When Matt Letten was a senior in college, he had just lost 100 pounds. He’d been exercising, eating healthy, and working to build a sense of confidence and purpose that he felt he never had. One afternoon, he met with his mentor.
“This guy was always someone I could run anything by,” says Matt. “We were sitting there discussing how I had just gone through this physical transformation. My mentor said jokingly, ‘You could be the next Richard Simmons.’”
Today, that’s not far off. Matt joined forces with his younger brother, Phil, to found Vegan Bros. Their goal? To be “the Tony Robbins of veganism.”
The WeWork Custom House members publish funny, profanity-laden blog posts and videos, and they run a weight loss and fitness-coaching program.
Vegan Bros is the perfect marriage of each brother’s background. After college, Matt opened several gyms. Phil worked for animal rights organizations and had been vegan since he was 20. Phil started working out at Matt’s gym, and Matt adopted Phil’s diet and passion for animal welfare.
They realized they were on to something.
“It was May 2014,” Matt recalls. “We were sitting in a park in Seattle, talking and brainstorming. We were sipping on whisky, which we use as creativity juice on occasion. We were high on life. We had just thrown a sold-out party on the roof of my gym the night before, and we donated all the money to our favorite animal charities. Phil made a joke like, ‘Why don’t we do something online?’ We made eye contact. We got serious.’”
On their website, the Letten brothers’ objective is to be welcoming, teaching the benefits of a vegan lifestyle while also showing interested non-vegans that there isn’t just one way to be a “Vegan Bro.”
“We like to be as inclusive as possible,” says Phil. “Being vegan isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. You can be vegan one day or one meal a week. Before I was completely vegan, I said, ‘I am going to be vegan, except for cheese pizza.’”
This approach has earned them lots of fans (nearly 33,000 on Facebook, to be precise). But it has also ruffled some feathers—no pun intended—in the vegan community.
“This is a hiccup that we expected,” says Phil. “There is this small and very vocal segment of the vegan community that despises us. People who aren’t vegan yet are more accepting of what we do.”
The Vegan Bros are about to reach an even bigger audience, as they’ve just inked a book deal with Penguin Random House.
“The book is essentially our manifesto,” says Matt. “We’re putting our flag in the sand. In the past, veganism was seen as a weird, feminine lifestyle practiced by self-indulgent, politically-correct hippies. We’re bros: we preach veganism for ‘normal motherfuckers.’ We aim to be helpful, but also to make you laugh.”
The brothers are busy, but they’re loving it.
“When you’re doing something you’re truly passionate about,” says Matt, “There’s no distinction between work and fun. Sometimes I’ll be working on my computer, and I’ll look, and it’s 10 o’clock at night. Or we’ll go to a bar, but talk about our web analytics the whole time.”
In the past, drinking “creativity juice” has served them well. So, cheers, Bros.
Photo credit: Gia Genitempo
An Entrepreneur’s Cheat Sheet for Bitcoin and Blockchain
Bitcoin is the inescapable “next big thing” that will reportedly replace the banks and disrupt our entire financial system. While Bitcoin and the technology it’s built on are still in their infancy, entrepreneurs can benefit from being early adopters. (Please note: The following should not be considered financial advice.)
Five essential takeaways for Bitcoin
Bitcoin is a currency built on top of a technology called the blockchain, which I’ll explore in more detail later. Here’s the main gist of Bitcoin:
It allows for a culture of full transparency where all transactions can be viewed by anyone on a “distributed ledger,” a table that lists all transactions occurring on the blockchain. You can see these transactions in real time with a blockchain explorer like Blockchain.info or Blockcypher.
Transactions are irreversible. Once you send Bitcoin, you can’t cancel the transaction.
Transactions are anonymous. To send or receive bitcoin, you need to set up a virtual wallet. Each wallet has a unique ID composed of random numbers and letters like 1NRedxSzhx7r. This is used in lieu of a real-name identity.
There are only 21 million Bitcoins that will ever be in existence, a rule hard-coded into Bitcoin’s software. These coins are generated through a process called mining, which is very similar to mining for gold or diamonds but instead uses computing power to solve a mathematical puzzle. In addition to mining Bitcoin, miners also profit off the transaction fees since their computing hardware powers and connects the blockchain.
It’s both a very volatile, decentralized currency and a storage of value with no central authority calling the shots.
