Featured Founder: James Faison of The Mainframe
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed James Faison, Founder of The Mainframe, a Tampa-based initiative that provides African-American technologists and innovators throughout Florida tailored programming, resources, and strategic connections.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your organization?
Well, I’ve always been an avid lover of technology. My father' military career afforded him affiliations with the NASA’s and the Honeywell’s of the world. So my introduction to technology was extremely early in life. Playing games like Duke Nukem and The Oregon Trail on his Macintosh are some of my first memories. It’s funny because my professional career didn’t lead me down the technology path. The past 12 years of my life have been in the insurance industry on the sales and marketing side. However a few years back, my desire to invest in and impact the city grew more and more. As a Tampa native, creating a platform for tech entrepreneurs and professionals from my community to excel in their own right, only made sense.
What pain point is your organization solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
Ultimately The Mainframe is meant to inspire entrepreneurship and encourage opportunity. For one, it’s building an infrastructure within the black tech community that establishes and develops a pipeline of talent that contributes in a real way to the massive growth that the city is currently experiencing. For entrepreneurs and innovators that means providing them with the resources and the wherewithal to take their ideas from mind to pen-to-paper and turn it into revenue-generating businesses, products or services. For tech professionals and those aspiring to enter the technology field. It’s exposing them to careers and opportunities available to them. Whether it’s training and certifications to help bolster their resume. Or job postings and introductions to companies and organization whose presence they otherwise may not be aware of.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the organization. How did you overcome it?
I’d say establishing the overall value and need for The Mainframe. Highlighting that The Mainframe’s success ultimately means success for the city and region as a whole. The businesses started. The jobs that are created. The careers that are launched. The wealth that’s generated, as a result, would all have a profound impact on the city from an economic and socioeconomic standpoint. The launch of the event series was the start of that. It showed that a specific segment of the community not only needed but wanted to be a part of the growth trajectory and the conversations happening here about economic based evolution.
Where do you see your organization headed next?
Building out programming and creating content that continues to establish The Mainframe brand as a mainstay in the region. Identifying key partners, donors, and sponsors both on a local and national level. Essentially I’m pushing for a physical hub to house The Mainframe. Right now there isn’t a place to gather specifically to talk about tech through a creative lens. The Tampa Bay Area is blessed to have some amazing support organizations and events take place on both sides of the bridge. All of our micro efforts are building towards the macro goal of making the Tampa Bay Area one of the more affluently diverse cities in the country.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
It’ll be hard, but keep going. You’ll likely run into individuals who won’t get your idea or concept and that’s ok. Not many world-changing ideas made sense at first. So be prepared to hear no, more than you hear yes. Know that there will be early mornings and late nights. However, adversity will force you to think harder and be better. Your hard work and perseverance won’t go unnoticed.