Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Entrepreneurship

Innovation In Equality seeks to confront the racial and gender gap in entrepreneurship and VC investing through candid conversations with experts and influencers.

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The Entrepreneur: First Person Journey

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Rodney Williams, founder of LISNR and co-founder of SoLo Funds, recently closed an impressive $10M Series A round for a platform offering an alternative to predatory payday loans. He talks to fellow entrepreneur, Danielle Sydnor, Founder and CEO of We Win Strategies Group, about what it takes to turn a tech-enabled idea into a successful startup and offers sage advice for those thinking of taking the leap into tech entrepreneurship.

Ray Leach: Hello, and welcome to Innovation In Equality, a podcast dedicated to bringing inequities in tech to the forefront through candid conversations with founders, investors, and stakeholders. I'm Ray Leach, the founding CEO of JumpStart, a full service venture capital and economic development firm, helping to unlock the full potential of entrepreneurship. We've seen how inclusion and collaboration can shape better ideas and bigger outcomes. We'll talk to entrepreneurs and influencers dedicated to pushing equity forward. Today we're going to hear from Danielle Sydnor, the CEO and founder of We Win Strategies Group, a firm that's working to create win-win outcomes for individuals, organizations, and communities. She's joined by Rodney Williams, founder of LISNR and co-founder of SoLo Funds. We're glad you've joined us.

Danielle Sydnor: Hi, welcome to this show. My name is Danielle Sydnor and today I'm excited to be joined by Rodney Williams. How's it going, Rodney?

Rodney Williams: Hello. Thank you for having me today.

Danielle Sydnor: Absolutely, appreciate you as an entrepreneur, taking some time out to chat with us and hopefully drop some jewels for all of the listeners.

Rodney Williams: I hope to find the jewels is all mutual. I'm looking forward to it.

Danielle Sydnor: I think we are going to have a great discussion. There are so many business owners or aspiring business owners out there that are listening to podcasts, they're reading books, they're searching the web for information, and sometimes it feels overwhelming. And so I hope that today, as we discuss this information, we leave people with some real nuggets that make them understand the complexities of moving into tech-based entrepreneurship, but also leave them inspired with things that they might be able to do to overcome some of those obstacles and continue to press forward and ultimately, be successful.

Rodney Williams: Definitely.

Danielle Sydnor: I've got a couple of questions, but I wanted to start out Rodney, with a little bit of your background. You have a couple of different businesses that you have founded and involved in and raised money for. If you'd share with us a little bit about how you got into tech-based entrepreneurship and what you're working on today.

Rodney Williams: Yeah, definitely. Hello everyone, as mentioned, Rodney Williams, I actually started my career post Howard University grad school, where I got my MBA at Procter & Gamble in brand management. I did that for almost five years and then I went tech. And long story short, I founded my first company, a tech company at least, it was called LISNR, I'm still active today. LISNR, today it's a solution that helps make certain payment transactions safer using an ultrasonic identifier amongst many things. And then SoLo Funds, which I assist assisted Travis Holoway in co-founding, about five years after the first one, SoLo Funds is a marketplace that allows individuals like you and I to invest in each other. And when I mean that I'm talking about personal loans, so it allows individuals to fund other individuals personal loans. So that's some of the things that I've been up to.

Danielle Sydnor: You started at Procter & Gamble right after grad school, and then ended up in the world of tech. How was that transition and what really prompted you to leave a large organization like P&G and venture out on your own?

Rodney Williams: For me it was a lot of things that sparked that interest, but I think the number one thing for me was I think some certain ideas just burn. I had this idea and it was a combination of a lot of things that I had learned at Procter & Gamble, working with retailers, and it was an itch that I couldn't scratch. When you start working on things and you're working on it after you come home from work, sometimes the things that you do afterwards become work where you're doing all the time. And to be honest, it just continued to move forward.

Danielle Sydnor: Did you have a background in tech? How did you build out a team and do these things? What was that transition like?

Rodney Williams: The transition from corporate America, for me, I approach everything the same way. It's about seeing a problem, coming up with an idea or a solution to fix it, and that's how I attacked my role at Procter & Gamble. I viewed a number of things as problems and I would come up with creative solutions to fix them. When you have that entrepreneurial itch or that opportunity to do a problem and lead it yourself, that's really the biggest difference that you go from, where you have multiple team members that have the ability to assist you to it's really just yourself. And all of a sudden, whether you make it or break it, it's up to you for that to ever be anything. Just know you can't go to your boss and like, "Well, unfortunately I just not going to submit," whatever that day. So you really start to just craft your own future.

