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October 10, 2023 30 mins

Ollen Douglass is the Managing Partner of Motley Fool Ventures. The $250 million company is one of the largest Black-run venture capital firms in the world.

Wemimo Abbey is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Esusu, the leading financial technology company helping individuals save money and build credit.

This conversation presents a fireside chat from AfroTech Executive Brooklyn 2023.

Follow Will Lucas on Instagram at @willlucas

Learn more at AfroTech.com https://instagram.com/afro.tech

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Afro Tech is a global gathering where inclusive tech companies
meet innovators. It's the only tech event you need all year.
Get ready for afro Tech twenty twenty three in Austin, Texas,
November first through the fifth. We built a whole temper
you can use to help you get your employer to
sponsor your trip and enjoy experiences built for every stage
your career. Whether you're a college student looking for your
next internship, or if you work in avention capital looking

(00:21):
for your next business to invest in, and if you're
looking for a co founder, a people that's on your team,
there's no better place to be. The massive corporate layoffs
of twenty twenty two and twenty twenty three have affected
our community in a big way. An Afrotech wants to
help you get back on your feet with skill development,
making it easier to switch industries. If that's your route.
In an afro tech, you'll make connections to help you
get your next opportunity. Visit afrotech dot com slash conference

(00:43):
to learn more. This next conversation is a fireside the
importance of investing in innovative fintech financial technology through investments
in fintech, financial institutions and startups alike and harness technology
to democratize access to financial services, reduced disparities, and promote
wealth accumulation. Owen Douglas, who has been on this stage before,

(01:07):
and win Memo Abbey will discuss the role of fintech
in creating new avenues for wealth building and financial inclusion,
highlighting how innovation can be a driving force behind sustainable
financial growth. So when Memo Abbey is co founder of
Asusuit as well as a three times social entrepreneur name

(01:29):
to the Forbes thirty Under thirty list is not an
easy list to get on, so he's the truth. Olin Douglas,
CEO of Hanover Street Advisors is Prior to starting the
consulting business, he was the founding and managing partner of
Motley Fool Ventures, founded in twenty eighteen. He led the
growth of the venture capital firm from zero zero dollars

(01:50):
to two hundred and fifty million in five years. Please
welcome to the stage. I moderated Olin Douglas and panelists
with Mimo Abbey. That's you know what change I missed that,

(02:14):
But hello everyone, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank
you for afro Tech Investing. I'm an afro tech executive
for inviting us and mimo. Welcome and welcome. How about you?
How's everyone doing? Come on, man, this is church man.
We got all black people off. How's everyone doing? Much better?

(02:35):
Much better? Very good? Very good. Well, let's dive in.
Just in the spirit of full disclosure. I've known this
gentleman for about five or six years now, so we
are more likely to not Man, We're gonna go off
script a little bit, I'm sure, but let's start off
for the audience. Can you tell us a little about
what does Suzu do in What was the motivation for starting? Yeah,

(03:00):
thanks a lot. It Sushu really stems from my personal
experience and my co founder sameir For me particularly, I
grew up on the slums of Legos, Nigeria. I lost
my dad at the age of two, and I was
raised by my mom and two very spirited sisters. And
one thing my mother fundamentally believed in was just importance

(03:21):
of education. My mom used to work at the National
Post Office in Nigeria for twenty one years and I
spent over sixty percent of our salary to afford my
education back on in Nigeria. So that education is what
led me to the United States. I immigrated from eighty
degree weather in any Nigerians in the room, we're always

(03:44):
everywhere there we go. I only say in Nigerians were
like the Chinese of Africa or where everywhere. So immigrated
from eighty degree weather in Legos to negative twenty two
degrees in Minnesota. It was real, man, my people living
in a reason I don't get it. But during that
transition something happened. My mom and I did not have

(04:06):
a credit score. We walked into one of the biggest
financial institutions to borrow money and were turned away and
had to go borrow money from a predatory lend at
over four hundred percent interest rate. In addition to that,
my mother sold my dad's wedding rink. We brought money
from church members, and that's how we got started in America.
So really inspired by that experience, having had distinct in

(04:28):
wall streets and big consults and firms across the country,
my co founder and I started a SUSU on three
core premises. No matter where you come from, the color
of your skin and particularly your financial identities shouldn't determine
where you end up in the wealthiest nation the world
is ever sin and what we do at is susy simple.

