Hello and welcome to the LA venture podcast. This is Minnie Ingersoll host of the podcast and partner at TenOneTen. TenOneTen is a seed stage fund here in LA. All opinions expressed on this show by me and my guests are solely our own.
My great friend and former colleague Austin Clemens is with me today to talk about his new fund Slauson & Co. Slauson is an early stage venture capital with a mission to create sustainable economic inclusion slots and invest in founders from underrepresented backgrounds.
And Austin does the same in his spare time. Austin was founding chair of Pledge LA and managing director of grid110 SouthLA. Austin. Nice to see you.
Nice to see you. Great to be here, Minnie.
Well, let's jump in and start us off with Slauson and what you're building.
Yeah, so Slauson & Co is a pre-seed and seed stage venture firm rooted in economic inclusion. And, uh, what that translates into is basically two different areas where we're investing right now. On the B2B side, we look at tools and platforms that support small businesses. Uh, so SMB tech, you know, pretty much if you're, if your primary customer is a small business owner, that it's, it's probably in our wheelhouse.
And then on the consumer side, we look for culturally relevant consumer tech. And really what that means is, look, we just have this deep belief that, the largest consumer companies of tomorrow will just be much more closely aligned with the values and the perspectives of the customers that they aim to serve a much more so than what we've seen over the last decade with, large companies.
So we're excited to see companies that are speaking very directly to specific audiences.
And knowing that I know you, I know your area is going to be the tools and platforms. So tell me more about what you're looking for there. for tools that are supporting small businesses.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think it's probably worth taking a step back and looking at venture and sort of how it's evolved over the last 10 years or so. I'm not going to go year by year, but, uh, but it's worth looking at the big picture. Um, the big picture is that, whenever you, as, as SAS emerged, lucrative and rational thing to do would be to target enterprise as your primary customer, the thought was, or the thinking goes, um, that, you know, it's a, it's a larger company.
And thus a larger contract value. When you do land a customer, you can get the six, seven-figure. Eight-figure contracts that are super lucrative to go after. And if it takes you three months, four months, six months to close it, it's all worth it. Um, so you build out your inside sales team. You go after these clients, you land them and great rinse and repeat.
and why would you ever go after a small business owner? Um, because it's gonna take a long time sales cycles, still high touch point. Still high onboarding, all these other things and ultimately, um, the contract value is, not anywhere in the ballpark of what an enterprise. what's been interesting is over time.
I think that that became a little bit too much of a hard and fast rule for VCs where people believe that like, all right, you've got to stay away from small businesses or S and BS. And as a result of that, it opened up this lane where people are completely ignoring the needs of, of, of a lot of small businesses that do actually want to pay for services.
there is a, you know, an interesting thing where I read a statistic that five years from now, the average CEO, of a small business will be a millennial. Which is actually not surprising. Like, like, they're, they're my age, I'm 38, five years from now, I'll be 43. And, and like, and it makes sense.
And so when you think about the behaviors of among millennial, you'll think about people that are used to using, software that's slick, that stuff that looks great and works great and it's intuitive and things like that. And so the business tools that they're using to run their small business.
should be as slick as the apps that they use on social for their, on their iPhone. Right. And that's what's happening is that, um, there's all these new businesses that are emerging, that are speaking very directly to these small business owners that, uh, uh, now have this expectation that their business is going to be run on really good and thoughtful software.
But I think it's not just the large dark dollar value possible with enterprise contracts. It's also the challenge of reaching all of those SMBs. So
Sure. Sure. So, one thing that you'll see, uh, you know, some other with an SMB tech or some people call it bottoms up or things like that. Is a lot of these companies actually don't have. Massive inside sales teams, a lot of companies that are targeting this, they're not you know, knocking on doors or, relationship building.
They're actually marketing in ways that look a lot like consumer, from the acquisition standpoint. So, one good barometer. That that we have, or, or my good friend, Michael Tam, who was on your, podcast earlier? I think he might've brought this up, like, you know, from when you're looking at bottoms up economy and bottoms up companies, like if I can't go to your website and sign up for your product, then it probably doesn't fit that thesis.
