In the past month, Kanye West made several announcements of his future expansions:
– Donda Academy, a tuition-free private prep school in Simi Valley, CA, which has already landed four-top recruits for its high school basketball program
– “Donda” trademarks filed for:
– electronic products including tablet computers, surround sound, audio speakers, wearables
– homeware products, including shower curtains, towels, and blankets
– “Ye” trademark filed for a dating app, legal services to low income families, face masks, and more
Unsurprisingly, these items were all listed on the Donda org chart that Ye shared back in 2016:
When Ye first shared these ideas, he got laughed at by Silicon Valley elites. Sure, there are plenty of holes to pick apart in Kanye’s vision. But he’s brought many of his big ideas to life. His Stem player, the Donda Academy, and Yeezy success were all soundbites shared in past interviews years earlier.
The Donda listening parties were reminders of Kanye’s influence. He’s smart to expand his dreams into reality now when he has more money and power than ever to make it happen.
Finding the right partners. The biggest factor for Kanye’s success though, is who he partners for each business venture and how much autonomy he gives that person. Yeezy succeeded because Adidas was 100% on board. When Yeezy was with Nike, Kanye’s releases were deprioritized. The right partner made the difference.
Kanye’s plans for Donda Academy sound promising. We’ve seen LeBron James and others use their influence to launch K-12 schools. But will Kanye partner with expert educators who have launched schools before and are committed to his vision?
This has been a challenge for Kanye’s past initiatives. For instance, Ye’s past philanthropic efforts, Donda’s House and the Kanye West Foundation, both struggled. Ye put Chicago artist Rhymefest in charge of Donda’s House, but the foundation quickly ran into financial problems, which wasn’t a surprise. Here’s what I wrote last year:
Rhymefest’s heart was in the right place, but his skill is writing songs like “Jesus Walks” and “New Slaves.” He’s not a seasoned non-profit operator. Would Kanye fly out the CEO of Make-a-Wish to Hawaii to write songs for his next recording session? Absolutely not.
Creative geniuses often struggle with delegation, hiring, and empowerment. It’s not a coincidence that Kanye’s biggest career successes came alongside Adidas and Universal Music Group (two of the most established companies in their respective fields). Ye should keep that in mind as he brings his next set of dreams to life.