Venture Capital ǀ Accelerator Program

"There's always one more shot. There's always one more chance to get into the ring and to do it again."

- Jerome Curry

Jerome outlines what he looks for in a start-up

Talk Takeaways

Jerome Curry, CEO of Platform Capital Group, sits down with Jeffery Potvin to talk about risks. How important it is for founders to mitigate risks and how de-risking your business makes it more investor-friendly. He also shared his five-step process on how a startup can draw more investors in. He talked about the difference between passion and vision, and how grit plays a major role in many successful companies.

About

As a Venture Capitalist and John Maxwell Certified Corporate Trainer, Jerome specializes in developing innovative strategies that assist organizations in raising capital and optimizing start-up company growth.

Jerome also has held his Series 6 and Series 63 investment license and holds the privilege of coaching and training inside for several start-up industries including SAAS, FINTECH, and EDTECH.

Platform Capital Group is dedicated to aiding underrepresented tech founders raise capital and achieve their goals.

Jerome has facilitated multiple, leadership management, and investment related workshops. These topics include Money Management, Change Management, e, Understanding Venture Capital, and Team Development.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery:
All right, Jerome. Welcome. Welcome to OPN Supporters Fund Ask an Angel. Super excited to have you here today. We’ve had some great conversations and really looking forward to diving into learning a lot more about yourself, the organization and how you guys work with early stage companies. But to start, why don’t you give us a little bit of a background on yourself, where you come from, the things that you’ve been up to and then kind of what you’re doing now and then one thing about you that nobody will know

Jerome:
Absolutely so, first of all, Jeffrey, thank you so much for this opportunity. Certainly happy and grateful to get an opportunity to speak and add value as much as I possibly can to network. And to those who may be watching, my background is interesting. I actually started out in financial services a number of years ago. Got my series six and 63. I’ve had an opportunity to work as a corporate trainer, um, as well as in the financial services market, um, working with financial clients. So I’ve had an opportunity to speak for Fortune 500 companies, uh, and helping them to grow and maintain business. So I had an opportunity to do that, which is, uh, certainly been fun. Uh, and now I’m, uh, entering into this venture capital and start up space, which has been so exciting, so happy to be here. One thing, that one thing that people may not know about me. One thing right off the bat is that I love doing missionary work. So I get an opportunity to do, uh, had an opportunity to do missionary work in Haiti, right? Uh, right after the earthquake, that was back in 2011, Um, in some of the best times I’ve ever had. So I really have a heart for missionary work. So that’s something that I’m passionate about.

Jeffery:
Oh, that’s amazing. And that’s a good thing, that’s awesome. Giving back and, uh, working with startups giving back. So it sounds like an overall it’s a nice mix.

Jerome:
It is. It is. It certainly is

Jeffery:
Awesome. Well, there was a couple of things that really interested me when I was diving into your background and things that you work on and I was hoping you could share a little bit more about, um, the series six, the designations, and kind of talk a bit about that, because I think from a financial standpoint, financial literacy is very common. It’s very tough for a lot of people that really understand this, especially when you start your own company. And I think you’ve got a lot of background and understanding in this. But I would love to share a little bit more about what that is. What does that look like? What does that designation do? And how is that kind of morphed into what you’re doing today? I’m sure it’s going to be really valuable.

Jerome:
Sure. So, uh, I held my series six and 63 some — maybe about 5 to 6 years ago. And with that designation, what that allows you to be able to do it regulates you to be able to offer securities mainly At that time, I was working with mutual funds, hoping clients with their understanding, their financial education as far as their investment strategy, uh, their retirement a lot of times a lot of people don’t understand is that many folks don’t have retirement. So especially now it’s challenging. People just didn’t have a sound retirement strategy in place. So I specialized in helping families to, uh, identify a great investment strategy, a great risk strategy for their family and helping them to see how to be affordable and helping them to see the importance of being able to have that in place. And so that really kind of that really kind of got me interested in the markets. I’ve always kind of been a market junkie. I mean, I’ve always kind of got in the books of, you know how to beat the market, uh, studying options, studying e minis. So I’ve always kind of been a student of, uh, of the market. And so, you know, having my series six and 63 really kind of lit my fire when it came to understanding how markets and how capital works. Well, uh, naturally, that kind of gave me this, uh, this edge And this, uh, this hunger to really understand more about risk. And that’s what kind of got me into this venture capital space. What really ended up happening? I really saw a few years ago, I had this concept of how I could be able to help founders that may not have had the, uh, the same opportunities or may not have had the same access to information or had access to networks. I wanted to find a way to help them to bridge the gap by having this understanding of how the markets work. So that’s something. That’s kind of how I got into this space. That’s kind of how I got into this is really that that hunger for, uh, financial literacy and which kind of turned into this area in which I can help founders raise capital?

Jeffery:
No, that’s awesome and exciting. And it is this designation, because it’s kind of like an accounting financial background. Uh, and all of these really are huge. How do you go about getting this series six and 63? Is it, um, you have to go through programs. Is it? It sounds like it’s quite, we don’t have this in Canada, and you are based in, um, Atlanta. So for me, I’m really Atlanta. Right? I wanna make sure I got that right. Yeah. So for me, this is like a total different things, so I’m kind of curious as the U. S has so many different ways to learn things and what pocket this fits into. So it’s really good information to learn how this works. And then where that carries you,

Jerome:
Well, you need a you need a pint of blood and a couple of drinks. How about that?

