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Meet Harold Hughes of Bandwagon in Oak Lawn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Harold Hughes.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Harold. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m a first-generation American born to Jamaican parents. I was born in New York City but was raised in Columbia, South Carolina. Growing up, we didn’t have much, so I and my four siblings were always resourceful with what we did have. However, that didn’t mean that there weren’t times that we felt like we had less than. Sometimes, in the classroom, our peers would have supplies that we didn’t have but on the flip side, when it came to the soccer field or the basketball court, we were even. So, from a young age, I came to appreciate how sports created a level playing ground. Fast forward to me graduating from Clemson University with Bachelors degrees of Economics and Political Science and securing a job in the asset management (barcoding, RFID, etc.) and distribution space. As I finished my MBA in 2014 (also at Clemson), I started to think about what kind of company I would create if I had the opportunity. Those early ideas took me back to sports being a place were people could connect but this time, I was thinking of how sports impacts fans. So, on May 11, 2014 – just two days after I graduated with my MBA in Supply Chain & Information Management – I incorporated Bandwagon and got to work creating a company that helped fans have a better game day experience. Though we have pivoted since that initial idea, the core of our mission has stayed the same and we believe that by focusing on who is in the venue on the day of the event, event organizers (teams, artists, festivals, etc.) can lower customer acquisition costs, increase fan engagement and day of game revenue, and eliminate ticket fraud.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Like most entrepreneurial journeys, the road to get here has been anything but up and to the right. I have always believed that entrepreneurship is a ‘must be present to win’ game so you must survive and advance. As a Black Founder, I’ve personally felt the challenge of have not had access to early capital as we got started. I don’t say that to mean that only people of color lack the relationships or resources to start companies but the numbers are out there. When you look at the percentage of companies that are able to raise capital AND how long it takes them, you’re likely to see a Black Founder do more with less simply because we have to. At the same time, I think that navigating networks for finding early employees and investors is a challenge. Everyone knows that your first employees/team members are likely friends, family or people that you’ve worked with so if your circle isn’t diverse culturally, socioeconomically or by gender, your access to funding is likely to be impacted. I’m very fortunate that I attended Clemson University and in my involvement in student organizations, alumni groups, and even my job out of college allowed me to network and build real life-long relationships with people who have truly shared and extended their networks to me. I think that’s the key to success as a Black Founder – staying truly authentic to yourself and your beliefs but also finding ways to engage and connect with allies that are willing to extend a hand – and in some cases, their privilege – to you.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Bandwagon story. Tell us more about the business.
Bandwagon is a B2B company that is focused on fan identity on the day of the event. Our blockchain-powered solution helps artists, festivals, and sports teams identify and engage with the fans that attend on the day of the event. Bandwagon is setting out to address a multi-billion dollar ticket problem that exists in the more than $30B ticket market industry. Through the use of blockchain technology, our platform helps event organizers and venues confirm the validity of their digital tickets while understanding who owns them – eliminating ticket fraud, regardless of where the ticket was purchased. We believe that the future of SaaS is not only Software as a Service but also “Stadium as a Service”, where event organizers can deliver value to their fans before, during, and after the event and that’s what sets us apart from other companies.

I’m most proud of the progress that we’ve made over this last year. As 2017 started to come to an end, I really felt like we were on to something but we needed some help. While thinking of ways that we could continue to grow, we were invited to the Capital Factory Accelerator in Austin, Texas. At the time, my son had just turned one and my wife and I were in a tough spot financially as the tenants in our rental property (previously my bachelor pad and first home that I bought as a 25-year old) told us that they would not be renewing in 2018. The idea of trying to manage a second mortgage while not bringing in an income was added pressure to a complex situation. My wife and I ultimately talked and decided that doing a six-month program was the best thing for the company and subsequently our family. However, without an income, the idea of finding housing and affording living expenses in Austin for six-months was impossible so we did what we had to do – I sold my townhouse, shipped my car to Texas, and got a room in a friends apartment (all that I could afford) and dove in 100% to Austin. Only seeing my family for four or five days a month for that long was really tough on us but the program proved to be even more valuable than I expected and I’m thankful to be on the other side of it. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished and the sacrifices that we’ve made to stay alive and keep going.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m not sure I’d use the word luck but I do believe that I have been truly blessed and fortunate to accomplish what we have accomplished. I could go on and on about all the things that broke our way to help us get here but I think back on 2016 alone and know that the only way we made it through was from God protecting and providing for us. In a matter of 12 months (August 2015 to August 2016), I started a new six-figure job, bought a new family home with my wife, found out we were expecting our first child, lost said six-figure job, went full-time with my startup, raised $310K, and welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world. So, whether you call it luck or blessings, I’m just thankful.

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