Backed By Quicken Loans Chairman, James Chapman’s App Launches In Detroit To Ease Networking

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Written by Dana Sanchez
James Chapman
James Chapman is the founder of the Plain Sight app, backed by billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans. Photo: TEDX video, YouTube

Plain Sight, a mobile app that helps users connect at events and in the job market, launched last week in Detroit and on app stores after attracting $500,000 in funding from investors including the chairman of Quicken Loans.

App founder and CEO James Chapman, 34, hopes to raise another $1 million in seed funding. It doesn’t hurt that his lead pre-seed investor is Quicken Loans chairman and billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert.

Chapman is the former director of entrepreneurship for Quicken Loans Community Fund, the philanthropic arm the mortgage giant, CrainsDetroit reported.

As director of entrepreneurship, Chapman launched the first-ever Detroit Demo Day which, in three years, provided nearly $4 million in funding to small businesses throughout the city — mostly minority and woman-owned. Before moving to Detroit, Chapman ran a workspace in his hometown of Chattanooga from 6 p.m. to midnight for side-hustlers who work full-time during the day, according to his website.

Plain Sight helps users connect in real time in shared spaces. It’s designed to help people find new clients, recruits, and collaborators.

“The way we work is rapidly changing, but the way we actually connect with people is still a broken process,” Chapman said, according to a report in Detroit business journal DBusiness.

“Oftentimes, the exact person that we need to meet, the exact person that could open up a door for us to get on the other side of success, goes to the same coffee shop as us, is in the same airport, or at the same restaurant. They are hiding in plain sight,” Chapman said. “We are on a mission to eliminate any missed opportunities and help the go-getters of the world find their next thing – or the next big thing.”

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Plain Sight allows people to be intentional about where and who they connect with – at least that’s the plan.

The app has two potential revenue streams: from event space owners and users. Neither pay for the app yet. In 2020, business owners can pay to advertise restaurants, bars and banquet halls as meet-up spaces for the Plain Sight community.

“People tell me all the time that for them to reach success, they need a proper seat at the table or to know the right rooms to be in,” Chapman said. “There are a lot of talented people that go unnoticed. If you have the skills and ideas to be successful, you shouldn’t be stifled because you weren’t born in a certain zip code or family.”

Chapman told Crains that he sees an opportunity to help establish Detroit as a Midwest tech hub — especially for Black founders — as more entrepreneurs flee the overcrowded and expensive West Coast.