Jeffery:
Uh, I like it.

Jerome:
no, no, no, no, seriously, But the It’s an examination process, an extensive examination process, and, uh, mhm. By going through this examination process, it really takes you through the regulations of how the United States works and how they view, uh, investments, how they view investments, and how they view the regulations, the laws, the things to do, the things not to do what you say. There’s a lot of different things inside of securities world that people are just not aware of. So what happens is you have to have an, uh, you know that Series six and 63 really gives you an opportunity to understand what you’re doing when it comes to offering securities to someone, and that’s a little bit that’s a little bit different. Uh, you know, in the in the venture capital space, it’s a little bit. It’s a little bit different depending upon what area of the country are in. But we have certain regulations in place when it comes to offering securities, offering investment advice, offering strategies. So it’s always so important to be aware and abreast of those laws. Uh, and having that Series six and Series 63 gives you the kind of the legal right to be able to do that along with some other, uh, licenses that allow you to kind of go even further in those offerings.

Jeffery:
Awesome. So how much of this background? And I’m really a big fan of people’s background and then why they move into the startup space. So you take this market securities, which is huge because, really, then today, if you’re going to work with early stage companies, which you guys focus on precedes seating up to series A. If you’re gonna work with these companies your one day hoping that they’re going to go to the markets, they’re going to be a, um uh, I p owing or whatever the vertical is that they jump into at that point. But there’s going to be some sort of liquidation. So you’re kind of preparing them. You’re gonna learn you’re going to be sharing. So how much of this have you found? Is transported into what you’re doing today?

Jerome:
A lot, actually. In one of the key areas that really helps in being able to — that came from my background is understanding risk mitigation. Uh, investors want to know, how do you mitigate risk? And everybody wants to know that when you went in and that’s one of the things that that license gave me an opportunity to look at, how do you mitigate risk? And as a startup, you’re thinking, you know, you’ve got this great idea. You’ve got this great concept that’s going to change the world. However, if you want to obtain investment capital, you have to be able to understand what does this investor see when they look at my project? How are they looking at the risk? And if the risk is too high for their investment, then more than likely they’re not going to invest. And that’s simply what it is, what it comes down to. Sometimes it comes down to one. Uh, do I trust this person enough and to how much risk am I willing to take with this investment. So being able to understand how mutual funds work, how how stocks work, how, how being able to understand how to put together an investment strategy, Uh, all of these things helps me to be able to relate to founders the importance of their risk mitigation strategy. And then that’s something that I’d be happy to go into later on, or or and dive into as well.

Jeffery:
I love it, and I will say, if all the interviews that I’ve had the I guess honor to speak with so many smart people like yourself, the cool thing that’s come out of it is that everybody brings a little unique element to it. And the one thing that you’re bringing that we have not touched on whatsoever and we’ve talked to accountants and everybody else is risk. And that’s why I love what you took and you bring it forward because nobody understands mitigating risk for some odd reason. And in this space, it’s all about risk. You are in the highest risk category you can get into, which is early stage investing, like when you’re coming into Series D. They’re pretty close to going into the markets. There’s there’s, you know they’re talking about It will be there next year. But when you’re at a pre seed and seed round, that could be 6,5 to 7 years, maybe longer. If it’s a unicorn, great, You might be there in three years, but this is really going to take 5 to 10 years away. So there’s this real mitigation of risk and — I’m a big fan of sharing is de risking your business. I love saying that line. I’m telling people you need to find ways to de risk it, and it sounds like, and you’ve got lots of material on this. But for us to dig into that, what is de risking the business look like to you? Obviously, there’s de risking and mitigating risk for the same line. So what is it that really defines it when you’re working with these early stage companies, taking your background into this and saying Here’s a good way for you to really approach an investor, take this five step process. Nail this down. This is what’s going to make people feel way more comfortable with your business.

