Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, Episode 41
Khalid David, TRacflo August 2021
[00:00:00] I struggled with that. I struggled with that reality that I so bad wanted to be on that I wasn’t being real with myself about what I was going through and the truth is, and I love it MIT, I love what MIT did for me. My folks in those environments, they were telling me sound advice. They were telling me how it works based off their experience.
[00:00:28] They were never trying to set me up for what we call the okey-doke. They weren’t, they were telling me if you do this and you talk to this person, you’re good. They always write checks. And I got to those meetings and I had those conversations and, you know, my truth is I had term sheets, I’ve had investors saying I want to invest this much.
[00:00:47] But we just need you to raise this extra a hundred thousand. And when it came to that last hundred thousand, I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get to the high network individuals to write these $50,000 checks. And that, that was a harsh moment for me. Harsh reality to deal [00:01:00] with.
[00:01:00] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here. Thanks so much for checking out another episode of founders Unfound. That was Khalid David founder and CEO of TracFlo, a company with a predictive financial management platform, that is empowering America’s contractors.
[00:01:15] Originally from the Bronx. Khalid was born into a family of tradesmen. With a deep connection to his Afro- Caribbean roots. So it’s no surprise that even with education from Morehouse, Columbia and MIT ,Khalid ended up in the construction industry and it was those experiences that opened his eyes to the inefficiencies hampering workflow on today’s construction. And so TracFlo was born. Khalid has a great story. You’ll want to listen in.
[00:01:40] Our episode is sponsored by AfriBlocks, the global Pan-African freelance marketplace and collaboration platform. A great resource for devs designers and virtual assistants. Check out the link in the show notes.
[00:01:51] And please make sure to like, and subscribe to the podcast we’re available anywhere you get your podcasts, even YouTube. And if you like what you hear, please drop us a [00:02:00] five star review on Apple or podchaser.com. It helps so much, and we really appreciate it. And make sure to tell your friends about us.
[00:02:06] Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:20] Hello. Welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds. This is the latest episode in our continuing series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya. Let’s get on it.
[00:02:37] Today, we have Khalid David founder and CEO of TracFlo, a company with a predictive financial management platform that is empowering America’s contractors. Welcome to the show Khalid. We’re super excited to have you. Thanks for making the time.
[00:02:51] Thank you so much, Dan. I appreciate being in. I’m excited to share my story.
[00:02:57] So I gave kind of a broad introduction of [00:03:00] TracFlo, but as we get started, maybe you can just give us a little more flavor about what is TracFlo precisely.
[00:03:06] We’re a mobile platform that allows contractors to track and put in manage changing project costs in a mobile environment. You can think of us as, when you go out to dinner with your friends and use like Venmo or cash app to split a bill.
[00:03:21] We help multiple stakeholders on an active construction site. Make decision pretty much on who owes, who, what, in a mobile platform.
[00:03:29] I love it. And I don’t know much about construction. So we’re probably going to get into a little bit where you, uh, you school me. But before we talk more about TracFlo let’s, let’s hear more about you. Where did you grow up? Where you’re from?
[00:03:42] So I was born in the Bronx, grew up in Mount Vernon, New York, a suburb. Folks are from the islands. So big Caribbean and from Alan’s called Saint Kitts and Neves, two small islands. I like to consider this boutique is not everyone knows about them. So I grew up first [00:04:00] generation American and the Caribbean household in New York city.
[00:04:03] I grew up in a family of carpenters, if any, does from the cities, there’s always like. Stereotypes. Like all the island guys are like in construction and all the women are like nurses and stuff like that. I’m sure we’ve all seen the stereotypes, but yeah, I’m actually a product of one of those kinds of households.
[00:04:20] My dad was a tradesman and I came from a whole family of tradesmen, all of my dad’s brothers. And my grandfather
[00:04:26] Did that come in when your family got here to the United States. So that was that even going back to St. Kitts.
[00:04:33] Yeah, my grandfather was a tradesman back in St. Kitts. And one day I met one of my dad’s like grade school friends who knew my grandfather back in the island.
[00:04:44] You know, they both ended up in the U S in New York. And at this time we were like in the fifties and we’re talking and he’s talking about how back on the island. How respectable it was to be like a carpenter, because they’ll want a few folks who are able to make their own [00:05:00] money and provide a service and be able to dictate who they do business with.
[00:05:04] Especially in the time when there wasn’t really a lot of access to opportunity. So he taught his sons to trade. And when it came to us, they kind of was jumping around, doing odd jobs. Like a lot of immigrants do. Eventually they got into like the unions and the union really provided economic progress from our family and help them achieve the American dream. So…
[00:05:27] Nice. And as a kid, were you, were you drawn to this or did you feel like, well, this is just what everybody in the family does or were you also sort of like, this is cool. I want to do this.
[00:05:38] Early on. It was like chores. It was like, my friends will clown me because they were like, you go to anyone else’s house and chores are like, take out the garbage or rake the leaves you go to Khalid house and chores are, we’re going to install this cabinet. We’re going to build a shed. I’ve got a good friend that just was like, I hate it when your dad would come around because [00:06:00] it would be full projects for me, I always was, I was always drawn to spaces. Like I was one of those kinds of dudes who watched HGTV in high school.
[00:06:10] I excelled in stem, but you know, really liked kind of architecture, really like more the end product, quite honestly. So when I eventually got into the industry, I would learn all the gritty stuff and you know, how to level a wall or make sure something’s plum. But I was always most fascinated with the end product, like creating a space.
