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Tristan Walker has been both a rock star and an anomaly in a Silicon Valley that lacks diversity as much as it breeds world-changing innovation. As head of business development at Foursquare, a company he joined 2009 and left in 2012, Walker was able to use his skills and ingenuity to land lucrative partnerships with merchants and brands, including American Express and BravoTV, expanding the popular social check-in platform’s reach and its multimillion-dollar bottom line.
Keeping a competitive stake in the industry, Walker took his career on the road, becoming popular at South by Southwest, making regular appearances on networks including CNBC and CNN, and building a social media following of more than 300,000. How has he done this? With out-of-box insight on how technology can impact everyday life in ways that aren’t traditionally thought to be tech-related. His latest venture, Walker & Co. Brands, seeks to fulfill a need connected to a greater good. BlackEnterprise.com caught up with him to find out how his latest product under that umbrella, his plans for other products that solve problems for people of color around the world, and the most profound advice he received that changed his life forever.
You’re known for being a tech industry leader with success at companies including FourSquare. Now you’re taking on haircare and beauty? How did you transition as a businessman?
There wasn’t a transition at all. We’re a consumer products company but we still use technology in a big way. We want to deliver the best merchandising experience we can and the best product experience. We started Walker and Co. based on two views of the world I have. The first one is that all global cultures are led by American culture which is led by black culture—food, music, dance, etc. A big frustration of mine is that I’m living in the earliest adopted region of the world and it knows nothing about the earliest adopted culture. That’s crazy to me.
The second view of the world pertains to health and beauty companies. My experience of going into a retailer is having to go to aisle 15 – the ethnic aisle [which oftentimes] isn’t even an aisle, but a shelf – and I have to reach to the bottom of that shelf for a package that is dirty, coppertoned and [has a photo] of a 65-year-old bald, black dude in a towel drinking cognac… [That branding and imagery] needs to go, especially considering how much money we spend on that stuff, the culturally influential demographic we are. I wanted to put the two views together to build a very special consumer packaged goods company which uniquely meets the needs of people of color and solves problems. Bevel is the first manifestation of that vision and is the first and only shaving system designed for people with course or curly hair. You get the shaving and irritation issues, razor bumps, all those issues. We’ve fixed them.
How is Bevel different from the thousands of shavers on the market today?
[The single-blade] is really the best way to shave. This, combined with the right priming oil, shave cream, restoring balm, an exfoliating brush, 20 blades [instead of the usual four you get with other products]—all of these [elements] have proprietary formulations to fix issues [such as] razor bumps and shaving irritations. We found a great private-label partner to help us formulate this.
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