How CEO James Chapman Bet It All With His Social Media Platform Plain Sight Despite COVID-19
Photo Credit: AfroTech

How CEO James Chapman Bet It All With His Social Media Platform Plain Sight Despite COVID-19

When you talk to Plain Sight CEO James Chapman, it feels like a breath of fresh air. Effusive and gregarious with a natural flair for warm, extroverted conversation, Chapman has a seemingly innate understanding of the psychological nature of human connections.

And it’s this understanding that propels Plain Sight, as a social media platform. The Detroit-based mobile app says it “capitalizes on serendipity,” but it took a big gamble launching at the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

“When we first launched, we’d partnered with Delta to really take this idea to the proverbial next level,” Chapman told AfroTech. “This was in February 2020, and needless to say, we had very high hopes for what was to come. Then March 2020 comes along, and you know what happened next. I’m not going to lie: hanging on during a challenging time came with its own set of problems. But we pulled through, and now, we’re ready to evolve to the next level.”

The concept of Plain Sight is a simple one: connect with like-minded people both virtually and “in real life.” It’s the latter part that sets the up-and-coming app apart from the rest. Chapman says he came up with the idea for the app while he was in a co-working space, and the company raised $1 million in funding from pre-seed angel investors, including the Quicken Loans Inc. chair. Chapman also said Plain Sight is working on its next seed round, which it plans to launch in the first quarter next year, and expects to eventually raise $2 million to $3 million.

 

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Most remarkably, the company saw a growth — not a shrinkage — during the pandemic, which Chapman credits to the authenticity of the connections made.

“Plain Sight takes pride in making the right connections for the right people,” he said. “And we do it authentically. This isn’t to say AI isn’t a powerful tool for connections — on the contrary, it can be one of the most powerful tools in the world when used correctly — but this is to say that in our quest to make the app a safe and inclusive space to build warm, meaningful connections, the human touch is what gives it the edge.”

Chapman says he ultimately wants to grow Plain Sight into a global platform, but understands that there will be challenges to that effort as nuances about Blackness change from society to society. Still, he says, it’s a challenge he’s willing to undertake.

“As an American company, of course, we speak to the Black American experience,” he said. “In a global world, we’d be limiting ourselves to just that type of scale. But the challenges of a global paradigm, while self-evident, are imperative to consider going forward. And we have to be ready to have that conversation that takes this broader view into account.”

Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.