Podcast Transcript – Series TWO, SPECIAL EPISODE
state of black entrepreneurship and fundraising June 2021
[00:00:00] [00:00:00] Kwame Boler: [00:00:00] To be an entrepreneur is definitely to walk the path that’s less traveled.
[00:00:04]Daricus Releford: [00:00:04] Getting investors to change their mind and trying to explain to them what was going on, where the unconscious bias was happening.
[00:00:12]Amira Rasool: [00:00:12] it just brought like a lot of great light to the continent and the possibilities there.
[00:00:18]Daricus Releford: [00:00:18] when you look at how much we’ve done right now, why is there a question?
[00:00:23]Kwame Boler: [00:00:23] it resulted in almost every major firm, not wanting to be socially blasted for not only a lack of diversity within their portfolio,
[00:00:31] Amira Rasool: [00:00:31] just historically we do not fit into the typical mold of what VC companies are looking for
[00:00:37] Daricus Releford: [00:00:37] black founders actually performed 30% better than white founders.
[00:00:40]Kwame Boler: [00:00:40] One thing that I often advise other founders is to pursue wisdom and not knowledge.
[00:00:46]Amira Rasool: [00:00:46] not all skin folk are kinfolks.
[00:00:47] Daricus Releford: [00:00:48] I feel like people hear Juneteenth and they’re like, oh, that’s a black holiday. They don’t really know why.
[00:00:53]Amira Rasool: [00:00:53] ask for what you want and maybe even more than what you deserve.
[00:00:56]Dan: [00:00:56] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya [00:01:00] here. Thanks so much for checking out this special episode of Founders Unfound. That was Kwame Boler, Amira Rasool, and Daricus Releford, three exciting founders of African descent. It’s 2021. And on June 24th, we all assembled to have an open and honest discussion on the state of black entrepreneurship and fundraising.
[00:01:19] Many thanks to Isaac Kato and Cxhna Titcomb from Techstars Seattle for organizing this panel and the live event. There are lots of great nuggets dropped by our panelists.
[00:01:28] You’ll want to listen in.
[00:01:29] As always, please make sure to like, and subscribe we’re available anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you like what you hear, drop us a review on apple or podchaser.com.
[00:01:39] Now on with the episode,
[00:01:41] stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:01:53] Isaac Kato: [00:01:53] Good afternoon or, um, perhaps eating everyone. Uh, my name is Isaac Kato and I’m the managing [00:02:00] director of Techstars Seattle. Techstars is the global network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. And I have the best job in the world, in that I get to run Techstars Seattle and work in and day out with incredible entrepreneurs.
[00:02:12] Folks who are brilliant, visionary, resilient. Yeah. Uh, determined to make the world a better place. Techstars Seattle is the third oldest accelerator in our global network of around 50 accelerators and alums have had a tremendous amount of success, of the 120 companies or so that have gone through the program in the last 12 years. Uh, roughly 75% are still in business or have exited. And collectively they’ve raised about a billion and a half dollars of capital include a number of unicorns. In my two years of running textures, Seattle, I’ve had the distinct honor and pleasure to work with a number of amazing black founders.
[00:02:46] A couple of whom are with us today, and they’ve done an incredible job at building really interesting rapidly growing businesses. As well as securing, uh, venture capital and they’ll be sharing their stories and experiences today. [00:03:00] However, despite their successes, in my opinion, uh, black and other underrepresented minority founders are still a group who don’t receive fair or adequate attention or respect from enough traditional mainstream tech investors.
[00:03:13] And while there’s certainly more media attention and increased investor awareness than there might’ve been say a year or two ago, Uh, certainly 10 years ago, I still feel like things aren’t where they need to be. And so I hope we can continue to have conversations like today’s and shine a light on this issue until we do reach more parody and equity for black founders, particularly when it comes to raising capital.
[00:03:37] Uh, so today I’m really honored to welcome one of our superstar mentors at Techstars Seattle, Dan Kihanya. Who’s been joining us as a moderate, our moderator, uh, Dan’s a serial entrepreneur himself and the host of the Founders Unfound Podcast. Dan is going to be speaking today with three incredible Techstars alums, , Kwame, Amira and, and Daricus about their experiences.
[00:04:00] [00:03:59] So, um, Dan, Amira, , Daricus and Kwame, thank you very, very much for sharing your time with us today. And I’m really looking forward to hearing what you have to say. So Dan, take it away.
[00:04:10]Dan: [00:04:10] Thanks, Isaac. Very excited to be here. And this is a great topic, very timely. And so we have this great concept of talking about where things are going for tech founders and fundraising, particularly for black founders. As Isaac mentioned in the last year, we’ve had this pandemic, uh, major economic downturn, crazy, uh, contentious election, um, a somewhat, uh, awakening from Corporate America around diversity and inclusion. It’s a struggle for a lot of entrepreneurs to come out of 2020.
[00:04:42] And then now in 2021, we see, you know, as Isaac mentioned, lots of attention to black founders and we ironically have this record-setting level in 2021 of venture capital and venture funding, but it isn’t necessarily translating to the backing of black [00:05:00] founders. So we’re going to try and get into that today.
