By LISA MONTI
The founders of Trensek, a new technology, mobile game and app development company in Jackson, will roll out its first game next month, and they are hoping it will be the first of many trendsetting products.
The 10 entrepreneurs also want their new startup to give hope to other African Americans so they can make their way in the tech industry.
“I really feel that our kids will look at what we are doing and realize they can do this, too,” said Melvin Dilworth, a Trensek partner.
Derrick Cannon, Trensek’s president, said the new venture will serve to show young people a new career path.
“I think it’s going to come back to our kids understanding that they have options to make a decent living outside of what they see on TV – movie stars and sports,” he said.
Devin Jones, chief of innovation and technology, admits that getting the partners together was a challenge but he said the team’s similar backgrounds helps.
“We all come from humble beginnings so that made the transition as easy as it could be,” he said. “It’s why we embrace a family-oriented style of communication and leadership.”
Nine of the 10 partners live in Hinds County. They were co-workers, friends and basketball teammates before forming the company but it was Integrated Management Services that brought them all together.
Each started out as interns working at IMS, one of the largest African American consulting firms in the country. They had day-to-day interaction with IMS founders Dr. John Calhoun and Rod Hill.
Prior to founding IMS in 1996, Calhoun and Hill started successful ventures in the underserved arena of minority business.
“We paid attention,” Jones said. “We heard Dr. Calhoun and Mr. Hill on a daily basis discuss the importance of giving young people sincere opportunities to grow and flourish. They were given opportunities, so they make it a point to give those same opportunities.”
The men eventually came up with a plan of their own to pitch to Calhoun and Hill about starting a mobile tech company with the game-loving Millennial market in mind. Again, their shared background and experiences would come into play as they developed games and apps that the minority community would find attractive.
The first game, Rat Race, the Legend of Rex, will be launched Nov. 16 and can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play. Jones said the game is “derived from the partners’ hardships and our living conditions growing up.” Game players can reach different levels in the “race against life,” he said. “It’s a fun and addictive game.”
The mobile apps are the company’s bread and butter, Jones said, but the partners want to branch out from there. The next product to be unveiled will be smart headphones, which could be available online and in stores in the next few weeks, as well as two-wheeled skywalker boards among other innovations.
To achieve Trensek’s goal of keeping ahead of the trends, Jones said the staff does online research and conducts “think tank” sessions. “We get together in what we call the innovation lounge to outthink our future consumers. We think outside the box and get out in front. And we want to have a lot of products derived from our childhood.”
Only one percent of tech startups backed by venture capital are owned by black entrepreneurs, according to a national survey cited by Trensek’s partners. Still, they want to make the most of their ties to Mississippi in marketing their company.
“Being from Mississippi is part of our niche,” said Jones. “If we were from mainstream areas like Silicon Valley or other parts of California, people would think it’s just another tech company. But when people look at us as being a young group of guys, mostly in their 30s and from Mississippi, they may say, ‘These guys may be on to something’ and actually give us a try.”
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