London-based Eric is a technology executive who has spent a career building the value of digital companies through innovative strategies.
He has done this at public and private companies including AOL, TimeWarner, Tegic/Nuance Communications, MobilePosse, SwiftKey/Microsoft and most recently, Touch Surgery, where he was COO.
In 2018, Eric was part of a prominent group of Black European and US serial entrepreneurs, institutional investors, investment bankers, corporate leaders and entertainers to found Impact X Capital.
The company is a double bottom-line venture capital firm that invests in under-represented innovators in Europe, focusing on growth stage companies in three distinct sectors: digital and technology, health, education and lifestyle; and media and entertainment.
Eric is also a sought-after board member and advisor in the technology space. In September 2020 he was appointed to the board of Tech Nation, the body that represents UK startups. He sits on the board of companies in San Francisco and London and acts as an advisor to companies in the US, India and the UK.
He supports civic activities. In London, he serves on the board of Autograph ABP and Southwark Cathedral’s Council and, in the US, he has been a board member of Washington Performing Arts.
He also donates time and resources to many other contemporary causes, including the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum of African-American History and Culture; The National Museum of African Art; Toronto’s Power Plant Gallery; and Philomena’s Chorus (a programme that helps under-represented voices, especially young, black British women, produce films).
President Obama appointed Eric to the Small Business Administration’s Council on Underserved Communities and as an evaluator for White House Fellow applicants.
Eric holds degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
In November 2018, The Financial Times named him among the UK’s top 100 BAME leaders in technology. In 2019 and 2020 he was voted one of the most influential black people in Britain on The Powerlist.
Femi: It is possible to build a big business. It is possible to be the next Amazon. It doesn't matter what your background is. Black, white it's available to everyone and thanks to comprehend impact X. It is possible as well to be a black entrepreneur and get the funding you need to take it to the next stratospheric level. I usually say done is better than perfect and that's so true, but the message here today is think big bingo, a game, be resilient, be ready to be in it for the long haul and leave your money on the table. You've got to be able to play out and wait for your returns and above all.
Femi: Just go for it.
Femi: Welcome to the do on least podcast with me, Femi Akon, yummy the podcast where we share great ideas on how to rocket and unleash your best in the workplace. And in life. Sometimes I use my own personal stories, but sometimes we just have to bring people who know a lot more than we do to come into the studio and just bless us with their amazing knowledge and how we can become a least as well. You know what I usually see I've become a believer that done is better than perfect. So in whatever it is you do just start, you'll be amazed how much better you get along. And you're not too far for perfection eventually. So with that said, let's get into it. Now. I remember a very long time ago when I was much younger. I am still young. I was thinking about going into tech and becoming an entrepreneur and grand visions of going into Silicon Valley.
Femi: And one of the things that ended up slow me down was I didn't really know what to do or where to go or how to raise the money. And eventually I just got scared, intimidated. There were a number of words you can use, and that dream kind of died away. I hesitate to see, and for someone who likes to inspire people, I'm not proud to say that, but it's kind of therapeutic to say it as well. And then sometime I live in the year, this year, I ran into someone, I was on a show with someone and he was just so inspirational and he's coming at things with a completely different angle. And if I, if he was around, when I had my idea, God knows where I'd be right now, but now I've met him as well. There's this big task. This thing could still happen.
Femi: So, but he is a technology executive who spent a career building the value of digital companies to innovative strategies. And he has done this at public and private companies, including giants like AOL time Warner, mobile pose, robot posse, Swift key, et cetera. In 2018, he was part of a prominent group of black European and us CVO entrepreneurials to found impact X capital. This company is a double bottom line venture capital firm. And I will explain what that means later that invest in underrepresented innovators in Europe, focusing on growth stage companies in two distinct sectors, digital and tech health and educational lifestyle. And as well as media and entertainment, he's a sought after board member and advisor in the technology space. And in September, 2020, he was appointed to the board of technician, the body that represents UK startups. He sits on the board of companies in San Francisco, London, and acts as the advisor to companies in the us, India and the UK.
Femi: Obviously he's very passionate about civic activities. And in London, he serves on the board of autograph ABP and Sova Catedral council. And in the U S he has been, a board member of us, of the Washington performing arts love to donate his time and resources to many contemporary causes, including these is split Sonian is a museum of African American history and culture, and, lots of other similar ventures, but he also helps underrepresented voices, especially young black, British women who produce films. President Obama appointed into the small business administrators council on underserved communities. And he's an evaluator for white house fellow applicants. And they're also degrees from Princeton and Harvard law. And in 2018, he was named in the top. UK is B a M E and that's black and minority and ethnics leaders in tech. And in 1920, he was voted one of the most influential black people in Britain on the power list. It gives me great pleasure to introduce and welcome, and it's a big pleasure and, we're lucky to have them and it Collins. Eric, thank you so much.
Eric: Thank you Femi. And it's lucky for me to be here. So thank you for taking the time and letting me talk with you about some of the things about which I'm passionate.
