Leadership forum: Conscious Venture Lab & Motley Fool Ventures

Filmed on June 10, 2020

The demands on startup leaders reached new heights during the onset of Covid-19 and ratcheted up even further in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day. To assist entrepreneurs during this challenging time, Jeff Cherry, CEO and founder of Conscious Venture Lab, and Ollen Douglass, Managing Director of Motley Fool Ventures, shared their perspectives and answered questions during a June 10 webinar.

Jeff and Ollen provided direct guidance for attendees, such as:
  • – Acknowledge there is a problem – don’t ignore it or try to re-direct
  • – Be open, honest and authentic. No one expects you to have all of the answers. Admit that you are exploring your current and past feelings and viewpoints
  • – Find ways to invite and discuss dissenting views – even when you may not agree with them. Create a safe space for dissension
  • – Encourage your team members to think about where they can have the most impact to make a positive change

We invite you to watch the video or read the lightly edited transcript below.

Rob Runett:

All right, well, let’s go ahead and get started. Thanks everyone for joining. This is Rob Runett from Motley Fool Ventures and wanting to welcome you to latest in our leadership series with Jeff Cherry from Conscious Venture Lab and Ollen Douglass from Motley Fool ventures. We have a great and powerful and important conversation today. I really wanted to talk about quality and communications within your company and culture. And so many issues that we’ve been hearing about from our startups and our portfolio companies. I really want to keep this introduction brief because Jeff and Ollen have a lot of great points they want to make. And then we’ll as always open it up and have time for your questions.

Rob Runett:

So as you see opportunity for Q&A at the bottom of the Zoom webinar please go ahead and start asking those throughout and I’ll pose those to Jeff and Ollen as we get to that point in the conversation. So I am going to turn it over now to Jeff Cherry and Ollen Douglass. Thanks guys.

Ollen Douglass:

Well, thanks for the introduction, Rob. And yeah, we are going to talk for maybe 15, 20 minutes, Jeff and I, just to frame up the conversation that we want to have, and it will, again, open it up for questions. As you would hope, Jeff and I have done some preliminary conversations about this. To just really think about as we were talking back and forth where the conversation led. And so we’ll share some of that with you, and hopefully that gives you some ideas to jump in and help [inaudible 00:03:01].

Ollen Douglass:

As we think about dealing with this current crisis. I think the killing of George Floyd has really made bare a lot of racial tensions and inequity that’s been in the system for a very long time and we’re all dealing with now in lots of different ways. But Jeff, when you think about this path as leaders that we have to go on to make sure that we’re providing an opportunity for constructive change and dialogue, we talked about just the fact of acknowledging there’s a problem as a first step in. Do you want to share some thoughts on that?

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah, thanks Ollen. And thanks to Molly Fool Ventures for putting this on and inviting us and our portfolio companies as well. I think that it’s really interesting, this whole episode is different than lots of others that we’ve seen before. And I think that people are recognizing that because it feels like we were just right there when this was going on with George Floyd. And I think that not only does it make people angry, does it make people sad, but it’s also really uncomfortable.

Jeff Cherry:

It’s really uncomfortable to sit in that space and be there and watch that. And then to think about, how as leaders, whether your white or black or otherwise, how do we navigate through this?

Jeff Cherry:

So I think that this whole notion of acknowledging, first of all, that there is a problem is one of the first things we have to do. I don’t know if you saw, I think you did. So I wrote a piece on this on Medium last week. I haven’t been one, like you, to be terribly political often. But as part of that piece I was trying to say things plainly. There’s a problem with racism in this country. And lots of us have known that since we were able to comprehend language.

Jeff Cherry:

So I think we just got to open that up and make sure that we’re acknowledging that there’s a problem because it’s like anything else. If you don’t acknowledge there’s a problem, it’s almost impossible to solve. No matter what the problem is.

Jeff Cherry:

So as leaders, we should address this problem like we do all the other problems. Open up to and let people know that there is a problem. So I think that I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t know. How have you guys been addressing that with both inside the Motley Fool and with portfolio companies?

Ollen Douglass:

Yeah. And I would say for us, prefer [inaudible 00:05:58] things like this. Saying that we’re going to get together and talk about this issue, I think is how we’ve looked at it. And really reaching out to our portfolio company CEOs. Some they do have minority representation leadership teams, some do not. But we all have employees and others that work for us.

