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By Allen Collins
The rebirth of Black Wall Street is happening in Tulsa with technology as the catalytic factor and the current wave of technology-based companies relocating to Tulsa, led by Black entrepreneurs and founders. The word revival is at the core of this new energy.
As the Revival Series continues, Black Tech Street and The Black Wall Street Times collectively shine a light on Fansub, the platform that makes a simple way for creators and organizers to create special, ticketed experiences for their fans, no matter where they are in the world. To learn more about Fansub, I spoke with Brandon King, Founder and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Chris Davis, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
Georgians who excelled in athletics, particularly football, and who were natural-born leaders of skill assessment and collaborative vision, are just a few ways to define the dynamic individuals, Brandon King and Chris Davis.
At the end of successful football careers, these two gentlemen took different paths into tech-based entrepreneurship and ultimately, as founders and executives.
Building the right team
Originally founded in 2020 in Atlanta, Fansub assembled a tight-knit group made up of people who understand struggle: an indie artist, artist manager, former NFL player (Brandon), and start-up guru focused on empowering creators (Chris).
For King, being a part of high functioning teams taught him how to be selfless and how to set others up to win big, too.
“I took that into my entrepreneurial journey,” said King. “I’m all about putting the best people in the right positions, and I know that teams can do more than individuals. You’re only as good as the members of your team. Knowing that I had a purpose but [also] knowing what my role was. I know I was the idea guy and put the oneness of building the product on my back.”
Obsessed with helping creators build their brand, King was able to persevere.
It was through understanding the team he needed and a quest for the right chief executive for Fansub that the team took shape.
“I knew I had to find a CEO and wouldn’t impact the world the way I wanted to with this product if I was selfish in wanting to be in a certain role and in building a team for Fansub, we wanted to empower creators and I had to bring other creators from the industry,” said King. “He (Chris) was the first to know but last to come on the team and capped it off because I know we needed a strong leader to take us through the trials and tribulations of building a startup.”
A now venture-backed portfolio company, the Fansub team once had to figure things out and make tough decisions.
“If it wasn’t for myself, Chris, Cam and Mike coming together as a team, we wouldn’t be here today impacting the Tulsa creative community, had any of us been selfish and didn’t put the company first.”
In the transition from the field to the office, skill assessment from a personal and team aspect merely changed arenas.
“I was thrown into many different roles within companies,” said Davis. “I saw the long tail as it related to where I was trying to go for my career. I knew I wanted to be an executive, the top executive position as a CEO.”
Understanding where he wanted to land, Davis outlined a plan and made a promise to not only dream it but to live it.
“I went and got my MBA and navigated through to a couple of different tech startups with the goal of each of these roles is going to help me become better prepared for a CEO role down the road,” said Davis. “I didn’t have down the road defined as it relates to a timeline, but I was super appreciative and humbled when Brandon came to me with Fansub.”
Bringing together a vision for Fansub
“We still talk about that today, his vision brought us all together,” said Davis. “We had a technical founder in Brandon King, we’re dealing with artist management and organizer management, Michael Lombardi came from that world. Dealing with artists themselves and production crews and audio/video, hardware and software and venues, Cameron Willimas was an artist himself and also had engineering expertise with his degree from Georgia Tech.”
“He had a marketing background and business acumen. Myself, having finished an MBA in 2018, had been preparing for the next opportunity for me to be able to help lead a company, Davis added.
The vision and team building of King, along with Michael Lombardi and Cameron Williams, made it easy for Davis to see their work ethic, dedication, energy and skillsets and where he fit in.
Indie music in Tulsa, in Oklahoma, and throughout the rest of the world
The goal of Fansub is to help change the future of work for music artists and other creatives.
“The artists that we cater to are the ones who are underserved, overlooked and under-booked, which is mostly what we think of as the independent or emerging artists in our local community,” said Davis.
Fansub’s current focus is help creators deliver their art to their fanbases and the community.