How to purchase Bitcoin
Sign up for Coinbase, which is by far one of the most trusted and reputable exchanges.
In the US, you will need to verify your identity to be accepted to most legitimate exchanges. Once your ID is approved, you can then purchase Bitcoin or a small fraction of a Bitcoin. You can spend as little as $10. With such a volatile new currency, it’s important to only spend as much as you’re comfortable with losing.
What is the blockchain?
The blockchain is the underlying technology that makes Bitcoin work. Think of it as the App Store, with Bitcoin an app built on top of the blockchain. There are many other blockchains and cryptocurrencies. Ethereum, co-created by Vitalik Buterin, is one of the major competitors in the space and uses its own currency, called Ether.
Just like you can build any app and launch it in the App Store, you can build apps, commonly referred to as Dapps (decentralized apps), on the blockchain. Companies choose to build on the blockchain because it allows for full transparency—anyone can view each block on the chain—and accountability, meaning there can’t be any gaps in the chain, as each chain builds off of the next.
One silly but salient Dapp is CryptoKitties, a game where you can spend Ether to raise your own kittens. Companies like Maersk and IBM are working together to use the blockchain for other uses cases, like making global shipping industry more efficient.
Three opportunities for entrepreneurs
Be active, any time. Now that you have your Bitcoin, you’re now a part of a global economy that is active 24/7, not bankers’ hours. You can participate in ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings, explained below), join other exchanges, and trade with other alt-coins. You can even make real-world purchases, like buy furniture from overstock.com. This is where you begin to see the true utility and revolution of cryptocurrencies.
Raise capital. As an entrepreneur, you can launch your own coin and raise money from the public via an ICO instead of the typical seed or angel round. Keep in mind there will be heavy regulations around ICOs. Companies like the messaging app Telegram are raising well over $1 billion in their ICO.
Help bring others on to the blockchain. You can also engage with the blockchain as an entrepreneur by consulting or development services to bring companies, cities, and even your own company on to the blockchain, like ConsenSys did. ConsenSys and IBM are working together to bring the city of Dubai on to the blockchain. Other companies, like Digital Asset Holdings, led by the extraordinary Blythe Masters, are working to bring institutions and exchanges on to their blockchain technology.
Three dangers of the blockchain
Almost anything could be built on top of or migrated to the blockchain—but that doesn’t mean it should. With Bitcoin and blockchain come tremendous upside and risks. Here are a few:
Regulation. Governments around the world are cracking down on cryptocurrencies and ICOs, so be sure to read up on your local laws.
Vaporware and Ponzi schemes. The majority of ICOs are companies that have no real technology, team, or product. Facebook recently banned ads for cryptocurrency and ICOs out of concern for “deceptive promotional practices.” They are designed to take your money if you don’t do your research.
From Shanghai to Nashville, the Year of the Dog is already in full effect at the pup-ready workspaces of WeWork. On Instagram, #dogsofwework has nearly 5,000 posts, and when WeWork brought its dog-friendly workspaces to Japan—a market with more pets than children—it made headline news in Bloomberg. (Thinking about starting dog-friendly policies in your spot? Here’s a ruff guide for that.)
What’s the best tip for bringing your dog to work? The best way to make sure your dog is comfortable at the office is to bring lots of treats, including treats to share. Just like us humans need a snack after a long day at the office, having a bag of treats helps make sure Max and his office puppy pals are all enjoying themselves, and able to get through the workday, too. A bunch of snuggles doesn’t hurt, either.
What’s your dog’s superpower? Besides being cute, his ability to end any meeting with his gas.
What’s behind her name? Scout is a 6-year-old Blue-Heeler mix from Aberdeen, Mississippi. She’s named after Scout Finch [from To Kill A Mockingbird] and has become a part of the WeWork Tower Place community team.
What’s the best tip for bringing your dog to work? Pleasant interpersonal relationships seem to be the most reinforcing stimulus for a dog. After all, they are pack animals with complex social structures that eventually led to them synchronizing with human society. Always be watching for desirable behavior to positively reinforce your pup with, because they’ll always be watching you.
What’s your dog’s superpower? Asking for what she wants. She has been known to sprint towards members only to then slide on her side to stop perfectly in position for a belly rub.
