Full Transcript: Lisnr Founder And CEO Rodney Williams On GHOGH Podcast

Full Transcript: Lisnr Founder And CEO Rodney Williams On GHOGH Podcast

Rodney Williams
Lisnr founder Rodney Williams at Black Tech Week Miami, 2018. Photo: Anita Sanikop/ Moguldom

In the second episode of the GHOGH podcast with Jamarlin Martin, Rodney Williams, founder and CEO of Lisnr, talks about raising $10 million in venture capital, HBCU endowments that invest in black tech, and how to fire loyal employees you like.

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 PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, and SoundCloud.

This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.

Rodney Williams: You’ve got a great podcast voice though.

Jamarlin Martin: Oh, thanks man.

Rodney Williams: I hear my voice and I’m always like, who’s that weird kid? Cause I sound like, I don’t got, ‘Jamarlin Martin’. I was about to be like Rodney Williams. Yeah.

Jamarlin Martin: Are you ready? You’re with Jamarlin Martin on GHOGH. We’re talking with Rodney Williams, the founder and CEO of LISNR. Let’s GHOGH! Rodney. Tell me a little bit about your story. More so on the personal side before we get into the business stuff.

Rodney Williams: Personal side. Well, I’m originally from Baltimore. How personal, how far back? Right.

Jamarlin Martin: How far back do you want to go? When you trace the DNA of where you are today, how would you trace it back?

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Rodney Williams: Yeah. I was born partially deaf. I couldn’t speak, came from a family where we had limited means. So insurance wasn’t necessarily an option. I found out at four years old that I couldn’t hear. Well, went to school in Baltimore. Fun times as you can imagine, but I actually went to undergrad at West Virginia University. I did two degrees there and then I went to grad school at Howard University. I did one Grad degree at West Virginia and another Grad degree at Howard, did an MBA, and kind of brought myself to listen to that story. My family is also originally from Jamaica. That’s important.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah man. A lot of you brothers from Jamaica and Africa just killing us over here. What is that about? Meaning that, I’m not surprised that you’re Jamaican.

Rodney Williams: You know, I think it’s really important when, as family and bringing up kids, I don’t know that I know the Jamaican or the African answer to that question. I just know, in my family, we just didn’t necessarily have limitations of what you could be, or potentially be, mainly because there was not much that we were. My mom was a hairdresser and a nurse, and of course standard Jamaicans, my dad was a carpenter and a plumber and you know, and did a lot of different things around the house. So I just think that as I grew up, I didn’t have necessarily limitations on what I could possibly be and I really didn’t have someone telling me no, you couldn’t be it. It was more so about: ‘Honey, or son, I don’t really know anything about that, but if you want to do that, go ahead’.

Jamarlin Martin: When you say your family, did you grow up in a two-parent home?

Rodney Williams: I did. I grew up in a two-parent home until I was 18.

Jamarlin Martin: OK, got it.

Rodney Williams: I think I felt like they had it all together, until I went to college.

Jamarlin Martin: With African Americans here, do you believe it’s a big handicap in terms of, so many of us come from single-parent homes?

Rodney Williams: I mean, I’m always posting that I’m a product of my environment and I think we’re all products of our environments and I think that our environments influence who we actually become. I think significantly. I think it’s bigger than as a parent, your parent or your household, mother or father has a lot to do with everything. Right? How you were raised, where you were raised, the components of that, your family structure. I just think all of that is actually probably the most defining characteristics of who you’re actually going to become. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a crutch because we call it out to be a crutch, but I know some awesome family structures that’s single-parent, right? Cause the parents actually care. Right? So I think it’s not about just the single parent structure. I think most of the time it’s usually because they grew up in an environment that wasn’t necessarily nurturing for them.

Jamarlin Martin: So you would agree with the sister I knew at Spelman when I was at Morehouse, we’re talking about this issue and she goes: ‘Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with single-parent homes, you know. They just pushed that to make black people feel bad. We should embrace single-parent homes’. Do you agree with that?

Rodney Williams: I agree. I was talking to a bunch of friends of mine and you know, when Hillary back in the day called black folks, black dudes, vultures or something, predators?

Jamarlin Martin: Some predators, yeah.