Danielle Sydnor: You are the boss.

Rodney Williams: Exactly.

Danielle Sydnor: Rodney, one of the things that I think about is moving from working inside of a large organization to really starting a startup as you think about building a team, what were some of the biggest lessons you had to learn about your own leadership style to be ultimately able to be successful and moving from this idea to moving into execution.

Rodney Williams: That's where we all go wrong is that as creative thinkers, we tend to be so focused on ideas. The gap between the idea and it becoming to life is a big gap. The hardest part is that part. It takes a certain level of focus and it takes a certain level of really just driving results that I can't even stress, but that's what it takes. I retweeted a post, I guess, Elon Musk was on Clubhouse and they had asked him-

Danielle Sydnor: I was going to ask you about that.

Rodney Williams: Well, I loved it. It was like, "If you need encouragement, this is not the thing for you. This isn't the thing you should be doing."

Danielle Sydnor: Yeah, so tell everybody, because everybody didn't listen to Clubhouse. I'm going to be quiet and let you tell us what Elon Musk's tweet said and why you decided to reshare it.

Rodney Williams: He basically was asked, what words of encouragement would you give an entrepreneur? And his answer was, "If you need words of encouragement, don't become an entrepreneur." And sometimes you just got to be honest with yourself, you might not be a good entrepreneur. You should probably work for one if you like entrepreneurship. If you like things about it, you should probably work for an entrepreneur or maybe you should support one, but it is not easier than just working for someone.

Danielle Sydnor: Rodney, is it because people look at a side hustle and entrepreneurship as the same thing, what do you think is this confusion about the difference between actually starting a business that turns into an enterprise, that hires people, that potentially raises money, that maybe even goes public versus I'm just starting a business?

Rodney Williams: It's one of those things that I think it's hard to grasp when you're watching it, and we tend to celebrate all the positive things and never really talk about all the bad things. It looks a little bit more glamorous than it may be. It's actually not that glamorous. It's not. I'm probably on my 12th meeting today. I would love to do a ton of other things, but honestly, it's very limited capacity time and you don't turn off. It's literally, you're doing whatever it is, when you decide it's yours, it's 24/7.

Danielle Sydnor: Yeah. There are a lot of people that think when you decide to actually launch, it's got to be the best time. What would you say to a person that's waiting for the perfect time or trying to figure out when is the right time to launch what they're working on?

Rodney Williams: It's one of those things, actually, there is no good time. When you have your idea, the only good time is now, or immediately. You either do it or you don't. There's no better time, there's no worser time. And when you start to think or maybe it'd be better if I do this in the summer, there's things you have to do today for that to be an option in the summer. And that's where I think individuals fail to realize, for example, SoLo Funds. SoLo Funds was started three years before it launched. It took three years to launch.

Danielle Sydnor: Wow.

Rodney Williams: So it's great to be some overnight success and think about the series A and things like that because you just heard of it, but someone had been working on that for a very long time, three years is a long time without ever even seeing it come to life. So hopefully that gives everyone some perspective.

Danielle Sydnor: Thinking about the amount of time that it takes before the thing actually ever launches, but at the same time, you could have a scenario where, or maybe this is not, maybe you don't agree with the question that, is there ever a point at which an entrepreneur is pouring so much time into a thing, and really the reason it's taking so long to launch is because they should just let it go as opposed to, it's just taking time to launch because you're in that building phase before you can actually go public with it.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. What I like to say is that you should still have, what's the right word? Distraction, and what I mean by that is progress. The reason why you keep moving forward in terms of execution is because you're getting better, something is happening. For instance, in those three years, very tangible things were happening. From understanding from a regulatory standpoint, how to get this done, then building out the team, gaining investors, but investors were investing in the progress because at that point there was no app. But what was happening in that time period was, I know exactly how much it's going to take to get this done in every phase, I know exactly the team, I understand the business, all of the things that you had to answer for it to be a success was getting done. And it was getting done in a way that people were even okay giving money to the progress.

Danielle Sydnor: Rodney, it's no secret that you are a black male in a tech space that is largely void of black men. Obviously we're starting to see more growth in this space where more black folks, men and women are moving into the space. But we tend to see a lot of businesses in the black community that are what I call main street businesses; landscaping, beauty shops, barber salons, restaurants. Why do you think there is such a gap between black-owned businesses that are just brick and mortar traditional, and even online e-commerce, to really moving into this tech-enabled or tech-based businesses?