Um, you know, if I need to schedule a demo and talk to your sales rep and do all that and your pricing, isn't transparent and listed right there, then, you know, it's probably not for us. It probably isn't a good shit. So, um, so fundamentally the acquisition strategy has to change. And so this is why when we hear folks that are saying, Oh, we're maybe we're starting with small businesses and ultimately.
Leapfrogging and going to go to enterprise. It really doesn't fit what we're doing at Sloss and then co it all. We want people that, because ultimately you're going to have to structurally build, uh, your, your company in an entirely different way to target and attract those companies. So,
Are there partnerships or other channels that also have worked for people, uh, beyond just sort of the bottoms up approach?
Uh, so channel partnerships all the time. I mean, that's usually what it looks like. So it's, it's online advertising, it's BD relationships. Uh, we're we're, it's it's high volume, low touch. Um, and that's what you've got to do. That's what you've got to achieve in order for this model. The work, but there's so much institutional knowledge about how to acquire customers and, and, um, on the consumer side that, you know, it's, it's pretty standard at this point.
And, and you just got to think about, like, I I'd actually argue that the needs of a small business owner are like, Even much more simplified than say a consumer product in many cases, because like consumer products, you know, you're, you're, you're, you're touching on some, emotional something else with, uh, with a small business owner is like, you're either helping me make more money or helping me save more money.
Or I don't need you like that's, you know, that, that's it. Yeah. And, you know, the other thing to think about is churn, which is another consideration also, you know, churn on in, in large enterprise SAS is because you did something wrong.
Um, char turned in small business in many cases, Is this because they went out of business, you know? Um, and so, uh, so you definitely have to manage that as well. And that's the other aspect to keep your eye on, to me, there's a wide open lane and, the playbook is still being written by, lots of, lots of really great companies.
Um, The other part of this, I guess just touching on this, my minor plug for my own thing. I started a newsletter, with Jen Rashard who's at bonfire and Sidney Thomas. Who's a precursor, called the SMB syndicate. Which is really about, writing that playbook. so I encourage everybody to sign up for it. Uh, I don't know if we can include a link somewhere. I don't know how that works on audio.
, Oh, that sounds great. And,
do you think there's certain verticals or certain horizontals that are more, open? or sort of more attractive targets.
Uh, sure. usually where there is, or it's highly fragmented. So like take, going back to the last example, daycares are, or plumbers probably the biggest. Plumbing company in the country, I would assume owns way less than 1% and so when there's fragmentation like that, but it gives you a huge opportunity to sort of build a platform to serve, so many different people. So the type of thing that we see and get excited by.
That's great. Um, are, do you see a trend where a lot of the SMBs. That your customers are that your companies are selling into? Are there, are they a lot of minority owned SMBs still? I don't know. The stats
Yeah. if you look at all those stats, even though. minorities start the majority of businesses in California. There's this like very weird ceiling, where if you look at the companies that are generating less than like a million dollars in revenue a year, like people of color drastically make more of those.
And then if you look at beyond that, the scale tilts completely the other way. and so there's like something that's happening around where people aren't able to, either scale their business are professionalized or they don't have the tools or the access or the understanding or something like that.
or there's just structural things in place that are really just getting in the way, um, that, that create barriers for people to really succeed and take their business to the next level. And that's part of what we want to do. Like if we have a portfolio full of companies that can help people out sort of breakthrough that and professionalize their business and grow their business and scale it and, and things like that, then I think we're doing our job.
So that's yeah.
That's great. and tell me a little bit more about AIJ and his investment thesis
Sure. Yeah. I mean, well, to be clear, both of us work on every deal. So like we, you know, we are complimentary in a whole lot of different ways. I mean, so AJ and I have actually known each other since high school, we've been friends, grew up right off of Slawson together. Uh,
high school together here in LA
We didn't, AIJ went to Loyola and I went to Palisades.
We kind of joked that we've been working together since high school. Cause he used to throw parties and I used to design their flyers. So, uh,
Um, and tell me more about sort of the investing in consumer products that are
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So what, what he focuses on and you know, what he brings to the table is like a consumer tech background. Um, he used to run a fund called Queensbridge venture partners along with, Anthony Solei. Who's now at wonder co and, NAS, uh, Still rapping and dropping good music still.
