Victimhood: This Email May Trigger You...
Controversial ideas on being the victor… and raising money no matter who you are.
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I wrote a piece about victimhood a few years back...
I rewrote it here for you today. Why? Because more important than any tactic for financial freedom and money, is the way you label yourself.
What follows "I AM..." well, it follows you.
So my sincerest hope today is that if you are labeling yourself a victim or worse yet, someone who thinks it is their right to do to another, I make you rethink that, right after I piss you off.
A journalist reached out to me to talk about the challenges facing POC (people of color) and women in raising capital for their startups. It was a nice, and straightforward ask. The type I am usually thrilled to get… except sadly, I am a semi-principled sadist that has to overcomplicate things.
Nice interview Request:
My response when instead I should just shut-up and say THANKS:
This email triggered me.
Let me caveat upfront by saying – I’m a VC; I love a good interview that gets me more deal flow and more LPs. And I am a POC and a woman. Yet, I just couldn’t reply with a one-word answer.
Why? Because an interview on why POC and women face innumerable challenges in fundraising isn’t helpful for us, the POC and women that is.
Here’s my rub.
Me talking about the challenges and problems in raising funds when you have a different chromosome or more melanin in your skin WITHOUT talking about the ways to overcome those or the opportunities inherent is sort of like me writing an article of all the things that annoy me.
Not very fing useful.
We are collectively hurtling towards a “who is the biggest victim world,” in which to the victim goes the spoils. Except the spoils suck.
It’s wholly unhelpful in my own personal mission of, challenging the status quo to help as many as possible achieve what most think is impossible, in business, investing, and wealth-building.
I want to create more victors not more victims.
I’m here to empower people, not disempower them. We should all want people to win because they are growing, learning, and contributing more. Not because they have been labeled lesser and thus need the good ole patriarchal hand up.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d like empowerment to start with some people who look like me; ladies, minorities in race and thought, and humans who give a damn.
The problem with the line of questioning proposed by the world at large is that by following this logic they are declaring people like me a victim.
I DO NOT give them that right to apply that label to me.
- Yes, my family came from immigrants.
- Yes, my Dad was pushed to white-only schools in Arizona where Latinos were segregated.
- Yes, we didn’t come from FU money.
- Yes, I’ve had my fair share of issues being a woman in finance.
- Yes, being a loud speaking, red lip wearing Latina in a world of blue and grey suits can have downsides.
BUT I’ve also had massive opportunities because I look a little different.
Let me posit something to you, you are told your otherness means you are less than, that you’ll have more challenges, that you are separated, different. Do you then feel like you can accomplish more?
Of course not.
Here's my pontification on the subject:
So, I say let’s flip the script. What if it is actually INCREDIBLY powerful to be a POC, a woman, or anyone who doesn’t look like the insiders of any industry.
Because cartoons like this just aren't helpful. Sorry, Adam Grant.
I am aggressive AF. Has it burned me sometimes? Sure. Largely, it's been a fire of fuel forward. So leave the cartoon for someone who needs it. We don't. Just watch as we go build the world we want.
Pitching Investors in the 21st Century
If you are in a position fortunate enough to be able to pitch Venture Capitalists your business, here’s the truth; We, by and large, don’t care about your race, creed, color, or whether you wear stilettos or loafers.
We care about your idea, if we believe in it, and your ability to execute. Is there bias? ABSOLUTELY (only 2.8% of VC money goes to women, 1% to black founders). But can you also use that as an opportunity? YES!
Have you ever been to a VC/IB/PE/Investing office?
Here’s a real-life visual of what you’ll find. Can you tell the difference between these people?
But wait Codie that’s a herd of Zebra.
Ok, my bad here’s more like it:
The formula goes like this: white dude, Patagonia or other puffy vest, middle-aged, and because they’re billionaires they’re not crazy, they’re “eccentric.” Wink.
I think they send this starter kit after you get your acceptance letter to Sequoia.
Jokes aside, in investing and startup land you can choose to see the fact that there is most certainly a predominance of a certain profile of people in the business as a challenge or as an opportunity.
Famous marketer Seth Godin wrote an entire best-selling book on the idea that standing out was the key. That book got him on every bestseller list, 43,000 reviews on Amazon and a million+ copies sold.
STAND OUT BY NOT FITTING IN.
So why can standing out as a business be a huge win, but standing out as a human not be the same?
I’d challenge you to flip the script and think about this question:
How can you take whatever unique trait you have and make it your biggest strength?
How can you look at the challenges that are real and say I think there is an opportunity here?
How I’d do it fundraising:
1. Don't Even Mention Your Minority Status.
Seriously. I promise you, they'll notice. Unless you are 1/1123875th Native American (name that politician). Instead of leaning into the idea that people should give you money because your ancestors or race is disenfranchised, why don't you believe that you are so good they should give you money because of your business. A business that has no race or creed. I sure don't need to tell people I'm a woman or minority to get their money. My ideas and experience sell themselves. Don't be afraid to stand on your own two feet. You're stronger than you think.
2. Show a world full of black and white zebras what a purple zebra wants.
One of the biggest reasons IMHO there isn’t enough diversity in VC funding is NOT that VC’s are racist, misogynists. It is that we all have a bias towards people that are like us, and so we need to diversify our funding sources. Secondly, it’s hard for anyone to imagine a use case for a product they (or their close confidants or family members) would never use. Which is why people missed out on Stitch Fix for instance. So if there are inherently a lot of white men investing in VC and someone pitches them a product for Black hair care products – they might not realize it’s a $2.5B industry. They may pass. Just like they did on Bevel (razor for Black men which sold to P&G). But guess what, THAT is your opportunity as someone different. See the purple zebra where everyone else thinks Pantene Pro-V and Gillette are totally sufficient.
- Latino’s are 18.3% of the US population, they account for 60MM Americans, and they have a purchasing power of about $1.7T.
- Blacks are 13% of the population and account for $1.3T and 50MM Americans.
- Minorities overall account for $3.9T in buying power.
- I’d be pitching the economics of tapping into that market to show investors why in my culture X is underserved and I’m the human to do the job.
3. Find your Advocate.
Fundraising is a lonely, frustrating and tiring grind. You need someone to help you through the process; an advocate for you in other investor meetings and someone who not only knows the game but believes in your ability to play it. Before you fundraise at all get that core member down. For outsiders, it’s much easier to build a relationship with one person deeply, who can introduce you to many broadly.
- Having one person who really believes in you is worth 10 quasi-engaged investors.
- Even better if they have a different background than you. Always remember people at their core want one of a few things relevance, mastery, power, or money. Play to people’s desire to feel relevant, important, and on the right side of history.
- If you can’t find this person, you are probably too early to be VC fundraising. Get your people to believe in you first and then fundraise.
Don’t let anyone label you a victim, without your permission.
I’m convinced we are all more powerful than we imagine. We just have to step into the fact that sometimes fitting in, ain’t so great. That despite the pain that being different can bring, there’s a beautiful benefit to it.
A quote I turn to every now and again is this one:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. You playing small does not serve the world.” – Marianne Williamson
I think she’s right – about all of us.
Now repeat after me, "I'm not your f*cking charity case. You should be so lucky to invest in me."
No one's victim, getting that cashflow,
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Exploring Crazy Startup Ideas from Cryptocurrency to Airbnbs, With Dan Held
Dan Held is currently the Growth Lead at Kraken. He is also a serial bitcoin entrepreneur with two exits (ZeroBlock and Blockchain.com,), and experience at 5 other Bitcoin companies. He is also a writer of a newsletter to 10k+ investors and his Twitter has over 250,000 followers.