Rodney Williams: That's the message that if there's anything that anyone leaves today when you hear this podcast is that, I don't care what you do. You've got to realize you're really a technologist. You just own a different part of it. You should say, if you are a user, it's okay to be a technologist that uses it, but you are a user. And then the next thing you should take away is that, we got to think bigger than what's down the street. There's nothing wrong with wanting to own a beauty shop or a lawnmower business or whatever the case maybe, but how can you make it tech-enabled? How can it do something better than it's already done?

Rodney Williams: I think as a community we should stop doing things that we know each other doing. If I hear another friend say, "I want to start a consulting company like my friend Mike?" "But why? Michael is doing a good job at it, why don't you work for Mike?" First of all, why don't you want to continue to do the same thing? What is your competitive advantage? What is, what makes you different? What is it that what makes what you're doing to special? And then make it tech-enabled.

Danielle Sydnor: Yeah, I deal with a lot of small businesses and it feels like easier said than done, how do we connect the dots on either examples or resources? Where would you guide somebody that's thinking about, for the first time, they listen to you, they finally agree, "Yes, I am a technologist. I'm just a user of technology maybe, but I want to take this idea that I have for a business and I want to make it tech-enabled?" What would either be some resources or things that you might suggest somebody do if they're looking to make that leap from just doing business the way they've always seen it done to something that may be more tech-based or tech-enabled?

Rodney Williams: To be completely transparent, I'm not an engineer.

Danielle Sydnor: What?

Rodney Williams: I got my MBA at Howard and my undergrad was economics and finance. Travis, my co-founder is also, he was a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual. Again, what happened for us is, our brains switched and we woke up one day and said, "We're technologist." The second piece we did was we really got good at what we can get good at. What's the business part of it? You don't need a bunch of engineers to figure that out. What I mean by that? For something like what we were doing, where we were like, "Oh, we want to reinvent the way people lend money." First of all, what's the business economics? How much are you going to make? We got really good at the stuff that we weren't supposed to be good at, which is the business part, and then we started bringing on team members that were as good at the other things.

Rodney Williams: Obviously if it's a tech part, you then should bring on as someone who knows tech, if it needs great design, I'm not a designer, I don't know how to do graphics, then you hire someone that does great design, and that's perfectly okay. But if you look at any business, that's how it starts. If I go back to, I have a great mentor, Richelieu Dennis, from Sundial Brands, and if you ever look at their story with Shea Moisture, it was his mom idea and company. She was good at making a natural product, the family got good at everything else. That's a real family business. Obviously he had some knowledge in business and the brother had different knowledge, and I think his sister had other knowledge, and then they decided to attract investors and other people, that's what it takes. And I think you just have to be open to that, but the moment you think that you have to do it all, you have just narrowed into a small business.

Danielle Sydnor: Yeah. Rodney, the thing that I often hear from individuals that are thinking about tech stuff is, "I don't know how to find a developer," or "If I do go find some tech person, they're going to take my idea and run away with it, and then I'm on the losing end." Especially in the black community, we have this trust barrier that's just really big. So how do you find the tech people to work on a project with you and how do you do that in a way that ensures you still don't get somebody that rips off of your idea?

Rodney Williams: Number one, it's just bad information. No one's going to take your idea, okay?

Danielle Sydnor: So you mean that I don't need a 20-page NDA the first time I go to?

Rodney Williams: No.

Danielle Sydnor: Okay. All right.

Rodney Williams: No, that's not how it works. The point is, I tell everybody my idea. It's actually how I get better. It's also how I grow my team. If you like my idea like I like my idea, welcome to the team, buddy. I try to invite a lot of people to the idea I'm getting at. Most people are like, "No, that's not going to never work." I really do do that. Literally, I tell everybody, and it's a way for me to get feedback, it's a way for me to refine the idea. And then it's also, I'm getting good at the stuff that I'm supposed to be good at, which is pitching the business. What else are you going to do if you're not the engineer? If you're not the engineer, you better get real good at pitching the business, because that's what you're going to be doing for a lot.

