Frederick Hutson sees business opportunities everywhere. Something that has not always worked positively for him. The drug trafficking “opportunity”, sent him for four years behind the prison bars. Hutson began the 51-month sentence in 2007 at the age of 24. “When I was in prison, I realized how ineffective the prison system is and how many opportunities there are,” he says in Forbes.
One of the biggest complaints of the 2.3 million prisoners in US prisons is the difficulty of communicating with their loved ones. There is no internet, so any contact can only be done by phone or mail. The phones are expensive and especially when it comes to long distance calls.
The digital age makes it increasingly difficult for prisoners to communicate with the outside world, as most are bored to write or call and prefer to send an SMS or an email. “It was something very painful. I was very close to my family and I knew how much I cared about, but even in this case it was not always easy to write or send me photos, “says Hutson. What’s more effective than creating a website that prints emails and photos from the computer, Facebook or Instagram and posts it on behalf of the prisoners in prison?
Thus, the idea of Pigeonly was born.
It is a platform that gathers myriad state data, making it possible to locate the prisoner within the system. For example, Hutson had been transferred eight times during his detention. “People are lost to the system constantly. Lawyers communicate with us to find their clients, “he explains.
In addition to Pigeonly, Hutson also created Fotopigeon, which sends digital prints to prisoners and Telepigeon, which reduces call costs via VoIP. Pigeonly had revenue of 1 million in the first year, having already raised funds of $ 2 million from investors in Silicon Valley. At the same time, employees working for the Las Vegas-based business increased from 2 to 12.
Together with co-founder Alfonzo Brooks, they started in the winter of 2013, communicating directly with 2,000 prisoners who tried to sell their services. “We chose 500 people and sent greeting cards to them, presenting our product. Three to four days after users started to appear on our site, creating accounts and sending photos, “he says. He admits, however, that it was quite difficult to find the first million to start his business. “I spoke with 60 investors. Only six of them were positive. ”
Hutson believes that jail is a natural “tank” of entrepreneurs. “If we remove this 7%, who committed a violent crime and must be locked in, most of the others are there selling drugs or being involved in some fraud or financial crime,” he says. “It may have followed a wrong business model, you were producing a wrong product, the goal was wrong. However, if you can apply the same principles to something positive, then you can have a sustainable business. “