Rodney Williams: Super predator. I just think we have a tendency to, the moment we get a name or something negative, like we take it and we were like, ‘oh, we’re super predator’. First of all, I thought that was a compliment. I was the only person that was like, I love being a super predator. If this was the jungle and I was a super predator, I was the person that was going to eat your face. Like I just think we tend to take these negative things that are just small examples of the subset of who we are as people as defining characteristics of why something is it. And I just think if we’re the most advanced super computers on earth, human beings, we’re way more dynamic than that.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. So, what if somebody said, look, the more you deviate from your original African culture, your original Jamaican culture – shout out to my Jamaican folks out there – the more you deviate from that core in terms of your heritage, most likely there’s going to be more failure within your community. The more and more you get away from those original values.

Rodney Williams: I don’t necessarily agree, and I just think that there’s good values and there’s bad, as I think is as basic as black or white. I just think there’s certain family values that should be shared. Now, I think what you’re getting to is that I think,  ethnic or African Jamaican tend to have more of a commonality of these common attractive values that they tend to push out into their family. And I think I agree with that. I agree with that. I just think that that’s part of that heritage. And I think as African Americans, I think we lose it. We lose a bit of the family structure when you start to have generations of single parents or generations of disconnect, right? And I think that sometimes that’s where you’re seeing generations of disconnect.

Jamarlin Martin: Obviously, maybe not in my view, black people, we are in a big mess here in the United States still in 2018. When you look at the data and inequality, is racism a bigger issue or do we have a culture problem in terms of progressing from here where we are in 2018, should the community be more focused on internal culture optimization or racism in terms of trying to change America? What would you give more energy to?

Rodney Williams: I would always give energy into our own culture, into our own establishments. I’m a firm believer, I’m never going to read it and I’m a teaching another man about you, my son, my kids, I don’t have any, but my family. I’m going to do things like that. But it’s very rare that I’m gonna teach another man a value. I can show him, I can let them watch it and I just think our culture should spend way more time investing in each other versus worrying about fixing the oppression or fixing the other person.

Jamarlin Martin: A scholar out of UPenn, Amy Wax, her thesis is that, black people in America, obviously America has oppressed you guys, enslaved you guys, discriminated against you people, from her perspective. She acknowledges that, but she used the analogy of a victim in a car accident where a person gets hit by a car, they’re paralyzed, right? And essentially the person who hit them can’t really do anything to help them to walk again. Essentially the person is going to have to pull their internal resources and go through therapy and really stay committed if they have a chance of walking again. And she used that analogy with respect to us here in America where all that racism stuff, the slavery, oppression, discrimination and that stuff is real. She acknowledged that. But in terms of actually changing your circumstance, it’s not going to be government, it’s not going to be all this other stuff. You’re paralyzed and you gotta go through that therapy every day, but you have to do it. So she puts the weight on us from here in terms of actually making substantial gains in economics in the United States. Do you agree with that?

Rodney Williams: Yeah, I agree. I know in my personal story, if I had let the environment define me, if I had let the challenges define me, if I let the opposition define me. I went to West Virginia. I went to one of the most racist schools, racist environments, that you could go to. And I saw tons of my classmates drop out because of issues outside of the fact of is it a good school and you should just finish. I just think that we gotta stop doing that. We got to be more introspective in how we build each other in the communities around us.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. So in talking to a lot of entrepreneurs, you have a great reputation with a lot of people. And I noticed that you attend Afrotech, you were at Black Tech Week, do you believe you being at events such as South-By here in Austin with Rodney Sampson, HBCU@SXSW, do you believe you would have been so active in the black tech community beyond growing your startup? Do you believe there’s any correlation between that in terms of being in the black tech community?

Rodney Williams: I’m active because, I’m not doing this for money. I tell people all the time. Don’t ask me my valuation or am I planning on selling because that’s not what this is about. I’m doing this because I purposely inspired to do it. I think it’s important that my story is told, and it’s important that what I’m doing, I’m doing it and I’m showing people that I’m doing it my way. You know, the way you see me today is how I’m in a board meeting, is how I sell my product. I think I’ve been able to break through borders or barriers by being myself and I want to encourage people to do that and hold onto that creativity and then bring those ideas to market. So that’s why I’m in the community, I just really want my story to be told.

Jamarlin Martin: If you went to Harvard, you feel like you would still be in these black tech streets?

Rodney Williams: Yeah, I would still be in the streets.

