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November 7, 2023 42 mins

Rodney Williams is Co-Founder and President at Solo Funds, one of the leading financial technology companies for underserved communities.

On this episode, Rodney speaks with AfroTech's Will Lucas about how to launch a fintech startup MVP with no venture capital, how challenging disruption can be in a highly regulated industry, and finding success when facing existential threats.

Follow Will Lucas on Instagram: @willlucas

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
I'm will Lucas and this is black Tech, Dream Money.
Ronnie Williams is a three time venture founder currently serving
as president and co founder of Solo Funds, the largest
community fintech platform for everyday Americans, providing an opportunity to
access and growth capital and establish financial independence. He's also
co founder Listener and Ultratonic Data over Sound Technology Leader,

(00:24):
and he's an aspenc Institute Henry Crown fellow. Solo Funds
recently reached a major milestone achieving a million users, So
I'm interested if he had to rank the most important
factors in achieving that milestone, between a the demand for
the solution solo Funds provides, or be his ability to
build community. What would Rodney say is the most important

(00:46):
to reaching the MILLI I think it's the right answer
is probably a combination of both. I don't think that
one outweighs the other. I think what made it so
difficult is the concept of a community as it released
to financial services is very very new. Right, That's not

(01:06):
when you think about financial services, you don't think about community,
and and so I believe that has to be a
part of the growth story, not just the demand part, Right,
I think I think the demand has always been there.
I think the community is what makes it unique and special.
You had said in another interview, the system is somewhat

(01:29):
discriminatory or selective in that it's extremely expensive to start
a financial services company. To that end, like, what are
some of the most effective ways for people who are
trying to build fintech, you know, whether in whatever vertical,
but particularly in fintech, whatever solution. I'm sorry, you know,
what are some of the best ways to create MVPs,

(01:49):
like minimum viable product when it's so tough to get
into this industry. Yeah, you know, I would I would
say that I think the way in which we did
it was, you know, was probably the cheapest, most efficient
way to do so. It is expensive, probably more expensive
than any other of the technology company outside of hardware,

(02:12):
in my opinion, because of the required amount of legal
work prior to launching compliance and then the ongoing regulation
or compliance that's necessary that to maintain whatever the idea
you have. So it's actually pretty pretty substantial upfront costs.

(02:34):
But the way in which we did it was using
the accelerators, using the the those were those were incredible,
you know, launching pads for Solo. I think Solo participated
in three prior to launching yet alone, maybe probably about
three additional after launch. So you know, those those accelerators

(02:56):
were huge for for not for trying to just leverage
resources despite the uphill battle of the of the costs
that it takes to do. So, you know, for I
love this conversation because you know, you talk about it's
really expensive to do compliance. It's heavily regulated industry, and

(03:20):
I was reading something where you said, you know, at
the end of the day, the pattern matching that vcs
do when they're looking for the next billion dollar exit,
there's not a number of people who walk in looking
like you. You You know, there's not a lot of people
who have attained that level of success and look like us.
You know. But when you put numbers on the board,
you went on to say, people start to wake up.
And so in order to get that VC attention. To

(03:42):
your point, you know, you have to put some numbers
up on the board. How do you do that if
you're not Rodney Williams. Well, I think, let's be very clear.
I think that I think everyone is capable of delivering

(04:04):
on a concept in a way that they need to
I think that some of the most the most important
things that the founder needs to do is persevere and
get it done. And to do so, you got to learn,
you know, coming from our first venture and to this venture,
myself and Travis didn't get here by knowing all the

(04:27):
answers or assuming that, you know, because I've had success
in the past, it's going to automatically, you know, lead
to success here. I think we we've attacked it from
the from from the position of not knowing anything right
and and what that means is we need to know

(04:48):
everything and and when when you know us standing here
today reaching the numbers that we have, is that we
have become the experts at what we do, and we're
the best in the world at it. You know, every
predecessor that has ever tried to do peer to peer
finance has failed or has has never reached the scale.