Jerome:
Absolutely so let’s take a look at it from I, like, take a look at it from three steps. Uh, step one. You’re the background that you have in your particular market. Uh, that’s huge. A lot of times people overlook a lot of times, you know, they think Well, you know, I can just kind of hop into a market. Investors, look at the fact, Do you have experience in this area? Can you take this project and exit from it? And I’ll talk about that one as well. Uh, so that’s the first thing. Your background. If you have an excellent background in accounting and you’re opening up an accounting application or an open up fintech app, well, it lends credibility because you can talk about, you know, Listen, I’ve been elbow to elbow with CFOs for over 20 years. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been, let’s say, if you’re there younger, start up. You know what? I’ve gotten my degree from, uh, from Warden and accounting. What is in your background that’s going to help to de risk your business? You have to take a look at that the next, the next part of that layer. If we did, we will take it to the next step. Who’s on your team? This is huge again having those advisers while people may not what people can kind of overlook it or see it. But having those advisers in on your team helps to do risk your business. So spend time finding those advisers. It’s going to take some time, and that’s okay. And one of the one of the other things I want to say about that is, have a true advisor, not just to figure it, you know, it’s it’s so funny, you know, You look at I look at a power point and I’ll say, you know, just a figurehead and I can tell the way that that advisor can add value. You can just mention something a one line about Listen, you know what we have, Uh, you know, we have Bill Gates is one of our advisors, and here’s the top advice that he told us to do. He told us to x y and Z, and we took this thing to the top and it’s making a huge difference. And that says Wow, Okay, now you’re now you’re making you’re you’re now making this slide so much real to me. So much more real to me. And you know what? Your de risking and and the investors I was like, Wow. Okay, Bill Gates saw value into this and he had some input, not just a figurehead. So again. So we’re stepping down to that de risking side. The next thing that the risk is your business. Uh, kind of this three step process for 3 to 5 steps is really taking a look at getting traction. I mean, it’s it’s everything. Traction. Traction is everything. I mean traction in terms of either early beta users traction in terms of either sales attraction in terms of, uh, of either product development, you have to come to the table with some type of attraction. You It’s very challenging to now in this space being how competitive it is being, what’s what’s kind of going on in the market. It’s very challenging to just come to the table and have absolutely no traction at all and expect to get a deal done. I mean, you may get a deal done, but it probably won’t be the deal that you want, and that’s something that I really helped my my founders to kind of see, and that and that, that that fourth step is really understanding your customer. I had a very good conversation with the founder. He said. You know what we took? We took about two years to really understand our customer. I said, Wow, so that’s another factor that you can have on your side time. Time is an excellent, excellent, excellent, uh, way to de risk to say, You know what? Listen, we’ve really taken the time to understand who are market is. We’ve taken the time to go back to our product, make these changes make these tweets, and two years later, we’ve got some traction. We’re still here and we’re still going. And that’s kind of the last that last five step of that process. Um, that that really helps you today. Risk is how many times have you had to kind of iterate and go back and kind of retweets and redo your product? Because I don’t want to see just the first version of your product. I’m sorry. I don’t think it’s that good. I think that you know you can You can tell it to me I can I can see it. But I want to see you on the seventh iteration of your product. Why? Because that shows me that you went back. The market said no. You hit something, you hit a wall and you were able to creatively go over that wall. That’s that’s one of the other ways that you can kind of the risk your, uh your your strategy.

Jeffery:
I love it. Those are five amazing points. I love the, uh, you know, taking that concept of knowing your space, finding your team, getting some traction, working with those customers and then iterating it’s a nice little process. Just cycle back and forth until you get to the next page and then cycle back and forth and keep growing and building it forward. So, uh, yeah, those are awesome. Those are brilliant. And when you’re working with these teams and you’re kind of working through this five step process, or maybe you work it down to three, whatever it might be at the time, um what kind of really gets people excited, founder wise, when you’re working with them what gets them excited about that next step? Is it always the transactional side like, Hey, we got a new sale. This is working. Or is it more about how they’re just being able to finally have a conversation with a customer and the customers actually acknowledging that there is a problem? What really is the part that gets them excited, that they’re onto something and they’re moving forward?

Jerome:
I think it’s the feedback from the customers, and I think it’s the feedback from the feedback from the overall market. Um, when they get that first win, there’s something that happens. There’s a light that kind of goes off that wait a minute. We did this. You know what? We had the obstacle. We had the constraints in place. We had the things that we’re kind of going against us, the obstacles. But we overcame them and we got on to this next step. And that’s that’s so important, because for a lot of founders that that fails, Sometimes they feel just one generation away from their big breakthrough. And a lot of times investors want to see Are you going to make it? Are you are you going are you going to be able to make? And having that there’s a toughness of mind when it comes to, you know, to building a startup. There’s certain things that you have to have a certain intangibles that you have to have in place. And we’re always looking for those intangibles to see, You know what, are you going to be able to make it? We like the idea. We like the product, but I don’t know. Are you going to be able to make it, make it through this? And when they get that first, when they get that first win or those continued validating wins and they continue to kind of push through the obstacles? Yes, we had this in place, but we got through that, Yes, we had this, but we found a way to win. Um, and that’s something that that really helps them, encourages them, and then they can kind of tell that story. And that’s the story that that’s the story of investors want to hear. And that’s just wanna hear. Listen, we were here, but we found a way to win, and that’s something that helps us to be able to really know that we’ve got a great founder in place.

Jeffery:
I love it. And so currently, where you guys are at now with, um, with the business you’re running now. So, Platform Capital, Where do you guys then come in? Are you coming in at that beginning process to help them through their MVP and get to the outfit and get to that stage? Or are you coming in? Like you said when they got that win? And you’re like, man, that’s what we’re jumping and we’re here. We’re here to help. Let’s move this forward. Where are you guys finding yourselves fit into that funnel?

Jerome:
Absolutely. So when I came into this space, I was fortunate enough to have a venture capital partner that had about 20 years of experience, uh, inside of the business. So it gave me, uh, an excellent, uh, excellent relationship partnership with the Sanpete Financial Group. And so, having that in place, it gave us the ability to approach both of those markets where we had an experienced founder that was already ready to raise capital. Then we could take them through and kind of help them to go ahead and raise capital quickly and on the platform side, our accelerator program where we could, uh, find businesses that had certain qualities certain certain things that we wanted to see, and we can take them through just like you mentioned. Take them through, help them understand their market nail down the MVP, really iterate the MVP, if if absolutely necessary, uh and then really help them to understand how they get over the head, how to get to where they want to get to building out there, pitch deck in a very solid format. And so taking them through all those points and getting them investor ready. And so then what happens is they’re absolutely ready for that next step for us. So we kind of have, like, a full cycle where we have those, uh, entry level and entry level founders that are wanting to kind of go through the accelerator program chosen based upon, you know, their intangibles and the things that we see in them. And then we have our other side where we help those founders in raise capital once they’ve kind of been through the process or if there already or if they’ve already kind of proven or and and are ready to go.