[00:05:02]And so a little bit about me as, as Isaac mentioned, I’ve been an entrepreneur for, for decades now. Um, I’ve done four startups, uh, as an early exec or founder, uh, in the tech space. And so I’ve been fortunate to go through three exits and raising money. And this is my third downturn, so I’ve seen a lot. So I do a lot of mentoring.
[00:05:21] I’m a mentor at Techstars and several other programs, occasionally angel investor, as Isaac also mentioned, I’m a creator and host of Founders Unfound. So super excited to have these three superstars in our panel discussion without further ado Let’s introduce our panelists.
[00:05:37] So we have, Amira, Kwame and Daricus, and what I’m going to do rather than, , underwhelmed with my ability to introduce how great they are. I’m going to let them talk about themselves first and then we’ll get into our questions. So why don’t we start with Amira. Tell us just a little bit about who you are and what your startup is and what you’re doing.
[00:05:55] Amira Rasool: [00:05:55] Hi everyone. Um, my name is Amira Rasool. I’m the founder and [00:06:00] CEO of The Folklore. We are an e-commerce platform that sells luxury designer, fashion and lifestyle products from designers based in Africa and the diaspora. So you can find us at thefolklore.com.
[00:06:13] Dan: [00:06:13] And let’s see, how about you Daricus.
[00:06:14] Daricus Releford: [00:06:14] My name is Daricus, I’m the founder of StoreCash. We are focusing on the underbanked market and we are building out a neobank for those customers who need a better way to bank.
[00:06:31] Dan: [00:06:31] Awesome. Glad to have ya. And my friend Kwame.
[00:06:33] Kwame Boler: [00:06:33] Well, hello everyone. My name is Kwame Boler. I’m the co-founder and the CEO of Neu, uh, we’re a dual marketplace that connects homeowners and housekeepers. Our beachhead is within the vacation rental industry, where we figured out a way to use a sophisticated supply chain system when combined with technology to augment cleaners, enabling them to do more jobs and more time to earn more at Neu than they could independently.
[00:06:55] Dan: [00:06:55] As you can see very different businesses. And the common thread for this group [00:07:00] is they’ve all been through Techstars. And, uh, I would say that they’ve all sort of had their business emerge in the last call. It, uh, you know, two to three years. So they’ve lived through it. Pre pandemic pre 2020 through 2020 into 2021.
[00:07:14] So, they should have really fresh and, super insightful perspectives on the journey. So I want to start with a little bit of a softball just to kinda like help us feel good about things before we dig into some meat and we can go in whatever order anybody wants, but what’s a feel-good story that you’ve heard in the last 12 months.
[00:07:33] About black entrepreneurship either it’s not somebody specific or a program or a news story. It could even be about yourself or your own company, but what’s, what’s something that gave you some, some hope and optimism in the last 12 months.
[00:07:45]Daricus Releford: [00:07:45] , I guess I’ll go first. , so Mac Ventures is an investor in StoreCash and they invested right before the pandemic.
[00:07:55] Uh, so it was a great story to see towards the end [00:08:00] of the pandemic that they were the first. Black VC firm to raise the most in the history of VC at 110 million. So that was a great story to see, not just for me, but also to know that our community is getting some more assistance and more opportunities in this space.
[00:08:21] Dan: [00:08:21] Nice. Yeah. And, Marlin and that group is amazing. And it’s, as you’re pointing out, there’s a really, it’s, it’s two sides of the coin, right? Not just black founders, but we’re seeing, you know, emerging fund managers and check writers, which is, which is great
[00:08:34] Kwame Boler: [00:08:34] with me specifically. There’s actually two stories because when I first saw that question, I just thought what was biggest feel good of like, that came out of the pandemic and there was like two in my mind.
[00:08:45] One was like the environment. I remember seeing a story where, because carbon emissions had dropped so low, uh, our ozone was actually starting to repair itself like animals that weren’t in existence or rather getting low on the endangered list were starting to come [00:09:00] back, like felt good, knowing that our could potentially heal ourselves.
[00:09:04] And I guess that got me a little bit excited and elated because I thought that if any advancement of both technology and even our own progression, we could consciously maybe undo some of the damage we’ve done over the years, uh, within the African. Startup community. Like the one thing that got me at least most recently excited was Ikechi, like Ikechi just recently partnered with Visa. That’s super awesome.
[00:09:26] And like, um, if we can find the link to that and share that, I just thought, wow. seeing that Juneteenth special, especially with respect to the panel and how it was organized was really cool. So another Techstars company, Tribl is the name of the company. , and they actually just did a huge partnership and I just thought it was really awesome.
[00:09:45] Dan: [00:09:45] That’s great. Yeah. Ikechi is, uh, killing it now and, and Tribl’s an amazing story also a Techstars alum.
[00:09:53] Amira Rasool: [00:09:53] I would say, um, the, uh, Paystack acquisition was something that really got me [00:10:00] excited because aside from them being black and it already had been hard to exit as a, as a black founder, they’re also based in Africa, which is also like a whole nother story when it comes to raising capital or being able to sell your company.
