White Supremacy & Venture Capital (w/ Marco Rogers)

Zach sits down with Marco Rogers to talk systemic racism within the venture capital space and more. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Marco!

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Zach (02:19): What’s up, y’all? It’s Zach from Living Corporate, and I’m excited about today’s podcast because we’re talking about venture capital. I like the VC space, VC is very unique and as I continue to learn. As a landscape, it’s just not doing the same things that the typical corporate American space is doing, the nine to five space is doing. In terms of even the pressure around DEI, they don’t feel it the same ways. And yet, it’s an area where black and brown people continue to get the shortest end of the stick, continue to face the most oppression, continue to just be shafted.

Zach (03:03): It’s curious, we haven’t had very many VC-centric conversations in the history of Living Corporate, so that’s why I’m really excited to have Marco Rogers on. Marco, he’s a lot of things to a lot of different people. And so what I want to do, I don’t even want to mess him up by trying to say too much. I will say this though. I will say that he is a coach, he is an investor, he is a subject matter expert and he’s a cool dude. I’m thankful that we were able to have him on the podcast and talk about his journey. And really talk about just his experience, because it sounds, and you’ll hear me react, it sounds like something out of a movie. I don’t know, like the way he’s talking about just the money that’s out there, the capital that can be gained in this space. And yet, so many of us black and brown people, specifically black people, specifically black women are just not included, we’re not involved. We don’t have the same level of access as these white folks do.

(04:12): And so we talk about the future of the space. He’s hopeful, I’m not going to spoil it too much more, which gave me hope. Now I want you all to make sure that you all click the links in the show notes and learn more about Marco and also just explore Living Corporate. We have a lot of stuff going on, every single day there is something coming out from the network that we’re creating, that we’re doing. I want to make sure that you all actually plug in. Before we plug into Marco, though, we’re going to tap in with Tristan, see you in a second.

Zach (08:15): Marco, how are you doing, man?

Marco (08:17): I’m pretty good, Zach. How are you?

Zach (08:19): Man, I’m good, man. I told you, just transitions new beginnings, making stuff happen, man. Listen, I am intrigued and I’ve been really excited about talking to you on Living Corporate because you know we connected initially back on clubhouse on the chat.

Marco (08:40): That’s right. That’s right. Yes, I was checking out Clubhouse and I was dropping in and out of different kinds of events and I remember you showing up to a couple of them.

Zach (08:48): Yes, man. We were talking about diversity, equity, inclusion, but we’re also talking about just the VC space. So I’m going to ask you a couple of really front end loaded questions and you take them where you want to go, but I really want to hear your perspective on the record with this stuff. So let’s talk about venture capital; the last time that we really talked about the VC space and black and brown folks, I’m going to tell you, this was some years ago. We had Shelly Bell on the on the podcast. So for those who don’t know, Shelly Bell is the founder of Black Girl Ventures and so we asked Shelly Bell on, because we were talking about just the landscape of VC.

(09:31): Again, this was like back, I want to say like 2018, Marco and so we were talking about just how dreadfully, shamefully, sinfully even under supported, underfunded black ventures are, particularly black women. Just if you would like to look at it from a matter of percentage and just where the pieces are, it’s literally crumbs if that, crumbs of crumbs. I’m really curious though, as we look at the last 18 months. So a little bit before George Floyd, but then really as DEI apparently had this whole Renaissance or awakening, talk to me about like the VC space today. Was there a similar kind of push around diversity inclusion in the VC space, as there was in the corporate arena? Or what has it been looking like out there?

Marco (10:29): I think it’s not at all. It doesn’t even look as progressive as it looked in the corporate space. So I’ll just start right there, VCs they don’t even really follow the trends that are happening in these larger companies. They really have their own culture and their own ecosystem, I’ve been out here in the bay area for about 10 years and have just spent a lot of time in this ecosystem and learning a lot about how venture capital moves, both from an economic perspective, but also that social and cultural perspective. VC is a culture, they all talk to each other, they all follow trends but it’s very different from what you might find in other kinds of industries.

(11:20): So I would start there by saying you’re definitely kind of asking the right question about how’s it different? From my perspective, I think from the beginning, even when we had started to push DEI initiatives and have these companies really kind of take notice, the VC kind of community in my mind immediately started to be resistant to it. They didn’t want to talk about it, they didn’t want to kind of acknowledge the importance of a lot of what we were saying and they wanted to stay very focused on how do we make money. That what they’re here for and they don’t mince words about that and so the whole conversation around, the importance of diversity and equity and inclusion, they just weren’t really trying to hear it at all. I would go back to what you mentioned about how they don’t fund people from kind of traditionally marginalized groups and particularly black women.

(12:23): You know I have a pretty personal connection to this because my wife, Anya Williams is an entrepreneur. So I watched her go through this firsthand. She started her own company. It was hot, her company was called Tensil and she made really amazing electronic jewellery. So their kind of signature piece was a set of headphones that you can use plug into your phone and carry with you everywhere but it was a necklace, a very stylish necklace that a fashionable woman would want to wear and that was her whole deal is I’m tired of wearing like cheap plastic stuff that apple is trying to sell me. I put a lot of work into my look and I want it to be nice.

