Full Transcript: Kairos CEO Brian Brackeen On GHOGH Podcast
You can listen to the entire conversation right now in the audio player below. If you prefer to listen on your phone, GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin is available wherever you listen to podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud.
This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jamarlin Martin: This is Jamarlin Martin, and you’re listening to the GHOGH podcast. We don’t care what the Silicon Valley establishment thinks. We don’t care what corporate advertisers think. We will not be compromising the truth on this show. We’re going hard as we talk to the leading tech leaders, influencers and politicians. Let’s GHOGH! Our first episode of the podcast is with Brian Brackeen, the founder and CEO of Kairos. Brian, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Brian Brackeen: So good to be here. And me being the first person on the podcast is a huge honor. So really happy to be here. So way, way back. I was born in Ohio actually, given up for adoption at about six months old to two really great parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So I moved to Pennsylvania at about 6 months old and lived there almost all my life. I’m a card-carrying rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan. So happy that we finally won our first Superbowl. My Dad taught me how to code very early on. Eight years old or so, so computers are just part of my DNA. I took a bunch of jobs locally at IBM and Comcast, but ultimately moved to Silicon Valley and San Francisco to work at Apple just after the iPhone launch, and was there only through the iPad launch, a period of just kind of exponential growth, learned a ton, and at that stage decided to get the startup bug, start the company and I moved a company called Kairos to Miami, Florida. And we’ll talk about that in a bit.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you had some advantages being raised by an Amish family where possibly that could have produced a more contrarian perspective?
Brian Brackeen: Yeah. And what you’re referring to is I had Amish foster parents before I ended up with my adopted parents, and so it’s a mixture of kind of Amish roots and then also Pennsylvania Quakerism that is like a thread that goes through all really Pennsylvanian society I think. Absolutely. I think it was. Those things are huge, my sense of community and tolerance and openness really come from those groups.
Jamarlin Martin: What was your path to becoming a startup founder?
Brian Brackeen: Becoming a startup founder is probably a little different than most, I think that was a little older than most. I’m 38 now. I started the company 6 years ago, so early 30s these days feels like it’s late for many startup founders. I had a long history in enterprise software as I mentioned, working with really big companies and so I was able to learn about the problem that enterprise companies were trying to solve and then build a company around solving them in a way that enterprise companies could digest.
Jamarlin Martin: Many people think you need a degree in college debt to become successful. What is your advice to the younger generation, as you didn’t graduate from college?
Brian Brackeen: I go, yeah, I kind of hold the contrarian view. In my mind, as far as startup goes, you’ve got a better chance of succeeding if you’re not burdened with that. And so if you’re going to go to college, we want a free ride. Maybe it makes sense, but generally people are, I think, learning ways to think that are, though important in life, may not serve them in startup, it’s much more ambiguous, no one to tell you what to do, no right or wrong answers. You need for this kind of compass, so to speak, and what I’ve found is sometimes college doesn’t help you hone that internal compass.
Jamarlin Martin: You were able to raise over $7,000,000 from investors to date. Why do you think you got that far where 99 percent of black founders raising capital, get so many nos and can’t really get going. You got yes, more than a few yeses, but so many others getting nos, particularly black founders. How much of this relates to your approach to raising capital versus your specific industry product in your execution?
Brian Brackeen: So much of my life goes into the answer of that question. I’ve had my share of no’s, certainly, and all founders do, of all races and all shades, but you will find that a black founders to get more than their fair share of nos, certainly .I’ve pitched the company over a thousand times. I think we have about a hundred and 20 or so people in the cap table. So basically, you know, 880 nos, right? But I certainly continued on. Why I’ve been successful is, to be told no that many times to keep going. That’s an important part. If you’re not in the game, you can’t win the game. Right? So that’s certainly key. But two, I don’t assign the nos. I don’t try to read into the nos. I try to take what I can from them when there is good information there, but when there’s not, I completely ignore it and put it behind me and move on to the next person. I also don’t go into a conversation with an investor assuming no. So often I talk to founders of color who say, I’m not going to talk to this person. I’m not going to talk to that person because they’re not going invest in me because I’m black. Which I think is crazy because again, if you don’t show up for the game, you can’t possibly win the game.
Jamarlin Martin: Recently at BlackTech Week, I wasn’t shocked, but it was interesting that at least two black founders submitted questions to our panel saying should they higher proactively hire white team members to increase the probability of getting investment. How would you answer that question?
Brian Brackeen: Yeah. And there’s sadly a precedent for that. One of my mentors when I was in San Francisco and a brilliant man, Vivek Wadhwa, talks openly about how he hired a polished white gentlemen to be his front man for a company that he founded, started, thought up just so they could raise capital. it’s very, very painful situation. I think part of that is the reality in certain geographies like a San Francisco. We never did that and I wouldn’t do that and I actually don’t think you need to do that in other geographies that are outside of San Francisco or other places and even outside of the U.S., but sadly in certain geographies that still helps though, I wouldn’t suggest someone does it. It just to me, it just, the value being added doesn’t seem commensurate with the kind of equity you’re going to give up, one, and two, it’s just plain old wrong.
