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December 26, 2023 42 mins

Ep. 146 Alphonzo "Phonz" Terrell is founder and CEO at Spill, and Kenya Parham is Global VP, Community & Partnerships at the culture-first social media app. At launch, Spill jumped to the top of the app store and still maintains a formidable position.

On this episode, Phonz and Kenya speak with AfroTech's Will Lucas about how Spill makes a lasting impression in the social media landscape, why we needed another social media platform, and how they knew how much money to raise.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
I'm with Lucas and this is black tech, green money.
Alfonso fonz Terrel is founder and CEO at Spill and
Kenya Parham's global VP, Community and Partnerships at the culture
first social media app. At launch, Spill jumped to the
top of the app Store. It still maintains the formidable position.

(00:22):
Even before Threads was announced and released, the landscape of
social media apps was heavy. Spill was founded though and
well funded by top tier vcs who believed. So I
asked Finds, what was the unique opportunity he saw when
creating Spill was just an idea? Yeah, I think the
the insight was really deeper and trying to look deeper

(00:44):
at social media holistically from the start. I've been working
in social media as marketing professional entertainment brands for years,
and when we look at the grand diasporic nature of
conversation online, it's almost always driven by us, right, the trends,

(01:05):
the culture of the new lexicon, everything like that. It
comes from black communities, queer communities, other marginalized groups. And
so we were really looking at the problem set that's
facing our community first and saying, who's building for us?
No one or you know, from a macro standpoint, nothing

(01:25):
that we've really seen that really accounts for the amount
of impact that we have at the level that it
should be, right, And so that's really the opportunity that
we saw coming into the fall of last year, when
as some may know, I was working at a company
that has recently gone through a rebrand that I will
not name, and you know, we were looking at Obviously

(01:50):
a lot of people were like, Okay, what's next after this,
and we had no interest in trying to recreate something
that we knew had some flaws in it, right, that
platform has had just way before you know, Elon and
those folks came in, and we really wanted to look
at this, you know, the whole ecosystem and really say, hey,
let's push the medium forward, and let's start by centering

(02:13):
black folks, queer folks, other marginalized groups from the beginning,
which never happens, and really allow us to sort of
set the tone, the vibe, and really solve for our
key problem sets, which really boil down to three things.
One is safety, two is credit, and third is getting
rewarded for the contributions that we make to the online culture. Right,

(02:33):
That's really the core problem sets that we set out
to solve. And that's the opportunity that we saw last
fall that we you know, that really inspired what spill is. Now. Yeah,
when you just mentioned the word, I'd like you to
go in on you say, you know you saw some
challenges inside that that that platform for, particularly for our communities.
Can you talk a little bit about you know, black

(02:53):
people have brought so much to social media. You know,
we talk over index on all social media platforms. What
challenges exist historically in social media which is fifty twenty
years old, maybe fifteen years old social media? What challenges
exist that when we bring so much value, we still
don't get recognized for that. It's institutional, It's got to

(03:14):
be institutional at this point. Well, let's be honest. It's
a reflection of how our culture has been exploited, you know,
for generations across a variety of mediums that go beyond
social right, We've seen this in music, We've seen this
in you know, TV, and of course how it's being
expressed in the tech space. This is what happens when
you don't have people who are driving the most culture

(03:35):
building the platforms at the same time. And you know,
I know Ken, you can you know, speak to this
personally as well. But let's just talk about black women, right,
black women over index as you mentioned on heavy social
media usage, not just usage heavy three plus hours per day,
no identity group is using social more. And then two
on media consumption. Nobody's watching more TV, listening to more music,

(03:59):
talking about it, creating community around it, deciding you know,
who's going to be next. Right, So those are just
facts that we can you know, center on. Yet most
businesses only are thinking about this, you know, once or
twice a year. You know, it's like, hey, February is
coming up, what are what are we gonna do? We're
gonna throw a party and then you know, forget about
it for the rest of the year. And so that's

(04:21):
been an issue not just that you know, the platform
formerly known as Twitter, but many social platforms. When you
looked at YouTube, when you looked at you know today,
it's a TikTok, right, We've seen you know, black creators
have to go and strike literally just to you know
create you know, a news cycle around how they're not
being credited properly. So this has been going on for