Ollen Douglass:

For us, the acknowledgment part is really important because it really is the foundation of change. And we’ll talk about this a little bit more. But just seeing public opinion polls, where 70% of folks, they say, “This is symptomatic of an underlying problem.” That is really the core foundation of change.

Ollen Douglass:

So even while we’re getting lots of statements from corporations, I would say in particular, speaking out against this, some of them are very muted. Some of them are much more directive, Ben and Jerry’s comes to mind, is one that really lays everything out there. But regardless of that, if we can get alignment around there being a problem, we now have an opportunity to improve as Jeff said. So, that’s the main thing we’ve been doing.

Ollen Douglass:

And then Jeff, inside of our companies, we talked about this idea of… and as leaders inside of our companies, talked about this idea of being open. What does that mean to you, Jeff?

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah, it’s a great point. We talked about this before, but it’s probably worth repeating for the group. I have been getting lots of calls from friends around the country, after the George Floyd thing and a few issues or a few ideas have been coming through those calls. One is this notion that for lots of my white friends saying, “I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I’ve been turning a blind eye to this. It’s forcing me to look my own apathy in the face.” So, that’s one thing. And I appreciate that they would reach out and say that, which alludes to the 70% thing that you talked about just now.

Jeff Cherry:

I got another call from a friend of mine who works at the Smithsonian. Who’s very high up in the design group in the Smithsonian, a white man. And he’s on the diversity and inclusion panel at the Smithsonian. And felt that he wasn’t really prepared to have the discussion just because he didn’t know where to start. He gave me a long preamble when he called me about why he was calling and what he wanted to discuss.

Jeff Cherry:

I just said to him at the end, “Well, I would start by saying exactly what you just said to me. Open up, be honest about where you are. Be honest about the fact that no one has all the answers, particularly not you as a leader. But you want to engage the organization because one, we recognize this is a problem, and two, we have to lead into it.”

Jeff Cherry:

I think that the thing that’s most important there to me, Ollen, about the openness and honesty is that at the end of the day, this is all going to be about, particularly for my black and minority members of the organization. Having these discussions in a substantial way is going to be about whether or not they trust you. And I’m going to be able to figure out pretty quickly if you’re not being open and honest and authentic with me.

Jeff Cherry:

Authenticity sometimes is saying, “I don’t know how to go.” So we’re going to have to go through this together. So I think that’s one of the most important things as a leader is, opening up the discussions in a way that everyone knows that this is a trusted space. And sometimes that means admitting to your own failings and your own fears.

Ollen Douglass:

Yeah. And I agree with that. And as we talk about now, as a leader, you’re trying to say, “How do you create this space of and this opportunity to have these constructive discussions inside of the company?” And I think it starts just with that, whether if you have a diversity, an inclusion group, like we have inside the Motley Fool, where they hosted an opportunity for employees to come together. Or as a leader, you make this ad hoc space. But, create an opportunity for people to come together right behind trust, which what Jeff mentioned, is empathy.

Ollen Douglass:

You really need to create this opportunity for people to understand it. In our meeting that we had about before, it was a lot about people just sharing their stories. At one point, two questions were asked. Obviously, because we are more online anything happens sequentially, but it was the same question.

Ollen Douglass:

There was one from a black person and one from a white person. And the question was, is this normal in your life? So it’s the same question, but it was coming from different lenses. Like, “I’m walking through life fearing getting stopped by the cops every day, and I think that’s normal.” And on the other side, “That never happens to me. And I thought that was normal.”

Ollen Douglass:

And so part of this trust and building empathy and being open, as Jeff said, is creating this environment where we can find out what that shared experience is, understand where everyone is. Empathy also requires a couple of things that are tricky and sometimes have to be moderated. Which is one, you know you’ve reached a true open environment when someone can say, “I think this is overblown.” And they don’t get jumped on that one answer. Because that’s a true emotion for that person.

Ollen Douglass:

And let’s say, for the sake of arguing, that person is wrong, they just haven’t been exposed to the reality of what’s going on. And so that’s an opportunity to shed light and help you to understand, to learn a little bit more about their situation and how they can come to that conclusion. Because, if in fact they are wrong, if we don’t understand what the situations are to lead them to that conclusion, we can’t solve it. Again, it goes back to acknowledgement and understanding. So you have to create space for some dissenting views.