Jamarlin Martin: Tell us about your core products now and what you are rolling out in the future?
Brian Brackeen: So we’re a human analytics company. So what does that mean? We do facial recognition for companies. We help companies understand either who someone is, so they may have pictures or images of their customers that we can help them identify them later, say in an airport, in a retail establishment, you name it, for people who have opted into to using our solution, but also we can tell them things about that person. So we can tell from a single picture someone’s age, gender, ethnicity, even the emotions they’re feeling at any given second. And so our customers use that in a variety of ways. We have polling companies, and we help them to better understand who someone is going to vote for. We have companies that are doing retail to understand the preferences of different ages and genders and ethnicities so you can better serve them. And then of course we have customers such as people we will walk up to a kiosk and looking for all the photos of themselves from earlier in the trip. So you just walk up to the kiosk and with facial recognition, all your photos show up. Or we have customers that are large media companies, and they need to know every single frame of that media that Tiger Woods is in, or Bradley Cooper is in. And so we help to index all their content. So facial recognition for business use.
Jamarlin Martin: What type of companies are licensing your product right now?
Brian Brackeen: All kinds. We have real concentration in the retail and online data space, and the polling and audience insights is what we call it. So this is advertisers pulling companies, things like that.
Jamarlin Martin: So Morgan Stanley invested in Kairos last year. Tell us how that came about and how they have been helpful?
Brian Brackeen: As you know, it’s very rare for an organization like Morgan Stanley to invest in anything that’s not like Uber Series E or something like that. Right? So we were super excited to get an opportunity to have them not just invest, but also mentor us. Carla Harris started a group in the multicultural innovation lab that essentially takes in companies at different stages, mostly a little bit later and then has a bespoke program for what you need. What does Kairos need to be better? What does Kairos need to be bigger? How does Kairos think about putting the foundation in place now so that they can IPO later? In our case, we ended up ICOing later, so that knowledge beyond the money was, was extremely helpful.
I hear a lot of great things about Carla Harris at Morgan Stanely. Explain the difference of her impact where she’s a high level executive with real influence at Morgan Stanley versus the chief diversity officer at Facebook and the chief diversity officer at Apple, who was fired after making a coonish comment.
Brian Brackeen: In general, I’m not a fan of the chief diversity officers as a class even. Going back to my history, working at IBM, working in large corporations, one of the things I intuitively understand is how the business segments and verticals are lined up and how people in different positions in the company can really influenced the direction and the decisions made in that company. Chief diversity officers most commonly sit outside of those silos. And the problem is they’re always making a request of groups, asking them for something, asking them to do something on their behalf, but never instructing. That’s one of the key differences. Number two, the people in these roles too often their output is a report and they go to conferences, they hang out if they’re going to really great parties or giving talks. I so rarely, if ever have seen real change coming out of the chief diversity officers. Now you contrast that with someone like Carla Harris who’s vice chairman of the firm, who’s in a in a clear and powerful vertical, who sits on the firm’s management committee with the CEO and other senior executives, and so she literally and figuratively has a voice at the table and is helping to move Morgan Stanley in the direction that it should be moved in. There’s a clear difference between that and the chief diversity officer who’s just doing report quarterly.
Jamarlin Martin: The black women who were chief diversity officers at Apple and Facebook. Both of them came out saying they’re all about cognitive diversity, 10 or so white men and it’s still diverse. As you know, the word diversity has been promiscuously pimped out. I don’t know what it means anymore. Do you feel that these black women came into the organization so bullish on the concept of cognitive diversity that that should be prioritized or do you think this is the script that’s handed to them by Facebook, by Apple and these women are just kinda the PR mouthpieces to push a cognitive diversity agenda?
Brian Brackeen: I don’t think you’ve ever seen an echo chamber as powerful and as complete as the Silicon Valley echo chamber. When you talk to people in the valley, you could talk to 10 different people. It doesn’t even matter because it’s like the same thing over and over again. Use the same words in the same order. They see everything the same way. Part of that is a challenge with California in general on both north and south. Right? But beyond that, the former chief diversity officer at Apple would have heard some of that messaging. Some of these conferences they all go to to get all synced up in the Valley, and it would have parroted that messaging over and over again. I don’t really see any other way to see it because people don’t use the terms like the kind of cognitive diversity and things anywhere else other than Silicon Valley. You never hear that term in Detroit or New York or Miami or Atlanta. Diversity means to diversity, and to your point, it’s kind of been co-opted, but it is what it is. But in San Francisco, because they lack a commitment to real diversity, they try to trout it and these other words.
Jamarlin Martin: Looking at the chief diversity officers at Apple and Facebook, the establishment says, ‘Hey, let’s hire a black woman’. It checks the gender box, checks the race box, but you’re really hearing the same stuff. Right? And also, Facebook or Google or some of the other big tech firms, they will possibly bring in a Mckinsey and company. They’ll bring in a Boston Consulting Group. They’ll bring in a Bain. They’ll bring in strategy consultants to help them kind of objectively look at a critical problem with an organization. They may spend millions of dollars on a particular strategy study, but why do you think Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Andreessen, Sheryl Sandberg, why does the establishment think that they can fix diversity? Why wouldn’t they outsource that? Where it can be people from privilege being the experts and scientists on diversity? Why would they outsource some of their business problems where they need objective advice? They’ll spend millions of dollars, but they really have come out in the pressing that they, white folks, can fix diversity.
