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Q/A with Cameron King ’20, Creator of #BlackOwned

Cameron King ’20 studied Computer Science and Visual Media Studies while at Duke and is a Melissa & Doug Entrepreneur. He’s from Brooklyn, NY and is a David. M Rubenstein scholar. Prior to creating the app #BlackOwned, he launched a dating app called Parrot at Duke, which reached 1.6k users before COVID-19. He has also interned as an engineer at Rezi and Vimeo. 

Tell us about #BlackOwned. What led you to create this app, and how does it work?

#BlackOwned is an app my roommate and I thought of building after seeing black-owned businesses circulate social media posts in the recent #supportblackbusiness campaign. We realized the posts on social media were really helpful, but it can be hard to actually take action in the day-to-day life. People have already curated lists online, spreadsheets and directories, and with this data overload we figured we could compile it all and organize the listings to take action. Our initial dataset credits sources we pulled from. We also pulled directly from the hashtags on social media posts. 

You’ve created other apps previously. What did you take from those experiences that you applied to #BlackOwned? What was new about this project?

One of the first projects at Duke that I started working on was a barbershop locator app called Fadr. I tried to launch it but was unsuccessful, but I still had the project. #BlackOwned came from repurposing most of that project. I was able to directly copy the home screen, navigation layout, and map screen. The majority of time spent was actually on web scraping and parsing data for the app. I was also able to reuse the authentication system from my dating app, Parrot, to allow for both users and business owners to sign up. The code for geolocations services from Parrot was also directly added into #BlackOwned. This project was fun to make because I was able to take directly from work I’d previously used and tested and focus more on making a comprehensive product. 

You graduated this spring (congratulations!). What Duke programs or experiences will you most carry with you? Were any particularly helpful in your entrepreneur’s journey?

I’m a David M. Rubenstein scholar and graduated in the first class of the program; our class was the “guinea pig.” I couldn’t imagine going to Duke without the help and support of the program. The program helped make attending Duke as a first generation student affordable but also helped expose me to opportunities early on. I also loved taking classes within the I&E department. I’m not in the Certificate program, but I’ve learned so much from the gateway classes with Professor Aaron Dinin and Howie Rhee, I&E 352 and the capstone course. In retrospect, I should’ve definitely applied for the Certificate when I was a sophomore. 

What’s next for you, and what’s next for #BlackOwned?

I start working in August full-time at Microsoft as a product manager on Azure. I’ll most likely be starting remotely, and I hope to maintain #BlackOwned and push small dev updates whenever need be. Before I start working, I plan to continue mining the hashtags and adding listings to the app. Right now there’s over 3000 listings, and we still have more posts saved to add. I’m also looking for others to collaborate with and create a team. 

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