When I was 19 years old, God told me He will make me a billionaire to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the time, I was a security officer at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in NYC earning $16.20 per hour. That was 20 years ago…here’s an update.
The year was 1997, and the internet bubble was still gaining steam. I found myself glued to the news each night as newly minted millionaires discussed their latest IPO (Initial Public Offerings…for all my “WHAT???” readers). It was then that I knew someday I would have my own billion dollar IPO. Each day I waited for God to reveal the master plan. In the meantime, I became a real estate agent, a day trader, an insurance agent with Primerica, started a media company, and joined Amway, along with several other multilevel marketing companies. All efforts to help God along the way. Eight years had passed and I failed at each and every venture. Although I was now earning a six figure income in the hotel industry, each promotion tied me to a 9–5 lifestyle that I could never fully embrace. I was destined to become a billionaire, so help me God… then they fired me.
“HELP ME GOD RIGHT NOW!!! YOU SAID YOU WOULD MAKE ME A BILLIONAIRE, WHAT’S TAKING SO LONG???”
I reasoned my newfound freedom was a gentle nudge from God to detach me from my comfort zone. Although I was scared, I was even more excited. I heard motivational speaker Les Brown say “It only takes one idea to make you wealthy.” So each night I went to sleep with a pen and pad next to my bed, waiting for God to give me one idea. Then it came! Over the course of 2 weeks, God gave me vivid dreams of not one, but two ideas, Upload Studios, and Professional Address. I sought the counsel of the most successful person I knew at the time, Jem Pagan, who worked for Oracle. I explained both business concepts to him, and while impressed with both, he suggested I pursue Upload Studios first. He helped me write the business plan, and the first people I presented to, the owners of Midtown Restaurant in NYC gave me a $25,000 investment, another investor gave me $15,000 shortly after. With a start like this, surely I will be a billionaire in no time I thought. That was about 10 years ago. That $40,000 lasted me about three weeks. I met with tons of investors and tried to get Upload Studios off the ground for a little over a year, but became so broke I couldn’t even pay the $7.99 to keep the domain name. Microsoft bought it after I let it expire, and UploadStudios is now a part of their Xbox family. I still believe in the concept, but the timing just wasn’t right.
Returning to the workforce was the hardest and most depressing moment of my life. I took a job as a security supervisor for New York Presbyterian Hospital. In exchange for 40+ hours per week, they paid me about $90,000+ per year, including overtime pay…mere pennies in comparison to the dream that still raged in my spirit. I did this for 3 years and hated every moment of it. I didn’t belong here. I was 35 years old… OLD!!! I felt my dream slipping away, but I just couldn’t let go…then it happened.
Black In America was a series of documentaries hosted by reporter Soledad O’Brien on CNN. One of the segments was titled “The New Promised Land-Silicon Valley”. Now if you do not know the story about Joshua (my name) and the promised land, I highly encourage you to read it here, but to make a long story short, the walls came crashing down. This was my sign from God, He was finally taking me into the promised land after all those years in the wilderness. The CNN special featured the “NewMe” accelerator in Silicon Valley, an organization started by Angela Benton and Wayne Sutton. The program was for minorities who had an idea, but did not have the resources or know-how to get it off the ground… ME ME ME!!! I put my notice in at work, and with $6,000 to my name, on July 6, 2012 I packed all my earthly belongings into my Ford Explorer and followed some of the best advice ever given “Go west young man.”
I arrived in California six days later with no place to stay. I put San Jose State University into the GPS as my destination, because I wanted them to be my first customers on the Professional Address platform. The first three days were really tough. I didn’t know how long it would take me to find a place to live, so I stayed in the cheapest motel I could find...need I say more?