Brian Brackeen: I think it’s the northern California mentality. Though, to California’s credit, if you go way back to the foundations of California and the Fairchild Semiconductor, a bunch of folks going out there thinking differently, thinking bigger and effecting real change in the world, they’ve been able to effect that kind of societal change themselves in that part of the world. That said, they’re now dealing with the next generation, right? And people have adopted those principles of openness and tolerance and thoughtfulness and democratized them across the world and therefore, it’s going to be very difficult for them only staying there, only thinking about that area over their whole world, being in that part of the world to solve a problem for the rest of us. And I don’t think that they see that. I think that they’ve always been able to think and solve problems in Silicon Valley and they don’t realize that they’re unlikely to solve them going forward in the same ways.
Jamarlin Martin: If the Silicon Valley was to give up and say, hey, we are part of the problem. We’re the ones investing in exacerbating the problem, so we’re not in the best position to fix it. We come from privilege, we’re in a bubble. We’re not the really the people who are going to solve this big problem. What if Silicon Valley was to organize an outsource the problem to let’s say the descendants of former slaves are our particular group? What could an outsourced solution look like for Silicon Valley?
Brian Brackeen: There’s a lot of challenges in the premise. The first piece of the premise is that in many cases, at least my world of tech with what we’re talking about right there, the both the beginning and the end of the problem. In some scenarios, the problem doesn’t even exist at the same level outside of that area. Right? So they are living the issue. They are literally the issue. So it’s kind of like how can someone outsource themselves is almost kind of like how I see that, but going a little deeper within the premise of the question as asked, there are people of all races like Mitch Kapor from Kapor Capital. He’s doing an amazing job. He is in the Valley, he’s in Oakland by design. A New Yorker by birth and still has the accent, and though he made a lot of his money and lived there for decades. I do think that he is a clear example of someone solving the problem and bringing in other folks other races and colors to join his team, join forces and investing in those people as well with actual dollars to help them to solve the problems in their communities. I feel like that’s a great model that could be followed by the rest of Silicon Valley.
Jamarlin Martin: We hear a lot of people talk about diversity and inclusion problems in Silicon Valley, particularly black people, but they won’t call out any names. A lot of the people that I know and I see out there, they’re very passionate about the problem of diversity and inclusion, but you won’t hear anybody call out names such as Ben Horowitz, Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Andreessen, Michael Moore, Sheryl Sandberg. John Doerr. How could the problem be so big and how could the discriminatory practices be so pervasive, but the people cannot attach the culture to specific names and institutions. They won’t call them out. Why is there a disconnect where diversity and inclusion, that problem, that boogey man, there’s no faces, there’s no accountability.
Brian Brackeen: Yeah. I think for me, and this is where you get into kind of like just personal beliefs versus, I can say any of these things as a fact, given that I know some of the people on that list, I would say they, they. Here’s one of the challenges. Often times there are kind of deep institutional reasons for this problem. So for instance, we talked about the echo chamber of Silicon Valley, particularly Silicon Valley venture capital, right? They all have the same roles. They all say the same things. One of the common phrases is, ‘we don’t just take applications for investment. We don’t open our website up like that. We really liked when someone is known in our network and our network makes a warm introduction’. Not a service provider like a lawyer or something like that, but someone like a real kind of other VC or friend of mine. Now inherent in that is a Sand Hill road venture capitalist is unlikely to have many friends of color. So because of that, their network, let’s say of the 200 people they know closely and the 1000 people they know not as close, or 2000 people, let’s say in that group, they may only be 20 people of color, 30 people of color tops, so inherent in that if there’s 2000 people that can make an introduction to the venture capitalists, the number of people that are of color are so small that less introductions get made. Plus they’re indifferent. They have a geographic bias. They live in an area that has less and less and less people of color because of the price of living in northern California and if you’re not living in northern California they’re not making those investments so that person walks around every day thinking that they are completely colorblind and. But they’ve created scenarios and rules about introductions that disable their ability to meet entrepreneurs of color and then invest in them ultimately.
Jamarlin Martin: Why do you think Silicon Valley has been allowed to run wild and run over pretty much everything without any regulatory scrutiny during the Obama years?
Brian Brackeen: Because they’ve made a ton of money for a ton of people and that’s kinda what happened, and I think you’re seeing that in the ICO market now as well. The government has been pretty hands off of that market because I think people are doing pretty well and they don’t want to ruin a kind of wealth creation engine that ICOs create. That said, northern California has gotta be one of the hotbeds for democratic fundraising and so they’re also much more unlikely to create rules and regulations for that part of the world.
Jamarlin Martin: Are you concerned about things such as Eric Holder leaving the DOJ and then getting big checks from Silicon Valley as a strategic advisor where we’re just repeating the same kind of washed backdoor lobbying where folks are going back and forth and there’s a promiscuous amount of conflicts?
