Def Jam Co-Founder Russell Simmons Talks Partnerships And Leveraging His Successes

Long before “disruption” became a Silicon Valley buzzword, Russell Simmons, 55, was upending paradigms left and right. His Def Jam record label introduced hip-hop to a broader audience, while his Phat Farm clothing line blurred the line between urban and prep. They also made Simmons a wealthy man. Forbes reckons he’s worth about $325 million.

Simmons discussed the evolution of his career and his intentions to upend digital with two new companies, Narrative and All Def Digital, at the Digitas xCulture anniversary celebration on March 27. After the event, Simmons took questions from Grid.

In this case, “Grid” is yours truly! Click here to read what Russell and I talked about.



Startup of the Month: InContext Solutions

Built In Chicago and Marengo Hampshire Partners would like to congratulate July’s Startup of the Month: InContext Solutions! An award-winning technology firm, InContext Solutions, seeks to lead the industry in best in class analytics and market research. Their unique take on research centers on providing clients a way to test various scenarios in a virtual store with real customers before going to market.

For many companies, high costs or a lack of resources are obstacles in the path of testing hypotheses, meaning a lot of ideas never get explored, let alone realized. InContext Solutions wants to demolish that roadblock, making it possible for companies to virtually “see” how a store or product change would affect their businesses. Sophisticated 3D modeling and using the open expanse of the World Wide Web makes this possible in a way previously unthinkable.

In 2009, Tracey Wiedmeyer founded InContext Solutions with Bob Gillespie and Rich Scamehorn “with a vision to revolutionize how virtual simulations could be used by leading businesses across the globe.” Last November, Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels co-led a $1.5 million investment in InContext Solutions, which brings their funding to date to a total of nearly $2.7 million. Today, they work with many Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and retailers, the kind whose products fall into consumers’ hands daily, to imagine new futures for their businesses.

Learn more about InContext Solutions’ business and goals via our Q&A with co-founder and CTO Wiedmeyer. Click here to read it.

My video interview with Chef Suzy Singh


I had a lot of fun interviewing Chef Suzy Singh earlier this week. She’s bubbly and driven (and she likes to give out hugs). The “Seven Questions With…” format is a great way to speak with interesting personalities because it’s casual and personal. This was the first interview I shot and edited entirely myself, and it was a great learning experience–one which I hope to repeat many times in the future.

Judge me by the company I keep. These filmmakers are so talented.

Seven Questions With…The Producers of “Fordson” from Amina Elahi on Vimeo.

For many American Muslims, the backlash following the September 11 attacks was fresh ten years ago and still lingers today. Nowhere is this more true than in Dearborn, a working class suburb of Detroit where the high school population is 98 percent Arab-American. At Fordson High School, there’s more to life than football, but when the team is practicing to play their arch-rival in the last 10 days of Ramadan there’s a lot on the line.

Read more: Seven Questions With…The Producers of “Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football” | Divanee – South Asian news and entertainment.