Kemet from 1292 BC to 1225 BC

Nefertiti along with her husband was responsible for the creation of a whole new religion which changed the ways of religion within Egypt. She reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of Ancient Egyptian history.


4. Makeda-The Queen of Sheba, 960 B C

The story of Makeda is the most interesting because it entails the meeting between her and the biblical King Solomon. She has always been described as the epitome of beauty and power. She had a series of great achievements recorded in the Glory -of-Kings and the Kebar Nagast


5. Yaa Asantewa-Ashanti Kingdom, Ghana

Yaa Asantewa exerted great power as Queen Mother and warrior queen of the Asante Empire. She was known as the woman who fearlessly fought against the British colonialist to her exile. Queen Mother Yaa Asantewa was the last woman ever to lead a major war against the colonist.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Nas is like...half man, half venture capitalist


In the world of hip-hop, rappers turned businessmen — Shawn "Jay Z" Carter, Andre "Dr. Dre" Young and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson being the most recognizable names — have become fairly commonplace. Nowadays, most artists have side ventures in music (of course), apparel, food and beverages. Yet however impressive their individual business prowess, few of them are able to call themselves full-fledged investors in Silicon Valley start-ups.

Count Nasir Jones, the multiplatinum-selling rapper better known by his stage moniker "Nas," among that elite group. The Queens, New York-bred artist who first hit the charts more than 20 years ago has quietly metamorphosed into a prolific angel investor — founding the venture capital firm QueensBridge Venture Partners. The firm (not to be confused with the hip-hop supergroup Jones fronted back in the '90s) funnels cash into start-ups as varied as health care, financial technology and Bitcoin.

QueensBridge, based in Los Angeles, invests in more than 40 start-ups across a range of sectors like financial technology, health care and music production. That has helped put Jones in the same strata as Ashton Kutcher and U2 frontman Bono as the tech world's most influential celebrity investors.

Read MoreChina's tech elite like a new asset class: Start-ups

So in a complex sector where billions are harvested — and cash hungry start-ups are born and buried in the blink of an eye — how does one of rap's living legends define his investment philosophy? Jones' answer is surprisingly simple.

"People. That is the absolute No. 1," Jones told CNBC via email. "I love to bet on great people that inspire me and make me think or see things differently."

A big part of that has to do with the management team, Jones added, which "makes a huge difference in the kinds of companies that will stick out to me."

Some of the companies that have grabbed the artist's attention include Silicon Valley darlings like Lyft, Dropbox, Coinbase and Tradesy, all of which are part of QueensBridge's investment bailiwick.

The ride-sharing service and online storage provider are among technology's biggest "unicorns" — private startups valued at least $1 billion — and are poised to become publicly-traded companies once the current downturn subsides. One of QueensBridge's latest investments is LANDR, a start-up that uses big data and artificial intelligence to produce music. LANDR has raised more than $8 million from various sources in the last few years, including Jones' firm.

Silicon Valley is a long way from the rough and tumble world of the New York City neighborhood that's interwoven in the lore of Jones' musical mythology. The 42-year-old artist, an autodidact who dropped out of school after the eighth grade, told CNBC his affinity for learning led him to technology investing.

"I've always wanted to be surrounded by the smartest people in the world, and didn't want to limit that to just music," he wrote to CNBC.

"I want to meet the people who are innovating in all different fields, and investing lets me do that," Jones said. "I meet the people that are changing the game across all different industries, and I get to be there first at the ground level. It's helped me to progress tremendously in my business."

"It's not easy to find the projects that are going to generate a return, and you have to invest your time and energy — not just your money — into researching the companies that are going to do big things."
-Nasir "Nas" Jones, Rapper and angel investor
Despite the recent downturn in the market, it's been a lucrative time to be a technology investor. Last year was a record for venture capital, with more than $128 billion finding their way to a range of companies worldwide, according to data from KPMG Enterprise and CB Insights. Funds for small start-ups, otherwise known as angel investments, have boomed into a $24 billion market by itself, the Center for Venture Research says.

