We threw our first app launch party about three months ago.
Since then, I’m most frequently asked to answer a version of the question below.
It’s a question I get A LOT.
Especially when folks are packing up to leave at the end of our app launches.
“How do you meet these tech startup founders, anyway”?
The truth is “it depends.”
Although, I’m tired of giving that answer.
People genuinely want to know.
So we’re publishing just for you.
The truth is...
There’s really no magic to it
But if you’re like me, you’d agree that some good ole fashioned luck can certainly juice your odds.
If that answer doesn’t suffice, I hope you enjoy the article below.
As always, you can follow us at www.d-tech.fund to learn about our upcoming launches.
#1 JR ROBINSON, JUSTMYCITIES, INC.: Serve others and be open, someone is always watching
It’s my understanding that many venture capitalists won’t venture into smaller cities to source deals.
At least not initially.
It’s too expensive and resources are sparse compared to well-endowed markets like Silicon Valley and New York City.
Valuations are typically smaller too.
I get it.
Although, what I like about meeting startup founders in smaller cities is the opportunity.
The additional (rocky) mountains they climb make them an underdog worth rooting for, in my opinion.
For example, I spent seven weeks volunteering in an art gallery for Dr. King’s photographer, Dr. Ernest C. Withers, before moving to NYC.
Instead of spanning the globe for my mind blowing bar trip, I volunteered my time instead.
One morning, the head of business development invited me to an offsite mastermind group session at a private high school on a rolling campus just off of the main interstate.
We entered the front gate of this secluded area, parked our minivan and went inside.
As we strolled the cafeteria and into our meeting room, portraits of former headmasters stared approvingly at us.
We took our seats.
Floor to ceiling windows showed clearly views of jovial students sauntering into their classes.
And on our side of the window, my co-workers and I met a who’s-who of local artists.
All of them sought expansion and in some of the biggest theaters, operas, symphonies, ballets, and museums in the city.
But unbeknownst to me, a young tech start-up company attended as well, present to help promote these artists and businesses on its proprietary platform.
The leader of this mastermind group poured her coffee as we entered a truly majestic meeting room where artists get together once a month and update this group on current happenings and upcoming exhibits while swap actionable creative ideas.
When the meeting ended, I scanned the room for potential opportunities.
(I was in full sales mode for the art gallery at the time).
And I divided the room into two groups:
Ready to leave and lingering.
Eventually I maneuvered to a coffee table designated for literature drop-off, so guests could leave their respective pamphlets.
It’s that there I struck up a conversation with someone who had to be the youngest person in the room that day.
He wore a fitted with blue jeans and converse, and he had my attention.
At the time, I was mostly curious as to why he was there?
Was it really just to help these artists?
I wanted to know but we were running low on time.
Despite our brief exchange, my co-worker and I began to peak his interest; so we exchanged information and walked away.
I thought that the end.
And that’s when I ran into a slightly more seasoned gentleman.
These two people were connected.
Coincidentally he was even more skeptical and standoffish than the blue jeans guy.
Until I mentioned my recent law school graduation and that I would be moving to NYC in a few weeks.
Curious he was, so we scheduled a follow up meeting for that next Friday.
When Friday arrived he showed up to our newly designed art gallery space and agreed to a brief tour with me.
His tech start-up was having an event right down the street at the Peabody Hotel and we found a fairly empty ballroom to talk business (so he could deliver his ask).
As it turns out, the blue jeans guy was the president of this burgeoning start-up; and the older gentleman was the founder.
Just because someone doesn’t drip fully suited and booted, doesn’t mean they have less to say.
The man was JR, founder of JustMyCities, Inc., a Memphis-based tech startup that publishes local businesses’ promotional video-stories to over 10,000+ users on a locally curated platform, and that’s just in one city.
For example, JustMy’s real estate channel directs prospective homebuyers to neighborhoods that match their interests.
Its faith-based channel, on the other hand, augments attendance at religious events, while restaurants, sports fans, non-profits, and creative artists alike all can push their content to novel traffic and blooming audiences.
Their user interface is sleek.
Their lookbook designs are timeless.
It felt like viewing Memphis inside-out for the first time as I visited the platform.
The following week, JR and I met again at a local pizza shop.
I wanted to pick his brain about their technology, the JustMy business model and to better understand each member’s role at the company.
Most importantly, I wanted to ask him the hard questions about his overarching goal and purpose with JustMyCities.
But then I asked,
“What’s your exit strategy?”
Like many founders, he wanted to go big.
However, I was still a bit eerie about committing.
This would have been my first tech startup investment.
Nonetheless, he wanted us to keep in touch regularly and he liked my energy.
JR thought I could help JustMy increase its revenue (like we had accomplished at the art gallery).
But we agreed to talk once a week.
And a few months later I invested.
To stay focused, I called JR almost every Monday morning for at least thirty minutes for updates on the newest technologies, the company at-large, daily revenue and weekly wins.
I try to add value through my insightful questions to encourage team growth and by providing thoughtful feedback on priorities, focus and sales.
His leadership (and the team itself) have grown substantially since those initial early morning calls, which got me excited on both a personal and professional level.
If you’re like me, you may be doubting yourself here and whether you can add value early in your career.
Trust me, you can and will in ways you least expect.
In fact, it’s easier fearing embarrassing mistakes than actually embracing a time tested strategy of failing early and often.
For example, initially, JR was nervous about entering some of the biggest urban markets too soon and also about going overseas prematurely.
All valid concerns that he’s since (not only) abandoned but now pushes us all to aspire to grow with its user base.
Practical tip: In my opinion you add tremendous value when you help founders keep from lowering their goals by leveraging your connections and inspiring their team members.
Disclaimer: I don’t give legal advice to the company (they don’t expect me to) and the company has its own lawyer.
So who is JustMyCities, Inc.?
JustMyCities, Inc. is a Memphis-based startup attempting to make the internet local again by promoting local businesses’ stories on their platform using real people with an affordable out-of-the-box public relations solution for non-profits (kind of like an App Store)..
JustMy had 10,000+ Memphis users in 2018, and expanded to Houston and Nashville by the end of 2019, tripling their market.
In 2020, we expanded to 186 markets.
In summary, my story is a bit peculiar.
Yours will be too, but these tips will help to prepare you for that special moment.