Business behind bars

When you think of inmates or prisoners, we think about people who have made bad choices in life, people who are an outcast, or more so, individuals that are considered a misfit in a civilized society. Well, wait till you here the story of Frederick Hutson: the 29 year old prison inmate who currently owns a technology company called Pigeonly, a platform that identifies and organizes data on the incarcerated, an idea that he developed while his time in federal prison.

An entrepreneur in the true sense, Frederick Hutson launched and sold his first business at the age of 19 while on active duty in the Air Force. Later, he left the military to build his second business which he also sold for a profit. At the age of 21, fate took a different turn, Hutson was caught and sent to prison for a four year term on the charges of trafficking marijuana.

While at prison, he realized that suddenly a person could be out of control of his own life. The only thing that could keep him going was his communication with his loved ones. Throughout his time in prison, Hutson realized how truly difficult and expensive it is to stay in touch with loved ones when behind bars. This was the seed to his business idea for Pigeonly. He found out that communication with loved ones was the key motivator for inmates. In fact, The Federal Communications Commission noted last year in a statement that inmates who maintain contact with family while in prison are more likely to become productive citizens upon their release.

After getting out from prison in March 2012, Hutson teamed up with former U.S. Air Force veteran Alfonzo Brooks to make his business idea a reality. Hutson hired an engineer to build software that could index all public records related to court or criminal information. He organized the data and identified who was currently incarcerated or in prison. Using the information he’d gathered, Hutson sent marketing materials to 10,000 inmates telling them about his company, Pigeonly.

Pigeonly offers its users two valuable resources: The first, it provides families the ability to easily and affordably deliver hard copies of photos to inmates, even as the inmates are transient. Another service provides families of inmates a low-cost solution to expensive long-distance phone calls. Currently, Hutson has a team of 7 employees in his Las Vegas headquarters and recently secured a $1 million dollar seed round of funding from investors including Erik Moore (Base VC), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Kesha Cash (Jalia Ventures).

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