Rodney Williams: The point is there's so much in tech-enabled businesses that you can do without the engineer. At some point you have to attract an engineer to start to execute. But again, if it's a real tech-enabled business, before you do that, you need to understand either you can make someone a co-founder and have them start to work for free. But you have to think about, "If I'm going to build a long-term business, I don't want a contractor doing this, it's not sustainable. It's going to need updates." Every couple of months, Apple rolled out an update. "If I really want to make something sustainable, I need that team to work for me. If I need that team to work for me, I need to hire them. I need money. What's my budgeting plan to hire three to four developers." You know what I mean? And that's, before you even talk to them, you should really understand that part of it.

Rodney Williams: I would tell you before there was a line of code, we had the pitch deck, we had the business model, we had the budget, we knew how much team we needed, when we're going to need that? And then there's a conversation with, do we want to, we should call it, raise now or raise later?

Danielle Sydnor: So that decision was not the first step, right? It was not, "I have an idea, let me go get the tech person." Basically what you're describing is, you had worked out all of the other parts, and the person or the team that was going to create the technology that you were using was really just another part of the overall plan and strategy?

Rodney Williams: Exactly.

Danielle Sydnor: I think that's really good information because a lot of people that I have talked to they're stuck at that part and they feel like, "I don't have a tech background, I don't have a tech person already, and so there's nothing that I can do." But you're really busting that myth that it's, you need to have the solid business idea established and thought out and budget and costs, and then you bring the tech people to the table?

Rodney Williams: Yeah. If you are not the technical person, what are you? Are you a CEO?

Danielle Sydnor: You better be the business person.

Rodney Williams: You better be the business person. It's just, I'm always confused by that as well. Like, "Oh, I need a tech person," and then I go, "Well, what's your economics?" "You don't know it. Okay, so you've got some work to do."

Danielle Sydnor: On that work to do, I'd love to hear from you on things that you think people can be using to learn their way to that process. Or is it reading books or podcasts or YouTube, or everybody doesn't necessarily have the MBA and may not want to go back to school and get an MBA. What resources do you think are out there for people that do have an idea and maybe they don't have a really strong individual business background? Do they find a business partner that has the business acumen? What would be your advice in that standpoint?

Rodney Williams: Yeah, I am a huge fan of co-founders. My LISNR, when I first started had five. To be honest, when SoLo, myself and Travis were the key one but the team had much bigger, it was much more co-founders at first. It's a way for me to get talent. If you do this right, and what my strategy is that, all founders, especially in the beginning, had no problem giving you equity, but there is a standard you have to invest into it. Basically what that means is, you have to continue to work on the idea for a period of time until you can actually get the equity. The best thing about the standard agreement, which everybody does in Silicon Valley is that there is a cliff. So if you, within the first year, if you don't do anything, you don't get nothing. That's the reason why I'm telling you this, is that means there is zero risk, what we were talking about.

Danielle Sydnor: But Rodney people don't know that, a simple thing like that, in terms of how you don't need an NDA, you put these types of other things in place that are real incredible. So if you have a person that you think has some value that can bring to the table, you make them a co-founder, but there's a cliff on how much equity they get and invest over time. But a lot of people don't know that that's a mechanism and a way to ensure you can bring good people to the table. And those that are really good and that are adding value, they're going to stick around. And those that are there because they think it's hot and sexy and then they get bored quickly, they'll phase out and you don't have anything at risk.

Rodney Williams: Exactly. It's like you get you said though, I hope these podcasts and these things is how you need to learn it. It's how I needed to learn about it, for sure. But there is a way, and there's blog posts, and we talk about what you should do for education and who you should listen to to figure these things out, and you should figure it out, but there's definitely resources that are available.

Danielle Sydnor: I have one more question for you on this concept of, if I'm going to start a business, it needs to be an idea that nobody has ever had before, especially if it's tech, it's got to be this really far out there thing. What would you say to people that feel like their idea is not good enough or it's not big enough to be a business?

Rodney Williams: Well, nothing's really new, it's rooted in a problem that is as traditional as you can imagine it. And I give you an example of, I had a friend who was really good at car washing, and he had a mobile carwash business and he would wash my car, he was so good at it, he had this whole process. In his mind he was like, "I'm being innovative," but he was limited to how many cars he can personally wash. I was always like, "Think about mobile car wash for like an app, an on-demand app. You should do it. You should go big." The point is, he never really got that box, but fast forward multiple years, there's multiple tech companies car that do the same thing, that do on-demand washing. It's the same problem, trying to provide convenience around car washing, but one person took that little problem and turned it into a really big company. That's why I said, making it a big idea is about how many people you think you can serve with the idea, it's not necessarily the idea.