[00:10:14] So it was great to see that like, Two major things in front of them and they were still able to succeed. And then it also provides insight to these investors who don’t think it’s possible to invest in these companies and actually get a successful exit. I thought that it just brought a lot of great light to the continent and the possibilities there.
[00:10:35] Dan: [00:10:35] That’s great, that’s a great example. Yeah. They, and, uh, you know, I think there have been lots of stories written about how, if there’s going to be a cascading effect, it’s creating all these, these new investors where people who are getting liquidity from, being a part of the early team and, and really drawing the lens of focus to Africa in general and startups there. When I was in my.com era, we went through psycho [00:11:00] where there was all these things with Netflix and Amazon and Yahoo. And then there was sort of this lull in the market and everything in an Internet’s done. And then eBay went public and it was about like a five-month window there, which isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but we thought like, oh boy, um, and once eBay went public, it just unleashed this, this, uh, this next wave. So I think you’re right in there. We’ll look back on the Paystack acquisition as kind of a seminal event. Good. You all didn’t have the same one what’s means that there is some positive to be taken out there and, some good news.
[00:11:32]Let’s look at. I mean, the reality is the last 12 months have been really profound. And so one of the things I’d like to sort of look at is from an inflection point, point of view, if we look at sort of George Floyd and in general, the pandemic what’s different in June, 2021, that wasn’t the same, say in February 2020, either better or worse specifically as a black founder
[00:11:57] Daricus Releford: [00:11:57] I think it’s gotten better. [00:12:00] And when I say better that doesn’t quite correlate with the overall of everything getting better. It correlates with the attention being us as black founders, especially in VC, that’s gotten better, but there’s a lot more components that will order to get to, you know, start to finish.
[00:12:23] Right. But I think there’s a lot more awareness. Um, and a lot more investors kind of focusing some of their investment in the space and, you know, everything starts somewhere. And I think that we’re making some good leeway kind of look at the whole scheme of things. And this is one of those pivotal moments in history, uh, that we’ll kind of go back to that’s where there was a change.
[00:12:51] Kwame Boler: [00:12:51] I semi-agree with Daricus, and I’ll clarify why. I think the shift wasn’t necessarily so much onto black founders as it was to a [00:13:00] lot of the VC community on their portfolios and the lack of black founders being present. And I think what that ended up resulting in a lot of social shaming, especially like with the wake of George Floyd.
[00:13:14] A lot of VC practices, especially for venture capital representing more or less the epitome of the 1% and the lack of wealth distribution being circulated into founders of color. And when a lot of people started to really investigate this and look into this, , it resulted in almost every major firm, not wanting to be socially blasted for not only a lack of diversity within their portfolio, but even within their staff. I know that diversity had come up as a very common and very popular topic within the venture community, but, um, a lot of VC investment, even really orange towards women. And that’s great. I’m happy to see that there’s a lot of progress there and we’re, we’re not where we should.
[00:13:58] Like, absolutely not until like, we’re [00:14:00] actually hitting metrics that are closely representative of the population. And you know, that there’s some form of bias present when it comes into decision making that’s happening in those rooms. But the reality of it and why I think that there was a shift is mainly because now people are paying attention.
[00:14:14] And my hope is that it isn’t a trend, to where it’s only present in the moment currently because people weren’t paying attention. Uh, hopefully, it’s, I’m pretty confident it can be ever-lasting because I think what was going to end up happening is that the investment will be fruitful, which will ultimately result in more companies getting access to some of the capital and wealth opportunities available. But that’s just my opinion on the subject.
[00:14:37]Daricus Releford: [00:14:37] Very well said.
[00:14:38]Amira Rasool: [00:14:38] I definitely agree with Kwame and even him saying like a lot of the diversity dollars went into women, I’d like to make a side side note that it was not black woman that it went in. But yeah. So I think when I think about how things have improved, I think it’s easier to get on the phone, get people on the phone.
[00:14:57]And to get a response back to an [00:15:00] email, or to get an introduction to someone now where it goes from there. I don’t really have much confidence in like, what has happened since I think a lot of people have opened office hours and, you know, we’re providing a lot of advice. I don’t know how much actual money is going out.
[00:15:17] And if it’s those conversations are just to be able to check the box saying that, you know, I’ve spoken to them, I’ve spoken to them. It just wasn’t a right fit. Like Kwame also mentioned, it’s like, you know, if you’re still measuring everything by the same ruler, and you have not changed like the structural things, you’re going to always say that we’re not going to fit because just historically based off of where we come from economically, socially, we do not fit into the typical mold of what VC companies are looking for VC. VC companies. Have been historically founded by, you know, white males who come from different circumstances. And so if they’re going to continue to measure them and saying, you didn’t raise a hundred thousand, $150,000 friends and family, so that you can [00:16:00] get to X revenue in a year, like your traction’s too low, you know?