[00:06:30] And that’s really what you need today. Interesting.
[00:06:32] And so when you were going to college or I guess coming out of high school and thinking about what was next, how did your journey map to what you were thinking at that time?
[00:06:44] I want to be an architect. I had been exposed in the industry. I really liked design and I love like creating those spaces.
[00:06:51] But I excelled in stem and I didn’t quite understand that architect was part art. So I really excelled in stem. I got accepted to a few engineering programs, [00:07:00] ended up at Morehouse doing the dual degree engineering program. So I spent three years at Morehouse two years at Columbia and graduated with two degrees, two bachelor’s and five years.
[00:07:11] Because I Excel in stem and I was interested in architecture. I ended up with civil engineering, which is kind of like in the middle, like you’re designing structures, the design, the structural components. So I ended up studying civil engineering and then I ultimately fell in love with construction management because I felt like I could still be a part of ultimately putting those spaces together, realized that I wasn’t really interested in design work.
[00:07:33] But I wanted to make sure I was part of the teams that presented, created this new product, the manufacturing of a beautiful designer space into something that you ultimately get to touch and taste and live and work. So it was that whole journey for me that ultimately drew me to the construction industry.
[00:07:52] That’s fascinating. And I worked in the auto business and it was kind of a similar dichotomy. There was the folks who were in that sort of, [00:08:00] to design room, right. With the clay and they would be doing all this stuff. And then on the other spectrum, there was engineers who were literally rolling up their sleeves, like, okay, this part works on the car, but how do we put 60 of these together an hour and make that actually fit with this other one?
[00:08:15] And so I get that. And I’m just curious, were your parents encouraging or supportive or pushing you towards getting a degree or did they have some misgivings and said, why don’t you just join us and sort of the trade world, or how did that dynamic happen?
[00:08:29] That’s a great question. It was like, you need to know this trade in case things don’t work out.
[00:08:36] They couldn’t necessarily guide me on what the best educational opportunities were. Like pretty much had to rely on my school and my networks and mentors from high school. That was my potentials. Like, you can take this thing to the moon, but it was kind of like at a base level, you’re going to have enough skills that you can make a decent living depending on however it plays [00:09:00] out for you.
[00:09:00] But I was never like, you need to be in the industry or you need to take on this legacy. It was more like, Hey, you didn’t know a trade in case these other things don’t work out. If they do more power to you because, you know, they didn’t really have the skills to help me navigate college or a professional career or anything like that. But, you know, they taught me what they knew.
[00:09:21] It’s actually pretty open-minded I would say, you know, my dad was an immigrant too, and sometimes they come with, like, you can be anything you want, you can be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. So you come out of college with this amazing experience, two degrees at a two amazing institutions.
[00:09:37] And you’re interested in construction now, construction. I’m not an expert on this, but I do believe that. peaks and valleys, feast and famine. Did you come out of college when that industry was booming or was it struggling or like, what was the timing of your emergence into construction?
[00:09:54] So I came out during, in 2010, right after the great [00:10:00] recession.
[00:10:00] And I kid you not at this time. When I was still in school, I thought I was the man, the man I had interned with Turner and Kellogg Brown and Root, two of the largest builders on the planet. I had went to these great schools and I thought, I’m fine that my tickets, I can just cash this ticket in. And at that time, during the great recession, I was told that there were 40 year old PMs who were taking entry-level jobs because they were sending a daughter to college and they needed, they needed to work. There was no way I can compete with that experience. So during that time construction housing market had fallen out. Construction market, especially for these large firms really dried up.
[00:10:45] So my story is I actually, I was applying for jobs about nine to 10 months. I had an uncle who was a great tradesman, could look across a room and tell you if a photo was unleveled, really good with customers to get jobs, but can never [00:11:00] finish them. He didn’t have the formal training. Couldn’t really manage books.
[00:11:05] They didn’t know how to do a true qualified estimate or respond to a request for proposal. And I got tired of looking for work. I got really frustrated. With just the constant rejection and the notion that my value was somehow determined by what the corporation said, that they’ll hire me. I did entrepreneurship minor at, during my time at Columbia and about 10 months out in the partner with my uncle.
[00:11:29] But like, Hey, he’s like, I got another client and I’m like, Hey, let me do the estimate. Learned this during my internships. I’ll do the estimate. Uh, price it out. I’ll put together a formal proposal, the scope of work, an estimate, a schedule and the schedule of values and present them. And between us, you could run the field, not run the books.
[00:11:49] I may end up getting the job. I remember it was raining that day and I remember getting a $20,000 deposit and I was the first payment I had gotten. Post-college. [00:12:00] And at that point, I knew like, oh my God, I can create value in the world. And that pretty much the entrepreneurship fire for me, that was my experience post-undergrad.
[00:12:12] Isn’t that amazing when that first bit of money, I’m sure you’ve gone through this at this point now, but it’s like, you started having lots of it and it’s almost just a number, but when you see the first big chunk of money come in, whether it’s revenue or an investment, and you’re like, wow, it mean you have to stop and pause.
[00:12:29] Right. It’s just like,
[00:12:32] Yes. Yeah, it was, I’d never had a check that large, uh, nothing has ever paid me that much. And again, it’s construction. The margins are high. We spent 90% of it on materials and labor I’m at the margins of low. But yeah, at that time it was mind-blowing. It was mind blowing. I like you think about salaries when people make it a year.
[00:12:51] And again, you can about your margin. You’re not thinking about it. You’re just thinking, Hey, this is a third of what people are looking for [00:13:00] jobs right now. And I have it in a check. Oh my God. If I could just master this skill, I can. Right.
