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LifeTagger Co-CEOs Touring Southeast During Black History Month Sharing Their Proximity Technology and Inspiring Black Entrepreneurs and Business Owners

Marlon Brown                 Kendrick Pullen
Co-founder & CTO           Co-founder & CEO



Rhythm Communications: Amy Parrish


Interview conducted by:

Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive, CEOCFO Magazine

Published – February 6, 2023

CEOCFO: Mr. Pullen and Mr. Brown, you are co-founders of a new technology company. Before we get into your technology and your goals, lets start by talking about your relationship, how you decided to join forces, where the idea of LifeTagger™ and LifeTaps come from, and when did you actually get started? A little history?

Mr. Brown: LifeTagger™ was born out of a problem that I had. My wife sent me a text message one morning asking me for some milk or diapers. I was at work and by 5:00 pm I had forgotten which item she wanted me to get. I am a software engineer so I decided to write her an app where she could attach that message to the store I was going to pass on the way home because location was a much better context for this message than the time, because text messages only have a time, but not location. So, I wrote an app.

During Christmas that year, I was with my first cousin Kendrick and he was telling me about a problem he was having, so I told him I wrote an app for my wife Delisa, to help with that and he thought it was cool. He suggested we make a business out of this because if he needed it and I needed it, then other people would need it too. That brought us down this road of allowing people to do things based on their proximity to things and location.

Mr. Pullen: Marlon’s mom and my mom are best friends, so Marlon and I are cousins, but more like brothers. He’s an older and cooler brother, I’ll definitely say that. My professional background is in business process improvement and what I saw from a product standpoint with LifeTagger, was this aspect of the relationship and communication between a spouse and a spouse, or partner and partner and LifeTagger making that communication easier.  Businesses and brands want to have that same kind of connection with their customers or audience or whoever they are serving. They want that level of access and engagement to know that there is a partnership between this business and that customer, or their brand and their audience.

They want that same level of connection that you would have with a partner, significant other, or spouse because those are the people that usually move you to action when needed. That was my aha moment, saying that, “This can be more than just a tool that people are using to connect.” Businesses always claim to want to be your friend and want to take how they engage with their audience or customers to the next level. That has always been my NorthStar of this tool that we have been building.

CEOCFO: You recently announced growth and success in 2022, including new members to your team, which included bringing in Gary Pujol, Jr. as your VP of Sales. Would you tell us about those new members and what they bring to the table that will enhance future growth?

Mr. Pullen: I do a lot of the sales type functions on the team, bringing someone on the team like Gary who has a background with ten plus years in sales in different industries, most recently the beverage industry. He worked for a beverage distributor of wines and spirits and other types of beverages. Bringing him on was essential for us because of our next move with our LifeTagger product. I was looking into packaged goods and products and him having that background and experience was a no-brainer to bring him into the company. He has been a great addition so far.

I also have to talk about all the team members that make LifeTagger great. We are here in Louisville, Kentucky right now for an event and one of our team members, Chris Redd, has planned this great event around Black History Month which was the brainchild of another team member Kelli Saulny. Some of the growth that we have experienced came from some of these team members who love what we are building and are seeking new innovative ways to get our technology out to the world.

CEOCFO: In that same release, you announced new products and services. Please, explain your Proximity Automation technology, what it is used for, such as in customer engagement, and what were the new additions, as well as the services that you offer?

Mr. Brown: When we talk about proximity it is really the signal that your phone can detect. What we do is allow our customers to give them context of what they want their audience to see. For example, my wife was able to use location to deliver the content of the text message to me.

Our customers are not restricted to using just the GPS location, they also can detect beacons, which are Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) devices. They can even detect what room you are in. We can also use the camera for scanning. We call them LifeCodes™, for managing QR codes. We can also listen to audio and detect what music is playing or what movie you are watching, so we can allow people to add content to that. We also can use NFC, which is our LifeTaps, where you can just tap your phone and get more information about the thing that is happening. Not only can you do one of them but you can do a multiple number of them.

With our LifeCode you can actually trigger content based on what time of day it is, or location. You can scan the same code in New York or Miami and keep the same content based on where you scanned the code, or what time of day you scanned the code. We allow layering of the content on top of each other so you can have a better user experience, deliver the message to the right place at the right time, or trigger workflow to the right place at the right time.

Mr. Pullen: We make tools that help businesses engage with their audience better and what that looks like for us is what Marlon was talking about in the layering of content. That allows companies and businesses that use our product to make sure that their audience or customer feels like a VIP every time because they are going to get the right message at the right moment when it is most convenient for them, and where they are most likely to take action on it. As we continue to grow we say that our product is only limited by what our customers can imagine. This last year a lot of our product growth has been driven by what customers want. We started off by saying “Hey you walk into your favorite restaurant. Your favorite restaurant sends you some information that is relevant to you.”

