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Aaron Samuels

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Profile

Poet, economist, philosopher, and entrepreneur, Aaron Samuels is the true modern Renaissance man. The Blavity co-founder grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was raised by his Jewish mother and African-American father. His love affair with spoken word poetry began there, when, in an act of rebellion, he set out to prove to his English teacher that broken meter was not a literary sin. He’s since become a highly respected performer, presenting his poetry alongside speakers, poets and musicians including Amber Tamblyn, Key & Peele, The Black Keys, Nikki Giovanni, Gene Hobbs Bradford, Rosario Dawson, Haki Madhubuti, Mos Deff, Hill Harper, and Ledisi.

Samuels has also shared his love of spoken word with others, not least as the co-founder of WU-SLam, the Washington University of St. Louis’s slam poetry team. Samuels was a student in the university’s business school when he co-founded the group, which went on to receive many accolades in national competitions. The team, which continued to thrive after Samuels’s 2011 graduation, is also known for its community outreach work, particularly its literacy development efforts throughout St. Louis.

After graduation, magna cum laude honors and degrees in Economics & Strategy, Philosophy, and Political Science safely in hand, Samuels took a position at Bain & Company. He served as a Senior Associate Consultant for the management consulting firm until July 2014. In the meantime, he continued to follow his passion for community empowerment through poetry, serving as Director of Operations for the Dialogue Arts Project from August 2013 until February 2014. In October 2014, Samuels joined security and analytics firm TeleSign as a product manager. He would stay with the company for two years, working full-time while developing his next endeavor: Blavity.

Blavity, co-founded in July 2014 with college classmate Morgan DeBaun, is a tech media startup aimed at creating content for Black millennials. A portmanteau of black and gravity, the startup was christened after a phenomenon DeBaun noticed at Washington University. Black students at the predominantly white school seemed to naturally drift together, organically gathering to discuss issues pertinent to their experience. Blavity was founded to create a similar community online, combining humor, commentary, and thought-leading content to fill the void in media addressing the experiences and issues of the Black community.

The co-founders bootstrapped the young start-up, beginning with a series of curated newsletters. They later founded a website, which gradually became a sought-after source of news, information, commentary, perspectives and media for the black community. Soon, the co-founders were seeing Blavity tagged alongside notable pop-culture content sites, with influencers and readers alike seeking to draw the platform’s attention towards their news and content. By December 2015, a year and a half after its founding, Blavity was seeing over 700,000 viewers each month and had accumulated over 120,000 social media followers. Samuels and DeBaun have been widely recognized for their contributions to tech and media, with accolades including ranking on Forbes’s 2016 list of the 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in media.

Samuels left TeleSign in 2016 to serve full-time as Blavity’s Chief Operating Officer. He is also a member of spoken-word poetry group Dark Noise Collective, and is a widely published poet. Poems from his second anthology, Yarmulkes & Fitted Caps, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a New England Book Award. The book, an examination of Samuels’s intersecting Black and Jewish identities, was published by Write Blood Publishing in September 2013.

(Sources used in writing this profile include a Oct. 2015 Forward article, a 2016 Yahoo Finance Article, a 2016 Nieman Lab article, a December 2015 TrendHunter piece, a January 2016 post by The Providence Country Day School, a November 2015 Forbes article, a February 2016 Dare Greatly article, and the entrepreneur’s LinkedIn profile and website.)

Companies and Investments

Blavity (Co-founder, COO), TeleSign (Product Manager) Dialogue Arts Project (Director of Operations), Bain & Company (Senior Associate Consultant), Monitor Group (Associate Consultant Intern), Google (Policy Analyst Intern)

Lessons Learned

Surround yourself with people who see the world different than the way you see the world.

Minimize time spend on tasks you hate, find ways to outsource.

Continue to put yourself in environments where you are learning.

Everybody lies; take nothing at face value.

(Aaron Samuels, in email exchange with EntrepreneurWiki)


Inspiring Quotes

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Mahatma Gandhi

Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be the hero.

African Proverb

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Mike Tyson

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

Kenyan Proverb

Give me a place to stand on, and I can move the earth

Archimedes

Aaron Samuels's Quotes

My whole life people tried to force me to choose between binaries. They would try to make me pick between being Black and Jewish, an Economist or a Philosopher, a Poet or a Businessman. I refused to choose. I am all of these things an more. Never let someone convince you that you cant be more than one thing.

Aaron Samuels

Influential Books

Plato - Plato: 'The Republic' (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)

Mentors

Jennifer Wood, Dorian Collier, Heidi Durrow, Darryl Wash, Jared Paul, Whitney Parnell

References


Technical

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