No. 250 – Saturday Reads

When Tailwinds Vanish – This is a very interesting piece by John Luttig. He argues that the opportunities for new internet startups to hit home runs is diminishing as the internet matures. As winning in the internet economy becomes a zero-sum game, he points to incumbents as the ones more likely to win what’s left of growth opportunities. Further, venture capital isn’t being used for research and development, but for expenses like sales. Considering this, he believes there needs to be another layer on top of the internet economy that enables companies to get the financing they need without tapping into venture capital – Sand Hill Sachs, as he calls it.

The piece is quite thought provoking, but I think John is looking at the internet too narrowly to say there’s a small window for anymore big wins. Look at areas like the transfer of food from the industrial portion of the supply chain to the consumer portion. This COVID-19 situation has put a big spotlight on the lack of dynamism in how that transfer works. New York City doesn’t know how many people in public housing have COVID-19. Stock exchange IEX has coiled up 38 miles of optic fiber to prevent high-frequency traders from having a leg up on their competitors. These all highlight problems that can be solved on the internet. There’s opportunity for companies to get big wins. Maybe Silicon Valley just isn’t the place for the fresh thinking needed to see them. Maybe there needs to be some more diversity of thought.

Chinese start-ups are being starved of venture capital – with worrying omens for the west – The fallout for VC in China isn’t looking pretty right now. It’s an interesting with the tenor a lot of US VCs are trying to roll with claiming that “we’re open for business. ” Those Q2 numbers on how the US VC ecosystem fared will be interesting to take a look at!

Black Founders Remain Optimistic About Survival Despite Running Out of Money (SURVEY) – TPInsights founder Sherrell Dorsey surfaced some encouraging insights from founders in the TPInsights membership. In particular, it was great to see a good number of founders have enough cash to hold on for three more months.

Franchising in Africa during the coronavirus (COVID-19) era – Kendal Tyre shares some nice insights on franchising opportunities across Africa. He definitely got the wheels turning, particularly in thinking about my post last Sunday.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala gets International appointment – I’m glad to see Dr. Okonjo-Iweala in this role. She should be IMF managing director, but that’s water under the bridge. More vim to her as she aims to get a bunch of different stakeholders to work together in putting out the resources we need to handle this virus.

No. 137: African American Music Appreciation Month

Thanks to Peter Bakke for the tip on June being African-American Music Appreciation Month.

To get you started, consider taking a listen to Robert Glasper’s new album, Everything’s Beautiful, where he samples a bunch of Miles Davis recordings.

I’ve been meaning to listen to more of Prince’s discography, so I’ll probably start working through that this month.

Other music on the list:

Mahalia Jackson

Duke Ellington

Andrae Crouch

Mississipi Mass Choir


A Tribe Called Quest

Christian Scott


Wayman Tisdale

Victor Wooten

Who’s on your list?

No. 86: Thoughts on David Brooks’ Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates

David Brooks published a review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest book, Between the World and Me this morning. A few points stood out to me:

The last year has been an education for white people. There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.

Whatever education white people have engaged over the last year must become an internal conversation on what to do based on the knowledge gained from this education. Toni Morrison does a nice job explaining the importance of white people having this conversation amongst themselves. I doubt the extent to which this education and conversation has taken place.

For you, slavery is the original American sin, from which there is no redemption. America is Egypt without the possibility of the Exodus. African-American men are caught in a crushing logic, determined by the past, from which there is no escape.

I don’t think Mr. Coates would agree. See The Case for Reparations:

An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.

Mr. Brooks should give that piece another read. Again, I doubt the extent to which this education and conversation has taken place.

I think you distort American history. This country, like each person in it, is a mixture of glory and shame. There’s a Lincoln for every Jefferson Davis and a Harlem Children’s Zone for every K.K.K. — and usually vastly more than one. Violence is embedded in America, but it is not close to the totality of America.

I am distracted by this equating Lincoln and the Harlem Children’s Zone. You mean the Lincoln who thought it would be a good idea to ship the slaves back to Africa? He probably would have done well to dwell on Lincoln as a mixture of glory and shame a bit.

The American dream of equal opportunity, social mobility and ever more perfect democracy cherishes the future more than the past. It abandons old wrongs and transcends old sins for the sake of a better tomorrow.

By dissolving the dream under the acid of an excessive realism, you trap generations in the past and destroy the guiding star that points to a better future.

See above quote from The Case for Reparations. I just don’t believe sins can be transcended. They need to be addressed and dealt with. And then you move forward.

Maybe the right white response is just silence for a change.