Jeffery:
So you do really get them in pretty early then. So on that focus side, um, is there is there, like, inside this program? Is there kind of a focal point Where you guys just saying I know you’ve talked about this a few other things that you guys have done. But what’s that turning point where you guys are now fully vested? You’re investing in the company? You’re not only just supporting them from the fundamental side, but now you’re diving in your fighting investors. You’re investing. Is there a point? Is it a series A Or Is it pre-seed like, where is that vertical that you guys just say, You know what I meant?

Jerome:
Sure. So that for us, is the is the pre-seed stage. So what we do is we really get the founders through our accelerated program. Once you’re through accelerated program within, uh, take a look at which ones are going to be the best candidates to kind of move forward and which ones may take. They may need some more time to kind of incubate. They may need some more time to kind of work out their product or some more time to get out to get more traction. What we really wanted to do was really create a program that was kind of evergreen a lot of times with accelerated programs. It’s good morning, good afternoon and good night, and we’ll never see you again. So what we really wanted to do, we really wanted to have an evergreen process where people could come back, listen to different aspects of the of the process, go back, maybe go through some of the training materials again, and and have and really just kind of have, uh, a foundation to where they can continue to grow if they’re not ready. So once they get through that program, we then make that decision to say, You know what? You know, you guys have everything in place. This is go ahead. We can go ahead and move forward. Um, if not, then that’s perfectly fine. I mean, I think sometimes there’s this hard line of, you know, I got through my accelerator program. I’m ready. No, that’s not it. That’s not, you know there’s some, there’s some. There’s still some things that we’ve got to work on. There’s some things that may, that can only be solved with time. And so, for those founders that are that are ready at that point, we can then take them to the next level. For those that aren’t we just don’t say goodbye. We help them to locate those areas of growth, and we can move forward from.

Jeffery:
I love it, And the reason why I love it is because you used the term evergreen and why I love that is because supporters fund. That’s how we build supporters from. We wanted to be an evergreen so that we can always go back, rebuild, replenish, fill back up the fund to keep investing in companies or investors who come in at any vertical. So taking that same context, you’re allowing startups to work through your program. And like you said, it’s not a end of the day. See you guys later. We’re done. It’s that you’re always reiterating, so that company will always feel comfortable coming back to you guys to work and iterate on problems, and then you can keep looking at where you can make investments where you can make time into that company to help them keep moving forward. So I think that’s great. And you’re right. A lot of programs don’t do that. It’s, you know, we’ve made our investment. We made our thing. We’re out. Now that they’re kind of out in the world, and it becomes a lot tougher for that start up to know what to do next. So they just keep There’s company have seen they just keep joining accelerator after accelerator because they haven’t found that right traction that they need. And that’s good that you guys continue to help them with that.

Jerome:
Absolutely, Absolutely.

Jeffery:
I love it. So there was a couple of things that I thought were really fascinating about what you guys do and you talk about on their pitch side, which is around driving interest, right? It’s getting people to really understand their business. And I’m gonna don’t want to butcher the lettering, but I believe you call it EMV. Um, and this seemed to be a really I liked again because you guys have well thought out the five steps and now you’ve got these three steps. Maybe we can dive in a little bit more about those on how you see and what a startup should be focusing on when they are getting out and talking about their business. And, uh, you know, maybe you can walk us through a little bit of that.