(04:44):
a while and it's the type of problem that only
gets solved when we as a community decide to, you know,
just roll up our sleeves and be like it's us,
you know, And if I if I learned anything, I'll
throw this this nugget out there. If I've learned anything
through this process, it's that they know this better than us.
Nobody does. We know this space better than anyone, and

(05:05):
all we need to do is just have the audacity
to get after it. And that's why I think why
we've had some success so far. I was saying, Keny,
I love you to chime in on this because he
finds talked about a couple of things that we create
culture on these things, and we get a chance to
amplify and distribute our culture on these things. If we
talk about just black culture, which I agree with people
I trips they walk like black culture rules runs all

(05:27):
global culture. We're talking about food or dance or music
or sports, like we drive that and even you know
LGBTQ culture, if you think about camp, you know fashion
in that way, we set the trends. And here's in
so many ways we're just starting to have this conversation
about how creators get recognized by these platforms. Are they

(05:49):
being either compensated or recognized. Do people steal, you know,
their dance moves and then credit them as their own,
and then the platforms amplify the people who don't look
like us when there was somebody who looked like us
that created it. Can you talk about that? Yeah, you know,
really appreciate that question. One of the things that we're
seeking to prove as well with SPILL is that cultural

(06:12):
and technical fluency can coexist, right. We believe that we
can be culturally competent and know who the source of
these trends are, acknowledge them, make sure they receive the attribution,
and also communicate to our partners who are at the
table to make sure that they're aware of who these
people are, and do so in a way that creates

(06:34):
a much healthier ecosystem for the Creator economy, which we know,
as Goldman Sachs has stated, is set to double over
the next five years. Right now, we're at about two
hundred and eighty million dollars. It's about to double, twoting
two hundred and eighty billion dollars. It's about to double
in that over the next couple of years. And so,

(06:54):
you know, we're really seeking to make sure that these
that these folks feel safe to create and bring their
best heat to Spill, and that the partners that are
here also feel really excited about knowing that they're coming
to a place that houses the source of the best
of what you know, makes culture bring brings culture forward.

(07:15):
You know, Ken you I like to stay on you
on this because there's a lot of conversation around creators
being appropriately compensated for what they bring into platforms, and
so there's a lot of formulas, a lot of math
that goes into that how does how does Spill think
about you know, hey, X person or whatever. I'm gonna
I'm not to put words in your mouth, but this

(07:35):
is how we dictate based on X number of impressions,
you know, how we work with you as the creator? Sure,
I mean, you know this is a This is an
equation that you know, folks have been trying to crack
for a long time, and we are trying to be
as innovative and intentional as possible about coming up with

(07:55):
what that looks like. The beautiful part about that is
we've got everybody at the table to be able to
have this conversation, and it's our table that we're setting.
So you know, we're looking forward to continue to have
these conversations with folks and to listen to the creators
who know just as well as everybody else, right, you know,
what these things are worth, and we want to make

(08:17):
sure that they're present to be able to communicate that
value on their own behalf. You know, so far, often
in whatever industry we see it in, people are having
conversations about creators, having conversations about tastemakers without including them
at the table to speak for themselves. One of my
favorite things about what we're doing at SPILL is the
communities that we're building. We have a call and response

(08:38):
relationship with these creators, and you know, creators are the
new athletes. I'm excited. I'm working on some stuff this week.
I'm here in the vineyard. I'm going to be talking
about the creator economy. And one of the things that
we're saying is, you know, creators are the new athletes,
and so we're bringing them to the table to be
able to have these conversations and communicate their value with
these stakeholders who are interested in accessing again the best

(09:01):
of what they bring to the social space. And we're
looking forward to being able to advance these conversations and
have some meaningful outcomes that come from these conversations around
the value of the cultural capital that is generated with
what we put in the social space. You know, fines
I was, I was. I don't remember who I was
talking to, but there was a statement somebody made that

(09:23):
made a lot of sense to me, and they said,
you know, one of the greatest things Steve Jobs did
was create the app store. But one of the worst
things about the app stores. It gave people the idea
that everything should be free, you know, and so I wonder,
you know, and obviously with a social media app you
need distribution, so free makes sense. But how did you
think about you know, we've got to get hundreds of thousands,

(09:44):
tens of thousands, millions of people into this thing, but
we still have to rethink the business model. How do
you think about these things? Yeah, and I think there's
a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of advertising,
right and having been a marketer for many years, I
can see both sides of the argument. So from a
business standpoint, let's be clear the just when we talk

