‘Black in America’ 4: Chris Bennett, One Year Later
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Chris Bennett recalls the feedback he received for his company, Soldsie, while participating in the NewMe Accelerator in Silicon Valley.

Last November, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien explored Silicon Valley through the eyes of eight African-American entrepreneurs. All participants of the inaugural NewMe Accelerator class, the Black in America: The New Promised Land — Silicon Valley cast invited viewers into their journey as startup founders competing in an industry comprised of less than 1% of entrepreneurs that look like them. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the tech innovators to see what they’ve been up to one year later.

Chris Bennett is a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School graduate and serial entrepreneur, with expertise in finance, operations, and team building. But he also specializes in programming languages like Python, HTML, and CSS. How did he get such a curious mix of skills you might ask? Well, while studying economics in college, he and a friend launched LiquidBooks.net, a drop-off service to help fellow students sell their books at a higher value. They were pulling in $100,000 a year but after graduation he let the website lapse and went to work in the real world.

But finance wasn’t the right fit so he eventually made his way to Silicon Valley. Bennett is also one of four friends who launched Black Founders, a Silicon Valley-based organization with the mission to increase the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech. Black Founders was launched at the same time as the NewMe Accelerator, and since has also hosted education forums for hundreds of tech entrepreneurs in Atlanta and New York City.

While participating in the NewMe Accelerator, Bennett pitched his idea for Soldsie.com (formally Central.ly). It allows retailers to sell their products on Facebook by letting shoppers go into a product’s comment section and write “sold” to buy items. Bennett and his co-founder built an entire back-end system that allows merchants to manage sales and collect payments. Bennett wasn’t one of the main entrepreneurs featured in the documentary, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t walk away with a war chest of resources. Below he talks about the accelerator experience, advisor feedback, and why Silicon Valley is “the place for tech startups.”

I worked in finance because…

I got a solid job offer in private equity after college and I never had any experience with a tech company (besides LiquidBooks) so I didn’t apply to any tech companies in college.  I was really frustrated working in finance and it took me exploring a couple of industries before I realized I should work in tech. I decided to move to the Valley because one of my best friends from college left Bain Capital to work at a startup. That was the first time I realized the potential of startups and the opportunities they afforded. After two years, I’m still in the Valley.

The way I see it…

If you are going to be a technology entrepreneur then you should be in San Francisco/Silicon Valley.  It has the best and biggest network of talent, investors, and mentors here. I moved to the Valley before NewMe and had no intention to leave afterwards. We are based in the Mission District in San Francisco.

Following NewMe we raised…

An angel round to keep us going. We are using the investment to hire additional people and invest in marketing to attract new customers and inform the market about selling on Facebook.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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