Meet James Norman, the tech guru and serial innovator behind fast-and-furious customized cars

James designed customized cars for the Fast and Furious franchise in the early 2000s. Photo credit: Gravity Speakers

Pilotly Founder and CEO, James Norman, considers himself a serial innovator in the tech world. However, he did not anticipate the scope of his dream would be ginormous when he started selling video games and car audio at a young age. He later translated these business steps into his first e-commerce startup, MJH Sound, which he set up in 1995 at the age of 15 with a friend. Already inspired by his abilities, James felt he would be better positioned in his course if he educated himself further.

He enrolled at Michigan University to study electrical engineering. After graduation, he decided to extend his love for creating car audio to building customized cars, and specialized in building unique cars for movie production. One of his notable achievements in this regard was designing customized cars for the Fast and Furious franchise in the early 2000s.

However, when the world was hit by the global recession in 2008, he also felt the brunt of the financial quake because the auto industry had been badly hit, which meant he needed another stream of income. He felt challenged to create something extraordinary and developed a video-streaming entity to give people a source of entertainment in the midst of the economic turbulence.

His initial experience with the video-streaming entity bolstered his confidence to create Ubi Videos, a streaming video aggregator that offered viewers a one-stop space to access compelling content, according to Stitcher.

One of the challenges that James faced was raising capital to invest in his new business, but he soon learned new ways to support his business from a product planner who established Dropbox. It spurred his vision to scale up his business and build an effective team to execute his business plan. James spent almost six years experimenting with Ubi Video.

Though he encountered his own challenges running the streaming platform, it catapulted him to higher heights. He leveraged his years of experience in setting up businesses to tackle the problems society faced. This unique niche James symbolizes can be traced to his time at the NewMe program, which equipped persons of color to break into Silicon Valley in 2011. This opportunity presented him with many possibilities, including San Francisco Bay. He spent considerable time at the Bay, further developing his skills in software engineering.

After his time in service ended, James ventured into opening a non-profit organization that pooled black professionals to provide them insights to steer clear of preventable challenges entrepreneurs face. The California-based Transparent Collective focused on sharpening the skills of professionals in investment strategies and finance, as well as helping them raise funds.

The NGO has since supported 40 startups to find their bearing and has supported them in raising over $30 million to push their business. James currently works on Pilotly, a consumer insights platform, he built in 2014 – which has become a game changer for businesses with market insights about their consumers.  

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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