(10:08):
about brands trying to reach black, queer, other marginalized audiences
in the United States alone, it's a thirty billion dollar
a year business, okay, and it's growing you know, five
to ten percent year on year. So I think that's
an incredible you know, revenue stream. Now we're not going
to ignore, but we're not exclusively looking at that either

(10:28):
because there are people who may want an ad free
experience or more importantly, you know, pro tools right speaking
to the creators specifically that Kenya was talking about, we're
actually developing a suite of tools that's going to make
it easier for creators and as a as a social
media manager by trade, right, I want this to be
less stressed. We don't want it to be yet another

(10:48):
thing you got to worry about. But it's like, oh,
it's easier to publish, I get my analytics. I can
you know, potentially have access to data that I don't
get from other platforms, you know, generate email lists and
things of that nature, so that the creators can have
a deeper relationship with their audience. And those are tools
that I think makes sense when you're talking about you know,
not a crazy fee, but like a subscription mode, because

(11:09):
we were giving you something extra, you know that you
probably can't get anywhere else. So we're looking at that,
and I think we're all so interested in other services
as well. I won't give the whole playbook away, but
one of the things that one of my favorite spills
I saw recently was somebody spilled what's your favorite dating app?
And someone quoted it saying spill. And so that might

(11:32):
give you a little a little wink in the nods
to some of the ways we think we can, you know,
just provide additional services to against our community who is
genuinely being underserved, you know. Holistically in this ring, there's
a whole host of things that we're looking at that
we think makes sense as premium products versus just you know,
ad revenue models. You know, there was an article that

(11:55):
came out about you guys. It was in a fast company,
but the subtitle is what I wanted to pick up
and it said black people obade Twitter into a forty
four a business worth forty four billion dollars. That was
the subtitle of the of the article. But you had
a spill where you actually a spill where you actually
pushed back against the narrative that it's food as for
us by us, But you said, like, look, it's by us,

(12:16):
but we're for people who champion us. I don't want
to put not to put words emouth that was a paraphrase.
Is it okay to be to amplify the food for
us but also by us? Yeah? Well yeah, let's be clear.
It's by us for sure. We're coming from the culture

(12:37):
and it is for us too, and I want to
make sure that that doesn't get confused. We are building
with black communities, queer communities in mind, like the problem
sets that are specifically a cute to us. We want
you to be able to come to a platform where
you know you don't have to code switch, you can
scroll past a bunch of amazing content without having to
worry about racist popping in your troll in your comment, right,

(13:00):
are dealing with those types of trolls. We want you
again to be credited, celebrated and rewarded, you know, for
the contributions that you make to the platform. So I
want to make that abundantly clear. Definitely is for us.
But I think the idea that you know, there's other communities,
especially marginalized groups, right, And one of my experiences at Twitter,
you know, it's very active when the Asian hate Stop.

(13:24):
Asian hate movement really started rising post COVID right where
we saw some of the most heinous actions against this
community and it was really really nasty online. And when
we think about the technology we're building, the Large Language
Model AI that is really tuned to be like a
culturally literate content moderation. But you know, it like can

(13:45):
it can understand the context of not just what's being said,
but who's saying it. You know, you're on the platform.
You know, when you join the platform, you actually many
people share their ethnic backgrounds, and that helps us build
a safer environment because we know who's saying what. We
should be able to apply that to any communities that
aren't feeling safe, the able community, other things like that.
And I think that that's a really important use case

(14:07):
for us long term that everybody should understand. But that
doesn't in any way take away from our mission as
a platform and our identity as a platform and our brand,
which is we're going to be at AFRO Tech or
we at AFRO Future, We're going to be since you know,
like this is very much us, but we can also

(14:28):
you know, I think this is a question I've asked
and we've talked about as a team a lot is okay,
when we build something we as in black folks, we
as in queer folks, the groups that have historically been marginalized,
especially in tech. Can we build it in a way
that doesn't replicate the harms of other platforms prior to us?

