Full Transcript: Mayvenn CEO Diishan Imira On GHOGH Podcast Part 2

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Black startup founder Diishan Imira
Diishan Imira is the founder and CEO of Mayvenn, Inc., a tech company that reshapes how sale retail products are distributed. Photo: Anita Sanikop

In episode 48 of the GHOGH podcast, Jamarlin Martin continues his interview with Diishan Imira, founder of hair-care platform Mayvenn.

They discuss how Diishan was mentored to think like a boss and “ask for the check,” and how much it meant to him to have investor Richelieu Dennis in his cap table.

They also discuss New York progressives bangin’ back against Amazon and the growing negative sentiment against big tech.

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.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 48: Diishan Imira
Part 2: Jamarlin continues his interview with Diishan Imira, founder of hair-care platform Mayvenn. They discuss how Diishan was mentored to think like a boss and “ask for the check,” and how much it meant to him to have investor Richelieu Dennis in his cap table. They also discuss New York progressives bangin’ back against Amazon and the growing negative sentiment against big tech.

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! This is part two of my interview with Diishan Imira. If you missed part one, you want to make sure you go back and check it out. One of the actors that’s going to be in a movie about the real OG Black Panthers out of Oakland. I’m not talking about the Marvel Black Panther, but there’s a movie coming out that’s going to be about the real Black Panthers. We’re gonna have some African Americans going hard and banging against our African brothers and sisters or brothers who are coming from London who are getting these roles in Hollywood. And so what the African American, what some of these people are saying is, “Why are all these Hollywood job’s going to African immigrants? Why can’t we get the jobs?” I think it’s connected to the Koreans or the Arabs. The reason you can’t get the job is because you don’t believe in optimizing culture. And you don’t have a knowledge of self and you don’t even want to get it, a lot of you. So you’re not going to be competitive to people who are connected to intact cultures, and have a knowledge of self.

01:26 —Diishan Imira: If you are an actor and you’re trying to be in Hollywood and you want to be a fucking blockbuster lead role in the movies, bitching about other people getting roles is not going to help you do that. It’s not going to help you do that. Even if you’re right. Of course, there is bias and there’s racism and there’s an unconscious bias and all these things are true. But just because this thing is true does not mean that that needs to be your focus. If that’s your goal, that’s not going to help you. Now, if there’s people outside who want to champion that as a cause and try to help Black actors get more roles, that’s their role. But as an actor and you’re trying to be in the game, same as like an entrepreneur, if you’re trying to be in the game and you’re a player, you don’t have time to be worried about and bitching about what the rules of the game are. You have to just play. So I wouldn’t be whining about that. I would be at the audition somewhere or I’d be studying these other actors to figure out how they’re getting these roles. That’s how I would look at it.

Jamarlin Martin: It was reported that you just had, of course, a $23 million fundraising round and you have raised $36 million to date in total, but what stuck out to me was you still own the majority. Is that factual?

03:05 —Diishan Imira: No. Okay. I’m the majority shareholder. Meaning I have the largest position.

Jamarlin Martin: So that brings up something that came up last week. So I was talking to an investor Kai Bond in Miami last week, and he’s a partner at Comcast Ventures. And when he said, “Look, I see hundreds, thousands of deals over the years.” He said when the Black men and woman come to the other side of that table, he said the majority of the time they’re under negotiating for the same thing that other folks have in terms of valuation. In terms of how much you’re going to…

Diishan Imira: They’re not coming strong enough.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. He’s saying that he has seen different types of entrepreneurs, but the Black men and woman, 80 percent or so of the time, they are under negotiating. Why is that?

Diishan Imira: You have to have the same degree or a sense of entitlement that the white guy has, when they come in. They see the world as, “I should be able to have all of this.” We don’t have that cause we’re coming from such a place of lack and scarcity, that we’re just like, “Oh my God, $250,000. Oh my God.” You know what I mean? That’s how we’re looking at it.

Jamarlin Martin: Who’s to blame for that. Or does that matter?