(13:14): Anyway, she went through that whole journey and went and pitched a hundred VCs trying to get them to understand the opportunity there and couldn’t make it work. She raised a significant amount for the venture that she was trying to do, but it ran out and when you go and you try to get your series A, whatever, it didn’t work out. So she came out of that experience and she and I have felt the same way. It was just like, look, if she can’t do it, you can’t get better than where my wife comes from and her credentials and what she does and what she knows. If they’re not giving money to her, they aren’t giving money to nobody who looks like her. So she had that experience very directly and came out of it with a lot of information about why that doesn’t happen. Why the numbers are what they are in terms of funding.

Zach (14:13): Yes, no doubt. So it’s interesting Marco, one, it’s depressing and I appreciate you giving context in terms of kind of comparing it, because I think it’s easy to think of that, oh, everyone’s into this performative thing where everyone’s donating money and there’s bread to be made by everybody and I was curious about that for the VC space because I don’t know if I’ve seen that. Talk to me about when you say, okay, commerce is interested in making money, aren’t there several points of research articles that have been dropped about the missed investments that are in black and brown VC, black and brown black and brown startups and entrepreneurs that just go onto the wayside?

Marco (14:59): Yes. I mean, a lot of that data has been circulating and I think it’s really good but this is where I think we get into talking about culture, because you can make a case that if you talk to your average VC, they should really want to pay attention to this because there’s real opportunity to make more money. You start from a place of assuming that they’re kind of primarily driven by just kind of capitalistic concerns, very kind of practical like, oh, I can make more money over here, I’m going to go over here. But in practice, it doesn’t really work that way to be honest. It’s not just them trying to make money, but them trying to maximize the level of predictability.

(15:52): One of the big things in, if you look at, and I’m not just making this up, VC’s right about this. There’s a lot of, kind of, the more prominent VCs that will write and try to kind of put their thoughts out there about how they think their business works. Folks like Paul Graham, I can’t stand Paul Graham, but he’s known as a prolific writer and he has written a lot about how he thinks that business works and one of the things that gets popularized in that circle is talking about pattern matching. What they do is not just about we’re making money wherever we can find it. But once we find a pattern that we think works, we’re just going to do that until it stops working. We are going to repeat that pattern because we know that it has shown to be lucrative and that’s why you get the same kind of company getting funded over and over again. Today it’s like it’s AI, or VR (virtual reality).

(17:00): If you rub some AI on your startup, you will get a VC to talk to you, because they have seen that be a business that is growing. A while back it was social, when Facebook kind of hit really big. Then it was like, oh, anything that’s social, if you’re rubbing social on your startup, you can get a meeting with a VC. That’s how they operate a lot of times as patterns because they want to be the next Facebook, they want to be the next Uber. And they’re just going to keep doing that until it stops working. And to come back around to what we’re talking about. I think the big challenge, even when you put this data in front of them is when they look at businesses that are being pushed by people of color, and women, and other people who are not kind of that traditional, kind of pattern that they’re used to matching. What you’re up against is them telling themselves they don’t know anything about that business. They don’t know anything about that community. They don’t know how it works, so it’s not predictable to them. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t know how it’s going to go, and that translates to risk in their minds.

Zach (18:20): So then I guess my challenge is where do we go today forward? There continues to be; so here’s where I’m at with this whole thing Marco is we know that black women continue to have the highest rate of entrepreneurship. What’s frustrating in those articles that site that, is that they rarely connect the dots between the rationale or reason and the context for why black women are the highest entrepreneurs. And frankly, black and brown people in general are entrepreneurship is growing. And the reason I believe for that, I mean, correct me if I’m tripping, if you think I’m tripping is because corporate America continues to be a place that isn’t really welcoming and creates a sense of belonging for them. So we ended up having to figure out other ways to make it work. Not only for our own well-being, but for our own, whole holistic well-being, including our financial well-being. So if that’s the pattern, if that’s the reason why we’re leaving out of corporate America and exiting trying to create our own thing, but then we go into the space that’s seemingly worse. I mean, what are we doing? What’s the solution?

Marco (19:30): I mean, I think that’s a key question, but I guess I would maybe reframe it a little bit. Because the people that I talk to, including my wife, they’re not finding the environment worse. When they talk about the corporate environment and they talk about the challenges there, they’re not missing it, they like being entrepreneurs and they like being out on their own. It’s literally just that they can’t get the capital, so that they can continue to grow. They can continue to make their own entrepreneurial endeavors kind of start to work out. They like what they’re doing, that’s why they keep doing it.

(20:10): So it’s only when they go into these spaces with the people who have money, and try to get that money in the same way that these white men do, that they find the frustrations. But my wife loves her entrepreneurial lifestyle, she loves having the the flexibility and the ability to kind of set her own direction. All of those things I think are very compatible with the communities that we’re talking about. They like what they’re doing, that’s why they’re doing it and it’s really just like, they’re not being given the resources as the other people who do this.