(14:49):
And is that something that other people can benefit from
and therefore our creators could benefit from those audiences too, right,
Like we have to think expansively. And then I say
the last thing and I can Sorry, I'm a preacher.
Preacher's sons are going and all you got to cover
off your butt. No, But I think when you think
about outside the United States, right, black folks are diasporic, right,

(15:13):
the black experience is really really very there's no one
monolithic way you know, to sort of to be black,
you know, like whether it's in South Africa or in
Brazil or you know, in Europe. And that's a varied
experience that we also really want to be home to
and welcoming to because that that's something that's needed. And

(15:35):
I think at the end of the day, what we're
talking about is really you know, bringing community back to
social in all the best ways where it's like, oh,
I get to meet people that are like dope and interesting.
And you know, Will Lucas is on here and I
had a little exchange with him, and oh, you know,
we're at the Afro Tech. I found out about the
Afro Tech Happy Hour in Atlanta, you know through specially

(15:58):
go do that. Like, we want to build a global
diasporic community, and it behooves us to be open minded
and welcoming and have big tent thinking. And we need
to trust that that's not going to, you know, disrupt
our mission at all. Trust me when I say that
our mission will never change. There are on every almost

(16:21):
every social media app a play for creators to be
on those platforms. When you think about Twitter's doing what
X is doing it now, Facebook is making plays, Instagram
subset of Facebook is making plays. Other new entrants like
you know Entrance, like fan Base are making plays for creators.
When you are introduced to creators, what is the selling

(16:42):
point you said you need to be on spill? What
is the biggest selling point you have that says Okay,
this works most of the time versus the other arguments
or cases we can present. You know, this aint no
flex here I'm just gonna call it like it is.
You know, we have been incredibly blessed. We have a

(17:03):
team that is that has roots in this work for
a long time. And so you know, as we have
you know, put ourselves out there and and you know,
been public about you know, who is on our team,
we have found you know, one that the receipts don't lie. Right.
Fons has been doing this work. The virus has been
doing this work. I've been doing this work. Are our engineers,

(17:26):
We've been doing this work. So we're grateful that Bill
is really the nexus of a lot of our lifelong
bodies of work. For one. Two, you know, we're seeking,
like Fons said, imagining a world in which we center
the needs of those who put the most heat out
in the social space but unfortunately received the most hate.

(17:49):
We're speaking directly to these communities, right, And these are
shared experiences. This is not observations from outside of the window.
We are of the communities that we are seeking to
center in this base. Two, you know, and three, we've
got global vision here, right, This is so much larger.
Black culture influences the world, right, and you know, there's

(18:10):
so much intersectionality in our experiences, and so from Jump
we have acknowledged that intersectionality. We've acknowledged the diaspord reach
of where we're trying to get to, and in having
these conversations with creators, it's like, listen, we want to
listen to y'all. You know. One of the biggest lessons
that I've enjoyed in this stage and launching Spill is

(18:32):
that our communities oftentimes do not get access to beta
tech products, right, so we don't even necessarily have that
lived experience yet of what it means to have access
to a VC funded you know, next best thing social
media platform that really has the potential to go out
here and do exactly what it says it does. And

(18:53):
so part of that has also been that engagement and
the creators that have flocked to us by the thousands,
we are so grateful for have done so organically and
have done so out of curiosity, and what has kept
them here is a very personal relationship we have have developed.
I've been developing with my creator community with this. You know,

(19:14):
we believe that we sent to these folks we can
have a world where everybody is healthier, right, And it's
essentially from a policy perspective, the same type of attempts
we see in rhetoric around around in a lot of
other spaces, sent to the people who are in the
most the most needed, who have you know, the most
harms exposed, solve for those problems and then it's a

(19:36):
healthier ecosystem for everybody. Second thing I'll say with that,
that that that folks have really been identifying is you know,
it is a purely domestic narrative, right that uh, you know,
being of marginalized communities. Right, if we look at the
global majority, black and brown folks are the global majority.
So when we're talking about connecting with folks not just

(19:57):
domestically but across you know, across the waters in other countries,
we're also seeing a lot of resonance with creators who
are in Africa, creators you know, who are doing the
dang thing out there, and they're saying, listen, we're a
global majority. You know, in twenty thirty America is going
to be much browner, and we want to be able

(20:18):
to link arms with people who understand and are ready
to throw down on that cultural capital and really put
on and so that's what we're excited to do. We're
building a coalition of creators and people who are like minded,
who really want to impact this space with us, and
we're so grateful to do so. Yeah, I'm glad you
brought up the conversation about you know, we historically don't