Femi: Yeah, I, it was great. Cause I remember when we, when we first met and, I didn't know, and I think this is probably what a lot of us don't realize, and this is probably the gap you're trying to feel. One of the things I didn't realize was Deb is someone who's got the vision to put in place a underrepresented focus. Let's be honest, black focus to a certain degree, black and black women focused venture capital it capitalist firm that is looking to see minority folks do big things are you're wanting to them. So it was quite an, and I guess that was probably the driver for you as well.
Eric: Oh, it was very much the driver that, well, let me step back for a second. The thing for me, for me is I believe that people show initiative in various ways. You could put together this podcast, you actually get audiences to come and listen. You get guests to come and speak. I think it's phenomenal. It's an example of entrepreneurship as an example of taking an idea and then making it work. So I'm very pleased with this. And I want you to think about this as another entrepreneurial venture. What I would love to think about as a venture capitalist is how big could it actually be is, you know, is there a way to, and that's one of the thing about venture capitalists is that we are always looking at the market. And we're saying that there are ideas that are coming up every day. People are coming up with a great ideas.
Eric: People are saying, well, let's stream this called Netflix. Let's deliver this. That's called Amazon. Let's be able to, you know, fix this. That's called Medtronic, you know, a health tech company. They're all sorts of things that are coming up on a day to day basis. And the great thing about it is that there is generally money out there that wants to get behind that idea to not just make it a reality, but to make it a huge success and venture capital. One of those types of money, the bank tries to do it by getting a loan, giving you a loan and trying to get money back from you. With some interest, your family might give it to you with a little bit of an upside. They might take a small percentage, but they want you to be successful. And a venture capitalist is just in the continuum of various people who are farther and farther away from you who wants to try and make you successful.
Femi: I love that. I think that that's, that's the big thing. It's, it's really that thought thing about thinking about how big you can be calm. And that's the thing where for a lot of us, including minorities who want to create businesses, individuals as well, that no role models. So a lot of us come in and we might, as you're young and you've got these visions, but the older you get, the less role models you see, and the patients just, just fade away. And I guess you've got that. You've got that challenge in your talent in us as well. Cause you're, you're doing two things. You're, you're here to help us be also challenged and say, Hey guys, step up. You've got, you've got to think big. You can do this too.
Eric: Isn't isn't one of the biggest barriers is the expectation of small things. It's just that we expect limited success. We expect to be able to, you know, finish up university. We expect to then get a job and hold on to that job, expect to have a home. And we expect to own that home outright. At some point, we expect to have disposable income to be able to do, you know, pleasant and nice things for ourselves as well as for our family. So those are some things and that is not bad set of aspirations, impact X. And sort of what I think about in my life is that I would like to try and create a different world and I can create it by lending people money to buy a house, one thing at a time, one house at a time. And that will help them because for most people, that's their major asset.
Eric: That's a major piece of wealth that they have. So maybe I can do that. But I think about organizations that did not exist 20 years ago, we now know those organizations and they influence everything that we do. Tik TOK did not exist. 20 years ago, Google barely existed. 20 years ago, Microsoft didn't exist. It didn't exist. 50 years ago, Amazon didn't exist. 30 years ago. These are organizations that are now some of the most powerful organizations in the world. And if you think about them, they actually influence governments. I mean, the EU is suing is suing Google right now and investigating Facebook. Those are corporations that are so important and so big that a government has said, we need to look at it the same way they would look as someone started to bomb the shores of Europe. That in my, in my estimation shows the impact of being able to build a large and influential, organization that has outsize reach in a short period of time in our lifetime.
Eric: And I think generational opportunities that could actually change. And if we have more of those businesses that are started by run by black people, instead of what we see many times is those same organizations. None of them are run by black people. There are very few black people in any of those organizations I've just named who are in the C-suite, who are making very big decisions on behalf of the organizations. And if we start organizations that don't have to be retrofitted and say, Oh, we never hired a black woman. So now let's go and find a black woman, but instead we've never had a black man on our board. So now let's go find them black men. If they start off with the understanding that black people in those sorts of roles create the best results. And therefore that's how we build the organization on the, you know, along with teams and teams of black women and black men and white women and white, you know, that's what I'm looking for. And I think that that is an answer to a lot of problems, including disparities and net wealth disparities in education disparities, in health disparities in many, many different areas.
Femi: Amazing. So I'll take you back a bit because I do have, I want to get to, but I want to take you back to a bit when you were a young pup and, I guess what was the, his, where was the aha moments that, you know what I mean Was it someone or something just triggered this, this passion and this, when you started seeing the world differently Or is it because it's not it probably not innate, but what, what drove this What, what was that aha moment for you that this can be changed This can drive change.
Eric: That'd be, are most of your viewer or most of your listeners from the UK, would you say,
Femi: Okay, a lot of them are for youth and we've got some from the United States. You've got some from, we've got quite a few from Nigeria and oddly I've got one or two listeners in the Antarctica. So I've given lots of who that is.
