Majora Carter and The Startup Box Enterprise

“A Digital Renaissance in The South Bronx”

The South Bronx is part of New York’s 15th Congressional District, a neighborhood where it has been postulated that the emergence of Hip-Hop emanated, a subculture of artistic forms that promulgated throughout New York City; from urban to suburban communities. The myriad of artistic diversity that permeated the airwaves amongst Young African and Latino Americans during the 1970’s were a cultural explosion. You’d assume its ubiquitous crime-ridden neighborhoods, poor economic stability, discrimination and geographical prejudices would precipitate the environment and impede growth. Ironically, this predicament forged an insurmountable gift of imagination, ingenuity and melodious rhythms. From distinct elements of break-dance, rap-music, turntables, poetry and freestyle etc-—served a major cultural influence in the Hip-Hop evolution.

Silicon Valley is pervasively known as the hotspot for tech startups, but the high-tech gold-rush is taking the South Bronx by storm, and the District is experiencing the revival of an unprecedented digital renaissance. Startup Box is an immeasurable project engaging the South Bronx community, the company is a social enterprise designed to test games on all variations of devices and operating systems, searching for error detections, product failures and game flaws over multiple platforms. The essence of teamwork is the centralpoint of their motto when carefully and thoroughly testing for exploits, glitches, defects and game deficiencies, and using industry protocol to report the bugs, something that’s typically unobserved by consumers.

Through Quality Assurance (QA) Game Testing, Startup Box will serve as a subcontractor to New York City game developers. The magnitude of work at the South Bronx facility is attracting weekly clients from different corporations, institutions and other environment. This would have a large influx of high paying employment in the urban community, and shift the problematic nature of offshoring by creating a gateway of opportunity in the South Bronx, and the US. QA also serves as an entry level position for students and entrepreneurs to earn immediate income after training in the tech environment.

Startup Box has a number of upcoming programs, they’re partnering with “Fedcap Culnary Arts” to open a free WIFI cafe. There’s the “Speaker Series,” featuring a number of prominent people of color from the digital media industry, and a variety of special seminars and financial literacy programs that educate on money management, investment and financial decisions. Equipping young urban adults with the essential tools required for the upcoming challenges in the business world. There’s also tournaments to compete for cash prizes, arcades where other gamers can collaborate to compete, practice or share knowledge, and different forms of dance classes; including Hip-Hop etc—

The social enterprise is also building their community by offering a product-line of gears focused towards the support of entrepreneurial development that would enhance the poorly underperformed communities in the US, and this endeavor is starting in the crux of where the postulation of Hip-Hop emanated. Startup Box is listed on Digital.NYC, an all inclusive comprehensive hub that connects entrepreneurs with investors; the website offers detailed information on over 5,000 startups, and over 150 investors in the City. The platform is a product of Gust, a Venture Capital funding platform, and powered by IBM’s cloud based platform “Bluemix.

Startup Box a myriad of innovations exceeds far beyond the game development world, it’s challenging game-engineers to provide products and services that meets technical reliability, performance durability and other specified requirements. Insuring that the customers confidence is reassured by providing a quality product; the developers gain credibility and consumer reliability. Delivering solutions and services to not only consumers, but to developers, manufacturers while enriching the South Bronx community in process. Creating a synergy between technology and entrepreneurship, an unprecedented ecosystem that’ll increase opportunities in the District, a venture that would promulgate other low-income communities and extend throughout the nation..!

Harlem Times interview James Chase “Husband and President” of Startup Box
Harlem Times: How did Startup Box Start?

James Chase: Originally, Majora Carter found great success in identifying market trends in climate adaptation in green infrastructure. Cities are vulnerable to water management and different environmental factors and there’s a population of unemployed people who don’t know anything about the environmental market or job sector, and so she created systems that connected those people to those types of jobs in those fields, and she practiced what subsequently became their essential consulting practice is theory they called “Minimum Viable Training.” So alot of people is saying “all kids have to go to college, and without a degree you’re at a disadvantage,” and to some degree thats true—but it’s less likely alot of people are ever going to achieve that.

People who been incarcerated, impoverished, financial debt and can’t afford higher education–statistically many fail to pursue college, but it doesn’t mean we ignore them, it doesn’t mean they don’t have viable prospect employment ahead of them if you’re a little creative. Alot of the workforce development people out there are of the mindset, “you train somebody, then you find an employer and you place them there. Majora with the environmental work developed relationships with the employers so she could adjust her training to meet their needs, and alot of the themes employers looked for were not hard-skills, it was, show-up-on-time, apply themselves, a team-player, and not intimidated by challenges.

So she adjusted her Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training program (BEST), accordingly, and within two years it went from a 6 month training process that costed $20,000 per student project to 10 week project that costed $4,000 per student, with great placement results, and we learned alot from the experience. In 2008 Majora Carter formed her own consulting company, selling the expertise she developed from doing projects in the Bronx. That’s where we got out of nonprofit into for-profit consulting for clients that wanted to achieve similar results, not only in the Green Sectors but all across the board,

Between 2011 and 2012, we wanted to do projects in New York City, but most of our clients were outside NYC, so we looked at the Tech-Sector because it was experiencing huge growth, and we didn’t really see anyone connecting numbers of people from areas like the South Bronx to the Downtown Tech area, and we also noticed from our consulting work in Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland etc—these tech economy powerhouses have had generations to prepare their local workforce. So we wanted to do something in the Bronx, like small startup tech companies here. We launched a pilot project in a high-school teaching kids to write games, and we learned a couple of things. “Young people can learn how to write games and upload them to Google Play, “after school in a month,” but we know the field would be crowded because it wasn’t that difficult to do, and there’s a number of programs out there that teaches kids to codes.

We left the successful pilot to find our niche in the field of tech talent pipeline diversification, and what we discovered was most entry level jobs have been offshored; because of the digital nature of the product it’s very easy to make it available anywhere, that makes economical sense in the short-term, but in the long-term it erodes the entry level part of the talent pipeline. If you work in the Film Industry, even if you came of out of NYU,  you don’t show up on set as a Director, you show up as a Production Assistant and you might get the Director coffee if you’re lucky. You’ll probably be driving a van to get supplies for the Art Department, subsequently working your way up.

The Tech Industry doesn’t have any “minor leagues on the bench,” they’re only hiring topnotch with education and experience behind them, and that’s the kind of talent they’re competing for, and the lower level jobs, they figure an outsourcing company will outsource them, and most of those outsourcing companies are offshore. What they get is cheap product, but they don’t get a “minor league bench,” they don’t get people who might be lower skilled with talent they can work with. Young people who are driven, team-players, creative problem solvers etc—because the tech sector got this idea that you must have a degree. We also learned that most of the employers were not happy with most of the people that were coming to them with extremely high qualifications, they still had to retrain them.

Something that kept popping up alot was Quality Assurance (QA), and thats the final step after a project have been developed; whether a game, app, etc—Does it work across all platforms seamlessly? Does it do what it’s supposed to do? and you can offshore that work, but we found that particularly within the gaming entertainment sector a culturally nuance sense of product is necessary in order to make it better, so we saw within a certain sector in the tech industry we can play a really valuable role, because we’re in the same City. We can do clients visits, face-to-face time, and we’re not impose a new hire, they’re maintaining their flexibility and we’re maintaining our profitability by providing them with a higher level service.