By King Williams
Amidst a slew of events for Super Bowl week, Morehouse College was the host of “Hearing Our Voices” – a panel of former athletes, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
This event was facilitated in conjunction with Columbus, Ohio-based venture capital firm LOUD Capital, which is opening a new office in Atlanta this year.
The panel spoke about the intersection of sports and venture capital, exposing that world to several hundred students from Morehouse College and Booker T. Washington High School.
Those featured in this conversation included:
Dikembe Mutombo, the former member of the Atlanta Hawks and an NBA All-Star;
Navin Goyal, MD, managing partner and co-founder of LOUD Capital;
Eric Troy, associate/global strategist of LOUD Capital; and
Michael Julian Bond, Atlanta City Council, Post-1 At-Large.
Saporta Report: Why Atlanta in particular? What made that more appealing than the valley or NYC?
Navin Goyal: “The reason for Atlanta is because of a really good ecosystem here, and we have a few associates here already. Part of the strategy for us is to be in a lot of great markets and to have boots on the ground. We’ve also opened an office in Chicago recently with that same strategy in mind.”
Saporta Report: Why launch during the Super Bowl week here in Atlanta?
Navin Goyal: “We wanted to do this event in Atlanta during the week of the Super Bowl because of a really big opportunity for educating the students of Atlanta on the world of venture capital.
“Also, we saw this as a great way to introduce who we are as LOUD Capital to potentially new entrepreneurial clients already here in Atlanta during this week.”
Saporta Report: In Atlanta you’re at the intersection of a place where a lot of people want to be…sports, entertainment, and venture capital. How do you balance all three?
Eric Troy: “They all kind of go together. The key thing is being that you’re doing your passion. One of the key things we addressed today was the difference in being significant and successful.
“One of the things LOUD Capital prides itself on is being significant, so although we are early-stage investors in companies, we focus on really investing in the entrepreneurs themselves. Other firms are very transaction based.”
Saporta Report: Why do you think in 2019, it’s necessary to have an event like this at Morehouse College?
Michael Julian Bond: “Well, unfortunately, it’s always been an issue in our communities, concerning the availability of capital. For decades we, as African Americans, were flatly discriminated against regarding access to capital, and if not directly discriminated we were redlined.
“So to have groups of individuals who are willing to invest in ourselves, our communities is tremendous. We need to be about the crucial uplift of a facet of this community. We live with the alternative to this every day. This has to be everyone’s initiative, everyone’s business.”
Saporta Report: What can we be doing to improve this area surrounding Morehouse and benefit the people who live here?
Michael Julian Bond: “One thing we can do is to support affordable housing and support affordable housing initiatives – to redevelop and reinvest in the African American communities here. I grew up on Sunset Ave and these are beautiful communities. We need investment capital, and we need investment in human capital.
“What we need is substantial reinvestment in these communities. At one point there were more Black millionaires in southwest Atlanta and south DeKalb County than anywhere else. We need people who have that capital and groups like these to come back and develop these homes.”
Saporta Report: Why is it important in 2019 to have venture capital funds in the Black community?
Dikembe Mutombo: “Because for so long, we’ve been without capital… It’s very important for us to educate young Black men to become entrepreneurs because for many years we were not invited to the table. We have to have a seat at the table. It’s an overdue need to come back to the community.”
Saporta Report: What does it mean to be a Black venture capitalist?
Eric Troy: “Black venture capitalist, first of all, you have access. So often as a people we don’t know what capital looks like, so often we have to be educators. At LOUD, we invest in these early-stage startups by not only injecting capital but we put together a sustainability strategy. In sports and entertainment sometimes you only have a fleeting moment of success. So we put together a legacy mindset when working with our entrepreneurs – especially when we have events like this at my alma mater.”
Saporta Report: The venture capital world is a cutthroat world. What do you think will make you stand out amongst the few venture capital firms already here?
Navin Goyal: “Traditionally VC is traditionally unreachable, and we believe the opposite of that. What we don’t see in traditional VC firms is our educational outreach efforts and empowering individuals early on. So we feel very confident in what we’re doing at LOUD. There’s not enough investing in the early stage, so even if there are 10 other LOUD Capitals, we don’t see an overlap.”
