Tech

Overcoming Doubters: Rachel Jaffe Builds App Adjacent

Rachel overcame scepticism to build Adjacent, a pioneering locative app connecting people based on location

It started with a seemingly crazy idea that felt like a fantasy - using digital technology to map stories onto the physical world.

Back in college as an English major, Rachel had a vision for an app called Adjacent that would unlock chapters of a book based on the reader's real-world location, turning the literary experience into a tech-powered scavenger hunt.

However, when she shared this innovative concept, the reaction was dismissive laughter. "It's not going to happen. English majors are for people too dumb to do Computer Science," one person bluntly declared.

But Rachel was undeterred.

Driven by a passion for empowering diverse voices, she devoted herself to mastering user experience design and coding, enabling her to breathe life into pioneering concepts from underrepresented founders, including women, minorities, academics, and individuals with autism.

"I've found people are happier when they're working on things they love, and the world is better when everyone can have a hand in building the future," Rachel says.

Overcoming Gender Bias in Tech Through Self-Funding

This drive was crucial, as only 2.3% of venture capital funding went to female founders as of 2020 in the US.

"I became convinced that even though it might take longer, I would build a tech company on my own without outside investment."

The road was rife with sexist obstacles. As a female tech founder, she constantly faced scepticism, objectification, and crude assumptions. Investors frequently mistook pitches for dates.

When an investor was pretty dismissive right from the get go during a meeting, it was just another difficult situation to tested how much she could keep going,

This fuelled her determination to bootstrap Adjacent without their funding initially. "Today women are only 3% of venture-led startups...we need more people that believe women can build companies as transformative as an Amazon or Meta," she insists.

"I became convinced that even though it might take longer, I would build a tech company on my own without outside investment," Rachel recalls. Societal pressures mounted too as she entered her 30s to abandon her entrepreneurial dreams for family.

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Pivotal choices shaped her unconventional path. Realising the magic of location-based experiences, she decided against a website in favour of Adjacent's groundbreaking app, where users can discover locals working on projects around them based on location data.

"Instead of needing to convince millions of individuals, I am offering value to a few dozen Community Leaders that buy into it."

"You can now step into any café or co-working space and see what others are building around you," she beams.

To seed Adjacent's growth sustainably without VC funding, she tapped into private communities first, offering value to dozens of community leaders as a B2B play to build the B2C user base organically.

"Instead of needing to convince millions of individuals, I am offering value to a few dozen Community Leaders that buy into it," she explains.

Looking back, Rachel's biggest advice is to ignore conventional wisdom that doesn't align with your unique journey, especially for underrepresented founders.

Thriving in an Investor World Dominated by Traditional Norms

"There's a lot of advice coming from top male-led accelerators that you should quit your job or you aren't serious...that might work for twenty-three year old white guys. But it's alright to move at your own pace, like if you're balancing entrepreneurship with children or need an income."

More than a decade after her locative storytelling idea sparked ridicule, Rachel has defied the systemic odds stacked against female founders.

Adjacent is pioneering a whole new way for people to connect based on shared interests and physical proximity. Her perseverance has been fortified by inspiring women mentors like Nancy Gilby and Joanna Millunchick "who showed with their own lives how you can be successful and kind at the same time."

From an English major's random epiphany to a trailblazing locative app, Rachel's story demonstrates that realising an underdog vision requires resilience, self-belief and taking the road less travelled - even when everyone says it's impossible for someone like you.

By forging her own entrepreneurial path, she is empowering more diverse voices and bold ideas to reshape the future of technology.

You can download Adjacent for iOS from the App Store or from the App Store if you have an Android device.

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