(20:40):
have beta access to so many of these new opportunities,
and I want to bring us something that I thought
was interesting from Android users. A lot of folks people,
a lot of folks talked about on X what was
Twitter at the time. You know, hey, how come there
is no Android app I can go? Why don't even

(21:03):
enjoy you? But why why iPhone only first? Which I
think is Okay? Listen, you say this, and I and
I love answering this question. First, you say this, you know, UH,
our choice to build UH and and developed you know
for for iPhone first came purely from you know, our

(21:24):
team's internal decisions. What was of access to us UH,
the way in which we wanted to build and fashion
this product. It has really nothing to do with exclusivity
or shade, no shade in that regard. But the truth is,
and and why I really appreciate this question, will it

(21:46):
is because you know, for every person that we welcome
on the app, you know, the same way that we build.
We started with the build for iPhone to kind of
test and see how it was going to go and
integrate and how it was going to work. Is the same.
Also reason why we have to use invite codes, right,
And a lot of people think, oh, invite codes are
for exclusivity, and you guys are trying to build the hype, like, actually,

(22:06):
y'all invite codes or to make sure that our servers
can continue to run twenty four to seven, right, every
single person who is on the platform. That costs money
and time. And I know y'all see the headlines and
we did really well in preced and we're in another
funding round right now, but we got to make sure
that the lights stay on for everybody. We got to
make sure that this app continues to go. And shout

(22:27):
out to our phenomenal engineering team because we have yet
to have a major problem with the app, as we
have welcomed hundreds of thousands of people in the past month,
so we're really we're really grateful for that. So that's
important for our communities to know. You know, this is
not about exclusivity. This is about making sure that we
are building for the future. We're here for the long haul,

(22:48):
and we, you know, want to make sure that the
tech supports that. And so finds Elon takes over. You
lose your job and you say, you know what, I'm
really about it, you know, like, this is my community.
We are this what makes this successful. I'm a part
of the mindset that you know. I'm over personally over

(23:09):
asking for seats at the table. I believe we can
build our own tables. And I understand there's an argument
to we made like we should be pressuring them to
hire I get that. It's just not. My fight is
like we need to see that we can do this
too on our own. What gave you that courage to say,
you know what, I'm not going to just go look
for another gig. I'm going to start this. I'm want
to start my idea, put my offering into the world.

(23:32):
It was us. It was experiences such as going to
Afrotech for the past several years and connecting with folks.
You know, my co founder of ours and I met
each other about four years prior to about four years ago,
same day we started at Twitter at the same day
at the same time and have been talking for years

(23:53):
about these issues. You know these challenges, and I think
many people in the Afro tech community, we all feel
the same way. At a major tech platform and you're
black and you're in the ergs and we're all looking
at each other and we're like, man, we got to
go do something. So I know that this is something
that is in particularly original in terms of a feeling.

(24:13):
But I'll tell you two truths that happened to me
the night that the layoffs happened. First was I got
incredibly clear. I was incredibly focused. It was just something
that I can't really explain, but I was just determined.
You know, I knew it in my heart. It was
just like, there's no going back. We're going to do this.

(24:34):
If I got to, you know, liquidate the four oh
one k or do whatever it takes, We're going to
do this. And that level of conviction, I think, you know,
really set the tone for everything that's happened since. But
as I mentioned before, the conviction came from two experiences
sort of feelings at that time, which was one, nobody
knows this better than us, and two, you just have

(24:57):
to have the audacity, the guts, that's literal. Really the
difference between us and most of those folks that we
look up to. It's just being like, grab your jones
and get out there and do it. And it's amazing
to see what has happened in the time since then.
I mean, it's it's crazy to have this conversation that
in less than a year we've gone from there. I've

(25:18):
gone from fire to funded to the number one social
app in the App Store in less than eight months.
It's amazing, you know, And I got to ask you
this also finds like, you know, the timing of notable
social media apps has them dropping, has you know, created
an even more challenging task to build a social media

(25:39):
It's going to be challenging regardless, but that just makes
it even harder when very well funded and you know,
previously successful entrance get into the space. What do you
lean into when you own the road to building something
and a powerful rival sets their sites on that same territory. Well,

(26:03):
it's a couple of things. First, this has been happening
since the beginning of this journey, right, there's been all
kinds of you know, innovation, and I actually think it's fantastic.
I think we haven't really seen a true innovation and
social in about a decade. You know, we've had a
couple of you know, new kind of you know, gimmicky
things here or there, but there's you know, like a