Saporta Report: So what makes what you’re doing at LOUD so valuable to Black entrepreneurs specifically?
Eric Troy: “This goes for all our investments, but I especially believe this applies to Black entrepreneurs. One of the things we’ve been doing is an entrepreneurship lecture series. Once I have access to the capital, what do I do with it, and who’s a part of my capital network? And how do I grow it?”
Saporta Report: You’re a fairly young guy, and a lot of people would say wait a few years when you’re more seasoned to join the VC world. So why start LOUD only three years ago versus 10-20 years from now?
Navin Goyal: “That’s life. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m an anesthesiologist. I’ve been practicing for 12 years in clinical practice. Five or six years ago, I got exposed to the entrepreneurial mindset, and I felt like I personally could impact people in a substantially larger way that just being in a hospital.
“I and my co-founder, Darshan, don’t have a financial background. And we think differently about the VC world as we invest on behalf of LOUD Capital.
“For me and my journey, I just felt so much more purpose driven in the morning as an entrepreneur. What we’ve done in three-and-a-half years is incredible, and It’s only because of individuals on this team who believe just as much as I do in what we can do in the venture capital space.”
Saporta Report: You’ve been successful on and off the court. What is something that you wished younger players would know about being successful both on and off the court?
Dikembe Mutombo: “It’s all about respect and discipline. Any place you want to go, you must have the discipline to succeed. You have to understand that after the two hours of practice on the court, you must give the same amount of respect to your nine or 10 hours off the court to your business. The way you carry yourself, the way you respond to people, how you treat everyone counts. That’s what’s missing in a lot of athletes.”
Saporta Report: We’re in the Atlanta University Center. Around the schools here, there is still chronic disinvestment. What do you think is holding this up?
Michael Julian Bond: “These communities looked this way, not for any one particular reason. If you go back to the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, Atlanta had a lot of wealth. But when could integrate, we did. And we did it too well.
“If you look back historically here in Atlanta, there were two institutions that helped grow the African-American middle class – Citizens Trust Bank and the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. Atlanta Life Insurance had to adjust their business model to function much more like a traditional bank than a life insurance company.”
Saporta Report: Why did you choose to have this many non-playing athletic professionals on the panel?
Eric Troy: “I originally represented David Justice and Bob Whitfield… The panelists are athletes who have reached the summit of being a professional, but they all had widely different experiences. So often our young people have one aspect of what sports look like, so we have to have our young people see people who look like them.
“Also from a gender standpoint, we still have a long way to have more women in leadership and managerial positions across just about every sport.”
Saporta Report: What is some advice that you’d give to support entrepreneurial athletes?
Dikembe Mutombo: “I think what you’re seeing now is what we should be doing more of, educating people about capital. Eventually, the game will end for all of us. We all need a Plan B. Some of the guys want to play sports, but once the ball stops bouncing, what will you do next?”
Saporta Report: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Eric Troy: “Don’t think like an employer, think like an owner.”
Saporta Report: As a city of Atlanta leader, what is something that could be done right now to improve the outcomes of Black men in the city?
Michael Julian Bond: “We have to focus on saving Black males. Speaking specifically on the issue of criminal justice reform, we have to commend the state of Georgia for the last five years of criminal justice reform.
“Zip codes in Atlanta have been the No. 1 feeder to the state penal system. Yet you have an institution like Morehouse within one of those zip codes.
“We need to make sure that every African-American male has the opportunity to go to a college, especially to an institution like Morehouse College. It’s important that we’re training our young African-American males to compete, be trained academically and be trained better financially to manage our personal finances first.”
Saporta Report: What is something that you know now, that you wish you knew then about business and sports?
Dikembe Mutombo: “Investment – not just the money, but how you invest your time and money. Everything counts.”
Saporta Report: Have you done any investments in Atlanta?
Navin Goyal: “No, not yet. We’ve been doing our due diligence, and hopefully, we’ll have some soon.”
Saporta Report: How can people get in contact with you?
Navin Goyal: “Our website has a section where entrepreneurs can pitch us, at LOUD.vc.”