Zach (20:56): I think about, I guess, and I hear you. I guess I’m thinking about the folks, and you help me here because again, I am not from the VC space. I’m intrigued by the work, I’m intrigued by the arena and as I think about just like the way that technology is going, I believe access is becoming a little more flat. I don’t think it’s certainly not as flat as it needs to be. But I’m thinking about the folks who are like, because there are different levels. So there are folks who are like, okay, look, I didn’t get all the funding I want, but I can still hit X and pay my bills. I can still do what I want to do. But there are certain folks who are like, no, if I don’t get funding, I’m not going to be successful. Like I’m not going to be able to move forward at all. And this is the means by which I; and so, my question is for them, what are the alternatives? If we already know what the landscape is and how exclusive it is and how black and brown folks are not getting the funding they need. What are the other options for them to mobilize and at least give themselves, you know, six to 12 months?

Marco (22:09): Yeah. I think that there is a long answer there. And the answer is long because like you said, you kind of have to, you’re talking about other options where you kind of have to dig into those other options. You kind of have to paint a picture of those other options and you have to help people understand how to move towards them because there’s just not easy and not as accessible. One of the big challenges, when we talk about venture capital, and you started to ask me what kind of things have changed. And this is something that I don’t see enough people talking about it. I know I have some friends who kind of work in this area. And they’re really trying to bring light to it because I think it’s very significant.

(22:58): Venture capital is a particular kind of entrepreneurship and business building. And until very recently it was considered to be niche. Like that was just one way to get capital for business and it was considered like a very risky venture. That’s literally the term. Venture is about like this is a risky investment potentially, but there’s a potentially big upside. And I think when you look at Silicon Valley, when you look at software and tech, I think it fits that model really well because you can get started, but usually you can get started with modest resources. And then you put a lot of money into it and you try to get it to grow. And you can reach everybody because it’s the internet, so it’s global.

(23:47): There’s a reason why venture capital kind of migrated, it seems to be a great fit for tech. But that’s just only one way to start business and the vast majority of businesses don’t work like that. It’s like a small business, you go down to your bank, you get a small business loan, that’s how you prop yourself up right. Now, what I was kind of coming around to is to challenge what we see. If you really kind of start to talk to people who have the data, all of those other sources of capital had just really started to dry up and be harder to get at. Banks don’t give as many small business loans, and so people who want to start their business, people who want more predictable terms around this, people who don’t understand that this is venture capital avenue. And even if they try to come after it, that they’re not the right color, so they’re not going to get it. Like I think that because tech has grown so large and by extension, venture capital has grown so large, it sucked a lot of the air out of the room.

(24:49): And a lot of other ways that people use to try to get capital to start their businesses, they’re just not there anymore. And that’s a huge problem, it’s a much, much bigger problem than the problems in venture capital. And I didn’t really realize this, I think last thing I’ll say, I didn’t really realize this until I started to really talk to people. And I realized that people kind of coming up, I guess, are people who are kind of really just kind of entering that phase of their lives, where they might want to do entrepreneurship. The first and only thing that they’ve heard of is raising venture capital.

Zach (25:29): Facts. Yes.

Marco (25:32): Right. That is the message that they get. Is starting a business is go find these rich people and try to get them to write you a big check. That is the way that you start a business, and I just think that there’s just so many things wrong with that.

Zach (25:48): So let me get a little meta and talk about Living Corporate because that resonates with me. So Living Corporate, starts off and we’re a single podcast, and we don’t have like all these other pods, we don’t have web series, we don’t have all this other stuff. We’re not like a really a media network, just a podcast. But then, as soon as I started talking to people about my vision, for Living Corporate, people were like, okay, so where are you in your; and again, I’m ignorant. So I literally don’t even know like what this is.

(26:17): Marco, I don’t know, oh, what series of funding are you in? Where are you at with your funding? And I’m over here like what, what are you talking about? You don’t have family friends? I was like, what are you talking about? No, I don’t. No, no. And so when they look at everything and I say, look, I’ve invested X, and I’ll tell you what X is when we get of live. But I’ve invested X over the past three years. People are like you invested what? And it’s like, yeah, I’ve just been bootstrapping.

(26:40): Now these are the things, Marco, I’m in corporate America, big four, I mean, in the consulting industry. So I have a little bit of money, so I can just fund it. But like the truth of the matter is like if I really wanted to step out and do this, and I wanted to like do it, let’s say I want it to like, jump out and just do it. Like I’m looking at this and I remember I would talk to folks who don’t look like me, and they’d be like, oh, well, you know, you can just get your friends and your family to give you like, you could probably raise like 50, 60k. Like I did it. And I’m like, man, my family…

Marco (27:15): And they’re dead serious about it. They’re dead serious.

Zach (27:17): They’re dead ass about it. And I’m over here looking at them like, bro, let me tell you something. If I opened up an email and I said, hey look, and I emailed, it could literally be a hundred family members. And I said, yo, I need to raise a hundred thousand dollars. I can’t even imagine what would; I really can’t, I can’t even wrap my mind around that.