(04:49):
Did you know that renters send roughly one point four
trillion dollars to their landlords every year and less than
ten percent of that data it's factored into their credit score.
And who are the people that are rent It's predominantly
people of color. So we created the technology to capture

(05:10):
rental data, transform it and report it into the consumer
rights and agencies. So when you pay your rent, it
shows up on your credit score, and one day, when
you want to go get a home or a order loan,
you can do that with a good credit score and
being excluded. And then when people can afford to parents,
we give them zero interest loans so they are not

(05:31):
evicted because as a society we shouldn't mis solving eviction backwards.
So today ISSUSU is in roughly five million rental units
or fifty state. We see over one hundred billion dollars
in rental volume. And because of this man and a
lot of the things he has done since day zero,
it SUSU is valued add a billion dollars and we've

(05:52):
raised over one hundred and forty five million. Yes, a
powerful story. Every time I hear it's amazing. So like
you and I both come from humble beginnings. You're from
Lego Stagierias, from the inner city Baltimore, Maryland. When you

(06:12):
think about financial inclusion, like you know, I know what
you know the general means, but how do you internalize
that and how do you keep that spirit of financial
clusion going through the business? Absolutely, Atisusu. We did something
that was unapologetic. We came out and said we're going
to start a start up with a vision which is

(06:34):
to leverage data to breach the racial world gap. And
when people yeah that, ayre like is this a nonprofit? Like, no,
we're adventure backed company. But one of the things that's
important to me is this matter of proximity. When you
think about it, the average white family as ten times

(06:54):
as much wealth than the average black family in the
United States. Number two, there are over forty five million
people that do not have a credit score in this country.
The average debt in America is ninety one thousand dollars.
If you do that math, forty five million times ninety
one thousand, you can unlock over six trillion dollars in

(07:17):
capital that in and of itself is not only good
for the US economy, right, it's good for even businesses
that could let folks participate more in the American financial system.
And that's been a thesis or in when we started,
and you believed in us since day zero, it's always

(07:39):
been about that thesis of we need to make sure
not be rhetoric, you know, math and lit. The King
got a dream, but I have a plan, and the
plan is very very simple. How can we unlock quality
financial products for our people? The cheaper in America? The

(08:01):
easiest thing to get, what this nation is built on
is cheap debt. Go back to the institution of slavery,
go back to what happened during you know, the New Deal.
Think about FHA loans for families to essentially get a
leg up. And that's what we're trying to do. And
I'm proud to say through our walk establishing and building

(08:24):
credit scores for people and we measure what they've gone
on to do. Eventually we've unlocked over that ten billion
dollars in capital for folks that didn't have it. That's
something we're really proud of. Very good, thank you. So
we're in a room of executives here in this acro
tech executive. Part of the wealth creation certainly is creating

(08:47):
wealth for the founders and other folks in the world.
Tell us a little bit about well, tell us the
parts about the fundraising journey that you want that you
want to talk about. Give us a little bit of
a Can we keep it real? Are we on a record? Yeah, okay,
we're not gonna do it like we're not gonna throw
the kitchen think, yeah, okay, we'll keep it pig. Raising

(09:12):
money was hard. When we started a SUSU, three hundred
and twenty six investors said no to us. And one
of the tough first period of this journey was my
co founder and I just closed that first contract, you know,

(09:33):
at my alma mater in Minnesota. They're like, yo, we're
just gonna give him a chance. This idea and we
had put all that money into a SUSU because we
couldn't raise money and we were one hundred thousand dollars
in credit card debt. We had a great idea. The
idea was how about and we couldn't afford an hotel
room we had to stay overnight. We're like, how about