Eric: I love that, you know, from penguins all the way to, you know, whatever you do, all of the, you know, to all of the species. So family. So I grew up in one of the most magical, monumental and miserable times in American history. I was born at the very end of the civil rights movement. I was born in the deep South. I was born in the state of Alabama. I was born on a black college campus. So think about this in the United States, the civil rights movement, there's Martin Luther King talking about things there. You're watching people getting bitten by, by attack dogs or watching poses on people. And during that, my parents are young. Parents were raising children and saying, we're going to have children. We're going to have children in a place where segregation rule. Jim Crow was very, very, was very much there.
Eric: My parents tell me stories of having to make sure my dad was a professor at the university of models and instructor, and they were, they had to take a literacy test. They had to take a, a, voting test in order to be able to prove that they could then vote. They did not have the right to vote. I was the first person in my entire family, my grandparents, great grandparents, great, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, the first person who was guaranteed the right to vote when I was born in the United States. And my PA, my family has been in the United States for hundreds of years. So that's a long time to be a black person and I'm born in that particular moment. And that's why I say it's a miserable time to be born, but it's also monumental because it, it created for me.
Eric: And I think, and this tries to answer your question as to, was there a triggering moment I think I was born, I was conceived in protest. I was born in protest. I was born with the idea that it's more than just about you and that you have a mission to a group. And that, that, and I had around me a whole lot of people who believed that same thing. And then those people have been fortunate circumstances to be able to then act at a moment in history instead of being lynched like George Floyd, instead of being, you know, assassinated like Martin Luther King actually made and were able to grow their family, grow them up, give them opportunities, send them out into the world to actually be a next generation. So for me, it started, I would say, you know, some people would say from birth, I think from conception probably been one of the things that has said you should, you, you have not only responsibility to your family and not only responsibility to yourself, not only is it responsibility to your country, but to your people and your people. It's a big definition of people. It's not just black people, but your people, you have a, you have a responsibility to repeating.
Femi: No, that's amazing. And I, what I take from that is you were born at this inflection point inflection point, and that affects the point was the point of looking forward. Anything is possible. I'm the first of my generation that converts and was born educated parents. So for me, the board is my oyster and why should I not If I've got it all the world is my oyster. I can. So I love that. And I suppose that's what drives some of these phrases I heard cause I, as I like to research and I had Yukon and I said, I need to make sure I'm prepped and I'm ready for him. And I started to just, some of the things that I kept hearing you say is put our money where our mouth is, see funding targeted on the represent of the represented and ShopRunner. And I loved that.
Femi: Put our money where our mouth is, and it speaks to the need that it's not action. You want to see action commend you amount of action. And I take, that's probably one when I was thinking about what are these habits And I guess one of your things is it's action. And you were speaking at the time about the George Floyd protest. And one of the things you said was Dem is a place for protest. Absolutely. But it's got to be a place for the other side. It's obvious it's two pronged attack. We're making our voices heard, but also make an impact economically and financially, and speak to that a bit about the need for a lot of a severe lies that was talking is good. We've got to start to think around our actions. All right.
Eric: It influences everything that I do. And I'm so glad. Well, first of all, you did your research, which is flattering that it may be as clear in what I'm saying that I do believe in execution. When I talk to an entrepreneur, I want you to have executed something. The greatest idea that people will come to me and say, I have this great idea. And then the funny thing is they haven't taken any risk. They haven't actually built out the idea. They've written it down. They might've created a nice presentation. They haven't assembled a team. They haven't tried to do it on paper. They haven't tried to do anything, but they've asked, they want to ask me for money. And I'm very pleased that they are creative. But what I need them to do is to actually show me that they are going to be able to follow through.
Eric: And that's going to be sort of execution and putting themselves on the line with respect to this. I do believe quite frankly, that when I was growing up, there was a thing there was used to be a saying black is black power and black is beautiful. And you know, those sorts of things are things to say. And there are lots of nice things that we can say, but the proof is actually in the pudding. Do we actually show our, do we actually show up So I believe in, you know, black businesses, but then I've never actually patronize the black business other than my barber. I believe in black empowerment. I believe that black people are as you know, able and even more able than other people. But the only black thing I really listened to that I really take comfort in and sort of spend time with is black church or black music.
Eric: I don't have a black lawyer who works on my, who works on my account. I didn't use a black mortgage broker. When I bought my house. I've never thought to use a black person to be because it's the national health to be my dentist or something else. It's very interesting how we need, and this is the, this is how racism is so pervasive. This is how systemic inequalities are not only existing out there and sort of put upon us by others, but how we, they have been internalized and then help us to keep ourselves in a certain sort of a space that we have to be reminded to, by the lack on to, it's not, it's just not a thought that that's what we would be looking for. We know how to use Amazon. We know how to use Google, but it requires something like George Flint to remind us that there is benefit in power.
