Hackers Can Give Entrepreneurs an Edge


Jay-Z concert at UMass.

“But I done did it.

And y’all want to take my flow, and run with it

That’s cool, I was the first one with it

Original, jigga’s the future flow digital.” — Jay-Z, “Imaginary Players”

I read an article recently in the Chicago Tribune that reported how a suburban police department paid computer hackers a ransom (in bitcoin, of course) to retrieve classified information. We are now in the digital age of cops and robbers, making cyber security the topic du jour. From Hillary Clinton’s email scandal to the Sony leaks, to the recording industry’s demise at the hands of digital pirating, it is apparent that computer hackers have the upper hand when it comes to the Internet.

Even more interesting is that there is no permanent solution to stop them. Contrary to popular belief, not all hackers are bad. In fact, there are those who have done some amazing things. President Barack Obama has employed hackers. I think everyone needs hackers as part of their entourage, especially entertainment industry professionals (rappers, take note!).

Hackers are the outlaws that are in the “in-crowd.” To understand this paradox further, let us start by defining a hacker. According to a paper written by Brian Harvey at University of California, Berkeley:

A ‘computer hacker’… is someone who lives and breathes computers, who knows all about computers, who can get a computer to do anything… Computer programming must be a hobby, something done for fun, not out of a sense of duty or for the money[.]”

There are two types of hackers to know – black hat and white hat. Black hat hackers are associated with being malevolent. These types leak nude pictures (I’m not mad about this), steal banking information, and so on. White hat hackers secure websites by testing their security and typically work in conjunction with companies as consultants or in-house developers to ensure digital protection. For example, the FBI hires “digital security experts,” which is the politically correct name for white hat hackers. Pres. Obama employed “hacker” Harper Reed to run his technology platform during his re-election campaign.

This leads me to ask, why doesn’t your crew have a hacker?

I propose adding a developer to your fold. Here are my 3 key recommendations on why you need a hacker.

Stay Aware of the Back End.

If your hacker is worth anything, you’ll have access to the latest software platforms. This is relevant because you want someone to be proficient in the latest back end technologies that programs are built on. In layman’s terms, you want someone who keeps up to date with the ever-evolving technology pace outside your scope.

Protect Your Digital Net.

Hackers can act as your digital bodyguards by ensuring that your virtual property (unreleased music, personal information, even naughty photos) is encrypted well enough to not leak into cyberspace.

Build from the Ground Up.

You want someone who can be your digital architect. With Jay-Z’s recent investment in Tidal, we are seeing celebrities really embrace the digital space. What if he hired a team of hackers/developers to build a streaming platform from scratch for Tidal? Although this strategy would be a longer play, I believe he would reap the benefits of having a custom-built platform.

Kanye West’s crew is a prime example of an entourage that could benefit from the presence of an in-house hacker. Ye’s inner circle includes these people:

  1. Virgil Abloh serves as a designer, muse, and cultural aficionado. Virgil designs Kanye’s visuals and acts as a creative project manager for all things GOOD Music. He is also founder of Off-White and Pyrex Vision, two insanely popular streetwear brands. He is co-creator and co-owner of RSVP Gallery with “Don C.”
  2. Don “Don C” Crawley is Kanye’s longtime business manager. Don is in charge of all bookings, tours, and partnerships. In addition to RSVP Gallery (see above), he has his own signature brand, Just Don.
  3. Ibn Jasper, Kanye’s hair stylist, keeps Ye’s lining crispy while providing style and grooming tips.
  4. Mike Dean is a producer extraordinaire, musician, and sometimes DJ. Dean has been Kanye’s go-to producer for years.

Were Kanye to work with a hacker, he could design software and apps that empower musicians and clothing designers. With The Internet of Things revolution, Kanye can co-create luxury accessories that monitor vital signs—imagine an advanced fitbit and new, improved, upgraded, and updated Yeezy Boost. They could make another revenue stream in the creation of an all-digital record label which partners with GOOD Music, resulting in Kanye becoming a thought leader in the digital music space.

Finding a worthwhile hacker/developer is no easy task, and you can start with the computer science department at universities like Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, NYU, Harvard, and MIT. Having a hacker in your inner circle may be one of the best investments you can make as an entrepreneur. Even if you don’t fully understand what they do or what they’re capable of doing, it is important to keep one on speed dial. Who else would you trust with your Facebook password?



Reprinted by permission.

Image Credit: CC by Matthew Harrison

About the author: The Phat Startup

The Phat Startup is an integrated media company that produces premium content for all levels of entrepreneurs.  We are inspired by and fuse together Lean Startup methodology and Hip Hop culture.

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