Five Questions For: Joah Spearman, Founder of Austin’s Localeur
Austin—The tech community in Austin, TX, takes great pride in its reputation as an innovation hub. So when Joah Spearman, co-founder and CEO of online city guides Localeur, called into question local venture capitalists’ dedication to supporting young tech companies, the allegation swirled around social media.
“Despite this being an industry about first-movers and early adopters, investing in us or a black founder is a move I’ve yet to meet the Austin VC willing to make,” Spearman wrote in a blog post. “It’s not racial bias that I’m trying to touch on here, but fear of the unknown. That’s perhaps why I haven’t even been able to get a meeting with a partner at two local firms.”
The message caused a stir of online conversation. “Oh, I hear it a lot: Don’t be black. Just be a person and they’ll see past the fact that you’re black,” he tells Xconomy.
In the blog post, Spearman says that as much as he loves Austin, he was considering moving to Silicon Valley, which is more hospitable to young consumer-focused tech companies. (Ultimately, he decided to stay. More on that below.)
Spearman says he’s proud of the progress Localeur has made, even with the extra challenges. Most recently, the company announced a partnership with JetBlue Airlines for which Localeur will provide content for the airline’s digital and social channels.
“The traction speaks for itself,” Spearman says. “We have one million total users; we’re in 20 cities. My megaphone is only as big as Localeur’s success. If Localeur weren’t doing well, they would say shut up.”
Here is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Xconomy: Tell me about your early influences that shape you as an entrepreneur.
Joah Spearman: I didn’t know what an entrepreneur was until I was about 11 years old. I started cutting grass for my neighbor to make money. At 13, I started selling candy to my classmates. I was doing that hustle; I grew up very poor to a single mother of three boys, food stamps, and all that stuff. Mom got a job working for Horace Williams—he was a Pizza Hut franchiser. He was the first person I really interacted with that owned a business.
We went to the same church a black Baptist church in Greenville, SC. After church one time, we went to brunch, a brunch of 15 to 20 people from church. He was putting his credit card down and not even looking at the bill. I remember thinking, “Man, that’s just so amazing.” It wasn’t just … Next Page »