Marco (27:41): Would they laugh or would they think there’s something wrong with you? Like seriously wrong with you? It would be one of those things.

Zach (27:46): So here’s the thing. No here’s the thing. No straight up. So let’s talk about it. So, in my family I’m seen as the one that has a really good head on his shoulders. I keep my nose clean, I do what I’m supposed to do. So typically, people kind of, my family cheers me on. If I was to send them that email, I’ll probably get a lot of phone calls and people being like, so what is this? They wouldn’t laugh, they probably would wonder if there’s something going on if I’ve fallen on hard times, why would I be asking? Even the culture of even asking your family for money like that. I’m going to say that’s not a thing that black folks do like that, for me, what I’ve experienced.

Marco (28:36): Fair. Love that.

Zach (28:36): Anyway, going back to it. When we talk about the journey, it’s like I can’t tell you the amount of people, no one ever talks to me about how to secure a business loan. People are always like, okay, so what’s your VC? I’m like, I don’t know, man, I don’t know. And the thing about it is like, because of decisions I’ve made, I’m not in a position where I’m like depending on this. This is something, this is a full time hustle for me right now. But I can’t imagine, man, like let’s just say like something crazy happened and I just had to depend on this, I don’t know. Like that VC, I wouldn’t even know how to do that.

(29:19): But the truth of the matter is Marco, what’s depressing even for me, as an entrepreneur, as someone where Living Corporate is paying for itself. Which is super exciting to me. The fact that Living Corporate is paying its own bills to me, like that’s a win for me. From where we started. But here’s the thing, like I have a vision, I have a dream for Living Corporate to be like Viacom, but for diversity, equity, inclusion media. And the truth is I have to figure out some way to get a lot of capital. And every time I talk to people, and again, I won’t say names on the record, we’ll talk later. But the point is, I talk to people and it’s like the work, the work to even getting in front of the people is like, bruh, there’s no way I can do this and have a full-time job.

Marco (30:06): Yes. So you’re absolutely right, I would give you, I would say, for your audience it’s important to kind of talk about, I guess I keep coming back to culture. These things are pretty pervasive in the circles that I run in. I would call myself very much kind of entrenched in Silicon Valley tech like culture. That’s where I’ve been for the last 10 years. So, when you talk about coming from big four consulting, and I’m sure that there’s a culture there and you can speak to it. And on the venture capital side, I think there’s a culture as well.

(30:53): So first of all, like when you talk to people about your business, your venture, whatever, what have you. When they say, oh, why don’t you kind of go over here and raise money? That’s also the way they tell you no. That’s also the way that they tell you, it’s not right for me, I don’t see anything here, but I’ll point you in a direction. That’s part of the culture, it’s like, well, I’ll point you in a direction and maybe that’ll help. And if you’re really on your hustle, you’ll go after it. There’s a lot of that, like the founder grind mythos about that. I know a lot of folks probably heard like, oh, they just like started it in their garage, and they didn’t have any money. It’s not true, but they love to tell that story. But that’s also just the way that they tell you no. That’s also just the way that they say no, without saying no. It’s like, oh, well, here’s some sources of funding that might be better for you.

(31:56): And so, the friends and family round is a very real kind of trope. And it’s basically, like you essentially have to have shown that you have something off the ground before you talk to VCs. The days where they would talk to you about just an idea, are mostly gone. You have to have something already. And the friends and family around is also just the way that they tell you, well, you need to make something happen on your own and I need to see a little bit of it before I’m really ready for a bigger conversation.

(32:34): So those are the kinds of things that I think happened in the culture. And there’s a whole set of people, coming back to just talking about privilege. There’s a whole set of people for whom that’s just, that’s normal, and that’s very accessible. They can go and ask for $50,000 from an uncle, or whoever in their family. They get it from one person, not a lot, but like one person can give them that. There’s actually a really popular podcast called, How I Built This.

Zach (33:08): Yes.

Marco (33:08): And I want to be real with you, I listen to that podcast all the time, but not because I think that it’s awesome for what it is. I listen to it because I’m amazed by like hearing the people’s background, the founder’s backgrounds and picking out the points of privilege. That’s what I do. And I know this–

Zach (33:33): Call it out, what you mean? Give me an example?

Marco (33:36): Well, I know that that’s not what they intend, but they want to tell this scrappy founder story. And instead what you hear is, well, I was actually living with my girlfriend’s parents rent-free. I was living with my girlfriend’s parents, rent-free and I was backpacking through the hills or something, because I didn’t have anything else to do. And then, when I got this idea, I went to my girlfriend’s father and told him about it. And he was like, oh yeah, that seems like a great idea, and he loaned me $50,000. Loaned.

Zach (34:24): Quote unquote.

