Vinny Williams (he/him) had an unconventional path to becoming an entrepreneur. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio until he moved to Atlanta at the age of 17 to pursue a record deal. After a career in music, and then law enforcement, Vinny fell into entrepreneurship.
Today as the founder and CEO of AddressMe Inc., Vinny’s on a path to helping people connect with each other through a unique mobile app experience that helps introduce new connections in real-time.
Vinny, what led you to launch your own startup?
I’ve always been entrepreneurially spirited but never anticipated engaging in business at this scale. After moving to Atlanta to pursue a music contract, I traveled and performed around the world giving me immense opportunities. I’ve always looked at both artists and entrepreneurs, and other professionals who make money contractually as inspiration. The ability to make money on your own terms and on your own schedule motivated me.
My group music career ended in 2007 and I took a few steps back to figure out my next steps. From 2008 to 2011, I went back to school and got a degree in criminal justice. For about seven years, I worked as a law enforcement officer in Metro Atlanta.
In 2018, I finally decided to do something different as law enforcement wasn’t necessarily agreeing with me, and I started really pursuing entrepreneurship.
What motivated the idea behind AddressMe?
With my experience in music and criminal justice, I’ve always been interested in what moves people. I’d wonder what would happen If I were to try to make a product where I could help spontaneous connections happen with the people around me. Where would I start?
In 2018, people were making new relationships on social apps and I wanted to use that system to put people into searchable terms to create new connections.
It took about twelve months to develop but we’re finally at a place with our product where we can launch in the Atlanta area.
What differentiates your company from other social networking apps?
We’re not purely focused on creating connections for dating. We’re motivated by all interactions.
What sets AddressMe apart is the in that moment connection you get through our app. Folks often tell me that they wonder about missed opportunities with other people and that it’s not just a problem for the LGBTQ+ audience.
How’d you discover StartOut?
I started scrolling through funding opportunities early on and wanted to reach out to investors who would have a more personal connection with the product.
You hear about founders who have a hard time raising capital, and it’s a genuine experience for the entrepreneur. StartOut was one of those organizations that felt like I could join and benefit from the plethora of resources they offered. I’m looking forward to meeting more members of the community, especially those in the investor space.
How has your journey as a Black founder impacted you and your mission?
I have a particular perspective as an underrepresented founder working on a product with a global view. A lot of people don’t want to see that and I’ve encountered a lot of red tape and roadblocks along the way. Being an entrepreneur is such a lonely experience so I kind of feel like I have to approach it like it’s me against the world.
It’s made me stronger and it’s made me work harder to prove that my product and idea belong in the market. Sure, it’s hard, but the entrepreneurial journey isn’t made for those afraid to go through the wringer. I’m empowered by the uniqueness my experiences bring.