[00:16:04] But it’s like also when I, when I think about it, I have seen some black founders who have gotten money from this like a racial reckoning. That’s what they’re calling it. And I find that it’s been companies that it’s like, the metrics are there. And like, you’re lucky you got you. You actually accepted this phone call.
[00:16:21] You’re lucky you got into this deal. Cause it was. Like a really big company. And the fact that you had been able to get on the phone with them before was based off of the fact that you just weren’t really looking for black founders, but it’s been companies that are like sure bets that like are in a space in the tech industry where like, they know it’s going to make a lot of money, but like when it comes to a company like mine, which is fashion, which is consumer, which is something that has some sort of cultural attachment to it, they’re questioning the market size there.
[00:16:48] If we’re saying that we’re catering to a black audience, In my case, we’re not, we’re catering to a general audience, but like talking and having those conversations, you know, I’ve had conversations with tons of investors, but the investors ended up [00:17:00] betting on me were black because they knew about our customer and our story, but everyone else loved what we were doing, but they just couldn’t make it make sense because they’ve never heard that.
[00:17:09] They didn’t really care to do the research that was necessary for them to actually be able to like, have, have this deal make sense for them. So, you know, it’s, it’s, I think that people are getting visibility and they’re getting calls and opportunities to communicate more, but I don’t see how that’s manifested into a lot more dollars into these companies.
[00:17:30]Daricus Releford: [00:17:30] To piggyback off how it actually raise high, actually raised our first round, a lot focused around when I got those no’s. Trying to explain why I potentially got the note and getting investors to change their mind and trying to explain to them what was going on, where the unconscious bias was happening.
[00:17:54], when they would say, well, no, I don’t know. I don’t think it quite works out. I had to sit [00:18:00] down and explain to them why? Because when you look at my background, when we looked at all I’ve accomplished. When you look at me taking $25,000 a previous business and turn it into a multi-million dollar business, no VC funding at all.
[00:18:13] When you look at how much we’ve done right now, why is there a question? And I believe, and I would go through this whole thing that there must be a question because when we think of success in this field you see in your unconscious mind, a lot of white guys, and we used to me, I don’t fit any of those molds. And now given me that opportunity, Marlin said something that was really, really shocking, not shocking to me.
[00:18:43] He was saying that the black founders actually performed 30% better than white founders. Because they only to get these opportunities, you know, I’m so far in between the have to perform and, you know, they do whatever they need to do in order to perform. So I would say all these statistics and break [00:19:00] all these things down and sometimes I will turn those nos into yeses, but I had to explain to them what was actually happening and why they were saying,
[00:19:09] Dan: [00:19:09] Yeah, that’s a good point. I think, you know, the common thing that I’m hearing is that there’s somewhat of a, an awareness. An openness to potentially considering that there is a bias and there is up, there are several blind spots, but we’re still early in the recalibration of how that manifests itself into the funding trajectory and the deal flow.
[00:19:31] Right. And, like you said, Daricus, I mean, you have ways to check the boxes that don’t fit the ways that they should. The boxes to be checked. So you have to take that extra step. And I like what you said about what Marlin shared with you, because, you know, I see that on a podcast too, the distance traveled, right as the Kapor Capital says, right.
[00:19:49] We have to go a lot farther, a lot harder with a lot more friction and impediments to get to, even to where we are. As Amira was saying, we don’t have friends and family money that we can [00:20:00] use to sort of put wind in our sails and give ourselves a bunch of traction. So I think it’s really interesting that you all are still, I mean, I would say you’re, you’re leaning towards like, there’s still a lot more work to do, but you’re not completely, um, doom and gloom, which is good.
[00:20:15] I think that a lot of programs and, bigger investors are trying to figure it out. You know, what I like to say is in tech, we do the impossible all the time. So changing the, the ability for underrepresented founders to get into the pipeline for deal flow is it shouldn’t feel like it’s this impossible task.
[00:20:36]Let me ask this question. When you think about the day-to-day of being kind of a black entrepreneur, obviously there’s lessons, there’s insights that you get. What’s something that you would recommend to a founder who’s following in your footsteps, or at least is in the earlier stages starting today.
[00:20:55] They’re starting their company in 2021, from what you know, and what you see and what you’ve [00:21:00] experienced. What’s kind of a big recommendation you’d make for them.
[00:21:03] Amira Rasool: [00:21:03] Yeah, I’d say, um, build your team out earlier. Like I wouldn’t edit alone but like the first line. And, it was hard and like, I’d have some people who would jump in and then drop out.
[00:21:14] But I would say that startup space is tough to be in. And if you don’t have a co-founder, which I didn’t have a co-founder, you should at least have like a strong, team that maybe it’s not full-time, he’s probably can’t afford it, but like making sure that she gets some people to believe in what you’re doing and who want to be actively involved.
[00:21:32] And, you know, once you’re able to raise that money, come on full time. Because you know, having those people to bounce ideas off of, or to like, be able to connect you with their network and be able to provide more ideas and resources is really valuable. Like, don’t be afraid to give some people, some equity, X, your brand, or somebody that she met at a conference.