Marco (34:25): Yes, quote unquote. And that’s the actual story, that’s the real story. And I’m listening and like I think there’s a certain type of person where they’re like, oh, well, that’s really fortunate that he was able to get that loan. But I know, first of all, it’s not a loan because he’s not paying it back. And instead his father-in-law, or whoever is investing in his business. It’s much more business than that. And not only that, but it comes with all these other connections. And, that’s all while he’s living rent-free. So, I just pick out the points of privilege. Like the things that that person had, that they take for granted, that a bunch of other people trying to do it, don’t have. Won’t have. And so telling the story it seems fine until you look at other people, why aren’t you able to do it, in the way that I’m doing it? And I can pick it out, you can see it, you can make a list. Like my father-in-law doesn’t have $50,000, I’m not living rent-free, my rent is actually quite real and quite expensive. And all of those things keep you from reaching your destination.

Zach (35:42): I think my challenge sometimes with; so Marco, you know LLC Twitter, right?

Marco (35:49): Yes I do.

Zach (35:50): Okay, man. So like LLC Twitter, man, it’s like this idea of you just have to hustle. You’ve just got to be smart. You just have to. And it’s like dog, the best way to raise capital is with capital. Like, people out here, I don’t know, man. I know that the stories exist, but like people aren’t over here just, it takes a lot. The stories that I hear from the folks that come on Living Corporate. Again, I’ll talk about Shelly, but like the work that she had to do. Even when she talked about Black Girl Ventures, the work that she had to do to stand that up. And the work that she still has to do to stand that up, to get the capital she gets. The hustle, the intuitiveness, the grit, just all of it, just to get a portion of what somebody probably got, back when they were just getting started. So like let’s talk about the future, I’m going to ask you one more time. And I’ll ask you this way, what is it that folks should be, if we should have hope, what should we have hope in, when it comes to venture capital and traditionally marginalized people in this space?

Marco (37:10): I mean, I hear you. I’m trying to find kind of a real answer for you. For what it’s worth, I always have hope and I’m searching myself to kind of try to figure out where that comes from. I can tell you why I still work in this industry and why I have been working hard to get more black folks and other people of color into this industry. Because as much as we like to talk about the problems, and there are quite a lot of problems. It is still an industry where you can come in and if you get the right opportunity, and you choose the right company as an employee. That you can receive a significant windfall, as I have. And I don’t know if you’ve heard a little bit about my story, but I think it matters. Okay.

Zach (38:16): Let’s talk about it.

Marco (38:16): So, the first half of my career I got started, I was in the D.C. area. I grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated from Georgia Tech. So I had a good kind of foundation with my degree, which is also a point of privilege. But I got my first job, I moved to DC, that’s where I got my career started. And it was fine, it was doing mostly consulting work and that kind of thing. And then I got recruited, I moved out here to San Francisco in 2011 and I started working at a start-up. Now, I didn’t know anything about start-ups and venture capital at that time. It was just an objectively better job. And that was it. Where we come from that’s it. That’s all, it was like, oh, a better job than the one I got now, they’re paying significantly more, all right, then. And also, I get to move to California, all right, let’s do that. So, I moved out here not knowing anything, and then started my education in start-ups and equity and whatnot. And I got extremely fortunate in that, that first start-up, the one that I got recruited to ended up being really successful. So it was a good job, and then I worked there for a couple of years, and then that company got acquired by Microsoft.

Zach (39:35): Wow.

Marco (39:35): And it was pretty big. That company was called, Yammer.

Zach (39:40): What?

Marco (39:40): It was a social networking platform.

Zach (39:44): Dawg what? Wait Marco. [inaudible 00:39:44] Wait, wait. Oh my gosh, sound man, put the cha-ching sign and the Mario coins right here. Oh my gosh. When the Yammer bag came. So then like, what did you, because I come from humble beginnings.

Marco (40:02): Yes, we can get real. What’s your question?

Zach (40:05): So how did the money hit you? Did you open up the account and you just saw the bag staring in the checking account? Was it like a check?

Marco (40:15): It was a check. They handed me a paper check with more digits on it, than I would make in a couple years’ salary.

Zach (40:27): A couple years’ salary?

Marco (40:28): Yeah.

Zach (40:28): Okay. Oh my God. Okay. Good. Keep going.

Marco (40:29): It was real and it was like. So it’s a very kind of surreal process too. I’ve never been through kind of like an IPO or company goes public. I think that’s a different thing, but this was kind of weird because they start talking to you about it. They give you a bunch of information, it’s all legal information. And I’m just like, okay, is there a decision for me to make? No, not really. It’s like, something’s about to happen to you, there’s no decision to make really. They gave you this equity in the company, they gave you these shares, they weren’t worth anything and now they are. It’s like, you’re waiting to find out how much they’re worth. And then they tell you, and you’re like doing the math and they tell you how much per share. And then you’re doing the math and you’re like, wait, that’s a lot of money. So how’s that going to go? Are they going to give me some like…? At first I was thinking like there’s going to be some pay out over time. Maybe I’ll get some money like every month or something like that. But then like once the ink is dry on the deal, the acquisition deal, they just start dispersing funds. A whole check showed up. They were like, hey, here’s your check.

