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By Allen Collins
The rebirth of Black Wall Street is happening in Tulsa with technology as the driving force and growing collective of tech-based companies relocating to Tulsa, led by Black entrepreneurs and founders, revival is at the core of this catalytic energy.
“I think technology is the one thing that you can’t burn down and if we take advantage of that and the education of what Black Wall Street did to other communities around the U.S. that were destroyed, the Black community as a whole can build something where we’re more collaborative and less siloed.”
Those are the powerful and rallying words of Leon Fowler II. On this iteration of the Revival Series, we learn more about Fowler, Founder and CEO of XCLUSV.
A North Tulsa boomerang, Fowler embodies the spirit of Black Wall Street in that he fully encompasses what it means to be a part of the Black Tulsa community and centers his work in entrepreneurship and collaboration. He even did so as a youth.
“I started my first business when I was 12,” said Fowler. “I caught the bug very early.”
Xclusv builds on Greenwood’s Black Wall Street
To Fowler Black Wall Street is everything. He began his entrepreneurial journey in middle school on Greenwood. It was there he began linking what collaborative entrepreneurship could be.
“Tee’s Barbershop and Wanda J’s were some of the first businesses who allowed me to put my candy and gumball machines in,” said Fowler. “Even at the time, I didn’t realize the impact of actually working on Black Wall Street,” said Fowler.
Fowler is a 2000 graduate of, as he dubs it, “world class Booker T. Washington High School.” He went on to Tennessee State then to OU to receive degrees in computer science and information systems, respectively.
“After I graduated, I ended up in OKC for 15 years, working in corporate America and always having that bug for entrepreneurship,” said Fowler. “So when I had the opportunity I jumped all the way in.”
As Fowler ventured out to start a business of his own, he had “how to better others” on his mind.
“When I started looking at different tech ideas, what can affect the community around me, that became my legacy and what I wanted to grow.”
Centering collaboration over competition
Studying Black Wall Street, a key person and theme rang true.
“What’s great about Black Wall Street, was a gentleman named O.W. Gurley who came in, was one of the founders and he built an infrastructure that allowed these businesses to be successful that allowed them to work together as a community,” said Fowler. “Instead of a siloed individual business that may potentially fail but when you work together as a community you’re able to share more than just products and services but share customers and not be afraid of “collaboration over competition.”
XCLUSV centers collaboration and closes the communication gap in the ecosystem between member-based organizations and their members.
“Benefits of XCLUSV are that we provide engagement solutions that break through the barriers of social media and flooded inboxes in order to increase the open rate of your communication,” said Fowler.
This is a change Fowler sees as vital, as he feels the sole reliance on social media to share valuable information can be a weakness and detriment.
“It takes us from the dependency of these social platforms so we don’t have to be social media masters, algorithm manipulators just to get the fraction of our consumers,” said Fowler.
A long journey on Black Tech Street
The journey for Fowler into the technology industry from the corporate world, like many entrepreneurs, did not lack trial and error, and a learning curve.
“When I jumped into tech after 15 years in corporate America, I had a lot of business knowledge so I knew a business plan, getting a bank loan and how to run a brick and mortar, I had no idea about tech,” said Fowler. “I spent 2 years learning a tough lesson, but I didn’t have the resources and community to give me those facts and what I was missing. “
Fowler had an opportunity to go to Oakland, CA and learn from other startups in a bootcamp accelerator. In his time there, he found that people loved the sharing aspect of his initial business idea.
“Nobody has brought transparency to word-of-mouth marketing, so that became my north star, and I started a company called Emfluencer in 2019.”
On the Centennial of the Black Wall Street, Fowler relaunched the new Emfluencer interface.
“I added over 120 businesses, had over 600 users which was good but it wasn’t great,” said Fowler.
Fowler went back to the drawing board with this quote in mind, “fail fast and fail often.” After taking a detailed look at the data and precisely what type of user he needed to serve, he found his business pivot.
“I came up with a solution: XCLUSV,” said Fowler. “Instead of 600 users with over 120 businesses, if I can get 120 organizations, we’re now looking at over potentially 10,000-20,000 people in the pool.”
Creating a Black Tech Street ecosystem
Since moving back to Tulsa, Fowler has noticed gaps in public education technology integration. He’s also noticed the opportunity for parents and the tech entrepreneur community to stand in the void so that the Black Tulsa community doesn’t fall further behind financially or in overall quality of life.
“I think the opportunities that Black Tech Street provides are the resources that you may not know that you need,” said Fowler. “What Black Tech Street is offering is a chance for you to connect to resources that’ll help you be successful and grow into where you need to be a lot faster than you just trying to learn on your own.”
The footprint of the impact Fowler believes the Black tech community in Tulsa can have is boundless.
“The spirit of Black Tech Street and the resources it’s going to provide will give us an opportunity that’s going to expand globally,” said Fowler. “We’re not limited to a space but we can reach places and people that you’re never gonna meet and affect, and that’s the difference that tech provides for organizations like this.”
Celebrating and mentoring fellow entrepreneurs is something Fowler lives for.
“It’s one of those things where you get to learn from each other and that’s one of the things that’s great about what’s happening in Tulsa,” said Fowler. “All these different organizations, accelerators and business hubs are helping us all to succeed and collaborate to utilize each other for the greater good.”
Fowler sees no greater time than now to help unite and inform our community.
“My goal was to bridge community gaps and make it easier for small businesses, foundations and social organizations to effectively communicate to their members,” said Fowler. “I think that’s extremely important for us to think beyond how much money we can make to the impact we can make in our communities, that’s why I’m building XCLUSV.”
To check out the XCLUSV website, click here and to learn more about XCLUSV on LinkedIn, click here. To connect with Leon Fowler II on LinkedIn, click here. To learn more about Black Tech Street, click here.
Allen Collins is a proud North Tulsa native and a Booker T. Washington High School graduate. He is the Admin and Communications Manager with Black Tech Street and a former freelance writer and nonprofit professional.