[00:21:51] Like, I know you said you’re interested in this. I’m trying to build something like this. We have to make sure that we’re not too afraid to ask, and to like convince [00:22:00] people to bet on us because other groups are not afraid to do that. And I think that that’s been something that’s kind of held us back, is asking each other for help.
[00:22:08] Kwame Boler: [00:22:08] Piggybacking off of what Amira said, plus, when everything Amira said, I actually wanted to think through of your question and be a little bit more intentional.
[00:22:17] On what you identified as a pattern among entrepreneurs of color that I’ve seen amongst just entrepreneurs in general, one thing that I often advise other founders is to pursue wisdom and not knowledge. You know, there’s often, a lot of times to where someone has already experienced a lot of the challenges that you face. Or has, you know, solved a similar problem, and getting them to make the largest investment of their time into first can be incredible and can help circumvent a lot of the challenges you’ll face in building your business.
[00:22:55] And the more that you surround yourself, not just with like-minded individuals, [00:23:00] particularly entrepreneurs who are a little bit further ahead than you. They can give you pounds of advice. That’ll saving years or months of time wasted, and you can leverage their learnings to compound them and evolve in a way in which you will get there that much faster.
[00:23:15] Daricus Releford: [00:23:15] So help can come anywhere. When I first moved here, of course, I didn’t have a job. So, um, I was, uh, Uber people around and I met a guy named Dan Kat and I remember the ride and I was like, yeah, I’m trying to start this thing. Um, and I had just applied for a couple of the major companies and stuff, and I was waiting to hear back.
[00:23:40] I was telling him about what we were working on. And he said, why don’t you think you can do this? And I said, well, I’ve done a few things. Um, and I told him, and then I dropped them off in the hall and I got his phone me. He got later that night, he called me back like really excited. You actually did everything that you say you did, like you were here, you did this, this [00:24:00] honestly.
[00:24:00] Yeah. I was like, well, you know, I just moved here, you know, and I need to make some time. He said, well, if you think you can do this, I want to try to help. And he connected me with some of his friends, which stuck with me, no pay for over two years. , and to be quite honest, um, one of them is in India and I didn’t, I’ve never met him.
[00:24:24] Um, and he’s, he stuck with me this long with very little pay and then we finally got funding. So then I can finally pay and you know, we’d never met my co-founder if I didn’t take that ride. And, um, you know, I’ve talked to many different people. I actually talked to one of the guys. It was a part of a Postmates acquisition.
[00:24:46] He was telling me, you should go through one of these accelerator programs. That’s why, you know, started really focusing on accelerators. So you can get help from anywhere, especially in Silicon Valley, [00:25:00] which you can get help from any, you know, so I, I would say that’s one major. And then another thing I would say, and especially for our community, You know, there, there is a lot of reason for us to be frustrated, but help can not only just come from our community.
[00:25:18] There was one Asian guy, his name was Lester. This guy helped me so much. Anytime I had an issue and, you know, I would call them up. And at some point I was like, I got to give you some shares or something. He was like, no, just help them. And I got introduced to him by someone else that met at one of these events.
[00:25:38] A white lady. , and I just say that because in our community sometimes, and I say this from personal experience sometimes, um, when I came out here, it was a lot of people say you’re crazy black money, like white people and get them to help fund your business and different things like that. Anybody can help.
[00:25:59], and [00:26:00] anybody can be a part of your assistance. Um, so just have an open mind, of course, believing yourself and get ready
[00:26:07] Dan: [00:26:07] for a long. So let me, flip the question a little bit and say, let’s say there are investors that are listening and they seem to have the intention and desire to be open. Like what’s your recommendations for them to get you to be across the table from them pitching and, and then when you are pitching what’s, what’s the recommendations or suggestions for that, that whole dynamic
[00:26:29] Daricus Releford: [00:26:29] Lean into who you are, because you have a unique perspective and one thing investors can do, they can’t see it from your perspective, especially if they’re not black and in a lot of cases, those unique perspectives that wish, , you know, that they add or they have insight on. And when you can show them that insight from your perspective, um, it could potentially let them see that they may have a unique position or understandingof the market.
[00:26:58] Kwame Boler: [00:26:58] Part of me genuinely [00:27:00] believed that although the investment community is often well-intentioned, we’re already kind of committing the first step and recognizing that in some ways, if that is at least acknowledged, then that may help in fostering some of the decision-making systems, uh, in terms of when they make a decision and how they make decisions.
[00:27:19] Another thing that resonated well with me was that, um, I knew that for a good portion of news history, which is very common when a lot of Africans. Founders are really just any, any founder within the historically disenfranchised community is that you see trends where they’re often making dimes or making, give, expecting dollar results on dime or nickel, or even sometimes penny budget.
[00:27:42] And it’s sometimes double-clicking and making sure that they’re looking into how they got the traction that they have, and we’ll respect to the resources that they’ve had at their disposal. Uh, I even remember. When Neu was actually coming up, that one [00:28:00] investor has shared with me that one of the business mistakes that he had seen that in many instances, founders were pursuing capital way too early.
