[BOSS] - Laquitta DeMerchant of Fuzion Apps on her largest hurdles, women in technology, and definition of success
[BOSS] highlights women and couple entrepreneurs making an impact in their fields, their own lives, and the lives of people they are fortunate enough to serve With the rise of technology startups and the popularity of apps Laquitta DeMerchant, founder of Fuzion Apps, Inc., has been able to outshine her counterparts with the education and career management app Aequitas. The app allows individuals to find data on requirements on skills, salary and negotiation tips. In 2013, DeMerchant, was recognized by Obama and the White Houses Equal Pay Event for Aequitas.
How did you get started in the technology space?
Since I was 14, I knew I wanted to have my own software development company. I earned a B.B.A. in Computer Information Systems from the University of Houston Downtown. I earned a M.B.A. from University of Houston Victoria. My jobs along the journey include system analyst, sales engineer and consulting manager. These jobs gave me the skills to start my tech company Fuzion Apps, Inc.
What is Aequitas?
Aequitas is an education and career management app. Users may create or upload a resume, view and apply jobs, set and track career goals. Aequitas is available on iTunes as a freemium. There is a paid version that is more advanced.
What is the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome?
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome is designing, developing, testing and marketing an app without funding. I knew it would prove a challenge to anyone to raise funds, but less than 0.5% of all VC funding goes to women of color.
How were you able to fund the development of your app?
I always maintained good credit because there are times when you will need to charge some things and you want to make sure you have really low interest rates. Second, I was frugal. I only bought what was needed. Third, I always try to network and have contacts with people that would support things that I was trying to solve.
What problems are you trying to solve?
I’m passionate about ending the wage gap and the lack of diversity and leadership opportunities.
What has been your most significant success?
By far my most significant success is the winner of the U.S. Department of Labor Equal Pay competition. We won the grand prize award for Women Innovation in Mobile Award.
The competition was 8 weeks in duration, but I found out a week late. I had to write the requirements, design the solution, locate data, and handoff requirements to my developer to complete the product, test, and load to iTunes.
What are your thoughts on the landscape of technology among women and Houston?
With technology there is more to information technology than just a programmer. There are tons of positions outside of being programmer such as a system analyst, network administrator and project managers. For example, if you love to draw and love art you can become a User Interface Designer. If you want to make lifestyle changing money within a year there is no quicker way to do it than going into tech. Start with the free stuff, internships, develop a small app and keep practicing. We have such demand for technical positions. You can add value just as much as anyone else.
On Women in Technology:
Digital Undivided led by Kathryn Finney, helped me tremendously from a best practices perspective and support system. It is the most diverse tech conference in the globe. The group specifically targets women of color and tech entrepreneurs. Digital Undivided has decision makers at the event. Anyone interested in technology can benefit from this organization.
Tech in Houston?
Houston has always been on the technology scene from Texas Instruments, BMC Software, Compaq to name a few. We have had a strong technology presence before Austin.
How do you define success?
Personal satisfaction in happiness regardless of the circumstances.
What’s next for Fuzion Apps?
We plan on releasing an Android and Microsoft Surface version of the app. We recently invested in a Surface tablet and it is the laptop of tomorrow today. It is the best thing out there.