The Day I learned to Think BIGGER
In college, I majored in journalism. I have vivid memories of my really good friend, who was an honors student and who went to a prestigious high school in Baltimore, share with me her vision to become a magazine owner someday.
I was awestruck at the audacity and boldness of such BIG dreams. I, who came from humble beginnings, the product of West African immigrants, back then, never heard such brave and ambitious goals come from the mouths of people who looked like I did. Even though I had made pretty good grades to get into the best State school, I still was restrained by mental limitations created from years of not really seeing or knowing of human models of success that came from where I came from.
And the thing is my friend spoke those words as if she had no doubt that dream could come true. It wasn’t a matter of luck or a pipe dream. She spoke it as a truism.
Amazing! Simply Amazing!
Clearly, she was raised by parents and flourished from an upbringing that let her know that nothing was impossible through hard work.
I, on the other hand, was quite aware that those who sat at the pinnacle of success came from wealth or had access and thus had an easier road to traverse to accomplish their goals.
“Thinking Big” was not part of my nomenclature of life because I was too wary of reality and limitations. I assumed it was more likely that I’d earn a degree and get a job and work for someone until retirement age.
That was how it worked back then in the 90s, for me and those who came from my poor’ish background.
But alas, I got a campus job working on this new thing called the Internet, the year after it came out. This was in 1992. I created online content for the University of Maryland’s information website, one of the first websites in American history.
But soon, I would see and learn how easy it was to build digital empires using computer savvy and a good idea alone.
By the time I got into law school, gossip blogger Perez Hilton was pulling in a 6-figure salary from a blog!
But there would be many more to follow his path. I’m right there with them too… chasing.
Today, I am running my own online magazine — a digital version of what my friend envisioned for herself but I could never fathom accomplishing for myself.
I manage more than one website and recently organized them into a publishing company.
It’s all fueled by hard work and few resources and outside funding.
The digital economy makes it possible.
Never before has it become possible for those without access, resources, connections or substantial monetary sources to create and grow businesses.
It only takes $10 to launch a domain and using available free platforms; an enterprising person can sell products, services or just amplify their thoughts and words and make money from them.
In the hay day, advertisers and marketers sought out celebrities only to promote their products, but today they are courting everyday moms and students and dudes who have managed to use their blogs started on a free platform to amass a following of thousands and hundreds of thousands.
Brands see those eyeballs and think marketing gold.
Similarly, we are seeing brick and mortar media entities convert more and more of their workforce to digital only, noticing how it takes substantially less resources to compete with traditional businesses. For example, recently, BET announced that its long running talk show “106 & Park”, which at one time was the #1 teen program on TV, will soon be digital only.
Fans of the show “Parks & Recreation” worked hard to convince producers to bring it back in an online format only.
When CNN did its restructuring in recent weeks, many noted that the station was going to produce more digital only content, clearly an indication that more people are getting their news and information from digital sources via their 3rd, 4th and 5th screens: their mobile smart phones, tablets and laptops or computers.
Technology like Roku and Chromecast; and smart TV enable consumers to cut their cable cord altogether.
Now, more enterprising women and people from groups are realizing they can follow in the footsteps of once small but now big businesses that launched, grew and exploded in growth on the internet, like Kickstarter, Netflix, Google, Yahoo and others.
And those groups were able to flourish in the current Open Internet regulatory environment which is free of the same restrictions in countries like China and Iran.
That means, for the most part, start ups and entrepreneurs could build products, secure funding, negotiate deals and reach out to consumers without worry.
But we are at a nexus in the road where we see people like the President of the United States and others advocating to change the ecosystem in a way that threatens investor interest in next generation start ups and could interject a whole new slew of paperwork, reporting and obligations they would need to prepare for.
Unlike the web-based business owners of the past, we have to pause our work plugging away at building great products and apps and have to now concern ourselves with what and how the FCC may or may not regulate us; and then apportion resources to accommodate.
And it all could be for naught because industry leaders anticipate that the FCC would be challenged in court, however it ultimately comes down.
All that uncertainty is a recipe for making venture capitalists that need clarity and established returns of their investment plans and finite exit strategy options.
It’s the type of stuff to take the wind out of ones fast moving sails.
And today, the dialogue on this issue is full of complexity and oversimplification by parties who you can tell are not quite sure themselves what all is at stake. Yet, they insist on telling others they do.
It’s quite a messy situation.
I am eager as to how it all turns out as many of us new and next generation of web-based digital and tech entrepreneurs’ livelihoods depend on it.
Thinking Big only works when the government doesn’t think too small and tries to harness the wide open west that is the Internet.