Eric: And you know, the thing that I have to agree with, someone who said to me the other day, George Floyd's family, we owe such a debt to George Floyd's family for allowing us to piggyback on his murder. Someone said to me today, lynching, in order to then get enough attention and enough, enough is enough for us to then move forward. So we have to think that we have to thank his family for actually giving us the ability to do this. And, but I would say that, you know, quite frankly, we are very much, many of us are willing to pay lip service, but when push comes to struggle, we are in the trenches and we're at our job. And we're asked to sort of hire someone in the best person. We don't want to seem as though we're too black. We don't want to seem as though we're too female focus. We don't want to seem as though, you know, we want to fit in in some ways and therefore we'll make some compromises and decisions. And those decisions have absolute and somewhat dire consequences in my opinion, from time to time, not all decisions, but some of them do. And so I believe that you have to be deliberate. We have to putting your money where your mouth is just a conversation about being deliberate in your approach, decide what it is that's important to you and then follow through in the actions that you take.
Femi: That's a powerful point and it speaks as well to something I want to talk about this niche. And I love this because I suppose in a way as a VC, you're you are, you're abiding your own rules because you've, you've taken your as a VC. You're actually a niche VC. I think it's fair to say, right That you're targeting a certain demographic of, of entrepreneurs. And,
Eric: I would say the were smart VCs. And so sometimes I would say smart because when you're investing. So for those of you who are out there who are investing, you're trying not to follow the trends, you know, Bitcoin. So I read yesterday that Bitcoin is expect to go from $24,000 a coin to $40,000 a coin. You know, maybe you can follow the herd in terms of that. but what I would say is that the smartest way to invest, if you're an institutional investor, is you invest in places that not everyone else is going, you utilize the tools that others are using, but don't go the same space. Those are places where it's as if you go to a auction and you're going to an office, everyone wants to buy the, once the buy, the Isaac Julian print, or wants to buy the Frank bowling piece and wants to buy the Maria homage.
Eric: These are all black artists and they all are bidding on that same thing, but there's some other pieces of work that other people that not a lot of people are bidding on the piece. That's very popular. That price is going up enough because there's a, there's a market for it in their scarcity for the piece. We want to find the places where there is not that same perception, but we know that this is going to increase in value and we can create eight, the demand for it later. So that's what we're doing. And so some people call that niche. What I would call it is smart. Don't go where all the money is running, go where the money hasn't yet discovered beyond the cutting edge. Then that allows you to get much more of a return after the fact move to the neighborhood. If you move to the biggest house in the best house, in the best neighborhood, the value of that house is not going to rise as much as the house in the same neighborhood that needs a lot of work and it's ugly.
Eric: And then you make that into something else. You will see much more value for that than you will buy the biggest house that's well done. And then all of the renovations were done last week and you have to buy at the top of the market. That's not a great way to get a return. If what you're looking for is financial return and impact X is looking for several things, but one of the most important things is we want financial return so that our black and Brown and female investors get their money plus more and can give us more the next time to invest in other opportunities.
Femi: I get it now. So what we're seeing here is the black is underrepresented on the mind. And I don't want to say under exploited by it, it's on the, if that's the word to use in a positive term, it's, it's not been posted. There's a lot of talent line fallow. And what you're doing is you are, you were looking to invest in it and with the double, the double bottom line, which is, it just so happens as well, that you were also bringing about social change. We put as well,
Eric: Family. I couldn't have said it better.
Femi: Amazing, amazing. Cause what I'm, what I love about that. But, and that's where the magic of thinking big is, is when you tell us is you tell us is, think about creating jobs as well. So if you're thinking big, you're thinking about creating jobs, because if you create jobs, you also have an opportunity for other people, people who are minority to create jobs, have device, social, right policies in place. That means that some of these races, so overtly or covertly racist policies are not in place. And then you create the workplace of your dreams for your kind of people.
Eric: Correct. And, and we can do this. This is the interesting thing for me all the time in hairdressers, we do it in barbershops. We do it in restaurants and I think we can do the same thing in companies that look just as good as Airbnb. We can do it in companies that look just as interesting as what's, what's another, what's another become Monzo or transfer wise. I believe that that's exactly what the black population of Europe. I, and I expand this beyond the B on the UK. And, the black population of Europe is poised to put in front of the world, some of the best technologies, some of the fastest growing companies and some of the most valuable organizations in history. And that's what we are betting on. And we have been able to do that several times, I think proven several times already in terms of some of the growth that we've seen and some of the organizations in which we've invested.
Femi: Oh, lovely. So, and I guess that all comes the ability to do that, or ends up being rooted in excellence. There is a prerequisite for excellence, because if this, if your business idea is going to go where you want it to go, you have to be excellent. And I've spoken to you long enough to know that you seek to be excellent and you want your entrepreneurs to match you for that. Excellent. Because I think one of the things you said was if you're coming on board with a VC, you're not, don't expect holidays because we don't expect holidays. And I think this is what I want to speak to is, I think for a lot of people of our listeners, some who are bodied entrepreneurs or some who are still in the corporate space or are in the corporate space and you happen to be someone who's been, who's managed to rise to the top in both fields, what are the messages you have out there for people about this Excellent. Cause I think sometimes what, what, or how do you, cause it's easy to say, it'd be excellent, but for you, what are your rules What habits, what, what helps you
Eric: Can I just say there are only two things. So, so I like the term excellence because I think we all understand what that means. I would say that the two things that have to happen is that you have to be able to grind it out. You have to be able to toy entrepreneurship. It's sort of like being a, you know, Oh, I want to be a, I want to be a famous actor, you know, to be a famous actor, to become Lenny Henry, you have to Elaine, who was telling me his story about playing a lot clubs in a lot of different spaces. These were workmen working men's clubs in the 1960s and seventies as a young black man in all white clubs of working class white people, and that you have to grind it out. And then there'll be a time where if you grind it out long enough and you, and you sort of get your craft right, then you might be able to sort of make something big happen.