Jamarlin Martin: Got it. So tell us about LISNR. How the idea came about, did you start with co-founders? Talk about how you got there and started the company.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. So it was while I was at Proctor and Gamble. I was in marketing. I was the first marketer to co-write digital patents there. I had the idea of using sound to connect to devices. It really just started out as like, if I could create a click that you couldn’t hear, I was going to put that into commercials. And then that click would essentially tell a device that you’re in front of that content, right? I would be able to correlate devices and their content now clicks turns of ones and zeros. Ones and zero turns to LISNR, more importantly, I had the idea, didn’t know how to build it. Went onto startup competition called Startup Bus on the way to South By Southwest. And the rest is history. Three months later we raised a round. At the beginning we had a total of five co-founders. I have a total of two now, so it’s three of us and we’ve been doing this for the past six years. As you know, this is the longest job I’ve ever had, but specifically what we are today. We’ve created software that transmits data wirelessly from point to point using near-ultrasonic frequency. So it’s inaudible to the human ear, but receivable in being able to broadcast by standard speakers and microphones.

Jamarlin Martin: Explain that to my grandma in Watts right now.

Rodney Williams: My Momma calls it Bluetooth. It’s a smart dog whistle. It’s a smart dog whistle, but it’s, it’s like Bluetooth, right, … you being used to displace NFC? So if anyone uses Apple Pay and you tap and go…

Jamarlin Martin: That’s not simple enough, come on.

Rodney Williams: There is no simple way. There’s no simple way to explain. Like I joke sometimes I used to have like simple, fun way, fun facts. Sometimes I say, you know, we are a digital key over a digital wallet, but that’s not what we do. We’re wireless transmission company. We transmit data wirelessly, like we just happened to do it using sound. That’s what we basically do. Um, and then we do this across many devices, cars, televisions, speakers, doors, locks, point-of-sale terminals.

Jamarlin Martin: And how big is the opportunity for LISNR, here in the United States?

Rodney Williams: Let’s say it’s a huge opportunity. We actually just hired a fancy consultant to do another market opportunity and it’s over $800,000,000,000 and if you take into account the number of connected devices, and really we’ve only taken into account maybe four or five verticals, IoT payments, entertainment, and kind of consumer electronics and the number of devices in those markets, and then our pricing model across those devices. It could be a trillion-dollar opportunity.

Jamarlin Martin: You got a big check from Intel. Describe that process for our audience.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. That was in 2015. So in 2015 we raised $10,000,000 led by Intel Capital. It’s a process if you haven’t raised a round and you gotta go through diligence, and diligence is like someone walking into your room and like digging through your closet. Right?

Jamarlin Martin: Did they do a thorough background investigation on you?

Rodney Williams: Yeah. I think every round, not just Intel, right? I think that every investor that has pretty much given me a dollar has done a thorough background check, they’re looking at all your financials, they’re looking at all your…

Jamarlin Martin: But personally they’re really dig into Rodney in terms of credit and stuff like that. You went through a thorough background investigation. Some of the folks out there, when you’re going through deep, I know a lot of us have paranoia like, ‘hey man, am I getting a black tax?’ Do you believe a black tax there in terms of a VC or investment due diligence where, hey, I’m going to check these black folks out just a little bit more, maybe a lot more, you know, I don’t see these motherfuckers a lot.

Rodney Williams: I hope so. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with that. You know, I’m an investor now and I tend to, when I meet a founder, I’m mitigating my risk. So the only reason why I tend to invest in things that are familiar with me is cause I know it, right? So when a white investor meets a black founder, this is very new for him. He doesn’t necessarily know much about him, his environment, where he’s from. So I think it’s only right that a person does a thorough check. And now I think as the founder on the other end, it’s only right that I get myself together if this is what I’m trying to go out and do.

Jamarlin Martin: So it would be justified for a VC or angel investor to apply heavier due diligence, more thorough due diligence on a black founder because I don’t see you guys enough to feel comfortable.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. On any founder he doesn’t feel comfortable with.

Jamarlin Martin: So the data. Hey, the firm goes deeper on a black founders. In terms of background checks, is that a problem for you?

Rodney Williams: No. If I met a founder from Russia, guess who’s going to go super deep because I feel like Russia is doing a lot of things wrong and that’s just a stereotype.

Jamarlin Martin: You saying black founders are doing a lot of things wrong?

Rodney Williams: I’m saying, we had a customer from Russia, a well-known respectable company and we did diligence before we made them customers, because it’s a high risk, all Russian companies are high risk.

Jamarlin Martin: But you’re comparing people here in the United States, at least, to Russians. A lot of corruption, a lot of fraud. You know, why would you compare us to Russians?