Brian Brackeen: Yeah. People are tired of the Washington game. I mean, this is why Donald Trump won the presidency, this is why Bernie Sanders did so well. Should’ve probably even done better. Right? I think across the board people have a kind of ‘blow it up’ mentality and they’re voting because they’re tired of seeing people go on this kind of endless cycle. If you are a Republican, you’ll probably go from DC to New York, Wall Street kind of cycle. If you’re a Democrat, you’ll go from kind of DC to San Francisco cycle to make your money. It’s an endless story.
Jamarlin Martin: One of the co-founders of Facebook is being given credit as one of the chief digital marketing architects of the Obama campaign in 2008. A lot of Facebook folks left Facebook to go work for the Obama administration, some other folks left the Obama administration to go work for Facebook. Why does Obama get a pass? Why do people believe through political loyalty or racial loyalty where you can have this incestuous relationship between corporate America and kind of corruption where obviously the money in these special interest groups undermines our democracy, but why do black people feel like Obama gets a pass? Meaning that the same stuff that he was attacking Wall Street for in terms of the money, the corruption, the need for regulation?
Brian Brackeen: That’s like asking why does Moses get a pass. You got his picture in the living room. Bigger than that, and this is true for all races, all groups in certain candidates, whether this will be Donald Trump for Republicans and Obama for Democrats, you see something larger and a larger ideal in and through the person and this is more of a core value kind of idea and those core values often are not using facts or reasoning in coming to that conclusion. You have these kinds of core set of beliefs and those two people, Donald Trump or Obama align well in your mind with that belief and then therefore anything on top of that outside of that core belief will simply be ignored.
Jamarlin Martin: Why haven’t university endowments and big state pension funds who give so much money to venture capitalists held accountable for the statistic of less than one percent of VC capital going to black founders? Roughly about 20, 30 percent of VC dollars, as you know, comes from a state pensions and endowments.
Brian Brackeen: I think that would solve the whole problem and we’ve talked about that. You viewed different venues as well. We need to hold the folks that are investing our money accountable to our standards. There is an entire process of removing kind of apartheid supporting funds. There’s no reason we can’t go back again and say these are the expectations and we want our money invested in this way, though I will say I think that ICOs and other ways of funding are ways to kind of get out of that Silicon Valley trap and rat race, and open your offering up to the larger group.
Jamarlin Martin: It’s interesting, you mentioned apartheid. Can you explain to our listeners some of the actions from activists in terms of protesting against endowments as it relates to apartheid?
Brian Brackeen: Yeah. I mean, it’s a whole universe of course, but you know, I’ll, I’ll say in this context, there were a number of investments in the United States that were made in support of the, at that time kind of regime, let’s call it in South Africa, right? So buildings that they owned, investments, real estate, you name it. And there was a decision by many funds, including some congressional work on this topic to remove the investments from anything that has supported the folks that were supporting the South African governments and economies, which led to, I think, put a huge role and the ultimately kind of failure of the apartheid movement.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you think Silicon Valley is the modern day Mecca of white supremacy?
Brian Brackeen: I don’t think it’s Silicon Valley is a Mecca of white supremacy. However, I do think there are pockets in this country from Silicon Valley to a Dallas to a New York, to a Washington dc that have traditionally been on the wrong side of this issue. If you go back, even historically, again, as a proud Pennsylvanian. We outlawed slavery in 1780 we were well before, and when we did so, there are a number of northern states that supported, at the time was called radical efforts at equality. Um, but the one that hardcore staunch person in the northeast that was not for these things was New York. New York has really always been focused on the dollar over the people. We see this problem kind of time and time again throughout history, and I think as you start to make more money, as you start to become part of the majority and as you start to have a live a comfortable life on the backs of others, you sometimes take this other position and I think San Francisco might be the latest indoctrination of that effect.
Jamarlin Martin: If white supremacy is institutionalized, when you think about how many people, Facebook and Google influence how much power they have in the economy, how much power they have with government officials, what group of institutions right now are having more impact in terms of wealth distribution, discrimination, inequality, what group of institutions could compare to the aggregate forces out of Silicon Valley, specifically relating to wealth inequality and white supremacy?
Brian Brackeen: Well, I think decentralization is kind of the point there. If the patient is riddled with cancer, and that’s a big if by the way. I’m a big believer in America time and time again coming to the right conclusion. And this is just another kind of series where, you look at the late 1800’s kind of post civil war, the laws that were put on the books at that stage were so tolerant and so forth thinking, and then we went through kind of degradation of those laws by push-back of white supremacists in the early 1800s and then a regain of rights again in the civil rights act of 1965. I’m actually just thinking of the whole 1960s in general. So I think we’re in the new cycle and I do believe that the goodness of America as it always has and will continue to come through, but it does get harder. So one of the new pressures that will allow us to kind of overcome this latest wave of tribalism I think is going to be the decentralization of power through the internet, through things like Twitter and mediums like that, but also cryptocurrencies, ICOs, basically allowing the kind of world to invest and back different groups to their benefit.
Jamarlin Martin: I think it’s harsh, but you don’t want to say it. I think that Silicon Valley is the Mecca of white supremacy.
Brian Brackeen: You can say that. You can hold that belief.