Eric: But if you don't grind it out, there are a few people who obviously win the lottery. They win the genetic lottery. They win the, the brains lottery. They win the lottery. They actually win the money from the lottery. I've never been the person who's relied upon winning the lottery as my strategy for getting forward. My strategy. And I think the one that I would tell anyone on this call is one of, you know, enjoying the process. And the process is the toiling process. You have to enjoy the hard work. Everyone wants the reward, right Everyone wants to be able to say that at the end of the day there Jeff Bezos. So where everyone stayed there, Cathy Hughes, a black female billionaire, everyone wants to be Oprah Winfrey, but it's the toil that gets you there. And you have to enjoy that process. And if you enjoy that process, my perception is that that creates the wind that creates in retrospect, the excellence that people will be marked as an all.
Eric: And let me be clear. I don't believe for me that that means that the person has to be the smartest person in the room, the best connected in the room, the most high born person in the room. I think they have to be a person. And I want your listeners to think too, to hear this. The people that I want to invest in are the ones who are working hard. I don't need you to have gone to Oxford and Cambridge. And so few of us do so it doesn't necessarily matter. That's not a good pool to, for me to actually find, I mean, I found a thousand companies last year to find a thousand companies. It would take me how many years of graduates of Cambridge in order to find a thousand graduates who were actually black, it would take me, you know, generations of, so it's just so that doesn't make sense.
Eric: So it's not that I'm looking for those sorts of as prerequisites. But what I am looking for is people who can demonstrate to me based on their past behaviors and other things that they have actually toiled through. And, and they have been able to look at reversals and it doesn't just mean that, you know, we were born on a housing estate and I've been able to make it out of the housing state. That's not it. You have to show me that you're going to be a good, you're going to be a good, but that could be very helpful in showing, but you have to show me that you're going to be a good steward for my capital. And you were going to have an idea and that you're going to see it through to the end. And even when things get going, when the tough times come and they will come, not once, not just twice, they'll continue to come.
Eric: How do you actually react to that And can you keep moving forward So that's, and then the other piece I think is besides tenacity and toil and grit is, deferred gratification. Because the funny thing is that you can't take your money off the table. You have to continue down that road. You can't have a little success and then buy a car and buy a house. It has to go back into the business. You can't sort of, you know, do that. And then, and then plan a huge wedding. I mean, I'm not saying that these are impossible things to do, but that's not the outcome. The outcome is to build the business
Femi: That the mate and those are two things that even apart from business, it doesn't matter what you do. Those two principles will get you a long way. Yeah. And probably the process, which is, and I think I've read this somewhere. Success in itself is its own reward and hard work. If, when you're working hard, you've got to enjoy it because the success itself, in a way I hate to say this is it's never quite guaranteed, cause there's a lot outside of your control. So, but more of the things you can do is enjoy it for itself.
Eric: I enjoy sleeping, right. I'm here and I'm very good at it. I'm good at napping. I'm good at all those things. But for me, it is very important to say that even though I enjoy it, that's not necessarily the only thing to measure. Am I gratified and helping other people in terms of my, it would be great if I enjoyed my toil, but if indeed I'm grinding it out and I can see sort of an end result, I can refer my grad, my gratification until I get to that end result. Then that's what I'm talking about also. But I think you've got it down, Pat.
Femi: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So it's, it's, it's, it's, it's really is, the law you're in it for the long haul. You're in it for the long haul and that love that. Great. So get a bit, taken off track a bit, or what are you reading What are you reading at the moment Any books or what book actually I'll flip it. What books changed things for you Is there any book that you give people the most, if you were to give people a book, what book, the often gifts, people,
Eric: You know what I've been reading recently I had been reading three books. One is a book about, and the reason I'm reading this and just so happened, I was reading this before the pandemic and I still haven't finished is the book from the, I think it's the late 16 hundreds, early 17 hundreds. It's a British book by an author. Defoe is his last name. And it's about the great plague. So the last plague in the, in the UK, and it's fascinating to read because you're reading about a time when there's a high rate of illiteracy, there's a high rate of, you know, hygiene issues, all sorts of issues. And you have the plague come and information has to be passed around. Public health has got to be executed. Things have got to happen. I was reading it because I wanted to know if you're in a situation, how do you have the viral of making sure that information, which is here is then known and disseminated to everyone.
