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Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 28: Barron Channer
Jamarlin talks to real estate and tech investor Barron Channer about the real value exchange between Nike and Black America.
This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re listening to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin. We have a go hard or go home approach as we talk to the leading tech leaders, politicians and influencers. Let’s GHOGH! We have Barron Channer back on the show. Barron Channer is a successful real estate and tech investor. You can check out his prior episodes, that would be episodes 13 and 14. Let’s dive right in. Welcome to the GHOGH showed Barron.
Barron Channer: Thanks for having me back Jamarlin.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s go ahead and kick things off with this Nike thing. Nike comes out and surprises a lot of people and embraces Kaepernick. Nike’s with Kaep. Right? And a lot of folks in our community, they start crip-walking. “Oh my gosh, this is so great”. How did you respond to that event?
Barron Channer: Yeah, to me it was nothing new. I mean the reality is ,one, Nike started as a counterculture company, right? Nike’s client base are people who skew younger, more liberal. Their sponsored athletes base are people who skew towards inclined to be supportive of Kaepernick, more so than not. So the only group of people in the Nike sphere that could possibly impact them and disagree with the position they took, may be some portions of their investor base, but from a business standpoint it sounded like the easiest thing for them to do to just simply say sometimes you take a risk and if you take risk and you get punished for it, sometimes it may be worth it. Just do it. So to me it just sounded like it was a simple thing to do. Should they be credited for it? Yeah, I think so because they are a significant Fortune 500 company and the easy thing to do would’ve been to stay out of it. Should they be lauded for it? No. Things like that should be ordinary. It should be expected that you believe someone should be able to exercise their constitutional rights, which may include them disagreeing with you in the same way that we all accepted Larry Flynt being able to run an adult entertainment establishment that may not have comported with most of our religious believes or lifestyle beliefs. But he was able to walk around and be a respected person and get interviewed on national and syndicated shows.
Jamarlin Martin: I’m in the mood to debate today, but I share a lot of your…
Barron Channer: You know, I enjoy debating with you…
Jamarlin Martin: When it came out and everybody’s like, shocked. “Man, I can’t believe they’re riding with Kaepernick”. I actually mentioned on the GHOGH show in a prior episode that now folks are checking more for what someone looks like, how much money someone has. We’re entering another period where people want more substance. And so the companies are going to start to move to think about how I can profit from some of these progressive movements. And in a prior episode I mentioned, I believe it was Kendall Jenner and Pepsi, where there was a lot of backlash trying to kind of pimp the movement. Nike embracing Kaep, as you mentioned, is nothing new. Right? So when I was a kid, I think it maybe reflects our age a bit because growing up I would wear Tim Hardaway’s with the X, I saw during the Malcolm X movie, which at that time was controversial in terms of a movie with so much Nation of Islam elements in it. Michael Jordan representing the X, Nike coming out with the X Tim Hardaway shoes, Nike fully embracing Spike Lee. This is nothing new.
Barron Channer: And not just embrace them with a pat on the back, but embracing them with commerce. So give them an opportunity to make money and do business, which is the best kind of embrace.
Jamarlin Martin: Nike understands its demographic, they know where their cool comes from. It doesn’t just come from Black, but Nike’s cool has been coming from intelligent Black, progressive Black, and so Kaep, I believe it’s just an extension of what they’ve done over the decades intelligently. To your point that, hey, the community shouldn’t be crip-walking. I think about the market cap of Nike, we’re talking about $140 million dollars. So as a community, we have to be thoughtful on the value exchange, right? Are we cheap where someone can just do something and we act like it’s some type of systemic change where we support Nike. We don’t just talk support for Nike, we help Nike stock, we purchase a lot of Nike shoes, we influence their marketing, we help Nike, we bang for Nike. So if they do something, they embrace Kaep, think about how much you’re giving to Nike and they do this little thing for you.
Barron Channer: I would say there in the spirit of the debate. That part of your gift is your contrarian perspective on culture. And I think that’s showing out a little bit here, from the following standpoint. We’re trying to create norms and frame relationships with people and every other Fortune 500 company, arguably every other meaningfully sized company have run away from this issue. I suspect many of them would probably be inclined to be supportive of Kaep if given an option, support or don’t support. But they’ve taken the route of safety. So I do think that as a community we should be showing some degree of appreciation when Nike steps up to even get into the fray of the controversy. Right? So from that standpoint, I think that we should be doing that because, which is sort of like a relationship. It’s even if people are doing things that you’ve come to expect or you should expect. If those things merit some degree of recognition, show it so that it can be clear that, okay, we’re still paying attention because the second we fall asleep and we say, hey, Nike did it, but so what they should have done it. Then that starts to provide validation for others to be able to say they’re not really engaged for or against anything. This thing has blown over. So I was appreciative of it. And to me, controversy. If you’re Black in America, you should embrace the idea that progress is going to come with some degree of controversy. So I’m happy that Nike did what they did. We responded in the way that we responded. There was a healthy debate in our community because now it brings back to the forefront how silly this whole overall conversation has been, and unfortunately how silly the folks who’ve been punishing Kaepernick have been around this issue.
Jamarlin Martin: The community is happy about Nike’s embrace of Kaepernick. Does that mean that that struggling Black parent, that struggling Black household, that struggling Black teen, that adult, that we should ramp up more Nike shoe-buying, meaning that we are overweight the purchase of overpriced shoes as a community. We’re overweight, meaning that our community is bankable to pay relative to income, relative to wealth, we’re buying these types of shoes more than anybody else in the community. So Nike’s shoe sales, they go up, meaning that, I imagine that a lot of people like this move. They have already tested it, they’ve calculated it and now they’re going to profit more off of it. But, I think it would be a bad thing if the community starts going out and buying even more Nike’s, helping Nike’s market cap, and we don’t transition to a mindset that hey, if I’m going to vote for Nike and I like what they’re doing, go buy the stock for $86 dollars or so.