Jamarlin Martin: Ok, so, Lebron James was recently criticized by Fox host, Laura Ingram and was told to shut up and dribble. Hey, you know, you’re a black multi-millionaire and you just need to shut up and dribble. You have no right to criticize a racist Donald Trump and his policies and his views because you’re collecting a lot of checks from the NBA. Describe the climate in corporate America with black people, how many black people in corporate America are shutting up and dribbling where essentially there’s so much economic insecurity where we’re so far down the ladder, that buys more silence to maintain the current system. So in aggregate, because our community is so economically insecure, hey, Lebron James doesn’t have to shut up and dribble, but most of y’all people out there are shutting up and dribbling, at least in a lot of the corporate people that I’ve met over the last 10 years. They are shutting up and dribbling times 10. I’m not going to go too far and blame them. Like, Hey, you know, I need to eat. I need to feed my family. But I feel like corporate America is buying a lot of silence from black professionals at scale, because of the economic inequality that they helped create. Speak to that.
Brian Brackeen: As somebody that has worked at or consulted a ton of companies, I think of this a lot like I think of the NFL and so NFL is one organization, but it’s really kinda 30 organizations started to organization 32 companies essentially in this scenario and you’ve got guys like the Dallas Cowboys and their owner or Robert Kraft, for the New England Patriots, and they’re telling their folks shut up and dribble, and this is my way or the highway, we’re not going to do anything. Then you have other people like the Eagles owner. I just happen to be an Eagles fan, but we are on the record as being more tolerant, right? Being supportive of Malcolm Jenkins and his stand being supportive of working between the eagles players in the court system to eliminate the unfair incarceration and high bail rates amongst African Americans or amongst certain communities of color in Philadelphia. So I don’t want to paint corporations with as broad a brush, it’s unfair to them and unfair to companies like Kairos, but what I will say is there is a class of corporate CEO, which you’re telling their employees, I don’t want any part of that, there’ll be no talk about this. But there are others, and I got to say Apple was decently tolerant in this area. They allowed us to can organize and have groups and meetups and in a place that generally would will not allow outside conversation. This is a topic that we would allow outside conversation, so I think it just really depends on the organization and I think that we need to hold up the ones that are doing a good job and we need to really face some scorn to the ones that are doing a bad job.
Jamarlin Martin: Why haven’t we heard anything from a guy like David Drummond? He was at Google in the very early stages. He’s super successful, super wealthy, but is he shutting up and dribbling?
Brian Brackeen: I met David once in my time in San Francisco and I know of him and of his work decently well. I don’t know him well enough to say if he’s shutting up and dribbling, but I will say just from like my own compass when you meet somebody. I got the sense that he really deeply cared and wanted to help. Is he out there instructing Google Ventures to make black investments? No. Should he? Maybe yes. But I don’t know the story well enough to say whether he’s shutting up and dribbling.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s move to the NFL. You’re really big Eagles fan.
Brian Brackeen: Wait, I’m a really big world champion Superbowl champion, world champion Eagles fan, and make sure you get that right.
Jamarlin Martin: Congratulations on that. Shout out to all the people in Philly. I was rooting for Philly by the way. Give the listeners an example of how blockchain can disrupt a centralized cartel like the NFL where participants, fans, players, there could be kind of a better value distribution versus, there’s a few owners, billionaires generating most of the value and the profits. Can you give us an example of how blockchain could possibly disrupt the NFL?
Brian Brackeen: One of the best examples of this, I think is the Green Bay Packers, in fact, it’s the only example of this. The Green Bay Packers are the only NFL team that are owned publicly. They’re owned by the town of Green Bay and the people of the town or many of them are shareholders in the organization public. They published their books, they’re completely transparent because they’re forced to as a public agency. When you look at the Green Bay Packers and the way they run and the level of honor, respect and kind of history and success that they’ve had by being more transparent, by being publicly owned, I think it really is a model. And when you look at someone like the Patriots who have been known to cheat in the past or the Dallas cowboys who have been known to employ all kinds of people with all kinds of really serious criminal backgrounds and done some horrible things. I think closed ownership and secretive financial interests don’t breed best practice. I think blockchain could be a way of opening things up and making the NFL more successful. I know that one day when I buy the Eagles, and I will definitely buy the Philadelphia Eagles, I will do so and I will be crowdfunding that effort and I will be returning it to the people.
Jamarlin Martin: Probability percentage that in the next 15 years we will see competition with the NFL where the athletes and the fans share in the equity value and the profit value of the teams and they own a stake and they rise together versus kind of a centralized cartel?
Brian Brackeen: I think that the NFL will be internally disrupted as opposed to externally disrupted for the same reasons that people have been trying to externally disrupt the NFL forever. One of the things that makes it extremely difficult, going back to your points about DC is they have a number of laws that support their existence and they have number of exemptions that support their existence and allow them to run what would otherwise be in a legal monopoly legally. So it’s very difficult to start something new without those same exemptions, especially when you have a statutory issue on top of that. But I do think that it can be disrupted internally by taking more of the Green Bay Packer kind of blockchain approach.
Jamarlin Martin: If you have to explain bitcoin and crypto to my old grandma in Watts, California, how would you, how would you explain it to her?