[00:28:10] And that, because of that, he had, he had more or less a bias to where when founders would say they would need money to do X, um, it would almost always shut his perspective down because. He believed that a founder would be creative enough to always bypass or walk through walls, which, you know, I can agree with.
[00:28:29] I think that sometimes pressure can be a really interesting way to manifest innovation, but there’s always going to add some limits to what a person is capable of achieving with respect to the resources they have. And so maybe if they are interested potentially in seeing and following. But they at least invest their time, their network or their resources independent of their wealth to help them get to that next milestone.
[00:28:59] Because [00:29:00] sometimes it’s often, like I said, knowledge or having access to wisdom that can be beneficial. Sometimes it’s just in their network to where they can connect them with people that are decision-makers that give them access to credits or even other systems that they traditionally would not get access to, to be able to test against their assumptions.
[00:29:16] Like I’m not gonna eat. These are investments. Like realistically speaking, when people are choosing to make an investment in a company they’re doing so because they’re wanting to make a financially prudent decision and having the expectation that someone is making an investment in someone because they’re of color is not only just disrespectful, just kind of disheartening.
[00:29:34] And you know, if you’re cautious with your decision-making because you’re not confident that the is there or the traction there, maybe work with them to figure out how you can get them. Instead of dismissing them because they’re in a position where they’re limited in how they can use. So, because they don’t have access to capital.
[00:29:56] Amira Rasool: [00:29:56] So I have two things I would say, uh, what is it that our parents [00:30:00] usually say, don’t assume, cause you’ll make an ass out of you and me.
[00:30:04] Uh, I feel like assumptions come from prejudice. You know, it comes from, this is what I think about. This group, even if it’s unconscious, you know? And so they’re going to be certain assumptions that you make that I feel like a lot of times they don’t even give us the opportunity to actually address, you know, a lot of, a lot of no’s that I got were first call knows the 30 minutes, you know, 30-minute conversation.
[00:30:28] And then they’ll come back to me with an email about why they’re saying no, and I’ll read through it. Yeah, but I could have explained all this to you and you have to think about it from your standpoint. These are mostly white men and you have had a white male experience that is essentially a lot of times void of anything outside of that world.
[00:30:47] Like different languages, other people’s cultures, not always, but you know, so there are a lot of things that are not known and even if you’re the most brilliant person. You have to be able to give us the opportunity, [00:31:00] especially when you don’t know the market that well, and especially if the market has some sort of like ties to like our, our race or our culture, the opportunity to actually be able to answer some of those questions instead of you, assuming based off of like the thousands of white founders that you’ve spoken to that.
[00:31:18] Oh, I assume that because they didn’t do, they didn’t, they didn’t do it. That’s why this happened. Why, you know, we have a very unique experience. So allow us to actually, and these aren’t excuses that we’ll offer, these are actual valid explanations. Um, and then the second thing that I would say. Bringing on the one white guy who’s a Harvard, undergrad and a Stanford MBA, to be your black liaison or like the black founder whisper is not the way to go.
[00:31:48] There’s a whole, like, not all, not all skin folk are kinfolks. So there’s that. And then on top of, you know, so there’s not every, not every black person that you’re going to talk to with really down or for the movement. Even though other [00:32:00] black people other than their families. So that’s like number one. So you might be, you know, putting all this energy into building somebody who’s not even connected to the community or, you know, it’s just, you can’t rely on one person.
[00:32:11] So you also have to think about the black experience, how vast it is. And so if you’re going to be thinking about how do we build an initiative, don’t just go to the one black. Or the, or the intern, like make sure that you’re getting perspectives from different types of black people, people who came from different socioeconomic backgrounds, people who come from different industries.
[00:32:32] Um, because I often find that, you know, when I turn on CNBC, Tech crunch, they’re talking to the same five black people and considering them the thought leaders. And I’m like, I know for a fact that black person don’t even talk to other black people. So like, I don’t even know why they’re speaking on our behalf, you know?
[00:32:50] So I would really say, really, look, look at the black people that you are actually talking to, making sure that they actually have a connection within the community. , and actually just talked to a [00:33:00] wider number of black people.
[00:33:02] Dan: [00:33:02] Amira always keeps it real.
[00:33:06] So this was put together a sort of in conjunction with, Juneteenth and with the concept of doing this was before it became a holiday. What does it mean to you that Juneteenth is now a holiday? Or what does Juneteenth mean to you in general?
[00:33:21]Amira Rasool: [00:33:21] I just don’t want this to become commercialized. I don’t want to see a Juneteenth sale.
[00:33:26] I don’t want to see what Ikea did with the Juneteenth special menu. I just want y’all to let us be black and peaceful on Juneteenth. You don’t even have to tell me happy Jane team, honestly, like just let us celebrate. That’s why, I mean, to me, it doesn’t make sense that it’s a national holiday, but that’s a whole nother conversation, but yeah, I just feel like it does not need to be something that we’re now trying to commercialize.
[00:33:50] And I see that that’s probably where it’s going to go and I’m just waiting for next year’s Juneteenth sales. So I can know what retailers to no longer support, uh, because you [00:34:00] know, really what the this is a commemoration of the final, you know, enslaved people in Texas. Finding out that two years later that they are free and that’s really what we should be celebrating.
