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Jhamar Youngblood: Black in Tech

Words By: The Press

Photos By: Antwan Duncan

 

Jhamar Youngblood has been wearing the same “uniform” for almost two years: khakis, New Balance sneakers, T-shirt, hoodie and a baseball hat if he’s feeling fancy. He adapted this practice from Steve Jobs, explaining that he spends only 20 seconds a day thinking about what he’s going to wear, which allows him to spend the rest of his time thinking about his latest creation, the Blast App. 

Jhamar Youngblood, Owner of BlastChat shot by Antwan Duncan

Jhamar Youngblood, Owner of BlastChat shot by Antwan Duncan

Blast App is a social media platform that allows users to blast messages to their friends and followers in real time via push notifications. Says Youngblood, “Think BCC on email, but for mobile.” You can blast content out to a large group of people, friends, customers, etc., and when your subscribers see your message they can reply privately or publicly for up to 24 hours. After 24 hours, the entire message thread and original post is deleted. 

Jhamar Youngblood, 30, is from Newark, New Jersey, and has been chatting online since he was 10 years old. He was the first of his friends to become well versed in group chatting. 

During graduate school, he was part of another start-up business with some friends in China, who introduced him to WeChat in 2014. It was then that Jhamar realized that “this type of messaging app, which people call a super app, would be the future of communication.” 

His theory was supported when one day he went onto Facebook and Twitter and posted, “Who wants to go play tennis?” The analytics proved that only 2 percent of his friends saw his message. He then thought to himself, “There has to be a way that I can get one message to a group of people that I truly care about and chat individually.” That was the birth of the Blast App.

Youngblood believes that most other social platforms encourage you to be your “projected self”: a version of yourself that you present online. For example, on Instagram you may feel the pressure to post the right photo or caption in order to gain viewership. With The Blast App, you can maintain authenticity by simply expressing your own thoughts and starting a conversation. 

The company reached a pivotal point when the security of its user information was compromised, with hackers gaining access to all personal data. Jhamar initially had two thoughts after the incident. First, he knew that this was a horrible thing to happen to such a new company and it would be difficult to regain the confidence of his customers. His second thought was quite the opposite: He realized that someone valued the company highly enough to find it useful to gain private information. 

“It proved that we are doing something right,” said Youngblood. “It helped us to find the flaws in our security and gave us more confidence because people are taking us seriously.” 

Jhamar used to dress all in black. When I asked him why, he said, “I wanted to inspire kids from where I’m from, and show them that you can still dress like yourself and succeed in the tech industry.” 

Being a black man in the tech world is a rarity. Youngblood draws inspiration from people before him who have achieved success. “Persistence wins,” he says.

During the first couple of years that the app existed, Youngblood was bootstrapping the funds. In 2017, the app won a grant to create a safety feature: If you’re ever in an emergency and need help, you can press the safety button to send out an emergency blast to your safety network. You can also notify the network once you’re back in a safe location. 

This year, the Blast App entered a program that allows users to earn crypto currency by simply using the app. Instead of gaining “likes” or comments as on other apps, you can actually earn currency based on your engagement. The company hopes to have cash-out options available in the spring—real value for real content. Jhamar believes that his app may be a facilitator of universal income.

He further believes that 2019 is the year he will prove to people that the Blast App is the most useful way to communicate with friends online. 

You can download the app for free on all smart-phone devices. 

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