Zach (41:42): Oh, so it was just one big bag?

Marco (41:42): And then you would walk that check across town and deposit it in your checking account. That’s how it worked.

Zach (41:50): Oh my God. All right, last ignorant question, and then you can get back to it. So then what’s the one thing you, like what’s the one thing you spent? What’s the one thing you got, in the name of like, now I got this bag, I’m going to get something nice for me?

Marco (42:03): I mean, I really want to feel like I did something ignorant with it. But I mean, I don’t really think I did, because I feel like I have simple tastes, but I mean, we bought a house.

Zach (42:14): Cribs. [inaudible 00:42:14] Yes.

Marco (42:14): Like I own my house in one of the most expensive cities on earth. That’s not a small thing in San Francisco.

Zach (42:22): That’s a bag. That’s dope. [over-talk 00:42:27].

Marco (42:22): And a lot of people are priced out because they can’t even afford the down payment. To be clear, I have a mortgage, but most people can’t even afford the down payment. Because they’re talking about 20% on a million dollars.

Zach (42:44): I’m [over-talk] say yeah, nah.

Marco (42:44): You’ve got 200k, like laying around?

Zach (42:46): Yeah Bro. Sheesh.

Marco (42:46): No. No. And so what I was getting at, what I was really getting at with you is that, it is kind of a leveling up. So all of a sudden I have enough capital. I have enough actually liquid capital to start thinking about my moves differently. That’s really what it is. And it really does change everything about how you make moves, to have liquidity like that.

Zach (43:18): Man, I was excited to have you on because I wanted to talk about this space. And I’m thankful for you being here. I think like, let me ask one last thing before I let you out, I’m going to ask a couple more questions. We’re about to wrap. So what needs to happen for the VC space to radically shift and change, and favor marginalized people? What needs to, like tactically, tangibly, what needs to happen?

Marco (43:46): Realistically, like so we need to, like there are a set of people who are pushing past a lot of these barriers. And yes, they are high barriers, it’s difficult to push past them, but it’s possible. And I think there are always those people who are not going to take no for an answer and are really going to stay pushing at these barriers until they knock them down. In this business, in the venture capital space, what it means to knock them down is, you have people who are black, and people of color, and black women, who are going to make a billion dollars doing this. That is the space. Is that they’re going to win, their company is going to win, they’re going to try to get the right funding and they’re going to get the right opportunities. They’re going to hit the right growth trajectory, and they’re going to be worth a billion dollars. And then they’re going to become venture capitalists. That’s the arc by the way, which I don’t know if everybody kind of understands that. But where venture capitalists come from, they had their own business, they won. And now they have more money than they know what to do with. And so then they kind of just move into a different business, which is, oh, let me try to find other opportunities and help other businesses grow, but I’m not doing it with my money, I’m going to raise th funds. That’s what they do. That’s what they do, they raise the raise a fund. And so, you’re probably familiar with Arlan Hamilton.

Zach (45:26): Absolutely.

Marco (45:27): And I think that’s the name that I bring up when people ask me a question like yours, it’s like what’s going to happen? I’m like, we’re going to do it, we’re just going to do what they’re doing. They’re making it harder for us, but we’re going to do it. And Arlan is very serious about doing exactly what other venture capitalists do, but with people who don’t get the money, people who don’t normally get the money. Black people, Latinex people, women, I’m going to give it to them. And they’re going to show you that they can also do it. And then, we’re going to make billions of dollars, that’s what’s going to happen. And she is so for real about it.

Zach (46:06): She is. She is super for real about it and shout out to Arlan, guest to the show. It’s an honor and you’re absolutely right. So, essentially, you see, okay, so talk to; dang man, you said that, so what’s stopping? Here’s my thing and I know that it’s happening in the pockets, but what stopping more black billionaires, and I know they’re not many. But black, let’s just say wealthy black folks, there’s like seven or eight of us out there. What’s stopping more wealthy black folks from doing what Arlan’s doing?

Marco (46:38): Yes, I think this is where we kind of have to get really deep.

Zach (46:44): Let’s go or it.

Marco (46:44): I think it’s a real question. And I think there’s a lot there and it could be very fraught for our community. We could start some shit, you know what I mean? But like I’m going to say two things, one is that one thing we need to, we’re going to struggle with in our community and I’m sure that this is part of what you see on Living Corporate. But one thing we’re going to struggle with in our community is when some of us really start to kind of accelerate our careers. And we move into that space of having more money, it’s extremely isolating. Like it pulls you away from your community in a bunch of different ways.

(47:32): Like I grew up, I’m very much rooted in black because I grew up in Atlanta. And I’m very connected to my blackness, but moving towards having more financial success, often takes you away from blackness. And we know that, that makes sense because it’s the flip side of what we talk about with all of these barriers. They push to keep blackness out. And it’s not perfect and so some of us are able to excel, but it’s isolating because we find ourselves being the only ones. We’re like dispersed, and kind of disconnected from our usual communities, and it’s hard to bring everybody we know with us. When a white person makes a lot of money, and they start going to places that people with money go. What they’re going to find there is more white people.

