“Wow, are we in different worlds!” Miles is an old friend and a venture capitalist, putting his “spare” time into non-profit fundraising and political causes, and I’m telling him how I found myself on the leading edge of the sneaky-fast-growing tattoo market. No, I respond, not at all! Heck, I came close to joining the Andrew Yang 2020 presidential campaign, just before taking on my new role leading Inside Out, a publication dedicated to making the modern world of tattoos more accessible and understandable.

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Adinkra symbol for “togetherness/interconnectedness” (instagram.com/gesiye)

To me, tattoos and progressive politics are simply two sides of the same cultural moment.

At some point, about 10 years ago now, I decided that what I was trying to be, as a vocation, was a consumer technologist. I grew up with two writers for parents, started drawing and painting when I was 3 and coding when I was 10, and while building GameChanger I realized that I could in fact merge these different pieces of my brain — but that to really become an expert in this domain, I needed to completely immerse myself in the rapidly changing river of consumer culture. …

So my friend Maxime, a few months back, invites me out for a drink. We slouch down by the fireplace at the Marleton with a couple of cocktails, and he leans over. I don’t see it coming. “A lot of people talk about what it’s like to fail,” he begins. I can feel something in the pit of my stomach tighten. He continues, “but almost nobody talks about what it’s like after you’ve tasted success, but not enough to be free.”

What’s that? Oh, no, just something in my eye… one sec…

Rewind just 2 years, and I’m sitting with Ted in front of the GameChanger team, a different kind of tears in my eyes, as we announce that we’ve been acquired. 8 years working and learning as hard as I know how, and if the group of insanely talented people sitting in front of us and NPS scores above 70 aren’t enough validation, a big public company 1000x our size just wrote it on a check. Not only did we, and all of our investors, make some money, but we fought to make sure every employee got the maximum amount, and we’re keeping our culture and independence. …

If you’re not comfortable having people think you’re crazy, entrepreneurship might not be the career for you — but going “retro” is contrarian even for me. How, a decade after 2008, did Chris and I end up neck-deep in Leap, a social app about meeting people in the real world?

You meant 2008, didn’t you?

Let’s go back a bit. If there’s a magic bullet for startup success (from my experience with GameChanger), it’s an obsession with your target customers, a value that Chris and I bonded over way back in 2007. …


Kiril Savino

artist, storyteller, 2x tech founder, student of culture, brand strategist, hacker, tattooer; past founder Leap, GameChanger

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