Many of us have a multitude of apps on our smartphones and tablets. Unfortunately, most of those mobile apps, whether gaming, social messaging or entertainment based, aren’t created by individuals who look like me and you.
It’s no surprise that widespread diversity in Silicon Valley is virtually non-existent. Thankfully, tech entrepreneur and app developer Dez White is on a mission to shift that imbalance.
Believed to be the youngest African-American female developer to invent and successfully launch a suite of apps, White, 30, is getting noticed and for good reason.
Her line of “Invisible” apps (Invisible Call, Invisible Text, Invisible Email and Invisible Social) enable consumers to communicate privately and securely across multiple platforms. Her most popular app, “Invisible Text” allows users to remotely delete messages before they’ve been read, send messages privately that disappear forever, as well as send GPS locations, video, audio files and more.
Not only does the California native stay busy developing apps to protect privacy, but she also gives back.
In an effort to pique interest in technology for young girls (over the age of 13), White is launching Girl Code LA —a series of free nationwide tech events to introduce them to app development, the funding process, and will also provide an intro to coding. The series will kick-off Sept. 6 in Los Angeles.
I recently spoke with White to talk about her developments, how she balances it all (she’s also a mom of two!) and more!
Check out our Q&A below:
BGG: What inspired you to start creating apps such as “Invisible Text?”
Dez White: When I previously worked in journalism, I saw a need for a form of communication that allowed a certain level of anonymity. I was particularly looking for a secure way to send and receive messages and realized that nothing quite like this existed on the market. There are other platforms out there that offer similar functions, but their security was and can be compromised. I also loved the idea of creating an option that would allow people to take back messages after they’ve been sent. There’s not a single one of us that hasn’t sent something we immediately regretted. Invisible Text users can remotely delete a message any time before the recipient has opened the message, and people love that.
BGG: Were you always interested in technology as a a kid and teen?
DW: I actually became fascinated by technology in my early teens. I had a friend who was a hacker and was pretty successful at it. I became really intrigued by what he was doing, what he was able to do, and it turned into a love of technology.
BGG: Who is the “Invisible Text” user? Can you describe who would be a great candidate for downloading this app?
DW: Anyone with a phone is a candidate! Business executives, moms, everyday people, and of course individuals who need to send sensitive or discreet information are the perfect audience for this app. I personally use it to text security codes, logins, and other private information to my nanny and my husband.
BGG: I have to admit, it seems like it would be an ideal app for individuals who are doing or saying something that they probably shouldn’t be (i.e cheaters). Do you find or is there even a way to quantify that many consumers of the app use it for that purpose?
DW: I actually don’t know how it’s being used by people. We don’t keep any messages on our servers to ensure full privacy, but I can imagine (as with anything) that there are some people using it for purposes that might raise an eyebrow.
BGG: What has been your biggest challenge in the industry?
DW: There are a lot of barriers to entry. There is great progress being made to attract more women in the technology space, but being a woman, a mom, and having not come from Silicon Valley, I’ve had to work very hard to get yeses and the attention of influencers where others might have been able to do so more easily.
BGG: What key advice would you give another woman of color trying to break into the male-dominated tech industry (with a focus on developing apps)?
DW: Be patient and keep fighting. Do not take no for an answer. Strive for the top; it’s crowded at the bottom.
BGG: What’s been the best business advice you’ve ever received?
DW: When people tell you no, they are just expressing their own limitations. It has nothing to do with you. If you can dream it, it is possible. Audrey Hepburn once said “even the word impossible says I’m Possible.”
BGG: Do you have any mentors in the industry who have helped you along the way?
DW: Dan Fleyshman has been very supportive. He is actually the youngest person to take a company public.
BGG: Girl Code LA sounds like an amazing opportunity for young women of color! Tell me how it came to be.
DW: We hope so! There are just not enough women in tech today and even less women of color. And, while I’m not an expert on why that is, my own experience has been that not enough is being done to attract young girls and women into the space.
With all the recent (lack of) diversity results lately, I think it’s clear that young women don’t even realize computer sciences are an option for them. I want to change that. My own relationship with the business started because of a friendship with a guy who was really into tech, but had that friendship not existed, I can’t say definitively that I may have ended up in tech either.
I am working to create groups for women (and men can come too) that will give people an early introduction into tech, coding and fundraising in a supportive judgment-free environment. I want attendees to feel comfortable asking questions that they might otherwise feel intimidated to ask. The Girl Code is about having each others backs, and Girl Code LA aims to do the exact same thing.
BGG: I know that you’re working on “Blind Debit” with Damon Dash. Can you tell me a little of what consumers can expect?
DW: I’m really excited about this project. Essentially, people will be able to pay for things using their fingerprints instead of traditional payment methods. We believe it has the potential to enable the public to become a bigger part of the merchant services community. We are currently fundraising and have plans to launch next year.
BGG: I understand that you also have a entertainment website. How do you balance that along with your app ventures coupled with the demands of motherhood?
DW: I have a very supportive team and that makes a world of difference. My business partner currently runs the website, and I have a great nanny which helps so much. But, there is nothing more important to me than my children. So, no matter what is happening, I commit to turning work off every evening so that I can spend quality time with my boys.
BGG: What’s next for you?
DW: I’m working on a book and am launching a new music platform with Damon Dash called Rap Battle Live. Stay tuned.
Would you use “Invisible Text?” What’s the one app you can’t live without?