(48:33): When we start going to places where people with money go, there are a lot fewer of us. And if you take that to its logical conclusion, I’m just saying that like there are black billionaires, but they’re talking to white people, because those are the only other billionaires they got to talk to. Billionaires only talk to other billionaires, that’s one thing. They’re not talking to us anymore. So once you get to a certain amount of money, it’s very hard for you to talk to normal people. And so, it’s very difficult for them to be connected to what’s actually happening in the community in the way where they get real information about how to help. People are always coming to them about how they could spend some money, but I don’t know if they get real information about how to help.

(49:17): So that’s one thing and I think some people will take issue with that framing. And I understand it, but that’s where I’m at and I said what I said. Okay. And then I think there’s another part to it though, which is that, I do think that it doesn’t have to be billionaires. The same thing I said to you before, like it doesn’t have to look a certain way, there’s actually a ton of money in our community, that’s why there’s an opportunity. We actually, as a community, as a collective have really tremendous capital, but we haven’t really figured out how to move it. We haven’t really figured out how to bring that together and invest it. And I think that there are a lot of opportunities to do that and people who are working on it, including, folks like Arlan. So let’s go back to venture capital, because this is what we started talking about. And I guess you and I talked about how we wanted to kind of maybe give people some more kind of real concrete information about how it works, and why it works that way.

(50:28): So when we talk about venture capital, it’s a circle, it’s a cycle. They find businesses to invest in, they really invest in those founders. So founders come up and they start their businesses. They get a lot of resources and capital from venture. Then that works and they are hugely successful, they make a bunch of money. And then those people become venture capitalists. They’re already hooked into this community, they know other founders, they know other people doing whatever. It’s people that used to work for them, people that used to work at Google go to start their own company. That’s why there’s a whole kind of ecosystem of like, oh, this person is formerly from Google, it’s a credential. It becomes a credential. It’s formerly from Google, they’ve seen it happen, they’re going to do it themselves in their own business. And that can work. I think that that model can work even for any other community. So when black people start winning, we have to invest back into helping more black people win, by creating that same ecosystem. You see what I’m saying?

Zach (51:39): I do. I do.

Marco (51:40): And so I think you could bootstrap it with getting some black billionaires to put some money in it. I would love to see that. But even on a smaller scale, I think we can start really re-investing in our community. I just really would like to see people organize around that.

Zach (51:57): And to be clear, like I said, black billionaires, I don’t even believe billionaires should exist. So what I really meant…

Marco (52:02): Yes, that’s a whole conversation.

Zach (52:06): That’s a whole conversation. But what I’m really thinking about is even the a hundred thousand. Like the people who have a few K to throw at stuff, or even the millionaires, which there are a few more of us, that are free millionaires. So like I don’t think that it has to be this astronomical amount of money, if we practice some group economics. But it just seems like every other week, because I’m plugged, I’m somewhat plugged in. I check out the headlines, every month, every few weeks, somebody is hitting crazy, crazy lick. And I’m just like dog, what is going on? But anyway, look, Marco, we’ve had a great time, we could talk forever. Before I let you go, if you had to give these white VCs three things that they need to stop doing right now, what would they be?

Marco (53:04): Ohh. I think one is that, well, I’ll say one thing is very practical. I’ll just say that they need to start giving money to the people who are hungry. Because I think that when I look at venture capital today, I think that they’ve, well, you know that Elon Musk was on Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago.

Zach (53:29): Yes.

Marco (53:29): That’s a very big kind of cultural moment where like tech and VC is not the underdog anymore. They’re like on top. Tech is like the biggest company that ever existed, and so it’s not a scrappy niche anymore, and so I think a lot of the people who are moving, and a lot of the patterns that they’re matching, and the people that they’re giving their money to are not hungry. We know where the hunger is, we know where the hustle is. It’s right here. Like nobody does hustle better than us. And so if they really are trying to find that model of this hungry founder and entrepreneur, who’s really going to do anything to make it happen. They know where that is and I just don’t know what is keeping them from really recognizing that. So they need to put the money where like the hunger is. So that’s really practical and that’s just as a baseline of like why we come back to the diversity problem. Like why they’re not doing that, but that’s number one.

(54:38): I think number two, I don’t know what number three is yet, but number two is where I just get real. I just have to get real with it. I’m just like look, at the end of the day, I think that we need to figure out where our power is, and stop giving it to them. We have leverage. We have a lot tremendous amount of leverage, like we haven’t even talked about kind of the ways that the black community helps move these platforms. And we just need to stop giving it to them. Yes, they have a lot of money but if they stop winning, like it’s over for them.

