Andrea Liu ’23 (She/Her), Staff Writer
In 2017, the Commission on Race and Slavery was established to inspire initiatives and conversations through which the college would demonstrate accountability for its history. The commission, chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Board of Trustees member Anthony Foxx ‘93, released its report August 19, 2020. The report highlighted Davidson’s history and offered recommendations to the college of ways to create infrastructures of ongoing support and commitment to building a just campus community.
Inspired by the commission’s report, the college determined initial actions to be taken “as beginning steps toward building a more just, equitable community and world.” One of these actions was the founding of the Innovator in Residence program at the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides grants and facilitates mentorship for alumni entrepreneurs whose businesses promote equity and/or combat systemic racism.
Mbye Njie ‘04, CEO and founder of Legal Equilizer, Inc. is the Hurt Hub’s inaugural Innovator in Residence. Njie’s app emphasizes the need for accountability and safety in law enforcement encounters for all. It hopes to make these interactions safer by recording the interaction, contacting friends and family with the when and where of the encounter, and informing people of their rights during these high-stress situations.
Liz Brigham ‘04, Director of the Jay Hurt Hub, emphasized that the program aims to dispel the myth of the “binary relationship between social good and for profit,” which assumes that social good means nonprofit, and that for-profit businesses aren’t focused on social good. Brigham believes this position and Njie’s business effectively marries the two aspects, showing that for-profit entities can still be values-driven and social justice-focused.
Njie considers Davidson the start of his journey in wanting to create safer police confrontations. “Davidson was where a lot of my interactions with police happened. During my college years, we got stopped a lot by town police.” He continued, “[We’d] leave campus ten times, [and] four or five times they’d stop us for ridiculous reasons.”
In addition to tackling social justice issues, Brigham noted that the Hurt Hub wanted the Innovator in Residence to be actively building their business and to “be a part of growing the community and giving back through educational mentorship” for Davidson students.
Through the Gig Hub program, students gain experience through micro-internships. “[Students] get the practical, hands-on experience, and smaller organizations, who otherwise wouldn’t have access to big talent pools with big recruiting budgets, [can hire] talented Davidson students as they’re actively growing their organizations,” Brigham said.
As an alumnus, Njie has continued to give back to Davidson’s students and community. Njie explained that he returned to Davidson to “help [students] see what they want to do past Davidson.” He hopes students will witness how a startup gets built, grows, and gains revenue.
As the Innovator in Residence, Njie has received a grant of $75,000 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and plans to use the money to further his business ventures. Njie is hoping to program his app to connect users with lawyers during law enforcement interactions to keep citizens informed of their rights. The funds are being used to “keep the coding going, pay the students for their work, and help us continue to build and improve the product we have now.”
Njie hopes that the app will spread within and beyond the Town of Davidson as a resource for any emergency, from police stops to domestic violence. Njie hopes that someday all cars can be equipped with the app’s software. He hopes that “no matter where you are in the country, you [will] always [be able to] say ‘I have access to the law, access to my friends and family, and a live camera at all times.’”
Njie’s responsibilities as Innovator in Residence include both business development and mentoring Davidson students at the Hurt Hub. In fact, 25% of Njie’s time is spent providing office hours at the Hurt Hub, facilitating access and exposure to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Njie emphasized that he wants to help prepare students for their next destination, whatever that may be. He hopes to help students “understand how to think through problems and see all aspects of being an entrepreneur: the frustrating and the good.”
“I’m here for the students. Here for anybody with any ideas, no matter how wild [they] think it is.”
Questions about the app? Email Nije at firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule office hours with him at https://calendly.com/mbye.