A Black millennial from Detroit is defying the odds and breaking barriers in tech innovation. Delane Parnell, 25, launched a startup called PlayVS which is poised to disrupt the gaming industry, Inc. reported.
PlayVS is an eSports league that gives high school students the opportunity to virtually compete for a state championship, the news outlet writes. The platform will have a livestream functionality for matches, feature statistics and host competitions. Parnell created PlayVS to bring at-home gaming onto high school campuses in efforts to merge digital and in-person social interaction.
Stepping into the realm of entrepreneurship was no easy feat for Parnell. He faced many obstacles while coming of age in Detroit. His father was killed before he was born and he was forced to live with a family friend who battled with drug addiction. He also lost a lot of friends and family members to violence. “I didn’t grow up in an ideal family environment,” he told Inc. “If I didn’t go to work and keep busy after school, the only alternative was to go back in my neighborhood and be in a gang. I didn’t want that life.”
His entrepreneurial drive kicked in early. After working at a MetroPCS store in Detroit in middle school for a few years, he saved enough money to acquire his own cell phone store and bought two other stores shortly thereafter before turning 18. Parnell also used the revenue from the stores to invest in other local Detroit businesses.
He developed a love for tech after studying the entrepreneurial journey of Groupon’s founders; who both hail from Detroit. Now, after being mentored by notable entrepreneurs and securing venture capital for PlayVS, Parnell’s company is on its way to becoming the largest Series A raised by a Black-owned consumer internet company. “I owe it to my supporters, my investors, my family. I owe it to the millions of other black kids who need to see somebody like me to know that they could also do this,” said Parnell.
There’s been a major push to get more individuals from underserved communities and underrepresented groups in the tech industry. Entrepreneur Aaron Saunders recently created a DC-based incubator to provide tech education for people of color.