Lessons for Startups from Jermaine Dupri


Mar. 18, 2013 | by David Deal
JDStartups have  a new role model: Jermaine Dupri. Lately the music mogul and iCrossing branding partner has been sharing his story at events such as StartupGrind, where he joined thought leaders like Clayton Christensen on February 6 in Silicon Valley to discuss the state of the art in creating business growth. In February he also participated in Atlanta’s Tech & Startup Week, joining Steve Case for the launch of Startup Georgia (the official regional chapter of the Startup America partnership) and then addressing emerging businesses at the monthly Founders Fables. His story is compelling: how social media communities such as his own Global 14 level the playing field and by creating destinations for young entrepreneurs with ideas and vision. And he’s been making an impact in real-time, generating a firestorm of tweets and photos wherever he speaks, such as the Startup Georgia attendee who tweeted, “Listening to@Mr_Dupri working hard at #startuprally taking time and killing it. First time this place has been focused and quiet all day.” Fresh from celebrating the 20th anniversary of his record label, So So Def Recordings, JD sat down with me to discuss why he’s talking to emerging entrepreneurs and what he’s been getting out of the experience. Here’s what he had to say:
David Deal: Why are you speaking at events like Startup Grind?
Jermaine Dupri: I am bridging the gap between music and technology. Technology has completely upended the music industry over the past decade. And music is clearly shaping the future of the technology world. Just look at the recent news about Google striking a deal with Warner Music Group to offer subscription services through Google Play and YouTube. But you don’t see enough music executives at technology events to embrace the disruption. And you don’t see enough technology leaders as music events. I am CEO of both So So Def Recordings and the Global 14 social media site that I founded. I am in an unusual position to create a convergence for music and technology.
David Deal: What’s your message to startups?
Jermaine Dupri: Social media technology levels the playing field for startups and entrepreneurs. Social media technology is free, accessible, and gives anyone a chance to create a brand. For example, Global 14 is a home for young entrepreneurs and musicians with vision to share their ideas. I launched Global 14 in 2011 as a community for people to support each other. We now have 44,000 members.
David Deal: How has Global 14 been a launching pad for fresh ideas?
Jermaine Dupri: Let me tell you about a Global 14 member named Sharon Simmons. She created an app called “I Got ‘em,” which helps citizens fight crime by giving people an easy way to use their mobile devices to report crimes to law enforcement officials. I have seen ideas nowhere good as this one receive full financial backing. “I Got ‘em” deserves attention — it’s the kind of creation that comes from a community of creators. So I’ve been using Global 14 as a platform to raise awareness for her idea.
Global 14 members have launched more than 1,000 communities on topics such as running a business. Google has emulated the Global 14 model by launching communities on Google Plus. Global 14 members created the Global 14 Radio brand, which is a popular digital radio talk show.
My role is to provide a platform for ideas on Global 14 and let the world know about them. Not everyone has the money to attend an event like Startup Grind. I aspire to elevate ideas bubbling up from the streets.
David Deal: What can startups learn from Jermaine Dupri?
Jermaine Dupri: I think my story resonates because I provide a different perspective to start-ups. Instead of talking about starting up, I talk about starting over. I created a business from scratch, So So Def Recordings in 1993, when I was 21 years old. Then in 2011 I blew up the So So Def Recordings website and launched my own social media community, Global 14. My lesson to startups is to be willing to disrupt your own model for success.
David Deal: You’ve often stated that personal style and having a sense of swagger are important to you. Why are swagger and style important to startups?
Jermaine Dupri: When you are starting out with little capital and no proven success, your personal style and swagger are all you have. You need swag to make a mark.
David Deal: What have you learned from hanging around startups?
Jermaine Dupri: Never get comfortable. There’s always a new idea around the corner to disrupt your world.

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