(09:55):
we go to Denny's get the Grand Slam walk all
nights because we just you know, and then take the
next flight eilding the morning to go raise money in
San Francisco. Great idea, so we we decided to do that.
But unfortunately, because when I perpetual motion machines, we started
falling asleep in that Dennis And unfortunately the restaurant manager

(10:22):
came and to guys, you know, got to kick you
guys out because I'm going to get fired. He knew
what we were trying to do. And that was one
of the darkest periods of this journey because I had
walked that big financial institutions had run deals and with
multi billion dollars from inception through execution, But why was

(10:48):
folks not just going to bet on us? We got
to break eventually, We got to break because of people
like all In. I met all In, you know, at
a conference for leadership developments, and we had this idea
and Olin was like, wait, you got to really focus
on certain things, and you have to think about this
idea and if you do abc things, I would invest

(11:13):
in the company. And you know, we're like, great, We
took his word for it, held him accountable, held us accountable.
And when the time was right. Olin came in invested
in US when it was on sex its invest in
a company like US. Ellie On led US Series D
around the finance and at ten million dollars we raised

(11:37):
ten point six million dollars, give us a very good
valuation when people were trying to, like undercord Us put
founders first. You know, there's a lot of folks when
you raise money, there's a lot of interesting things that happened.
Fought for us on apologetically, and then six months later,

(11:58):
you know, we became a billion dollar company and raised
one hundred and forty five million dollars and are just
really really grateful, And it's more exciting because it's someone
like him that invested in US and believed in US.
And when we started off, it's not only Olin, it's
people like Sean Mandy are concrete rows seventy five percent

(12:23):
of our cap table. So the folks that invested in
the company are either women or people of color. And
when we met them, they probably had combined one hundred
and twenty million dollars on their management. And today the
companies they've been able to invest in now they've been
able to raise over billion dollars and that's the true
impact of what we're trying to do, and it takes

(12:44):
investment because of people like you that make it up
and so thank you so much. They're great. That's very nice.
So in the Spirit's convers I'm gonna tell the other
side of that story. Olin is also a board members.
Afro Tech is a global gathering where inclusive tech companies
meet innovators. It's the only tech event you need all year.

(13:07):
Get ready for afro Tech twenty twenty three in Austin, Texas,
November first through the fifth. We built a whole temper
you can use to help you get your employer to
sponsor your trip and enjoy experiences built for every stage
your career. Whether you're a college student looking for your
next internship, or if you work in avention capital looking
for your next business to invest in, and if you're
looking for a co founder of people that's on your team,
there's no better place to be. The massive corporate layoffs

(13:29):
of twenty twenty two and twenty twenty three have affected
our community in a big way. An afro Tech wants
to help you get back on your feet with skill development,
making it easier to switch industries. If that's your route
in an afro tech You'll make connections to help you
get your next opportunity. Visit afrotech dot com slash conference
to learn more. So nice. So we met at the conference.

(13:50):
He was in an accelerator program. The person say, hey,
I had this entrepreneur. I really would love you to
be an executive ventor for him to do it. I
don't know sure, right, So I meet this guy and
like everyone loved him right away he told me his idea.
I was like, dude, man, that's jankie. I'm not doing
that right. So and he was like what And I

(14:13):
was like, yes, we talked, but he was he was
actually ahead of it. And he was like, yeah, I know,
we have another idea. It's like this, and he pitched
it again. So all those three hundred and twenty six
investors and said, no, I was two of those, right.
He came the second time the idea. I was like,
I still love it. I said, no, you're not. You're
not ready for the stage where I am. But what

(14:34):
I am going to commit to do is help you, right.
And so I can't give you my money yet because
it's not my money, it's somebody else's money, and it's
for ducer responsibilities, but I can show you the path
to get there, and I think that's something a lot
of bass don't do today. And so, to his credit,
as you might imagine, laid out the roadmap, say do

