My main aim in the world is to be a good man. Full blooded. Full tilt boogie. Using the body & brain & heart & spirit I’ve been given, all of which hunger for novelty & experience & craft & excellence and kindness & connection & care for others & tenderness & completeness of being. Living with much gusto & taking my family and pals along. Staying enchanted with the world.
Cant wait to see you soon!
Folks that join an early stage company or invest in early stage companies are both drawn to the same thing: an idea that is so compelling along with a founder/founders that are equally or even more compelling.
But here’s the thing: the very best founders aren’t normal, not by a country mile. They are creative, ambitious, and likely crazy. It’s not that they have a high tolerance for risk, it’s just that they can’t imagine the alternative.
At the same time we are drawn to these folks we (employees and investors) expect these very same founders to become or act in a way that isn’t who they are. And in most cases, thankfully so.
Board members can fall prey to this trap. They see a successful CEO in another portfolio company and they want (expect) the other CEO to replicate that behavior almost exactly. But forcing the founder to do things they aren’t is a recipe for a very unhappy/frustrated leader which does more damage than previously anticipated.
Life isn’t perfect and no human is perfect either. The question is does the founder’s greatness exceed some of the human flaws. You can’t have it all.
It is true, if you are going to scale as a founder/CEO you need to grow and improve your leadership skills. But at the same time, it’s our responsibility (team and boards) to avoid breaking the bronco.
We need to provide feedback and help supplement/support the CEO but not dilute or nuke the natural gifts that helped create the company in the first place.
A product that just works.
Also you all know about all the millionaires created by US black entrepreneurs of health and beauty products for the black consumer before the 1960s, right?
Before shaving with Bevel, I figured I would take a before/after picture, to really scrutinize how well it worked. You can see them below.
My face is, to borrow a joke from Twitter, like a Nestlé crunch bar. Nasty. I probably have the curliest hair you will ever see. I break combs at the barbershop, even when I’ve combed my hair beforehand. I had dreadlocks when I was younger, and could shower every day and they wouldn’t come out, because of how curly my hair was. I have had folliculitis thrice in the last 12 months: wherein the ingrown hairs create an infection, enlarging my lymph nodes to golf balls and causing very, painful migraines, and sometimes other complications. And here’s the rub, if you’ll allow the pun: until I spoke to Tristan Walker about it, I had no idea how incredibly common this issue is. 45-83% of black men have it. I could have sworn I was just unlucky. Or not shaving right.
When I first tried out Bevel, a razor specifically designed for people with coarse and curly hair — the unboxing experience, the form factor on the bottles of primer, lotion, and the razor itself are all world class consumer products, but that’s actually not the point — I followed the instructions to a T, applied the restorative balm, and went to sleep. When I woke up, my chin felt great. It seriously felt great. And in that moment I felt like I was finally being taken care of, in a way that I had never realized I even needed taking care of.
As a person of color in America, that is a common refrain. Even though Blacks overindex on Twitter, take a guess at the company’s demographics, to say nothing of their executive leadership or board of directors. While TV consumption and social media participation skew to Black and Latino women more than any other demographic, the advertisers, producers, platforms, and networks don’t take care of them. We invested in Walker & Company Brands, Tristan Walker’s company to create a consumer products group for people of color, because he was building into a very large market, because he has insane hustle and a varsity team, because ads targeted to the “World Star Hip Hop” demographic convert at eye-popping premiums over the average, and because by 2040, the United States will be a nation of color again. But I invested in Walker & Company Brands because it pushes the world forward by taking care of people who don’t even realize they need taking care of.
When venture investors speak about “signals” that point to their comfort level in an investment, they often don’t speak about unconscious bias. Game recognize game, and investors, like all people, react well to things they recognize. And just as good salesmen are trained to mimic the body language of their target, we are social beings, and so the more common ground the better. In the case of Walker & Company, as an investor, the common ground was that in Tristan, I saw someone I recognized — someone who had been on the outside looking in, and knew there was huge opportunity in solving that problem.
Bevel’s attention to detail in the packaging is fantastic. It’s hard to open the box fast when it first arrives, so you have to reflect on it. The obsession with the extrasensory, so to speak, elements of the experience, are delightful. The little side-box for the used razors makes my shelf and trashcan look that much better. The shapes of the tops of the bottles are intentionally wrought, and fresh. Their Zappos-like customer service is natural, personal, and quirky enough to be real. Bevel makes me feel like I was using a product that was designed to be world class, but that was designed for me. And for someone for whom my demographics are instinctively a disadvantage, it was an utter revelation. People who crack business models like these will win big.
And after, two days later:
Two days. It works.