How She Built It: Tiffani Bell of Pencil You In

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How did you find out about the NewMeAccel opportunity?

TB: It all goes back to building relationships within your industry, because I found out about the NewME accelerator from its co-founders Angela Benton and Wayne Sutton, both of which I’d kept in touch with over the years.

They both knew that I was working on Pencil You In, so when they were developing the NewME program, they sent me some information to see if I was interested. If I hadn’t already been in their ecosystem, I might not have had an opportunity to join the program.

What do you think contributes to the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley?

TB: Lack of exposure. I didn’t grow up surrounded by computer programmers or anybody with a white collar job, so sometimes, it’s a wonder how I became a programmer. I imagine that it’s the same situation for a lot of other minorities.

Do you have mentors? Who are they and how did you find them?

TB: Prior to the incubator, I did not have any mentors. But now I can count on savvy folks like Angela Benton, Navarrow Wright, Stephen DeBerry, and others. Previously, I was heavily influenced by reading the biographies of successful people like Coco Chanel, Napoleon and John D. Rockefeller.

If you weren’t focused on Pencil You In, what else would you create?

TB: I’ve got a million ideas, but I’d really like to get into software for cars. There’s HUGE potential for software in vehicles beyond just GPS and points of interest. This is just one aspect of what I’m getting at, but user interfaces for even the most expensive cars are primitive and horrible and there’s lots of room for improvement.

What is your ultimate goal?

TB: I want to be able to say that I built meaningful things that had a positive impact on a lot of people. I’d also like to get into teaching and philanthropy.

Technology has made many people extremely wealthy and it’d be awesome to be able to invest extremely large amounts of money into schools and see a return on investment in the form of a much-improved quality of life wherever those investments are made.

I’d really like to see and be a part of efforts to improve STEM education in the United States–especially in minority communities where kids are more likely to be tracked into coursework that isn’t really college-preparatory (AP and honors classes, etc.).

I think the quality of my education very early life (preschool, even) had a huge effect on my possible career choices and what I’m doing now. So in the end, maybe I’ll become an elementary school teacher so that I can make sure that kids are getting off to a good start.

Sakita Holley is the Founder and CEO of House of Success, a lifestyle brand relations firm in New York. Follow her on Twitter, @MissSuccess.

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