Barron Channer: I don’t know if I’d call it a bad thing, but I’d say there’s a missed opportunity, right? So there’s the culture and the commerce part of this. So our culture, like it or not, American Black community culture, embraces fashion, embraces brands. And just think about most of your experiences as a kid and you either were with the kids who wore the cool brands or you were with the kids who didn’t wear the cool brands, and that sometimes was about money and sometimes it was about the perspective of your family. So I would say it would be a missed opportunity, but that’s a missed opportunity in the moment. The greater opportunities still exists. What you should now know, if you are an African-American designer or a Hispanic-American designer or an Lgbtq designer is that maybe you can anchor your brand around things and people that don’t seem obviously white-washed. You can actually be edgy and there’s an audience for it. Now, some people may not have an appetite for it, but there’s an audience there. So I’m always a firm believer that we as a community should be encouraging ownership. And if you like shoes, there should be a shoe designer that is in your closet. Maybe all your shoes don’t have to be designed by an African American. But think about the folks who are designing shoes. And maybe they designed shoes that are just as good and you should be supporting them, or if you think you’ve got a better idea, go and build a shoe line and start marketing it to your friends and colleagues.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s talk about the timing of Nike’s smart play, profitable play, embracing Kaep. Okay. So the timing of it is Nike’s under a lot of scrutiny. Their head of diversity and inclusion. A brother, Antione Andrews quit. Their work culture internally has been called into question by executives on the inside. And I looked at the executive team of Nike, and it’s no surprise, my viewpoint doesn’t change either way because I don’t see Nike banging in the streets from a community perspective, right? I think they’re gonna pick their spots where they can profit, where they can hit their earnings, they can grow market share. But when I looked at Nike’s executive team, it looked like Netflix’s executive team. It’s all white. I’m not even talking about Black folks. No Asians, no Indians. It is a hundred percent white. And so the CEO, when they’re coming under all the scrutiny, the CEO of Nike sends out an internal memo and he says, we’ve done pretty much, in so many words, a poor job at hiring Black folks and others. He doesn’t say it in those words, but he says that Nike as an institution, that they’ve had trouble hiring folks that don’t come from the good old boys’ club. What are your thoughts? How do you put this together? They’re embracing Kaep, “Oh my gosh, this guy’s shaking up America”. And then on the other hand, the management team looks like MAGA.
Barron Channer: Yeah, well, I think the world, for good, bad or indifferent, is going to have to come to a realization that diversity on all levels: gender, sexual orientation, race, those issues aren’t going away because the numbers of the people who have usually been on the marginalized side of that conversation are too significant. So you’re going to see an increasing wave of companies that have to deal with that in some way. And I think that that debate is timely and a good thing because what’s starting to happen is it means that the folks like us and Black people have always been on the losing side of this debate about cultural prominence or cultural influence on the things that are really meaningful to a capitalist economy, is that those people are increasingly gaining value and their opinions matter whether they are consumers and they matter in that regard or whether it be that they are potential partners, aka sponsors, and they matter in that regard. So to me it’s a good thing that they have come to that point. I think what they’ve signalled is they’ve probably signalled to a bunch of other Fortune 500 companies, not all but a bunch of them, that listen, this is actually not a particularly controversial thing. It’s really blown over in a shorter time than the Stormy Daniels thing has blown over. Right? And they’ve moved on. And from a financial standpoint, we can debate that whether it’s been a good thing or a bad thing, and in most cases it’s been a good thing for them, so why wouldn’t other companies embrace that?
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, I think it’s also an inflection point, where a lot of our people on the left, progressive folks, we want radical change and if we want radical change and something like this comes up, we can’t act like the Negro from 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 30 years ago. Meaning that the old Negro that is on the bottom of everything, that’s losing in a lot of cases, the old Negro is going to go out and buy a whole bunch of Nikes in Harlem. Gonna go out and buy a lot of Nikes in Compton. The old Negro is going to go out and buy a lot of Nikes on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, on the West Side. However, if we’re saying we want radical change, then we have to remix the culture and say, hey, if the old people would go out and buy more Nikes, in this case, the new one would either need to buy the Nike stock so you can profit with Nike, or we have to think about how we can build our own Nike. But we’ve got to do something different if we want a radical change. And it starts with little things like this, I believe.
Barron Channer: I would agree with you if we want a radical change. The nuance I think is whether or not radical change is a realistic expectation in this particular instance. And I’m a fan of taking incremental change in the face of no change, if you can’t have radical change. So in this specific instance, it can be a “yes and” scenario. Yes, Nike, we’re happy you did this, we applaud you for doing this, and know that we have expectations that you do the other things that we expect a company of your size to do if you want to enjoy a relationship with us. Your leadership needs to reflect inclusion of our perspective. The way you do commerce needs to reflect fairness with our suppliers. The way you market your product needs to be sensitive to our communities, and the way that you share in your resources as a corporate entity in the world needs to also benefit our community. So it’s a “yes and “sort of thing.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. You’re talking my language because that brings up a good point in terms of Kaep and the community possibly taking this opportunity where we’ll continue to support you, but as a group, as a buying power group, we need to negotiate our relationship with you. You’ve got everything too cheap over the years building your $140 billion company. You got the Black community too cheap. But going forward, let’s talk about a couple of strategic things we can work together on a where you can benefit and the community can benefit a lot more than we have in the past.