Danielle Sydnor: So we call it the addressable market, right?

Rodney Williams: Exactly.

Danielle Sydnor: How big is your addressable market?

Rodney Williams: And if your addressable market is big and you start to go through those economics of it, and all of a sudden, you just figured out that people were willing to spend 30% more than normal on a carwash, and that there's billions of cars, and then there's billions of people who need carwash, and then you can get, then it's a subscription because people love to do that. And then most people who make the most money have multiple cars. You keep going on and on about the ... You see all of a sudden it's really turned into a huge idea. Wait a minute.

Danielle Sydnor: I am about to go start me a mobile car wash.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. I think that's the serendipitous that I think you should go through that serendipitous nature of discovery. And that's what makes you a good CEO and a good founder before you [inaudible 00:24:14]

Danielle Sydnor: Yeah. So I have talked to business owners or aspiring entrepreneurs and they feel like if I see that this thing is already in the market, I shouldn't do it because somebody else already is. I always give the example of like Burger King sells burgers and so does McDonald's and so does Five Guys and Wendy's, what makes you think that only one person can do an idea? Have you ever run across that? And what advice would you give somebody that is stuck on the fact that they thought they were the first person to think about it and then they realize someone else is doing it?

Rodney Williams: Yeah, it's not a bad thing. All good ideas, if it's really good, there's multiple people thinking about it, because that's the way the world works. So whatever your thing may be, and you will get competitors, and it's okay to have a competitor, and to think of them as a competitor. But what's very, very important is that you forgot what you're going to do different or what you're going to do better. Lyft and Uber are a great examples of this at a huge scale because they're very similar, but one said, "I'm going to treat my drivers a certain way. I'm going to treat my people a certain way." So their difference was really about how they make people feel, and some other things. But for them, that was their angle.

Rodney Williams: And think about it, if I'm doing a small scale, if you really want to go open up a beauty shop, what is about your beauty shop that's going to be different than the one down the street. Can it be, is it price? Is it convenience? Is it fast? Is it scheduling? Is it ... You start to get to the nuts and bolts of it and you're all of a sudden like, wait a minute, what can I do to make this the most efficient, most best run beauty shop and offer something that others can't offer?

Danielle Sydnor: So it's that practical, just very practical thought process of differentiation?

Rodney Williams: Yeah. I used to joke, not joke about it, but like Drybar, is it? My mom has a beauty shop, so maybe I'll talk about how my mom has not a big shop, but my mom has a beauty shop. But I grew up in a time period where all the Dominican blowout shops were the thing. And then some smart person was like, "That is scalable, I'm going to turn it into Drybar." Am I tripping? Isn't what happened?

Danielle Sydnor: That's what it looks like to me.

Rodney Williams: That's what it looks like to me. I'm just from the outside looking in, it looks like somebody in our community missed it again, because they were thinking as well. Because a blowout it's a very simple process and it's very like, you can get really good at it and you can teach it and train it and people wants to just go do that.

Danielle Sydnor: You talk about that difference of somebody seeing either the trend, somebody seeing the addressable market and being willing to take the step to actually do it. And that's a huge valley sometimes for people to cross. It's like, the idea into execution.

Rodney Williams: Exactly. It's about going big and creating big businesses. That's what we got to challenge the entrepreneurs and the business folks that look like you and I is, it's great to build a business, but how do we make it as big as possible?

Danielle Sydnor: So what part does resources come in? Say, I'm going to imagine you have raised money for your businesses that you've been involved in, how much does access to capital and more than just going to the bank and getting a loan, how does that play into someone's ability to do what we're talking about?

Rodney Williams: Access to capital is the huge differentiator. These ideas that I've given you is how it makes it easier for you to get capital, but access to capital is still the biggest issue. I actually think the information is now becoming more readily available. I think that we have enough mentorship and programs that help guide us. What we need is the companies and the ideas that reach a certain milestone. They just need to get access to funding and in a more strategic way, and I think if that starts to happen, that's the missing piece.

Danielle Sydnor: For an entrepreneur that's thinking about raising money, are there any points of advice or tips from your personal experience that you would give?

