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Marcus Bullock

How can we leverage personal challenges into positive social change?

Founder and CEO of Flikshop | Justice Reform Advocate | TED Speaker

Contact Marcus For Booking
Marcus Bullock | Founder and CEO of Flikshop | Justice Reform Advocate  | TED Speaker
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

At the age of 15, Marcus Bullock was sentenced to eight years in adult maximum security prison—for stealing a car. Now released, he’s turned his entrepreneurial vision into Flikshop, an ingeniously simple app that allows family members to connect with prisoners, who are otherwise isolated, via short messages and photos. Bullock’s story is the buzz of the tech world, the business community, prison reform groups, and audiences from The White House to SXSW to TED. In talks, he shares his powerful tale of perseverance and innovation in the face of remarkable obstacles.

Instead of giving in to a prison system that perpetuates oppression, hopelessness, and isolation, Marcus Bullock served his time and got out, determined to make a difference. While in jail, his mother had sent him a letter every day, a simple connection to the outside world that really was his lifeline—and with his creation of Flikshop, Inc., Bullock has given that lifeline to hundreds of thousands of others. A charismatic and compelling speaker with an incredible story and infectious optimism, Bullock is a beacon of resilience, and a bastion of effectively using entrepreneurship for social change.

 

Now, more than 140,000 prisoners use Flikshop to stay in touch with loved ones—and get assistance from nonprofits. People on the outside snap a photo, include a note, and Flikshop sends a physical copy to the inmate for roughly the cost of a stamp. (Prisoners can only receive physical mail). Flikshop is more than a vessel for one-on-one connection, though that part is vital. It’s also used more broadly for education, for helping prisoners get ahead of the barriers they often face once released. With Bullock’s company, prisoners get assistance with housing applications, learn financial literacy, and develop important job interview skills. Going hand-in-hand with the app is the Flikshop School of Business, a program Bullock founded that teaches returning citizens entrepreneurship through coding and software development.

 

A hit in the tech community, Bullock’s app was chosen by Tech Stars as one of only ten projects out of 10,000 to receive massive funding. He has also been named one of John Legend’s Unlocked Futures business accelerators, and is a member of the Justice Policy Institute’s board of directors. Bullock also serves as an advisor to the Aspen Institute’s Opportunity Youth Incentive Fund, and his inspirational story has been covered by Forbes, CNN, Washington Post, Black Enterprise, and NPR.

 

Speech Topics

Finding Creative Inspiration from Challenges From Convict to CEO
Marcus Bullock is the epitome of resilience. As a fifteen-year-old-kid, he wound up in adult maximum security prison for auto theft—for eight years. His mother sent him a letter every day, a gesture akin to winning the lottery in a world where you’re otherwise totally isolated, without even internet access. When he got out, he was determined to create positive social change; coming up with the idea for Flikshop, a tech company that connects families with their incarcerated loved ones. Bullock is no stranger to the pain and challenges of life in prison—and life once getting out brings its own as well: when there’s a lack of support and resources, recidivism is common and circumstances bleak. But he found not only the strength to overcome his adverse circumstances, but the entrepreneurial spirit o help others with theirs, by creating an app that not only connects those behind bars to the outside world, but that can assist with their education, skill-building and getting a head start on the challenges of life after release like housing and job applications. Bullock’s dramatic, inspiring story takes audiences on his incredible journey from behind bars to venture-backed; a man who made good and is doing good. 
Harnessing the Power of Diverse Entrepreneurship Building Technology for Social Good
What does it take to build a business that has a positive impact on society, and is successful? And how does an ex-prisoner penetrate Silicon Valley? Marcus Bullock knows the answer to both, and with good cause—he’s done them all. After leaving prison as a young adult (incarcerated for eight years for stealing a car), he saw a lot of challenges—but he also saw unique solutions. With a brilliant idea—the app Flikshop—he was able to get into the startup market even with a lack of resources, criminal record and a knowledge gap in the complex world of tech. One of the rare, truly feel-good apps of the last five years, Bullock shares how solutions like Flikshop are waiting for the world—but they’re all too often hiding in underserved communities. How can you reshape the narrative of tech entrepreneurship to not just be for the privileged, but for everyone—especially any marginalized group that can benefit from enhanced connectivity the most? Building technology and harnessing entrepreneurial ventures for social good is the way of the future, and Bullock and many other Black entrepreneurs are leading the way.