Barron Channer: Yeah. I’m right there with you and you’ve got to think mutual. Any exchange or interchange, to be sustainable, it’s got to be mutual and Nike at heart is a capitalist manifestation. It’s a publicly traded company, so commerce is going to be not the only driver, but a primary driver, and I’m fine with Nike making money off of people. The reality is, take me and you, you’ve mentioned the price a couple of times. As a kid, the first time I owned a pair of Nike shoes, I was probably 18 or 19 years old simply because my mother couldn’t afford them and so she bought other shoes. But other people bought those shoes and worked. Many of my friends worked at Burger King and Subway and other places just to be able to buy the shoes and the clothes, so I’m fine with them doing commerce. It’s just now that we’re all smarter about what a fair and balanced relationship is, let’s start to make those demands of these retailers if they want our loyalty. But to me, if you’re going to make those demands, it has to be a multiplex conversation, right? You can simply talk about things that make you feel good. If you’re not actually being empowered and if you’re not actually being enriched, then it’s not something that transitions to the next generation or allows you to help other people. So I don’t just want them to run commercials and make me feel good. I like those as well. Yes. And I want them to empower people like me, if not me and enrich people like me, if not me, through their commerce, who they employ, who they do business with and they’re a publicly traded company so anyone can buy their stock, but they can invest in and partner with smaller companies to help them grow their brands.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you think Kaep will leverage his position and relationship with Nike, where some may say, hey, Spike Lee, there was no agenda. Spike Lee, he got paid, it was a mutual beneficial partnership between a company and the individual. However, for the broader Black community, with some of these institutions that massively profit off of us, who’s going to take the agenda to the beast?
Barron Channer: Yeah. It’s uncertain in terms of where Kaep will end up. I believe the brother has the right to decide how he wants to proceed. I’m not sure he signed up to be a martyr. I’m not sure he’s yet fully a martyr in the way that we’ve had people martyred in our community. But he’s certainly been hurt in an unfair way. That said, when you think about the situation, say for instance around Spike Lee, as you mentioned, I think progress comes in you being able to realize whatever it is you want to realize and make the impact that you can make in the community. And that may not be the same impact that everyone can make. Spike Lee’s impact in our community, and I can’t speak for him, but from the outside, is telling stories and impacting mindsets in a way that allow you to reframe what goes on in the world around you. And so if you look at the Nike commercials that he made, the voice that he was projecting, the characters that he played in addition to the characters that the others in those commercials play, that was bringing in an element of his black culture to the table in a way that was not simply farcical and so his relationship with Nike actually advanced his agenda because he was able to tell stories in his characteristic way which allowed for celebrating and even making fun of, in sort of loving ways, Black culture, and he brought that to waves of people and so there was a certain cool or certain exposure to Black culture that other people were being provided in an accessible way, and the more accessible it became, I think that influenced a lot of people, it influenced me. I suspect also his relationship with Nike because his business, my understanding is, includes not only the filmmaking but also the advertising portion of the business, which I suspect the advertising portion of the business likely funded his ability to weight out all the various nos he received in route to getting the yes to produce the movies that he’s produced. So now Colin Kaepernick, you know, he’s an athlete or has been an athlete. Unfortunately I don’t know that if he will ever get the opportunity to be the athlete that he was in the way that he wants to be, but he is in a position now where I think he can have significant influence if he seizes the moment, but he doesn’t have to seize it in a public way in the way that I may necessarily want him to. So I think he can figure out a way to leverage this. I’m not sure what his personality or temperament is and what plans he has to take advantage of it.
Jamarlin Martin: What’s your view of the element in the community, they’ll look at Colin Kaepernick doing a deal with Nike, “Hey, you’re supposed to be about the cause, you’re supposed to be Black, Black, Black, Black. You’re supposed to be all about us. You’re not supposed to be for profit. What are you doing partnering with Nike? You sold out.” What do you say about that?
Barron Channer: Yeah, I’d say that’s silly. First off I would say why should the man walk away from the opportunity? He wants to get back into the NFL. So by that standpoint, he would never be here if he hadn’t already, quote unquote, sold out to corporate interest.
Jamarlin Martin: What’s the difference between Nike and the NFL?
Barron Channer: That’s what I’m saying. So if you’re fighting for him to get back into the NFL after the NFL has done this and you’re upset that a company has paid him. I understand they were paying him and not taking any credit for it while he was being beaten up and then they made a commercial and paid him more money. If you are upset about that, then you’ve got to check who you are and what you are. You’ve got to ask yourself, what is it really to not sell out? If you live in an apartment building that is owned by a publicly traded real estate investment trusts with no African Americans on the board and a history of not great relations with African American tenants in certain buildings across the country, are you asking who your landlord is?
Jamarlin Martin: That’s a little different in terms of housing.
Barron Channer: Well, go and build your own house, go and find land. Since we’re going radical, go find land. Build your own house. I’m from Jamaica. My grandmother and grandfather built their own house, didn’t have finance and it took them longer. It was built out of bricks and they raised the whole family there on land that she bought with her money. So for those of us who are driving cars, maybe we should go and find a Black manufacturer of bikes and ride a bike and just be fine with it. So if selling out is engaging in commerce then America is a tough country for you to exist in because you’re doing it every single day and in often cases you’re doing it with people who necessarily go out of their way. They don’t necessarily disrespect Black people, but they don’t go out of their way to elevate and empower Black people.
Jamarlin Martin: All right? So some folks I think prematurely, I love Kaep myself. I love what he’s done. I love the sacrifices. I love the consistency. Some folks have said Kaep is the modern Muhammad Ali. Is that premature?
