Pilot.ly’s Cultural Insights Technology Is Changing the Way Content Creators Do Business

James Norman believes that you have to have an ‘ignorant’ amount of confidence in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

At the age of 9, Norman began his entrepreneurial journey and by the time he was 16-years-old, he began to sell home audio devices. After receiving feedback from his peers, he pivoted to selling car audio to be able to meet the needs of his customers.

“That was my first point of customer feedback. I was like, ‘Oh, there’s actually a customer base, and they have a thing they want. So let me provide that and focus on building a business in that way.’ And so we ended up building a really burgeoning car audio business back in ’96,” said Norman.

Years later, his ability to build products and innovate through technology ultimately led him to become a serial entrepreneur.

Now through Oakland, California-based Pilot.ly, content distributors better understand why people feel the way that they do about content through the company’s cultural insights technology.

Pilot.ly is a community of entertainment enthusiasts who want to help shape the media around them. Working with the content creators of the world, their mission is to connect them with viewers who can give articulate opinions which can then be used to improve their videos.

Meet James Norman

Doing business in Oakland

Norman strategically chose to headquarter his business in Oakland as it is a growing economy.

“We have a very established community of black and brown people. That’s something that a lot of us didn’t grow up around. So, to see it on a daily basis is inspiring. I’m literally on a text message with 12 people, and these dudes are doing it. To have those people around you all the time is really irreplaceable. That’s what you get here. We all end up out here…there’s nowhere else you really want to be. New York’s too fast, Chicago’s too cold. Atlanta’s too hot. This is the perfect place.”

As an efficacious founder in the Bay Area, Norman is passionate about making sure that other founders of color win. That is why he created Transparent Collective, a nonprofit that helps African American, Latinx, and female founders access the growth resources and connections they need to build successful tech companies. ​

Related: The Gathering Spot Transforms Black Businesses and Communities

Great teams help drive innovation

Norman has a diverse team of top talent. And as a leader, he has learned that success is measured by how well others on his team are doing collectively.

“You cannot afford to be fighting with people internally while you’re already fighting the rest of the world to get business done. We’re trying to create a culture here that is both conducive to us being productive internally, but also fits within the industry once we’re operating.”

To that point, as a businessman, Norman says, “When you’re running a business, you’ve got to operate like a business. Any free time you have has to be somehow allocated to see how that business can be accelerated. You’ll think you have free time, but if you have free time, you’re not really running a business.”

In addition to time and resource management, Norman also has this advice to off entrepreneurs looking to gain success.

“Get yourself in the place where you feel like you’re moving towards your vision so you feel really positive about what you’re doing. And along the way, always be open to conversation and disseminating information that you’re capturing to keep moving towards your goal.”


The Profiles of Principled Entrepreneurship video series, presented by Koch Industries, focuses on companies that emphasize value creation, innovation, self-determination, and integrity to drive long-term success while developing products and services to help people improve their lives.