Brandon Andrews talks business and social justice with the winner of the 2017 Values Partnerships SXSW Pitch Competition, Mbye Njie, founder and CEO of Legal Equalizer
Values Partnerships leads a nationwide casting tour for ABC’s Shark Tank that is focused on bringing more diverse ideas and voices to the show. In 2017, we’re hosting casting calls across the country, giving diverse entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their businesses on the ninth season of Shark Tank.
We also provide pitch prep, entrepreneurship resources, and access to capital discussions to entrepreneurs around the country, with the goal of every entrepreneur leaving our events better than they were when they arrived. At each stop, Brandon Andrews sits down for a Q&A with entrepreneurs from the casting calls and the organizations that support them.
On March 12, 2017, the 2017 tour kicked off Austin, during the SXSW Conference and Festival. Values Partnerships also hosted a pitch competition featuring young men of color, supported by My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.
(Image: Participants from the Values Partnerships SXSW Pitch Competition with Washington, D.C. My Brother’s Keeper Chair, Dr. Roger Mitchell Jr.)
While in Austin, Andrews caught up with pitch competition winner Mbye Njie, the founder and CEO of Legal Equalizer:
Andrews: What’s the story of Legal Equalizer? What drove you to start the business?
Njie: I first started thinking about an app that could record interactions with police officers around the time of the Michael Brown shooting and the aftermath of that case. My idea was solidified in December of 2014, when I was pulled over three times in a two-week span by my local police department. I was given one ticket, which was eventually thrown out.
The final straw was my last stop, in which the officer told me I had a warrant for my arrest, and he wanted to investigate. Because he claimed that he did not feel safe, he decided to put me in handcuffs in the back of his police car for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, he told me that I had an invalid warrant and was free to go. I had already been pulled over twice by officers from the same department, and neither one of them mentioned a warrant for my arrest, so his reasoning was suspicious. My mother and I made a complaint to the police department. Also, two officers in internal affairs told us that profiling was legal, because officers had discretion under the law—and that we should do something about it.
That experience, plus my previous encounters with law enforcement, and the numerous experiences that many of my friends have had with law enforcement led me to create this app and start this business.