Barron Channer: Premature. Listen, Kaepernick did something that should be lauded. He took a knee and continued to take a knee in the face of being challenged. Kaepernick did not, to my knowledge, was not knowingly risking his life, right? I’m not sure that he knew at the time that he was risking his career. He knew that he was doing something that wasn’t necessarily desirable, but I don’t know that he was risking his career. So if you’re going to start talking about Muhammad Ali, who by the way knowingly accepted the likelihood of going to jail, knowingly accepted giving up the world championship at a time when it wasn’t as if he was enriched with a college degree, and all this other stuff that he would know for a fact that he’d be perfectly fine. He took significant risks, but I’d even go beyond that. We all have to take perspective here. We, at least those of us who are in the Western world, I happen to be from Jamaica. We’re descendants of slaves. There were people who at times took the risk of life and death for them and everyone they knew just for the simple act of trying to be free and have the right to exercise human dignity. So the rest of us who endure some level of indignities, in my case, sometimes it’s not being able to get a business opportunity in the same way that everyone else gets. In Kaepernick’s case, not being able to be given the right to exercise his own personal beliefs in his profession. None of us are going to be horsewhipped. None of us are going to be tarred and feathered. Real people were actually really tarred and feathered. None of us are going to be hung from a tree in the public square and burned for what we’ve done. There are people who just for simply saying no, have had that done to them. So we’re talking modern Negro issues here.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. Uh, you bring up some, some very good points, and with Muhammad Ali, let’s put it in perspective. Muhammad Ali at a time when Malcolm X is talking violence in America, Malcolm X talking separatism, Elijah Muhammad is talking separatism. Muhammad Ali had the whole world looking at him and he said, I’m banging with this. I’m banging with folks who are talking about shooting back. I’m banging with folks are talking about real Black separatism here, and you can take my title, you can take my freedom. I don’t care. I’m banging for the people. So I do think, although I have a lot of praise for Kaep, but I think it would be premature to start calling him the modern Muhammad Ali.
Barron Channer: Yeah, premature. But he should be lauded, right? It’s like saying is Lebron better than Michael Jordan? He’s in this time. He exists in this context. So in this context, as a privileged and talented athlete on the national stage, he took great risk. Now the real question we should be asking is, and to me we should go beyond Kaepernick. It’s the others, right? They all now know what the stakes are. At the time, many of them didn’t. So the question would be, the people who are no longer kneeling, no longer raising their fist, what calculus have they made as to what they’re willing to do now versus what they were willing to do those first three or four weeks, when the pain wasn’t obvious, right?
Jamarlin Martin: If Kaepernick looked like Buster Douglas, could he have gotten this far?
Barron Channer: Yeah. He absolutely could have.
Jamarlin Martin: If he didn’t look a certain way, like a multiracial man. If he looked like Buster Douglas, could he have gotten this far, in terms of the notoriety, the main stream media and Nike and all this other stuff?
Barron Channer: I think yes, and I think that’s because he inherited or he existed in a space that is just a different lane when it comes to football. If you’re the quarterback of the team, the eyes that are projected on you are substantially different. Now, yes, there is a light-skin Black bias that exists broadly in the world. I don’t think that that exists in athletics, I should think it’s the reverse, but I don’t think it hindered him. I think he was talented enough, but his position and the notoriety he has gotten, I think is mainly because he was a quarterback perceived to be the face of the franchise and he never stopped. Other people broke off the protest at a certain point.
Jamarlin Martin: Well, even within Black folks have of goodwill and who want to uplift our people, if you take Malcolm X, part of the rationale why he was selected as a minister, it wasn’t just his intellect and hard work, but there was a thinking within his organization that our people are so sick in terms of an inferiority complex against ourselves, our people are so sick, to pull our people out of that inferiority complex, to pull the people out of that. I’m better off using a fair skin, Black men and so certain ministers were prioritized, where you guys are going to respond better to someone lighter. You guys are so sick. Even preaching Black nationalism.
Barron Channer: No, listen, we’re animals, right? And we have an animal brain now we’ve evolved.
Jamarlin Martin: I take issue with that. But go ahead.
Barron Channer: Fair point, another episode. And so if you think about it, why are presidents of the United States usually taller than average? Right? Why are people with a certain resonance in their voice perceived as more authoritative, not necessarily because of their intellect or the content of what they’re saying, but there’s simply the voice. For Black people another dimension has been added, the issue of coloration, because being dark was such a significant negative at one point that being lighter or being less than dark become has become a built up advantage. And so it’s something that I think we’re progressively working our way out of and it’s built around giving someone the agency at an individual level to be who they want to be if they merit the opportunity to do so. And when you start to do that, you become less inclined to think about yourself in the eyes of others. Right? And that’s coming from, listen, I know that there have been many instances where me being a fairer skin person has benefited me relative to some of my peers, if nothing else than in perception. So the questions that are asked of me when I’m in certain environments are not the same questions that are asked of others. The sort of perception issues walking into certain places with a blazer. I’m not looked at…
Jamarlin Martin: Looked at like a Buster Douglas.