(14:55):
these things, and I'm there. They were ridiculous, impossible. He
did him. And then I didn't got to him and
I was like, oh the God did it? You know?
So I think I'm in right. There's a saying if
you anger around the barber shops soon or later, you're
going to get to air quarts. Yes. And then and
then the part he doesn't tell is so I did

(15:16):
lead day round. We have a really great relationship. But
when it came time to do the big round, there
were a lot of people that wanted to get it,
a lot of people that wanted want it in. He
actually took a haircut on his valuation so that people
like me and some others could have an opportunity to
continue to invest in his fund. Like that's the part

(15:39):
that doesn't come out. That's part of the means. And
he and his co founder didn't hesitate, you know, negotiations
to get there, to get tight and he was like,
look if it means a little bit less for me.
I'm going to do that. So we appreciate you for that.
I've told him I'm with him until the end, no
matter what that end is. We just we just you know,

(16:01):
we just life good. So I know I got the
hand signals. So we're gonna kind of wrap this up
and leave a little bit of time for Q and A.
But so I would leave it to you if you
reflect on this conversation even changes, maybe it's this other one,
like it's hard work what you're doing. I mean, it's
really really tough, and as you think about what you

(16:22):
can share with founders, like what's the anchor that keeps
you steady, Like what keeps you going when everything inside
of you saying like this is just too much. This
journey is very lonely. I think everyone sees you know,

(16:42):
you're raising one forty five, you're value added billion. I
think the billion does the muggage and doing well is
the premium that proves the billion does. What keeps me
up at night is really the fight when it's this
Entry was built on the back of black people and

(17:05):
a bunch of folks that have imaginalized and I'm sick
and tired of all the talk. I just want to
roll up my sleeves and do the walk. She's there.
I think given the things that people have gone through,

(17:26):
were indestructible, won't breakable. And you know, I just want
to see a ward whereby my children can grow up
in this country or anywhere in the world and just
say I am enough. And you know, like what this

(17:48):
reminds me of something really messed up, not messed up,
this kind of comical happened when we raised that around.
I called my mom. She just sacrificed everything. You know,
when I told her I was leaving Corporate America. I
used to pay my mother's rent, by the way. She's like,
oh my god, I thought we made it. And I'm like, oh,
I'm going to go co found Distant called Susan. She's like,

(18:10):
oh man, this is rough. So I'm like, hey, mom,
you know, we just raised one hundred and forty five million,
and you know the company's valued at a billion. You
know what my mother said, I was like, ah, I'm
so proud of you, but I was the wedding planning going.
She just doesn't get it. But what that matters is
it's proximity, right, my mother cannot necessarily comprehend what that means,

(18:34):
the economics of what that means, and how I could
fundamentally change our lives. And there are many of us
that have imaginalized by the system. And what I want
to do and wake up like gets me out of bed.
This journey is hard, you know, I went to bed
at three thirty am this morning. It's not sexy. There's
a bunch of issues you have to deal with on

(18:56):
this journey. Knowing what I know now, would I do
it again? You know, maybe yes, but I won't recommend
it for everyone. That's just the truth. There's a lot
of things that you carry. If I do well at
a SUSU, there's a good chance my marriage is suffering.
So there's a lot of things you have to juggle.
And I'm not here to give people bullshit. I'm just

(19:17):
here to tell people the truth. So for me, it's
just the walk, man. I just I wake up to
every time. I know I want to walk tirelessly to
bridge the ratio walth gap. And one day, when my
least expires in this construct called life, when I am transitioning,

(19:39):
I want to know no regrets. I did everything to
narrow that gap, and that's what gets me up every day.
I can't. I think that's a great comment to stop on.
I don't know if we have a time for a
couple of qunit questions. I'm for too, maybe three questions

(20:04):
depending on how fast they are, So listen, let's chop
these uf NO six part questions. Hi. My name is
Dan Green. I'm one with from Midley, and my question
for you is, I've noticed an uptick in certain social
media areas encouraging specifically young black men and women to
forego school because of the debt and inequalities that I