(26:25):
truly a new wave of how do you think about
social and community and you know, business models and all
of that we haven't seen really since since the last
you know, year or so, and so I think that's
really exciting. And I don't look at that at all
as a negative. I think it creates a lot of
conversation and actually gets you know, opens a lot of
doors for a lot of people to be like, hey,

(26:46):
did you hear about this? So you're talking about that? Okay,
you know, let's talk about this and maybe check it out.
And at the same time, it is so obviously clear
and again, you know, you're on the platform, and as
Kenya mentioned to everyone, and we can't wait to welcome
many more folks onto it in the coming months as
we move through our beta process. But you'll see the

(27:08):
minute you get on Spill it's different. I mean it's
as different as walking around Times Square versus Brooklyn, you know,
like you can just feel a difference automatically. It's different conversations,
different content, the way the platform is designed, it's colorful,
there's motion, Our brand is you know, the language to lexicon.

(27:32):
The name Spill obviously comes from the black Wood community, right, like,
this is different. We haven't really seen something like this
at this level, I think in a while. So I'm
really animated and grounded in our purpose and our mission
and know that the problems that we're looking to solve
are fundamentally different than I think any other players in

(27:53):
the space. Put me to tackle them, and the differentiators
are proven, that thesis has proven in you know, the
the fact that we get from our community in real
time right data is testing. So people are telling us
how they're feeling every single time we open up the
app on a daily basis, And what warms my heart
so much as we see people saying, hey, I just
told my therapist about Spill, right, I'm feeling better about

(28:17):
being on social media. I didn't even notice y'all, But
y'all have my phone battery dying on a daily basis.
I have to carry around a portable charger around my house.
But it's because people are finding not just finding community,
but creating brand new communities around shared experiences amongst themselves

(28:40):
and so much about the product design lends itself to
feeling like a healthier, happier, more vibrant ecosystem that they
want to be a part of and continue to develop.
You know, we've got the who's who of culture on
the platform, you know, celebs and music legends, and you're
getting to see conversations between people that you may now
they've even knew knew each other, and perhaps they didn't

(29:02):
know each other before spill talking about what's more influential,
you know, album covers or album titles, right, you know,
And we're also seeing folks who have a love for
UX and UI design who perhaps have never had the
opportunity to work in a field like that, give their
two cents and three cents about you know what they
think about this as well, and again receive a call

(29:23):
and response from our team too about thank you so
much for that idea and we appreciate that. And then
the next build they get to see their uplate update,
their their idea updated and implemented, and so it is
just it's just such an awesome experience. Nothing like it
exists on social media, and we know that those differentiating
factors are what keep people coming back. But also what's

(29:46):
going to have us continue to receive more success like
this in the future. And so this one is more
of a startup building question and fundraising question when you
go to build a startup how because I asked Marlon
Nichols this question on the episode that's not a drop yet,
but by the time this comes out, that will have dropped.
And I asked him, how do you know as a

(30:06):
founder how much to raise? And since you're in such
a tumultuous vertical social media how much of the thinking
of we need a war chest, not just engineers, not
just you know, talent and et cetera, but we also
need a war chest. How much of that goes into
the calculation on this is the number we're gonna raise. Yeah,

(30:29):
I can. I can chime in here. I think, first
of all, shout out to Marlin, I'm one of our
lead funders in Spill, and shout out to the entire
Magneture Capital team and Charles King and everyone over there.
We really had a I had a learning curve in
this cycle as well, because this is my first venture
back startup, and I was lucky enough to have a

(30:49):
co founder like Thevirs, who has been through these cycles
a couple of times, and when we look at the fundraising,
you know, you're you're definitely going in there like, Okay,
what do I need right now? And I'm gonna get
to this. It always takes longer, and it always costs
way more than you think it's going to take. And
sometimes that's really hard, especially for black founders, where I
think we raise two percent of overall venture capital in

(31:14):
this country goes to black founders, and then for black
women's even a fraction of that. So it's often hard
for us to say, hey, yeah, we want to raise
more as if we, you know, can dictate the terms,
the business has to justify it, of course, but I
think ultimately when you have and this is a great
message to the VC community and especially for all founders