Eric: And that, that is a way that, you know, you know, something like Instagram has become very clear, understood by a lot of people where it didn't exist, but there's a way or Snapchat. There's a way in which, you know, it, it becomes part of the, the sort of a drum beat. That's an underlying drum beat and everyone begins to know it. So how did that happen in the 16 This is related to 16, I think 1666 when that, when the green would happened. So it's fascinating to me, that's an interesting book. I have been reading also Lenny Henry's, his book that he's written about his early life. He's writing his, his memoirs and a series of, books. And this is about when he's turning, when he's 16, his early life. And then he's up to 16, maybe 18. And he's talking about how he came to national prominence and what would it be now
Eric: Britain's got talent when he won that national competition and what did it do And the reason I like that book is because it helped me to sort of see an individual's journey from no one else could see he had that special spark, right He was, he was the youngest and a lot of kids, he was, you know, baby by his mom and his sisters and protected by his brothers and sisters, et cetera. And one day he goes and does something that they didn't know he had the capacity to do. And the funny thing is he comes home and instead of being derived and pulled down, they applauded him when he performed the same echoes on television, on, in front of them, on the front steps. And it's just so interesting, sort of what kind of support do we need in our communities, in our families, in our home, in ourselves in order to be able to then take the next step.
Eric: So that was, for me, that's a fascinating sort of a story. And, you know, Lenny writes in a very evocative fashion and I'm not, you know, as African-American, we, we're not necessarily African Caribbean, we've been in the United States for so long and we don't have as close a tie to say, country of origin, where my family might have been from Makino fossil in Malawi. We just don't have that sort of connection we have in stiff Arkansas. That's how we feel about ourselves is our origin story. So, you know, but his is an Afro Caribbean story. And so it's interesting to read that every Caribbean story and how that actually feels, it feels very British as a British kind of a narrative. And then I've been reading a lot of, you know, what I read a lot of, I read a lot of proposals, a lot of proposals coming in from companies around and with all of them, the most fascinating ideas that are going to change the world.
Eric: And, you know, you feel such a privilege for someone to say to you, Eric, I want you to hear about a company that I've started or that I'm planning on starting, or that I started some time ago, it's struggling. You're doing great. And I'm having such a good time. And it's such a privilege. You have to say a prayer every day that you know, that you have been put and placed in this position in order to be able to actually be, a rest stop along the road for these people in terms of their business and their things that you can actually do to help. Even if you can't put money in there, things that you can actually do to help. And that's what impact X does. So I, you know, that's, that's where I'm reading. And let me tell you, it has those things have actually changed my life and reminded me on daily basis of the new date.
Femi: Yeah. Yeah. I guess that's a nice segue cause. So when you read this proposals, now that I've got a few, a lot of body and entrepreneurs on this, on this call, what do you want to tell them about fundamentals, foundational things that people get wrong, we could do better. That would just make you, that that would give, make your life harder because you'd have more companies here.
Eric: You don't want to make my life harder. If people thought of me, not as their auntie, but as some hard hearted capitalist out there who has a bunch of hard-hearted capitalists who are looking at me and saying, I want my money back times three. That's what I'm, that's, that's sort of what is driving me in the background. There's someone sitting behind me there, carrots and sticks, but there are a lot of sticks and someone's behind me with a stick saying, Eric, where's my, where's my three X that you promise me. and so when someone comes to me and they feel as though here's my baby, and I'm going to the baby's wet, the baby has, you know, it has a, has a full diaper, but I'm going to hand it to you. That's not as appealing, you know, a moment as a nice sort of, a nice, sort of being, being handled, a nice sort of gentle sort of sleeping baby, you know, who smells very, very lovely.
Eric: What I often will get is that people are like, well, you know, this is something and I'm just gonna throw it at you. And please give me some advice as to how to make my deal, how to make my company work. And I have to say to people, it's just, that's not what we do. I'm not a, I'm not an agency to incubate and to accelerate your learning about how to be an entrepreneur. I'm not that that's not what impact X does. There are organizations that do that, and here's some names, but come to me when you are ready for capital to grow your business to another level, don't come to me with an idea on the back of a napkin. Don't come to me with something that you can sort of show me from the facts that you've actually found customers. You've actually been able to build a business and a product and that someone actually wants to pay for it and that more people want to pay for it.
Eric: And the only thing that's keeping you back is that you don't have enough money to help grow it to another level. That's what people need to understand. It would be much easier for them. If they come to me at the right time, most people want to come. It's like, I need money. I've exhausted my own resources. And now I need some money from you. It's like, but you haven't achieved anything. You haven't shown me that this business and go back all the way from me to the beginning of our conversation. You know, I don't see progress. I see a little bit of thought and I see a little bit of investment of time, but I don't see progress to help me to know that you have a business. This could be an advocation for you. This could be a pastime. I do not see you showing me that this is a business. Show me it's a real business. And then that's, I invest in businesses. So show me a business,
Femi: Clarity of thought. you've got a, you've got a product. You've got a product market fit, which I think is what you, what I learned from you, which shows that you have an idea that is tested. You've tested it on a sample number two, and you've you you've achieved revenue, a certain degree of, of revenue and net profits that shows that this is a viable business idea and what you're not looking for someone to turbocharge it with my money to the next level. That's what you're looking.