Rodney Williams: My probably biggest advice to all is to just go for it. It's not really, there's nothing you can read, there's nothing that I could tell you, there's nothing that is going to help you do your idea or business without you learning how to do it yourself. And you do that, we learn by trial and error. Most humans do. That ability to learn is the thing that's going to separate you from the folks that quit and the folks that don't ultimately do it or don't do well. That's important.

Danielle Sydnor: Thinking about the people that get stuck in that learning process, they're so fixated on becoming the expert before they go out and do the first pitch or whatever it is, and you talked about, I think someone you knew that was thinking about getting into the Cannabis business. What would you say to people that are stuck at that place where they're trying to learn so much that they're not taking the step to actually do?

Rodney Williams: Yeah, honestly, unfortunately, that's where most people land, is that part. It's concept of like MVP. What's the minimum viable product? The minimum viable product is not perfect, that's why it's the minimum viable product. It's the least amount of work that you can possibly do to validate. You should approach everything like that.

Rodney Williams: When I decided to go into financial services, I literally was like, "What's the least that I need to know to know what I'm talking about? What's the least that I need to know for me to start to be [inaudible 00:30:17]?" And then I went out there, that's it. Because listen, there's no reason for me to become a PhD at something that's going to ultimately fail. I need to do a little bit now, go to the market, see how they respond. All right? I need to learn a little bit more. Okay, cool. Now I got a little bit more. Wow, now I'm going to the next thing.

Rodney Williams: This process of just going and going out with the least amount of effort is why MVPs and minimum viable products work. Because it allows you to test your problem, your hypothesis and your solution at different stages. And you have to get that feedback and refinement, and then you have to go or as ultimately, you're going to invest too much time and energy into something that pointed in the direction that may not be good enough.

Danielle Sydnor: And so that process of going back out to market every time is really that iterative process. You're going and getting real on-the-spot feedback, or at least learning what your customer likes, doesn't like, what works, what doesn't work, so you can make those changes before you spend a bunch of time and money on a thing that just maybe one minor tweak would've made the world of difference.

Rodney Williams: Exactly.

Danielle Sydnor: So what do you think for yourself is something that you wish you either knew or would have done earlier in your journey as you're starting your businesses?

Rodney Williams: I think, I would have told myself to do it earlier. This concept of, "I got to learn this, or I got to go to school, or I got to go and do this," if you just be careful with that, because you have to get out there and you have to get going. You can't substitute that, you can't substitute it at all.

Rodney Williams: I think I would have always been at tech company to post eight years of going to tech, but I probably could have done that at 21. I probably could have done that at 20. But I was in this prefabricated structured things that somebody told me I was supposed to go out and go to school, and going to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, and then I was supposed to doing work for a couple years and then also to go this, and I loved all this stuff we're supposed to go out and do. And it doesn't make no sense.

Rodney Williams: Well, it's easy for us as minorities, I guess it's more important. Different groups have the luxury to let their children aspire and dream particularly about business. We tend to only let our children aspire and dream about the predefined list of things you're supposed to go out and do. And that had been, someone else told me that was what success looks like. I would challenge it each and every day.

Danielle Sydnor: Rodney, I think that's a very important thing to bring into the conversation about the freedom to just dream, the freedom and the ability to take that risk, because for so many people they are looking at, if my kid, or if I, as an adult and in this safe career, everybody in my family, maybe I'm the first one to graduate college, or maybe I'm the first one to reach an executive level position in the company, I should just keep doing that. And to be in a position where you feel the freedom to take the risk, or you've been encouraged to take the risk, puts you in a very different position in terms of your ability to go out and try and do these different things.

Danielle Sydnor: So I appreciate you bringing that into the conversation. And also specifically calling out the fact that, as parents, because I have two teenage boys, they have a small soap company. My parents were entrepreneurs and didn't have a large scalable business, but they had a printing company that took care of our family. I saw that taking risk was okay. And so I didn't really think about the fact that a lot of people that I knew that wasn't their norm, their parents just worked jobs. So that's a different perspective that a lot of people have-

Rodney Williams: Exactly, yeah. I'm completely in agreement.

Danielle Sydnor: You started out with a quote about something that Elon Musk said on Clubhouse, but I feel like there's all these different platforms out here now. You have people that are on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter, now Clubhouse. What do you say to people that are in this space where they're going to all these different forums looking for that sage wisdom and advice and are finding it from the professional marketer that's selling you, "Here's my plan and strategy for successful business," what would you tell people about going to all these platforms to find that validation of if they should be moving into entrepreneurship or not?