Barron Channer: Yeah. Or someone like that. So we all benefit from perception, including folks who are attractive benefit from a certain positive perception. Folks that have a body types that society celebrates benefit from a certain perception, right? We’ll grow out of that over time. And I think you’re starting to see, the women have been particularly good about progressing. I don’t know the details, but if you watch what’s happening in the culture of women in particular Black women, you’re seeing a broader embrace of body types and allowing for and celebrating the fact that there is beauty in all types of body types. And as an individual perspective, there’s no dominant form of what it takes to be beautiful. I think that’s gonna extend progressively to coloration and at least we will be able to grow out of that. I think the larger community may end up growing out of it, but we are masters of our fate now. We can dictate to people how they interact with us when we elevate our voices. It’s when we’re silent and we accept the status quo, even though we don’t like it, that things continue to happen.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay. I want to change gears here and talk about something that is concerning me right now. You lived through the 2000 tech bubble and crash. You lived through the 2008 real estate bubble, asset bubble and crash. So you have experience. You’ve seen it where all the experts and everybody’s saying, “Oh man, these good times, they’re going to keep on going”. And then all the experts and a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of investors, they really get taken to the cleaners from a risk management perspective. They never thought that things could turn so fast and so hard. And so when I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs and I read some of their commentary, there’s no mention of profits. In Silicon Valley, there’s a philosophy that, hey, profits can come later. You’ve got to go really big, really focus on growth. Profits will come later. However, for the Black entrepreneur who’s dependent on what I would call foreign capital, if the data says that you’re going to have a much harder time possibly raising capital because a lot of your people haven’t had big exits. People have not seen a lot of you guys come by the desk and pitch, and some of us are racist. But for the Black entrepreneur…
Barron Channer: I say, lack cultural sensitivity.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay. For the Black entrepreneur in terms of economic cycles, do you think Black entrepreneurs and founders and investors should have a heightened sense of awareness, if you’re dependent on foreign capital, outsourced capital, hard capital to get, where everyone is cheerleading what I would call a bubble. I do believe that there’s a bubble. No one is talking about profits, but is this a time for a reality check for Black entrepreneurs and investors in terms of where we are in the economic cycle?
Barron Channer: Now, perspective should be heightened, but I think you should always be obsessively thinking about what are the systemic risks in your life and your business. And to your point, if you’re getting capital from folks who have some degree of discretion, and people forget, even if we have a contract, my discretion is to just say I’m not going to perform and I’ll accept the outcome. And I don’t know too many folks who’ve taken investors to court to sue them for not delivering funds. Also, most of the documents you sign give them some level of out in a worst-case scenario. So investors, African-American entrepreneurs, who have always unfortunate for them and unfair, had less access to capital, need to view capital as a systemic risk and be obsessively thinking about how to maintain their access to it, and if that means that your business model has to adjust to the investor population, now you have to start thinking more about profits or think about profit in a deeper way, or maybe you need to start globalizing your access to capital, right? So that you have more people who aren’t simply locked into the American economic system, aware of you as an opportunity to invest in.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s research 2000 in terms of how checks, they can stop, including venture capital, it can stop immediately. Follow on rounds. 2008, everything stopped. Investors just stopped writing checks in a lot of cases for everybody. But for the Black entrepreneur, would you say that because of the institutional environment, how everything is set up, where we are today, should the entrepreneur have a heightened sense of kind of racing to profitability, cash flow?
Barron Channer: Yes. I mean the short is, and maybe you can track back, maybe this time is different. I don’t know. I’ve heard it many times and you alluded to 2000 and 2008. I’m not sure if I was dumb or unlucky, but I had the wonderful fortune of being a tech worker in 2000 as a computer engineer, valued on paper at that time in my early twenties, $5 million, I remember as of maybe January of 2000 and then by May of 2000, maybe April of 2000, it’s essentially zero on paper. And then in 2008, I’m in real estate as a real estate developer, working for a real estate developer and we go on a run where essentially for those four years we had nothing to do. In both of those instances, what you realize, and I’d been told that before in school, Undergrad as well as Grad school, is Black folks are the last people hired and the first people fired when things go really bad because the extra consideration for diversity and all of those things go out of the window and people just simply run to safety and fall back to their natural biases.
Jamarlin Martin: Reliability, statistics…
Barron Channer: Or their natural biases. Right? Which is, hey, I’ve not usually done this before and this was a special program. You were an emerging manager or you were in my Black tech fund and now we’re all just trying to survive. So I need to go to the core fund. Entrepreneurs need to have that same mindset and realize that traditional capital will come to you last and leave you first relative to your other counterparts, and the question is what do you do in response to that? I think one of the steps is to erase the profitability and try to be in a position to have a stronger profile for the traditional investor. The other approach is can you somehow hack the capital-raising system and find ways to get pockets of dollars that are broader, have less exposure to U.S. systemic risk, right? Of course there’s global risk, but can you find pockets of investors? That’s part of why I’m telling people, listen, you’ve gotta get smart about ICO and securitize token is one option. Two, you’ve got to realize that there are people in South America and families in Europe and families in Africa who are wealthy and have funds and are looking for interesting things that are really doing well in the U.S. That can be expanded to their continent. So maybe you find a pool of investors outside of the traditional norm of the U.S. Venture capitalists, or in addition to.
Jamarlin Martin: You look at where we are in the economic cycle, meaning that I believe we’re due for another crisis where capital freezes up again. No one obviously knows the time, but 10 years into this bull market, I believe we’re due for something big to hit. One of the things I think about is you read about all these entrepreneurs, they go hiring, hiring. We’re hiring a whole bunch of engineers. We’re hiring 200 employees. We’re doing that and so the new entrepreneur, this is their first time, they may complain about pattern matching on the investors side, but they see other entrepreneurs and they’re like, man, you gotta go big. I got to hire all these people. You really want to play out a scenario where, what happens where you don’t get to break even or profitability. You’ve got to go back and raise capital but you’re in a very messy recession or crisis. And so, I believe, one of the under-appreciated aspects of a good entrepreneur or superior entrepreneur, is some type of risk management analysis, where it’s like you’re a hybrid entrepreneur. You’re going for it for sure. However, you’re a risk taker, but you have acquired a private equity mind, in terms of there’s a certain way a VC and entrepreneur thinks, and there’s a certain way a private equity investor thinks in terms of return, cash. One of the things to think about is, hey, where we are in the cycle, obviously you want to look at it relative to your industry, but where we are in the broader economic cycle is, are we at a time at the end of the cycle? And do I want to hire 25 employees? Or do I want to just hire five and let’s see how this thing plays out?