Ollen Douglass:

And the other thing, as a moderator, is to keep the conversation focused to some degree. That’s hard because, as Jeff said, these are difficult conversations and someone says, “Black lives matter.” And someone comes back with a comment, “All lives matter.” And you’re like, “Well, that is true.” That distracts things away from the conversation.

Ollen Douglass:

If you believe that all lives matter, there’s a situation happening right now. That one part of those all lives, black lives, seem to be treated differently than all others. So if you truly believe all lives matter, then create some space to talk about a clear deficit that we have in achieving that goal of all lives matters.

Ollen Douglass:

That’s just an example of this ideology when people bring up larger issues that can tend to distract attention away from the focus. Thinking of ways to bring the conversation back to the one that we’re trying to have right now.

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah. That’s a really good point. And I think that this whole issue of managing dissenting views gets difficult. Especially around something like this, because it can be highly emotionally charged. Whatever side of the issue you’re on, when someone brings something up that you might patently disagree with, with issues like this can get emotional quick. And I think as leaders, we’ve got to resist in some ways the urge to go there and to do the best that we can to unpack, “Why would someone say that? And what are you trying to highlight by saying that? And how does that keep us moving down the path that we all agree that we need to move down this path?”

Jeff Cherry:

So if you start from the very beginning, as we’ve been talking about; one, acknowledging that there was a problem, get everyone on that page, being honest so that there’s a level of trust in the room. I think that’s how you manage those dissenting views. Because you got to be able to say, “All right, let’s take a look at that. Let’s take a look at that in the context of the things we’ve already agreed on. We’ve already agreed that there’s a problem. We’re agreed that this is a place where we trust each other. So you can say whatever you want. And then let’s look at that in the context of those things and figure out where it takes us.”

Jeff Cherry:

And I think that if we’re able to do that, that’s what I’ve been trying to do in forums that I’ve been in discussions and online. Trying to unpack some of those things that I might very emotionally disagree with, but trying to keep the discussion going. So I think that’s a good point.

Ollen Douglass:

Yeah. And the last thing I would add to that, and this is a tip for those other things, as a leader you’re going to have to eat some crap. If you want to get… it’s going to have to start with you. Someone is going to say something, you’re going to have to take the high ground. People are full of emotions, they’re not going to use the right words. They’re not going to maybe express things quite right. It’s going to be your job. I’ll get to this in a second, but you want to know how to a shelf. That’s how you take this in, you try really hard to not [inaudible 00:16:11].

Ollen Douglass:

People are looking to you for how you react, they’re looking for you for guidance and leadership. And that means that you’re going to have to prioritize keeping the conversation constructive, even if it does mean for the moment, subordinating some strong feelings as you may want to dissipate or share yourself.

Ollen Douglass:

Another thing I wanted to talk about it out, I’ll start and get some thoughts from Jeff, is probably one of the most common frames for people kind of black, white, and all of it is, how can I shop? I want to just spend a little time thinking, just conceptually about what that means. And I think all these things tie into what we talked about before, when you’ve acknowledged there’s a problem, you’re open to different conversations. You want to be sensitive about it.

Ollen Douglass:

The reality is this is a very complex problem. It’s been around for a very long time. It has political ramifications, social ramifications, education, health wellness, economic. We need progress and change in all of those areas. And people can be actors. They can be endorsers, they can be supporters. And it’s really important to allow people and encourage people to think about where they want to participate, where can they have the most impact and contribute to solving this problem in ways where they feel comfortable. Some person may want write a check and it’s like, “Great. We can give you a cause, write a check.” Somebody may not have a lot of excess cash, especially these times, but wants to go to a march, wants to volunteer in a political campaign.

Ollen Douglass:

I Think that making sure that we have an environment where people can help in all the ways that they can. Because I think everyone doing a little bit so much more powerful than a small number of people trying to do everything.

Ollen Douglass:

What really should we talk about? Is how can I help? And really thinking about that in a structured way? Do you want to help in this arena? Do you wanna help them in that arena? Do you want to support? Do you want to get involved more personally? And then helping connect people to help in a way that fits best for where they are and what they want to do. And then Jeff, when you think about how can we help, what does that mean in your mind?

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah. You laid it out really well. And I think that part of this is… like you said, we need all of that. We need help across the spectrum. Everyone that’s coming to this… we have to meet people where they are and allow them to help in the best way that they can, not the best way that we think they should. I think there’s some of that going on.

