BLKBOXLabs: Lessons from a black box

by Kim Souza ( 25 views 

Entrepreneurs can never be satisfied long because just as their venture picks up enough speed to coast they get restless and yearn for another opportunity to start over with the next big venture.

Josh Clemence, 26, and business partner Joey Nelson, 34, have each been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. They recently walked away from comfortable jobs with Acumen Brands and Rockfish Interactive to launch BLKBOXLabs – a comprehensive business consulting firm that uses hands-on collaboration and creative approaches to help businesses succeed.

The tech savvy duo officially launched the venture Monday (Dec. 10) after several months of planning. The idea was hatched from the premise of process and its importance to the development of a company, product, or idea. BLKBOXLabs is essentially a broad consulting effort that helps with everything from social media, website design to internal problem solving issues.

BLKBOXLabs derives from the concept of a black box in an airplane. A black box understands the final destination of a flight and records the decisions, events and data points that lead up to that final outcome to tell the story of sorts about the flight.

“Much like the black box in an airplane, we put great care into and fully understanding the process by which our partners have and plan to evolve. We do not seek to simply service project check lists or update Facebook profiles. We are most valuable as an engaged creative partner, helping to plan for, design around, and develop for our partner's grand vision, the big picture, the future,” Clemence said.

For the past two years Clemence has worked among a host of entrepreneurial minded folks at Acumen Brands.

Clemence says from the day Acumen CEO John James hired him to manage key projects for the growing e-commerce firm, his boss knew the job would be a stepping stone to a venture of his own someday.

“It’s an incredibly exciting time for me, we have already been working with a few companies and have a long list of calls to make. We also hired our first staff person this weekend and are hoping to ramp up quickly as the business grows,” Clemence said.

BLKBOXLabs has an office at 320 N. Ralston Ave., just off Dickson Street in downtown Fayetteville.

He said both Nelson and himself plan to continue their work as mentors in the local entrepreneur community as well as the NWA Entrepreneurial Alliance – a networking group that Clemence co-founded in 2009.

Nelson also knows a thing or two about being on the ground floor of a winning project. He was one of the five original team members of Rockfish Interactive and worked as the senior creative director of mobile and emerging platforms for technology firm. He spent five years working with an impressive client list: Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Pepsi Innovations Group, The Travel Channel and Arvest Bank, among others.

Rockfish, like Acumen, continues to encourage its staff to spin-off and start ventures of their own, many times providing financial and mentoring support to help those start-ups succeed. 

Nelson has had the opportunity to work on a several start-up ventures and he left Rockfish nearly a year ago and to found MobileFWD which quickly launched a social trivia app for iOS – Trivia.ia.  This company continues to work on gaming apps that support and empower education.

Jeff Amerine, a champion of entrepreneurial efforts in the region and around the globe, says the culture that Acumen and Rockfish instill in their organizations is key to helping create more local jobs in Northwest Arkansas. (Amerine is the technology licensing officer and adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas.)

Every time an entrepreneur like Clemence and Nelson get their wings to fly, that not only opens up jobs they leave behind, but also creates the possibility for more positions as they set out to recruit the talent they will need to make their venture a success, Amerine explained.

He has said emerging companies also provide more opportunities to retain local talent which is important in the region’s overall economic future.