Jerome:
Absolutely. Um, you know, it starts with that first, P. It starts with passion. If you’re not passionate about it, don’t even get started. This is a journey. You know, this process of building a company, um, you know, going after a dream. It is a process. It is a journey. And by the time that you’re done with this journey, you’re going to be somebody completely different. So What does that mean? That means that you have to have passion about this because it may not turn into exactly what you wanted to, but you have to have the passion to continue to pursue it, to continue to go after it, uh, to not give up, to give it one more time. You know, to go one more round you go. One more step and that’s that. That’s that passion. You can’t make passion. You can’t, uh you can’t just generate it. You know, it’s either there or it’s not, And people can see it. People are like, you know, I don’t know what it was. It just I don’t know what it was. I mean, it seems like a good idea, but there’s something about that passion, Um, the other the other part of that I’ll just skip over the M. I want to talk about the vision. Part of it. Um, a lot of times, people get passion and vision mixed up. Passion is the energy that you need. Passion is that enthusiasm that you’re going to have for every day. The vision is what are you going to do to really add value to people. So if you have that vision in place, it helps you to be able to, uh, one see ahead of the roadblocks, uh, to begin to understand, you’re going to need to get equipped in a couple of different ways. So how are you going to equip yourself? What are you going to equip yourself with along this journey? Visionaries see, uh, further than other people do, and they see, uh, longer than other people do so. Visionaries are always looking ahead to say, What is it that’s out there? That’s not there, that I can add value to this market. And that’s so important because as venture capitalists, we’re not investing in the past. We’re investing in the future. That’s the line. I mean, we’re not we’re not looking for. That’s why I always That’s why I challenge brick and mortar businesses to hurry up because that the the curve has has gone, the curve is gone. You have no more curved coronavirus has eliminated your curve at this point. So businesses have to now start thinking ahead at least 2 to 3 years and start planning in and start having that vision and that foresight to plan ahead. And that’s something that you must do. The next part of that is mentorship. Who is your mentor, who’s mentoring you in your vision, who’s mentoring you and helping you to, uh, to cultivate your idea. Who’s that mentor that you can go to when the the challenge gets really strong and you’ve got this urge to quit and you go to that mentor? They say, you know what? They can give you a perspective. And they said, you know what? Listen, um, you know, before J did you see, you know, just take a picture of Jeff Bezos Amazon and just, you know, the market driven the marker, Uh, the picture he had with Amazon on the back with a marker post. And now look at it being a multibillion dollar company. You know, you think about all of these companies, and where they started from and and KFC didn’t start until he was he was 60 years old. Uh, you think about McDonald’s who didn’t, you know? He was, you know, he was he was living a comfortable life, but, you know, he hadn’t achieved anything major in life. So, uh, you think about all of these businesses, most of them, if not all of them there was nothing given. I mean, it was it was, you know, we get to work and the and that mentor can provide value. You can provide add value to the vision, and they can also reignite that passion.

Jeffery:
That’s awesome. And again, I love the way you lay it out. You’re right. I’ve seen so many times where a founder has gone into a pitch. Their beat up. They feel beat up and it comes out that they’re beat up and it just the room just and nobody wants to talk. No one wants to invest how much that enthusiasm and that energy that goes behind that pitch, how much you’re driven and how much that really gets the rest of the room opening up to you. It’s incredible. And if you go in with a down day man, the whole room will just be like something’s not right. That’s not wrong. Going in and talking and figuring out. And I’ve seen that a bunch of times and literally call the entrepreneurial and be like everything all right, what’s going on? And it makes a big difference. And then, of course, the mentoring and helping huge. I think a lot of the time we think that we can build ourselves and we don’t always look to Where can I get help? And what kind of a little bit of help can really move me forward? And like you said, you’re having a down day that mentor will be able to jump in, and of course, revision. And I think sometimes we don’t want to see what’s going on in five years. But if you don’t have somewhere to go to, you tend to not go anywhere. You know, it’s pretty common, right. You gotta have a drive. So now we take and we squish all this together. All these great things that you’ve compiled. Um it sounds like a lot of things that you have to kind of keep in your mind when you’re talking to a company like five step process. Over here, you’ve got three steps. So if you combine all that together when you’re working with these startups and you’re going through this, take the reverse side. You’re helping these startups do all these great things, which is awesome. How much of this have you had to shift in your business? Because as you start working through things that you obviously you’ve denoted some amazing pieces. Do you have to pivot any or have you structure yourself nicely that as you’re working through with companies, you’re layering in every stage? You don’t have to focus too much on that pivot.

Jerome:
Absolutely. As a company, we all had to pivot 2020 made everyone pivot. I think that this is the most pivoting I’ve had to do in a very, very long time. One of the things that one of the quotes that I had to become okay with is that you know what? This is just unfamiliar. It’s not. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and it’s all right that is unfamiliar because that’s something that you just have to be okay with. You know, it’s okay that it’s so uncomfortable and it’s okay that it’s unfamiliar. Why? Because at some point in time in this journey, they’re going to be things that these are the greatest moments to be able to take advantage of. And if, as an investor, if I don’t hold that perspective in mind, then I lose focus, and then I can’t deliver the value that’s going to be needed to these founders. Then I can’t, of course, approach as I look to grow our fund. Um, I can’t go in just like I don’t know. I mean, who knows what’s gonna happen with these companies? Like, What are they gonna do? No, I can’t go. I’ve got to go in there like listen you don’t understand. The future is here. It’s in this company. You need to invest in it now, because guess what? You’re gonna be looking five years later. Be like, Oh, what was this you told us? Yeah, I know. And look, so I’ve got to I’ve got to pivot. I’ve got to, again growing in those mentors, looking at looking at different people that I can go to and say, Listen, hey, this is what we’re going through right now and growing this thing out. What do you have to say about it? They can look at me. I remember I read and I started to kind of read and even diving more into into reading. Um, I was reading Steve Schwarzman, uh, of Black Hawk. Believe it’s Black Rock. He’s blackhawk or Black Rock. And, uh, and, uh, and how he started out his first fund. And so here’s Here’s Steve Schwarzman, who’s a VP, I believe one of the VPs at Goldman or one of the larger one larger funds. And here he is him and another another. You know, president of that same company here they are, you know, going to their first uh, meeting to raise funds and the door’s locked. It’s raining outside and you’ve got these two big VPs out there, you know, the meeting got canceled and they’re trying to raise their fund and they’re not. Nobody’s giving them any money. And they’ve got all these credentials and all this other stuff, and nobody is still not giving them any money. And just reading through that made me think, Wow, he went through it, too. So if he went through that process, and I can go through the same process and, uh, get to the other side. So when you have perception and perspective or everything in the times of toughness and so that’s what that’s the pivot that I had to make is that you know what? What’s the perception? What’s the perspective? If I look at 2000 and eight, you know, 2008 was one of the most challenging times in the industry. But for those who took the time to start pivoting and look at the market, they were able to rebound and to capture market share. So that’s the mentality that you have to have. I think it’s more of a mentality pivot. In times like this, it is a It is a It is a tactic, um, as well. They’re different tactics, and I can talk tactics and I can talk strategies. But if mentally, if mentally you don’t pivot, I promise you will not take advantage of the moment.