(31:36):
out there, you have to think, not just to your
point what do I need now, but let's plan for
success and really challenge venture capital to invest in black founders,
especially with the vision of success right this is you know,
we need a couple of cycles maybe, and sometimes we

(31:56):
don't always get that as black founders, and even you know,
black funds are black lead funds sometimes have the same
sort of you know, challenges and restrictions, and so it
is a mind shift for us to really go in
there not thinking Okay, I can I can get to
this bar just just eke it out, you know, But no, actually,
let's plan for success. Our vision is to create the

(32:17):
first multi billion dollar valued social platform that's been black
owned and black operated that we've ever seen before. What
does that actually take? How do we work backwards from
that vision and ensure that we have everything we need
to give us the greatest chance to get there. And
credit to Marlon and our backers who have been really
really fantastic and being like, you're going to need more

(32:41):
and it's going to take more time. So plan for that. Yeah.
So when you go to investors who are very smart,
very reputable on the leaders in their category, mac Freinsure Capital,
KP or Capital, you know, roughly a year and a half,
two years ago, like, what is it that you sell
them one? Because the idea is one thing. What is

(33:01):
it that you sell them on that says, you know,
I'm going to write them in check? What do you
think you bring to that meaning that gets you that
level of confidence? As ken you mentioned, not to not
to be that, but we can inflect a little bit.
There's nobody better in the social media marketing space in

(33:22):
the world than me and the teams that I've been
able to lead over the past i'd say five years.
And that's not just my opinion. I won best Overall
Social for my team at HBO and then two years
later or Twitter, we do this and we do this well.
So understanding and owning our space, right, it's really the
founding team, right, Like, we know what we're doing. Between

(33:45):
Devirus and EI, there's nothing that we haven't seen in
the social space from a bill side or from a
community and content side. So that's number one, and I
think that that's what resonated. I think number two, we
are tackling a really challenge problem that's really pervasive and
really really easy to understand. Hate online has been a

(34:07):
problem for a long time, right, hate towards black communities
and especially you know, creators not going to commentate all
of that. It's been a problem for a long time.
A lot of people have, you know, taken attempts to
solve this problem, and so I think that's meaningful too.
Sometimes it's a little scary to be like, we're going
to tackle this monster, you know, but that actually gets

(34:28):
you know, funds excited because it's like, if they can
solve this, that's your mode, right, Like they've come through
and you know, as we're cracking our large language model
technology and we were focused on this before chat, GBT,
blew up and everything else. This is something that really
is a game changer. It's you know, no bs and

(34:49):
so that was the second thing that I think got
people excited, and then I'd say, yeah, the third thing
is just passion, right, Like this wasn't a side project,
This wasn't something that I was, you know, oh, let's
see what happens. It's like, no, I'm betting my life
on it. And people can feel that and whatever comes,
I'm going to be in this and the team you know,

(35:10):
Kenya and Varus and shout out to everybody on Team
Spill who's been grinding literally seven days a week for
the past eight months, like no breaks. Not that we're
trying to build that as the company and culture, but
it's just from passion, right, I think that goes a
long way. People can feel that in the run. You know, Kenya,
there is historically even with newspapers, you know, there's this

(35:32):
quote that if it bleeds it leads. And there's a
reason why hate is pervasive on historical you know apps
we've been using for a long time. And I wonder,
because if hate didn't make you know, the register ring,
people would stop it from happening. But it works. That's
why you have trending topics because people want to know

(35:53):
who just got shot, you know, people want to know
who just slapped somebody at the oscar like people want
to know those kinds of things. And so I wonder
what is your take on is does things that amplify positivity?
Do those things work when we we can be our
own worst enemy as communities. You know, well, I'm going

(36:15):
to share something with you that I haven't I haven't
shared with anybody else yet. This is this is this
is this is specific that we related to this one
of the we are. We are super clear that hate
has existed well long before us, and unfortunately, you know,
it will probably exist long after us. But what we

(36:35):
are doing with our build is making sure that hate
doesn't live on spill right for an extended amount of time.
And so you know, we're adding protections here. We're not
silly enough to think that, uh, you know, we can
prevent people from acting out and doing the things, especially

(36:57):
since there's a lot of courage that happens when you're
behind screen and people behave in ways differently than they
would in everyday life. Right. But with the bravery, with
the courage, with the very clarity that we have with
our community guidelines and our terms of service, we are
making it extra clear with what we stand for and

