It was Brandon Winfield’s first day as program manager for the It Takes a Village Pre-Accelerator at Buckhead’s Atlanta Tech Village in early 2021, and he was having a full-circle moment.
Only three years earlier, he was working to get his own mobile app, iAccess Life, out into the market; each day, he drove by Atlanta Tech Village and wondered what it would be like to work in that space. Now, he was both the CEO of his startup and mentoring diverse tech entrepreneurs through the ATV role.
Winfield never expected to be a leader in the tech arena. As a boy, his goal was to be a professional motocross rider, and he was on track to realize that career aspiration. At 12, American Honda sponsored him on the amateur national circuit. However, in 2008, when he was 14, a motocross accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Even with the challenges he faced, he refused to let his injury stop him from living life to the fullest. But when he started to travel with friends at age 18, he noticed inconsistency in terms of accessibility. He could get into many buildings in his wheelchair, but he often couldn’t do things like access the restroom.
In 2014, Winfield conceived the idea for iAccess Life, a free mobile app that allows people with disabilities to rate and review the accessibility of lifestyle venues, from restaurants to bars to hotels, for their parking, entrances, bathrooms and interior spaces. Since its launch in April 2019, the app has amassed more than 18,000 ratings for 4,600 unique locations in all 50 states and 30 countries.
What are your goals for the iAccess Life app?
There’s a common misconception about people who have this type of life altering injury that they don’t want to go out and have fun. That is the last thing I wanted for myself. I’m very independent, and I wanted to go out and enjoy myself. But people in this community need guidance. You need to know before you go. When I was looking for resources for myself, I couldn’t find anything. We want this to be like the Yelp of accessibility.
How did your concept find its way to ATV?
Atlanta Tech Village is the Holy Grail of Atlanta tech. One of my friends introduced us to an app development team through ATV, and they saw the vision. We had a two and- a-half-hour meeting, and we signed a deal. The rest is history.
How does Atlanta rate when it comes to accessibility?
I would give the city four [out of five] stars on accessibility. Gentrification and the construction of new buildings have made things more accessible. Of course, there’s room for improvement. But we’re getting there, and the city is addressing the issues. And there are just so many places I can go and have a good time. We have music, movies, art, food and culture. We really do have it all here in Atlanta.
Are you surprised by your success in the tech space?
I don’t have a tech background, but when I’ve put my mind to something, I’ve been able to achieve it. So it does and it doesn’t surprise me. It’s just been so cool, from getting our first deal to working on my own startup to having an office here [at ATV] and the chance to mentor underrepresented founders through the It Takes a Village cohort. Being part of the Atlanta tech ecosystem has been really great.
15 Minutes With columnist at Simply Buckhead. Freelance feature writer, children’s book author and President of Green Meadows Communications, LLC.