The Fame Kid Makes a Leap for the Big Time
Remember Fame? I'm gonna live forever, and all that jazz? Like Solid Gold, another show which enjoyed an unmercifully long run, Fame screams Eighties television programming, with its song-and-dance depiction of urban teen life at New York City's High School for the Performing Arts, in which cafeteria lunches explode into group jam sessions, in which moments of self-doubt prompt ballads in soft focus. Yet at a young age, Fame imprinted on me the particulars of life as a struggling artist. So when I think of Bryan Boyer, I think of Fame.
Don't get me wrong: Bryan Boyer would probably just as soon declare himself America's favorite breakfast cereal as dance through Times Square in leg warmers. But as one-fifth of DeepLeap.com, an Internet start-up hoping to revolutionize the way you do something or the other, Boyer shares with those leotarded Fame kids the simple truth of his career -- which is littered with as many failures as clichés. A job with promises of fortune for few and crabbed hands for many. For Boyer, prosperity in the new economy will prove just as slippery as making it on old Broadway, seeing as how both rely less on talent than luck and timing. Despite all that, he's forging ahead, and all that's left until the moment of truth is many, many hours of work. Debbie Allen might as well be talking to Boyer and his cohorts when she barks to a roomful of hopefuls in Fame's opening credits: "This is where you pay. In sweat."
And that's just what Boyer has been doing -- alongside co-founders Lane Becker, Ben Brown, Courtney Skott, and Tempy Evans-Munoz -- for the three months he has been in Austin preparing for the company's late-March product launch. Like others armed with bravery and the luxury of little to lose, they are navigating their way through life as a start-up -- scouring for venture capitalists, poring over business plans, working in a cramped office full of dry erase boards and one Dreamcast console. And social life? It helps that Boyer is surrounded by a tight-knit community of tech people, many of whom have already taken a similar leap of faith. Together, they share tricks of the trade and speak a common vocabulary -- much like that of film geeks, theatre people, businessmen, or sports fanatics -- that can sound downright alien to an outsider. Boyer talks in streams of acronyms, worries about keeping his "personal site" and "business site" separate, grumbles about the proliferation of Webloggers, ponders the superiority of different form validation measures, and gives presentations on "hidden information spaces."
But one look at his personal site, BryanBoyer.com, and you realize that -- minus the jargon -- Boyer is just an intelligent, slightly timid, totally nice guy. It is on that personal site that Boyer makes (sort of) daily updates chronicling the anxiety, the disappointments, the discoveries, and the mundanities of a career based on work binges and purges. It's really just a "journal more for self-reflection" than anything, a way his out-of-town friends can check up on his life, a keepsake for years down the road when he's forgotten what it felt like to be young and hungry for something. What the personal site doesn't cover, though, is what the hell this much-anticipated DeepLeap is going to do. That's a secret squirreled away for the big ta-da! of the launch party, and for that reason, it's damn near impossible to speculate on the success or failure of Boyer's venture. "If we fail, we fail," he says frankly. Even so, the pressure is on.
All of this makes him understandably touchy about the hype being thrown at his career of choice. "I think people take too much from the start-up experience," he explains. "All these stories take the grueling aspect of the start-up life and glamorize them." As part of the Internet's second wave, Boyer benefits from the first generation's hard-learned lessons, but it's also true he bears the burden of increased scrutiny and cynicism. While the media continues to paint his group of upstarts in terms of their business savvy and money-grubbing, Boyer insists that for him it's simply about pursuing a life that makes sense at this moment. "It's just something I have to do," he says. "This is what I'm most interested in, and what I feel I have the most to contribute to." Of course. He's a Fame kid. And only time will tell if we'll remember his name.