The duo co-founded The Phat Startup, which they describe as an integrated media company that produces premium content for all levels of entrepreneurs.
The duo co-founded The Phat Startup which they describe as, an integrated media company that produces premium content for all levels of entrepreneurs.
“We are inspired by and fuse together Lean Startup methodology and Hip Hop culture“
The Phat Startup is known to organized great and memorable startup events in New York with appearances form the industry’s top movers and shakers, including: Jason Calacanis of This Week in Startups, entrepreneur and bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuck, Hip Hop artist RZA of the Wu Tang Clan and Ben Horowitz of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your company – what is The Phat Startup all about?
ThePhatStartup.com mission is to help people from within the Hip Hop culture especially minorities turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality in the tech startup world. We are on a mission to bring awareness to the culture via events, video and written content. Our focus is make entrepreneurship education relatable so others like us know it’s possible.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you started your company?
James: I was born and raised in the birth place of Hip Hop, Bronx NY; so the hustler’s mentality was always embedded in me, I just never knew how to move forward in business. I knew there were others like me, so Anthony and I started a community for people that loved Hip Hop and Technology while mentoring at a Startup Weekend Event. We noticed that much of the education out there on entrepreneurship was one size fits all and wouldn’t work for our culture, so we created a new educational platform that was relatable and could resonate with people that look and spoke like us.
Anthony: I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2008. I started a gaming site called TheKoalition.com. Shortly after I jumped into the startup world doing business development, until launching my app Playd. Me and my app were profiled and featured on CNN Black in America 4. I used to constantly get approached by aspiring founders for help, and I remember what it was like being alone in this industry looking for mentors. So when James and I linked up it was all magic from there.
Q: What are some of the projects you are working on right now?
James: We just finished our Tech808 conference which was the 1st Hip Hop inspired Tech Startup Conference with NYU. We will be focused on continuing to educate our culture with even better events and are working with a selected few to create a membership site that will focus on even more education and accountability. Think of mixergy but for us!
Q: What are your plans for the future, how do you plan to grow this company?
James: We plan to grow by continuing to listen to our communities needs and by hosting events outside of NYC to bring awareness to the possibly of being a boss! We always state that many complain about diversity in tech while we actually work on the issue, we plan to continue to do so by focusing even more and launching a membership site where we all feel comfortable learning from each other.
Q: How do you bring ideas to life?
James: I start by applying lean principles. I start by asking the question, “What’s that 1 assumption that I have that if wrong will be detrimental to my business.” By asking this I can now talk to potential customers and see if what I am building is really needed. Talk to potential customers, tell them the problem, ask them if they had the problem and what did they do to solve it. Find a pattern or maybe you might find that a solution is out there already.
Anthony: I love this question. I have been an idea man my entire life. I’m a dreamer by nature. My problem was never being able to execute on them. The best way I knew to bring my ideas to life was to become skillful. Now what do I mean by that? That means learning the necessary skills it will take to get something off the ground. I didn’t have money, mentors, family, or even friends who could help me. So I had to learn how to code, learn how to design, learn how to network, etc. and use what I learned to get me to phase one. Ultimately that means you will have to sacrifice and place priority on certain things. But like they always say, if you want it, you’ll go get it.
Q: What’s one trend that really excites you?
James: The rise of minority entrepreneurs in technology excites me. A few years ago many would say I can’t start a company because there are not many that look like me to learn from. That is changing and I see us getting more respect every day that passes by. People from within our culture are taking that leap and succeeding. Anthony: I love wearable tech right now. It’s unpredictable what it will look like. Every big company is throwing their hat in the ring, and it’s exciting.
Q: What were the top 3 mistakes you made starting your business and what did you learn from it?
– Not starting earlier! I was afraid and thought I needed to know everything before starting. Now I learned that you have to start before you even get the slightest clue of the next steps.
– Not talking to customers 1st. Everyone thinks they have the best idea but that doesn’t matter, what matters is your customers. If they don’t want what you are building you are wasting precious time
– I was worried about the haters. At 1st I needed people to like me, big mistake. No one will understand your mission or be there to support you when you begin. Focus on your product all else falls into place later.
Anthony: From my experience over the year I would say in no particular order
– Know your paperwork. I made mistakes early on with terms with my investors for my first startup. Do your homework.
– Not listening. I’m not talking about my coworkers and family. I’m talking about my customers. By not listening to my customers I once wasted 3 months of development time on something nobody wanted. That’s money wasted as well.
– Not working on myself. I read a Jim Rohn quotes years ago where he said “work harder on yourself, than you do on your job” I just figured out what he meant by this in 2013. I started to take more care of myself. Exercise, meditate, read more inspiration, etc. It made me more creative and better at my job in return.
Q: How do you go about marketing your business, and what has been the most successful form of marketing for you?
James: Social media and word of mouth has been huge for us. Try to figure out where your customer base hangs out the most and attack it. You don’t need to be on 5-10 platforms, pick 1 or 2 and focus on that. Twitter has been huge for us as our guests and speakers have been able to really drive home our #bossup hashtag for conversations.
Q: What would you say are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur – and why?
– Being appreciative– many come into the business world and expect others to do the work for them. When you find someone willing to help you should do your best to show that you appreciate them and their efforts.
– Be a problem solver- people don’t like or help those that constantly complain. Identify the problem and work on solving it. Even if you are wrong others with appreciate it and help when possible.
– Be of value- set out to help others in need without any expectations. The most successful people will never help the selfish man or woman. Prove to others that you are of value 1st and they will bend over backwards for you later.
– Patience. It doesn’t happen overnight. I think some people look at things I’m doing and compare themselves to me. That’s not fair to me or themselves. Don’t compare your struggle to another mans. Just work hard and make your story great. When you see someone win, be excited. When you see someone become unfortunate, be compassionate. Keep playing, and you’ll win. I’m still trying to win myself.
– Creativity. Creativity is the most important thing an entrepreneur can have. Its where your ideas are born, new business moves, etc.
– Self-control. This includes humility and emotional stability. You want to be able to have some sense of control over yourself and your emotions. Nobody is perfect, but work hard on it.
Q: What are the top 3 online tools and resources you’re currently using to grow your company?
- Google apps for business (content driven so we use drive often)
- Bufferapp– easiest way to keep your timelines full of valuable content while you focus
- Mixergy The best resource site for entrepreneurs
Q: What are three books you recommend entrepreneurs to read?
- Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (want to be a leader this is the realest book period)
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries (the best framework for business period)
- Fresh Off The Boat by Eddie Huang (how to focus on life/business while dealing with haters)
- Love is the killer app: Tim Sanders
- 33 strategies of war: Robert Greene
- To sell is human: Daniel H. Pink
This list could go on forever. I love reading business books. It’s a passion of mines.
Q: What is your favorite entrepreneurship quote?
James: “I had to get off the boat so I could walk on water!” – Jay Z Anthony: “You have to play until the end. The only difference between a winner and a loser is a winner plays until he wins” – Big Krit
This changes for me every season. Right now it’s this.
Q: Any last thoughts for entrepreneurs?
James: On hiring friends: In the beginning it is good to lean on friends and family for business needs. Once you have a little bit of traction or can see a much bigger goal hire the best people possible. Friends and family will come in with lots of unrealistic expectations at times while a professional will focus on the service they are providing. Don’t risk losing friends or family over your business hire the people you need.