QueensBridge is pitched by more than 100 companies per month, and invests in only a small fraction of them. Anthony Saleh, Jones' manager and partner at QueensBridge, told CNBC in a recent interview that the firm invests from $100,000 to $500,000 in a company, and has done more than 100 deals in the last six years.

Overall, QueensBridge invests in about 20 per year, Saleh said, adding that the firm is "much more top-down than bottom-up as investors. We concentrate on idea or the product, how big the market is and how the founding team is."

Read MoreTech firms face funding 'Hunger Games'

The due diligence process, Saleh told CNBC, can be at least as qualitative as quantitative. Investing in a potential company can include intangibles like "experience, grit, life motivation … those are keys to what we look at. Then we look at how those things kind of mesh."

Even in the freewheeling world of tech companies, corporate governance is a critical ingredient, he added.

"Nas' biggest fear is investing in a company" where the leadership may be unethical, Saleh told CNBC. "He tends to ask more questions about that."

Helping musicians make music

QueensBridge, along with a clutch of other firms such as Warner Music Group, Real Ventures and YUL Ventures, recently invested in LANDR, where CEO Pascal Pilon fused his training in software engineering with business.

LANDR is Pilon's second start-up, and the post music-production service helps master music for more than 300,000 musicians. Mastering is the final step in music production that happens after you record all of the parts and mix them together.

"We felt there was lots of room for musicians to embrace this thing," Pilon told CNBC in a recent interview.

Given the expense and cumbersome effort involved in creating music masters, "Some musicians have never felt the instant gratification of completing a song, and don't have the money to release more songs," and LANDR helps them get there.

That argument cuts to the heart of the notion embraced by Jones and his team at QueensBridge: that a start-up investment is more than just about financial gain.

"I think anyone can be involved with investing if they have the means, but I'd advise anyone who wants to invest to be careful. You have to study it," Jones said. "It's not easy to find the projects that are going to generate a return, and you have to invest your time and energy — not just your money — into researching the companies that are going to do big things."


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

This Black Entrepreneur’s Tech Start-Up Could Disrupt the Entire Wireless Industry

Tens of thousands of music fans flocked to Philadelphia this Labor Day weekend for Budweiser’s patriotic “Made In America” festival, where a star studded line-up of musicians, from BeyoncĂ© to De La Soul, took center stage. The  explosion of live music spilling on to the Benjamin Franklin parkway, a mixture of iconic voices, electric beats and a roaring crowd, made for an unforgettable outdoor concert experience– but it was the sounds the audience could not hear, a flurry of tones too low for the human ear to detect, that set this year’s festival apart.

“As you approached the festival you received a welcome message. If you were near certain stages, you received reminders for certain events. If you were waiting too long in a certain area you got a free coupon for Budweiser,” says Rodney Williams, co-founder and CEO of LISNR, a mobile communications app that uses inaudible sound waves to send notifications to mobile devices. All of Budweiser’s targeted notifications during the festival, from pop-up coupons to Uber rides, were powered by his communications service .

Imagine shopping and receiving a coupon via text while standing in front of a particular product, or while at a sporting event, receiving a play-by-play of the action  you missed while away from your seat. When LISNR’s  “smart tones” are emitted in retail spaces, during live events and television broadcasts,  the ultrasonic signals trigger mobile devices, which then deliver relevant, hyper-targeted messages  based on the users location and activity. Brands like Budweiser, Live Nation, AT&T  and the Dallas Cowboys are using LISNR’s revolutionary “smart tone” technology to create one-of-a-kind, interactive fan experiences.

But the real revolution exists within communications technology, an industry that LISNR is poised to disrupt, potentially dethroning Bluetooth as the superior mechanism for wireless transmission.
“Everyone is familiar with Bluetooth, and Bluetooth is light  that you can’t see. LISNR is audio that you can’t hear,” Williams explains.

Both Bluetooth, and LISNR, transmit data across devices, but LISNR  does so faster, synchronized within 1/10 of a second, and without the need for any additional hardware. Recognizing this potential shift in wireless, from light to sound, CNBC recently ranked LISNR number twelve on its annual Disruptor 50 list.

“We were above Spotify,” Williams notes, citing CNBC’s recognition as his start-up’s greatest milestone to date. They were also listed above Snapchat.

