May 25, 2020

Meet The Product Designer Empowering Black Communities By Using Tech To Pool The Diaspora’s Resources

Give us your short bio?

Hey! My name is Jermaine Craig. My background and journey to this point have been split into two lanes, one being a designer and the other being as tinkerer/entrepreneur. I mostly grew up in London, but also made up some of my childhood in Birmingham (UK) and also Nigeria. I don’t have a field anymore I just like solving problems, and I’ll typically learn whatever skills are necessary to best position myself to solve the problem I’m fixated on.

What led you into product design?

I was probably going to eventually evolve into product design as the design industry was shifting in that direction when I was coming up.

Still, the catalyst was a twitter trend that was happening on my timeline, where people in tech would share their salaries. The aim was to expose underpaid roles. I saw the design salaries in San Francisco and was shocked to see people earning six figures for doing what I saw as a ‘lazier’ style of web design.

At the time, I was making these cool interactive websites for Adidas and Puma, but not getting paid much. The day after reading those tweets, I deleted my portfolio and starting creating product-y looking stuff. A few weeks later, I got my first gig in Silicon Valley, and the rest was history. I fell in love with the process of designing, getting feedback, and iterating. I learned to enjoy making stuff for people and not just myself. I have a natural curiosity around the psychology of humans, and I also had a natural visual talent – product design is the perfect medium for a person like that.

What does a typical day look like?

On a good day, I’d wake up around 6. Clean and balance out my living space as I can’t think straight otherwise. I’d make some eggs, sip tea and list out all the things I need to do that day in a google doc. Then I’d jump up, go running and use that time to think about all of those things I just listed out. Shower, meditate, stretch, sit down at my desk, and do 3 hours deep work on my the least enjoyable tasks. Then I’d typically freestyle the rest of the day. I rotate routines as my brain wouldn’t accept a single practice. I hope that changes soon.

Whats Kwanda, and what was the inspiration behind it?

Kwanda is a modern collection pot for black communities. It is modeled on the age-old practice of collective finance (Pardna or Osusu) in Afro-Caribbean communities. It’s inspired by all the historical movements that were set in place for the liberation of black people. I’m curious about how those movements or organizations would have faired in this new technological age where we have unlimited reach and leverage etc.

I think if there was ever a time for people to challenge the current social system in a revolutionary way, it’s now because it might just work. Look at how Bitcoin challenged and continues to challenge the status quo.

Kwanda isn’t doing anything new at the core. We’re asking people to get together and pool their money, talents, and resources in the name of true social change, but we’ve added a few cool things. We’re entirely transparent, meaning all our income and spending are out in the open. We’re entirely democratic. If you join Kwanda you have a voice and a vote. You’re involved in the building process. We’re just doing a lot of cools things man. It’s new terrain, it’s exciting, and it’s for black people.

What’s the long term vision?

The long term vision is the involvement of black communities in the story that is the world. Humanity is facing a lot of challenges, and our best shot at overcoming them would be by having everyone actively working on the problems. At this stage, I think circumstances like poverty are so unworthy of us. We should be way past that. Africa is a continent full of geniuses that could transform the world ten times over, but they’re stuck behind obstacles that shouldn’t exist for them. We want to clear the way the next generation of world-changers, by developing structures around them that are empowering and encouraging.

What tips would you give to your younger self?

  • Do really hard things. Your mind is going to fight to stay in the ring, and in doing that will expand.
  • Finish things. 9/10 people you’ll be bump into won’t finish things. 
  • Seek to understand. Always seek to understand precisely what is happening and why it is happening.
Michael Berhane

Co-founder and CEO of & Also the co-host of the #Techish podcast! Full Stack JavaScript developer by trade.

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