(20:24):
can accumulate. And that influence also is saying that it's
better to work with your hands rather than trying to
go to school. And I'm curious because personally, for me,
I'm kind of torn on that. I understand that it's
very difficult to go to school and accumulate that debt
and it's not very easy to get that access. But
on the other side, you know, we worked with our
hands already, and so I'm kind of torn, and I'm

(20:46):
curious with your experience, what would you say to that influence,
especially to very young and impressionable minds of that age,
we spend a lot of time on social media hearing
these things and what that would mean for the future.
And just to make sure I got your question, you're saying,
what's the importance of education? School now towards the influence

(21:09):
towards young black men and women are saying school isn't
worth it. It's better to work with your hands in
this day and age. Look for me, I can speak
for myself, and education changed my life. You know, when
I was growing up in the slums and I was
going to school with the minister skids or like the

(21:31):
former president's kid, and when I was the best econstudent
literally in the entire university, it gave me a sense
of worth that I'm like, Wow, you know, might be
living in a place where we don't have functioning toilets,
or we don't have constant electricity, but there's something I
could do very well. And then when I came to
the United States, right like when I found out that

(21:53):
you guys pay people to essentially teach other people at
the Academic Assistance Center, I'm like, man, people who paid
me to be smart? That's like game changing. And then
the network I got when I went to graduate school
just down the street at NYU opened up my mind
and that's where I even met my co founder, like
over ten years ago. Right, So, I think what education does,

(22:18):
in my opinion, it expands your intellectual frame of reference. Right,
you see things from different walks of life. But that's
not the only way, right, you can folks have all
the alternative. But for me, it fundamentally transformed my life
and the experience as you gain in those institutions, my

(22:38):
life changing. Yeah. One thing I would add to that
is what you said in the way you almost answered it.
Let's separate school from education. Everybody needs to educate their minds.
They need to open themselves up to possibility. They need
to learn and they need to grow. And anybody who's
not doing that is going to be replaced by machine
before they know it. You have to go to college,

(23:02):
Do you have to go to IVY League? Do you
have to go somewhere else to get those that educational mindset.
I don't think that's necessary. And more and more you
see that where particularly in technical field, where they just
want to see that you can do the work. And
so for those folks out there, separate school versus that school,
trade school, versus technical school, you know, or academic versus education.

(23:26):
We cannot let go of the idea that we need
to educate ourselves how we do that. My name is Masa.
I'm from Minneapolis, Minnesota. First, I want to really thank
you both for a very inspiring first side chat and

(23:47):
to you with me more, I want to really thank
you for being very authentic. Your story come across very
uniquely and it's very inspiring to people in our community.
You too, You both have had a very interesting change
about entrepreneurs preparedness, especially when approaching a VC. So to you, Allen,

(24:07):
I would really appreciate if you can share with us
because myself I'm a founder working on an AI start
up and also looking towards taking the journey of fundraising
and things like that. I would like to learn from
you as a VC what you look for in aspiring
founders before getting that interest in funding them. What kind

(24:29):
of traits do you look in them to see in
order for you to have that interest to fund them,
And secondly, what are the key value props you look
in your ideas to validate them whether you fund them
or not. That's a big question. I'm going to shorten

(24:51):
that what I would say is first and foremost and
head if I do my job correctly, the first thing
I do when I've been out or to try to
talk them out of venture capital. It is not for everyone.
You've got to be clear about the world that you're
getting into, the game that you're getting in, and no
matter how much you think you know what you're getting into,

(25:14):
it's it's worse. So the thing that remember about venture
capital is that you're talking about one percent of one
percent of the businesses just to get venture capital, and
then there's one percent of those that are actually kind
of successful. So it's a really, really hard We're talking
about the tippy tippy top of all businesses in the US,

(25:36):
thirty three million of them small businesses. I think there's
only you know, maybe ten twenty thousand dollars venture back
twenty thousand a venture back. But generally speaking, you go
through that hurdle. And this is something that as a
as a culture, we are learning this. We're relatively new
to venture really impressing that the idea has to be big.

