Name: Jon Gosier
Profession: Serial Instigator
One Word That Describes You: Curious
When an individual likes to ‘start things,’ he’s generally referred to as an instigator, a rebel energized by sparking the fire of revolution. For 33-year-old Jon Gosier, the meaning has personal significance. “I like to start things — investment funds, tech companies, nonprofit foundations,” he tells BE Modern Man exclusively. “Some have succeeded more than others, but every time I learn something I didn’t know before, that gives me the motivation to try again.”
An inventor, data scientist, and investor, Jon Gosier is one of the leading names in technology, and continues to diversify his portfolio by the nanosecond. In 2010, Comcast invested in a company he founded called MetaLayer, which was a data startup that made it easier for organizations to manage unwieldy data sets. Think of it as WeTransfer or DropBox before they struck big. A TED senior fellow, Mr. Gosier was named one of Ten African Tech Voices to Follow on Twitter by CNN, and was given the distinction of being one of the 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology by Business Insider. So, what drove this Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native to continuously “start things,” and become a serial instigator?
“When I run into areas that I don’t understand, it is in my nature to attack them directly,” Mr. Gosier said. “When I had trouble raising funds or finding the solutions that I wanted to use, I started my own fund or my own companies to solve those problems. If something doesn’t exist, I want to do something about it. If I lack a certain kind of skill or understanding, I try to acquire it.” Akin to a black Bruce Wayne, this tech guru and philanthropist hones skills and develops applications that help people get a better handle on their own lives. For instance, his nonprofit organization, Abayima, supported citizens and created crisis communication technology for disasters.
Mr. Gosier’s Appfrica company, of which he is the founder and CEO, is a technology firm developed in 2008 in Kampala, Uganda. It is directly responsible for infusing technology initiatives in the ‘Motherland’ and helping to promote the growing technology sector. Apps4Africa, HiveColab, QuestionBox, and even Google Africa, have used the company to translate its page for Ugandan internet users. When asked what made black men successful, Jon gave us an interesting response. “I don’t believe that [key tenets] exist in our DNA, but I do know our culture equips us with a lot of traits that are advantageous. One of them is adaptability. When I was growing up, I had to very consciously ‘switch roles’ when moving between social groups.” Whether it was hanging with his friends in the ‘hood’ or his classy ones who attended private schools, Mr. Gosier learned at an early age how to constantly adapt to ever-changing situations. “This doesn’t mean I change who I am, it means I’m good at adapting to what other people need; to serve as the bridge that enables them to engage others they wouldn’t ordinarily talk to.”
2015 started off amazing for the self-described “serial instigator,” as TIME Magazine named him as one of ‘The New Faces of Black Leadership.’ Similar honors came from USA Today and The Economist, yet, with all the hoopla of coding and being digitally savvy, you won’t see Mr. Gosier on a billboard touting the next must-have app to the masses. What is it about popular culture or “the mainstream” that places our black youth in the hands of entertainers or athletes? How can one break through the noise to impart wisdom on the next generation of creators? “I mentor as many young people and entrepreneurs as possible,” Mr. Gosier said. “Even if I can’t mentor them on an ongoing basis, if someone respects my career enough to ask me for insight, I do my best to share it.”
An important trait, especially when you have someone in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program giving you advice.
The partial reason behind this BE Modern Man movement is to buck against the system that just spotlights “rappers, athletes, and entertainers.” We chose to highlight and celebrate men of color, outside the popular norm, in an attempt to shift the focus to concepts such as “instigator, entrepreneurs, and others”. We asked Jon Gosier why he thought black men weren’t championed more in popular culture and he said, “I think this starts in our own community. The guy or girl who runs around flashing their money has convinced our community they are successful. I don’t think we can blame anyone else for misunderstanding what our community values, if we can’t demonstrate an alternative.”
As a man with strong convictions, Jon Gosier, an instigator who bucked the traditional “jobs” of his great-grandfather, his grandfather, and his own mother — sees his own impact within the African and African American community as somewhat combative. “My goal is to just forge the path,” he tells BE Modern Man exclusively. “I can’t think too much about whether or not others are following behind me. I am trying to kick down as many doors as possible and if people are trying to follow, I will absolutely help them kick down doors of their own.”
For the sort of excitement Jon Gosier brings to technology, the entrepreneurial sector, and to our culture, we have christened him as a BE Modern Man. Through his own brand of strength, resiliency, and fortitude, Mr. Gosier has an element of excellence that supersedes anyone’s expectations, and he continues to reaffirm that our normal is extraordinary. “I think it’s great to celebrate the stories of others (and in doing so) encourage them to accomplish more. It’s our responsibility to change the narrative,” Mr. Gosier said. “No one else is going to do it for us. They buy the story we sell them, so I think this effort (and the magazine itself) represents that we recognize we are actually in control.”
The BE Modern Man team salutes you, Jon Gosier, for contributing to positive images of African American culture. Your mission of instigating change through multiple means of effort, and developing unique forms of communication for the African Diaspora, frames us in an enthusiastic light.