What's a morally driven 28-year-old father of three who's still married to the woman he met at age 14 doing in e-world, where raising money reigns and soul-selling goes unnoticed? Darien Dash, founder of advanced technology provider DME Interactive Holdings Inc. in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, is proving the Internet can do more than produce millionaires by executing his long-standing mission: "to expand the hardware and software infrastructure within minority communities."
"Always try to do good before you do well," says Dash, a University of Southern California grad who left his marketing and sales director post at a cable technology firm the day after his 1994 marriage and started DME (Digital Mafia Entertainment). "Have faith, and God will show you the way," he says. "I'm a living example."
But Dash's wealth of good karma doesn't hurt. While providing Web development and Internet solutions for such clients as Motown Records, BMG North America, Sony Music, Black Entertainment Television, and HBO Home Video may quench the average entrepreneurial thirst, prestige doesn't move Dash--change does. That's why he spent three and a half years devising a way to provide 10 million African-American and Hispanic households with computers, applicable content, Internet access, training, certification and job placement, all for $19.95 a month. And after inking some wonderfully huge deals, he did it by launching Places of Color, an America Online-like business-to-consumer Internet service, earlier this year.
A $500 loan from an uncle whom Dash has "paid back 10 times over" and a bedroom-based office may seem a weak foundation for such high aspirations, but soon Dash's "inner salesperson" signed first client LaFace Records, and doors opened in recognition. Since becoming the first publicly traded African-American-owned Internet company last June, DME has opened an office in New York City. With sales increasing 33 percent annually from 1996 to 1999, DME continues to expand by acquiring smaller Web development agencies and minority content companies. Dash gives as he grows: Whether it's 1,000 shares of DME stock to benefit inner-city kids or educating minority businesses about the Net's importance, he's showing what this medium's really made of.