(26:01):
You have to have something about you that can make
someone believe that you can execute on this big idea,
and you have to bring some skills that are important,
whether it's the ability to have people follow you, or
you have some technical skills, or you need something that

(26:22):
makes you be that one in a million that we
thinking the idea, and I think part of the challenges
and this is, you know, working with me MOO is
the same thing where there's some basic things that we
need to find people that just teach us. They're easy,
totally learnable. But what happens in today's environment is if

(26:44):
someone doesn't know something that's very basic, they extrapolate that
to me they don't know anything, and it's just not true.
Really fast, short story, not going to my whole life
to a computer science class in college. Industry failed that class.
But it was a long time ago. I'm super old school.

(27:04):
I don't want to go into that. But it was
back at the time. I had never seen a computer before,
staring at the computer, didn't know how to turn it on.
Teacher was really upset. He thought I was lazy, thought I,
you know, didn't know what I was doing. Thought I
wasn't paying attention. That was back in the day when
the on off button for the computer was in the
back and to the left. Like I never said people

(27:26):
who put the on off button back there just shit
on and but like that that that little like once
someone tells you once you know it forever. But instead
of telling me, it's shame to me for not knowing
something that, like when you talk about it now, like
of course you didn't know it was why don't you know?

(27:47):
And that's the kind of thing that happens in a
venture all the time, where they're basic things that people
would just need to tell tell others. Like we're just saying,
like what are the things we're looking for so that
people can understand. You all are bright, you all are smart,
you get it, but you're not magicians, like you can't
read minds. And I think a lot of what we
need in venture capitals to move forward, it's just help

(28:08):
people laying out the roadmap. I didn't make it easy
for with memo no back is. I ran my fund
as a black person run the fund and at that
time one hundred and fifty million. That was the largest
first time fund for a black person. There was a
lot of pressure on me, like I can't go around
for the sake of all of us, I can't go
around doing favors when I gotta get I gotta hit
some you know, I gotta hit man. And so I

(28:30):
was like, I'm like, you know, like the dad with
the son on the team, I'm like ripping it to
this dude, man, because like, we gotta win together. It's
not just about us. And so but I did lay
out the roadmap and that's all that he needed, right,
And I think for a lot of entrepreneurs and founders,
and like I said, we just need to help lay
out that roadmap for people. Stop playing the games, stop

(28:52):
saying do this, and then move the goalposts and then
we can kind of make that progress. The only thing
I would say is just because I'm very practical, we
created a how to raise money and the things you
need when you talk to people like olin. So we
have a guide that we created to just demmestify the
process because what pisses me off the most is like

(29:15):
when you try to raise money from people and they're like, oh,
you know, like what's the addressable market? I'm like, what
does that mean? Now? I know what it means. But
so if you need specific information, you can find me
on LinkedIn, reach out, or my email was sending to you.
We created it to just cut out the bullshit out
of the process. Y'all make some noise to them, make

(29:39):
some noise. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Y'all could
do better to that. I don't know. Is this masking
overhelm me? If I go that, you go down with me?
I mean, obaman, you know what I mean? You know
what I mean. Afro Tech is a global gathering where
inclusive tech companies meet innovators. It's the only tech event
you need all year. Get ready for Afrotech twenty twenty

(30:01):
three in Austin, Texas, November first through the fifth. We
built a whole temper you can use to help you
get your employer to sponsor your trip and enjoy experiences
built for every stage your career. Whether you're a college
student looking for your next internship, or if you're work
in a venture capital looking for your next business to
invest in, and if you're looking for a co founder
a people that's join your team, there's no better place
to be. The massive corporate layoffs of twenty twenty two

(30:23):
and twenty twenty three have affected our community in a
big way. An Afrotech wants to help you get back
on your feet with skill development, making it easier to
switch industries. If that's your route. In an afrotech, you'll
make connections to help you get your next opportunity. Visit
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