Any budding entrepreneur knows that a press kit can be the ultimate marketing tool when it comes to promoting a business, product, or person. Detroit native Hajj Flemings seems to agree with this idea, wholeheartedly – so much so, that he based his start-up, GoKit, on it.
“We wanted to create something that wasn’t a resume format but was a professional, business-like destination. We’re going to give people the ability to share what we call ‘multiple personas’ for the different dimensions of who they are in the business realm,” says Flemings.
GoKit is an online identity platform that allows you to create visually compelling personal homepages that tell your story and share your social network connections in a central location. It can be used as a way to aggregate information about oneself to one central hub. Says Flemings, “People often have their identities scattered across multiple social networks. GoKit allows you to point people to a particular destination and link them to other parts of your social graphs…your Twitter account, your Facebook account…it centralizes things.” He continues, “Also, if someone wanted to find out business-related information about you, they probably would not go to Facebook because Facebook is more of a personal platform. LinkedIn does a better job of it, but it’s not very visual and it’s more of a resume-style format. Twitter is about sharing content, but it doesn’t effectively communicate who you are.”
GoKit is that happy medium. You can even use it as your website.
Flemings, just back from Silicon Valley where he participated in the tech incubator NewMe Accelerator (filmed by CNN), formed GoKit in March 2011 after attending the South by Southwest Interactive gathering in Austin, Texas. After doing a photo shoot for the event, he wanted to create a press kit and create it in a format that would allow him to distribute it in a way that would be easy for people to find the press kit. As he thought about the concept of press kits, he realized that it was difficult to both create one and distribute it, efficiently. “We’re working on a feature that will allow you to push a button that will pull all your info into a PDF file and create the press kit, without the help of a graphic designer,” he says.
A brand strategist by profession, Flemings’ interest in technology comes from his involvement with an interactive collective called Brand Camp University. “It’s in its fourth year. It’s expanding to N.Y. and Boston, and in 2012 it’s moving into six cities. A lot of what we do is about using technology to educate kids. We did a local event in Detroit. 212 parents attended. We talked about startups as both an educational option and a career option. We need to get students excited about the science, engineering, and math-related fields. I think it’s important to talk about the fact that there’s a pipeline issue. People say the notion is a crutch, but I say it’s true,” he notes.
The pipeline issue he refers to is in terms of education…the lack of access…the daunting statistics that show the low numbers of African-American engineers being produced in the United States.
“When Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in 2004, the enrollment in computer science skyrocketed. That was a direct derivative of people seeing him as a role model and seeing tech startups as a career option. And so people who look like us really haven’t been exposed to that enough. Another interesting number is that one percent of D.C.-backed startups have African-American founders. It goes back to the fact. Part of that is pipeline…we need to get more Blacks into STEM education to become a part of this growing economy. There is a tremendous void,” says Flemings.
He has his work cut out for him, but he’s ready for the challenge. “We’re hard at work on our startup. We believe we have a great product that will make a tremendous impact when we get it to full BETA,” he says. And though he knows Silicon Valley is touted as THEE place for startups, he’s looking to build in Detroit. “I want to bring a lot of what I learned in Silicon Valley back to Detroit. There are some specific programs and partnerships that I’m working on now that will start to launch in 2012. In the near future, you’ll see a lot of small businesses and startups being an integral part of the new economy here. I’m excited about being right in the midst of that space so I’m working hard to create a strong foothold there but also to make sure that I can help educate some of the students who come from a similar background as me,” he says.