Jeff Cherry:

I also think that it’s really important that people can think about this as, not only how can I help in the big picture, like where can I write a check? Where can I volunteer? All that sort of stuff? But what can I do on a day-to-day basis that’s different? I’m going to be the change that I want to see in some ways. The Gandhi thing.

Jeff Cherry:

My sister wrote a thing on Facebook last week that is heartbreaking, but also is poignant and to the point. She wrote, “If my son is in trouble and calls out for me and I’m not around, please help him.” So what can we do in our own lives, on a daily basis as we come in contact with people to make sure that we’re changing the narrative of race in our society. That’s everything from… I made sure now that in the mornings, when I’m out on my run, I say hello to everybody. I’m a new Yorker, so I have the tendency to not say hello to anybody. But just to make sure that we’re starting a dialogue, we’re got to start a dialogue. That’s part of it. So big, small, way you are, all of those things matter.

Ollen Douglass:

Agree. I agree. And I like that, Jeff. And one of the things I want to say in I think which you’re saying is helpful, is there any final thoughts? I want to make sure we have plenty of time for Q&A, anything that you want to just pull it all together for us?

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah. Again, thank you guys for putting this together. We’re going to go back in the context of leaders of businesses and what we can do and what we should be doing, how do we help our folks through this? I think that one thing that you said that really resonated with me is that this is all going to be about empathy at the end of the day. And I think as leaders, one of the most important things that we can do is to show that we have that empathy. That we can put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and understand what they’re going through. Because that’s a powerful trait for a leader to have. And this is a time in society, in life for us, where we need more leaders like that.

Jeff Cherry:

We need people to step up and getting those around us to trust us and understand that we do have that empathy is only one of the first steps. I appreciate you guys, and I appreciate everyone who’s on the call because obviously you wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t important to you. And I know that we got this out in short notice. So really do appreciate that people are trying to navigate their way through it. So that’s, I guess, how I would leave it.

Ollen Douglass:

Thank you, Jeff. I think that’s outstanding. And the one thing I will add for folks is that Jeff and I, we have access to lots of resources that if you wanted more information on anything that we talked about, just reach out to us and we’ll let you know. When you think about that question of how you can help. I think we all had list of resources that whether you want to be an actor and endorser or supporter, that we can help direct you to a place where you can focus your energies to help make a change.

Ollen Douglass:

And so with that Rob, I’ll bring you back in and see if you want to help us with some questions, as they come through the chat, or if you’ve some other places that you’d like us to talk.

Rob Runett:

Yeah. So definitely for anyone who has a question that you’d like to pose, please use that Q&A and we’ll address that. One thing that I would want to start with maybe just go back to a little bit when you talked about the safe space and the space for dissenting views. Just wondering if there’s anything else that you could add to that. Other experiences you’ve seen now or in the past, which is other ways to do that, perhaps for leaders who are attending, who haven’t done that yet within their company and are thinking about how best to set that up.

Ollen Douglass:

Now, I’ll start and give Jeff [inaudible 00:23:58] and Rob, you could speak to this. We have a group called the Motley Committee, which focuses on diversity plus inclusion plus blogging equals success. And specifically the way they set up meeting for us is to acknowledge that the George Floyd event has created a lot had created a lot of anxiety. And I think it’s true, a lot of your minority employees maybe struggling right now. Even if there aren’t the lag there, there’s a lot of inequity happening in the country and these types of things. As horrible as they are in isolation, they bring back memories and thoughts and experiences that other people may have.

Ollen Douglass:

And so what they said was we’re going to have a meeting at this day and this time, and we’re coming just for people to be together, just for people to talk. It wasn’t a problem solving session. It wasn’t even set up as a debate of the issue. It’s like if you were hurting we don’t want you to feel alone. So come to this place listen to some of the stories, hear what people are feeling. Come and try to express those feelings that you can’t, and let’s just make it a space to get it out there. And I did think it was a great job in building empathy.

Ollen Douglass:

It was a very short notice meeting. I think we had maybe a quarter of the companies show up, which is just incredible to come. As a [inaudible 00:25:38], you could run outside [inaudible 00:25:39] express it. Just knowing that there are people out there who cared enough to show up is important and it’s reassuring. So don’t underestimate the value of just standing up and letting it be known that you care, [inaudible 00:25:59] Jeff.