[00:13:07] It’s a lot of zeros on the left of the decimal point that you’re not used to do this with your uncle.
[00:13:13] Sounds like that was successful. Did anything else that happened between that and TracFlo?
[00:13:18] Oh yeah. So I did that for about three years. And it was really during that time that the first kind of foundations of what would become track low were started actually, actually, this, a picture of me pitching in Harlem with a company called TrakFlow,. It had a K in it where I’m talking about how you should be able to manage the project in a mobile environment and I’m walking through this kind of design that I created and I’m trying to pitch like, Hey, I need this for my company. And I think I can, I can make it, but I’m not did that for about three years.
[00:13:52] And ultimately, um, just grew a little frustrated with the limits of being a subcontractor. They’re really passionate about technology. [00:14:00] I was putting together like Google sheets and all this stuff, trying to manage costs when you’re out there on the field and things are moving a mile a minute. I would be out there on the field, helping the guys pushing projects forward and then still have to come home in the evenings and then manage the books and manage the cost and try to make sure everything worked out.
[00:14:18] It was too much. So I ended up, I decided, Hey, well maybe let me take a day job. And if I take a day job, maybe I can learn to code at night and maybe I can bring this thing out. And that day jobs with Turner Construction, and I get to Turner and turns out they’re trying to solve the same problem. They have a whole team trying to solve this thing, and I was trying to solve myself.
[00:14:39] And I ended up joining that team, leading that team, growing out this software division to the point where they were managing about $180 million worth of project costs and a platform that we had built the head developer on that team would ultimately become my co-founder. We built the [00:15:00] solution so large while at Turner that they pretty much decided, Hey, we’re a hundred year old construction firm, not a software firm.
[00:15:08] This has grown too much. We don’t know how to manage a tech stack. We know we’re not going to hire folks, and this will stifle your career because there’s no career path at this company. If you’re building software, like you gotta, you can’t become a project executive doing that. You gotta go put up a building.
[00:15:23] If you want to be doing a project. And at this time more and more solutions started emerging in the marketplace, so that ultimately decided, Hey, is a little too risky to be building software as a construction firm. We’re a little more confident that the tools will emerge and we can buy them. And let’s shut this down.
[00:15:40] It’s been a good run. And at that point, I’d fallen in love with the intersection of construction technology. I met with the CEO. I met with the CIO and literally the senior vice president of engineering wrote my letter of recommendation. And so I was able to leave the company on a good note and maintain those [00:16:00] relationships. And um at MIT is where TracFlo was born.
[00:16:04] Nice. Well, we’re going to dig more deeply, definitely into TracFlo, but we’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with colleague David from Trek.
[00:16:14] Who gets to be called innovative or genius. If we look at the current media landscape today, we often don’t see people of color dominating the business or tech news headlines.
[00:16:23] I’m Sherrell Dorsey, data journalist and founder of The Plug. Our work in reporting has been featured in and used by top names like vice the information and casting directors at ABC shark tank. The plug cuts out the noise to bring you news insights and analysis of trends, shaping venture capital startups, policy and ecosystems within black innovation communities.
[00:16:41] Join our annual pro membership and get exclusive access to our weekly long form reporting and monthly member calls, which puts you directly at the table with leading innovators and firms around the country. Also access our data libraries of indexes, such as our black owned VC firms index with a top 100 black researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
[00:16:59] [00:17:00] Use code unfound to save $10 on our annual email@example.com that’s T as in the NP, as in plug insights.com.
[00:17:14] So we’re back with Khalid David from TracFlo. So before we go into the company, I want to, I want to ask this question. You talked about in the last segment, how the company basically Turner said, Hey, we’re a construction company. It’s nice that the software thing, but we don’t want to do that. I have a question for you, a hypothetical.
[00:17:31] What if they had said, you know what? This is a great idea. Why don’t you stay and run this for us and we’ll sell it to other companies. Would you have stayed?.
[00:17:40] Wow. That’s a great question. I believe so. So we were trying to do that, the group that I was a part of, we were trying to get them to think of it as a business opportunity and create almost another, another business unit to do it.
[00:17:58] I possibly would have [00:18:00] stayed. The reality though, is. It likely would have stifled the growth of the business. You probably would never been able to sell to their competitors. You probably would never really been able to raise the amount of money you really needed. And your ability to attract talent to that group would have been somewhat challenging.
[00:18:18] So, yeah. I like to believe that I probably would’ve stayed mostly because of my passion for delivering the service, my passionate to move the industry forward. I think that even when we’ve had challenges at times a truck, but I realized that’s really, what’s driving me. It’s like, yeah, technology, business, all this stuff.
[00:18:35] But I do have, I’ve been out there. I felt that pain point and things get tough. It’s talking to. This subcontracting company that was started by these Irish immigrants who during COVID things got crazy, and this tool is helping them for the first time. Really understand that business in a way, and giving them confidence that they can get through the pandemic.
[00:18:57] It was moments like that. That [00:19:00] kept me kind of going, like, I know that story. I get it. Okay. Make opportunity. You start a trading and you start a business. And now your business is growing and you need different tools. You need people, people who respect the industry enough that is willing to commit talent and resources of solving problems, especially in an industry that kind of feels like we’ve been overlooked.
[00:19:20] So to answer your question, I likely would have stayed it reasonably because it would have been driving impact and driving the business part a little bit limited in how impactful it could have been, if we had stayed.