(05:11):
And you know, what we didn't know, we learned and
what we knew and anchored in the community in which
we serve to be quite frank we're black, we're African American,
and fortunately I'm part of a community or we're part
of a community that has been taken advantage of by
financial services since the beginning of time and a lot

(05:32):
of the we know the dos and don'ts of our community.
We know the nuances of what the product needs to enable.
We know the nuances and what's going to encourage users
to pay back. These are some of the things that
we knew. All of the things that we didn't know
is what we learned to put those numbers on the board. So,

(05:53):
and to be clear, I think you know, we don't.
I don't think we get on the stage enough to
talk about the numbers on the board. But we're doing
something that has never been done before, at a scale
that has never been done before, and and and and
there's a lot of there's a lot of what I

(06:15):
would call pain and suffering and scar tissue and getting there.
But we're excited about what's next coming to the game.
Not knowing a whole lot, you said, to your point,
but you had to learn a lot so that you
could know everything about this. I'm obviously I'm sure you
came in with some assumptions about things because I read
your story and you and Travis both come from very

(06:38):
successful corporate careers and having that you know, personal income,
that revenue, you had people around you who didn't have it,
and so in order, you were one of the people
that people went to the family, like, you know, if
I need one hundred dollars, I can go to Rodney. Well,
so obviously other people have that issue as well. But
what what are some of the things that we're surprising
to you about some of the assumption as you made

(07:00):
that may not have been turned out to be correct.
You know, I used to think that it was just
my friends and family, meaning that you know, mostly you know,
the group of Americans that you know had limited savings
and didn't really have access to short term credit, whether
it's a credit card or a painting loan. I kind

(07:21):
of you know, I originally thought that it was focused
in African American communities. I'm still somewhat shocked that. No,
it's it's it's it's something that's spread across all middle
class Americans. You know, over over over one hundred and

(07:41):
ninety million middle class Americans. Yes, it's filled with the underserved.
Communities are filled with communities that you would think of
like LGBTQ or you know, Americans with disability, for example,
but it's also filled with black ground and women Americans

(08:02):
who tend to be taken advantage of by financial services.
So said differently, financial service companies haven't necessarily built products
for the needs for their needs. So that's probably, honestly,
that one of the most incredible assumptions that that continues
to shock me. And and I give you an example
of that. Ten percent of our borrowers make over one

(08:23):
hundred thousand dollars a year. You know, this person isn't
financially illiterate. This person understands finance, this person has a
credit card. Why has the financial system been built to
whereas though they need two hundred dollars and they can't

(08:43):
get it. And that's the biggest question. The bigger question
isn't how we did it, it's why is it successful?
Why is it growing? Why is there such a demand
for this? Why isn't more people talking about it? You know,
there's a lot of regulators and government agencies and politicians

(09:04):
are always talking about reducing the wealth gap and increasing
the access to capital. You're always talking about it, but
where like, who are the people that are doing it?
And why aren't you supporting them? And those are the
questions that I now I sometimes perplexed by. But I'm

(09:24):
up for the challenge as well. You know, so historically
we've leaned on the big three credit companies Experience, Eco Fax,
TransUnion to determine a large part of our financial situation,
whether we can get loans, whether we can get a car,
whether we can get a house. So many other alternatives
to that have come into the conversation over the last

(09:45):
few years, like a social credit score and et cetera.
How do you think how does Solo Funds think about
the evolution of the credit score. Well, it's somewhat broken.
If you think about an missed of COVID and thinking
sometime in twenty twenty one credit scores, what are all
time high where no one will working? Well, you know

(10:09):
what that What we're ultimately talking about is that you know,
the way the credit score currently works is that it's
an incredible measure of historical behavior, but it doesn't necessarily
give you a snapshot on the consumer, the consumer's economic
position today. It gives a snapshot of what it was
right and and and there's waste. There's so much technology

(10:33):
available to you at our fingertips that it needs to
it needs to be way more real time, and it
needs to have a forward looking out look and and
I think that's that's that's some of the nuances in
which and how we made our solo score, which again
takes into account real time cash flow to to to assess, uh,