Um, uh, but, and, and, and a couple of others buddies, they started out angel investing together and then formalize it into a fund called Queensbridge. Uh, Uh, did some phenomenal investments. They mostly on the consumer tech side. So they were in, uh, Robin hood and PillPack and ring and Lyft and stuff like that.
Um, Some of them very early, too. so his perspective on like really what can scale. is next level is something that, I haven't even seen personally, on the consumer side. And so it's, you know, we're, we're very complimentary in that way. In addition to that, AJ is also a master full brand builder.
Um, uh, you know, he, um, he's, he's, he owns a couple of restaurants and chains. One is a. the parlor, which is on Melrose. Uh, pretty much everybody who's been to a sports bar in LA has been to the parlor and probably has a memory or two of like when I had fun, they're caught up with their alumni group or something like that. but then he started, uh, more mission-driven, uh, coffee concept called Hilltop coffee and kitchen, , which is actually based right on Slossen right near where we grew up. He saw that there were underserved. Uh, uh, uh, th th that that community was drastically underserved, especially given the sort of socioeconomic demographic of it.
Um, drastically underserved. There was no like fresh food concepts that were around, and so they started Hilltop and it was massively successful right out the gate. He ended up partnering, uh, with ISA Ray who has the, hit show on HBO called insecure. Um, and they've been growing that and they just, uh, expanded and opened up a third location.
So, he has a pulse on how to build products for, for consumers of what they want, whether it's tech, whether it's retail, whether it's anything else. Um, it's just, it's just a really valuable perspective. So how that applies in the portfolio is, we know that there are so many markets and so many people that have been underserved and a lot of it is about like the language and where you meet people.
And so like if you're building a financial services company for as an example, uh, you know, Uh, B uh, treats Acevedo who's um, a good friend who's running Summa wealth. Uh, she's building like a, a platform that is, uh, focused on, um, on speaking to the Latin X community about, about personal finance and it's.
And you know, if you look at social media, if you look at how they communicate, it's like, Okay. Half the joke. If you're not part of that community, you won't get half the jokes or references or anything like that. And, and if you are part of that community, you're like, wow, like this is for me. And you know, and you have a desire and an affinity and you feel compelled to be a part of it.
Yeah. So when you say that, that AIG has got this great view on sort of what scale looks like and what scale can be, can you give me like some concrete view of like what scale he's looking at and when you're thinking of successful scaling business, what is the perspective there?
all right, so On the B2B side, we have a pretty clear outcome of predictability about like the trajectory of a venture based company, how much it raises at what points and what stages and things like that.
With consumer there's actually this kind of odd, but interesting divergence, right? There's some companies that massively scale the Facebooks Googles of the world that are Amazons that are like very clearly consumer focused. And then there's other companies. That you don't know whether like they're, they're in a position to scale and do do really well.
Like let's say a Jamba juice, which, which benchmark backed, you know, is that, uh, you know, when it first started, like, now if that came to market, would people say that that's a venture company? Like, I don't know. Um, and so, you know, I think that as when in our internal discussions with where we are like, We're very actively thinking through, like, what does the trajectory look like and how does it fit within obviously the model that we have, um, for us, we are trying to invest in category leading companies.
so we're not trying to invest in one of many, we're trying to invest in the winner of this category. so, you know, we think about, we talk internally about those questions all the time. .
What have you learned from, AIJ just, he's a masterful brand builder. I would not say the same, you know, sorry, let me write that. Like what mine is. Leave it at that. What have you learned from ADA about brand-building Austin?
So, so what I, what I would say is, I am. First of all, first and foremost, I'm an introvert. Right. And I know I say that to some people when people, some people don't believe me or whatever, but I'm definitely an introvert and
I'm like, let's be as heads down as possible. Do the work. and then the work sort of speaks for itself.
I think I've thought that for most of my career and I no longer believe that.
I do believe that you have to tell the story
and I guess before I always associated it with bragging and now,
you know, with AIJ and then, you know, our venture partner, Kareem web,
what green most talks about is it's more about enrollment.