[00:19:36] I love that answer. Cause you kind of hit on three key aspects of a sort of dedicated, passionate entrepreneur. One you’re about solving the problem. Right? You put the problem first and foremost ahead of like, where’s this structured, but then you look at the structure like it’s inside a company and like, Is it going to serve the best way. And then third, this idea of like always going back to the customer. What’s the [00:20:00] why.
[00:20:00] And so, as I look at entrepreneurs, I mean the people who kind of check those boxes, I’m like, wow, I just want to follow them into the fire. So you’re going to business school, you got TracFlo out of Turner. And so before we dive more into the story, tell us a little bit more about how it works and anticipate that most of our audience is pretty unfamiliar with the construction industry as a whole, but what’s the value that you bring.
[00:20:25] So first I got to make a disclaimer. I didn’t get TracFlo of Turner. Turner was a good growing ground for my learning. And I eventually launched TracFlo at MIT. A little disclaimer, there.
[00:20:37] We don’t want to get anybody in trouble with IP or anything? So that’s all on me. Sorry.
[00:20:44] They are trusted partners of ours. So in a layman terms, imagine if you’ve ever done a kitchen or bathroom renovation, and if you’ve ever done it, kitchen, bathroom, a deck, anything, um, it typically starts at one price and ends [00:21:00] at another price, any kind of home improvement project that you’ve done with, you have to hire a contractor and that’s because construction.
[00:21:08] What we call change orders, but are unforeseen changes to the project scope that affects common costs pretty much time and money. Well, when you’re building, let’s say a residential tower in Midtown Manhattan, they deal with the same challenge. But this time, those changes are in the tens of millions of dollars.
[00:21:29] And what we do is we help the multiple stakeholders who have to be a part of that decision making process, make those decisions and mobile investment. And it’s a big pain when it comes to these commercial construction projects, particularly because how the contracts are written and the demands on the project.
[00:21:49] So when an unforeseen foreseen change occurs on a job site, that trade contractor has one or two decisions. Either they can stop [00:22:00] because they don’t know what they’re doing, but those penalties for anyone who depends on their work that may get delayed and there’s penalties for delaying the project. And those penalties tend to be super high because these developers are selling these apartments or the office building has an anchor tenant, or what have you, or you can make a decision to spend your own money to keep the project going.
[00:22:25] And with the hopes that as long as you document it, that she’ll get paid for it on the back end. So let’s say a sink doesn’t fit a counter marble cutout. If you stop. And the cabinet people who come after you and the plummet can’t work, you face penalties. Or if you say, all right, I’m going to bring some guy in tonight.
[00:22:43] Who’s going to cut the marble in place. It’s going to cost me an extra hundred, 200 bucks, but you know, I’m a go ahead and do it. I’m a document what happened? And I’m gonna say, Hey, we needed, we needed to get paid for this because we couldn’t stop. Or everyone would face these penalties. And that process [00:23:00] creates a phenomenal, we call at-risk work.
[00:23:02] It’s money that’s spent, but nobody has. Agreed to adjust yet. It’s outside of the contract. And in order to accurately document that for the longest while trade contractors pulled out what you call a ticket book, it’s pretty much a paper note pad that they hold in their back of their pocket. Well, they’ll write down.
[00:23:21] Hey, I needed three extra guys to work at night. To cut the marble tiles and it comes with a little pink and yellow carbon copy that you’ve all seen before. And one company, let’s say, if I’m cutting marble, I’m probably a Mason, the company, the general contractor, who’s managing the job. They’re supposed to get a paper slip and any of the project managers, who’s not onsite who needs to determine the cost.
[00:23:49] They’re supposed to get a paper slip, as you can imagine. Paper slips get lost all the time. It doesn’t have the right signature. It got wet. The God’s hands not legible. No one [00:24:00] knows exactly what happened or what was spent or how it’s spent. And that quickly exacerbates when you’re building, let’s say a hundred million dollar project.
[00:24:10] So in some contexts, a hundred million dollars. Let’s say it takes two years. That’s $50 million a year. That’s $2 million a month. So quickly. If let’s say you spend an extra 200,000 a month, 10% of that and unforeseen stuff that quickly adds up. You add a half a million in three months. If you don’t get this documentation.
[00:24:30] So, what we do is we allow contractors to document this on a phone. We allow them to snap photos, recorded videos, be able to send it to all the stakeholders simultaneously. We allowed them to pull in the pre-approved labor and material costs that was decided at the beginning of the project. And by doing all of that mobile.
[00:24:51] Instead of waiting for stacks of paper to come from the job site and things to get lost. We allow contractors to understand that financial [00:25:00] exposure almost in real time, our product has shown to improve approval time by 45 days, uh, reduce financial risks by 10% in the first 30 days. While also saving engineering staff about 10 hours a week that was normally spent just taking papers, sending out emails and updating Excel.
[00:25:21] So that’s the problem that exists on construction site and that’s how we kind of help organize information so that they can make decisions faster.
[00:25:30] That makes a lot of sense. Wow. And thank you for explaining it in a way that civilians can understand. I totally get it. I mean, this is the classic situation that many SAAS and digital products have tried to solve in the business world, whether it was healthcare records or legal or.
[00:25:47] So entering a realm, which is more traditional. I imagine, like you said, using pen and paper in an environment that’s not necessarily suitable, like you said, it gets wet, it gets lost. It’s something, you know, [00:26:00] the dashboard of the truck and it gets blown out the window. Hot dog chili on it or whatever. So tell me, so Jake is your, your co-founder and what’s been the biggest struggle for the company at this point.