[00:34:13] Like I went to Lamar park and just like spent money on black women and black men out there and just eat food and like listen to good music. And like, that’s kind of like how I feel like we should celebrate and that the other things outside of that are just like a lot of like noise and nonsense.
[00:34:31] Kwame Boler: [00:34:31] So I’m guessing no promo codes on Juneteenth on The Folklore. Absolutely not.
[00:34:37] In my opinion, I don’t disagree with Amira. I do think it’s a holiday that within our community should definitely be privatized and well celebrated within, you know, I do believe that the first step, and I do appreciate that the fact that the holiday calls some form of attention to what took place. And maybe I think we’re seeing the loss is [00:35:00] the history behind the holiday, which often does happen in many instances where they’re commercialized.
[00:35:05] But I do believe that in some ways it’s a step in the right direction. I just want this to be some form of a consolation prize. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for growth that exists, and for improvement as well. And that’s not just limited to creating national holidays, but I’m, I’m not going to disagree in saying that I don’t think it’s a positive step.
[00:35:26] And I think we, as a people should choose and make sure that we’re doing our part, supporting other businesses from different communities and specifically disenfranchise warms and on Juneteenth specifically. Businesses of color, but that being said, I thought it was, I thought it was interesting. I thought it was kind of humorous.
[00:35:44] In some cases they get like happy Juneteenth texts from some of my friends that I was like, okay, you know, what am I doing for Juneteenth this year was, uh, it was, I knew it came from a good place intention. So I thought it was interesting. And I, I took it in [00:36:00] stride.
[00:36:00]Daricus Releford: [00:36:00] You know, uh, we, we had the conversation of woke, right.
[00:36:05] And some people being too woke in the wrong direction. And of course, I do think that it’s a step in the right direction and everything is steps. And you know, this, this is that first step. I think that it’s a good step in the right direction. If we commercialize black-owned businesses to support them throughout this, Juneteenth time great.
[00:36:28] Right. , and you know, doing advertisements for them, that’d be great,
[00:36:37] but it’s kind of focused attention. Where is the focus that, and that Ikea situation is….
[00:36:47] Dan: [00:36:47] That’s funny, but not funny. Right?
[00:36:51] Daricus Releford: [00:36:51] That’s where, like the woke part, like I think that some people are, are, are woke, but they don’t even know why they woke. And first they have [00:37:00] to understand why they’re woke to understand what’s to be woke for. Right. To be honest, I think that was deliberate.
[00:37:06] Dan: [00:37:06] I kind of looked at, I was thinking about this the other day.
[00:37:08] I mean, I think we don’t tend to celebrate the end of things too much. And the United States it’s more like a, an occurrence that happens every year or something that began. And I kind of think about Juneteenth as the beginning of when Americans who were of African descent became humans as a part of society.
[00:37:26] Now it’s been a long, long journey for that, that wasn’t an overnight like instant equality. I also think it is good because it helps to create this reflection. Hopefully create this reflection about the era of slavery. And it’s not just, you know, a two-line paragraph in the history book.
[00:37:45] Daricus Releford: [00:37:45] And Dan that’s what I want the holiday to be. I want people to know exactly. I feel like people hear Juneteenth and they’re like, oh, that’s a black holiday. They don’t really know why. And I want them to know why that’s [00:38:00] explainable.
[00:38:02] Amira Rasool: [00:38:02] They won’t know though, because they are banning critical race theory from the classroom. So
[00:38:09] Dan: [00:38:09] the one step forward one and a half step back, but you know, hopefully, that the progress is there.
[00:38:15] So we have a couple of questions in the chat from folks. So en ask, what inspired you to create your startup and has that changed over time? Anybody who wants to the long versions of any of that? Listen to the episodes with each of these people on Founders Unfound, cause they go into a lot of depth, but maybe just share like a minute or two about the origin aha about your startup.
[00:38:37] Kwame Boler: [00:38:37] Um, for me specifically, Neu was founded actually as a spinoff from a completely different problem from a completely different business. On a separate business, I, and a couple of others owned vacation rental property. And we couldn’t find a cleaner we’d cycled through four different cleaners and thought that it would be best to [00:39:00] try to solve that problem ourselves.
[00:39:01] And so we partnered with another business within the industry to strategically address them and then realized that we were definitely the wrong guys to pick up toilet brushes. And after leveraging a lot of learnings and thousands of dollars and lost opportunities, uh, we then, you know, really had that set in the develop customer empathy with who we identify with actually our customers, which are the housekeepers.
[00:39:28] And once we really started to recognize them as both a customer, as well as someone that we had to build the experience around you, didn’t lead her pivoted to building the marketplace, which was new. Compounding a lot of learning to get to where we are.
[00:39:43] Amira Rasool: [00:39:43] For me, it was a matter of wanting to find a way to economically empower black people globally and also find a way for us to connect.
