David Hunegnaw’s current business, Bylined, is one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” startups.
Bylined is an app that connects people who love to take photos with brands who need consumer-generated authentic content. It bypasses the middleman of Instagram and allows folks to not only get paid for their amateur art, but forge connections with brands they enjoy.
Bylined is only one of Hunegnaw’s entrepreneurial forays. He’s also a founding partner of Columbus-based Loud Capital, an entrepreneurial collective and VC firm; he was a partner with Founders Factory; serves as an advisory board member with the Endeavor Forward incubator; and is a founder of DOmedia, among other ventures.
Hunegnaw spoke to Columbus CEO about what it takes to churn out new businesses in a time when “disrupt” is so 2019.
Question: Your life seems to revolve around entrepreneurship, your own and helping others. What do you tell aspiring entrepreneurs is important?
Hunegnaw: A few months ago, I was asked to be part of pitch competition for students. The question came up: “Can entrepreneurship be taught, learned or developed over time?” My response was, two key words come to mind. Ambition.That’s sort of the entry price to entrepreneurship. Without that, you don’t even get a chance to start.
But the other part of it — it’s really important — is audacity. It’s irrationality, unreasonableness. You almost want the person you’re explaining your pitch to to say, “What a crazy idea.” And you want that person to want to take the ride with you.
I’ll give you an example. There is, of course, Elon Musk with Tesla, innovating not only the car but the way it’s sold, cutting out the dealership, allowing him to control the entire experience.
But for real audacity, I had a conversation with a startup out of Brooklyn selling laundry detergent. I met two brothers who are going to launch a line specifically designed for men ages 18 to 34. It’s black packaging, cedar and sandlewood scents, it smells like a clean guy. What? That business has not changed in 80 to 90 years. Marketing plans focus on the female buyer who manages the purchases, right? That’s audacity, that’s David taking on Goliath. That’s what you need.
Q: Can you teach audacity?
Hunegnaw: The first step is taking those students who have really great ideas, surrounding them with the people who say it’s OK to think audaciously. You can actually build a game-changing tech or service. Students have to be exposed to that. They have to be … not taught … inspired.
Back in the day, in the 1970s, when rap artists like Fab Five Freddy, Grandmaster Flash and even Afrika Bambaataa started to bring a new beat to basements in the Bronx and Brooklyn, the old school record labels didn’t think to follow those beats. Meaning, the old guard labels were busy following The Beatles and The Beach Boys.
It was only after the new guard, like Sugar Hill Records, started seeking, sourcing and surrounding themselves with raw, talented innovators did they find and bank those new beats. And when I say bank, they struck gold in those Brooklyn basements.
Same is true today. Just like Sugar Hill, we need to be willing to go into places off the beaten path — to seek, source and surround ourselves with the latest and greatest batch of innovative entrepreneurs — beyond the typical pitch competition at a university, innovation lab or tech accelerator. We need source talent in high schools, the local Y, trade schools and more. Also, corporate America needs to create its own channels for sourcing and investing in innovation. Imagine major retailers like Best Buy and Walmart holding weekly in-store pitch competitions for their retail staff, employees, vendors and customers.
And most importantly, we need to invest in these innovators.
Q: Do we do a good job of inspiring audacity here in Columbus?
Hunegnaw: I think it’s in the DNA for a lot of people who live in other markets, but I think in the Midwest, it’s not as ingrained. When you travel, you see it more. I think it’s changing, but I think here in the Midwest it’s a different way of thinking. Do you see that in today’s Midwestern students? Ten to 12 years ago, I’d have said no. But today, yes, 100%, I do.
Title: founder, Bylined
Employees: 3 full time
Revenue: would not disclose
Cynthia Bent Findlay is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO, a sister publication to The Dispatch. For the full story on Bylined, visit www.columbusceo.com.