[00:26:12] Maybe let’s talk about that. So has it been customer side? Is it the hiring side? Is it the investment side? Like, what’s been some of the big challenges you’ve faced.
[00:26:22] Yeah. Our biggest challenge is investment is attracting the right set of investors. We all know the data on diverse founders, black founders, and access to capital.
[00:26:34] And that infested funding has a myriad of challenges that’s associated with it. We can recruit top talent, but we can make them offer us. We’ve had interns from Stanford and MIT, Berkeley, NYU Dartmouth, to hear our stories. Sit in front of me and get a pitch and they want to bring all this skills to bear.
[00:26:54] And at the end of the summer, at the end of the semester, when they’re looking for an offer, we can’t necessarily [00:27:00] say, Hey, you’re top talent. I’ve convinced you to join an industry. That’s not that sexy, like change is not sexy, but we can’t necessarily make you an awkward, just not yet, because we don’t necessarily have to capital.
[00:27:12] Well, we’ve done in terms of customers. We’ve outfitted. Companies that’s been around longer than has more funding and we’ve outpaced them based off of relationships and level of understanding with the customer that most people don’t have. I often tell people I’m a builder first technologists. I, my job is to use technology, to create the new tools for builders.
[00:27:36] There’s so much excitement around property tech, real estate tech, construction tech, that you have a lot of technologists that saying, Hey, we’re going to come in and we’re going to revolutionize this industry. They don’t have. Hard hats. They don’t have dirty boots. They’ve never swung a hammer and they can convince some developer that this solution is going to change everything.
[00:27:58] And then when it gets to the job [00:28:00] site, it falls flat because the dude has worked with power tools. His whole life does not even understand the context of what you’re trying to get them to do. We found it took very seriously. Making sure that the tradesmen were at the center of not only design, but they experience.
[00:28:21] And that has worked wonders for us. Our relationship with the guys on the field is the thing that we’ve been outpacing most companies in. So I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do on the customer side and the user growth side, but really being able to expand it to the markets really be able to be, to, to maintain the talent that we can attract.
[00:28:44] That really stems from access to capital. And that’s been our biggest challenge.
[00:28:48] We’re going to dive more into the fundraising in a bit, but tell me, so you kind of have this experience entrepreneurial in the contracting construction world, and now you have sort of a tech startup. What’s the [00:29:00] difference between running those two different companies?
[00:29:02] Everything, everything it’s like night and day, they’re not even the same business. It’s night and day. The innovation economy is built on a simple concept, but a profound one is that one you’re fundamentally changing the way things are done. And two you’re making that change accessible to as many people as possible.
[00:29:28] And those two little concepts. Are profound and difficult at the same time and regular traditional business. You’re for the most part, just trying to get up to what the standard is. You need to have the right access to capital. You have the right labor force and you always build them to make sure that you can meet the standard.
[00:29:49] When and innovation is first part, which is invention. Can we do things differently? Right. And then the second part. Which is innovation is how [00:30:00] can do things differently, affect the most people as possible. You can come up with a new thing. And if the guy on site thinks is crap and doesn’t use it, it crashes your reality.
[00:30:10] Yeah. You thought it, that was some great thinking, but it’s not going to happen. So there’s this duality where it’s like, you’re constantly the way that you have to challenge yourself. Not. To celebrate new ideas and to celebrate new approaches, but then also earning the respect of driving that adoption by understanding what parts of your approach you thought of and what part your customer demands and your customer needs, and your customer has to ultimately impact, influence what you build so that it makes sense.
[00:30:44] Yeah, I think it’s different necessarily from a contract in the sense that I said there’s no right answer, but the right answer is off the subjective in tech, where it was a little more concrete and traditional businesses.
[00:30:57] So tell me who this company [00:31:00] blows up and it’s huge and you’re successful and bragging to your whole family about it.
[00:31:06] And when you tell them yes, TracFlo was a success, and this is why, what will you tell them? How will you measure? How will you know that it was successful in your mind? Oh, I can call it an
[00:31:18] awesome, thanks man. Are you sure you ready for this? I’m ready. So track. Is a vehicle by which my life, my people, the entire environment that I’m a part of from treatment from the islands to classrooms at MIT.
[00:31:38] It’s an opportunity to say that we’re here, we exist and travel as a business. Will we get to the point where we effect. Construction projects, most projects where they think about doing their finances is a foregone conclusion and absolutely necessary to not just making sure that this [00:32:00] project is running smoothly financially, but all the additional services that we can provide is matte throughout platform.
[00:32:07] That’s a success from the standpoint of what we built as a technology and what we built as a number. Zeros and one and cold base and years of interviews and all that stuff as a leader, success is when people can look to track low as an organization, as a CEO, in terms of understanding why it’s important.
[00:32:33] That diverse founders have opportunities to innovate and opportunities to impact industries and not just Stouffer’s founders. I have a goal to make sure my organization looks like the cities that it serves. So diverse employees and being a type of organization would, we don’t need a diversity equity and inclusion initiative because we would that hurt.
[00:32:59] [00:33:00] Equitable and inclusive from the very, very beginning and how important it is that not only I see it, this diversity to build this diverse company and impact industry, but the next wave of these. That my son sees that the next group of black entrepreneurs or Latino entrepreneurs or whoever, when those investors are looking to them, they can say you can be the next leader.
[00:33:29] I will exist in a society that oftentimes while I believe black founders struggle to get access to capital, because there’s no next thing that someone can look at me and say, and often times the gatekeepers as wealthy folks. And you know, if you guys are listening, you don’t often don’t have a frame of reference.