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah, I would second that, just to say that as leaders, it’s worth to be cognizant of this, and it’s worth examining this. We’re always trying to solve problems. Someone got a problem, we really want to solve it. And that might not be the best way forward here. The best way forward might just be to let people know that you’re there. Let people know that you care. Because you may not be able to solve their problem, but just to let them know that you and the organization are there to support them in any way that they need. And that letting them know might take some effort to go and talk to people. So set up a meeting like that.

Jeff Cherry:

I think for us, it’s obviously a much smaller organization. So it’s sort of one-on-one. Just even saying, “How are you feeling about all this?” Because one of the points that you brought up, Rob, as we were prepping for this is that, there are some employees that may be hurting that may make it known. And there are others that may not make it known. And sometimes with all the things we have to do on a daily basis, if you’re not thinking about that too, that could get away from you.

Jeff Cherry:

So think about the fact that everyone saw this and everyone’s going to have some reaction to it. Some of that, just reaching out to say, “Just letting you know that if you want to talk, we can.”

Ollen Douglass:

Yeah, what you said, Jeff, what you’re doing, I do know, there’s a couple of CEOs of portfolio companies that set aside half-hour meeting or whatever the time was to meet one-on-one with every black and brown employee they had. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s not a lot. Or actually is not. But just to do that and then you can extend it to whoever employees you want. But there are some things that we can do as leaders just to make sure that people know and you understand. And if they know that you care.

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah. Rob, one other point I wanted to make I’ll say [inaudible 00:28:09] before I forgot is, I think that lots of people are struggling with the question Ollen talked about before, “How can I help?” And I think one of the things to think about from an organization standpoint is to unpack what are we good at? And then how can that what we’re good at create leverage in the system to change this? So I just think it’s a good way to think about the whole notion about, how can we help?

Rob Runett:

Yeah. One other thing that I’ll just add is, to your earlier point, for organizations, whether you’re bringing a lot of new people. Motley Fool has a lot of new folks, and this was maybe their first example of what the company is going to do in a situation like this. So you’re really setting the tone in terms of what your values are by doing that. And for other organizations who are on the line, it can be… again, every day you’ve got potentially new people and they’re looking to you to understand how are we going to react? What are you going to offer to us? And again, creating that safe space, creating that opportunity just to talk and just have an open conversation is a really… we’ve found a very, I think, very authentic way to recognize our values. And I’ve heard a lot of really great comments afterward.

Jeff Cherry:

Right. Yeah. Well, nobody is perfect, but there’s a reason why we try to bring our portfolio companies through to see you guys every year. Because the culture you guys have built there and it’s intentional, it’s a lot of hard work, I know. But you got to see it in action and that’s much different than talking about. So I appreciate how you guys do that and I’m sure this is no different.

Rob Runett:

Thanks, Jeff. So right now there’s no questions. But I definitely want to make sure if you do have a question just use that Q&A option here and we can definitely spend some more time if you’ve got something.

Ollen Douglass:

And also not only just to Q&A, but if there’s people there who have done things in their organization that they would like to share, that would be great. I think when you respond, you can say it goes either straight to the panel, so to everyone and either way we will see that. But yeah, I think what’s really important in this is that we can all do more together than any of us could do alone. So if there are patterns and practices that people have that they now coming to rethink, we’d love to hear those and take a big part to the solutions. I’ll say one for us and obviously difficultly you don’t ever want to criticize your company because you’re not.

Ollen Douglass:

But I know that internally the Motley Fool has always been big on when openings come up that we hire from within. I mean, that’s a great thing if you’re an employee. You get the first shot at all opportunities, and to the exclusion of anyone else. And the challenge becomes that if you don’t have a diverse population to begin with the likelihood of that position being filled by a diverse employee is hard.

Ollen Douglass:

And so we’ve been rethinking how we think about posting jobs and no one wants to, and we will not ever compromise in our standards. But when we think about where we want to go as a company, it may be that if we don’t have a broad pool of candidates in our standard norm, can we find a next concentric circle, or the next concentric circle? Just to feel like we’re still getting people that are aligned with our mission, our vision, our values. But also making sure that we’re opening up the net wide enough to see all the qualified candidates. Because I don’t think it’s a matter of qualified versus unqualified. It’s just who’s getting the opportunity and who’s not.