Rodney Williams: I’m not comparing us to Russians. I’m saying that if I’m uncomfortable with something, I’m going to do a lot of diligence.

Jamarlin Martin: But the premise is I’m more uncomfortable with black folks because…

Rodney Williams: I don’t know black folks.

Jamarlin Martin: You don’t know black folks. OK, so would you be OK if black people who need a higher FICA score with the lender so that black folks need a 700, white folks need 650? Would that be OK?

Rodney Williams: No, that wouldn’t be OK.

Jamarlin Martin: Laura Ingraham from Fox News made a comment about Lebron James, pretty much saying, ‘Hey, we don’t want to hear your politics. We don’t want you to speak out for the people against Donald Trump. Just shut up and dribble’. You know, you’re getting big checks. Just shut up and dribble. Your experience with black executives in the tech space and founders, have you seen a material amount of shutting up and dribbling or do you feel like there’s a very healthy amount of activism where people are speaking out while kind of navigating that ecosystem?

Rodney Williams: Well, I mean, I think you got to speak out about the pain points, things that you feel passionate about. I think the more you have a stage to do so, the more you probably will. I kind of know my position and I know my fight and … in my position was taken, right? I took it. So my position is very different and how I want to address the issues that I find in society. And that’s a completely different question than answer. But I just think you’ve got to pick how you want to. Either you want to be a part of it or you don’t. Right? And you want to be a voice. You wanna make a comment or you don’t. I’m not mad at both parties to be honest.

Jamarlin Martin: The people shutting up and dribbling or the people being very vocal? You’re not mad at either side?

Rodney Williams: I’m not mad at either side. You know what I tell people all the time, the best part about this moment is people are talking about it and people aren’t letting anything go and I appreciate the conversation because six years ago it wasn’t a conversation. I think something is brewing where we’re being comfortable. The moment we see racism or something we don’t like, we’re saying something about it. It’s like a natural tension that’s starting to rise and attention is just bringing more and more awareness to it. And I love it. I think it’s good. It was good that she made Lebron feel like that cause he should be reminded every day that he’s just like us. You know, I just think it was something good there.

Jamarlin Martin: How many employees?

Rodney Williams: I’ve got 40 employees.

Jamarlin Martin: Forty employees?

Rodney Williams: Yes.

Jamarlin Martin: What are you comfortable sharing in terms of your biggest challenge of growing your business to 40 employees?

Rodney Williams: Probably my biggest challenge now. I mean my challenge is always, ah, I think the moment you start to hire more and more individuals, the bowl, it changes, you know, and the culture changes, and you have to learn how to incorporate all these different personalities and all these different passion points and especially for our company where you know we don’t see a filter. We are an extremely diverse organization because the way I just look at things, I don’t have filters and not like I don’t have a diversity agenda at LISNR, but it’s very diverse. Not that I go out and look for diverse people, it’s just that my lens is completely clear, if that makes sense. I’m looking at everyone equally.

Jamarlin Martin: Diversity is for them, not me, is that what you’re saying?

Rodney Williams: Exactly. But the toughest challenge at this moment is making sure that we know from a culture standpoint, we’re all on the same page and going after the same dream and keeping everything high spirits. I mean, we’re David and Goliath at this moment.

Jamarlin Martin: What has been your biggest mistake?

Rodney Williams: Biggest mistake? I don’t believe in mistakes. I think there’s things I’ve learned from. I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned mostly was being too emotional. Business is not an emotional game and I think the moment you remove your emotion from a lot of your decisions, especially with business, you actually can make a better decision. And I had to learn the hard way about being too emotional, being too passionate, but I learned to just kind of take a step back and just take the emotion out of the way and I can make better decisions.

Jamarlin Martin: Are you at the point of maturity and discipline now where you’re Michael Corleone and you’re sitting that employee or executive down who you love and you’ve become friends with, but they’re not the right person at this particular time or they’re not performing and you are giving them their walking papers. You feel very comfortable with that right now?

Rodney Williams: Yeah. I don’t even have to do it anymore. We have employees. I think even in the beginning I was…

Jamarlin Martin: But I mean, even if you pass the ball and have somebody else to do it with someone, I’m assuming that you’re close with, they may have been loyal, they may have been in your business early on, ride or die, but it’s time to go. So whether you do it or not, it’s still an emotional situation.