As we continue to grow, location is just not the only thing, it is also “Proximity.” That is where we got the Proximity Automation from, because location is important, but you can be near to a lot of things. You can be in proximity to a television show or a podcast. Then because you like that podcast, we can have that podcast delivered to you, to where you engage better with the podcast. Your proximity could be to a time of day, so if you like to have a beverage at 5:00 pm every day, how do we work with our customers to make sure you get that beverage at 5:00? On top of that, what if you like having a specific beverage at your favorite restaurant while you are listening to a certain song, then we can send you an offer to get your favorite beverage while you are in your favorite restaurant, listening to your favorite song.

LifeTagger creates this engagement that makes the end user feel like they are getting an interaction that is curated just for them. That is the level of intimacy that our platform seeks to create for our customers to share with their customers. I think LifeTagger brings an intentionality to your efforts to engage a customer or audience member. I say this all the time, “We are not the milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard.” A lot of times people ask how does LifeTagger help someone “blindly discover” my business or brand or grow my audience and I tell them that is not how we add value. LifeTagger is a tool to help you engage the folks in your community and offer them value and in turn they grow the community for you. That is what we are doing at LifeTagger.

CEOCFO: You mentioned your LifeCodes, you have an app and you also have a platform, which brings it all together. Is there machine learning and AI involved in your technology?

Mr. Brown: We do have machine learning just to make sure that we are delivering these things at the right time but it is really simple because our customers can cater all these contexts already and you can pick your audience. If you think about loyalty programs, you can decide that you only want this person who owns this phone number to see this thing at this place and time. Those are real world triggers, a lot of this stuff that you have to do online we do not have to do because we are delivering in an offline world based on real proximity triggers. A lot of the machine learning is just for us to be smarter. It is not any of the stuff that deals with the context.

CEOCFO: Do customers have to download the app to their phones?

Mr. Brown: You do not even have to download our app to your phone. We have the dashboard on our platform where you can go in and set things up. You can use the app if you want to do triggers with stuff like Beacons, but if you want to use a LifeCode, you do not need an app because you can do that in the browser

CEOCFO: What are the uses in hospitality and event planning?

Mr. Pullen: We are in this post-COVID quarantine world and there has just been astronomical growth in the adoption of touchless technology. What the hospitality industry is able to do with LifeTagger is facilitate a lot of communication that would usually happen from human to human interaction. Hotels can provide every guest a personalized end-to-end experience from the moment they check in to the moment they check out seamlessly on their device in a way that is easy for whoever the user is.

Mr. Brown: Some real-world examples of what people have already done include events where they used it for speaker notes. Once presenters or the audience members scan the code they can see the speaker notes, the presentation, and a survey for feedback. When the next person comes on stage the previous person disappears on the code and the next person comes up. This can be used for vendor booths where you can get feedback and each vendor would have their own LifeCode. I have seen people also using our dashboard like an event DJ. They are creating tags on the fly so people can get information at the event.

Mr. Pullen: Real-time applications during conferences and events can be something as simple as providing speaker information/bios when you walk into a room or get near the event stage. Or maybe an attendee has just walked in and is wondering what is going on or where to go with an older version of an agenda and now it has been updated in real-time, so they get that update. It all points back to our Northstar, it is communication and engagement and just trying to facilitate that at every level. There is also touchless check-in and checking out without having to go to the front desk.

CEOCFO: Who are you reaching out to and working with when it comes to a conference event?

Mr. Pullen: We work directly with the conference runners. We find who is running the conference and we pitch them with an opportunity to engage and make it easy to foster that engagement. It is usually a tool that we take to the conference planners and runners. They generally love how simple, easy, and flexible the tool is in the conference space.

CEOCFO: If someone is reading your story and going to a conference next week or next month, should they check with the conferences about LifeTagger?

Mr. Pullen: Yes absolutely. The best audience are folks that are advocating for you when you are not at the table. We would love for people to say they heard about our great tool because then the conference runners would just reach out to us.

CEOCFO: You are now doing a tour of the Southeast, which you choose to do during Black History month, while partnering with black owned businesses. Why is this important for you?

Mr. Pullen: We are both Southeast kids. I grew up in Louisiana and Marlon grew up in South Carolina. I think a lot of time no one has been tapping into those stories. For us, our team member Kelli came to me a year-and-a-half ago and her father had just passed. She talked about all the stories that got lost when he passed away. That is something Marlon and I talk about a lot. We have a family reunion every Christmas and I was thinking about our older relatives. We may not have done a good job of capturing those stories from the original story teller. In the Black community oral history is part of the tradition and is part of what has sustained us as a community for years since being brought here as enslaved humans.

We are in Louisville, Kentucky right now, the home of Muhammed Ali, and there are so many other entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses that have been here for decades and no one knows their story. We set out to identify a lot of these heroes of entrepreneurship and ask some questions of why they have not shared the stories over time. We wanted to give them that platform. We were not just focused on the Southeast, but a lot of the stories that come from this area are overlooked. It is not Chicago or New York or San Francisco or any of those places that have that entrepreneur network, it is Louisville and places that are near and dear to folks and have had a history of a strong Black entrepreneurship community that are being missed. Charleston, South Carolina has had a long history of Black ingenuity and entrepreneurship dating all the way back to the Gullah Geechee people. Putting together this tour has been a great experience.