Eric: You don't have to have. You don't have to have profit. That's the only thing that I would do, I would say that, yes, you have to have revenue or you have to have a revenue equivalent. So if you told me Femi, I mean, if you came to me and said that you had a hundred thousand people who are using your app, and you told me that you got that to that a hundred thousand in less than a year, that is that's high opening. And I have to say, what does family doing that I want to hear more about If you tell me that family has an idea for an app, because he believes that he never a way to do exchange exchange rates between Africa and the UK. And you can't show me that anyone has ever used it, that anyone that you've ever you've ever actually been able to produce what you're talking about. That's not an idea. And it might be a great idea. It might be a great idea that you have a personal shopper or to have some sort of a product that is good for black skin, because it's hyperallergenic until I see it until you can actually show me this coming up once that that's not, that's not what I do.
Femi: Yeah. And, and do you think that's, that's the primary reason of the dearth of black British or black entrepreneurs is that, that maybe there's for lack of role models of something that rigor isn't there and that's what's stopping us, or is it, I know from one of the interviews, you said you try not to focus on the why's too much anymore because you can waste so much time. But if you would indulge me, is that, is that probably the reason why that we just need a bit more education and role models around these metrics of what it looks like Or is it, could it be that simple
Eric: I wonder if that me, so, let let's let's have the conversation. I think I am not so naive as to believe that there are not systemic reasons here in the UK. One out of two black families lives below the poverty line. Yeah. That's one out of two for white families. And this is before COVID, this, this report was given in 2019. COVID exist in anyone's vocabulary, whether you're in China, whether you're here in Europe. So if that's the case in white families, it's one out of five in the UK, there is a difference in terms of wealth. If you go to the bank and you're a poor family, and, and one of, two of us are actually from a poor family, which is most likely that we don't own a house, which is more likely that we're in a low paying. we're in low paying job.
Eric: Most of us are working, but we're in love. We might be in low-paying jobs. And most of these people who are below the poverty level or working poor. So if what we're talking about is therefore that there are systemic things. That mean you ha you make less money. You don't have any assets that can then be taken to the bank. When you go to the bank, they're not going to get a loan. And everyone's going to tell you, look, there's a very easy, there's a very pro there's a process it's taken these numbers and it tells you whether or not we can give you a loan. We have taken all of the discretion out of it so that black people are not undermined. If you don't make as much money, if you don't have, if you don't have as many assets, then you can't have that because of various races and racism in the system, then that doesn't work.
Eric: So let's, let's, let's say I do understand those types of things. If we have any thing to, to focus on with respect to black entrepreneurs, I do believe that it has to do with that aspiration level. It's exactly what you're talking about. Femi. We must unleash the beast within, and it cannot be that we're unleashing the beast so that you can go work at price, Waterhouse Coopers for the rest of your life. And you can live in North London and you can have two children that go to private. They go to public school. If that is your definition of success, I agree that that it can be very accessible. And I do not begrudge anyone who wants to do that. That is not what I'm looking for. And maybe one of the challenges in is that we've spent so much time, you know, Femi, if you grew up in one of the feminine, like I did, if you were a doctor or if he became a lawyer, or if you became an accountant that was success.
Eric: We look at the rest of the world. We understand that that is a success factor, but that there are other ways of being successful too. But if what we say is, you know, it's very, it's easier for me to go to my family reunion and say that I am Dr. Eric Collins and I perform surgery at the, at the Royal free or wherever it is. It's easy to say that. And everyone will say, Oh my goodness. You know, you know, this is what he's doing. He's obviously very successful. It's very hard to say, you know what I started an organization called cashmere app, which is a savings app for women and men who like brands. And it's also a way of teaching literacy. And no one has heard about it yet. We have varied. We have, we have 3000 or 10,000 people who use it, but it's going to be big one day and it's going to rival Monza one day.
Eric: That's a harder thing to say. And if we could get over that sort of need, that's an instant gratification. I get, I get, affirmed every from being a doctor, I don't get affirmed every day from being an entrepreneur and especially not an entrepreneur who trying to build a big business and who's trying to build a business that's never been seen and trying to disrupt. So that's the only thing that I would say that I would focus on in terms of the individual, make your aspirations bigger. And then to understand that, you know, you don't have to be, you don't have to follow the path. That's the easy path or the one that's lots of people understand in order to then be, you know, a fulfilled, successful person. Who's actually creating a better world.
Femi: It's that paradigm shift, isn't it. And that's for the entrepreneur and, and their supporters, their families. Yeah.
Eric: Ecosystem exactly their spouse. I think big. Think about, you know, Dave, do you know Dave Chappelle, but America remember what Dave Chappelle said. He had to come home and tell his wife that he passed up $50 million big, but he has, he not, you know, continue to be sort of a social commentator and someone is doing fantastic things. He had to go home and admit, I turned down $50 million today to continue my sketch comedy show because I can't do it anymore. That's a bravery that you have to actually have. And that the people around you who, and his wife, obviously didn't divorce him. Didn't sort of, you know, throw them out the house. She instead said, we get it. And then we're going to move we're we can, we can, you can do what you need to do, and we will do what we need to do. That's that's important.
