Photo: Provided by Ciara Suesberry
Rapper T.I. is no stranger to the hip-hop game, launching his rap career in 1999. However, the Atlanta native is expanding his profession beyond the rap scene by pushing toward the technology industry. T.I., born Clifford Harris announced his new investment Tech Cypha on Jan. 18 at Beta Works with business partners Jason Geter and Brandon “BL” Lewis; who is the son of late boxing promoter and entrepreneur Butch Lewis.
Tech Cypha leverages technologies such as Airbnb, Lyft, and Lime which allows high-net-worth individuals to participate in trending tech startup deals. In a report released by the National Urban League titled the State of Black America 2018, Black Americans are one of the racial groups more likely to use smartphones and created a thriving community on social media platforms but aren’t increasing in numbers for jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Despite the lack of employment diversity of Black people in STEM, Harris is switching up the game by starting a business in technology through the eyes of hip-hop. Geter and Harris’ idea of Tech Cypha began 12 years ago when they made their first investment in a company called Streetcred.com, a site that allowed users to share their opinions on street culture. The deal later on failed, but the duo maintained an interest in technology and startups to create opportunities for their networks.
“We learned a lot,” said Harris. “Now, we know where our demographic is.”
For Geter, the demographic is taking advantage of Atlanta’s thriving position as the cultural and technology hub in the U.S. According to data from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association, Atlanta-area startups raised roughly $1.15 billion in 2018.
“Being in the city of Atlanta and with Georgia Tech producing so much talent, and coming from us being within the hip-hop culture, which is always influencing and promoting things, we saw an opportunity,” Geter said. “In the past, we were always looking through the glass window and looking at ways we can participate earlier. And that’s by coming together to pool our resources so we can invest more.”
Through informed mentorship programs and partnerships, Tech Cypha will include influencers like Lil Duval, Killer Mike, Tamika ‘Tiny’ Harris, Tai Green, Korey Roberson, Stephanie Shirley, and many more.
Lewis, who is known for his talent in marketing and branding deals said that Black people are never part of ownership when it comes to technology, but hopes with Tech Cypha they can bridge the gap between the technology field and the Black community.
“Often, we drive technology like social media and apps, but we are never apart of the ownership,” Lewis said.
“Tech Cypha is going to be an investment vehicle looking for promising, early and late-stage startups to invest capital in, assist with marketing, and give branding directions,” he adds. “It’s our way of bridging the gap between the culture and technology.”