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah, the question came in about just that point on as you were saying that. And I think that that’s… By way of example, we focus on investing in minority and female founders. We don’t have a quota. We don’t do that only, but it’s something that we think is important. So how do we do that? We do it just as you just described. We are looking for those concentric circles where we know that we’ll be likely to find those founders? Because if we weren’t looking there we wouldn’t find them. In fact, we think… and I think you can think about this from a hiring perspective as well. We think that we’re actually expanding our pool to the most talented people because we’re looking in more places.

Jeff Cherry:

So if you think about that from a hiring standpoint, whether you’re hiring from inside or whether you’re… however, you get the word out. If you get the word out more broadly to places where more diverse people are likely to be, you’re going to have access to a larger pool, which by its very nature is going to give you access to better talent. It’s like in high school football, if you got 50 people at your school or 400 people at your school, you’ll likely have a better team if you have 400 people at your school. So we have to look in places where we know that those employees or those entrepreneurs are going to be. That’s the thing that has really set us apart. Just in Baltimore, our relationship with this group Baltimore Young Professionals, three to 400 African American entrepreneurs and executives that we are in constant contact with. So it’s easy for us to find diverse candidates. So I think that’s a really great point.

Ollen Douglass:

Yeah. And I would say that… yeah, and along those lines, this idea that if you really want to affect change… we all have a tendency to look within our networks and our pools to find talent. And sorts of questions, looking at your network and really having an assessment of, is it big enough? Is it broad enough? Is it inclusive enough to give me the talent that I want? And we’ve talked about that individual fund as well. It’s like, where are we looking for companies? And we retract it. We find out where did it come from? And we see that there are places where we could be looking harder. And again, it’s not about compromising our values.

Ollen Douglass:

The other thing I would say is that there’s more and more evidence coming out, that diverse teams perform better. And it’s important to really think about that dynamic. Because what you’re talking about is a diverse team. And take these to sports analogies and Jeff beat me to it, and my sister will tell you at one time [inaudible 00:35:37]. I used to play a lot of basketball and anyone who’s played any amount of basketball knows this story. They’ve seen it, or they’ve experienced where you have a team of five great athletes. And these five guys come to play against these amazing athletes. And they all seem okay, but they win.

Ollen Douglass:

The team that seems to be individually less talented as a team just crush it. And they win in a way that you’d know it wasn’t accidental. You keep playing you’re going to keep losing unless you change something. And it’s because of the power of working as a team. And so this idea that building a diverse team is different than finding the best individual performance. And I think that gets lost sometimes. And I think that’s the nuance that has to happen. And it’s really also important, and I’ll say one more thing to switch and you can go to either one, is often I’ve heard the comment that people don’t leave companies, they leave their managers.

Ollen Douglass:

I think that for underrepresented people, that’s only half of the story. I think that part is true, but more just as frequently or just as close, people leave companies when they don’t see themselves in the future of that company. And so whether you… and this is one of the difficult things. I hope this is a safe place. But whether you like it or not, every day when you put your management team up on the stage, and if it’s all white men, there’s a portion of your company that won’t notice it. There’s a portion of the company that will notice it every single time. And their question is, “I don’t see myself on that stage and I don’t know how I’m ever going to get there.” And so just take that and then take it to the next level. And this next level is like, how far can a person of color look into your organization and still see themselves? And that’s something you just kind of think about.

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah. You got a note from Andrew Young from Vent Coffee. I think over, maybe everyone sees, but I’ll read it in case everyone [doesn’t] the thing I would say is my business partner, Sarah, and I wanted to do something, but we weren’t sure what to do. We decided to start a book club at our coffee shop, which is a great coffee shop with hopes to attract fellow white people who are interested in being part of the solution.

Jeff Cherry:

The first book would be How to Be an Antiracist. And he’s interested in other ideas. So I think that’s a great idea. Andrew, again, as like Ollen said early on, do what you can. The Vent Coffee is all about having people coming together and being able to vent. So I think that’s a perfect solution for Vent Coffee. Someone else might look at that and say, “Well, you could do…” No, that’s perfect for Vent because that’s what we’re good at. We’re good at bringing people together. So let’s bring them together around this. So I think that’s a great example, Andrew. Thanks for putting that up.

Rob Runett:

There’s a question that just came in. Curious to get your reaction to companies that are making these public statements right now with positive statements, as well as statements that are quite less positive, and then trying to cover up the behavior by making donations or doing something else to quickly try to affect change to show that they’re committed to the cause? So, the question is asking to reflect on that, and then also, does that affect how you invest when you see things like this?