Rodney Williams: You got to be very weary of someone selling you how to do something. I probably could host a class on how to raise $40 million, but I actually make money just doing it. I don't have time to teach people. If I'm teaching you and I'm trying to be notable about it in a crane notoriety for it, it's because that is my business. My business is in the business to teach other people. I used to tell my teachers that, my business teachers that, because it's like, "You're telling me how to do business, but you're not Elon Musk. You are theory based." Some professors actually did it, but you get what I'm saying.

Danielle Sydnor: Yeah, there's the saying those that can't do teach. This is not to hate on the teachers out there because there are some people who have the gift of teaching and they are able to take complex ideas and simplify them and put them in a way that someone now can take that information and go execute and do something with. But there is also this notion that people have created a persona, especially online, you've got hashtag boss, everybody is a boss and are out here getting people confused about what entrepreneurship and building a scalable business is actually really like.

Rodney Williams: Yeah, I completely, completely, completely, agree about it. Sometimes it bothers me, but I'm not mad at the ingenuity. But at the end of the day, there's no get rich scheme, there's no fast way to a million dollars, there's no rocket science either. It takes work each and every day and you attacking it with as much energy and as much intelligence as you have. What will separate you is if you keep doing it, I don't care how bad you start out, you're going to get really good at it.

Danielle Sydnor: I think you made the point earlier. Apple does updates all the time or you can't get to version 12 of the iPhone if you don't actually do version one. Anything that you would leave the listeners with as we exit today? Any words of advice, your final thoughts for the listeners?

Rodney Williams: Yeah, I don't have too much outside of learn well, practice to learn, focus. Creative people, we love to do many things, try to keep it to two or less and build a team, build something big, build something so big you can actually hire your entire family and it doesn't even matter.

Danielle Sydnor: Even if they don't know what they're doing, right?

Rodney Williams: Listen, I have a good friend of mine and his name is Dave Salvant Squire, Squire I think just raised another $60 million. It's a platform for barbershops. And it's one of my favorite story because he went through the entire thing of, "Oh, I just wanted to create better scheduling for barbershop." Investors told him that's not big enough, so he's like, "Okay, well, what's bigger?" And so [inaudible 00:38:25] and started to say, "I'm going to do the point of sale system." And so then he became the point of sale system for this industry because it's mainly cash. Then he said, "I'm going to go out and start giving them small business loans."

Rodney Williams: Now, Squire is the financial powerhouse in power and barbershops and they're killing it. Point is, last time I talked to him, and this is when I knew I was happy, I was like, I think his two sisters now work at Squire, his mom works at Squire, everybody work at Squire. Because guess what? When you're really big, you just need a lot of staff. Because he's over 100 employees, he's gone to 200. And there's something for everybody to do. And that's what we should dream to be like. So big that even my mom who was a hairdresser, I may just be like, "You know what, we got hairdressing services in the office free for anybody every Friday." You know what? Because I want to hire my mom. So that's what we should start to do.

Danielle Sydnor: I'm with all of that, I'm for it, I'm with it, but the thing that I will take away, Rodney, from this that I wrote down are, we're all going to change our language and our verbiage, I too am a technologist, even if I'm just a user, and I'm going to think bigger, and go bigger. When we start talking about building businesses, we got to think big. So I really appreciate the time that you gave us being the podcast. We know you're busy, you know that you never stop, you're always working, and so we appreciate the time today and enjoyed our conversation and look forward to your success with LISNR and SoLo Funds and whatever the businesses you decided to cook up in the future.

Rodney Williams: Yeah, because guess what, you know it's going to be some more.

Danielle Sydnor: I know it is, but just two at a time, right? Two at a time.

Rodney Williams: Just two at a time, there's no more than two at a time.

Danielle Sydnor: All right. Thanks so much.

Rodney Williams: Thank you.

Ray Leach: It was great to hear from both Rodney and Danielle today. They're both finding ways to do big things in the challenging world of entrepreneurship. I'm Ray leach, and I'd like to thank you for listening. Don't miss the next episode of Innovation In Equality, when guests Candice Matthews Brackeen joins us for a conversation titled the Venture Capitalist: Bridging the Gap, consider subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you would please help us out with a great rating and a quick review. Innovation In Equality is a production of Evergreen podcasts. Thanks to our producer and audio engineer, Dave Douglas and co-producer Vicki McDonald.

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