What’s the best tip for bringing your dog to work? Willingness to adapt is very important. The members love him, and he loves the attention he gets from them. There were moments, though, that I noticed he was getting quite stressed. I bring him to the office between two or three times per week, and I avoid bringing him if I know it will be a very busy day.
The fun part is that the members have also adapted to him. They know Herby doesn’t like hugs and clapping and that they shouldn’t feed him because he’s trying to lose some weight. At the end, the most important part is to respect his limits and make sure he is not disturbing anyone.
Your dog as an emoji: 😒 He’s both a grumpy man and a good pal.
What’s your dog’s superpower? Herby has the power of finding food in every bush. Normally he finds sandwiches, but last weekend he found a whole pizza.
Why do you bring your dog to work? Instead of sitting at home bored all day, she’s able to come hang out with me, meet other dogs, and get loved on by WeWork members. I also—selfishly—love having her around because her bright, spunky spirit keeps me feeling positive, and she always finds things to do that make me laugh throughout the day.
What’s the best tip for adjusting to the office environment? Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. I have found this is the key to a well-behaved dog at work. Harper is a 1-year-old puppy, so she has a lot of fun energy. When I take her on runs or to the dog park before work, she cooperates way better. We also love taking walks during lunchtime or throwing the ball at the park nearby.
If your dog were an emoji, which would he/she be? 💃 Harper is always the life of the party.
What’s your dog’s superpower? Invisibility. She snuck upstairs at a friend’s house a few weeks ago without us seeing and ate 27 pastries.
Why do you bring your canine friend to work? It makes the office a happier place. Dogs create instant good vibes.
What’s important to know before bringing a dog to work? Be respectful of the workplace and practice good manners by ensuring your dog is toilet trained, the office door is kept closed, and there is a dog bed, water, snacks, and toys for your pup to keep them occupied and comfortable during the day.
Your dog as an emoji: 💩
What’s your dog’s superpower? Making food disappear
Why do you bring your canine friend to work? She makes everyone’s day better. Even though the Ipanema building has only been open for 10 days, Lexa has already become the mascot. We have a dog walking app in our building, GoDog, that uses her every day to train new dog walkers.
What’s important to know before bringing a dog to work? People will “borrow” your dog, so if yours goes missing, it’s probably in someone else’s office.
Must-have toy to keep your dog happy: Toy to chew on.
What’s your dog’s superpower? Help people lose their fear of dogs.
Detroit Creators Find Each Other, and a Baby’s on the Way
How do you set the mood for love? For one Detroit couple, it’s all about ideas, creativity, and entrepreneurship. Fance Logan and Keith Shadwick met last year at the Creator Awards, WeWork’s global competition for innovators. They connected over a love for sharing ideas and starting up new collaborations.
Usually, the Creator Awards’s impact is measured in the $15 million awarded, the 167 winners, or the 170 jobs created. But now they can count one relationship—and one baby on the way.
As Logan, 32, and Shadwick, 27, get ready to welcome a baby boy in March, they continue to follow their passions. For Logan, that’s real estate and fashion events, including the annual runway show, Fashion Massacre, now in its ninth year. Shadwick is developing a new fashion line, Prewave and Co. We caught up with the couple between their startups and side hustles to learn more about how they met and what baby names they’re considering.
Congratulations on the baby! How exactly did you meet at the Detroit Creator Awards?
Logan: At the time, I was just laid off from one of my jobs doing property management. I was downtown, it was a rainy day, and you guys had this glass pitch booth thing [where anyone could come up and pitch an idea for a chance to win money], which was so fascinating to me. The whole setup was something unique. I went in out of curiosity.
Shadwick: We met at the pitch booth. I saw her walking around while I was pitching my idea. We started asking each other about business and entrepreneurship.
Logan: That’s how me and him started talking to each other, off our ideas. Some of the ideas he had were so amazing. Then we said, “OK, maybe I’ll see you later.” I saw him later that night at the awards ceremony, and we just hit it off. You don’t usually meet people talking about the entrepreneurial spirit. We both had that in common. He was just open forideas and open for creativity.
Shadwick: We ended up hanging out until Wyclef Jean performed, and that sparked something.
Were you hoping to meet anyone?
Logan: It was fascinating how I met Keith. I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone. Keith wasn’t planning to meet anyone, either. He just had a natural curiosity to be part of something. To meet in that element is amazing. It’s out of curiosity, and here I am, eight months pregnant, and we’re soon to be married. It’s a beautiful story.
