For Black History Month, Inc. is catching up with notable Black founders who have appeared on its pages to ask, "Who inspires you?"
Since Inc. last spoke with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, she pivoted her company Promise, launched as an app to help ease interaction with the criminal-justice system, to become a platform for state and local governments to facilitate payments, which had been the thorniest problem her startup encountered. Here's who inspires her. --As told to Christine Lagorio-Chafkin
Prince was a big influence on me. I was working for Prince, advising on digital-rights management, when I entered the tech industry.
I don't think I've ever had someone have a more complete belief in my skills. He believed in the power of Black women and always felt like anything was possible. Prince made me feel magical. If something didn't happen the way he wanted, it was clear to him that I had failed to understand my magic or had failed to assert it. It was not a failure of having the magic. I think when people who are that talented believe in you with such fierceness, it makes you believe in yourself even more.
I've been really lucky that I've had an incredible community of support. It's been a very diverse group of people. As a Black woman, finding people I can trust to be both thoughtful personally and also helpful professionally has been crucial for me.