(10:54):
who who that borrower may be today, right and and
and then try to under saying what they can do
in a near term. So it's a very different thing,
you know what you know when when you talk to
anyone about the credit report or the credit agencies, and
there's a ton of secrecy on how it's scored. There's

(11:17):
some things that we know, but it's a ton of
different misconceptions about how it's scored. We actually just tried
to remove all of the misconceptions. You know. The way
our score works is on cash flow. When you pay

(11:38):
something back on time, your score gets better. When you don't,
your score gets worse. That simple. No, no, no magic,
saw us, no nothing that the consumer can't understand. I
wish our credit score was that simple. Meaning if I
have a bill and I paid it on time, it
should maintain or get better. But it kind of doesn't.

(11:59):
You know, it seems that get worse if I miss
a payment. I make a ton of payments, and it
doesn't necessarily reflect that successful payment history in the score
at least, and and and no form of immediacy. So
these are some of the things in which what we
leveraged to create our score. I will tell you the

(12:20):
traditional credit system is built on that, on the credit
burd and agency. So it's a necessary evil, but it
is an evil that is not widely understood and and
that's been been a challenge. There are many people who

(12:53):
might have just fell on hard times or have an
unexpected situation and need help. And SOLO find is that
assist others who might just be financially unsaddened. How the
solo funds man those behaviors on this platform to be
sure both the bowers assisted and the lender is protected.
Rodney speaks on it. Yeah, I will tell you where

(13:16):
we see much far less than we see far less
a percentages are examples of consumers bad with money. We
see much more examples of consumers operating on extremely tight budgets.

(13:39):
You think that then it's like a negative stereotype that
they've said about us, that we just can't manage money.
It's not true. It's actually really incorrect. It really bothers
me because in part they're talking about my mom. When
we talk about my mom, it's gonna be a problem.
But I'm going to try to paint a picture for you.

(14:03):
For of our bars are college educated, mostly women. They
tend to have multiple children, They're gainfully employed. They live
in cities like New York City, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta.
These are high cost of living cities, and they live
on extremely extremely tight budgets. What I mean by extremely

(14:26):
tight budgets is that they have less than eight hundred
dollars of stavings in their bank account. Despite being college educated, savvy.
To give you perspective, this consumer can take twenty dollars
and somehow figure out how to live off at that
point an entire week when they need to. They know

(14:46):
every day that the bill is coming out of their
checking account. Literally, they know when Netflix is coming out. Okay,
this is how focused they are and finances. So what
we're talking about is the cost of living is concern

(15:07):
in a wage concern that's creating very very tight constraints
on budgets. And in a time like this where inflation
is happening all all of a sudden, my gas to
fill my tank when from forty dollars to fifty dollars.
I need that. So what happens is these consumers, despite
that eight hundred dollars savings, will have a financial emergency

(15:30):
one to four times every twelve months. And it looks
very simple. My child, my child is sick. I can't
go to work for three days. That's three days of pay. Wow.
This is also when I now have a medical deductible

(15:52):
because my kid is sick, and even surgery that's five
hundred dollars. And the combination of the medical deductible and
the fact that I'm not going to work means I'm
going to be short on rent in two weeks. That's it.
Eight hundred savings is gone like that. So all of

(16:13):
a sudden, you know, you're like, you know what, I'm
gonna be late on the rent. I'm gonna make sure
my kid gets better, but I'm gonna incur late fees
on my rent and I don't have any extra cash. Really,
I'm just gonna be late. I'm just gonna make sure
I got food on the table. Let me just borrow
two hundred dollars to make sure I got food on
the table. That's not mismanagement of money, that's a lack

(16:40):
of cash. But that's a lack of salary. Given the
cost of living and ef person lives in, there's no
scenario that this person can access short term capital cheaper
or more efficiently except for going to friends or family
or if you talk to a lot of these consumers.
I mean, what I love about this consumer is that
they're they're they're wet Americas built off of right. We

(17:03):
see teachers who sell t shirts on Etsy. We see
police officers who also drive Uber, We see you know,
I mean, we see multiple streams of income, especially in
moments of type and constraint moments, they actually dig themselves out.
The problem is we're trying to make sure that whole