Brian Brackeen: I often say this. Let’s say your grandmother is in a master crochet person, and I would say. What’s your grandma’s name?
Jamarlin Martin: Joyce.
Brian Brackeen: Joyce. Imagine you made your 10 best quilts of all time, 10 best, and yeah, the string that you use to make those 10 quilts is the yarn is probably only worth, let’s just say a couple hundred dollars, but then it’s seen by a few people, Beyonce decides she wants to buy one and she puts a picture on Instagram. It goes crazy. Everyone’s gotta have one of your tenants and other now that you essentially at least 10 that you made for $200 and your hearts, you know, labor is now worth tens of millions of dollars each. That’s essentially what crypto is. You’re creating something. These tokens that initially didn’t have intrinsic value, but the market and the people have decided that this thing has this value and advice. Sometimes it goes up and down, but oftentimes it’s going up in a way that people can make money on the secondary markets and reselling it over and over and over again. So, Joyce’s quilt ends up being worth $100,000,000.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re one of the pioneers in tokenizing your securities in an SEC-compliant way. Your’re doing things a lot different than 99 percent of the shit coins are alt coins that are out there, some of the ICO stuff that’s out there, where you’re going in another, a cleaner direction. Explain to our listeners, particularly startup founders, how, hey, that’s Silicon Valley door has passed, not just for black people, but it’s past for most people. That’s a lot of that money is done. That’s for everybody. You’re not going to hear a lot of people raising a lot of money in Silicon Valley, a, the hot spaces crypto, blockchain related investments. What are the opportunities that are out there for black founders who only know the startup world, raising a seed, get the pitch deck and find some institutional investors, go to Silicon Valley and pitch to all the institutions, try to find introductions. Can you point the audience to another direction? There’s an alternative to that that’s developing where it’s more a decentralized and more democratic.
Brian Brackeen: Yeah, we’re excited to be going down this path and I’ve been giving talks on this topic and showing people how to do it. And essentially, and you alluded to it in your question, oftentimes you read about crypto and these kinds of crazy people making a bunch of money on white papers. That time is definitely coming to a close. But what’s being born out of that time is, first you will raise money locally in whatever city you’re in, Miami, Cleveland, could be Wakanda, doesn’t matter, right? Then local investors and local people, the friends and family will invest in your company so you can get it to a certain scale. You’ve got a few customers, you’ve got some product going, you’ve got a deck worthy of creating. You’ve got a good story, and then at that stage, two or three years in, you will then ICO, so investors will get their money invested back pretty soon, right? Only a couple of years. And two, you’ll have liquidity and the people of the world will invest in your early stage company and get actual equity because you’re going to tokenize the equity in your company and so as your company does better or worse, those folks will be able to either stay in or sell their tokens to somebody else. It will operate and it’s similar to a public market, but it’s a market specifically for accredited investors and investors that are allowed to invest in startups.
Jamarlin Martin: How do you see Mueller’s investigation playing out when you run your scenarios? How does, how does this thing end and when?
Brian Brackeen: I actually changed my thesis on this this morning, funny you should mention that. My answer would’ve been yesterday, I see it playing out not fast enough. But now I like where he’s going, you know, for the listeners, it was just really this week or late last week, Friday I think last week, that he handed out 13 indictments for some of the Russians essentially trying to impact our elections. And there’s obviously more to come. Given the realities of the election, the next congressional election, the midterm election, there’s an opportunity for Democrats to pick up enough seats to return the majority of the House to Democrats. And in doing so, it could have a traditional kind of impeachment process, unencumbered. The bar as we know from the Clinton years is a lot lower in the House than it is in the Senate, but I think realistically the investigation could come to a crescendo around the time of the midterm election and then allowing Democrats to start impeachment proceedings.
Jamarlin Martin: But that wouldn’t be the end game. He would likely be prosecuted in states, you know, where does Trump end up?
Brian Brackeen: Where Trump ends up, there’s a whole constitutional question around Trump’s ability to the executive branch, Aka the FBI, of which Bob Mueller reports, is under his complete and total control and purview. And he also theoretically could pardon, maybe even himself, but that’s an open constitutional question. What is possible, however, is certain states could bring actions. This is also unprecedented, but certain states could bring actions against Donald Trump personally though, maybe not as president, but personally, and then he could be convicted in that regard. States do have the ability and in this area they report to their own state executives and not the federal government. There is another issue in the suburbs, in the constitution around the supremacy clause which could, which could cause issues with that scenario. It would be a really interesting kind of legal question, but I do think one of the few ways Donald Trump would actually thinks any actual jail time would be through state enforcement though I think more likely would be impeachment, resignation, and then pardon by the next president.
Jamarlin Martin: That was a lot there. Does he end up in jail? Probability percentage?
Brian Brackeen: Probability percentage, he ends up in jail given the constitutional norms. It’s improbable that he ended up in jail. What the issue is, and for the listeners, think about it this way. You have a state like Texas, which believes emphatically that Barack Obama has committed some crime against it or the United States, and they could have theoretically brought an action against Barack Obama during those years. We don’t want to open the box where certain states get to decide, New York or Texas or California or Florida, what they like or don’t like about the chief executive.
