After Eight Years In Prison, Marcus Bullock’s Invention Helps Inmates Connect With Their Families
Stacy M. Brown | 9/27/2019, 6 a.m.
Marcus Bullock is an entrepreneur, justice reform advocate and public speaker.
Profiled in Black Enterprise, on CNN, and in TechCrunch, Bullock has also spoken on a TEDx program, and at a Black Men Xcel Summit sponsored by Koch Industries. His resume is nothing short of impressive.
However, arguably more impressive is how Bullock, a 2015 Innovator of the Year, and 2016 Booz Allen Hamilton Aspen Ideas award winner, found success.
By his admission, Bullock had as tough a childhood as anyone. At 12, he survived a kidnapping but still turned to a life of crime. At 15, he committed a carjacking, which led to an eight-year prison sentence.
Today, Bullock is the founder and CEO of Flikshop, a photo-sharing app for inmates around the country.
“When I was in prison, receiving mail was like winning the lottery. Like the power ball,” Bullock said. “That feeling when you get mail is the only thing you can hold onto because you’re on the inside and you’ve been told that you are a monster. So, when the mail call happens, and everybody is standing in their cell hoping to get mail, it’s like a big thing. It doesn’t matter what the contents are, and you are just aware that someone knows and cares that you exist.”
Bullock developed Flikshop to help make it easy for inmates to connect with their loved ones— and, to get mail.
He says the app is quite simple. A family member or loved one can use their mobile device or personal computer to take a picture and type a message. For 99 cents, Flikshop prints the photo and message on a postcard and mails it to the inmate. Flikshop ships to 2,200 prisons in all 50 states.
“Just like someone posts to Instagram, they can hit send, and that postcard is sent out to any correctional facility in the country,” Bullock said. “It’s a way that people can stay in touch with their loved ones like how my mother stayed in contact with me when I was incarcerated.
Bullock’s app has earned rave reviews. Recently, he was featured in a series
developed by Black Enterprise called “Success Beyond Bars,” a Koch Industries sponsored video event that spotlights formerly incarcerated individuals who have turned their lives around.
Reportedly, Flikshop has caught the attention of celebrities like John Legend and former basketball star Baron Davis.
Flikshop won a $50,000 grant from Unlocked Futures, a business accelerator affiliated with Legend, and the app earned a $120,000 investment from Techstars, which provides grants and consulting services for promising startups.
The Campaign for Youth Justice, which advocates against prosecuting and incarcerating juvenile offenders as adults, uses Flikshop to stay in touch with more than 400 people who were sent to adult prisons while they were still children.
Bullock says he knows he is fortunate, but after prison, he worked diligently to make a living. Although statistics have shown that formerly incarcerated individuals struggle to find employment, the tech space could help change that.
“One of the things that I’m most excited about is to work [in] the tech space. It is an opportunity that’s becoming more available for people with felonies,” Bullock said. “If you come into a room, and you can still build, nobody cares [that you have a criminal record]. The tech space is the only place where you can have a sustainable life and actually get to a point where you can sign a contract the size of someone making the minimum salary in the NFL.
“We’re introducing a lot of conversations around diversity, and inclusiveness inside of the tech community. The reality of it is that there are tons and tons of opportunities that are out there, especially in tech communities.”
Families and loved ones of inmates can visit flikshop.com for more information. They can also download the Flikshop app to their mobile device using iTunes or Google Play.