(17:25):
isn't as deep as it would be what a subprime
credit card or paying loan, we're solo. That whole is
not deep at all. But it is a misconception that
I hate that this group of Americans is not, you know,
financially illiterate. It is not true. It's not true. Talk

(17:46):
more about that the long term cycle of debt that
many of us, not many of us, may not be
aware of that the traditional emergency lenders put us in
because you know, you talk about yes, there there may
be some predators or a percentage race that those things,
But what is this real cycle that it gets people
into that's negatively affected our communities. The cycle isn't even

(18:10):
the APR. The APR is an illusion that's inaccurate. So
I'm gonna give you too truth about the APR, which
causes problems for for for many Americans. Number One, the
APR is as a specific fee based on the condition

(18:31):
of credit. It is a fee that they're supposed to communicate.
It's it's a it's a fee that takes the kind
of like average rate and annualizes it. But I give
you an example. When someone says, oh my god, that
payday loan costs four hundred per the consumer is not

(18:53):
technically paying four times what they borrow. It's an annualization
relation based on the short term. It's even difficult to
understand as I'm explaining it. Yeah, right, So that's that's
problem number one. Problem number two, which is more important
than problem number one, in my opinion, is that APR

(19:15):
does not include subscription fees, annual fees, late fees, origination fees,
instant cash fees. I give you an example, when you
look at like subprime credit cards or payday loans. I
only think like twenty percent of consumers actually paid them
more time, so that means what a consumer is really

(19:37):
paying should then also include the late fee, because most
consumers are paying late fees. That gets into the predatory
nature and giving an example, a subprime credit card, which
is an average of about five hundred dollars, is your
how much credit they'll give you it will happen the
highest APR that's allowed in that state, plus the an

(20:00):
annual fee. There's a late fee, a flat late fee
assessed every month that you're late for the rest of
the time. Now they have caps, but for a while
there's also instant cash fees that you also don't care.
So when we actually we actually try to we call

(20:22):
it total costs. We actually commission the research projects or
understand what are consumers really paying? Not sure math. If
a consumer takes one hundred dollars today, what are they
paying twelve months from them? That's it. It's everything plus
one hundred dollars, no offens and bucks, and the data

(20:44):
is really really upsetting. Subprime credit cards are actually more
expensive and paying the most, which are a subprime credit
card of basically one thousand dollars, the average consumer is
going to pay like nineteen hundred dollars fees on top
of the thousand, on top of it. Principle, Yeah, it was,

(21:07):
it was. Actually it's actually really bad. So, you know,
these are some of the things that aren't necessarily talking about,
but mainly because who's who's the who's the folks in
the in the room arguing about APR or talking about

(21:27):
what consumers are really paying. Number One, that they're too
far removed. I know, I know, my my, you know,
the too far removed from the plight. They've they've made
their money a long time ago, they're doing pretty well.
They're not understanding what these consumers are really paying for.
And and if they're from non underrepresentative groups, so underserved groups,

(21:52):
it's just perpetuating a lack of understanding, right, and and
and and this is one of the biggest reasons why
we're we published as Total cross Support. Now why again,
we kept trying to figure out why we're growing, you know,
like maybe you know, because you start to question yourself,
like maybe we aren't so affordable, maybe we aren't such

(22:14):
a benefit. But when we surveyed our consumers and they're like,
I was like, why didn't you why don't you? Do
you have a credit card? Yes, well, that's shocking. They
told us that they didn't have a credit right, why
don't you use your credit card? It's too expensive? And
I was so confused by that because my credit card

(22:34):
isn't that expensive, but their credit card is. And these
are just some of the things that you know. I
think that's one of the best things about being who
we are as founders and entering this space within financial
services is that we it's I think it's our duty
to be a voice of who we represent and to

(22:56):
start to bring data and facts and start to push,
you know, are our leaders to answer these questions and
and and to and to start to create some level
of reform. I'm proud to say, and I think you know,
we're about a fifth of the cost of subprime of

(23:18):
subprime credit cards, the average consumer spends about thirteen point
four percent in addition to their principle after twelve months.
And then I'm gonna tell you the only reason is
that we don't compound fees. Not the only reason, but
we don't believe we don't give you like if you're
late every month, we don't charge you late fees every month.

