My Story

I started studying systems and how they were designed, constructed, deconstructed, and redesigned in 1996. That was the year my dad introduced the first Personal Computer into our home. With a dad who worked as a Systems Engineer for Electronic Data Systems (later acquired by HP), I was in good company to learn more about these odd and unrelatable things.
As an 8-year-old asking way too many questions, I was already eager to make sense of this organized chaos. What at first was just a random assortment of cables, hardware, and scribbled notes on floppy disks scattered all throughout the house, would later begin to play a fundamental role in my own narrative.
A new year, a new computer. By the time I hit high school, our house had become a legitimate Local Area Network. Seven working computers were wired together through the floors, walls, and bedroom closets. And more still that were hardly working, or works in progress. That entire time, I thought this was all normal.
At the age of 12, my mom introduced me to my first musical instrument. The arts steadily became the glue that formed my strongest social bonds. They were helping me find true meaning and value between the realm of technology and the human experience. Musical collaborations were offering me a full taste of team building, compromise, harmony, and later a shared stage with others, further defining my roots.

Throughout high school and college, I had formed a strong collective with my fellow band mates – a third language we developed throughout the course of over six years. As I also continued building on these passions and technical capacities in my free time, I craved a more structured academic backdrop.

My bilingual household had conditioned me to find cultural relativity in all things, which eventually led to an opportunity to study International Relations.

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These learning experiences introduced tangible outlets to apply the concepts of supply chain economics to direct business dealings while working within the music industry to facilitate a multi-stakeholder machine of sorts.

After graduating, the band was still on a great track and, regardless of one’s taste in music, thought we were creating some good sounds together! That was when the “real world” finally came knocking at the door. What had been the professional “backup” – college – led to a self-fulfilling prophecy, a necessity for financial sustainability.

It was at this point second nature for me to see how the sum of many individual and unique parts can come together to form a working system or unit. How each piece comes apart, and that under the right circumstances, can come back together, stronger and more intimately connected.

I learned that above all else, for any group or entity, trusting relationships lie at the heart of shared success, cohesion, mutual growth and sustainability.

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I spent the next few years working in highly corporate environments in the financial and telecom sectors. On either side of these strict procedural and process-oriented constructs were stints with small non-profit startups, and later a three-year long investment into my professional development at the forefront of a rapidly scaling DC-based not-for-profit association. These various nuances built across diverse workplace cultures, structures, sectors, and environments, shaped my understanding of employee/employer dynamics and how value was measured and exchanged.

This is where I am today

Justin Franks

The technical knowledge I had acquired from those earlier years and this world of art have since played a significant role in my life. And now, whether it’s audio, web, graphic design, marketing, or business relations – I connect dots, building from those lessons of the past. Today, I find opportunities for collaboration, and ways to grow and innovate for the sake of bringing the talents and strengths of others into the process. Seeing and seeking parallels between the socioeconomic, biological, neural, digital, and community structures – both on the international stage and hyper-locally – continue to guide me forward.

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Seeing all things connected helps further unravel the universal similarities between disparate frameworks of all kinds. These blueprints helped inform my vision both personally and professionally. They have helped me to understand the differences between ownership and inequity. Recognizing what is working well and what can be improved upon to keep a group aligned, a signal strong, or a network connected. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I now understand that these lessons could not have been more critical.

All of this was particularly relevant to in the context of the digital era we were beginning to embrace.

In the startup business world, the Silicon Valley model was and still is especially attractive and pivotal for rapid scaling of technologies and platforms that have become ubiquitous in our mainstream digital experience and global economy. Most start-ups will tell you that selling ownership (equity) in exchange for startup or operating capital is a best-case scenario. Why? Because it is a much easier sell than finding qualified and trusted internal capacity to invest in a group of individuals who hold a shared stake in the outcome of its purpose.

Enter, Co-ops…

Come back soon to read more!

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