Who is Team Diffusion?
Who ARE we? It’s probably best to start with an introduction and how we dived into this endeavor as friends and co-founders.
We’ve realized that we are the accurate representations of underrepresented founders during our time here at Launch House. But Why?
By definition- underrepresented founders are ‘founders that belong to a group that the venture industry as a whole underinvests in relative to the percent of the overall US population. This definition includes founders that are women and people of color, including those of African, Latin American, or Native American descent.’ You’re probably saying, well, duh, of course, you are, what the hell makes you think otherwise?
So this is where we will divulge into an introduction of ourselves.
Tony, the innovative wizard
Let’s start with Tony — hello 👋 , call me a catfish because my real name is Efren Antonio Plasencia. Efren is my grandfather’s name, and Antonio is my great-grandfather’s name, and Plasencia is the City in Spain we hail from. I’m Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Guatemalan, cool, right?
I’m from Oakland, California, home of the Black Panthers, the birthplace of Too $hort, MC Hammer, and a 👑 — myself. On the brighter side of the bay — it’s more diverse, creative, and of course, more ghetto. I’m a child of a teen mom and immigrant; the odds were ever against me. Growing up a drive away from Silicon Valley, going to De La Salle, and coming back home to drive-by’s, gangs, and prostitutes screwed up how I look at the world — I saw the dual nature of it. My identity was complex, and I relied on my code-switching to keep me alive; I was able to pass off as ‘one of the good ones’ & still have tough skin enough not to get picked on. Thankfully I had a robust support system, hope/vision, and a tiny chip on my shoulder.
Life took me to Silicon Valley at the age of 18 — I was on the Uber Innovation team on UberRetail and UberKiosk, learning how to develop relationships, hustle, and use feedback to build strategy. After that, I was poached to Ritual. Co, a Canadian food-tech company, I learned how to launch cities, manage operations, and be relentless. From there, I went to Setter, a Canadian property tech marketplace, where I learned how to manage people, close partnerships, and work with confidence. I graduated from San Francisco State with a BA in Political Theory & Economy — a study theorizing about the contemporary world through the lens of capitalism, institutions, and culture as the most powerful force at work in shaping the modern sociopolitical world. My degree and experience gave me a leg up by understanding the social systems we operate within, mini-MBA, selling, and developing relationships. When COVID hit — I consulted a TechStars company, mentor at Manos Accelerator by Google Launchpad, Advise a Lat-Am Startup, and co-founded a SaaS COVID Management Platform + Safety Certificate for small businesses, where I grew it to 10+ companies in Colorado. Now — I’m taking on a new challenge different from theory, marketplaces, or SaaS. 👇
What’s the new challenge?
The gig economy commoditized humans, and realized after a while the limitation and negative impact this had on the people we were ‘helping.’ As I saw and was part of the rise of creator platforms like — Instagram, Twitter, tik-tok, and Pinterest — I learned about the ‘passion economy’ — the highlighting of human individuality. Media that gave creatives more remarkable ability to build customer relationships, increased support in growing their businesses, and better tools for differentiating themselves from the competition. A new model of internet-powered entrepreneurship. ( Definition by Li Jin) But as great as this sounds — we know the benevolence of these social algorithms, pollution of content, and the effects of comparing ourselves. This in itself was a big no for me.
Cultural Diffusion was a concept I learned about in reflection and is rough “the spreading of one culture’s practices, beliefs, and items, like food, music, or tools.” Cultural diffusion is why many cultures worldwide share similarities, just like my friends, from different cultures.
I see a world where creativity comes from culture. People can curate knowledge by developing new ideas through their lense and learn how with resources and use these to find the community they belong and identify the most with.
That’s when it hit me — I need to build something to make this happen.
Elijah, the technical wizard
Elijah/Eli here 🤓 Wouldn’t consider myself a creative writer, but I have to start somewhere! Like my best friend, Tony, I grew up in the East Bay, California, specifically in Martinez’s small town. This city was known for not being well-known for its main refinery, small population, and old history. Growing up in a place like this, I was accustomed to being in my shell. I would tend to take the safe route rather than see the bigger picture. This mindset shaped me until attending a high school where I met some more of my closest friends today, including Tony, and got exposure to different perspectives from different people. Such a shift in my environment at a young age forced me to evolve. It was hard, and I struggled a lot, but it was all necessary. Here is where I learned grit, creativity, and uncertainty. I was driven to go the extra mile (I also ran cross-country) in everything I do in life.
Next chapter of Elijah — attending University of San Francisco majoring in Computer Science. The growth, hustle, and curiosity accelerate 3x. Having the opportunity to live in/explore a city like San Francisco, struggling to comprehend parallel computing, and meet peers from around the world all at the same time was a recipe for success. I gained incredible confidence and security in myself to a point where I believe I can take on any challenge the world can throw at me. No longer am I the timid boy lacking the ambition to take risks, rather the complete opposite. I continued to excel in what I do and found myself at multiple startups in front-end/Backend/Full-stack Engineering positions. Today, I am a Full-stack Engineer at Robert Half + Co-founder at Diffusion.
I have always enjoyed watching Youtube; that is one about me that remains constant. I have observed the lifecycles of creators throughout about ten years — some failing to maintain their audience over the years, some getting too frustrated with the tedious lifestyle and straight-up quitting, while some creators (this is a rare case) have managed to keep and grow their audience. The number one strategy that successful creators have done to maintain their audience is to create a strong sense of community. Whether through consistent content uploading, organizing Reddit groups, or interacting with fans through streams, it is all about the purpose of belonging that these successful creators provide to their audience. Some refer to their audience as “bro’s,” “The Crew,” etc. They make people matter.
How’d we Meet?
Elijah and I went to De La Salle, the all-boys high school in Concord, California, you know, the one with the 151 win-game streaks or haven’t lost to a Northern California team since the 1990s; I guess you can say we learned how to win 😉.
Elijah and I met our Freshman Year — our friend groups diffused into each other and created a super-group called Mt.Sinai. We stayed together through our four years of high school as kids, and I got my SF apartment for uni- we stayed together, graduated, and living in Downtown Oakland; we’re still together. That’s almost ten years, but what’s the genesis?
Eli and I always had an interesting dynamic within our friend group — we were always thinking just a tad deeper and longer than other Sinai members. We would constantly debate about technology and its effect on human nature — we both believe the best things in life have a dual impact on us — both positive and negative. Boys and Think Boys, that was the secret.
Okay, and so what?
We realized that social capital, i.e., popularity ascribed to us, didn’t define how our friendships worked. We had our group of nerds, alt-boys, and jocks, completely different cultures but many similarities. So when the idea hit me — I asked Elijah to come over and talk about it. It was an easy sell, and we started a journey to shift the focus of social networks from social capital and followers to quality opinions and encourage people to create by lowering the bar of entry and empower all to share their views.
We’re underrepresented in our efforts and in the systems we’ve thrived in and made it from. Together we can turn the diamonds in the rough into real value.
Stay Tuned. 🐵