Jamarlin Martin: Well, how would you stop New York? Who’s going to stop in New York? In terms of money laundering, different crimes that Mueller is working with the state of New York on sharing information, but who would stop New York? For sure, democratic state going after a republican president, but who would stop it?
Brian Brackeen: This is the constitutional challenge. New York is well within its rights to enforce its laws and there’s a lot of case law around money laundering and things like that with Wall Street and the impact of the New York attorney general, might as well be like a God in New York, right? Because he can control or destroy any firm in the state. The constitutional challeng is where that intersects with the executive and whether or not a state because of the supremacy clause, which says that federal law and the constitution is supreme over all of it states, whether or not that would provide an out. It’s reasonable to believe that it could, but it’s also reasonable to believe that it may not.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. My view is that either he’s going to jail, we have to be careful in underestimating what’s going to be found. He’s either going to go to jail or there’s something that’s going to happen, a black swan event related to Donald Trump that most people have not forecast. They have not thought about. Meaning that I feel like a lot of people are in the Nixon box where there’s an organized kind of impeachment proceedings and this thing is going to go smooth. But I think Donald Trump has always been underestimated, consistently underestimated, and in my view, his psychological profile is very close to Hitler. When you study Hitler’s psychological profile, a psychopath, that Donald Trump’s psychology, the way he thinks, I think is similar to Hitler. Maybe a dumber, or dumb Hitler, but I think people are underestimating what is possible in terms of how this plays out.
Brian Brackeen: So you think he would kill himself?
Jamarlin Martin: No. That’s a logical response. It could be a nuclear war, there could be agitation, and in terms of thinking about what Bill Clinton did, many people believe that he sent missiles into the Sudan, made up some stuff about some pharmaceutical factories. Experts later came in and said innocent people were killed during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Bill Clinton just decided, many people believe, to distract from a possible loss of his presidency. Hey, I’m going to go send some missiles and makeup something, an intelligence report on some factories in the Sudan. So Bill Clinton is capable of defending his presidency by sending missiles to Africa and killing civilians, what type of deltas between the mind and the morality and the ethics of a Bill Clinton and Donald Trump? I believe that this thing could come in a lot worse than a lot of people think just because of Donald Trump’s psychological profile. The consensus is that this is gonna play out in an organized way and everything has been a work, but I see some scenarios where it’s not going to play up that way. How crazy does it sound that there’s a possibility that Donald Trump lands air force one in Moscow?
Brian Brackeen: It’s not. Nothing’s crazy for Donald Trump.
Jamarlin Martin: Probability percentage. If it’s looking like, ‘Hey, I’m going to die in jail’. Do you think Donald Trump is capable of landing Air Force One in Moscow? As you know, other spies for Russia, American spies for Russia, British spies, Russian spies that were planted in Britain in terms of Britain’s spies. They are gathering intelligence for Russia. They get information that the intelligence services in the UK are onto them, they go the rest of her life in Moscow, so they escape capture, so we have precedents of spies and agents if they know kind of what’s coming, Hey, I’m going to go to my sponsor and live out the rest of my life. Donald trump is facing, ‘hey, I’m going to die in jail, there’s so much evidence out there that I’m just going to land Air Force One and take my chances in Moscow with my sponsor’.
Brian Brackeen: The figurative Air Force One or the literal Air Force One?
Jamarlin Martin: The literal Air Force One.
Brian Brackeen: This is a complicated topic. Now this is all theory, right, but here’s how I would see that playing out based on everything that you’ve laid out in the question. The challenge for Donald Trump is that he actually is president of United States and that his movements and actions are being instructed by him but governed by the government. And so when I say that, the people that would be flying that plane, driving him into the plane, taking him there, you name it, would have have an oath first to the constitution, which enables him to have the power to instruct them what to do. So if he truly was guilty of treason, if he left before the court case, I think you could probably land Air Force One in Russia, get out, never come back. If the judicial branch instructs him to stay in the U.S. until the end of whatever proceedings, or even the legislative branch right there, he may not have the support from the people in the White House to get himself out, at least on an Air Force One scenario.
Jamarlin Martin: Can Black Panther be revolutionary while having ghetto pawnshop economics in terms of an exploitive wealth distribution? So nothing new. NFL athletes, NBA athletes, NCAA athletes, they support these billion dollar institutions. Everything is based on their talent, right? So the whole business collapses without the athletes. But the disproportionate amount of the value, not the revenue, but the equity value of these enterprises and how the equity value is built up in these enterprises. It doesn’t go to the athletes, the fans who support, it goes to these institutions, white institutions. In this case, Disney and Marvel. So essentially you have Ryan Coogler and you have the genius of the script writers and the director, but they’re not equity holders in the organization, right? So this movie goes on, let’s say maybe it generates a billion dollars of movie tickets, merchandising, overpriced popcorn, overpriced Coca Cola. So this movie generates a billion dollars, but it’s so consistent with the same slave-master slave dynamic, where the slave works in, there’s a disproportionate value distribution where a lot of people give the value, but only a few people take it. And then they will reinvest in making sure you stay in that position. So the question is, with a lot of people talking about Black Panther being so revolutionary, can it be revolutionary with those types of economics behind it?
