As Hip Hop culture continues to expand its global influence, there is a unique opportunity to shape a new narrative around what young African Americans consider cool, cutting edge, and aligned with their diverse lifestyles.

According to extensive studies,  African American millennials consume more content than any other demographic, are the most mobile-obsessive, and further prove to be the most active users on social media platforms. This revelations would suggest that big brands, marketers, and business leaders capture such an audience. Nevertheless, the many nuances that define black people and black culture are rarely accounted for. Now, one rapidly growing media and tech company is blazing an impressive trail for these companies to follow.

Founded in 2014 by Morgan DeBaun, and 25-year-old Co-Founder Aaron Samuels, Blavity is a thriving tech and multimedia company serving as the voice of black millennials. The platform offers a mix of humor, critical commentary and valuable thought-leadership – Blavity covers the full spectrum of content, tech and culture.

 

Blavity = Black + Gravity

Morgan DeBaun always had an entrepreneurial itch. When she was younger, she would look for opportunities to make money, invest, and create things. “I didn’t quite know where that would take me, but I knew that I wanted to create something that would be a reflection of who I was.” Blavity is a manifestation of just that. The founding team and DeBaun went to Washington University in St. Louis, a predominately white institution (PWI). During their time at Washington University, there was a particular place where all of the Black students would sit together; and that was at the lunch table. Like in many groups and ethnicities in culture, food and gathering makes people feel comfortable and at home despite the fact that they may be amongst people they don’t know. That lunch table is where the idea and the term ‘Blavity’ originated. They would sit down, then another person would sit down, and then another 2 or 3 people would sit down. Then, before they knew it, there would more than 20 of us sitting there for hours. “We would skip class and talk about critical race theories, what the Alphas did at the party, or whatever it may be”.  That moment when everyone would come to the table from different classes, parts of the country, and ethnicities of the diaspora – that was Black Gravity, or Blavity. 

 

Getting Serious

Watching the protests that ensued after Michael Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, Morgan DeBaun knew that the online forum that she had been working on part-time now needed her full-time attention. In the fall of 2014, she quit her high paying Silicon Valley job at Intuit and dedicated herself to getting the online community off the ground.  After leaving Intuit, DeBaun teamed up with co-founders Jonathan Jackson, Aaron Samuels and Jeff Nelson to turn Blavity into a business. The team has since secured more than $1 million in venture backing.

The founders of Blavity, from left to right: Aaron Samuels, Morgan DeBaun, Jonathan Jackson and Jeff Nelson.

L-R: Aaron Samuels, Morgan DeBaun, Jonathan Jackson and Jeff Nelson.

The biggest challenge for DeBraun has been articulating her vision in a way that people can understand. When people used to ask her about Blavity, she would tell them the big picture and it confused people. For example, someone who just follows them on Twitter TWTR +1.24% might describe Blavity’s products and services differently than someone who is on their weekly email newsletter.  She had to get comfortable early on understanding how people perceived Blavity, and her, based on their interaction with our content or community.  “Our team had to be crystal clear about who we were serving and our mission so that our community knew what to rely on us for.” told DeBraun to Forbes. 

In the midst of intense conversations surrounding racism, injustice and senseless violence Blavity’s role is to connect to Black community with different perspectives and influencers. They reach out to organizers, and promote stories that may otherwise go untold by mainstream media publishers. Our community is diverse — often times they have opposing viewpoints on the site, but ultimately Blavity is about providing access to information and alternative voices.

There were two turning points for Blavity as a brand and a voice. First, when things would happen in culture, members of the black community started to tag and mention Blavity to make sure we had seen it. They would tag Blavity next to BET, The Root, Buzzfeed, and Vox – brands that are big hitters with 7+ years on us. The second turning point is when Debraun started getting inbound emails from big brands wanting to work with them. She knew we were starting to reach beyond our peers in to new spaces.

Now Blavity has an increasing total of over 120,000 followers across social media, while generating over 700,000 monthly unique visitors to its flagship site – Blavity has become a commonly referenced source of news and information for notable influencers across industries.

Blavity logo

Blavity is a reflection of the love and passion of hard working millennials across the country. This reflects Millennials who go to Harvard Law and Spelman, contributors who are Rhodes scholars, community organizers, poets and investment bankers.

In the day and age where millennials tend to  obsess over celebrity and pop culture Blavity kept itself from positioning as an entertainment news platform. Celebrity culture and gossip would get them website clicks, but DeBraun just don’t feel like it makes the world a better place. She wants to spend her time creating, developing and challenging new ideas that will truly drive the culture forward. 

Subscribe to WM Daily. Be In Touch With Rebellious Voices