[00:39:54] I am like really passionate about Pan-Africanism and the idea of like, if globally, [00:40:00] we are able to uplift one another, then we’ll be able to. Get ourselves out of the situation that we were put in. So yeah, I think my, my major thing was I was involved in fashion. I wasn’t passionate about fashion, but I felt like the industry was not yet having the conversations that they’re having now.
[00:40:17] And that I was limiting my ability to actually make an impact within my community by remaining in a white space that basically just promoted and got other white people money. And so I basically wanted to create our own. For us to be able to promote these designers, give them access to customers and be able to help them build out businesses that were valued at the same, in the same way, that, um, European brands are valued.
[00:40:44] So I main thing was like economic development and opportunity.
[00:40:48]Daricus Releford: [00:40:48] I started StoreCash cause I was getting kind of the itch, I got a chance to work at top tech companies.
[00:40:58] Then I also came out here [00:41:00] to start a startup.
[00:41:04] So that’s when I later found out big, a huge gap, 18 years old. And he also needed a bank account. So I was kind of curious, and I want to do some research on how many people were in the U S and it’s about 56 million Americans that are unbanked. , and then there’s this teen market that are unbanked pre-baked.
[00:41:32] And I wanted to find a way to solve that, that un-banked and under-banked markings 20% of the black community that gave me even more incentive. And also. More of a reason to tackle for our community and a lot of companies aren’t being built around. So, um, that’s what got me on [00:42:00] Travis.
[00:42:03] Dan: [00:42:03] And they all have really awesome deep stories. I do encourage you to check it out. The stories are amazing. So, uh, w we only have a few minutes left, so I’m humble enough to know that maybe I didn’t ask all the key questions, so I’ll just leave it as an open-ended for each year, maybe just 30 seconds or a minute.
[00:42:21] Anything else you want to share about this particular subject improvement calls to action, other thoughts of wisdom or insights that you want to share before we go?
[00:42:30] Kwame Boler: [00:42:30] I think the only thing, and this was something actually me and my wife were really chatting about. I think like a couple of weekends ago, they think can be very dangerous in the concept of victimhood.
[00:42:43] And especially when it comes to being an entrepreneur, the pursuit of your goal. To be an entrepreneur is definitely to walk the path that’s less traveled. And to recognize that there are obstacles in your way or that adversity in your way is definitely a path of the journey, regardless, [00:43:00] whatever, you know, race, sex, gender complexion that you carry.
[00:43:03] But that means being said developing the mentality of being a victim to a system that you don’t have any or much control. Isn’t going to change or advance how well you’ll do. And so I guess my only call to action is that if you’d like to change something, then do something to make the change and not be complacent or otherwise it’s cool to just sit and brood and chat about, but I think it’s much cooler to actually think about ways in which you can make impacts and consciously act on those positions.
[00:43:40] Amira Rasool: [00:43:40] I would say, um, just ask for what you want and maybe even more than what you deserve. These white men who are raising tons of money off of ideas they’re asking for, and they’re getting it a lot. Sometimes we, you know, even talked about the disparity, the pay disparity between men and women and there’s data that shows that men are asking [00:44:00] for higher, higher wages.
[00:44:01] And that’s part of the reason why we have this disparity. And so if we’re afraid to ask, then we’re not going to receive. And also we don’t always have to. Sometimes we just take it. You know, we have to be able to take things into our own hands. If we’re not going to get funded to what tons of black women are doing, where they’re going and doing these great crowdfunding, raising millions of dollars, like just don’t take no for an answer and just always ask or.
[00:44:28] Daricus Releford: [00:44:28] I would say believe in yourself. There was a lot of situations that us as black people have to go through, my father wasn’t part of my life. There was even issues while going through college to where there was even lawsuits filed and still graduated with three degrees. There was money issues with my previous business. Um, still was successful venture magazine.
[00:44:58] I always wanted to be in tech, [00:45:00] hopped in my car, drove here and got an opportunity to work at Apple, Facebook, and Google, and then starting a startup, whereas only 1% of black being funded. All of that was me trying to believe in myself in saying that there’s nothing, nothing that I can do. It’s all up to me.
[00:45:19]And yeah, it was very hard, very difficult. A lot of nights you cry while things happen. At some point, you’ll get persistent.
[00:45:29] Dan: [00:45:29] I love it. A lot of common themes thereof we determine our own destiny and we don’t have to be at the whims of others. So we’re at the end of our time. And so this has been a tremendous conversation.
[00:45:41] I hope we can make it an annual thing. Thanks so much to Amira, Kwame and Daricus and thanks to Techstars Seattle and Issac for helping to arrange this. And let’s continue to have these discussions to continue to propel us forward. So thanks again, everybody. Have a great day.
[00:45:58]We’d like to thank our [00:46:00] panelists, Amira, Daricus, and Kwame, as well as our panel host Techstars Seattle.
[00:46:05] This podcast was produced by me, Dan Kihanya.
[00:46:08] Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento, that’s. Listen, T-O.
[00:46:17] And follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn @foundersunfound.
[00:46:21] Thanks so much for tuning in.
[00:46:22] I am Dan Kihanya and
[00:46:23] you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.