(23:40):
There's a one time fee that that's going to dig
a hole. And you got to understand, there's no what
we have been, what we have learned is that we
actually have significantly better repaying the rates. No, I it's
easier to get out the hole. It's really hard to
pay back one hundred dollars loan that is now two

(24:03):
hundred and fifty bucks versus one hundred dollars loan that's
now you know, one hundred and thirteen dollars. Yeah. Yeah,
it's really that simple when we think about it, right,
like you don't dig the hole too much, so it's
still in reach of a payment. But again, these are

(24:26):
just some of the nuances that we decided to do,
and I mean to be honest, we took it the
extra step. We're one of the few lenders in the
space that is a benefit corporation a certified benefit corporations
via the b Labs. B labs is a nonprofit. Think
of it like a governing body who certifies companies to

(24:48):
attain B CORP status. B CORP status is a combination
of their certification as well as like literally we submit
we actually you know, register with the government as a
benefit corporation, which what that ultimately means is that we
balance the need for profit alongside for people and we don't.

(25:13):
We don't. That's that's important. So they come in and
they look at all of our finances, They look at
how much money we make, they look at how we
play pay our employees, they look at, you know, in
terms of how we even promote within and they give scores.
But not only did they assess all those different things,
they assess our business model and they assessed that, you know,

(25:36):
how we're handling our consumers, and it came back very,
very positive. But I mean, that's the piece. I'll tell
you another piece, the average mps's net promoter score. It's
how you know you can judge consumer experience. Most financial
services companies are around forty. Bank of America is at
a twenty two. Our average net promoter score is a ninety.

(26:00):
These are these are that for the people who don't
really understand what that means, like what factors go into
creating that score. It's it's really just about it's it's
a measure of its basically a measure of the amount
of consumers that are having a happy experience. So it's
a random survey that's distributed across all of our users,

(26:20):
and it's it's just them being happy. Companies that have
really high net promoter scores are companies like Apple and Nike, Patagonia,
you know what I mean. These are something not financial
service companies. Put it that way. So we we are
extremely proud of having an MPs like that. But that's

(26:47):
the community part. Going back to your first question, it's
it's because of that why where we continue to reach
the scale that we are you you said earlier and
I've read you said, there's a few times, you know,
you're innovating and thriving where companies have failed. You guys
are the first company in this vertical, particularly black owned company,

(27:07):
to find success. Why do people fail? Why is their
line of you know, dead startups previous to you guys? Well,
I think a lot of people were making products for
middle class America and they're not middle class America. One day,

(27:31):
I'm going to start a VC firm, and our goal
is to invest in founders who are uniquely positioned to
be experts at the consumers they serve. That's it, you know,
And I think when you look at a lot of
the fintech innovation. Just look at a lot of the

(27:52):
fintech innovation, even the the what everyone talked about for
crypto is going to democratize finance for the people. You
know what I mean, we're not going to talk about
that or you know, you know, credit builders and this this,
These are all Harvard, m I T and Stanford Dies

(28:12):
building products of people that look like you and I
and they're just where where where I truly believe they
failed is you know, not understanding the consumer. And it
makes perfect sense. I think people got to understand my background.
I'm a trained brand manager from Procter and Gamble. I

(28:33):
spent five years becoming an expert at a consumer, being
relentless at shipping cases. All right, I worked on Pampers.
Wasn't a dad. But the way I got good is
becoming an expert at who we serve. And I think
sometimes in fintech's we kind of or you know, we

(28:55):
kind of get we kind of get excited about the
opportunity and you miss the point. We at Solo are
obsessed with middle class America to the point where I
live down the street from a payday long London. Trust me,
I can live a lot of places, but I want
to drive past that line every Friday. I want to.

