Morehouse Alum Builds Spotify for Sermons
March 20, 2016 HBCU Alumni, HBCUMade, Startups
Its called Roho. An online library where you can view sermons from America’s most prominent African American church leaders, Dr. Otis Moss III, Dr. Marcus Cosby, and Rev. Cynthia Hale, just to name a few. Created by Nicholas Richards, a Morehouse Alum, Roho makes it easy for viewers to discover and share Christian content.
Richards, a minister himself, says the idea for Roho came during a breakup when he went online in search of spiritual encouragement. He found himself on YouTube watching sermons, however, the sermons were constantly interrupted by alcohol ads. Which as Richards states “In this particular context, that’s [the alcohol ads] not what I wanted to see.” During the same period, Richards had also started preaching and friends were asking for copies of his sermons. Richards believed that people not only wanted to hear his sermons, but also wanted to have access to all sermons. So, Roho was born. Last June, Richards left his job as assistant pastor at Abyssinian Baptist church and dedicated himself to building Roho full-time.
Richards, who majored in Philosophy and Political Science while at Morehouse, says running a startup is not easy. His biggest learnings in the past year include knowing and understanding the difference between customers and users. For aspiring tech entrepreneurs, he believes this is key. “You need to know who is going to pay for your business. Then make something that people will pay for…And if people aren’t paying you, then you don’t have a business” For Roho, current customers include religious leaders, advertising partners, and seminaries, while users are those who are visiting the site to view content. Richards admits that even with 50,000 monthly visitors to the site, he is still figuring out how to make his users his customers.
In 2012, the Christian marketplace saw $4.83 billion dollars in sales from Christian media.*
Currently, Roho is a small startup based in New York City with only 3 employees including Richards. They recently closed a seed round accepting $700,000 in investment. His investors are all black and understand his market well. Although the majority of Roho’s initial users are black Christians, the content itself is not exclusive to blacks or even Christians, but for anyone seeking spiritual inspiration. “It’s always a challenge when you have a ‘black’ business. Some people believe that we cannot build companies for the mass market. But everyone is going to use Roho.”
When asked if having a label as a “black” company was harmful to a brand, Richards responded, “Yes and no. There’s a tremendous amount of business opportunities in the black community. If you look throughout history, some of the most successful people have made money from targeting us. So, I am very interested in creating an experience that black people love. But I also believe that if black people love Roho, so will others. Music is an example of this. We have been a standard bearer there and our music has global appeal. I know the same thing is true about religion.”
Roho is hiring for a Marketing/Growth Hacker and a Software Developer with iOS dev chops.
Richards also has advice for new or aspiring entrepreneurs. “Every ‘no’ isn’t a ‘no’. Sometimes a no means not right now. The amount of rejection that you have to get comfortable with is ridiculous, but necessary. Don’t be deterred by anyone telling you no.”