Hip-Hop

Pharrell Williams' Black Ambition Initiative Announces Prize Winners: 'This Is a Game Changer'

Pharrell Williams
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Pharrel Williams performs during the 2019 ESSENCE Festival at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 7, 2019 in New Orleans.

On Tuesday (July 13), Pharrell Williams and his non-profit initiative, Black Ambition, announced the winners of the Black Ambition HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) Prize and the similarly named Black Ambition Prize. The former was awarded to current and former HBCU business owners and entrepreneurs; the latter was granted to early-stage companies in technology, health, design and consumer-focused products and services. Cash winnings ranged from $50,000 to $1 million.

The hitmaker's Black Ambition initiative aims to support and create new opportunities for Black and Latinx entrepreneurs who are working to push the envelope for historically excluded and under-represented communities.

During the private virtual event on Tuesday, hosted by Black Ambition CEO Felecia Hatcher, Williams was honored to announce the $1 million grand Black Ambition Prize winner -- Livegistics, a team of software developers, accounting professionals and former construction managers who have used their expertise to build a cloud-based platform that innovates the methods in which companies manage civil projects.

"If you think you're excited, we really mean it when we say that we're excited," Williams said while announcing the honor. "This is a game changer. This [Black Ambition initiative] is about meeting human beings like you. You guys are the examples. You're the dreams that we dreamt of [and] this is what Black Ambition is all about. All the game changing, it begins right now."

"This is literally amazing," Livegistics CEO and co-founder Justin Turk proudly said. "This is why we come together to do this and make change."

Black Ambition CEO Hatcher also chimed in after the grand prize winner was revealed, saying, "I'm almost shedding a tear right along with y'all. I'm very excited for you in this moment. When Black Ambition was just an idea from Pharrell, this is exactly the moment that he hoped and wished for and now it's here."

Turk later opened up about his experiences working as a chief executive officer in the construction industry: "Being at an executive level, I had a great career [and] great opportunity, but my impact was limited. I saw a huge discrepancy in the amount of minorities in executive and management levels." But with Livegistics earning the $1 million Black Ambition grand prize for their tremendous work, Turk is setting an example and paving the way for future Black and brown professionals at executive levels.

After revealing the remaining award winners (ranging from Beereaders, which works to improve English literacy skills for Spanish-speaking students, to Emagine Solutions Technology, a platform that connects pregnant women with health providers), Hatcher closed out the heartfelt ceremony saying, "What you see today as a part of the Black Ambition community and program are executers. People that said, 'I not only have an idea but I am bold enough, I am courageous enough, I am skilled enough to be able to put that out into the world every single day.' We're excited again to celebrate you and honor you as a Black Ambition top finalist."

"We're excited about how Black Ambition is going to shape the entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports and takes care of and funds and trains and educates Black and brown founders and HBCU students moving forward as we continue this work."

Artist Tobe Nwigwe performed his track "Prosper" during the virtual event. Hampton University president William Robert Harvey also spoke during the ceremony, congratulating Hampton alumni for their accomplishments.

Black Ambition received more than 1,700 applications for the awards. A group of 34 finalists were selected. More than 200 of the highest scoring applicants received access to cohort-based mentorship and participated in a rich content program, while top finalists received personal mentors, pitch coaches and introductions to venture capitalists, angel investors and accelerator partners.

“Black and Latinx founders are the epitome of ambition, even as they are continuously met with barriers to access opportunities and funding,” Hatcher said in a statement. “We are so proud of our finalists, and the big and bold ways they are solving problems. We are building a space where Black and Latinx founders get the unprecedented access they need to build successful ventures.”

See the list of winners below:

Livegistics - Black Ambition $1 million grand prize

Alodia - Black Ambition $250,000 prize

Beereaders - Black Ambition $250,000 prize

QuirkChat - Black Ambition $250,000 prize

Emagine Solutions Technology - Black Ambition $100,000 prize

Dosso Beauty - Black Ambition HBCU $250,000 grand prize

Shea’d - Black Ambition HBCU $100,000 prize

GABA - Black Ambition HBCU $75,000 prize

PaperAI - Black Ambition HBCU $50,000 prize