Jeffery:
And that’s good. And I like the way you kind of broke through that component of, um, where your total perspective and perception. But it’s not that you solve this problem yourself.

Jerome:
Know

Jeffery:
What you did was you had the problem and you could either fall apart and not work forward. Or you could learn and pivot, and what you did was you took a different perspective of it. As you said, I went and read what other people were doing. So what I like about that is that I’m building a fund. I’m going to read and find out what other funds have gone through and what they’ve done. And then I see that they had shortcomings. They fell here. They had this problem and oddly enough, I’m going through the same things. Well, how did they deal with it all. They reached out here. They did these things. So it actually give you a better perspective so that you didn’t think Why am I hitting all these walls? It was I meant to hit these walls because I haven’t done X, Y and Z to get myself around them. So reading and learning more about what other people have gone through will help you go through that next stage quicker, faster and smarter.

Jerome:
Absolutely, absolutely.

Jeffery:
See, that’s awesome. We all learn something every day, and I love that perspective because you read a million things and sometimes you just don’t equate and put the two together. You’re like Okay, well, I did this and this didn’t work. Well, maybe you need to figure out what someone in your space has already done because 99% of the time, someone’s already done it and they’ve already been through this. And there’s so many things that are so close to what you might be doing or thinking about doing. That extra perspective is going to be helpful. And it doesn’t have to come through a conversation.It can actually come from other materials that are going to give you and shape your mind into a different way.

Jerome:
Absolutely. And it usually comes down to. It usually comes down to, uh, to taking one more step. I mean, I just It’s so it’s so funny. I mean, when you get through reading all the stuff, you’re like all this great stuff. It’s like, Wow, it came down to you know what? I could either have folded or I could have taken one more step and that’s big it. Yeah. I used to think that the difference between those who were successful and weren’t successful was so huge. I used to be like, Oh, man, if the cap has got to be like amazing. But I realized the difference is literally that much, and that’s what I try to tell our founders. It’s literally that much because it’s just that person just went one more time and that and that one more time opened up a world of opportunity.

Jeffery:
It’s a game of inches, son. It’s a game of inches

Jerome:
Yeah

Jeffery:
It really is. It comes down to Did I? Did I fail myself or that I step one more time and make it happen? And you know what it’s funny, but I go through that and sometimes I’m like, Oh, my God, I got to do this. And then I think, Well, it’s I don’t care what someone else did. I’m gonna do this. And it’s that one extra step that you took that got you around the corner. It got you around the pile on, and it made you one step closer to something else. And if you close that door, you’ll never know. And, uh, you know, some great stories you hear from Founders all the time is I was on the brink of this almost this, and I chose to do this, and all of a sudden, boom, you know what happened? So I think sometimes you just have to work with the world. But you’ve also got to expand your mind as much as you can learn as much as you can. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop being mentored. Don’t stop asking questions because one day you’re gonna need that information. And that’s where it’s gonna come in handy.

Jerome:
Absolutely, man, that is so true. That is so, so true.

Jeffery:
I love it. All right, we’re gonna jump into our rapid fire questions. Are you ready?

Jerome:
I’m ready.

Jeffery:
All right. Uh, well, this one question isn’t really so rapid fire. So the rapid fire will start after this question.

Jerome:
Yeah.

Jeffery:
How did you get started in investment? Investing into startups. What was that Pinnacle moment that changed you to say I need to get into startups?

Jerome:
Sure, it was when I saw that there was an opportunity to help underrepresented founders get over the finish line. When I saw that opportunity in the market, I said, this is gonna be huge. And, uh, I saw a huge opportunity, um, inside of the areas that are coming up there, there’s, I mean, to be honest with you inside of emerging markets, there’s huge, huge, huge opportunities, um, that are happening literally right before our eyes. So I’m seeing huge opportunities. And so I saw this as a way to go ahead and get started. Now, for what I know is coming later.

Jeffery:
I love it. What’s your favorite part of investing?

Jerome:
My favorite part of investing is after the after the pitch from hearing from the founders is how can I add some value? I like to be able to say, Listen You know what? Even if we can invest, here’s the value that I want to be able to add to you. I don’t want you to walk away from this. Just going. You know what? I missed it. I want you to walk away with something that you can take and immediately implement into your business and be better. So that’s that’s the best part about me. Is after the pitch is done. How can I add the value?

Jeffery:
Love it. All right. How many companies do you invest in? Per year?

Jerome:
6 to 9 companies per year.

