“As an entrepreneur, you have to always be ready. You never know! That person that could take your business to the next level could be in this room.” — Anthony Frasier
May’s installment of BREAD’s Start Up Classroom was such a breath of fresh air! Not only did it fall on what was perhaps the hottest day of 2018 thus far, but took place at Dorchester Brewery, which was a nice change of scenery. The featured guest speaker was none other than Anthony Frasier, a tech entrepreneur, speaker, and author of Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide for Thinking & Being Great. With over a decade of entrepreneurial experience, a profile on CNN’s Black in America: New Promised Land — Silicon Valley and features on platforms that include BET, The Washington Post, Forbes, Blavity, The Griot, Black Enterprise and USA Today, it was no surprise that it was a packed house! Attendees came for a myriad of reasons ranging from looking to be inspired (which was reiterated a number of times), wanting more information on the marketing side of business, to embracing growth while learning to balance multiple endeavors or simply just wanting to be around Black and Brown people. Needless to say, Anthony’s message to those in attendance did not disappoint.
Anthony’s story began in high school, where he struggled with being engaged with traditional schooling. A gamer at heart, Anthony remembered being more interested in video games then going to class. He managed to graduate and enroll in college, but that wasn’t working out. Like many inner city youth, Anthony who is a native of Newark, NJ, didn’t see the connection between formal education and his everyday reality. You can imagine it wasn’t long before Anthony pulled the plug on school and dropped out.
He started, The Koalition, an award winning online gaming community for gamers of color and had some success with that. He would later attend the E3 Expo, the world’s premier event for computer and video games, not realizing it would change his life. Anthony recalled running into a gamer friend at the expo who had launched his own company within the gaming industry and was doing extremely well. A Black man like himself, Anthony recalled the impression his friend had on him. “Here was this Black guy with this huge house he had rented and was doing well. It was then I decided I wanted to be like him. This is why representation matters.” Anthony returned home to Newark where he worked the graveyard shift at KMart; with a new goal in mind, he was determined that he was going to get into the tech industry. However, without a college degree or one in progress, he realized he’d have to get creative if he was going to get his foot in the door. He buckled down and became very disciplined about going to his local library everyday, where he taught himself about the tech industry and front end coding.
With effort and persistence Anthony eventually landed a tech internship, beating out other applicants who were in a college. He excelled so much so, that he was brought on full time. It was great until the startup failed and went under a year later. Having gotten a taste of the tech industry, Anthony decided to jump in feet first. He found an investor to pitch his idea to, and successfully won them over. With an investment seed of $100, 000, Anthony went to Silicon Valley and participated in the inaugural class of the NewMe Accelerator Program. Considering the NewMe Accelerator program was the first accelerator program for minority entrepreneurs, it was selected to be a part of CNN’s 2011 documentary series, Black in America.
After his time in the NewMe Accelerator Program, Anthony launched his app, Playd, a social network for gamers. It did really well in the beginning, garnering over 30, 000 active users in its first three months on the market. Playd was well on its way to becoming developed by THQ, a now defunct video game developer and publisher. Internal struggles within Playd also took its toll on the trajectory of the company. Issues with the investor started to arise, which prompted Anthony to look for other means to get out from under them; however, Anthony would learn that when he took that initial $100, 000 investment he unknowingly signed over 70% ownership of Playd. A hard reality to accept, Anthony eventually chose to walk away from the company he founded. In hindsight, despite the fact that it was a huge mistake, Anthony describes it as, “the best mistake of my life” for he likely would not be where he is today.
Since his departure from Playd, Anthony has been up to some amazing things! Specifically, he co-founded The Phat Startup with James Lopez, a website that bridges the gap between Hip-Hop and entrepreneurship. They even organized and executed three installments of Tech808, a day long conference for underrepresented groups in tech in New York City, Washington, DC and Oakland, CA. To date, Anthony is an Entrepreneur in Residence with Newark Venture Partners, an early-stage venture capitalist fund backed by Audible/Amazon, is the Principal of ABF Creative, a multicultural branded podcast network, and last but not least, also published his highly anticipated book, Don’t Dumb Down Your Greatness: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide for Thinking & Being Great. An “entrepreneurship book with no business advice,” the book is a personal development manuel written for young entrepreneurs of colors to help them set goals, while overcoming areas like failure and self doubt.
Ten takeaways from Anthony’s message to the BREAD Boston community were:
- 80% of startups eventually fail. If you fail, take what you can from the experience and build on what you learned.
- You’d be surprised how far you can go with what you already have.
- When you do win, it’s ok to do so quietly. Every win doesn’t need to be validated by posting to social media.
- Never dim your light to make others around you more comfortable.
- And on that note, your focus will offend the right people.
- Consistency is what helps you stand out and sets you apart. People believe in that.
- As an entrepreneur you should always be ready to pitch your idea at a moment’s notice.
- Representation really does matter.
- You can set yourself apart from others in your field by becoming a resource yourself.
- Lastly, life happens in patterns. Patterns are created by habits. Change your habits, change your life.