(29:19):
I want to. It does something to me, you know
what I mean? And my co founder lives also down
the street. We're doing these things because we've learned why
our success well, we've learned or we know why some
of our success has happened, and it's definitely because of

(29:41):
how anchored we are in the consumer we serve. You
said something similar about community banks before and that they
weren't really doing what they're designed to do. You know,
so you said, I think about what the community bank
is supposed to do, and they're supposed to be lending,
allowing lending and borrowing in the community. You know, I
think about if we look at almost any deeply embedded

(30:05):
institution or industry, we can find where they failed to
live up to their promise. How did you know finance
was one you wanted to tackle and what was your insight?
You talked about being from middle of America, But there's
a lot of things you could have done. There's a
lot of places you could have lived. To your point,
there's a lot of things you could have put your
efforts and resources into. Why finance you know I wanted

(30:34):
to make an impact, and I saw I wanted to
make a financial impact. And you know, Travis and I,
we saw a lot of effort pushing capital to small businesses,
entrepreneurs of color, and we were still driving past the

(30:57):
woman who served me coffee, person who served me a drink,
and I was still getting picked up in ubers and
they needed support and help too. And for me, I
grew up in a working class family, and working class

(31:19):
family is who built me. I also know that my
working class family is so working classes no more. They're
doing pretty damn well. It's funny how people who work
really hard tend to dig themselves out of it. Right,
So I figured, you know, one of the things, really
the innovation that I would say that's really important for us,

(31:40):
and I usually glance over it. But our solo score,
our underwriting model is impressive. It's currently performing about four
times better than the industry average. That's all built in house,
all built on a few AI models. Taking we used
to call it the hustle score. It's we're trying, We're

(32:01):
really met. We really designed an underwriting score that measures
a consumer's ability to make and to figure it out
and and that in combination with what we call our
real time or payment product or real real time payment solution,

(32:25):
we h we've kind of removed all of the dumbness.
And I'm going to give you an example. I sign
up for a system I didn't have to pay you
in a month. Instead of just pre scheduling it or
make it easy to pre schedule, we let consumers miss it.

(32:51):
That's a that's there's enough technology for every bill that
we have today to be automatically connected to us, right.
But that I'm ultimately getting is that we built our
repayment product to continue to monitor out borrowers accounts. So
never have we ever overdrawn, but we're we're we become
a partner in their finances, not a predator in their finances.

(33:16):
And that's that gives a little bit to our repayment product.
It's actually the code names get Money. The one of
the final things that we did, and we were the first,
one of the first companies to do so. We built
our entire payment structure on real time rails way before
FED now better than Zel, but we built it on

(33:37):
something called Visa Direct and Master Christ saying it's their
proprietary real time debit infrastructure. We were and are still
one of the few lending companies in the world that
are built. That's why follow me on Instagram. I'm always
in Visa's office and these are some of the reason
why we're always in their office. What does that allow

(34:00):
us to do? That allows us to move money faster
and more efficiently when someone's in need and when someone
needs going to pay alone. Put yourself in that single
mom that I talked about, who knows exactly when her
Netflix built is gonna come out. So if she says, solo,

(34:22):
you need to pull this money on the fourth, if
you pull it too late, you're not gonna get it.
That's what she's also telling us. So we needed a
real that's nobody, honestly, quite frankly, no one who looks
like me really understands that that you need to pull

(34:44):
money exactly when it's available. It cannot be a delay
because all of that. You know, when things get pending
in the ach, something's gonna fall short. And that goes
both ways. So we spent a lot of extra capital
spending this real time product. And I will tell you
that's some of the I just kind of gave you
the three part secret sauce to why we exist. It

(35:08):
was a quote I read where you said, our goal
is not for borrowers to remain borrowers. I think Travis
said this, Actually, our goal is not for borrows to
remain borrows on this platform forever. So how do you
think then about retention and which metrics matter to you?
Since pretty early in the in the in the life
of the company, our bars have also lent, so they've graduated.

