Tech Spotlight: Joah Spearman

The Abernathy Tech Spotlight series highlights black professionals working in tech, from freelance developers to non-technical founders. Complete this form to submit your profile.

What is your current role and where do you work?
I am the founder and CEO of Localeur. We a community of locals who helps travelers experience local by sharing recommendations on the best local places to eat, drink and play. In short, it’s all the best local businesses as told by locals rather than tourists. My company is based in Austin, Texas.

How did you get into tech?
I got interested in technology initially when I started using computers in middle and high school. However, my real introduction to tech as an industry was, after college when I started providing social media consulting services to companies like FedEx and later worked for Bazaarvoice, an Austin-based software company that went public in 2012. I realized that technology has the power to democratize a new way of thinking or new approaches to industries in a more rapid way than ever before.

What’s your favorite technology to work with and why?
My background is in social media strategy and execution so I’m always looking at new platforms be it blogging on Medium and LinkedIn or sharing on Instagram and Facebook, which I joined back in 2004 or 2005.

What project are you most proud to have worked on and why?
Localeur, without a doubt, is the work I’m most proud of. Everyone wants to know where the best local places to eat, drink and play are when they travel to a new city, and we’ve been able to build a community of people to make this possible in over 30 major U.S. cities so far. We plan to expand globally in the next two years.

What do you see as the most interesting technology on the horizon?
I know a lot of folks are focused on VR and AR, but I think what’s interesting about this time and age in tech adoption is that there’s still a major role for things like authenticity and quality. Platforms like Medium, for writers, or VSCO, for photographers, show that it’s not just about making a company as big as possible, but also about helping creatives refine and innovate on their craft.

If you weren’t working in tech, what would you be doing?
If I weren’t working in technology, I’d most definitely be in public service or nonprofit. I serve on two major nonprofit boards in Austin, AIDS Services of Austin (which I am the chair-elect for) and KLRU-TV (Austin’s PBS affiliate), and these organizations do the kind of challenging, often thankless work that startups seldom do because it’s not viewed as lucrative or world-changing enough and yet these organizations have been around for decades because they meet a clear need in the community.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your tech career?
Patience is a virtue. It sounds like a cliche, but the reality is that when I started Localeur in 2013, there were a dozen other startups talking about “local” and “travel” and yet we are one of the only ones still alive nearly 4 years later not because we raised more funds, made more hires or got more users, but because we have been fairly disciplined about letting our business evolve, adapt and fulfill its mission without getting too distracted by the Silicon Valley rat race.

What can companies do to create more inclusive environments?
Inclusion starts with empathy. I think one of the huge issues with Silicon Valley’s long battle with gender and ethnic diversity and inclusion is a total lack of empathy about other people’s experiences. It’s an industry that looks for patterns, matches those patterns and more-or-less sticks to what’s been done which is why the industry doesn’t showcase the kind of empathy that is necessary to provide a real inclusive environment. I do think it’s changing for the better, albeit slowly, and empathy is going to be a key ingredient.

What keeps you busy when you’re not being a technologist?
I am newly engaged so usually I’m with my fiancé and we’re checking out new locally-owned bars, restaurants or shops in Austin, catching movies, reading or going for walks with our dog Henry. I also travel 100 to 150 days a year so I explore new cities quite a bit.

The Abernathy Tech Spotlight series highlights black professionals working in tech, from freelance developers to non-technical founders. Complete this form to submit your profile.