Seattle entrepreneur and tech veteran Jonathan Sposato is launching another media property with the arrival Wednesday of JoySauce Network, an entertainment platform geared toward spotlighting and celebrating American Asian personalities and stories.
Sposato is the chairman of GeekWire and former chairman and CEO of PicMonkey, the Seattle-based online photo editing service that sold to Shutterstock last year. Sposato, who spent 12 years at Microsoft, also sold two startups to Google — Picnik and Phatbits. He became owner and publisher of Seattle magazine and Seattle Business magazine last year.
JoySauce plans to feature multiple channels of digital programing including unscripted and scripted streaming shows, licensed movies, stand-up comedy specials, documentaries, original editorial content, and podcasts.
Future projects include a late-night talk show hosted by Sposato, a Korean-focused cooking show, and a guide to arts and restaurants in Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) hubs across the U.S.
The genesis for JoySauce was rooted in Sposato’s belief that Asian Americans have been grossly under-represented in mainstream media as a proportion of the population.
“Growing up I hardly ever saw anyone who looked like me on TV who wasn’t the bad guy, side kick, or the butt of a joke,” Sposato said. “I have a belief that the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in our country is partially the result of AAPI’s always being viewed to this day as ‘the other’ and ‘foreign,’ despite having been Americans for generations like everyone else.”
Sposato feels strongly that imagery and stories of “American Asians” as “strong, powerful, beautiful, and with humor was an important way to seize back the narrative.” Using “American Asian” rather than Asian American is a way to “shift the center of gravity, while recognizing that each of us chooses how the pieces of our identities fit together,” JoySauce said in a news release.
The site’s early content includes an original series called “Team Tran” which focuses on 22-year-old Asian racing star Samantha Tran and her rise through the ranks of professional race car driving. Another series called “American Icon” features living American Asian icons, and Sposato sits down with “Star Trek” actor George Takei for an interview.
The site’s original name was Yolk.tv, which drew criticism last year on social media for its branding and use of certain terms such as “yellow” and “near Asians.” Sposato told AsAmNews that the site was changing its name to something “less polarizing.”
He said that despite and perhaps because of the historic derogatory leanings of the term “yellow” for Asian Americans, he felt there was an opportunity for Asian Americans to own and seize the power of it. And that the term “near asians” is simply what he calls folks like his wife, who is white, or his father, who is also white.
“They are my family and we exist adjacent to each other,” Sposato said. “I wanted this effort to be inclusive of them, too. … Some people on Twitter reflexively assumed the worst in our intentions and took both ‘yellow’ and ‘near asians’ in totally different unintended directions.”
Sposato, who is serving as editor-in-chief at JoySauce, told GeekWire that he thinks there will be keen interest in the platform in the Seattle region, and in particular the tech industry, due to the high percentage of Asians among both.
“We all benefit as a whole when we allow immigrants to thrive, and Seattle’s tech sector itself is a leader in this, and its relationship with AAPI participation is very unique,” Sposato said.
“One of the reasons I love Seattle is that we are a little weird,” he added. “We love doing things our unique way. Wouldn’t the perfect birthplace of an irreverent and different sort of media platform centered on a new definition of ‘American Asians’ be Seattle?”
Editor’s note: Sposato is GeekWire’s chairman and investor. JoySauce and Seattle magazine are not affiliated with GeekWire.
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