(37:19):
what we don't. Our moderation teams are very active. We've
got you know, human lines of defense, We've got you know,
culturally competent AI lines of defense, and so you know,
we're seeing that because of all of that, an amazing
thing that's happening is the community is starting to speak
up for itself and be very clear about what they

(37:40):
want and what they don't want. Right and it's not
even on some just hate stuff. It's like, come correct,
you know, you'll see spills in the Spill of verse.
This is the house that my friends may take your
shoes off, right, Like, that is the sentiment that is
the energy when you come on to Spill. You know,
we want brands to feel excited to come into the space,

(38:03):
and we have honest conversations with our partners, just like
a cookout. Don't come to the cookout before the food's ready,
right and ask for a plate. You better bring something,
you better offer something, right. And so there is this
amazing culture that is brewing and developing on Spill where
the community is starting to be clear about what it

(38:23):
is that they want and what they don't and in
funny ways, that old behavior, that hateful behavior, is being
branded as what was permitted on some of those other apps.
And so you'll literally also see as you scroll through
the timeline, like don't bring none of that stuff over here.
This is new fresh air over here. We got a
new age back in the still verse, right, like we
want some new air. So, you know, I'm really grateful,

(38:45):
I'm really really grateful to see that happenings. Again. That
is just proof of the thesis that is the community
taking you know, the principles and the policies that we
are putting in place, and they're adopting it as their
own and they're saying, yes, we like this and we
want this, and we're gonna take it even a step further,
which is what should happen, right hack this you know,
with us, you know, this is what we think and

(39:05):
we intent and and you know, tell us how it
works and how it doesn't and the things that work
run with it, and we're gonna build with y'all. And
and they've said that they want spill to be a
positive place full of beautiful affirmation. You know, you can
click on you know, certain hashtags like art spill and
go on a virtual date with your spill bay and
all kinds of fun things that happen, right, And that's

(39:27):
the type of positivity that we're find finds. I want
to leave this last one with you, and I want
you to talk about because we mentioned the courage it
takes to build your own table, and there's a lot
of us who are out here who were in the
position or are in the position that you are in
where you believe in something so passionately, this one being community,

(39:50):
not just a technology, but a community that deserves a
platform that recognizes its its importance and its value to
the world. And so when you see found who are
who you were two years ago? Well, knowing what you
know now, what would you say to the fines two
years ago? Great question? A couple of things. I would say, First,

(40:16):
you are more right than you even know. You are
more right than you even know, and if you're feeling
it in your gut, trust that there is many many
other people who are probably feeling the same way. So
that's number one. I'd say number two, there's a wave happening.
There's a wave of black entrepreneurship that is exciting and beautiful.

(40:39):
And I know we're in the fiftieth anniversary of hip
hop mode right now, so it actually reminds me of
you know, hip hop labels in the eighties and nineties.
You know what Russell and Puff and Jay and Dame
and all those folks did, where it was like, let's
go from being you know, not just the performers right,
not just the products ourselves, but we actually make it right,

(41:00):
we actually platform it. And that this wave is happening.
I've met so many other incredible you know founders during
this journey already and want to work with everyone and
shout out again to the afrotech community because you guys
have really built you know, an amazing platform for black
folks in tec to come together and that that wave

(41:23):
is happening and this is just the latest, the next
big you know shift in in that. So I would
say you're you're not alone because there's a whole bunch
of other folks coming along this journey too, and we
got to talk to each other, We got to share information,
we got to you know, connect, and you know, put
each other on game and put each other on real
spill so that we can all benefit from this journey,

(41:46):
because that's how we win, We win collectively. And so
I would say those are the two big things. One
trust your gut. You are more right than you know.
And number two, there's a wave happening, and jump on,
let's go. If you're thinking about it, go do it.
Come holler at us, poporn the spill. We're gonna help
it apply you even elevent you. Black Tech Green Money

(42:21):
is a production of Blavity Afro Tech on the Black
Effect podcast network in night Heart Media, and it's produced
by Morgan Debonne and me Well Lucas, with additional production
support by Sarah Ergan and Rose McLucas. Special thank you
to Michael Davis, Vanessa Serrano or Maya Moldrew. Learn more
about my guests and other tech distructors an innovators at
afrotech dot com enjoying Black Tech Green Money. Shi it

(42:45):
is somebody, go get your money. Peace and love
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