[00:33:52] You don’t have a nephew that I remind you of. You don’t have a guy who went to college. That was black and did really well. You [00:34:00] often don’t have a frame of reference of who I am and oftentimes, you know, our counterparts, who’s able to get access to capital. You can see younger versions of yourself. You can see the remind you of that.
[00:34:14] Or that day that you went to school with a multi millionaire. I made it intact. So sometimes when, uh, how’d that work individuals standing across the table from me and trying to make sense of it. And I don’t think it’s intentional. You’re trying to make sense of what to do with all this black brilliance.
[00:34:33] And there’s no reference point. There’s nothing you can pair it. So for me, success is also being that reference point. It’s also being a symbol that we can look upon as a society and said, it was absolutely important that this black founder went out and built a distance. It was important that he pursued an industry that he loved.
[00:34:55] It was important that he fought tooth and nail to get an access to capital and never [00:35:00] took no for an answer because his example and the example of the company that he built. Ultimately shapes the future for the next leaders that come along. There was an article at MIT called lost Einsteins, and it talks about how much bigger the American GDP will be if there was diverse and low-income people that participated in the innovation economy and that the biggest.
[00:35:28] Determinant of, if you will participate in innovation economy was if you were one degree of separation from someone who did it as a child, so a white counterparts whose dad’s a VC or dads in tech or moms and tech, or what have you, they are 10 times more likely to participate in innovation. But if your dad was tradesman or plumber, or even a lawyer, You’re drastically less likely to participate in the economy that’s spent on creating why ideas and [00:36:00] using new ways and new ideas to impact the way that people, and there’s so much trillions of dollars that’s being lost in our economy, because we’re not tapped into those.
[00:36:10] I’m on a mission to prove that, right. I want a mission to take up this mantle and to say I’m living proof that it’s right. And so to me, success is absolutely, uh, technology is impactful and it changes the way that industry works. But success is also, that’s not mutually exclusive from my blackness. It’s not mutually exclusive for a month.
[00:36:35] The first day of my company, it is one in the same. And that’s people look at that and they say, how many more industries can be impacted if we truly, truly invested in the future of blackberries. Or diversity or whatever. That’s what the fight is. And that’s why I keep home.
[00:36:56] I love that great stuff. Oh man.
[00:36:58] I said I was ready. I don’t know if I [00:37:00] was, that was, that was a lot to digest. We’re going to take a short break and we’ll be right back with Khalid. David from TracFlo,
[00:37:07] Who gets to be called innovative or genius. If we look at the current media landscape today, we often don’t see people of color dominating the business or tech news headlines.
[00:37:16] I’m Sherrell Dorsey, data journalist and founder of the plug. Our work in reporting has been featured in and used by top names like vice the information and casting directors of ABC shark tank. The plug cuts out the noise to bring you news insights and analysis of trends, shaping venture capital startups, policy and ecosystems within black innovation communities.
[00:37:34] Join our annual pro membership and get exclusive access to our weekly long form reporting and monthly member calls, which puts you directly at the table with leading innovators and firms around the country. Also access our data libraries of indexes. Are black owned VC firms index where the top 100 black researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
[00:37:52] Use code unfound to save $10 on our annual firstname.lastname@example.org that’s T as in the P as in plug [00:38:00] inside stock.
[00:38:06] So we’re back with Khalid from TracFlo. So clean, great end of the last session there, but let’s keep it going. So I’m curious, it sounds like you embrace the role of being a leader as a black founder, not just for your company and your industry, but for kind of the tech landscape in general and being one of those pioneers. Is that a choice? Or do you feel like it’s something that you were sort of like burdened with or others are burdened with? Maybe if you embrace it, is it something that we should all think about as black founders or certain ones of us? How do you think about that? Because he brought it up and you talked about it, which not everybody does.
[00:38:42] Some people just focus on this is what our company’s doing. So I’m just curious. Do you view it as a burden or maybe a welcome burden, but a burden nonetheless or a choice?
[00:38:51] I would say yes, and yes, it’s a burden and ultimately became choice. At this point. I’ve won awards, pat [00:39:00] MIT, HBS and Stanford GSB HBS is Harvard, Harvard business school and Stanford scratcher school of business.
[00:39:09] And during 2020. Way higher wire was going on. I was in the midst of my own fundraising campaign and these world-class institutions are reaching out to, to leave. We need you to be a part of the Spanish lead, say something, say something, say something. And I’m dealing with growing a business. I’m dealing with my own reality of not getting access to capital in the way that I thought I was.
[00:39:34] So my own ideas of rejection and then still being called upon to speak, to share my sentiment. And this year she had this thing and for the longest, wow. I did not want to share my struggles with raising capital because I actually believe that I was the exception. I’ll be the first to tell you. I thought that, yeah, I hear this stuff [00:40:00] about black founders.
[00:40:01] But they’re not me. I went to some of the best schools on the country. I worked at the major construction firms. That’s what, all those black folks that got kind of got ideas and they didn’t get through Delta V I’m that guy, you know what I mean? That I’m being, I’m being real. So I struggled with it. I struggled with that reality that I so bad wanted to be on that I wasn’t being real with myself about what I was going through and the truth is, and I love MIT. And I love what MIT did for me. My folks in those environments, they were telling me sound advice. They were telling me how it works based off their experience. They would never try to set me up for what we call the okey-doke. They weren’t, they were telling me if you do this and you talk to this person, you’re good.