“We are helping them from a technical standpoint, taking on all the backend stuff and helping them get discovered and booked into venues and creating their own virtual concerts.”
While surveying the music landscape, the Fansub team noticed the opportunity to empower creators with ownership of their content. They also noticed the gap that exists in the current market.
“They (social media and ticket providers)own the platforms the creators are working on, they don’t give these creators ownership of their content,” said Davis. “They don’t give these creators the ownership of their data. So essentially, they don’t have any leverage.”
Relocation to Tulsa & Connecting market places
“When we got to town, we started to learn about the rich music history. You talk about the GAP Band, we learned that some of the management of the Jackson 5 came from Tulsa, through the relationships with the GAP Band and other music labels, we started to dig in on all this history.”
With centralized music performance venues in the core of the city, Tulsa is uniquely positioned to be a launching pad for many creators for Fansub to collaborate with and build together.
“From our existence over a year ago, being able to tap into the market with other music artists, from Steph Simon’s and Dr. View’s who are in town, the Soundpony’s who are giving independent artists the ability to just send them an email and say, “I want to perform,” Davis said.
The small degrees of separation and willingness of the community to help those looking to make an impact in Tulsa allowed Fansub to build and collaborate quickly in the Tulsa music scene.
“When you learn the history of Black Wall Street, you learn about autonomy, ownership, agency and to know that it existed for us as Black people in this centralized location, that means a lot everybody needs to learn and understand.”
The core spirit of Black Wall Street lives within the founders of Fansub.
“The foundational beliefs and aspirations of Black Wall Street are the same for Fansub and its cofounders, and we want this to be bigger than us,” said Davis. “We want our families, nieces and nephews to be able to work in internships within our companies and provide generational wealth for ourselves and the employees of our companies.
The proof of concept and representation the Black and brown Fansub founders bring to Tulsa’s tech ecosystem is something they hope will inspire others to bring their ideas to life as well.
“A lot of times, people don’t take the jump only because they have not been exposed to it and they ask how do I know to go do this thing if I have not seen or have not heard about it. To say I listened to the same type of music, wanted to play in the NFL, NBA, MLB and when they got to the intersection of realization this wasn’t going to happen or it did happen,” said Davis. “I can transition and pivot into other things, and other things are ownership of my own company.”
Exposure to diverse representation can mean entirely different jobs and industries to younger generations looking on.
“I can take risks instead of working for a company that has been around for hundreds of years, that I don’t have any ownership in,” said Davis. “Maybe I’ll take a risk for the first 3-5 years of my professional career. I might be able to do something, like Fansub. Then I can fall back on my degrees or skillsets I was able to learn throughout that journey.”
When looking to make the career move into technology, Brandon King believes taking time to recognize skill correlation and composed analysis of your situation is key.
“Most of the ordinary job titles transfer, it just so happens that there is a technical product at the end of it that powers the company,” said King. “I tell people to be patient, do a little research because it’s (the technology industry) not as scary as you think.”
We want to lead by example as stand-up individuals of the community, being accessible and available for people to ask us questions.
“There are individuals walking through that school, with the same type of desire, drive and ability that we had when we were their age but who have no clue what entrepreneurship is,” said Davis. “We have been to the high schools in Tulsa talking about what we do, how to do it and what a day in our life looks like. Answering the question, “if I want to do this, what do I need to do.”
A community-driven platform
“We want Tulsa to help us best continue to build this brand with the help of the community, the artists, the venues and the organizers and expand those best practices throughout the rest of the country,” said Davis. “We will always be able to say we were launched and started in Tulsa, and Tulsa can we help them grow it and shape it to be what it is today.”
Fansub is a community-driven platform, and they are building the platform for creators to own their own agency. Their mission is to be the solution for any artist who thinks they can’t make money doing what they love.
Allen Collins is a proud North Tulsa native and a Booker T. Washington High School graduate. He is the Admin and Communications Manager with Black Tech Street and a former freelance writer and nonprofit professional.