There are at least two types of tech startup founders.
The first is “connected”. These founders graduated (or dropped out) of the right schools, accepted lucrative roles in tech, finance or consulting post-graduation and otherwise have the right connections and enough commitment to raise at least $1M in startup funding. These tech startup fundraising rounds still require incessant work ethic, relentless dedication and more keen resilience than most of us are willing to give (or, know only from our own dedication in other fields). However, these powerful connections certainly help, and skew the proverbial $99 startup funding deficit.
The second founder-type, is more “bootstrapper”. The bootstrapper survives (if they can) for 3-5 years, pushing their product show by show, week by week, competition by competition gaining traction and gathering life support from loyal fans. It’s a slog. The Blast App founder, Jhamar Youngblood is in that second group. From sharing basketball courts with Kyrie Irving (an early adopter of TBA) in high school, to partnering with the KIK messaging app, Jhamar fancied himself the next Black Mark Zuckerberg, straight out of Newark, NJ.
Back to our first encounter moment.
Our conversation nearly ended there, at Esusu’s app launch party. Instead, he paused and pulled me close as we said our goodbye’s......to make sure I grasped the moment. The atmosphere we accomplished for Esusu that night was nothing short of transformative. Jhamar, on the other hand, had “broken bread” in my living room via a random LinkedIn message, sparking a lifelong friendship in innovative milieu across NYC. The next day, Jhamar called me asking something so straight forward that an immediate sub-question quickly emerged,
“What are you hoping to get outta this,” he asked me.
Over the next four weeks, we met in hacker spaces around NYC, General Assembly in NYC’s Flatiron District (aka Silicon Alley) and about once a week, fleshed out capabilities and refined some key assumptions. He treated me like a taciturn (but interested) high school senior, and I, a naive (but willing) high school freshman, accepting most of his suggestions and reluctantly asking clarifying questions.
Biggest zinger of them all?
“If you really want to do this, you need to take design seriously bro.” Tough love. As we built calendars and goals for 2020, what happened next was inevitable. Jhamar’s flagship product, The Blast App, would become our next app launch party. We could test, iterate, and test again. Despite scant interest in monetizing the app at the moment, our partnership has enhanced guests’ experiences, stripping back the layers that made App Launch Party #1 for Esusu, so inviting.