Key TakeawaysName: Ronnie Kwesi ColemanAge: 35Languages he speaks: English and Russian fluently, plus a little "broken Twi."Favorite game to play: Chess. He even once took a year off of work to compete in chess tournaments and reached expert level.Key quote or motto you live by: "How you do anything is how you do everything. Everything I do, I try to be in harmony." Ahmed Naushad
Two years ago, Ronnie Kwesi Coleman co-founded Meaningful Gigs after struggling to connect with top technologists and designers. The inspiration drew from Coleman's desire to specifically connect Black product designers and developers around the world with better job opportunities.
To do this, he and his team created a platform with a network of Black designers who have been vetted by experts. Meaningful Gigs works with employers, and will hand-pick design teams from its network. The startup is on a mission to use data to guide people toward their full potential.
"The reason that is the mission is that it comes from my own personal story as somebody that doesn't have a very traditional background, I have always been fascinated with what makes somebody reach their full potential," Coleman told Ach5 in a phone interview.
How It All Began
Coleman is Ukrainian, Ghanaian, and Jewish. He was born in Ukraine, then his family moved to England for some time. When he was around the age of 10, they moved to Ghana, and Coleman eventually came to the United States when he was 19. He moved here to go to college, but after dropping out due to some tragedies in his family, he started to look into careers in technology.
"That kind of forced me to really reconsider what I want to do," Coleman said. "I started to just learn online about careers, and I could excel without a college degree."
After focusing on a career path in tech, Coleman said he applied to work at over 100 startups and got rejected by most before landing a sales rep position with a company called HyperOffice in Rockville, Maryland in 2010. This is when he fell in love with the startup culture and building something from nothing. He went on to become a founding member of StayNTouch, a company that built an SaaS-based mobile hotel property management system, which originally was acquired in 2018 by Shiji, but was recently bought by MCR for $46 million.
After exiting StayNTouch, Coleman took some time to figure out what he really wanted to do. When he saw an opportunity to bridge the gap between talented designers and employers who may overlook them, he took that leap.
"I have always been fascinated with what makes somebody reach their full potential."
One thing Coleman struggled with on his entrepreneurial journey was connecting with trustworthy mentors and advisors, a problem that hindered his professional development, since that's how he admittedly learned best. Unfortunately, he came across some unhelpful folks, so he took a step back to create some values that would be at the center of his work and relationships.
"I was looking at what these advisors and mentors looked like on paper, but not really understanding their character," he said.
Those values include courage, grit, compassion, and integrity. These are the values he lives by, and the values he looks for in the people he chooses to guide him as he continues to learn. Jeff Grass, CEO of Hungry, has been a helpful mentor for Coleman, especially as he's been building Meaningful Gigs.
Keeping an Eye on Growth
Coleman is focused on growth this year at Meaningful Gigs. He shared that the company is inching toward the close of a $1 million round of seed funding, which Coleman said hasn't been easy to nab. He said he's had over 300 conversations with people to make connections with investors or just solicit advice on how to raise. He got 90% "Nos" and a couple of people who said "Yes" before securing the company's first major investments.
"It was extremely challenging because it was my first time raising and I didn't really have this network of investors or rich family and friends that I could tap into," he shared. "Most of it was grit, just spending effort. I learned a lot through the experience."Paula Gongora Salazar
Meaningful Gigs has been growing tremendously during the pandemic, especially since companies are more open to hiring remote workers. With this fresh funding, the company has plans to hire four more employees in the first quarter. The team currently has five full-timers, with plans to add two sales reps, a marketing person, and another engineer. Coleman also wants to connect with more corporate partners this year.
"One of the things that we're super excited about is that we're upscaling the total product. One of the main things that we started with was just connecting designers to jobs," he shared. "We want to create 100,000 skilled jobs for Africans, and what we saw is that, if we just try to find the best of the best, we might not get to our goal. What we needed to do is help facilitate that."
"The reason that is the mission is that it comes from my own personal story as somebody that doesn't have a very traditional background."
To align with this, Meaningful Gigs has built an upscaling product to help designers build their skills to better match job opportunities. The new product is based off of Angela Lee Duckworth's Grit framework. Ultimately, the company wants to help technologists move from novice designers to apprentices and pros in their areas.
"Effort over time is more valuable than the talent," he said. "You might start off talented, but the people who actually put in effort over a long time will end up being more successful and have more achievement."
With remote work continuing to trend, Coleman is focused on applying his four core values in all of the work he does as Meaningful Gigs gears up for major growth this year.