By now, most of us are aware of the critically acclaimed Childish Gambino album with the same moniker as this article. When discussing the title of his album, Gambino explained to Exclaim! “Because the Internet I’m here, because of the internet we’re all here. It’s the language of earth. The Internet is already a language we’re all connected to…but the thing is, there are no rules, which is also the awesome thing.” But, if you’re expecting this to be another write-up on the 2013 record by the American rapper, allow your mind to wander elsewhere. This is about Travis Miller and the movement he is creating on his home island – The Bahamas – because the Internet, or perhaps because of his love of technology and all the things it represents.
When Miller graduated from high school, he received a congratulatory card from his family. His uncle wrote two simple words inside – do you. “That was the most powerful thing to me because my perspective is that, you have to be true to yourself, a lot of people get caught up in what the popular thing is. If you like art, if you like painting, don’t force yourself not to do those things if that’s where your heart is taking you. You need to have an internal conversation about what you care about and then act on it.” Those words are how he has navigated his life and they have allowed him to turn his passion for technology into his career. After high school, he studied Management Information Systems at the University of Tampa – “I was always fascinated with technology, that’s why I went that route. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with it yet, so MIS was that intro to [decide] am I going to be hardware or am I going to be software? As time went on, I went the software route and became a programmer/developer.”
His journey through college and afterward was not without its challenges. Finding a job, or even an internship, proved difficult because he, like many other international students, required visa sponsorship to work in the United States. After submitting hundreds of applications and returning to Nassau, an opportunity finally came that allowed him to transition into marketing and advertising, but as a developer. He expounded, “during that time I started to become more involved with the tech community, because that was blowing up. The community in Tampa was very big on collaboration, kind of like what you get in Silicon Valley. A lot of people talk to each other, a lot of people share ideas. And that’s one thing that really stuck with me and I carried that with me.” Eventually, without sponsorship, he returned to The Bahamas where he continued to work remotely for various companies.
Working under the warmth of the sun, surrounded by an ocean of blue might seem like the absolute dream for the average person. But for this self-described passionate nerd – whom if you haven’t yet determined is far from ordinary – Nassau lacked much of the collaboration that surrounded him in Tampa. “One thing that was missing is the collaborative process, so I decided to try and build that here. Hence, it became Shift the Culture – it started with an idea on the plane back home, and I shared with a few close friends and they said why don’t we just go to coffee shops and have conversations every Saturday. It was friends and then it became friends of friends and it grew into a community.”
Instead of you being the person that feels like there’s no opportunities, because no one is giving it to you, why not be a part of a community where you can work together to create your own unique opportunities.
Shift the Culture is a community driven on collaboration and craftsmanship that started with meet-ups and has morphed into an influential group of brilliant, young individuals working together to help each other achieve their goals while transforming The Bahamas. “It started with meet ups at Starbucks and then it transitioned into networking events. We try to have a community driven pot, where we ask everybody if they want to give a contribution into the pot. From there we have Pitch Nights, where people who have project ideas have three minutes to pitch their ideas, and then the best pitch of the night walks away with the total amount of cash to further develop their idea. It’s kind of like crowdsourcing ideas. We also do this thing called After Hours for people who may not have the time to work on their projects full time because they have jobs or maybe they just need that energy to feed off. And we go by someone’s house and work on each other’s projects until 3 or 4 a.m.”
The collaborative efforts and the environment of sharing of ideas created by Shift the Culture has allowed for the vetting of several ideas and the subsequent support of those ideas as they are put into action. One such example is a recent excursion company founded by a participant of the collective. Miller explained, “it started with him going on a boat, and realizing there’s more to life than just being in the office, and he leveraged his boat and formed this excursion company. So, you have another member who did his logo, I helped with his website, someone else helped him with his business and marketing plan, and that kind of exploded and it all came together in an event, and he ended up getting booked for the rest of the year.” Another member of the group needed help working on her documentary, and received strategizing techniques for her project, as well as design and marketing help.
It is this idea of teamwork that Miller envisioned when initially toying with the thought of Shift the Culture. It was a pertinent component in building the idea of community he wanted for his island and the people around him – “things that would have taken a long time to work on, through collaboration get done a lot faster. The traditional ways of doing business that our mom and pop taught us, or what was taught in school, is not going to work anymore,” Miller explained of the rapid changes in our society. He believes that we have to adjust and change with the environment. He continued, “it’s going to be small micro communities of networking that gets stuff done. Even now, it’s who you know. So why not build a community, instead of you being the person that feels like there’s no opportunities, because no one is giving it to you, why not be a part of a community where you can work together to create your own unique opportunities.”
In establishing these opportunities, Miller is currently working on two projects – Starter Island and establishing a co-working space. The latter is open office architecture in which multiple companies and entrepreneurs work together in one space, collaborating and growing their individuals businesses. Starter Island is based on the concept of Startup Bus, which involves a group of people traveling to Texas on a bus. During this time, they are separated into teams and must build their company on the bus. Once they arrive, they have to pitch it to an audience of potential investors. Miller’s goal is to develop the same initiative to accommodate the landscape of the Bahamas.
Beyond this, there is little else that keeps Miller entertained. Though he is sure to express his love of music as a method of escapism – before the interview he had just finished listening to J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive, and prior to that his ears were cloaked in another rotation of Because the Internet by Childish Gambino – an album he notes among his top three of all time. These are among the things he is passionate about – music and technology. When discussing the latter, he explained, “I love it so much, it could kind of be a hobby.”
For Miller, his no man is an island belief has enabled him to expand his ideas and create a state of mind that is impacting those around him in a magnanimous way. He continued further, “I realized that it’s not impossible to make the world that you live in, how you want it. You have full control.”
Photos Courtesy of Travis Miller