Blavity Co-Founder Morgan Debaun On Creating A Digital Platform For The Black Community
Who said young Blacks aren’t making their mark in the tech world? Morgan DeBaun, co-founder of recently launched tech startup Blavity, is on a mission is to empower minority creators, inspire self-expression and connect people to content that reflects their culture. Blavity users can visit the site daily to check out the top videos curated by their preferences and what their network has been watching or sharing. Morgan talks about what inspired the platform, the power of black consumption habits, the challenges of being a Black female startup founder, and her future plans for Blavity. Check out the interview below.
MadameNoire (MN): You launched the platform in July 2014. What inspired you to start Blavity?
Morgan DeBaun (MD): There was this moment during my freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis where I was like, “I know I go to an all-white school, but I only hang out with Black people.” We had this term called “blavity” which is black + gravity. How did we all find each other? That’s where we got the idea of aggregating and bringing together different perspectives of diversity of Black experience into one platform.
Living in Silicon Valley, my business partner Jeff and I were always baffled as to why there is no platform geared towards solving our problems when we are a huge population of consumers. We were passionate about building a platform for people to discover new things and for creators to build their audience and to be powered to be their own brands.
MN: A 2013 Nielson report showed that African Americans are aggressive consumers of media and have unique buying behaviors different from the other major consumer groups. How is Blavity going to change the Black consumer marketplace?
MD: Look at Black Twitter. It’s bringing together people virtually over what’s happening and is relevant in our community. We’re killing Instagram. People love seeing other people’s experiences. With Blavity, we want to continue to empower the population to create those shared experiences.
Blavity uses a mix of Lean Startup practices where you’re asking, “What is the core root problem that we are trying to solve?” “How can we solve that problem the fastest and cheapest, get it to market and get feedback from our customers?” And “How we are going to build something substantial that is unique and proprietary and give us a competitive advantage?” What you see today is the first bucket but we are working behind the scenes on the second bucket.
MN: What were some of the challenges you faced to get Blavity up and running?
MD: The first thing was putting a stake in the ground that said we are building this community for the Black diaspora. This totally influenced everything else. We knew if we focused on solving this problem for a specific group of people, there’s so much opportunity. The second was figuring out who are we prioritizing. The creators are the lifelines for Blavity. We spend 65-75% of our resources and our time towards helping these creators be successful. Right now we are starting to thinking about venture capital funding. The first time raising money is a huge barrier for a woman of color with a minority product. It’s like we are a triple whammy: A woman, a Black woman founder, building a product for Black people. It’s a cool challenge to have. I am confident that our team can make it work.