Like you're enrolling people in your ideas and the things that you're passionate about. This isn't like, I'm bragging this. Isn't like, you know, everybody give me credit and praise. This is like, Hey, if you're down for this, cause this is what we're doing over here. And if you like it , come rock with us
and we're happy to have you on board and doing things along with us.
And so that mindset shift has been tremendous. For, you know, I mean, even building the brand of sauce and then co which like ultimately still, I want the brand of our firm to be much bigger than me, or much bigger than AIJ. I want that to sort of stand for something and means something. And people know that we're re rooted and economic inclusion to know that we're backing founders that are underrepresented or.
Often overlooked. No, that we're, we're, we're driving change beyond just the financial returns we hope to produce. And I think when, but, but we, we have to tell that to people and, um, you know, the more and more that we've been doing that, the more and more interesting people keep getting attracted to us.
I'd come on board and, and again, it further advances the mission. It's not just it's. It's it's it's not bragging. it's enrolling.
I love it. I love it. , the other thing that I don't have a good sense of, is how do you keep a pulse on what people want? Like, especially if you're selling into a community that isn't your native community.
Yeah. Yeah. Uh, that is a great question. I mean, I mean, that's, that's, that's a question that is it's, it's interesting. But if you step back and think about what we do as venture capitalists, especially if you're a generalist fund, like. All of these things, you have to get up to speed on. I remember, some early investments when I was at 10, one 10, like I had to go become a, a semi expert in satellite imagery in a week and a half in order to, you know, do diligence on a company and, and, and it's, um, Uh, you know, obviously not an expert in real life, but you know what I mean?
Like you just have to, you have to dive deep and learn and become passionate and talk to the right people and things like that and understand where people are coming from and understand the specific needs. And honestly, I don't think it's too much different than that. And I think that when a lot of VCs stay away from these areas or, Or things like that because they feel like that. I think it's more of a mental barrier than a, than an actual or practical blend. Like we're in the business of getting up to speed really quickly and then supporting where we can. And, and in the same way that by the time we made that investment in the company, I, they wouldn't have, or me for doing anything related to satellite imagery.
Like I wasn't that good, but, um, But, but I did know what I was talking about. I could have some conversations and also I knew the areas where we could help, which didn't have anything to do with the, the level of expertise that I had as it related to that particular topic. So, you know, I think it's the same way when you're learning about culture.
Like, uh, when you're learning about cultures that are not as familiar to yours, you, you have conversations, you meet people. Uh, you'd get up as up to speed as you possibly can. And then, and then make the investment. And if you find areas where you do feel like you can help out.
Great. and, uh, you guys are writing. What is your target? Is it like a million dollar check?
Yeah. So, uh, we do pre-seed and seed on the pre-seed side, we're doing between two 50 up to about a million. On the seed, uh, we're doing between 1,000,003 million. Uh, we lead most of the rounds that we do. We'll invest, uh, you know, usually take between 50 and 75% of the round and then, and then help, uh, the founder bring in other investors that are complimentary and bring other things that are specific to that company.
Uh, that would be complimentary to what we bring. So, I think that's the other key thing when you're talking about. going to pockets that are underrepresented pockets of talent that are underrepresented. I do have a belief that you kind of got to lead deals. Like you can't, you can't wait around and, and expect that, and a more established firm is going to see what you see.
Like if you see it. You got to set the terms for it and then, uh, help other investors see the idea of if the founders maybe not communicating something as clearly as, or, or the way that VCs are used to hearing it, you know, we can work with them on refining that or whatnot. Uh, so that there's a mutual understanding both ways, but, but, um, we want to, you know, we, we, we deeply believe that, you know, we have to have the courage of our convictions and sort of move forward and put our money where our mouth is pretty, pretty early on.
So what about that? Um, do you have advice for people who maybe are struggling to raise rounds? Um, and this could be in your, your slots and hat, but it could be, you know, with grid one 10 or
That was, there was no way I was going to answer this question without talking about grid one 10. So, uh, you know, this is LA venture, um, grid one 10 started six or seven years ago, um, and has been serving so many entrepreneurs to help them lay the foundation for their business. Um, it's not just, uh, a program that's basically only setting you up to fundraise and telling you how to pitch and stuff like that.