Jeffery:
You’re above average. I love it. Um, okay, well, you’re above average to our grouping. Like the people we interviewed. That one. I don’t know what the world doing, but it’s pretty good. So awesome. Keep it up. Any verticals. Do you like to focus on?

Jerome:
Sure. We like to focus on the SAS, uh, and fintech space. And we, uh, just, uh we’re just taking a look at the health care as well. There’s a lot of interesting dynamics that we’re seeing there. A lot of different things that are going to be coming up, um, inside of the health care space that are going to completely change industry. So definitely, definitely are keyed in on those industries.

Jeffery:
Okay, Do you have any due diligence requirements that you look for before making a commitment, like anything from, uh, paperwork, subscription agreements? Anything that you say is really important to you guys, that you want to make sure you lock in before you move forward?

Jerome:
Sure. Traction, traction, traction. We want to see evidence of the traction. I think that the more that you can document your traction, uh, and growth as a company, the better it looks to us as an investor. So we all we’re always looking at that traction. And because at the end of the day, somebody has to buy something. Somebody has to sell something. I mean, just how it works. So we love to see we love to see traction. Everything sounds good until you get to the point to where you have to actually sell something. So I’ve got a million people in my user database. Tell me, can you convert one of them to a dollar? I mean, I just want to see I want to see the trash. And that’s what’s the difference for me.

Jeffery:
Okay? Love it. Uh, and what’s your timelines for investment? Like from the first discussion to the last discussion?

Jerome:
Usually between 5 to 6 months.

Jeffery:
Okay, it’s a good time outside the DD requirements. Is there anything that you also like to look at that prepares you? Is it the really key mentioned before, on the team, is that the CEO? Is it the founder? Team? Is it, marketing strategy? Is there anything bigger on that side that you really focus on?

Jerome:
I like a team to have really thought through. And now this is gonna sound different from a lot of people. I like a team that have that has really thought through the exit strategy. Because I see one of the biggest things that that a founder may not have thought of. They built this entire deck and to look how pretty they are and how much we want to do. This presentation is really for my benefit and as an investor. And this, you know, I helped my (inaudcible) is kind of saying this is for the investors mindset. So you’ve got to build it and think about them in mind. How is the investor going to get their return on investment? I know that doesn’t sound. That sounds like oh, it doesn’t know — I love for founders to include. Hey, you know what? This is our exit strategy. And you know what else I like to see? I love, love, love to have a founder to say, listen, and we’ve got an advisor on our team that has exited to companies. Oh, so you know how you’ve got experience on your side that they know how to get a company from point A to point B? Oh, now I’m very, very interested.

Jeffery:
Okay, great answer. Do you like to lead rounds?

Jerome:
Depending upon depending upon what’s what that founder has to offer.

Jeffery:
Okay, do you have preferred terms, like prep shares? Safes? Common?

Jerome:
Uh, start off with, you know, depending upon the level of starting off with a safe and then, uh, we really like to, uh, we really like to be that that next that next investor, once kind of we want, we want you to have a great experience so that in the future, we want to be able to help you raise that next round, which is something that’s important to us.

Jeffery:
Okay, Like it, uh, you do follow up investments?

Jerome:
Um, yeah. Like I was just mentioning. Yeah, We, uh we like to we like, for our founders to see growth. So as a part of our platform, we want to be with you for the life longer this thing? We don’t want to kind of see this thing all the way out the door all the way to your, uh, to your, you know, to your exit. So absolutely

Jeffery:
Perfect. You take board seats.

Jerome:
Uh, typically, uh, typically no. Unless it’s, you know, a company that were absolutely, absolutely in love with. And the reason why is because we want to make sure that, uh, that you’re that your company has the autonomy that it needs to grow. Um, and we want to be your partners that sit across from you? Uh, not necessarily. Your bosses that tell you exactly what to do.

Jeffery:
Okay, Perfect. Alright. So we’re done with the rapid fire questions. We’ve got one kind of big question that were in there a little bit more personal. But so the big question is, is that through the time that you’ve been working with startups and all these great things that you’ve accomplished and you’ve done in the business and for yourself, is there kind of like that heartfelt, warm story that, you know, one of your founders? She was working this way and something happened and they weren’t going to make it, and then all of a sudden, they just had huge success or anything, like just some story that really gravitates to what startups go through that we all don’t really picture too much. But this really just puts the emphasis on this is what it takes to be a startup.

Jerome:
Absolutely one of the one of the founders that we were working with, they had a trouble getting the traction that they needed. They just, you know, they come up with it, they take it to market, and the market was not buying what they were selling. I mean, it was just, you know, just was not a good fit. And so, uh, they had to go back. We had to have those calls where we go back and say, Listen, you know what? Stay focused. We like the foundation of it. Let’s keep going. Let’s keep working at it. And they kept working at it. They kept working at it. They kept working at it. And one day they nailed it. Um, and their and their product, Their product did really well, and it’s a great story.

Jeffery:
So is it? Is it again you talk about timing a lot. So is this just the timing to work with the customers just to make sure they could get down Pat or was just fundamentally, They weren’t getting it at the time, at the beginning, it was It was

Jerome:
It was kind of a bit of both. It was both the timing, and also really finding out what that market, what the market wanted, and so once they kind of got those two pieces in place, it went really well from there.