Brian Brackeen: No one in the world is better able to weave multiple bombs into a question than you. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know where you learned that skill. It’s just so much to unpack in the premise. So. OK. So I disagree with multiple points in the premise, but having said that, I actually do believe the NFL, one, I don’t absolve people of their own responsibility to get the money they need to get in capitalism. So, I don’t absolve NFL players from their responsibility to make sure that the NFL union gets every dollar they’re due from the NFL owners, and they’re not doing so, and they have a union, then the union has failed them. And then I’m going to then relay that to the filmmakers. I don’t know for a fact that, and it is quite common in LA to actually take part of the gross of the film, but usually you see that amongst long time kind of white directors and that kind of thing. So if that wasn’t the deal that Ryan and crew struck with Marvel, Disney, you name it, they have a responsibility to get all they can get. That said, I also think that in this world that we live in, where people haven’t been treated fairly historically, it is also Disney’s responsibility, also as a public institution with all of our money in it, to make sure that it’s fair to the cast and crew and the directors of the film. I’ll liken this to a situation we had here at Kairos, one of our coders, in fact, she was just promoted recently to lead engineer and she wouldn’t mind me telling the story. She’s amazing. She’s one of our best, period, and that’s why she’s the lead and she now manages her peers. At the point of her joining Kairos, I asked, I said we were going to give you an offer what your salary expectation. And her salary expectation was about 20, 30, even 35 percent lower than her male peer. Now one, she has a responsibility to ask me for every dollar she thinks she’s due, that’s her responsibility, but two, me in the Disney position said to her, look, I appreciate the offer and trust me, it’s in my best interest to take that lower amount, but your value is greater than that and I’m going to pay you this because this is par to what you are owed to the other folks in the organization. So both people have responsibility, but let’s not absolve her or Ryan for his responsibility to get them money he deserves. And it’s also Disney’s responsibility as well.
Jamarlin Martin: OK, but is the film revolutionary? Would you use that type of word to describe a comic film?
Brian Brackeen: That’s a big word. I don’t know if I’ll use the term revolutionary. What I would say is revolutionary about the film, which is a different way of saying it, is there are characters and they’re particularly women in that I’ve never seen before in a film and in my 38 years. Right? So it’s good and it’s revolutionary to see certain characters of certain ages, genders, and ethnicities in that role being strong and amazing. And I think sadly that is revolutionary. But is the film revolutionary, probably not. But it’s an excellent film.
Jamarlin Martin: Here’s my two cents. What Marcus Garvey was doing was revolutionary. What Malcolm X was talking about was revolutionary. If the younger people start using revolution for Marvel comic films, you are going to end up with a word like diversity where everybody just uses it, it has no meaning. So when the community uses a word like revolutionary, don’t give that word up so easily, particularly when all the profits of the film are going to people who do not look like you, they’re going to people most likely who hate you. And the money is actually going to go into investments for future generations that are most likely going to exploit and oppress you. So it’s great to have this film. We’ve got a black director, we have very good symbolism. It’s inspirational. Hey, Black Panther is a star. This may really inspire kids, it may inspire the kids that scale is much as a lot of the hype that’s out there. That’s a a possibility. Yeah, but let’s not get it twisted here, and we need to take Black Panther for what it is, and we can’t set the bar for what revolution means for us. Revolution is not Disney making a billion dollars with black actors, black directors, black genius. Even if you were to own the studio, if the community owned the studio, that’s still not revolution, that’s great, but that’s still not revolution. We just have to be careful, I think, how we use that word.
Brian Brackeen: It’s not revolution by the standards that you laid out. Absolutely not. It’s not Garvey and it’s not revolution. I will say, and you laid this out in your points. I do hope that it’s the fruit that comes from this tree that leads to much greater access and much greater opportunities for these groups. When you’ve made somebody a billion dollars, and even if you take away 10 percent of that, you can do a lot of great change within. So that’s my, my hope is that we’d get a revolution downstream from what’s been a very good film.
Jamarlin Martin: OK. A final question for you. You were considered by many to be the foremost leader in building a black tech ecosystem in Miami. What inspired you to go beyond being a conventional startup founder and merge social impact with your business ambition?
Brian Brackeen: It goes all the way back at the beginning of the podcast, which is the sense of community and tolerance and making where you live better, are all tenants have a kind of Pennsylvania, Quaker and Amish culture. And I’m a firm believer in that also. My grandfather was a baptist minister, so we’re always about community, never for the handout, healthy, wholesome, some decently conservative use. But I’m always for helping people to get the fair shake in the hand up they need to be not just average, but wildly successful, and Miami is a place where people can do that. And I’m really happy to be here.
Jamarlin Martin: OK, thanks Brian for coming on the GHOGH podcast. We really appreciate your support in coming on.
Brian Brackeen: Good to be here. Thanks guys.
Jamarlin Martin: If you liked this podcast be sure to check me out on Twitter @Jamarlinmartin. Also you can check out Moguldom.com. Let’s GHOGH!
This podcast has been edited for clarity.