It's like, how do you think about strengthening your business? And I think so many people want to skip that part and just raise capital and say, and the assumption being that if I have the capital, all my problems will be solved and I'll be able to hire somebody to do X and I'll be able to address this.
But the reality is like, You don't have a business until, you know, you've, you've addressed some very fundamental things. And granted with that, um, a startup is all about experimentation and how rapidly can you do that? And, and I'd be the first to acknowledge that capital helps you run those experiments, um, uh, pretty frequently and very quickly.
But, but with that being said, You want somebody who's going to help you shape and tighten up your business. So grid one-ten again, non-profit accelerator, no fee, no equity taken from your business. Um, uh, and they have programs that run for several weeks, uh, where you're part of a cohort you learn from each other.
You learn from experts. And, um, and, and you just can take your business to the next level. And it's like, I haven't seen much like it, especially for free. Um, and, and, I'm a die hard advocate for what, uh, the grid one 10 team is building
right. And now there's a new fund also supporting the grid one 10. I mean, is that another good way to,
Uh, yeah, so, so there, I think you're referring to the pledge LA initiative
uh, okay. I, the South LA fund, I
yes, yes, yes. No, that's totally fair. so what that is. Okay. pledge LA and grid one 10, um, uh, partnered up. So pledge LA uh, ran an initiative where they realized. Uh, especially in the wake of, of, of George Floyd and black lives matter movement and things like that, that, black and Brown founders in LA were being drastically underserved and, and they didn't have the capital.
In many cases, didn't have the sort of friends and family round to, work full-time on their ideas or leave their job or something like that. So, pleasure like created the fund for South LA founders, um, and actually identified 20 companies that they decided to give $25,000 to each.
So it was a $500,000 effort in that regard. but in addition to giving the capital, we also want it to give the guidance. to these companies. So it's not enough to just hand somebody a check and say, you know, good luck. We went in to say, here's how you could be successful. Here are the things that could tighten up your business I'm really proud and, and, that I get to witness how much they can achieve. Oftentimes, it was so little, I mean like, uh, and, but, but these companies are all like very wide ranging in terms of what they're doing. Um, we have folks that are like in music. Uh, uh, James Jones has created a company called owners.
Uh, which helps out with like royalty payments and advances and things like that. Uh, we have another company called fund diggity funnel cakes, which makes, was, which literally is trying to bring funnel cakes to be like a household. Like, like thing that everybody has the nostalgia of going to a fair, like when was the last time you had a funnel cake at your house?
Probably never, or just outside of, outside of that, but, um, you know, uh, Cheyenne is, is building this company and there's just this massive demand for what they're building, because they're delicious. You check out there. Um, if you, if, if anybody listening to this fund dignity, uh, funnel cakes, uh, it'll make you want to go drive to their place and get one.
Um, but you know, anyway, just a wide range of founders that are going through this program that have business ideas, um, that, that, that, that needed support and this extra little push just helps them take to the next level. We're so excited about it.
So when you, um, were chairing pledge LA or, or your involvement with grid one 10, you know, what do you, what's my question. What do you think are the big levers that really move the needle? Or do you guys ever just like have brainstorming sessions where like, what are all the crazy ideas that we could come up with that might move the needle?
Uh, yeah, so allegedly was founded on three principles. Um, the first was like civic engagement and second was diversity equity inclusion. Third was accountability. Um, uh, it's that third piece. That is the one that you have to. Have a foundation of an order to actually move the needle. and sometimes it's sort of a wake up call, like this will be the only time that somebody. It takes a ton of reflect on these types of things. And then when you get the data back and you know, and the goal of pledge is never to shame anybody. It's really just to kind of put a mirror to what's going on. another thing that, came up out of a brainstorming session was a partnership with HBCU VC. so HBCU VC is, uh, Uh, nonprofit and since stork has been focused on taking students from underrepresented backgrounds and, and, uh, and helping them learn about the venture capital industry And so, there, the partnership there was to place students from underrepresented backgrounds, into, uh, venture firms all across LA. and that's been running for two years now and like, I remember how hard it was for me to break into this industry and like, imagining that there would be a program that was specifically targeting people like me, that could help me get and land roles like that.