Barron Channer: I actually think that the subconscious psyche of humans is highly, highly evolved and people make very smart decisions without knowing why. And if you on large scale, and if you think about the scenario for the average investor, the vast majority, probably high 90s percent of the capital that has gone into their business is other people’s money. If you gave me a scenario where other people’s money is substantially funded by effort and those people tell me they value scale, which means I have to take on operating expenses, primarily labor to scale, I’m going to respond to it because they’ve rewarded me for something and the downside of failure is not me losing money. It’s not necessarily me losing reputation because the American culture’s already dealt with the culture of bankruptcy and things of that nature. It just me having lost the opportunity, but going back to that axiom, scared money doesn’t make money. Now if you operate with my mindset, and I’m not a tech entrepreneur, today my mindset is, everything I do, even when it’s not my money, I operate as if it is my money. So the loss of money is a painful thing to me. And so I’m always focused on, you cannot sink the ship. It’s one thing if you lose some of the stuff off the deck, but you cannot sink the ship.
Jamarlin Martin: What would you say to that sister, brother, entrepreneur, founder, they’ll say, in today’s world, people sell their businesses to other companies. That’s the highest probability or possibly you hit the Lotto and you IPO. But that third thing that has changed is cash flow profits, that’s not part of the exit plan. So now in terms of the current environment, profits is not really in the mix in terms of some type of investor return, or it’s part of the liquidity plan for the founder and the investors to return cash from the profits of the business. So you remove that now, in the current bubble cycle, profits don’t matter. And so that sister comes to you and says, look, you’re old school, you may just be an old head. In tech, we don’t care about cash, we don’t care about profits. I’m going to sell this business, or maybe I’ll IPO. What’s your response to that?
Barron Channer: Well, my response to that would be, you may be right, so let’s sit down and talk about it. And I would start to try to discern whether or not your product or service is truly groundbreaking and innovative, because I do believe there’s a place for things that are groundbreaking or innovative for them to merit continued focus, even when they’re not making money because they’re going to start to be applied at a future time and become relevant. And so I’d say if you’re doing something that’s groundbreaking and innovative than, okay, there’s a place here for us to turn around and to sell this to someone, but let’s really, really ask that question and if you find out that what you’re doing is not particularly unique but it’s profitable or rather it’s successful and it’s scaling, then you have to realize when it’s time for you to sell, there’s going to be a wave of options. There are going to be copycats tomorrow. And if your business is not a successful business, as measured by profits, or at least revenue growth and your product is not unique, then what really is the value beyond your head count?
Jamarlin Martin: If you’re a believer as I am, that there is systemic bias in the private capital markets, a lot of the younger generation, they may not know that if you believe that there’s bias in raising capital and pitching to everybody and there’s bias there, there’s also bias when it’s time that you’re a forced seller. You may have to sell your company or you may want to sell your company, but the bias shows up there too. Is this something to think about in terms of how you manage the growth and the budgets of the business?
Barron Channer: Life and business is simple if you just simply translate the basic things in your life to the complex things in your life, and if you think about any relationship you’ve had, the condition under which that relationship broke up, right? Why you broke up, why there was anger towards you was substantially different than when you started it. So when things are good, the perception that people have about whether we should continue or not are drastically different than when things are bad. The same is true in business. When the markets are melting, when capital is constrained, the expectation of the very same investor who told you scale, scale, scale, scale, scale, don’t worry about profits, now becomes, I need profits because I can’t go to LPs or go to my individual investors and tell them that I want to put money into companies that aren’t making money because cash flow is king.
Jamarlin Martin: When you see nine out of 10 entrepreneurs in this current environment, they don’t care about profits now, they don’t care about profits in a few years. Is that an indicator for you that hey, the market is likely to turn, approach to risks and profits. Businesses need profits essentially.
Barron Channer: I don’t think that’s substantially different than what has always been the case. Once venture capital became a prolific part of how you fund new enterprise. The entrepreneur is always going to say, if you’re willing to give me money, and that includes real estate by the way, if you’re willing to give me money and more money, I’m willing to dance the dance.
Jamarlin Martin: This is where I see the friction because if you look at the data, hey, I can go back to my investors, I’d get another round. And so I can always go back and get capital from investors. However, with Black founders you have not had this relationship to the private capital. You have not had the knowledge with this private capital. You have not had the experience with the private capital going back the last 30 years. These things count, so don’t pattern yourself after groups who’ve been in the game a while and they have a certain connectivity to the capital, a certain connectivity with investors where you start patterning your business thinking that, oh, okay. I don’t have to care about profits because I can just go back to investors just like everybody else. That’s where I see the heightened risks out there.
Barron Channer: And listen, I agree with you on the overarching thesis. It’s what grandmother used to say, right? You have to be twice as good to get half as much and I think we would all be wise to operate with that mindset until the world convinces you that things have changed, and the world hasn’t convinced me that have changed in that regard as we start to gain more equity in society, maybe it will change over time, but today you can’t tell me that the average Black tech entrepreneur has access to capital in the same way that the average nonblack tech entrepreneur does. You have to be particularly good, particularly privileged or have a particularly strong product and so we have to think about that and embrace that the rules aren’t exactly the same. Are the rules better for us today then the past? Yeah, but they’re not exactly the same and that comes down to profitability. But if you think about it, and again it goes back to what I was saying, this is a modern Negro issue. Folks that are being funded with these companies is they’ll get a couple of years, have a great run, right? They all have a wonderful experience. If they get washed out, they’re not going bankrupt, most of them. They’re losing a job. Maybe now they go and get a job or they or they start a new company. But I tell people, if the market is telling you to operate in this way and you’re doing so in a legal and ethical way, then I’m not going to argue with you. For me, I’m about building wealth and hopefully building intergenerational wealth, so I’m not interested in taking significant losses and then having to come back with a new business card and a new flagship. So I’d rather leave some profit potential on the table to manage my risk in a way that allows me to say when things go really bad, “Look, I did well with your money”. That’s why you should have a 20-year, 30-year, 40-year relationship with me because I’m not in a hyper transactional business, but if you’re young and you’re getting the opportunity to be in a magazine or go to these conferences and you’re being told that the game that we’re all playing is you raise money, you tell us you’re going to scale rapidly and you don’t worry about profits. I can’t begrudge you for thinking that way. I do think there’s a place for folks to begin thinking about. we want to build a sustainable enterprise, so this is not just simply a new venture that’s raising money. We’re looking to build a sustainable enterprise and it’s very possible that my kids or my grandkids are the ones that are going to realize the peak of the mountain. I’m just climbing the mountain and I can’t afford to fall off.