Rodney Williams: But I used to be a lot more sensitive. I have been desensitized over time. In the beginning when you have a dream and you have these employees that believe in it and they start to work for you, you start to feel and then y’all grow and you got in the trenches and that’s great, but at the same time I need this to be successful and if you are limiting the ability for the tribe to be successful, you have to go, and it’s not personal.

Jamarlin Martin: Got It. And your relationship with the people you really loved and respected within your business that you have let go, how is your relationship with them now?

Rodney Williams: Good. It’s just how it was, you know what I mean? I think that’s all. We’ve got a bunch of war scenarios at the office and one of my favorites is Tours of Duties, right? We’re still on the same team, your tour of duty is just a bit over at this moment, but maybe that could be temporary, we could need you again. I was just thinking about someone that I really liked when we let go probably about a year ago and I was just having conversations about, I think it’s time for her to come back.

Jamarlin Martin: What would you say that culturally black people in the United States are more of an emotional people in terms of personal connections and where the opposite of this would be a very transactional culture where, you know, hey, it’s easy for you to kind of make that cold decision in terms of letting people go, offing folks? With respect to the discipline that you have acquired, do you believe black people culturally are at a disadvantage at making those type of decisions? But those cold decision in terms of, look, uncle Tyrone or your loyal partner or whatever, it’s time to go.

Rodney Williams: The world isn’t that nice. I don’t know why we think we need to be that nice.

Jamarlin Martin: But what do you think? It’s a fair statement in terms of decision-making within businesses. We are an emotional people and we’re allowing emotions to get in the way of the enterprise often.

Rodney Williams: Ninety-nine percent of the time when I hear about a black owner and ask why they don’t take funding or what’s going on with this founder bickering about this, it’s mostly emotional issues.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. That brings up a point where, Bob Johnson sold BET to Viacom for approximately $2,000,000,000. People in the black community believe that when you start a business in the United States, you can’t sell to another corporation. You just hold it forever. Other cultures, they’re not selling their business. With black businesses selling to a major corporation, somebody is willing to pay a big check, you’re selling out. How do you feel about that mentality?

Rodney Williams: It’s just a bunch of chit chat from someone who’s never had the opportunity to sell a business. A bunch of people, right? I mean, we only know what we know because we’ve seen it before and we just haven’t seen it enough to understand if it’s positive or negative. So I think what you’re seeing is a lot of, honestly, … We are so happy when something’s ours because we don’t have a lot of things that are ours. So it’s like that’s just a personal thing. So when we see it getting sold, we think it loses a little bit of that and we’re like, ‘oh man, we lost another one’. But we should celebrate those things. We should encourage it to happen more or in bigger ways. I think. I just think it’s such an opportunity. We saw it with a rich dentist selling Sundial Brands, right? Everyone was like, oh my God, now we don’t have a beauty brand. Right? And I was like, wait a minute, this is a good thing. If we think about wealth disbursement.

Jamarlin Martin: Why would the community tax him with the burden where hey, the industry is changing, technology is changing. Most people in capitalism when you have so much disruption and may possibly need more scale, you need more distribution. Another entrepreneur is going to do the rational thing in terms of I’m going to have to sell my company with a bigger company. It sounds like some of these people are saying ‘no, don’t do that option’. The black founder cannot do that or should not do that because he got to keep it in the community.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. I honestly don’t care much. I mean, I think it’s wrong. I think we should be encouraging companies to be bigger and better in any capacity possible. And that’s also how we get a seat at those tables.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. When that brother sells, I guess he sold a big chunk to Bain Capital, and then he sold finally to Unilever. When he cashes out, most likely he can do more good than just running the business forever. Do you think that’s fair?

Rodney Williams: I think it’s fair. I think he’s already done good, right? He sold that and then he went and bought Essence, right? And then made it back. Now it’s back to being black-owned right. So I don’t think he should have the burden to feel like he needs to do that though. Right? And that’s probably the part that I’m probably disconnected from. Like we should just celebrate the fact that he had the opportunity to go out and do that, and now he should have the opportunity to invest back in our community or invest in the things he loves and invest in the things he cares about.

Jamarlin Martin: He sell like everybody else because he’s black, so now I’m fucking catching y’all motherfuckers on both sides.

Rodney Williams: I don’t know. I ain’t hearing it when I sell, so I’m not hearing it at all. The best thing about tech and us selling data over audio, because most people don’t understand it, so most people don’t pay any attention. And I just think it’s funny. That’s my other problem, right? Just because we don’t understand something we tend to shy away from it. Those are the things we should dive into, the things that make us most uncomfortable. The things that we don’t know, it’s just how we’re going to learn. That’s just how we’re going to learn better, I think.