That's the most amazing thing ever. So, um, I'm, I'm a huge fan of, of that program and stuff like that. So,
that's just, I gotta, I gotta see what we're doing at ten one 10.
Yeah. Usually there's a, there will decide. No, there's a, there's an information session on getting the intern for the summer. If that's taken place. I think tonight
Okay. Got it. Good note, good notes. I know. Um, you know, it feels like so many of these conversations have changed in the past year. Uh, have you experienced that? Has that been purely a positive or does it ever bother you that it's so trendy?
That's a great question. And, um, I, I come from the standpoint of, I don't feel like it's, it's ever too late to do the right thing. and so even though last year, a lot of corporations, a lot of people started to focus on this. And it seems like this is, you know, as a person of color, uh, uh, you know, like I've seen my community rally around this for decades and now people are sort of waking up to it.
I'm happy that it happened, you know, like it, it legitimately could have gone on for many more decades. Not that everything has been solved in the last year, but, what the last year did was highlight that. There are very specific actions that you could take and, and you can talk to your employee base, talk to and allocate dollars and hiring and things like that, but sort of bring the, the, the civil rights conversation translated into like an economic rights conversation.
And, um, and, and, you know, both moving in parallel, which I'm excited to see. Um, but it, but I, I can get that. Some people would not receive that as well. Some people from my community would be like, Hey, you know, like we've been talking about this and now you're now you're showing up and trying to act like you're great.
When you know, your numbers around diversity have been off and things like that. So I actually don't. View people that take that perspective negatively. I get where they're coming from. I take a different perspective where I'm like, Hey, I'm glad you're here and let's work together to make some real change.
Do you think there's anything that people are getting wrong? Um, you had a great blog post the delusion about inclusion.
Um, thank you for the compliment. Um, I think that, I don't know that it's necessarily people getting wrong. I, I feel like there's just some misconceptions, like people feel like if you're doing this. Or, or looking at, uh, uh, founders from underrepresented backgrounds that it's charity work. And, you know, and I was trying to make the argument that, it's not, it's an opportunity to me, I view it as just a massive opportunity and, and what I think will ultimately happen is firms like mine will. we'll produce really great results. and then ultimately inspire other people to get involved and start taking a look as well. and I've welcomed the advancement, you know, or the competition, if you will, like, if that's the competition that we're playing or how many people can you help out?
I'm all down. I'm completely down with that.
totally. Do you remember this panel? We were on, I think it was at Soylent. I think you pointed this out, that after the panel, you and I were both on the panel, we're both at 10, one 10. And after the panel, all the people of color lined up to talk to you and all the women lined up to talk to me.
That's it. I mean, that's the case. I think that people, you know, the reality is like founders, no one to talk to people who they share, like can identify with them and understand them. And, you know, I talk about that all the time, you know, to folks like. I don't know how many women's entrepreneurship panels or, or, or summits I've been to and participated in.
And, um, but you know, it'll never match what happens when you walk in the door and, and, and people will say like, Oh, I want to talk to her. You know? I mean, so, so obviously there's, there's. There's people like, obviously we back women founders, uh, before and, and eager to, and certainly we have it's Lawson and co um, as well, our first three investments were all women, uh, people of color, but the, the, the idea that like it, it's not neutral.
It does matter. Who's who's writing the checks and it does matter who people feel comfortable with talking to. So. Um, I, I, yeah, I think it's huge. And I don't know that that will change anytime soon, which basically says to me, that firms should be very cognizant about, uh, how they build out their teams.
Hmm. I didn't know that. So your first three investments were all female people of color.
Yep. Uh, yeah, exactly. And so we have, um, um, you know, and I, and I don't think that I, a lot of people asked us, like, do we have targets or mandates for how many. How many women and, or people of color that we'll have in our fund. And I always say we don't, um, we don't, and we won't, um, mainly because like, that is the opportunity that we're talking to you about in many cases.