Jeffery:
Good. I like to hear that, you know, And sometimes, like you said before, it could take two years. And the thing is that you you think it should be done in six weeks or whatever that might be. But sometimes the markets either you’re too advanced or your products, not the right fit. But timing can always somehow open that up, right?

Jerome:
Absolutely.

Jeffery:
I love it. Okay, so we’re going to kind of move into the more personal side, and we chatted to a few of these. So my first question is what’s your favorite sports team?

Jerome:
Oh, man. Well, I can’t say the Falcons right now. Um, so I’m gonna say the Atlanta Hawks, Uh, Atlanta. It’s between the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Braves. Right now, I’d say the Hawks, because the Braves are playing at the moment, but the Atlanta Hawks are my favorite favorite team.

Jeffery:
All right, They’re a pretty good team. We’ll let that slide. Yeah. Yeah. All right. So the next question is, your favorite movie. And what character would you play in the movie?

Jerome:
Oh, my goodness. Oh, So it is a close tie between the fifth Element and inception. And inception is such a mind. You know what? Inception is probably the only movie that I’ve watched. I went to the movie theater at least 2 to 3 times to watch, so it’s probably its Inception. And, um, I definitely would have played the role of Leonardo DiCaprio. I mean, it was I mean, it was probably one of the best movies. Well, thought out movies I’ve ever seen from start to finish.

Jeffery:
That one was pretty sick. And now you just made me think about it again. And now I’m gonna have to watch

Jerome:
it.

Jeffery:
Yeah, I actually, that was on that. You said that. But that was from that movie. It’s the only one that I actually had a recorded version on my mobile phone on my laptop, and I watched it on. I don’t know it was Netflix or wherever it had, but it was like a purchase movie, and I had it everywhere. So everywhere I travel, I drilled that movie on, and then I don’t know what happened. I think my ID got changed on something. And then I lost. That movie was through Apple because I used to watch it on Apple and then, uh, yeah, so I haven’t had a probably a year or two, but I thought that was a brilliant movie. I loved watching it. It always seemed like it changed. Even though I watched it. I don’t know. Three weeks ago, it still seemed like it was different. The next time I watched it,

Jerome:
it does. It was the cliffhanger ending for me. I’ve seen a movie end like that. But I’ve never seen a movie end like that. And there was not going to be a sequel. I was like, this is like, crazy.

Jeffery:
Its going deeper, Deeper, deeper, deeper. Oh, yeah, It’s crazy, man. That was a good movie. Now I’m gonna want to watch it again. And fifth element was good, too. And I think fifth element came up with another version. Right? Which was the newest one or no? Is it?

Jerome:
No, no, no. That was it was only one government. One version.

Jeffery:
Oh, I was thinking of the one with Okay. Oh, uh, when he walks across the scanner and it’s, uh, Arnold Schwarzenegger. What’s that one?

Jerome:
Oh, no, no, no. That’s, uh that was terminator. Was, uh, I was probably terminated. No, no, no,

Jeffery:
no. It was one like, fifth element, though, is like in

Jerome:
another

Jeffery:
one where they have people with the arms and stuff and

Jerome:
yeah, I can’t think I can’t think of it.

Jeffery:
Look that one up. But regardless, both are good flicks. And, uh, Leonardo is a good character to play, so I like that. That guy was very, very trippy in that whole movie, so I love it. Well, drone it was It was a pleasure chatting with you, man. I learned a lot. I enjoyed obviously being able to dive into all of this, your background and all the things you guys are doing Sounds amazing. It’s pretty awesome. Uh, it was great to hear about these different processes and different steps, as I always do. It took lots of notes. Thank you very much for that. And the way we kind of like to end our I guess our conversation is we like to give you the last word. So you’re able to talk to the investors or say something to the startups. But I leave it with you to share whatever you feel is the best steps forward and advice or whatever it is. But I leave it for you. And again. Thank you so much for sharing. It was awesome.

Jerome:
Absolutely. One thing. If I had to say to founders is, don’t ever think that this is the end or that you know what? That everything is over. There’s always one more shot. There’s always one more chance to get into the ring and to do it again, even if it’s with a different company, even if it’s with a different idea. Don’t quit. Stay with it. See how far you can go. See how far your imagination can go, you know? And if you go, go as far as you can, and then realize that the journey is just beginning and then understand that you know what this business is? A journey that your company is a journey and understand that every journey has a beginning. Every journey has the middle. Every journey has an end and then understand that you’re just going to repeat that cycle. You have a beginning, a middle and an end. And understand where you are in your journey. You know, this is the beginning. Maybe a little bit more tough. Hey, this is the middle. We’re really enjoying having some great times. Hey, this is the end time to start another journey, So don’t ever don’t ever give up on your concept or your idea. Just understand, You know, you’re just in a different place in the journey.

Jeffery:
I love it. Well said, All I can think of is you should run a podcast is my God, you’ve got the voice and you’ve got the background knowledge. So great job, Jerome. Thank you very much. That was brilliant. And, uh, we’ll be in touch, but you were awesome.

Jerome:
Hey, Thank you, Jeffrey. Thank you so much, guys. I really appreciate it.

Contact us

Are you interested in meeting Jerome, we will be happy to make an introduction!

Are you an angel investor and would like to participate in an upcoming show?