This Detroit Startup Wants to Take the Biases Out of Networking
Photo Credit: James Chapman, founder of Plain Sight
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This Detroit Startup Wants to Take the Biases Out of Networking

When you’re a startup founder, networking can be a full-time job in itself. Endless hours are spent schmoozing with potential investors, finding the right people for the team, and connecting with people who may benefit from the business. 

James Chapman — the founder and CEO of Plain Sight — wants to streamline how entrepreneurs network. Plain Sight is an app that connects professionals at conferences, in coworking spaces and other events only using bios. 

“If you go to networking events, you’re probably going to end up talking to the person who is sitting next to you at the bar because they’re the closest to you,” Chapman said. “The person that you’re actually more aligned with may be all the way on the other side of the room.”

The app does not show users’ names or profile pictures, so members have to make connections completely based on people’s bios and professional credentials. Chapman said he wants his app to alleviate some of the unconscious biases that go along with networking. 

“If you look at somebody’s picture or name, based on whatever your bias is, you won’t even take a look at their qualifications and their professional background,” Chapman said. “I understand that more than anybody being a Black man with a beard and tattoos in tech. Somebody could look at me and not even take me seriously when it comes to being a tech founder.”

Chapman got the idea for the app after parting ways with his coworking space Workaholics — in Chattanooga, Tennessee — to move to Detroit. Workaholics was dedicated to entrepreneurs who worked a regular day job and wanted to focus on their business in the evening. The coworking space was opened from 6 p.m. to 12 midnight, creating a tight schedule for the city’s business owners to interact and collaborate. 

“People would hit me up asking who was at the space or who would be there later,” Chapman said. “I realized that technology could solve that problem and that people should know who is around them so that they don’t miss out on opportunities to connect.”

Chapman relocated to Detroit to be an entrepreneur-in-residence and lead the Entrepreneurship team for the Quicken Loans Community Fund, which is working to build Detroit as a startup hub. He said, when he first moved to the city, he quickly caught wind of the entrepreneurial spirit that the residents have.  

“Everybody’s a hustler in Detroit. I would see people who were entrepreneurs out of necessity,” Chapman said. “I was meeting people who were driving Ubers in the day and baking cakes at night just to get their bakeries off of the ground.”

Now Chapman is completely engulfed into the culture and is building up his own company. Plain Sight raised $500,000 in its seed funding round and is hoping to raise more capital in the future.

“The people that we want to connect with are already in plain sight. They’re already around us. We just don’t have the awareness as to who they are,” Chapman said. “If we did know, we would be able to make more and better connections in real-time.”

Plain Sight also allows users to chat with each other. People who run event spaces can post on the app to encourage people to attend workshops, mixers, and more. Plus, the company is working on developing chat rooms for multiple users on Plain Sight. 

Chapman’s ultimate goal is to not only shift the way entrepreneurs see networking with Plain Sight but the way they see each other.