Jamarlin Martin: I had a session on Twitter last night talking about the endowments of Howard, Spelman and Morehouse. It is approximately $800,000,000 in aggregate, all three of them. Do you see a role for HBCUs to play in terms of backing black tech founders and investing in the equity of black businesses? Do you believe that there should be a connection between those endowments and venture capital going to black founders?

Rodney Williams: Definitely, right? Shout out to Howard. I went to Howard.

Jamarlin Martin: By the way, Howard has the largest endowment, at over a half a billion dollars a out of all HBCUs, for the audience.

Rodney Williams: It’s a pretty good endowment, right? Yeah. I mean, the education system is a troubling system. But with that said, yes, I do think HBCUs have to find their new role in this new world. Right? In the previous world it was historically black colleges because black folks couldn’t get into schools that were majority, and they wanted to encourage more blacks in college. What is the role it plays now? Is it the creme de la creme of the black folks? I’m not saying I’m answering that question now, but I do think part of that should be about continuing to build black communities using black educational institutions.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. And the goal of an attractive risk-adjusted return at Yale, the historical returns are north of 15 percent. In the Yale model they have a very healthy allocation to private equity and venture capital. David Swensen, the fund manager, kind of pioneered a strategy where I don’t want a lot of the stocks and bonds stuff, I want to go with hedge funds who can generate alpha over the market over the long-term. But I want access to illiquid assets because those are going to outperform. So in my mind, HBCUs should be at the front end in terms of investing at least a small amount of capital. They should be here if they want to get out, they should be investing in the best black talent, including not just tech, but Hollywood, possibly directors such as Ryan Coogler, so they can generate out-performance on their investment returns. But I do not see any evidence of them doing any of that stuff.

Rodney Williams: Yeah. There’s not any evidence. They should. This is the moment that they should be doing that.

Jamarlin Martin: The mess that they’re in. Is it their fault, particularly the top HBCUs. Is it their fault? Hey, you guys got yourself into this mess. Poor management. You don’t want to take any risks. Even when times were good, you weren’t investing in terms of your asset allocation. It was most likely highly defective doing conservative stuff for the last 30 years, too conservative.

Rodney Williams: I think so, yeah. And unfortunately, what you’re experiencing is institutions that are run by educational leaders versus institutions that are run by business leaders. I think if it had a business person looking at back…

Jamarlin Martin: Why aren’t they talking to you, man? They need to.

Rodney Williams: I joked about it that. I went back to the school and I was like, how did I end up at the University of Cincinnati’s board of trustees versus Howard University’s board of trustees.

Jamarlin Martin: I mean, a phone call to you. It sounds like they can at least get in the door for some very interesting equity opportunities, even if it’s just a little bit, you guys need to be playing in this space because the university system is a game of competition and it’s mainly driven by endowments, investment returns, essentially you need a war chest and you’re not going to do that with a simple stock and bonds portfolio. So relative to other university endowments, Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, they’re sub scale, right? So when you’re sub scale, you’re not going to get attractive commissions, which are your brokers. Your due diligence is not going to be the best. Your opportunities are not going to be the best. You’re sub scale, you don’t have a lot of resources. Do you think the HBCU endowments should be working together collectively on generating outperformance in terms of their investment returns?

Rodney Williams: That’s the thing for that to actually happen, right? You just need kind of business leaders to be thinking about it from a business standpoint versus educational leaders. Thinking about it from an education and I think you’ve got to take risks, but I think we don’t take risks as a people. I just don’t think we’re comfortable with risk. I don’t think we’re comfortable with failure. I don’t think we’re comfortable with being uncomfortable and we tend to do what has always been done, which tends to create average returns, right? Average growth.

Jamarlin Martin: What would you say to the point of view that, ‘hey, stop being so judgemental on HBCUs because they don’t have a lot of resources. Uh, they shouldn’t be in that asset class such as private equity, which are illiquid, you know, you may not have access to the funds for five to 10 years’. This is just a function of not having a lot of money. Would you defend the HBCUs on that point?

Rodney Williams: They should definitely be looked at differently than how they are looked at today.

Jamarlin Martin: Big shout out to Rodney Williams, the founder and CEO of LISNR. We really thank him for coming on the program today.

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

This podcast has been edited for clarity.