(55:22): And I think we decide what wins. We almost always do. In entertainment and film and social everything, the early trends are always with black and brown communities. And we decide what wins. We’re just not doing so intentionally, and we’re not doing so in a way where we reap those benefits. So instead of kind of talking to, like directly to VCs, what should they stop doing? I’m just cynical about it. I think that they’re going to do what they’re going to do. Like white people do, you know what I mean? I just don’t think they have to listen, they really don’t. And I think there’s going to be people who keep talking to them, and that’s fine. But I’m just done talking to them, I’m tired. It’s not that they don’t understand, they understand perfectly. And they’re still doing exactly what they plan on doing.

Zach (56:17): An so that’s where, and again, for good or bad, I’m still very ignorant to the VC space. I very much still want to have you back. I want to talk more about this arena, because at a certain point, and I think like this is just like where I’m at across the board for black people in general, not just VC, which is the last part you just said. Which is, I think I’m just tired of trying to convince folks of our value and humanity. I’m tired of trying to like look, we have been making the world move for the past X centuries, millennia. We also now have so much data information, you know, like you just said theater. I mean, from media to sports, to entertainment, to tech, social media platforms, that chatty house, everything. We literally make everything move. So like I think I’m with you, which is, we just have to coordinate and organize man, because we have it. We jave it. We just need to organize. And shout out to Arlan Hamilton. Shout out to you, man, and to the people who are out there like making those things happen. Because I don’t think even still, like I don’t think that Arlan Hamilton can get enough credit for the work that she’s doing.` And that it is revolutionary. It’s happening in a space that a lot of people don’t understand, but, give it another three years.

Marco (57:45): It’s happening.

Zach (57:46): It’s happening.

Marco (57:46): And our community has always known how to communicate these ideas. I see the momentum building, where we’re going to get more and more people to understand how this money moves, and how this power moves, and how to find our version of this power. Because our power is actually being kind of, this is a longer conversation and I know you’re trying to wind down. But we are being kind of unconstrained. The money doesn’t move in the same way that it used to where, the powers that be could keep it really locked up. It moves a lot more freely now. And if we organize ourselves in the way that our culture moves and the way that our lines of communication move, like we can do a lot. And they can’t stop us. And I think that’s what we’re trying to figure out, what are the channels where they can’t really stop us? If we go through the traditional channels, they know a lot about how to stop us, but there are more channels than they can really like police today. And so, we have a lot of opportunity and it’s really just about trying to organize, like you said. Organize is exactly the right word.

Zach (59:05): Yes, man, Marco we’ve got to have you back, okay.

Marco (59:09): I’m up for it. I’m up for it. I enjoyed it.

Zach (59:12): I appreciate you. Let’s talk soon. By the way, what do you want to plug? What do you have going on?

Marco (59:18): Oh, I plug the same thing all the time. You heard me talk about my wife, she is so much more impressive than I am. And I think that you and other people should really get into what she is doing. My wife has several businesses that she runs, and organizations that she started. But the one that I kind of really like to put on people’s radars is her non-profit organization. So I told you a little bit about my wife, her non-profit is called Black and Brown Founders, that’s the name of it, blackandbrownfounders.com. And so, the thing is like, what she did was take all of her lessons from starting her business, from trying to raise venture capital, what worked and what didn’t. Everything from the idea concept to the marketing, she has tried to package that, and she is giving it to people. And she brings in people from our community and tries to help them get started without trying to go and get these big checks, because you have to make moves yourself. And so I tell people to check it out if it’s something that you want, but also I would encourage people to donate. They need this capital in order to bring resources to our community. That’s what they do, it’s what she does. And so if you’re looking for a place to give, that’s going to have real impact, that’s what I would recommend.

Zach (01:00:45): All right. So check it out, blackandbrownfounders.com, I’m going to put the link in the show notes. There’s a link tree right there. You know what I’m saying. You aren’t traveling and stuff yet, put the chips down for a second, open up the app, scroll on the link. And if you are, pull off to the side of the road, I’m not trying to have you hurt yourself, but check out the Black and Brown Founders. Check out the link in the show notes, I want you all to really check that out. Beautiful website, beautiful logo and branding too, this is really nice.

Marco (01:01:12): Yes, they’re legit. My wife doesn’t play around.

Zach (01:01:15): It’s gorgeous. Oh, okay. Well, yo Marco, will talk to you soon, man.

Marco (01:01:20): Thank you so much.

Zach (01:01:57): And we’re back. Yo shout out to Marco Rogers, shout out to all of the work that he’s doing. Shout out to VCs and black VCs in general, man. Make sure you all click the link in the show notes, y’all. Learn more about Marco Rogers and also shout out to Arlan Hamilton. Yo like it’s so dope. I think it’s easy in this season to forget, man. There’s a lot of movers and shakers out there really creating serious, serious waves. And Arlan Hamilton is the person. She’s the vanguard. She is the leader of this movement, of this transformation that we’re seeing. And that you may not see yet, but that you will see and will continue to feel in the next decade. I’m confident in that. And so shout out to her and the work that she’s doing. Shout out for her being a guest on Living Corporate. Oww. But yes, look, we’ll catch y’all next time. Make sure you all give us five stars on Apple podcasts. Tell a friend about us. Check out the merch, livingcorporate.shop. Talk to you all soon. Peace.

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