Jamarlin Martin: Our brother Andrew Gillum won the Democratic primary in the state of Florida. What was your feeling when you saw that and you’ve been working so hard in the streets? You’re one of the folks within the Miami business establishment that backed him early on.
Barron Channer: Well, listen, I was happy, but you know, when you’ve spent a year expecting something to occur and it plays out as you expected, it ends up being more about contentment than euphoria. Right? So when I looked at this, and proud of Andrew Gillum, proud of the person he is, proud of the ideals that he represented and proud of his courage to step up at the moment. And I said in just looking at the race, you know, what, I don’t think an African American will have a better race to win for Governor given who Andrew is and who the other people are. I don’t think that may happen in my lifetime. And I couldn’t talk myself out of helping him. That was my initial inclination. I just wanted to focus on my business. I spent a lot of my youth doing politics and I didn’t want to get into it. And I looked at the race and said, he can win, he deserves to win, but he needs help and I think I can be helpful in my own small way. I can’t walk away from this fight. We can always lose. But he had every reason to win.
Jamarlin Martin: How much credit should go to Gillum rejecting some of the kind of Mark Penn, corporate Democrat establishment where they think like, hey, you got to run in the middle, you’re going to scare some middle white folks. Don’t go too far to the left. But Gillum, for a Black candidate, he really impressed me where from my perspective, he ran hard unapologetically as a progressive, On the core policy issues, I’m not exaggerating differences or division within the Democratic Party, but he ran hard left and he didn’t care what some of the folks at the top thought. He ran hard left.
Barron Channer: Well, that’s the beauty of being new to the dance, right? You’re not tethered to what has always been the mindset. You’re allowed without having any shame or guilt to say the voters have told us what they want. They told us what they wanted when they voted President Obama and he won the state. They told us what they want when collectively Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders performed the way that they performed. And something that I don’t think people give Mayor Gillum credit for, in part because he’s such a spectacular orator. And so, folks boil it down to charisma and passion. Folks ignore the fact that he is probably one of the greatest political minds of his generation, and his experience in terms of understanding liberal policies, having been exposed nationally to the mindset of the voters who liberal policies, far exceeds most people.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. You bring up a good point where I felt the night that Gillum won, Don Lemon, I had to turn the channel. Don Lemon spends like 10 minutes focusing on the fact that Gillum is Black.
Barron Channer: Which matters.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay but Gilliam is in the streets in Parkland, talking about gun reform. He’s in the streets talking about criminal justice reform. He’s in the streets campaigning and articulating nuanced policy points, and he’s campaigning crisscrossing the state. And Don Lemon doesn’t mention anything about Gillum but the fact that he’s Black. My interpretation of that, when I saw it, because you could say that I’m in Florida. I know Mayor Gillum, I’ve met Gillum, I’ve talked with Gillum. Gillum has been on the GHOGH podcast, maybe I have an informational advantage over Don Lemon.
Barron Channer: I think that’s what it is.
Jamarlin Martin: You don’t think that it’s just poor journalism?
Barron Channer: No. I don’t think it’s poor journalism because I think Don Lemon understands what his audience expects of him and their expectations of him is to emote and to project in a way that is a balance between your old school, Walter Cronkite type of person, but also your new school sort of color commentary where it’s part your opinion and part your emotions are being obviously projected.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. But you just talked about people don’t give Gillum enough credit where a lot of of our great politicians, Barack Obama, Andrew Gillum, they’re cheapened in terms of, hey, yeah, they’re the first Black politicians, yeah, they’re great orators. There’s so much substance under these leaders. I feel like Black folks in the media, our responsibility is to pull that stuff out to the surface, that I would expect Don Lemon to mention that he could be the first Black governor In the state of Florida. Yeah, that’s newsworthy. But how did this brother run a campaign where no one believed he could win, including the Black Miami establishment, where Gillum on the show, I talked to him about this, where I received feedback from the Black Miami establishment that Gillum has no chance to win. We’re not going to back Gillum. We’re gonna back Mayor Levine because we don’t think Gillum even has a chance. So a lot of the people in Florida, Black folks, a lot of people didn’t believe that Gillum could actually get where he got, similar to Barack Obama.
Barron Channer: But those are people who don’t apply rigor to their opinions. And in general case it doesn’t matter. Right? But you say we’re all guessing until it really occurs. And what’s the base of your guess? Whether you thought Mayor Levine from Miami Beach could win or some other candidate. What’s the basis of your guess? And the thing that quickly boiled down to me when I think about politics, because I balance both. Sometimes I can just passionately like someone, but then you realIze hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people have to vote for this person. So what does it matter if I have passion for this person? What do the numbers say from a probability standpoint are likely, and when you looked at who Mayor Gillum was, what he represented and his skill as a politician in practice, but also skilled in communicating ideas. I looked at it and I say, there is no way in this race he gets less than 20, 22 percent of the vote. You remember me telling you, that was maybe a year ago. And if he does that, there’s no way he finishes less than second place and he’s good enough to win first place. So we’re in this thing,
Jamarlin Martin: But you don’t think that some of our brilliant political leaders, political minds like Andrew Gillum, like Barack Obama, that we can expect white folks to cheapen them. And oh, they’re Black. They don’t know anything. They give good speeches, they’re good orators. We can expect the American establishment to box some of our leaders into, they’re good speakers. They speak well. They’re the first Black. I can expect that from other folks, but I think from our perspective in the media, if you have Gillum on your show or you’re talking to the country, you want to pop out what type of campaign did he run? What was he doing that was different. Why spend 15 minutes talking about Gillum is Black. We see that.