Femi: Yeah. And that's a lovely way to sort of thought to that this up. one other thing, I mean, as the year draws are close, this podcast probably be going up end of the year, beginning of the new year, 2021. What is your big reflections for last year And what's your what's, what's your reflections. And this year after this crazy year, what's, what's your personal reflections and your take on what are you looking forward to in 2020
Eric: So can you, so this is actually interesting for me, that's a great question because I believe that the biggest thing that I learned in 2020, and this is a year in which a lot of things have happened to everyone in the world collectively. And then individually is that when something is considered important, and I have said this before, all bets are off and the world will do things never considered possible. The world is you are still shut down in the UK, in London, if you're Eric Collins, because the government has said, that's something that needs to happen, where I should be going into an officer, normally on the train, going to an office or going to some Christmas party, Christmas party tonight, or going out to drinks with friends that is not happening. And in fact, restaurants do all those sorts of things, closed shuttered, things that we could never imagine could happen if indeed, but they will be done in order to survive.
Eric: Then the, you know, we'll, we'll, we'll survive again. We'll survive today to live another day in the future. And look, if that same tenacity and that same approach was taken to systemic racism, that it cannot stand anymore. It cannot exist. And we are going to get rid of it. And we were going to do extraordinary things to get rid of rid of it. We're not going to do incremental things. We're not going to have an evidence-based conversation about it. We're not going to make projections that are 10 years in the future or 30 years in the future. We are going to do this today. I learned in 2020 that around the world, governments will do that. And they will do it for things that are considered critical. And I think that race and suspense, sexism and racism and sexism are critical issues, which need to be excised from the world.
Eric: So that's one thing. So that means then for 2021, I'm looking forward to black people who now have a vocabulary and have a window of opportunity. Women who have a vocabulary and a window of opportunity when the world is still focused on these sorts of issues, the new cycle might change that we make the most of it. And we actually gather ourselves, got gathered what we can while we can. And I'm also saying I'm so looking forward to a paradigm change in the world, because there's a woman named Kamala Harris, who is the vice president of the United States, a black woman, not a black man, not a white woman, a black woman, and an Asian woman who will be occupying the second, most powerful seat in the world. It's not in the United States, that's in the world. And that is something that will make my 2020 from the election on. And, you know, for the rest of her time in office, it will make me think that, you know, not only is there a God, but that there is a, you know, the arc of justice, the arc of history, sort of beers towards justice, as Marlin said, as Barack Obama quoted in his first inauguration, that's what I believe. And so that's what I'm going to be focusing on.
Femi: Lovely, amazing words. And I'd like to encourage our listeners, unless you have a specific message for any entrepreneurs this year, before we wrap up. Cause that was the nicest any message for an entrepreneur,
Eric: Oh, entrepreneurs, 20, 20. There's a lot of capital out in the market and it's harder to get. So you've got to come, you've got to come with your a game. So come with your a game, but go out there and do what you need to do. And you don't have to raise money necessarily. You can also bootstrap and that's a way to hold onto your company. Cause raising money is a whole nother job of it. It's as hard a job as building your company. How's that
Femi: Yeah. That's lovely. That's great. So I want to give you a quick opportunity. Impact X. I know we know what you do and we can check it out. do you want to give a quick Pittsburgh The other thing is, are people
Femi: Able, any of our listeners who wanted to invest in impact X
Eric: Oh, absolutely. One of the things that thank you for me for mentioning that you have to be in the UK and everywhere in order, if you're investing in a venture capital, it's pretty illiquid, meaning you can't get your money in and out. It's not like going to the bank and you sort of put your money in and then two weeks later you can get it out. You put your money in for a long period of time. That's for, up to 10 years. So if you need the money, this is it and you are living. So you actually have to prove in order for us to be able to take your money that you can actually do without that money. So that's why you have a lot of high net worth individuals, but they're high net worth individuals out there who can actually fill, fill the statutory requirements. Happy to talk with them about that. You just come to www.impactxcapital.com. That's both for investors, but also for entrepreneurs on our website, on the front page, there's a little down at the bottom. It says for entrepreneurs, it's an intake form. So you can be introduced to us. Tell us about your company, all the criteria that we use to judge, whether or not we're going to speak to you are in that intake form. Fill out the intake form and follow the steps. And then we'll, you will be introduced to impact X. Okay
Femi: Fantastic. Thank you. So everyone, you heard it here. 20, 21. There is money out there. You just got to have the idea and bring your a game. Thank you, Eric. So, so much for blessing us with your time, insight, wisdom, and those words of encouragement to everyone out there. You've heard it, everyone. It is possible to build a big business. It is possible to be the next Amazon. It doesn't matter what your background is. Black, white it's available to everyone and thanks to companies like impact X. It is possible as well to be a black entrepreneur and get the funding you need to take it to the next stratospheric level. I usually say done is better than perfect and that's so true, but the message here today is think big, bring your a game, be resilient, be ready to be in it for the long haul and leave your money on the table. You've got to be able to play out and wait for your returns and above all. Just go for it, go for it because there is something out there for you that said, get on these, stay on, leave.