Often one reads disheartening stories about the lack of African Americans—and women—in the technology field. But Tynicka Battle didn´t let these depressing stats burden her quest to develop her own tech company, ThinkTank Digital, which she launched with co-founder Amina Somaya Elshahawi on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan 16) in 2006.
Today, ThinkTank Digital is one of the leading digital media agencies. It specializes in Social Media Strategy, Online Brand Awareness/Publicity and Application Design and Promotions, with offices in New York and Los Angeles. ThinkTank has attracted such clients as Motorola, Pepsi, Sony, New Line Cinema and Disney, as well as a slew of music artists such as Lady Gaga for whom ThinkTank created strategic digital campaigns. Battle acts as CEO and Elshahawi as COO.
The Network Journal: How did you fund your startup?
Tynicka Battle: We pitched in our own funds, $5,000 each. We used about $3,000 of that initial fund to secure office space. Thankfully, we secured clients in our first week before having to rely on the rest of that startup fund.
TNJ: What were some of your major obstacles?
TB: One of our major obstacles was managing growth. We found ourselves at the point where we needed to hire out before we burned out. It is a very delicate dance to learn how to transition from “execute,” to “train,” to “delegate,” to “oversee.” I haven’t met a business owner that hasn’t struggled with one or more of these phases.
TNJ: How have you been able to attract celebrity clientele?
TB: Both Amina and I had great relationships with talent reps, labels and agencies when we started the company. It was a matter of convincing them that we could do the work. No easy task, but we exuded passion for our work and tireless effort. That combination usually wins the day.
TNJ: It would seem like there is a growing need for your services. How fast is the need growing?
TB: This industry is moving at the same pace as the speed of light. Digital media and marketing is now so thoroughly segmented that many agencies have honed in on a very narrow scope of services. Getting into this space somewhat early on has helped us to build a strong brand before the 2nd boom began.
TNJ: What are some of your goals for your company this year?
TB: ThinkTank has recently become 8(a) certified, so we are excited to be bidding on government contracts. We are busy identifying and connecting with companies that offer services we do not have in-house. As we establish these relationships we are submitting RFPs for communications, web development and social media related contracts. Our goal is to win our first two government contracts this year.
TNJ: What are some of your goals for your company over the next five years?
TB: Our goals are to expand our corporate and government work, and further solidify our reputation as a go-to digital marketing shop.
TNJ: Is the number of African Americans in the tech industry growing?
TB: Absolutely, the numbers are growing, which really is a natural progression given the data on African Americans and technology. We’re the early adopters on almost every front, especially tech. That being said, when those of us are in a position to hire people of color, we should do it.