Jackson Jhin (‘13) makes Forbes 30 Under 30


Courtesy of Jackson Jhin

Jackson Jhin (’13) looks back to junior year as he makes Forbes 30 under 30.

Nathan Kim and Brandon Wu

Fresh out of the University of Notre Dame, 22-year-old Jackson Jhin (‘13) was only three days into his new job when he found himself trapped inside his office building after working hours. He had not yet received the building badge that would allow him to leave the building after hours. 

“I couldn’t get down the elevators. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to sleep overnight in the office or call one of my bosses and see if they’ll drive to come pick me up or let me out,”’ Jhin said.

Neither option sounded appealing. Fortunately, Jhin was not the only one working late that evening. 

While wandering around the building in search of an elevator, Jhin stumbled upon a pair of entrepreneurs who were brainstorming an idea for a new tech startup called Cameo. This chance meeting turned into a multi-hour work session, where the entrepreneurs eagerly pitched their idea to Jhin. “We want to sell selfie videos from celebrities. What do you think?”

Over the next six months, he worked unpaid nights and weekends for Steven Galanis, CEO and co-founder of Cameo, a platform allowing users to connect with their favorite actors, athletes and musicians by requesting personalized video shout-outs or DMs for a fee. 

Jhin played a significant role in the initial development of the company, creating pitch decks and financial models. Soon Galanis offered him a full-time position and asked him which role he wanted to fill.

“I told him I wanted to be his right-hand man, second in command,” Jhin said.

He laid out his argument to Galanis: hiring an experienced CFO would cost at least $500,000 or 5% of the company—money that Cameo didn’t have—while Jhin would work twice as hard for a fifth of the pay. 

“If I was going to leave my job, I wanted a seat at the table to help fundraise and make decisions,” Jhin said.

Jhin’s ambition paid off when Galanis accepted his proposition and changed Jhin’s life “forever.”

“All of a sudden, I found myself on the phone talking to Snoop Dogg, having dinner with the Sultan of Qatar and meeting all the people on Shark Tank,” Jhin said. 

Despite his early success with Cameo, Jhin never forgot his first dream: music. He wanted to be in a rock band and produce music, but without industry connections, his dream seemed out of reach. 

“My parents were Asian immigrants. They didn’t have any connections in the music industry, so no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get in front of anyone who might help me along that path,” Jhin said. Wanting to make industry connections more accessible to everyone, Jhin and his co-founder started their newest business venture, Protégé, built on a simple mission to democratize access. They wanted to make it so that anyone who has a dream can get in touch with the right experts and the right people.

Just like Galanis took a chance on Jhin, Protégé recognizes that “the most successful people have a story about a mentor who changed their life — someone who showed them the ropes or took a shot on them.” 

In a world where that initial connection or introduction is sometimes the missing piece, Protégé’s mission is simple: Be heard. Make connections. Get discovered. 

Jhin’s journey has resonated with numerous celebrities including DJ Khaled and Bebe Rexha, who have joined Protégé’s ever-growing roster of leading experts in music, venture capital, content, tech and entertainment. Now, users can pay a fee to have experts critique and analyze submitted videos in different fields ranging from dancing, singing, acting and lyric writing.

Protégé’s success, along with Jhin’s prior achievements, landed 27-year-old Jhin on the prestigious Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2023, which highlights 30 leaders and stars under the age of 30 in various industries. Jhin was recognized for his accomplishments in the Media category.

But long before Forbes, Protégé, Cameo, Chicago Ventures and college, Jhin’s journey began at St. John’s, a graduate of the class of 2013. 

When he looks back at his time as a Maverick, Jhin appreciates the environment created not only by the School, but by his peers as well.

“I thought it was fantastic how everyone was so supportive, and there was a culture of trying to be excellent in something else other than just academics,” Jhin said. 

Jhin still looks back to the problem-solving, writing classes, presentations and performances he participated in at SJS, finding that he still uses these skills now. At work, he writes emails, talks on the phone, pitches ideas to investors and makes presentations on a daily basis — soft skills he honed through classes and opportunities at St. John’s. 

To Jhin, some of the most critical moments in life come from finding one’s interests and passions.

“It could be a startup, it could be fencing, it could be painting or music — those are absolutely the most important experiences you can have,” Jhin said. “Doing things that people think have a low chance of succeeding are often the most important, game-changing routes to follow.”