And so like any target that anybody would set that would be a requirement or anything like that, we're going to exceed that, uh, because it's core to the thesis of, of how we think that we're going to find talent. That's, uh, that's been overlooked. So, um, You know, if we want to make it more inclusive. So I don't, you know, I'm not hating on anybody who has gotten funding before.
Great. For them to think about economics and economic growth is that it's not a zero sum game. So it's not really about taking something from somebody else to put it over here. It's about, it's about like letting other people grow too.
well, Austin, we're kind of out of time for, I don't have a hard stop, but, um, is there anything else, like, I really need to make sure I mention or bring up here.
Um, let me see if I have a hard stop. Um, let's see. I don't, I don't, I don't know. I mean, do you want to talk about my time at ten one 10 or.
Um, yeah. Let me give you the quick. Yes, of course. Um, uh, I don't quite know where my question is, but, uh, yeah, what's a good, what's a good, like,
Of course I should.
I, you maybe ask about, I guess, going along with the theme, like maybe ask about, and this could be chopped into the other part of what, what was it like for me, trying to break into the industry of venture capital and then I can, yeah. Kind of take it from there. Any questions
Yeah. Um, Eric popper Vaughn is in my waiting room.
you want to let them in?
many reasons, no many reasons. Um, wait, so let me, let me just ask, so I'd love to know more about your experience getting into venture capital and like you alluded to like at Morehouse when you were there, there wasn't a program explaining what the world of venture looked like. So, and I know you spent many years at 10, one 10, so maybe you could talk about that.
Yeah. for me it was, actually, as I was running a dev shop doing web and mobile development for a lot of small businesses. I was wondering why the businesses that I was. working with, weren't getting funding and I'm reading tech crunch headlines, like such and such.
I got $2 million. It was like, what for that, you know, and which, which I still happens all the time, but, um, but it made me really intrigued by the industry and, and sort of the realization that. Uh, entire populations of people were, were being left out from this type of access, particularly populations that I know and I'm familiar with and I've worked with pretty much most of my career.
and so, you know, I went to a business school to try to find a way into venture capital, went to NYU, ended up coming back to LA. ultimately landed, uh, a job at ten one 10. but you know, even that was like, a process trying to find a role in venture. I was looking at firms in New York, looking at firms in LA.
I was getting really frustrated and ultimately was like, I know that this opportunity is here and I actually. decided to start a pledge fund. I was actually basically trying to start my own fund at one point. I bought, the domain name of Slawson, back then. And And so it's, uh, it's, uh, you know, it's kind of funny.
I think I told, showed that to David Waxman when I was interviewing with him for the role at ten one 10. Ultimately, you know, I think David saw the passion and saw that I was, really interested in sort of dedicated to this industry and, and brought me on. So I am forever indebted to David Waxman. Um, I would absolutely 100% not be in this industry without. Him opening up the door. And, um, and you know, if you asked David, like, he wouldn't say I needed a black guy on the team, or like I needed, you know, anything else. I think he just liked what I stood for and like the work ethic and, and, um, and like how I, how I, how I positioned, what I wanted to do in this industry.
And, um, and, and it worked well with him. And so I, you know, I learned so much about this industry and how to work with founders and how to add value and things like that, and have a tremendous amount of respect for David and what he's built.
you know, I was going to say the exact same thing for me, which is David took a chance on me, but it was really you Austin. It was really you and David who hired me. So I love this job.
Better. Yes. Yes. You, you, you, uh, I think that I, I remember when we first met many and, uh, and we were, we were sitting down, I think David had already spoken to you once and we were sitting down in a meeting and I had to leave the meeting early. And like, I, I, so I met you and I was like, I'm sorry, I have to leave.
And then kind of David walked out with me and it was like 15 minutes after meeting. It was like, yep. She's definitely, definitely the one she's, uh, she's that. And so
yeah, well, hopefully, we get to cross paths more because I do miss you at ten one 10.
of course, we're going to find plenty of ways to work together.
Good. Well, Austin, I just feel like your personal mission and your work mission are so well aligned and it's, it's wonderful to see, and I'm excited for you and, uh, appreciate the chance to get to chat with you today.
Always a pleasure to talk to you.