Meet The 16-year-old Genius Behind SAFETRIP’s Technology

Langston Whitlock is taking the tech world by storm

The 16-year-old Atlanta-based engineer is the co-founder and CIO of SAFETRIP, the world’s first healthcare transportation mobile app and digital health platform.

Users can harness Whitlock’s patented technology to book non-emergency and emergency medical transport. Users are offered premium cars, vans, wheelchair accessible vehicles, and ambulances with the option of paying for services with insurance.

Whitlock was one of the youngest founders named to 2019’s Forbes 30 Under 30. He says his age doesn’t really deter him from achieving his goals.

“My age wasn’t a big challenge because the people around me believed in my skill. I’m also humble enough to ask adults for help in the tech field so they’re more inclined to provide opportunities for me,” Whitlock told AfroTech.

Since its inception, SAFETRIP has raised $2 million in funding, due in large part to Whitlock’s technology. He started coding at the age of 12 when he built an anonymous messaging app to contact his absent father. He says this project helped guide him toward his greater purpose.

“Whatever you’re good at is likely what you’re called to do, and never give up. Even if your dad walks out of your life, pray to God and try to move forward with your life. God will provide resources” said Whitlock.  

The idea for SAFETRIP came when its co-founder Ja’Nese Jean, saw a homeless veteran who didn’t have access to healthcare. She then formed a team and brought on Whitlock because she knew about his talent, skills, and passion for technology.

“I never thought that it would lead me to where I am today,” Whitlock said. “I’ve met so many people who have pushed me to become greater and I look forward to inspiring others.”

Although it primarily operates out of Georgia, the company has plans to expand to other parts of the country. SAFETRIP can be found in the IOS and Android stores.

For Shelly Bell, Funding Black and Brown Women Entrepreneurs Is Personal

Shelly Bell has done it all. She’s been a high school teacher, computer scientist, CEO, and an entrepreneur at the helm of several businesses.

In 2016, she launched Black Girl Ventures, an organization that aims to provide access to capital for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs in the business and tech sectors, using support and training as tools to tackle issues of poverty and wealth building.

“We operate under the core values to create social capital, financial literacy, and financial capital for black and brown female founders,” said Bell.

One of the organization’s main programs is the Black Girl Ventures Pitch Competition, which makes its way across the East Coast each year. The competition works with local community members and different funders and entrepreneurs, charges a small entry fee, then uses that money to start a micro-fund for the winner.

Since its inception, the pitch competition has connected 45 percent of its participants to investors, and half have been accepted into accelerators and incubators after participating.

“Our following has grown to reach over 30 thousand people and our alumni includes some amazing women entrepreneurs.”

Some of which include Brittany Young, founder of B360, an organization that helps transfer inner city kids’ knowledge of dirt bikes into engineering careers; And Takia Ross, who is the founder of Accessmatized, which is the first mobile makeup studio in Baltimore, Maryland.

The future for Black Girl Ventures looks bright. With an increasing alumni base, a steady stream of donations — the organization has raised over $90,000 in community donations and partnerships — and big national partners like Google and Bumble, the organization could be a force for years to come.

We caught up with Bell to talk about how she got started, her biggest challenges when launching Black Girl Ventures, and why funding black and brown entrepreneurs is so important to her.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

EM: What fueled the idea behind Black Girl Ventures?

SB: The fuel for BGV came from the lack of visibility of women like me. I am “too vocal” about change for traditional employment.  I’m too artsy/non-traditional for the entrepreneurs who require “professional attire” or business casual clothing to attend networking events and workshops. I’m too colorful to just blend in. I am a mother, unmarried, living my best free life and I just didn’t see a lot of space in the world to be authentic about entrepreneurship. As a performance poet, I could attend an open mic any night and have an audience readily available to listen to my authentic story. As an entrepreneur, that kind of consistent space was non-existent. Couple the need for community with the need for capital and you have the formula for thriving in business as a woman of color.

EM: What was one of your biggest challenges while trying to get Black Girl Ventures off the ground?

SB: To be completely transparent, personal development has been one of my biggest challenges. There is no guide to how you transition from leading a few people to leading thousands. I have always been a leader. I’ve been organizing events of varying sizes for 8 years now. I am amazing at executing tasks, accomplishing goals and authentically gathering people.

However, Black Girl Ventures feels different. At every event, I have a prep conversation with participants. To see the motivations, fears, and readiness of a woman founder about to hit the stage to pitch her business knowing that this initiative is a part of the reason someone could take their life to the next level is phenomenal. It is also a huge responsibility. I’ve frequently asked myself how do I keep growing in leadership? It can be difficult to find that next step. Fortunately, I have aligned myself with really great relationships with advisors who have helped me find those next steps.