[00:40:52] They always write checks. And I got to those meetings and I had those conversations. My truth is I had term sheets. I’ve [00:41:00] had investors say one, invest this much, but we just need you to raise this extra a hundred thousand. And when it came to that last hundred thousand, I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get the high network individuals to write me $50,000 checks.
[00:41:12] That was a harsh moment for me, a harsh reality to deal with. So when I was called to really talk about issues first, it was. Well, let me talk about it. But at the same time I was trying to disassociate so I can speak on it because I know it’s a problem, but it ain’t necessarily, I’m part of a different. It was after that, I really had to reconcile with the reality of my situation that I felt call to speak that I felt well, if I’m a deal with the bull anyway, let me speak truth to power.
[00:41:49] Because coming from me is very different. You see it’s every console to do. Who thought of an idea of his basement and yeah, if he was in Silicon valley, he had the right things. [00:42:00] He made a mess. But if he’s in the Bronx, like, come on, bruh. Your app ID get off the ground. But if I tell you now I haven’t won awards at the best business schools in the country.
[00:42:10] And investors, they see the potential, they see it, but this is, they’re not certain why they can’t make those bets. If I say that it’s different because I’m supposed to be the exception. So it started as a verdict, but I’ve used it to liberate. Because there’s something about walking in your truth. There’s something about walking in authenticity that people respect.
[00:42:33] So I no longer have to pretend like I’m not going to do it too. And if I say, if you can look at me because I’ll tell you exactly what happens to me, some of the white investors say, Hey, you’re the best it is in the black community. I’m sure the black investors all over the black investors say nominate, you have all the credentials that most black folks don’t have.
[00:42:55] These other networks are doing it for you. So I’m one of those guys I’m too high to get over, too [00:43:00] low to get under. I’m stuck in the middle, right? So it’s become, it started as a burden. At some point, it became a choice. Now, as part of my liberation, now the growth of TracFlo will be synonymous with a vocal black leader.
[00:43:17] Who will grow his business and we’ll tell you exactly what the challenges of our society is. And we’ll always, always hold you to a standard that you’re going to have to wrestle with. What is the loss OnStar? I’m not making it up. I’m saying that they’re truly lost. And I have the vehicle I’m going to keep going.
[00:43:37] I’m not going to stop, but how do you wrestle with the reality of, Hey, invest, invest, invest, invest in black founders, and now I’ve gone out and I’ve found tools that has changed the rules. Now anybody can be invested in a black farm. Not anybody can invest that at 200, 300, 500, if you believe in the cause.
[00:43:58] So now I can say, I can demand, [00:44:00] put your money where your mouth is, because if you can’t walk the talk, then you’re not truly invested that demand. It challenges people in a real way. I’m not saying I am not. I’m not a victim. I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity to create technology for living.
[00:44:18] We sit in a room to say, it’s going to be this. And if somebody goes and builds it and then be like, Hey, you want this new thing? That is beautiful. I’m privileged. I’m a man. I understand. I come with a degree of privilege. But I’ve got a lot of training, a lot of the things I got a physics degree, internet model trend.
[00:44:38] The one thing I didn’t get any training on was. I never took a public speaking class. So if I got this gift, I know a lot of technical minds who can’t talk like this, who can’t hit that intersection the way that I do.
[00:44:51] So I don’t think you needed a class. You just needed somebody to tell you let’s hear it.
[00:44:58] I’ll be Frank. I’m a spiritual man. [00:45:00] So that was my. All right. God, if you’re going to give me this burden and this gift, let me use the gift of the burden and success. Come. What happens with trucks? If I can put this out here, this pocket, if I can put a video on YouTube, I’m saying our legacy, our moment in time will be.
[00:45:21] And if I truly believe in the power of technology and the power innovation, then I have a responsibility to speak to what it’s like in this day and age. Somebody can come back on here 20 years from now and hear these things before we make it big before we IPO, before we do it. And if that encourages the next generation to be vocal during the process, then I’ve done a good service.
[00:45:44] So it’s, I’ve taken it off and has been the most liberating part of this. I don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. I can speak truth to power. They keep closing deals. They keep growing and keep recruiting top talent. But at the same time, hold [00:46:00] our nation accountable to what that the land of opportunity actually supposed to be.
[00:46:05] Especially growing up in an immigrant household, you were taught the American. You bought into this notion that this is the land of the free and the home of the gray, and that if anybody came here that they can make an opportunity. And if you applied yourself, there’ll be opportunities that can impact you and your family.
[00:46:24] Because I was born here, I’m just holding our nation accountable to what it says it stands for. And then that I’m going to create so many opportunity for so many others, but I got to do my part.
[00:46:37] I love it. I’m super inspired. I’m ready to go, man. Sign me up. Sign me up. So one of the questions we like to kind of wrap up with is the retrospective insights of learning. So like, if you could go back to, let’s just say pre TracFlo, even though you’ve been entrepreneurial for awhile, if you could go back and tell the pre TracFlo Khalid, [00:47:00] do this, don’t do that. Make sure you watch out for this, make sure you run towards that. What would this Khalid tell that Khalid?
[00:47:09] I would tell myself believe in where you’re, where you are in the journey.
[00:47:14] There’s so many times whether it was insecurity or anxiety or not knowing the best and actually stuck with me. I wasn’t going as fast as I could, because I will tell like, David. And where you are on the journey, all these experiences, all these relationships, all these things, absolutely essential who you’re becoming and to add on to that.
