The words etched into the foreword continue to inspire Harris everyday as he brings a unique level of taste and insight into both the music and advertising industries. “I’ve won Grammys, wrote and produced multi-platinum songs, and also created a company with unique technology that was named to the Global 100 Most Innovative Companies in the World,” says Harris. Unable to play a note or code a line, Harris uses knowledge gained his MBA studies and personal experiences to overcome any shortcomings. “In a world where technology is becoming commoditized and easier to assemble, connecting with culture in a way that breaks through is becoming key and I’m pretty good at that intersection.”
The fact that Harris attended Wharton School and Columbia Business School did not make entry into technology any easier. “As I tried to round up initial support for my technology startup, it was a real challenge to convince people that I am a serious product person with a tremendous vision that brought singularly unique value to a startup,” Harris tells BE Modern Man. My experience at a VC firm and work building one of the hottest entertainment brands was never mentioned. I seemed to be reduced to “a music guy” which was hard to break through. I’m still working on that.”
The challenges that Harris continues to face speak to a larger issue around diversity in tech. “There are a lot of nice words about inclusion but who’s responsibility is it? No one’s,” says Harris. “I think we need to champion ourselves more, elevate our leaders and individually and collectively put our best foot forward.”
Championing ourselves and pulling each other up as we climb to decision making positions is essential for men and women of color to be equally represented in the advertising and marketing industry. “Consumption is global and people of color over-index in usage on many social Internet products,” Harris tells BE Modern Man. “A lack of diversity in the creators of your advertising or marketing message is dangerous for those products and brands that want to communicate to a global, or even domestic audience.”
Sundance Channel recently got a chance to see the work that a group of diverse creators can produce. “It was the first time ever that a brand used truly interactive video as a true network-distributed advertising unit giving over 10 million impressions,” says Harris. “It was groundbreaking and, as expected, we had the greatest performing video ad ever for the various networks it was on.”
With thousands of users, from kids to Fortune 500 companies, Adventr has served millions & millions of video plays. Harris wants to show young folks that we, not just people of color but people of culture, have every right to be in this high growth space. “I want to help make working in technology cool,” says Harris. “A BE Modern Man is the meeting of professional excellence and cultural resonance which I love. I want young Black kids, and anyone that grew up in hip-hop culture to see that there are roles for them in technology innovation.”
The BlackEnterprise.com team salutes Devo Harris for his accomplishments in both music and tech. By creating a new innovative platform Harris is opening the door for anyone to make content and distribute it virally on social media. It is this innovative thinking and execution that knocks down doors for men of color in the tech space. We are inspired by Harris’s wok and are excited to call him a BE Modern Man.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @blackenterprise and join the BE Modern Man conversation using #BEModernMan.