(35:34):
They graduated. I'm pretty happy about that rate. It's fantastic
because it goes back to the original assumption. They're not illiterate.
They just have a cash need today, right, and and
if you give them a way to get out of it,
and they're not only just going to get out of it,
they're going to thrive in six months. I mean, we

(35:57):
we have examples of One of my favorite examples, it
was in the CNBC article is an engineer at San Francisco.
He lost his job. He used US for a couple
months three hundred, four hundred, five hundred bucks. Eventually he
got a huge six figure job. He became a prolific

(36:20):
lender on the platform. Is that if that's not everyday Americans?
I don't know who that is, right, this person. I mean,
that's the life of an average American is that at
the end of the day, job security is not what
it meant twenty years ago. Like no one's at GM

(36:43):
working for twenty five years. Job security today is fleeting
for every American, especially if you're fresh out of college.
You know what I'm saying, under thirty five years old,
you haven't really got your footing and your career. You're
in and you're in and out of jobs despite being very,

(37:03):
very educated. So these are just some of the nuances
that we eventually know that you will land, and you're
going to land and do really well, and you're going
to be a thriving member of the society. And and
you know what, you for some reason have a connection
with Solo that no one can break because Solo was
there when you needed them most. No other financial institution was. Wow,

(37:27):
I want to dig into your mindset a little bit.
I've always been fascinated by the way you think. And
I learned this and doing research for this conversation, that
there was a time just a few years ago before
the surgeon users that you know, Solo Funds was almost
out of business. I mean it was expectively out of money.
You know, I want to know about your mindset in
those moments where you're facing existential threats to your business

(37:52):
and you've gone head to head with major players at
your previous companies and when those were still startups. Who
do you put yourself? I want to like how Rodney's
mind works. Who do you put yourself around? Or what
is your mindset when it feels like all the moves
in front of you have to be played precisely, incorrectly

(38:12):
in order to stay alive. Much less fine success, but
just to stay alive, like so many people don't come
back from that. And so I'm interested in how Rodney
thinks about these sorts of threats. You know, looking back
at them, I would tell you that they are very expensive.
And what I mean by that is they're expensive on

(38:34):
your social relationships. They're expensive on your romantic relationships because
it's a bit irrational, too empty, they account like, I
don't know what else to tell you. It's a bit irrational.

(38:54):
It's a bit irrational to say I'm not to you know,
to your significant other, I'm not giving you Christmas gift
this year. You're gonna have to wait or you know
we're gonna you know, we're not gonna go home for
the holidays. These are things that I've had to do

(39:18):
so and unfortunately, most of the time, most of the
network don't really understand this kind of belief that's rooted
in data. I've never made these decisions. I've never made
these decisions based off of gut. I'm a p and ger.
Don't let my wildness fool anybody. We lead on paper,

(39:45):
and I don't need as much paper as most pgs.
That's what I said. I don't give me two sentences
in a bullet point and I'm probably gonna I can
do the rest. But what I'm ultimately saying is that
you know, at some point you get to a conclusion
that the opportunity outweighs the risk and the cost, and

(40:08):
that little bit of information is something that you are
the only person in the world that knows. So you
just have to get through this moment, and if you
can get through the moment, it will pay for you.
I wish it was easier, you know. I look at
my counterparts will get to go and raise hundreds of

(40:31):
millions of dollars because they know someone at andresen or
their father is an executive at Goldman Sachs. I wish
that I had those level of security, but I don't.
So that means you swing for defenses. But I will

(40:53):
not lie to anyone listening on this call. The cost
is expensive. There's a lot of relationships I had to
sacrifice to get here. There are a lot of moments
that I had to miss to get here, and and
and if you want to be an entrepreneur and be

(41:15):
a founder, and you're not willing to do those things,
you should do something else. You know you should, because
you may you may waste someone's money, and you're definitely
gonna waste your time. M H. Black Tech Green Money

(41:45):
is a production of Blavity, Afrotech on the Black Effect
Podcast Network and I Hire Media and it's produced by
Morgan Debonne and me Well Lucas, with the additional production
support by Sarah Ergan and Rose mc lucas. Special thank
you to MICUs David Sapping. That's a Serrano. Learn more
about my guests and other tech dissent innovators at afrotech
dot com. Enjoy your black Tech three money, Share this

(42:08):
with somebody, Go get your money, Peace and love,
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