During the summer of 2000, while in the process of releasing my first album I started reaching out to everyone I knew to find a web developer. I was new to the Dallas music scene, but it was the beginning of the digital era of music and I knew that I needed a website to compete. While talking to a coworker at a summer internship, she mentioned a talented young web developer at the University of North Texas who could help me out. After several weeks of phone tag, I finally met up with Rob Howard who created my first website , k-diamondz.com, at a whopping price of $100.
This was my first introduction to web development and who would have known that Rob would go on to create one of the most popular urban communities ever. At one time his start-up, Dallaspeeps.com, had close to 100,000 users and was the go to place for African-Americans in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. Before there was Myspace, Friendster or Facebook; the only social networks that truly existed for African-Americans were BlackPlanet and Dallaspeeps. Last week, I had a chance to catch up with Rob and we spoke about his latest venture, Partychaser.com and his plan to re-launch Dallaspeeps.
How did you get into web design and development?
It’s funny, I used to program BASIC when I was 5 years old on an old TRS-80 computer my mom brought home from school (she was a school teacher), it was broken so I being the kid I was, opened it up and fixed up, not knowing what to expect. Once I got it fixed, this started my programming skill set. After doing that for a couple of years, high school kicked in and I took a break from computers, keep in mind this was before computers were cool – for those who remember the green colored computer screens.. lol. Then around 1995 this new thing called the internet came about, I thought it was the coolest thing since slice bread, but it was a new programming language I wasn’t familiar with called HTML. The cool thing about it was, I could click a button called view source! So I’d look at the source code for the major players online at the time and get a feel for how they were creating these websites. Then I got an email from the internet provider we were using at the time that said they were hiring, so I said hey I want to work there and got the job. From there I got my own web space to play around with creating websites and playing around getting my friends on the web with their own websites. It was great; people from everywhere could look us up and see what we were up to!
What happened with Dallas Peeps?
DallasPeeps was one of my coolest projects to date. It took many man hours for me to create. It was a solo project I started in my dorm room up at UNT. After several years of success I decided to take it down until the next wave of the internet hit. It’s like a cycling wave, it comes up and down and I figured might as well take it down on the up tick and then bring it back for the next generation as something totally different. Facebook pretty much cornered the social networking market with the personalization of social space which I believe has transitioned what people expect from social networks. On Dallaspeeps next phase I envision it as an online magazine about Dallas peeps. We shall see how that goes, but I do plan to re-launch!
Do you think it’s harder for African-Americans to get funded for tech start-ups?
I think it’s extremely hard for minorities to get funded in the tech arena mainly because there isn’t an abundance of other minority’s to see the vision they have. I hope that one day that I can be that person a startup comes to with a vision that I can relate to, and help their vision come thru.
Where did the idea for PartyChaser.com come from?
PartyChaser.com is actually the brain child of my business partner Deville Burns. Another African-American startup I actually used to interact with in the early DallasPeeps.com days. His vision was in tune with the direction we wanted to take DallasPeeps so we took on that project and continue to evolve it today.
What is the long-term vision for PartyChaser.com?
We would like to create a network of the entertainment guys/girls in each major city. A tight linked group of the movers and shakers in each city would have the ability to control the trends and help up and coming businesses and artist likewise the visibility to control what is hot and whats not!
What is the craziest Party that you have ever had?
I’m still waiting on the crazy party, but if I had to choose one it’d be the Black Affair at Rio Room last year. Everyone dressed up enjoying life without a worry in the world.
Do you think BlackPlanet will make a comeback?
Honestly, I think its done. Back then segregation on a social network was common, now with Facebook integrating personalization by who you know, you can have a half black planet and still be connected with who you know. Facebook definitely in my opinion changed the game.
Who your Five favorite artists/ acts right now?
Right now I’m feeling Juicy J – Bands a make her Dance is the next track to pop! Dallas is a little slow to adopt the hot stuff outside of the south but I know it will be the Hottest track in the city. Next I’d have to say Future (gone to the moon), Jay Z is always on point, Lil Wayne and Drake running the show. And I’m waiting on my little cousin Lil Twist to get his big break!!