[00:47:41] And then some, some advice that I got from leading, don’t try to convince the skeptics one, would those who run a review I’ve wasted so much time, so much emotional energy, trying to convince people and. I’ve done it in my professional life. [00:48:00] I’ve done it in my personal life. I’ve done it with my internal conversations about why.
[00:48:06] At one becoming truly accepting who you are and where you’re going is also not letting go of this lead for validation. And sometimes the reason why we try to convince people who are skeptical on events is because we think that if only they were on board, that it will validate what we do. I’ll give some examples.
[00:48:30] So when we got our first set of VC investors, we had gotten our first deal with Turner and they were like, yeah, that’s great. You need to diversify and get as many new general contractors as possible. And I’m like, well, they love poster child. I’m like, I’m a walking billboard for them. They like, Hey, you see that guy, you come to Toronto and you’re diverse.
[00:48:55] You can be a leader in industry just like him. Hey, that’s my truck. Right. [00:49:00] And trying to validate that other people will get it right. And again, we have customers. And then when I finally just sat back and said, what. Let me watch it. Let me some more, we got more jobs. Those jobs led to actual introductions to their contemporaries because it was like, oh, they rock with you.
[00:49:20] Well, we can rock with you. I couldn’t do that when I just had one where I had to have a couple like, oh, okay, this is real. So I would tell a younger version of mine, self, like just really run with those who really run with you because it, it ease the burden of feeling like you got to fit in. As innovators and as black innovators, like we’ve always been the creators of culture.
[00:49:44] We’ve always been the creator of what’s new and what’s innovative if it hasn’t been done before, no one has to script. No one has to rule. So, if you’re doing something that has been done before, it’s gonna look and feel new. And a [00:50:00] lot of people are not going to get it because that’s what new things are.
[00:50:05] I wasted time with the VCs, trying to convince people who didn’t get it. And there’s something about when, when you get to the point, I was like this, I only want to rock with people that rock with me. My VC conversations are completely different. I want to know how, what you guys are up to. I’m looking for certain partners.
[00:50:23] That understand my vision. Are you guys worthy? Because I’m going to make whoever invested in our company. So do I want to put a return to your fund because what are y’all up to? And it’s so crazy. It’s so subtle, completely changed. The dynamics of the meeting is something that you don’t know until you’re experienced.
[00:50:41] You come in wanting to validate them, wanting them approve you. They can tell. When you come in like this, I know this is okay. Y’all got not really, I’m really looking for, can you offer…
[00:50:51] I’ll let you know, we’ll get back to you
[00:50:54] And it changes dynamics. So, and I think that ties into just [00:51:00] being real with you at, and being real with who’s really supporting you and stop.
[00:51:05] Stop. Stop. Trying to convince folks. I try to convince folks to join the team and everybody who joined the team like wanting to join the team wanted to contribute, wanted to, to work crazy hours, just cause someone got, they got talent behind their name or whatever. Trying to convince them is going to be a waste of time, energy and effort,
[00:51:27] Deep wisdom and deep, deep wisdom. I mean, I could talk to you forever, but we’re coming to the end of our time. So we like to leave a call to action to Unfound Nation. What can we do to be supporting you?
[00:51:40] Can I put on my call to action voice? You guys not going to judge me. I have a call to action voice that I use just for call to actions.
[00:51:47] I want to hear it. All right. All right. This is the call to action voice to those founders on that. To those who believe that the great work of moving a nation forward and our communities forward is through [00:52:00] actively creating and sustaining economic freedom. That if we were in a position to create walls and to use technology as a massive wealth creation vehicles, we can rapidly change our communities.
[00:52:13] That’s never been before. I’m asking you to join TracFlo and invest in a Republic campaign so that you can be a part of that history. These are the three things I will guarantee you. I will guarantee to you that I would be committed to moving this industry. I’ve been a part of it, my whole life and my life’s work has required a lifetime of work.
[00:52:35] I guarantee you that I will always be vocal and always advocate for our committee. I will give my gifts to bear so that no person walks past this moment in time and not know what we’re fighting for. And I promise to stay true and to stay authentic that this journey has taken so much for. Has required me to [00:53:00] operate in a level of authenticity because the fake stuff and the gimmicky stuff, it does not hold up when times get tough.
[00:53:08] And I’m telling you as a son of an immigrant, as a little black boy who was born in the Bronx, who sat in rooms at world-class institutions as the only person that, that grit that it takes to keep going, keep fighting. And I will always do that. If those are the things you believe in, and those are things you can bet on, invest in TracFlo.
[00:53:29] Wow. Yeah. Once you were tired and have all your money and you’re living on an island, I think you have a voice talent career that you can have when you’re done.
[00:53:38] It just comes out of me. I don’t, I can’t tell you it’s a gift. Honestly, it just comes out of me.
[00:53:42] It’s authentic too. I can tell which is great. And is there any URLs or social handles any to find out more information?
[00:53:51] Republic.co/TracFlo, T R a C F L O. And also if you go to our website TracFlo app.com, there’s a banner [00:54:00] across the top of the page, and also can take you to a Republic on Republic as a whole thing with my story, my whole pitch, and we’re on a path to raise a million dollars and we can absolutely.
[00:54:11] I love it. This has been awesome. Kalita really appreciate you taking the time today.
[00:54:15] Thank you so much, Dan. I appreciate the fact that you keep giving us a voice. Keep making sure that our time is etched in history. I remember reading about what’s it called? The griots, the griots, the storytellers. You’re doing your part in preserving our version of griots.
[00:54:31] I think that call in this day and age. So thank you. That’s the descendant of Africans. Thank you for keeping that part of our traditional.