Adding to his list of accomplishments, Williams also received an invitation to speak at the White House for the first annual Demo Day in August of 2015. President Obama hosted the event to showcase the role of entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy. Williams also won the “Gold Lion” at the International Festival of Creativity in Cannes.

Williams’ former role in brand management at Procter & Gamble provided him with unique insights about the challenges that brands face connecting with consumers.

“The holy grail of marketing is to create a technology that can touch consumers where they are,” he says.

Though Williams has always been “obsessed with technology”, his professional background is largely in branding. Williams earned  an MBA and a masters in marketing, both by the age of 24. Still, his knack for ideas was evident even at P&G,  where he says he was the first marketer to co-write a patent.

“I probably would have been on my thirtieth patent right now, if I was there,” he remarks.

But instead, Williams left P&G to create LISNR in 2012, with four other co-founders.  In three years, the startup has raised over $4 million in venture capital funding, a tremendous feat.  Less than 1 percent of venture capital backed start-ups are headed by African-American founders.

LISNR is headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, an area undergoing an extensive economic revitalization, due in part to the presence of high-octane start-ups like LISNR.  It’s not a traditional location for a tech company but it has its perks.
“We have some advantages for the type of talent we can attract out of the Midwest and the cost we’re paying for that talent,” he says.

While his start-up serves as local economic engine,  Ohio is  a world away from Silicon Valley. That means the company is a world away from top-tier investors with the power and purse strings to turn LISNR into a global brand.

“It’s difficult to get in front of those investors,”he admits. “I’ve had investors tell me if you were to talk to [top-tier investors] you would be in a different place. The reality is it’s difficult.”

Williams is frank about the hurdles in his path, but he remains steadfast in his determination to propel LISNR to the forefront of mobile innovation.

“Anytime I raised any amount of money, I had to talk to 40 investors before I reached the three or four that invested,” he reflects. “I think if you really believes in the idea you should be prepared to talk to 100.”

His advice for budding entrepreneurs is simple.

“Move fast,” he says, “learn and grow.”

To keep up with Rodney Williams and LISNR, follow the start-up on Twitter and Instagram @LISNR.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Teen Mogul Opens Spa & Boutique Exclusively for Children, Tweens, and Teens

Passaic, NJ — Youth entrepreneur Essynce Moore began her career at just 6 years old. Now, as a teenager, she is currently the owner of Essynce Couture, LLC, Essynce Couture University (ECU), Essynce Couture Publishing, and the center of growing channels of branding that includes careers in motivational speaking, acting, writing, and fashion. Essynce is also the author of the recently released 6th Grade Middle School Chronicles.

She has proven that she has the “magic touch” once again as she prepares for the exclusive November 1st grand opening of her newest business venture, Essynce Couture Spa & Boutique with her 16 year-old cousin, Kalani Gomez. The Bomb Digz are special invited guests to the grand opening event.
The spa will specialize in trendy services for both boys and girls that include, but aren’t limited to manicures, pedicures, hair styles, private birthday celebrations, and more. Also, it will host powerful workshops that teach children about entrepreneurship, self-esteem, fashion, and real life experiences.

Essynce says she “works hard and plays even harder”, but says that “balance is necessary” when you are an honor student, actress and entrepreneur. She loves to recharge at the spa, or have a mobile spa party experience with her closest friends. Therefore, it is only right that she expands her brand to include an upscale oasis just for younger ones to enjoy a fun and rejuvenating spa experience, while checking out the latest fashion trends by Essynce Couture and other designers.

The spa is located at:
Essynce Couture Spa & Boutique
71 Market Street
Passaic, NJ 07055

For more details about the spa or her other ventures, visit

About Essynce Moore
Teenpreneur, children, tweens and teens stylist/fashion designer, actress, motivational speaker, and author Essynce Moore has been in various fashion shows, pageants, and karate tournaments. She was showcased in NY Fashion Week, and Atlanta Kids Fashion Week, featured in several interviews in magazines, TV, news, print, conferences, and is a member of the New York Youth Chamber of Commerce.

Starr Barrett, Essynce Couture
(908) 977-6898