The Road to TechConneXt: Ryan Leslie

"The Road to TechConneXt" is a lead-up series to Black Enterprise's TechConneXt Technology Summit, profiling today's tech leaders and innovators. This week: music superstar and technologist, Ryan Leslie.

Musician Ryan Leslie says his SuperPhone app lets him manage conversations with fans from his phone. (Image: File)
Musician Ryan Leslie says his SuperPhone app lets him manage conversations with fans from his phone. (Image: File)

It’s very likely that you know of Ryan Leslie, the prominent recording artist and music producer. But, do you know Ryan Leslie, the technologist, futurist, and founder of SuperPhone?

The “Diamond Girl” artist launched SuperPhone—which is part messaging app, part data analytics software, and part customer relationship management (CRM) solution—after noticing some feature deficits in other communication apps and platforms.

tcs-logoSparked by Frustration

“I went to Google,” says Leslie, who told the search giant, “You brought everything I need: great mail communication, great storage, and cloud storage. These are the things I really, really want. You have my Gmail records for years; who is the person I talked to most in my most successful year? How come there isn’t a graph that tells me, ‘Hey Ryan, you used to be managed by Puff Daddy?’”

Leslie also was disappointed by the inflexibility of Google Voice, as it didn’t allow him to do what he wanted, which was finding a way to manage and communicate with everyone he ever met as well as his fans in a massive and impactful way.

“Before I decided to build my own communications company, I decided to spin up a Google Voice number,” explains Leslie. “I [wanted] to automate a ‘Thank You’ to someone that sent me a receipt [after] they bought my album. Google would not allow me to do it. They don’t offer an API that allows me to program phone numbers.”

Creating Innovation

The Harvard-educated Leslie set out to create his solution, SuperPhone. It’s an app that provides a flexible and scalable way for users to communicate.

SuperPhone also provides data analytics. For example, Leslie explains that a user can see how many venture capitalists he communicated with last month. “You can keep a record of how every single person in your phone has contributed to you—your church, your marathon, or [that] they showed up, or bought your book—[it’s] that kind of intelligence,” he says.

SuperPhone is currently in private beta, and has the investment backing of heavyweights, including VC Ben Horowitz.

And what’s the advantage of SuperPhone over Snapchat, Facebook, and other social media/messaging platforms? Content control.

“I started to speak to [others that] didn’t have the luxury that I had. They were still trying to get their first 100 [followers] on Twitter and Instagram. Why build there when you can have control of the audience?” says Leslie.

“I have these conversations when I talk about Bob Johnson [Black Entertainment Television Founder] and Oprah. How did Bob Johnson become a billionaire before Puff Daddy? He owned an audience. I want to put a little of that value in everyone’s hands.”

Register for Black Enterprise’s TechConneXt Technology Summit: The Intersection of Innovation and Opportunity, held October 10-11, 2016 at the San Francisco Marriott Waterfront Hotel!