Nope. There has been plenty silence for centuries now. Talk. Ask the hard questions. Have the hard conversations amongst yourselves. Hopefully, after those hard conversations, we will be able to have a thorough conversation on how to move forward – together.

No. 81: There’s Not Enough Space in This Room for Both God and Fear

Be sure to subscribe to David D.’s The Freedom Ring. He’s calling up sung and unsung players in the Civil Rights movement and documenting their stories. His first conversation was with his dad, David Dennis, Sr. Amazing stories about how he got his start in the movement, people he met along the way, and some really interesting encounters. This is just golden stuff. The title came from a statement Mr. Dennis shared from a debate about whether the Freedom Rides should continue.

Things that stood out from the conversation:

1. The role his Nigerian classmate played in getting him involved in the movement. There is so much importance in Africans and African-Americans connecting and sharing stories and experiences;

2. The importance of women to the movement. For example, two women were pivotal in pushing for the Freedom Rides to continue. If you have a black woman involved in your life, tell her thank you for all she does. If you don’t, find one and tell her thank you; and

3. The bravery of students my youngest brother’s age. I was a punk in college and didn’t step up to the plate in some important conversations on race led by students like David D. at Davidson. Imagine stepping on a bus with certainty that you probably weren’t going to be alive at the end of the trip. Incredible.

No. 58: Do You Remember the T-Mobile Sidekick?

Do you remember the T-Mobile Sidekick? Did you ever ask how it was made? I sure did not. Here’s a cool profile on the phone, its creator – Andy Rubin, and its evolution into Android. Incredible stuff.

I remember some of my classmates at Woodberry having the phone. My only thought on it was that I could not afford it, let alone ask questions about how it was made. Who made it? What is the software like on the phone? What does it take to make that kind of software? Could I make something like that? Pretty simple, but mind-shifting questions, right?

Growing up, I loved taking apart our home PC and figuring out how to navigate its applications. In response to questions about what I wanted to do in life, I always said computer engineer. At some point, I lost interest thinking that taking apart and putting computers together was as much as I could do in that field. Perhaps, had I not nearly paralyzed myself the first day I ever hit somebody playing football in 7th grade, I would have had the awareness to ask one or two of the above questions (probably not). By this time, I placed a lot of my identity in being an athlete and spent a good bit of my time trying to get better there.

Over the past few years, I have started asking more of the above questions, and it is fascinating to dig below the surface on the technology we use on a daily basis. I really believe that encouraging these sort of questions in the African-American community is one of the gamechangers for the wealth of the African-American community. Since Black in America aired four years ago, I have discovered more and more black folks who are absolutely killing the technology game – Tristan Walker, John Thompson, Erin Teague, Eghosa Omoigui, Paul Judge, and Chinedu Echeruo, to name a few.

There’s no limit on how many more black tech leaders there could be. There are certainly a lot of questions that could use some solving:

  • How do we insert more African history into our daily media consumption?
  • How do we increase the efficiency of purchasing Air Jordan’s on release day, and use that event as a teaching moment for investing? How do we create real-time playback analysis of those butt whippings from grandma?
  • How do we nurture the identification of business opportunities between what a kid is learning in school and the real world experiences of his dad who is working two jobs to provide for the family?
  • The list could go on…

I’m excited about encouraging myself, Anna Olivia, my siblings, and kids who grow up on streets like the one I grew up on to ask and take the next step of building solutions to address them.

No. 22: Lunch with Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool

It usually does not take long to sense when certain people have wisdom, but when are you able to actually feel a person’s wisdom? One can feel Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool’s wisdom.

During our conversation over lunch on Wednesday, Ambassador Rasool stressed the importance of South Africa exporting the principle of Ubuntu – I am because you are. Our focus on meeting with technology companies in South Africa is a perfect opportunity to glean this philosophy and take it back to Atlanta.

Ambassador Rasool also highlighted the opportunity for African Americans and South Africans to move past a shared struggle to a shared opportunity. This is critical. The challenges that Africans and African Americans have faced are real and the conversation should continue. What is so exciting is that there are opportunities in the US and on the African continent to take a hold of those challenges and steer them towards a new narrative of global commerce, social engineering, and artistic exposure.

I don’t have much more to say than that my pursuit of wisdom continues. Reading the book of Proverbs has new meaning these days as I move further into the economic development space. It is critical that I remain hyper focused on driving equitable solutions both here in the US and in African countries. One could argue that a solution that is not equitable is not actually a solution. Ubuntu.

Pictures from Lunch with Ambassador Rasool