Subscribe to Breaking News emails

You have successfully subscribed to the Breaking News email.

Subscribe today to be the first to to know about breaking news and special reports.

This Entrepreneur Found The Prison to Wealth Pipeline

by Donna Owens /  / Updated 

As a young man, Frederick Hutson was flush with cash and flying high for all the wrong reasons.

"I served time in federal prison for distribution of marijuana," explains the 31-year-old Brooklyn native, who grew up in Florida. "It was hard on my family, especially my mother."

While paying his debt to society, Hutson spent much of his five-year sentence strategizing how he would support himself upon his release.

Having experienced firsthand the high costs associated with long distance phone calls from loved ones, Hutson came up with a solution. The result? A venture called Pigeonly, a tech firm whose key products help inmates make calls and receive photos from relatives. The company has developed a national prison database which makes it as easy to locate an inmate as tapping a keyboard.

"I wrote the business plan while incarcerated," said CEO Hutson, who later attracted Silicon Valley investors to the tune of more than $1 million in seed funding.

Today, the Las Vegas based company--which has 30 employees--is thriving.

Hutson wants other African Americans to know that "they shouldn't be intimidated" by the tech arena.

"Technology is just a distribution system. I can sell bottled water on the street, but if I do it online I can sell ten times as much," he says. "The main thing is figuring out how you can use tech to offer solutions to problems and use that to create a business."