We had our first event and have been talking to a lot of the entrepreneurs in these different cities over the past month. It is great to see their excitement about someone actually giving them a platform to provide it. Our call to action is going to be challenging everyone in the audience to download the app and create their own story and leave it at a location that is important. There are great stories of resilience and Black entrepreneurship. It will give people the opportunity to use our tool and have those stories live digitally within their own community.

CEOCFO: What has been the response?

Mr. Pullen: The response has been amazing. We had a venue reserved that held 150 people in Louisville and we had over 200+ people RSVPd for the event, so a big kudos to our event team, our local partner organizations, and the local Black-owned businesses that helped get the word out for our event.  

Our focus with the panelist was to try to get every level of entrepreneurship as far as the age demographic. We want to talk to seasoned entrepreneurs and folks that are younger and provide networking and mentorship opportunities for those that are thinking about entrepreneurship.

There will basically be three generations of entrepreneurship at this event under the backdrop of Black History Month. In addition, we are in partnership with other Black-owned businesses and other organizations here that are doing great work in the city of Louisville. Just a great way to kick off Black History Month.

CEOCFO: Diversity is fast becoming an important goal for our business and society. What are some challenges that you are facing in achieving those goals and is there advice that you can give business owners. Also, what are you finding as a black owned technology company?

Mr. Brown: I come from the point of view to just build until something shakes. We have gotten some investments and are fortunate in that. When we first started it was just me and Kendrick. It was me building it, me paying bills out of my pocket, so it was just grinding until you make it. One of our core values is we try things, we put it out there. I think the fear of failure stifles innovation. We put it out there and if it does not work, we either make it better or try something else. Honestly, there is the nervousness of walking into a room and selling our business to investors or others.

Mr. Pullen: I know what we are building is something special and a lot of times I notice, with my Black tech founders and friends, that they go in and try to contort themselves to fit whoever is in the room so that they can access funding, because Black founders are still severely underfunded as well as Black venture firms. So we have to ask the question, is it really a “fast” goal?  Our goal as a company is to show people that black people are not a monolith and you can show up in any space as your unapologetic authentic self. We are at all levels from all backgrounds.

As a company, we are doing our best to make an impact because you always have to carry as you climb and we want to see how many people we can carry as we climb. There are people carrying us too. One of the things I am extremely proud of is we have a great partnership with Dillard University, a Historically Black College in New Orleans, Louisiana. We are taking interns from that school every semester, finding a way to support the computer science program at that school, and we are sending kids to technology conferences across the country so they can build their networks right now.

CEOCFO: Are you looking for partners or investors today that can help in your development or expanding your reach?

Mr. Pullen: I will never say no to that question. We are always looking for great partners and great investors who believe in us and what we are trying to build, and that can bring value not just with their checkbook but with relationships as well.

CEOCFO: Why is LifeTagger an important company for society in general and then for businesses in how you can help them grow?

Mr. Brown: It is important to me because it is my baby. Other than that, it was that moment when I allowed my wife to communicate with me better. To me that means something, people communicating better. It means that people will be more productive. We have employees and help support families which is a big thing for us. Having my kids ask questions and talk about being entrepreneurs and finance and business or seeing that they can have their own company. Those things keep me going. It is about being able to know the people I work with and getting to know their families, those things are important to me.

Mr. Pullen: LifeTagger for me is a purpose and not just a company. Our purpose is to give people the opportunity to communicate with each other better. That mission and purpose resonated with me. That is why it is important. It gave me purpose and a mission and I am appreciative of the opportunity. LifeTagger has been something that we have been able to utilize as a tool to do business with so many entrepreneurs just within the family.

We grew up as a close family. We have a family member who is a real estate developer and he is building the largest affordable housing real estate project in the state of Wisconsin that will be powered by LifeTagger technology. We have another family member that owns multiple Airbnb properties all across the Houston area and we provide our technology at his Airbnb properties. We have another family member that is running an organization in Milwaukee that is facilitating STEAM camps for youth in local schools and we will be able to shine some light on his organization with our event in Milwaukee later this month. With all that said, LifeTagger has given me a tool to connect and help in so many other people’s lives, shed light on what they are doing, and do really cool stuff with people that I am close to.

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“LifeTagger creates this engagement that makes the end user feel like they are getting an interaction that is curated just for them. That is the level of intimacy that our platform seeks to create for our customers to share with their customers. I think LifeTagger brings an intentionality to your efforts to engage a customer or audience member. I say this all the time, “We are not the milkshake that brings all the boys to the yard.” A lot of times people ask how does LifeTagger help someone “blindly discover” my business or brand or grow my audience and I tell them that is not how we add value. LifeTagger is a tool to help you engage the folks in your community and offer them value and in turn they grow the community for you. That is what we are doing at LifeTagger.”
Kendrick Pullen