Roundups / Social media / Startups

How the Fyre Festival doc inspired these social marketing startup founders

When you strip away the excesses of Magnesis, is there an economy-boosting idea?

Dan Young and Amy Sassaman, cofounders of Black Diamond. (Courtesy photo)
As much as Netflix’s “Fyre” — one of two documentary obsessions of early 2019 about the doomed Fyre Festival — is a play-by-play of how not to do events, seasoned entrepreneur and educator Dan Young saw possibility in some of the raw ideas.

The result is a new startup that Young and his cofounder and CEO Amy Sassaman hope will alter Delaware’s social landscape. The two developed the company in Young’s former University of Delaware Horn Entrepreneurship student Garry Johnson’s inaugural First Founders cohort.

“The cool thing about an incubator is that you start with one idea, and it merges into other things,” said former Horn adjunct professor Young, who’s now the director of the Doctor of Business Administration program at Goldey-Beacom College. “So [our startup] is, in essence, a social networking event and branding company. What we’re trying to do is to help the City of Wilmington spur economic development and brand building.”

Called Black Diamond, the concept can be compared to Magnesis, the “invite-only charge card” launched by Fyre Festival cofounder Billy McFarland, who was found guilty of fraud in connection with the festival in 2018.

Black Diamond is not a charge card like Magnesis, however — it’s more like a membership card. With some tweaking of the concept and the events connected to it (and, you know, not using these concepts to defraud people), Young saw something that had potential for Delaware.

“So much of the Magnesis card was about the concept of having events for millennials that would give them elite status,” said Young. “So I thought through the process of doing something similar, but have very specific social media components to it.”

If, say, Black Diamond curates an event at Longwood Gardens sponsored by La Fia and Fordham & Dominion brewery, and if 50 high-income millennials to go to the party, “they’d also have the responsibility to post, tweet or Instagram out photos and video of them eating La Fia and drinking Fordham & Dominion,” he said. “If each of these people has 1,000 followers, that’s 50,000 social media impressions. It’s basic push marketing with social media and product placement. At the same time, we’re basically doing marketing and brand building for Delaware companies using influencers.”

How did the notorious festival come to inspire a tool for local economic development? It came from a supportive place.

“I was trying to think of ways I could help Garry in what he was doing,” said Young. “So, like a lot of people who have Netflix, I was watching [“Fyre”]. They had the whole thing about the Magnesis card and all the stuff that happened, how it led to the Fyre Festival and all this crazy stuff. So on they very last day — literally, like three hours before the applications were due — I basically said, ‘You know, I’m going to recreate Magnesis, and that’s going to be my project for the incubator to support Garry.”

Here’s how Black Diamond will work: Folks will have the opportunity to join and receive a card for a proposed fee of $250 per year. The card will give them access to one event — a white party, an art reception, etc. — each month for free, which will include food and drinks provided by local businesses.

“So instead of an event sponsored by Budwesier, it would be sponsored by Fordham & Dominion or Midnight Oil,” for example, Young said.

These events will have a non-member ticket price of about $50 each, so social butterflies would save significantly by joining. The social and influencer aspects of it, Young hopes, will draw more millennials to the area.

You’ll have to wait until the holiday season (at least) to check out a Black Diamond party, though: The startup, and its app and web presence, are still in development.


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