Most people know Damon Dash for his partnership with Jay-Z and the creation of Roc-A-Fella Records, or his famed relationship with the late R&B/pop artist Aaliyah Haughton. But what people may not know is that in recent months, Dash has re-emerged on the scene as a tech entrepreneur, founding an ultra-informative platform called the Dash Diabetes Network.
Black Enterprise recently caught up with Dash to discuss his media tech transition, why he went this route, and where he ultimately sees the business going.
Black Enterprise: Why did you start the Dash Diabetes Network?
Damon Dash: I always wanted to bring awareness to diabetes just because I’m diabetic. The last couple of years in my career, I decided to just really focus on myself; instead of making money off of other people’s talent, making money off of my own. That also means bringing awareness to whatever is weak or considered a weakness about me and showing people how to turn it into a strength.
When I came across Afrezza, which is an inhaled insulin as opposed to an injectable insulin, and found that I could control my blood sugar and get my A1C right, I was like wow, now I could be an official spokesperson on how to maintain a healthy life despite the fact that [I’m] an imperfect person and I don’t think anyone else would give me the platform, so I had to make it.
When did you discover you had diabetes?
I was about 15 and was in high school. I was pretty promiscuous and things were coming out, where I felt like I might have had something that was way worse than diabetes. I felt like it was something that I couldn’t recover from. I felt like I was going to die. I thought I was going to die for about a month and I felt really bad. I was going to the bathroom a lot. I lost like 40 pounds. In school, everybody was saying I was dying. I was scared to go to the doctor because I didn’t want to be diagnosed with death.
I was so sluggish and I couldn’t move and my moms was like, ‘yo, you gotta go to the doctor.’ I went to the doctor and he told me I was a Type 1 diabetic, so I had to take a needle. I was kind of happy, you know, I was relieved. I felt like I had a second chance at life.
What made you start an entire network instead of doing a one-off series?
I’m Dame Dash. I don’t do one-offs. I try to make history when I do something. Plus, I’m enlightened enough to do that, so why wouldn’t I? I changed my whole business model because of the millennial generation and the way they receive information. I helped develop it.
When I opened DD172, which was a gallery in Tribeca in 2010, and made it a television network, at that time you couldn’t even monetize the internet. But I was still giving you content. I was still giving you something on YouTube and Vimeo every single day and I also developed an aesthetic.
I was waiting for the business model back then that I knew would be present in the future. I kind of knew something that people didn’t. I kind of had to wait it out but now that the world’s caught up, I know exactly what to do.
What’s your main goal with the company and how do you plan to scale it?
My main goal is for people to get well, and to teach people how to be healthy because to live as a successful diabetic just means being a healthy person and everyone should want to be healthy.
It’s going to be more programming. Right now, it’s all Dame Dash-heavy. The next season is not going to be so much of me. It’s going to be, more or less, the lifestyle and the people that I work with because I find them very interesting. I’ve always liked to showcase my infrastructure because, without them, I have no flavor. They’re the real flavor.
A lot of different programming is gonna spawn from it.
For more information, and a look at the platform, check out the Dash Diabetes Network by clicking the link here.