San Quentin, a prison located 25 miles north of San Francisco, just held its first startup demo day for inmates who are learning about tech for the first time.One of the participants, Eric Phillips, has been in prison for 18 years; he was incarcerated for second degree murder. He’s never sent an email or surfed the web, and yet he proposed a tech-related startup to a room full of investors though “The Last Mile” program.
Phillips and other inmates were taught via books, videos and mentors. Quora’s Marc Bodnick spoke to them, as well as MC Hammer, Brian Wong and Guy Kawasaki.
Of course, San Quentin’s Demo Day didn’t have the same end-goal as TechStars or a Y Combinator’s would. Instead of seeking seed funding, the inmate entrepreneurs are seeking guidance and technical education. Most are still a few years away from their first parole opportunity, so most of the proposed startups won’t see the light of day.
But the prison hopes that the program will help prepare some of the inmates for society when they are finally allowed beyond San Quentin’s walls. It’s a program they’re looking to implement at prisons nationally.
Here’s the video of San Quentin’s program, “The Last Mile,” via The Wall Street Journal: