Darien Dash, a New Yorker and entrepreneur in the tech sector, is Darien. DME Interactive Holdings was his first company in tech. He is now the Managing Director of The Movement Management Advisors. Darien will tell the story of how he made a career out of the tech sector, and challenge the digital divide. Darien will also share his thoughts on how entrepreneurs can achieve the same.
Where did The Movement Management Advisors get their idea?
In 2015, I founded the company. My twenty-years of industry experience allowed me to offer strategic advice to my clients. I have worked with many clients in the past including CEOs, entertainers, and high-ranking athletes. I served as their advisor in the media, entertainment, banking, capital market, and cannabis sectors. I was able to increase my knowledge and to start a new company.
In the tech industry, 20 years is quite a long time. Tell us how you got into tech.
It was my senior year of USC. It was my senior year at USC. Just finished Megatrends. The book predicted wealth would pass from the captains and technologists to the barons. My cousin and me were at that time working together. We founded Roc-A-Bloc Records which was very successful. Despite the success, I was attracted to the megatrends concept. It inspired me to stay with the records company. After graduation, I was named marketing and sales director at DMX (Digital Music Express) after my school graduation. This was the first cable company that offered a separate set-top box with 30 channels, high-quality CD-quality audio 24 hours a day.
Why did your decision to start your business?
I discovered a flaw with our business model. Due to my demographics, I was not allowed to distribute boxes to certain locations at that time. These areas were dominated by Hispanic and African-American communities. Corporate circles believed that these urban areas wouldn’t pay for our service and that the boxes would not be returned. This was a missed chance, I knew.
After doing the math, I discovered that almost trillions of dollars were still untapped. The African American market was valued at $553billion and the Hispanic market at $490billion. DME Interactive Holdings was my first company.
The simple goal of the company was to expand the infrastructure and hardware in minority businesses. It has grown over the years. I believe digital equality is very important, especially for minorities. I believe everyone should have access the internet and the most recent technology. This belief is the cornerstone of my professional growth and has allowed me to excel in DME.
What other services have your expanded into?
We started to create a range of services. These services included e-business solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. We also developed Places of Color, which was a consumer-based program offering low-cost internet access that allowed us to offer affordable PC solutions. Access programs were offered in partnership with CompuServe or America Online.
It was a new concept to connect with consumers. What sales and marketing strategies have helped you grow your business?
We wanted to bring the product directly to the customers so we focused on building relationships with local government officials, schools boards, associations, and churches. We focused on organizations that directly impact local households. In each market that we targeted, local housing authorities also supported us. Advertising, direct mail, door-to-door campaigning, advertising and advertising were all part of our marketing mix.
Our focus on urban marketing was something that set us apart from other technology companies.
How did you get your company funded?
We were completely self-funded for the first four years. Even though some friends and family helped, it wasn’t enough. These contracts provided enough income to support me for many years.
I attempted to get funding from venture capital firms in 1998. But, I received a cold welcome. The first was that most investors didn’t understand the urban market. The digital divide, or the gap in access to telecom tech between minorities and the majority of Americans, was another reason. My company was valued by venture capitalists at $5 million. However, I felt it was worth more. An IPO was considered but proved too expensive. We finally met Mason Hill, an investor bank that wanted to make us publicly. They suggested a reverse merge. Pride Automotive Group was chosen to pair us because they didn’t want to share their public information. Pride Automotive was a car leasing business, so we didn’t have anything to do. We wanted to be able access their OTC public status. We were publicly traded in 2000 as a result of the merger.
Tell us about the digital divide.
The digital divide inspired me to start my business. It is the inequal distribution and access to information and communication technology. My experience was that it meant that African-American and Latino communities couldn’t access the music I had distributed. Then, they couldn’t access the internet.
What can you do to spread awareness about this idea?
In fact, I was part of President Clinton’s 1999 New Markets tour where I spoke out against cyber-segregation. 4 million African Americans had uninterrupted access to technology in the US, while 41 million whites had it. My goal was to raise awareness and close the digital divide. Even before Congress, I was called to testify.
Previously, I was also a board member for Helping Educate Activate Volunteer, Empower via The Net (also called HEAVEN). This non-profit was established to teach black teenagers in New York how to use computers. Our original goal was for minorities to be empowered by providing training, education and job placement.
In 2000, I partnered with two corporate executives to further our cause. My first partnership was with Carly Fiorina, the CEO of Hewlett-Packard. This allowed me to sell computers at a low price and offer free internet access to minorities in New York City. Ted Leonisisis, an American Online executive was my partner. Places of Color, which is a subsidiary of DME, was launched by Ted Leonisis and me. We created a cheaper, custom-made version of AOL’s CompuServe 2000 software that was affordable for minorities. AOL managed all business connections. We provided content, marketing, and advertising. It provided thirty channels, e-mail, instant messaging and chat room. Entertainment was also available via 150 affiliate content providers such as the National Urban League and the Black Health Network.
What other ventures have you been involved in since founding DME Interactive Holdings?
My goal is to share my skills and knowledge with other companies. I am a tech industry specialist. My time with DME Interactive Holdings was spent as the Managing director of Precient Acquisition Group and Partner with Pentagon Partners, as Director at 414 Media Advisors and as a Director at 4.14 Media Advisors. Today, I am The Movement Management’s Managing Director.
Building a tech company can be challenging, especially in today’s highly competitive market. It seems you have achieved great success over the years. What strategy has been most successful in growing your company?
Time is my greatest asset. Every client I have worked with and every company I have advised required a different strategy. We have learned that the best ideas are those that grow with time. This knowledge has allowed me to improve my abilities and collaborate with clients. Ideas are organic and naturally evolve.
Because I am focused on the client, my business has grown. In dealing with the ever-changing world of technology, the client is the only constant. Technology-driven success requires that you understand your client’s needs.
Many of the actions you have taken can be considered charitable. Did it help your company grow?
My business model has always included philanthropy. In the past, I focused on helping low-income communities by giving computers to schools located in inner-city areas. We hope people will sign up and find our service to be of high quality. This was particularly true when DME Holdings Interactive began. We needed to be present in areas that were underserved. Although I didn’t believe in digital welfare, I promised to improve the infrastructure of software and hardware within minorities. It didn’t matter what. That mission was profitable for me.
What challenges have you faced today?
My journey as a tech entrepreneur was full of failures. These failures were essential to building success in any industry, be it entertainment, sports or business. Despite hearing the word “no” so many times, I believe it is important that you keep your head up and not give up. Believe that you can succeed, and don’t lose heart even though it takes longer than you expected.
I advise others to see each failure as a learning opportunity. This will help you get there eventually.
What aspects of your business are contributing to your success?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I believe that there are key concepts that I have focused on, which has allowed me to grow and develop my brand despite the competition. First, I believe that my commitment to creating a work flow has made a difference in my productivity as an entrepreneur. Many of the tasks that I perform daily are similar for clients. I have been able to spend more time with each client by streamlining these processes.
Second, I keep track of my profit and loss statements as well as balance sheets. This is something that I have done since the beginning. Too often companies grow and people abandon the responsibility of monitoring them. This can lead to major delays in company development and can be a financial burden that can destroy the dreams of tech entrepreneurs.
Do you have any final words for our audience? Especially aspiring entrepreneurs?
The sky is too dark for trees. This has been a mantra I have used for many years. You can only sow what you sow. This is why you should always plant new seeds. Every goal you reach, plant a new seed. Stop trying to achieve the results you want.
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