How did you connect about entrepreneurship?
Shadwick: We started talking about fashion and different things. I was starting my brand, Prewave and Co. I have no design school background. It’s just in my spirit. Fance started talking to me about how to go about branding. She was telling me a certain way to go about it, being really professional about every aspect like consistent artwork, content, and stories behind the fashion.
Logan: We are [also] working on a real estate company focused on promoting homeownership, called Optimistic Realities. Homeownership sometimes seems intimidating to people. We’ve been leasing and are in the process of purchasing a home soon. We’ll buy homes and fix them up and offer programs for people so they could purchase their own home.
How does Detroit influence what you’re doing?
Shadwick: I’m from the westside in Detroit, where there’s violence, but it’s been reported that violence has gone down. This is the time to start doing things. It was a dark time in Detroit, but now there are lots of entrepreneurs, and networking is golden right now. My next collection is called Flourish Detroit.
Do you know what you’ll name the baby?
Logan: Sensei, which means master teacher. We’re putting that into the atmosphere.
How will you teach the entrepreneurial spirit to the next generation?
Logan: Lead by example. That’s the only way to teach someone. When I said me and Keith are going to buy a home soon, we’re doing it to lead by example.
So… would you recommend the Creator Awards as a place to find love?
Shadwick: For sure. It attracts people with a positive light and a mind to create. We all are creators, no matter what we do. Our words create our destiny. To actually create a human from that event is amazing in itself. It’s meant to be.
A shaving company geared toward women. A movement to get more black men leading classrooms. A mentor program opening up opportunities in the media industry for people of color. We’re celebrating Black History Month this year by acknowledging influential African-American entrepreneurs in the WeWork community. See someone missing from the list? Tag them with #BlackHistoryMonth and #weworkBHM on social media.
1. Where Langston Hughes meets Cardi B
Erica Buddington, a teacher in New York City, turned Cardi B into a teaching moment, then a teaching moment into a viral video sensation. Buddington rewrote the lyrics to Cardi B’s summer hit “Bodak Yellow” to teach geography after she heard her sixth graders singing the song. Now she’s using the publicity she received from the video (including mentions on Huffington Post and Forbes) to take her company ideas for culturally relevant curriculum to the next level with her company, Langston League.
“The kids push me to be creative. They’re my lab,” she says. “I take the kids’ comments every day and rework it. They’re so open when they know you love them.”
How you can support them: Hire them for workshops and curriculum design.
2. The perfect shave—for women
Karen Young bootstrapped her business from day one. Her line of shaving products, Oui Shave, replaces flimsy plastic razors with a sturdy safety razor that can last a lifetime and reduce razor burn.
“We’re reimagining what the razor would look like if it was made with the best intentions for women,” Young says.
Larry Irvin, founder of Brothers Empowered to Teach, wants more men of color to become teachers. “We are looking to reignite our lost luster for the education profession that was once highly revered,” he says. His organization recruits the next generation of educators by reaching out early in college and providing programs to men looking to change careers.
“Though it is imperative that black boys start to see positive representations of black men in classrooms, it is equally important that kids of all races and ethnicities see that black men can and do teach,” Irvin says.
Byte Backcompletely changes the lives of underserved Washington, DC residents by providing computer training and career preparation. “On average, our students are making $20,000 more per year than when they came to Byte Back,” says Executive Director Elizabeth Lindsey. “Their lives are changed profoundly.”
Lindsey represented Byte Back at the DC Creator Awards in 2017 and the Global Finals in 2018, winning $360,000 in funding at each event. For the Global Finals, Lindsey also welcomed Byte Back student Lisa R. Brown to the stage at Madison Square Garden. Brown had been juggling multiple jobs before starting at Byte Back, when she came to a realization. “Six jobs would never equal one good career,” Brown says.
Lincoln Stephens was working in advertising and kept finding himself as the only African-American male in the company. He wanted to change that. Over the past 10 years, the Dallas nonprofit he started, The Marcus Graham Project, has worked to provide learning opportunities for minorities looking to break into the media industry, a field where “people of color are grossly underrepresented,” Stephens says.
“We work with hundreds of young leaders to help shape their career and advocate for the awareness of career opportunities in our field,” Stephens says.