BK entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the emerging tech boom of black startups
Two Brooklyn entrepreneurs are at the forefront of the burgeoning black tech sector that’s reviving Black Wall Street.
Stevon Judd and Darrien Watson co-founded SquadTrip, an automated payment solution website for group travel arrangers. It is the first online travel platform that facilitates the creation of booking pages, accepts payments efficiently and manages communication and finances in one place.
SquadTrip is part of the first Build In Tulsa Techstars Accelerator, a program for startups led by founders of color who focus on innovative solutions. SquadTrip is one of a dozen promising startups in technology fields ranging from artificial intelligence and e-commerce to environmental technologies and social networks.
The 12-week program helps startups grow their business and access capital. Participants will present their growth on November 3, 2022.
The co-founders grew up in Canarsie, nine blocks from each other, but first met at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.
Judd, 33, earned a degree in electrical engineering and has always had a passion for technology.
“From a very young age, I was always the person who took things apart and tried to put them back together, with half the screws missing,” he said. BK reader, recalling those memories with a good laugh. “But I also found joy in being able to build things from scratch.”
Watson, 34, also traces his passion for technology back to his childhood. He studied political science in college, where he also took computer courses. After graduating, he landed a job in the financial industry that involved working with software vendors. He often had conversations with software developers about improving their products.
“Eventually I quit my job to join the company that builds financial software,” Watson said. BK reader. “It was my first step to becoming a product manager.”
They are entrepreneurs at heart, always looking for solutions to challenges. Judd recalled the case of his childhood school selling candy to raise funds. It gave him a business idea. He polled his classmates to find out what candy they liked and sold it to them for half the price they paid for school candy.
Watson was also a young entrepreneur. His countless childhood business ventures included gathering friends around the neighborhood to earn money by shoveling snow.
“I think that’s just the spirit of Brooklyn: you go out on Flatbush or Utica Avenue and the dollar pickup trucks literally create a solution to a problem,” Watson said. “Much like the hustle and bustle of life in New York, I think everyone in Brooklyn has that kind of entrepreneurial spirit in them.”
The co-founders launched SquadTrip in February, but the story behind the company began long before.
They quit their nine-to-five jobs and started building apps and platforms for other companies. Watson focused on product management and sales, while Judd worked on technology development.
In 2018, a travel agency asked how to solve a unique problem with group travel. The client wanted to scale the business for 50 people going on a trip, but faced the usual challenge of raising the money. After creating a custom website for this client, they started getting calls from other travel entrepreneurs.
“We built the second website and the third. After a few years of all these data points and understanding the market, we saw the opportunity to create a software as a service (or SaaS) platform that enabled all of these millennials, who are organizers business travel, to scale their business,” Watson said.
Today, they’re on a mission through SquadTrip to empower travel entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. Watson said their first group of group tour operators were able to scale their business two to five times higher in a year.
“That’s why we knew it was really something special. They are entrepreneurs who are able to quit their jobs, feed their families and provide opportunities, not only to their friends and family members in Brooklyn, but also to people who live in the Caribbean and in various countries. “Watson explained.
The future looks bright for both entrepreneurs. So far, they’ve gathered over 300 tour operators on SquadTrip.
“Being part of TechStars is amazing,” Watson said, adding that their next goal is to grow the business before starting any other new projects.