I have also learned that in order to maximize the relationships I’ve obtained I still have to have the self-confidence and self-awareness to make an ask. There hasn’t been a shortage of people who need help or who want to help, but I first have to inquire about help in order to get it. Self-awareness, self-trust, self-confidence, and radical self-love are not finite lessons learned. I am constantly evolving as a person while helping other people evolve personally and professionally. I try to share everything I learn hoping that someone will gain insight that I didn’t find. I’m really interested in seeing how far “real talk” can be spread. How many authentic conversations can I have with people? How can I scale authenticity that results in business success for me and any underrepresented founder I can reach?

EM: As Black Girl Ventures continues to grow and expand its network across the East Coast, what goals do you wish to accomplish in 2019? 

SB: Black Girl Ventures has held competitions in Austin (SXSW), Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and D.C. Our goals for 2019 are to expand the pitch competition to 10 cities, secure 5 new large sponsorships, and to find an awesome foundation who “gets us” and is willing to engage in helping us develop tools that give us insight on how to serve underrepresented founders. We want to amplify more voices, help more women grow their businesses and grow our network of investors. We are also preparing to launch a pitch boot camp that covers everything from the application process to stage presence. We focus on asking ourselves questions that shape our goals and growth strategy. One of the questions we are asking ourselves is “How do we find more Black/Brown women founders with ideas?”

For years, entrepreneurial support has looked like sets of training courses and launching funds. We have positioned ourselves slightly more unique than that. The current model of entrepreneurship support is still heavily based on the K-12 education model which has been failing oppressed people for decades. Instead of finding the smartest participants, we sort of trip upon genius, then believe that it is uncommon. We recognize that while entrepreneurship in America is declining, Black women are starting business 6 times faster than others. When lacking access to capital, you have no choice but to innovate. Based on the math, it is apparent that Black/Brown women are the fastest growing innovative segment, the fastest growing employable segment, and the most agile creative segment in the country. We plan to provide a lab environment for every Black/Brown mad science-like mind out there.

3 Ways Tech Is Fueling Success Towards Health And Fitness For Your 2019 Goals

The new year is here, which means many people are already diving into their resolutions.

Technology has played a huge role in the development of both physical and mental health for those seeking to change their lifestyles.

Here are three ways technology is affecting people towards more sustainable fitness results:

Social Media

Whether at home or on the road, the social media content we consume daily tends to follow us no matter where we go.

What type of content we consume can be the difference from those meeting their personalized fitness and health goals.

Some of the most influential fitness enthusiasts document their work ethic daily via Instagram such as former NFL player James Harrison, CrossFit trainer Elisabeth Akinwale,  or even healthy meal preparation from Kevin Curry,  founder of FitMenCook.

With free access to endless amounts of content aimed to inspire and help motivate those seeking help along their journey, it’s safe to say you become what you consume.

Wearable Technology

Wearable technology has become a top fitness trend heading into 2019 and is now known as a reliable resource in aiding better results when it comes to physical health.

Some of these items range from the Fitbit Ionic Smart Fitness Watch, which allows you to check your heart rate while active and asleep, to the Apple Watch, which announced updated fitness features earlier in 2018. 

In addition, the Fitbit has a built-in GPS to track your daily steps whether jogging or walking while storing your favorite music.

Another example is the Training Mask 3.0 which channels breathing to target respiratory muscles—making you stronger, aiding in weight loss and increasing workout stamina compared to traditional cardiovascular workout methods.

Wearable technology has now given people the advantage of tracking their activities, diet, and resourceful equipment for better results.

Innovative Machinery

Despite many people using their local gym or community track, innovative technology in exercise machinery now allows users the ability to get a satisfying workout right in the comfort of your home.

The Peloton Bike is a great example of the evolution in recent technology providing everything right in arms reach.

The bike provides a personalized private indoor cycling studio experience which also streams daily live classes from Peloton’s New York City studio directly into the machine with 24-hour access.

Overall, commitment and work ethic is essential for anyone beginning their fitness journey. As technology continues to evolve whether through social media, smart watches or advanced cycle bikes, it all plays a huge role in fueling those to reach their fitness needs long-term.

Just over 13 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes and Africans Americans are more at risk for heart related diseases.

Exercise and a more healthy lifestyle can help protect the Black community from these diseases and technology could be a new weapon in the fight to make that happen.