If you don’t know Joey Womack, you should. As the hustler behind both Goodie Nation and Amplify 4 Good, Joey bounces from Atlanta’s thriving tech sector to collaborative civic causes and everything in-between. Fueled by Red Bull, Spotify and seriously ambitious goals (like helping one billion people globally), the serial entrepreneur isn’t afraid to dream big. We sat down with one of Atlanta’s greatest visionaries to talk through the evolution of his work and where he’s headed next.
How did Goodie Nation come about?
Goodie Nation started in 2009 as a Facebook group for black entrepreneurs with high-performance capacity, many of whom were in tech. It was a way for us to meet and share best practices in building companies. That Facebook group is still going and has 300 folks in black tech from all over the country.
I then started thinking about creating change in black communities and how it was really inefficient. There are tons of people and great organizations working on solving the same problems but the whole ecosystem can be very inefficient. So in 2013 I left my original startup to build a company around this Facebook group. Startup Riot reached out and asked me to create events for them; I came up with three, one of which was a hackathon for good called Goodie Hack. Then in 2014 I got into the Hive Global Leaders program which helped me take Goodie Hack to a different level; it gave me the goal of helping a billion people internationally by the year 2039.
I had only been to one hackathon before Goodie Hack but it evolved, actually our first hackathon lost funding at the last minute so I had to come up with $5,000 from my own pocket. But by June of 2014 people started wanting to give us money so I formed a company to accept the money and that became Amplify for Good which was a parent of Goodie Nation.
How has your organization evolved over the years?
Initially, the Facebook group was focused on black entrepreneurs but I expanded it to reach underserved people regardless of race or gender. We now use hip-hop culture to create cool experiences that bring diverse people together. At this point, we take people who are involved in a community problem and building their products via skills-based volunteering.
Goodie Nation is the overall organization that runs a process called Goodie Innovation. The first stage is Goodie Ideation where people come with ideas as they hone in on the problem, the user, and the value proposition. Then the participants move onto the Goodie Marketing hackathon which is for creating a high-fidelity prototype, growth plans, and branding. Finally, there is Goodie Hack in which developers and designers take those prototypes and build out a minimum viable tech product. By the end of the incubator, you have something that actually works to solve problems. We’re giving change agents custom discovery and market opportunity, as well as helping them realize their full potential.
What do you see for Goodie Nation going forward?
Aspirationally, we see ourselves as a social impact version of Techstars and ultimately we’d like to have 1,000 international hackathons annually in which people donate their skills to create products that solve problems. Right now we are focused on gentrification here in Atlanta but we’d love to have different versions of the same programs in different cities at the same time.
On a short term basis, we want to focus on the prevention of gun-related homicide across Atlanta. We are planning on spending the first half of the year with local youth as problem solvers. We want to hold a Goodie Ideation in every Atlanta public high school for students to create ideas for conflict resolution apps. The student teams will come up with a wire-frame and we’ll work with User Experience designers to develop actual prototypes with the winning teams. At the end, we’re going to host the winning team from each high school at a massive demo day to share their prototypes. The second part of next year will be focused on the incubator; actual companies will be developing tech or tech-related products that go directly towards the prevention of gun violence. Way too many people are getting killed on a daily basis; I don’t really know how to solve this problem but I have faith that it can be done and we’ll figure it out. I can’t sit idly by and let nothing happen.
How can folks plug into Goodie Nation?
In 2017, everyone has a role to play – no matter if you’re 6 or 86. Go to our website to sign up for our mailing list and let us know how you want to be involved. Some people might want to become active participants donating their skills as a strategist or creative, others may be subject matter experts who can help as we define problems, and then folks may just want to use their social capital to spread the word about what we have going on. Donations help and we’re also looking for folks used to dealing with middle and high schoolers as we roll out our youth programming next year. As long as you are breathing, there is something that you can do. There is a role for everybody!
Images are property of Joey Womack and Goodie Nation.