Barron Channer: I think in his defense, and I don’t know that he needs my defense. He’s not one of the Sunday shows. If he were sitting at the desk of any one of those Sunday shows which have a certain degree of rigor in terms of how they discuss a topic, he would have peeled into it a little bit better, but I do give him the latitude to celebrate something that was significant. Now mind you, I’m a person who believes coming in second just means you’re the first loser. You can be content that you didn’t come in third, but you still ultimately lost. So that’s why I was more content the night of the primary. But I was ready that night. I’m making phone calls. At 8:05 it was obvious that he is going to win. I’m making phone calls then because I’m saying, okay, now we’re in the championship round and Mayor Gillum stood up and put himself on the table to be the governor of Florida, not someone who ran for governor and that’s not decided on until Nov. 6. And so to me it’s just, sure, let’s celebrate the novelty and the significance by the way. If you think about it, and we shouldn’t lose this moment. If you think about the U.S. in general, think about the Southeast dating back to reconstruction. I’m not sure, I haven’t studied this, but I’m not sure that there has been any Black person nominated to be the candidate of a major party for governor in any southern state dating back to reconstruction, and the few people you can find in reconstruction that were nominated or became governor, I believe there was someone in Louisiana. When you really look at their platforms, they were essentially recruited by the status quo and put into the race during the reconstruction era. So here you have a Black man who happens to be mayor of the city who on his own volition chose to run, ran with some opposition or some uncertainty from the establishment, picked his own platform, so he is his own candidate. So I dare say, and you have to recognize Miss Stacy Adams as well. He and her are the only two candidates we’ve ever had in the southern U.S. who are Black, who have been able to secure the nomination on their own platform. So that’s significant.
Jamarlin Martin: More than a few Black celebrities supported other candidates. I definitely don’t believe that, hey, it’s a Black candidate, all the Black people got to support the Black candidate, no. But when you look at Barack Obama, Maya Angelou chose the corporate Democrat at the time, HRC. Bob Johnson of BET did not choose Barack Obama. He actually mentioned Barack Obama’s drug use to rally support for Hillary Clinton in his speech. Magic Johnson did not support Barack Obama. He supported Hillary Clinton. And so when we do have good leaders, Barack Obama, Andrew Gillum, stop blaming everybody else is doing all this stuff to us. We don’t really have any agency. We can’t change anything. The thing is too big for us to change. But when you look at Andrew Gillum and members of our community who believed in his policy positions, they chose not to support him because they wanted favors from the white folks that they thought were going to win. And so just as we see in business and investing, if our people want change, and in some cases radical change, you’re going to have to take some risks and you’re going to have to take some risks on your own. When you find a good leader among us, even if the polls don’t show that this person has a really good chance, take some risk on yourself for a change.
Barron Channer: I agree with you. And I think the Obama situation and this situation with Mayor Gillum, I think are slightly different, but let’s focus on Mayor Gillum. I think a lot of it had to do with some people wanting certain favors, but I also think some people just did not believe he could win, but then you look and you say, it’s one thing to say you think Hillary Clinton, who was the wife of a former president, perceived to be loved by the Black community was likely to win. But in this race with Mayor Gillum, which of these other candidates suggested any overwhelming probability that they would win, such that you would say there’s no chance they would ever lose. it just didn’t. It did not make logical sense to me to not think that Mayor Gillum could win. And then if you got to that point, you would say, if you in your heart of hearts think that he represents potentially a better candidate, why not support him and take the risks? There are losses and anyone can lose. As we saw, the people who were supposed to win, lost. and Mayor Gillum, who I always knew would win at least the nomination for the primary. I thought the challenge was, let’s see what happens in the general. You heard me early in the game when I called you and said, listen, I think he’s gonna win, and my rationale was always the same. Numerically, he was in such a strong position in terms of his floor and relative to the ceiling in comparison to others that I thought he had an easier pathway, much easier to win. It just was not obvious. Now that required him to be the candidate who we all thought he was. You got to do work. But if you know how good you are and you know who you’re competing against, all you have to do is perform and you know that it’s likely that you’re going to surpass the others. And so I always thought that he was going to win. But getting back to the core point that you’re raising. I think in our community, we have to realize, and I faced the decision. The easiest thing to do, if your mindset is wrapped around commerce, the easiest thing to do is to not do anything that is obviously for the benefit of Black people. That doesn’t mean you want to hurt them, but the easiest thing to do is to not say you’re doing it because you think blackness matters as a part of it. But if you know it matters, and in your heart of hearts it matters, why not stand on your conviction and take the risk of potentially losing? The reality is it was a primary. So if you picked Mayor Gillum and you support him and he lost, you turn around and you support whoever won just the same way that everyone else does. And we have to start to understand how to play the game strategically, which means not only winning, but winning in a way that enriches your community and empowers your community. And sometimes that means actually having the winner be someone who intrinsically understands your community instead of just someone who wants to understand it.
Jamarlin Martin: I want to thank Barron Channer for coming on the show.
Barron Channer: Appreciate you. Appreciate you.
Jamarlin Martin: Thanks for coming back. Let’s GHOGH!
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