I was then able to rent a room in South San Jose for $500.00 per month, but the landlord wanted me to pay six months in advance plus a two-month deposit. My childhood friend, Stephanie Massiah, covered the entire bill. Now all I needed was a VC, a napkin, and a pen…at least that’s what I heard it was like in Silicon Valley. Was I in for a rude awakening! Not only was there no such thing as a mysteriously generous VC in a restaurant on Sand Hill Rd awaiting me with a million dollar check, but the NewMe accelerator turned down my application as well. My whole world came crashing down fast and furiously. What now??? They said I needed at least a wireframe, and preferably an MVP (minimal viable product). All I heard was “blah, blah, blah you just quit a good paying job and traveled 3,000 miles for nothing, what color is your parachute?”
GOD, WHAT’S GOING ON?…GOD?? GOD??? ARE YOU THERE????
I went from fear to panic, to depression, to immobile. And then I remembered what God told the other Joshua…
”Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for I am with you I will never leave you nor forsake you. You will lead these children into the promised land I swore to their forefathers”.
I knew those words were for me as well, and there still stood a promised land that I would lead many into. So I went and got myself a wireframe, and an MVP …and continued to bump into closed doors. I once went to Google’s office in San Francisco and with sheer excitement proclaimed to the receptionist that my company will CHANGE THE WORLD!!! She called security, who politely escorted me off the premises. When I heard that Mitch Kapor, one of the VCs from the CNN program, pledged to give $40 Million dollars to minorities to get started in Silicon Valley, I just knew that everything would change now. I have my wireframe, I have my MVP, I’m going to blow them away with my amazing story and the company that’s going to “change the world”. I got an email back from one of the partners, Brian Dixon, saying reach out to us when you have traction.
Okay, enough is enough, It’s been three years since I came to CA, and I played by all the rules. I did not know how to write a single line of code, my money ran out three years ago, but by the grace of God, I managed to put a team together, build an MVP, …yes, it was amazingly crappy, but surely you see the vision, after all, GOD Himself told me I’m going to be a billionaire…WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE??? Lol, the entitlement mindset was riding at record levels.
My developers wanted more money to make my MVP actually work, investors wanted a product that…well, actually worked, my wife, now pregnant with our third child in four years, wanted stability, my landlord wanted his rent, and I wanted to give up. But I just couldn’t…
We ended up getting evicted from our home just before Christmas when my wife was 5 months pregnant. We were homeless for several months, sleeping on the couch of fellow church members, Eren and Keaonani Aquino, but this was actually the best part of the story. Because it was here, at the lowest point of my life, when all my fears were realized, that I discovered God is bigger than anything that may come my way. I learned to place my trust in Him alone, and not VCs, or developers, or even myself. He gave me a hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding, and I just simply knew all would turn out well. The wealth I experienced and now know, far exceeds any amount of silver and gold…or stock of a rock star IPO.
I then met my current business partner, who owned a web development company. He invested close to $300,000 into building me a new platform from scratch. It was finished earlier this year, just shy of my 40th birthday. Within two weeks of completion I received my first customer ( a 2,200 student high school) and a check for $24,200. Two other contracts quickly followed. Without a vision people perish, 21 years after the vision was seared in my heart, I received my first tangible confirmation.
People often compare Professional Address to LinkedIn, to which I wholeheartedly disagree. LinkedIn was built on the old adage “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. But for the student who has cutting edge knowledge, but no network, or the blue collar worker who has a valuable skill set, but may not see his peers on LinkedIn, we say, “It’s not who you know, but WHAT you know that matters to the bottom line of any employer/ business owner.” We give both students, and adults alike, a platform to show the whole world what makes them a Professional. However, when LinkedIn was bought by…drum roll please…you guessed it, Microsoft, for $26 Billion dollars more than what they paid me for my Upload Studios domain, I started saying “Well, it’s kind of, sort of, like LinkedIn…albeit for a different generation.” A Professional Address is a brand management platform built around three basic components that you can create,host, and share via a link; your resume, portfolio, and an interview video. Simple.
I’m not a billionaire yet but praise God, I’m on my way. I’ll update you when I get there. Thank you for taking the time to read.
Joshua can be reached at Jsamuel.email@example.com
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