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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."