Ollen Douglass:

For me, this is a little bit where you eat some crap. You look for the positive and you move forward. I did not see the positive example in particular. But for those things, if you think the person is being sincere and genuine, and there’s an option for dialogue, and certainly, if I’m an employee of CrossFit or I’m a user of their services, it does affect it. And actually it will affect how I spend or invest.

Ollen Douglass:

For companies maybe there are some others on the panel. We ask all of our companies what’s their point of view on diversity and inclusion. And we do that before we invest. And any answer matters. What’s interesting is that it follows a lot of the dynamics we talked about earlier.

Ollen Douglass:

Every company we invest in is a young company. There’s no company that their DNA is set it will never ever change. So where you are isn’t going to be a problem or you wouldn’t be in the room to even get the question. But how you plan on addressing it does make a big difference. And this goes back to the CrossFit. When we asked you that question, I’ll give you the secret here. It’s really how much have you thought about this? If it’s not important to you that does work against you, and it works against you because it’s important to us. And we want to invest in companies that are aligned.

Ollen Douglass:

And so it’s just maybe a sign that we’re not ready to work together yet because we’re going to be asking you questions about things that aren’t important to you. And so maybe now is not the time for us to have a close relationship. And that’s the answer I would say to those who are either making less than positive statements or doing things that look like they’re just trying to appease, something is like, “That’s fine. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Ollen Douglass:

But chances are, we’re just not ready to have a close relationship with that organization. And I would take it all the way down to the employees. I think if your company is not responding in a way that you’re comfortable… in whatever way you can, I’m not asking you to organize a boycott. But there should be some way if your leaders aren’t serious about this for you to voice your pain that you would have liked to express points a little bit differently.

Jeff Cherry:

Yeah. The only thing I would add to that is, I think that’s spot on we feel the same way and this is an example of, we all have biases. And how do we unpack them? We don’t ask that question about what’s your point of view on diversity inclusion? And we probably should. We don’t ask it… if I was unpacking like, “Well, we’re doing all this to invest in minority female founders.” But that’s my bias too. So we probably should ask that question. Mariana, I know you’re listening. Take a note.

Rob Runett:

And I know Jeff, one of the times when we visited with you in Baltimore, we talked about the importance of core values. And why early on it’s so important to have that. So that’s a question that I’ll ask. I enter with “Talk to me about your core values” and if there’s not a diversity and inclusion component then that’s when I start asking about that, and just how they’re thinking about the makeup of their team and some other things to get there. But yeah, that’s just another thing that we’ve talked a lot about with.

Jeff Cherry:

It’s being deliberate about it too. Because I think that one of these things that in terms of what we talked about close up the beginning about what can you do do the things you can in your own sphere, or being deliberate about it? That’s part of the problem. Why I’m getting calls from friends who are saying, “I’m looking at the mirror of my own apathy.” Because not that they’re bad people, they’re really good people. They just hadn’t figured out a way to be more deliberate about wanting to make a change. So I think that’s important.

Ollen Douglass:

And I just read something quickly about the CrossFit story. Because of people standing up and the back lies, the CEO resigned. I think organizations are capable of self-policing. And so it does matter. I mean, it’s just expressing your opinion as important.

Rob Runett:

So last call in case there’s any other questions, please go ahead and submit those now. I guess, Jeff and Ollen, anything else? Just in case we don’t get any others. Any other final comments that you’d like to share before we wrap up?

Jeff Cherry:

Again, I really appreciate you guys. I appreciate everyone who showed up. I know that we’re going to record this. So if you know of anyone who you think this would be valuable to reach out to any of us and we can get you the recording. And as Ollen said, reach out to us if you’re looking for resources and ideas. This is just the way for us open the door to them.

Ollen Douglass:

Yeah. And I’d like to say thanks to Jeff and Mariana and Ayanna and the others who have helped to put this together. Again, I believe so much that just the dialogue is important. And so thank you all for coming and participating and for being who you are.

Rob Runett:

Thanks, everyone. Thanks, Jeff. Thanks, Ollen. And as you said, we’ll have this available hopefully the next few days and share with everyone. Thanks again for your time.

Jeff Cherry:

See you guys. Thanks a lot. All the best.

Ollen Douglass:

Bye-bye.

 

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