04:47 —Diishan Imira: Who’s to blame? Society. Again, macro scale, our history and our culture has created this situation where we as as people don’t value ourselves, our abilities, our potential to the degree that they really are. We’re intimidated a lot of times walking into places where we feel like we’re coming from such a place of scarcity and lack of, and you walk into this place of abundance and you’re scared to ask for all the abundance. It’s a crazy feeling. It is a crazy feeling. I’ve had to work on it myself to remind myself like, “Yo, don’t be walking in here timid. This is your shit. They’re lucky to get a piece of my shit.” That’s how you have to think about it. And in fact, the first lesson I learned in raising money that I didn’t even realize I was not doing, and somebody reminded me. I would go have a meeting with somebody and they’d be like, “Oh, this sounds amazing, and Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. Okay, great. Let’s follow up and have the next thing.” And I would leave the meeting. I’d be like, “Oh, this shit went so good. We’re going to have a follow up. We’re going to follow up. It’s going to be a follow up.” No follow up. And then somebody asked me, “Did you ask them for the money? Did you ask them if they would invest?” And I was like, no, I didn’t. Why would they invest if you didn’t ask for it? I was not even asking for it. I was scared to ask for a quarter million dollars from somebody that don’t know. And it’s not a natural thing. You know what I mean? No one ever gave me a quarter million dollars or $50,000 or anything like that. It’s a weird feeling. But then as you start to understand the psychology, you understand their side of things. They’re just as eager and nervous about losing the deal. So then you start to understand how valuable you are in that equation and that we’re both here on the same level and that’s how you need to interact with people. And by the way, end of the day, people really don’t want to invest in you if they feel like you don’t have that sense of self worth also.

Jamarlin Martin: That brings up a concept by an academic called stereotype threat. He’s done a whole book on this subject where he says that when we go into these situations, because there’s a perceived stereotype, it messes up our performance. Does that sound right to you?

08:03 —Diishan Imira: Yeah. I mean you, you walk into these meetings, but that’s the challenge, right? That’s the challenge. You walk in with all these stories in your head about who that person is, who you are, how you think they see you, how you think you should be seeing him. There’s all this yippity yap in your head, built up of all this nonfactual, not based on actual real experience. Just these storylines of who you are and who that person is in that room and it’s very confusing. Our talents as African Americans is that we have to always know that we’re Black. We have to for survival, you have to know that it is dangerous out here as a Black man. There’s real stuff going on, real threats. At the same time you have to hold that and at the same time you have to walk into that room and forget that at the same time, and forget all the storylines that go along with that. You’re just in this room with this person. You guys are eye to eye, that stuff does not matter. If this guy doesn’t fuck with you because you’re Black and he can’t get over that, you’re pitching the wrong person, then that’s all there is to it. Next. Who’s the next investor I’m pitching? It’s hard to navigate, but it’s doable, and a lot of people are getting funded now.

Jamarlin Martin: Richelieu Dennis, I believe he was the lead investor of your last round. How important is it for you to have a Black man in your cap table sponsoring you, where we got to own our rise. Meaning that, yeah, there’s all these programs and diversity and stuff, but some of our people who have the bigger wallets, they can step up and we got to own our own rise, at least a piece of it. It can’t be just begging for checks from white folks in Silicon Valley.

Diishan Imira: Yeah. It means everything to me. Rich is one of the most amazing, inspirational human beings that I’ve ever met. And I just get so much inspiration from his story and the time, the patience, the commitment, the unwavering of his mission to bring it all the way to completion and fruition and build a massive company that held its core values, served its community and won economically. And having the patience and commitment to ride that ride, that’s so inspirational to me. To have somebody like that who, prior to knowing rich, I did not have a figure that I could look at and be like, I’m trying to be like that guy. I’m trying to do that. Exactly what he did, that’s what I’m trying to do. And now I have that guy in my corner, got him on my cap table, got him in my boardroom, and now I want to win even more. I want to make Rich even more money because of what he’s done, how he’s done it, the way that even in winning now, the way that he’s now going back out and supporting the community and putting dollars behind the things that he’s talking about. It’s amazing and I don’t really see it being done anywhere else to that degree that Rich is doing it.

Jamarlin Martin: What’s a big thing that you learned since you got into the game that you wish you knew before that you had to kind of go into these corporate streets and learn it, but you didn’t get it before but you wish you had it before you started.

12:31 —Diishan Imira: I think the earlier you can be really confident and not see yourself as minimal in that world and you see yourself on that same level, the more effective you’re going to be and the more successful you’re going to be in that world. Ben Horowitz, when he invested in Mayvenn, shortly after he emailed me and he was like, “I’m going to introduce you to a couple of CEOs who run billion dollar businesses and you need to talk to them because you need to stop seeing yourself as the odd duck Black hair guy and you need to see yourself as a CEO of a multibillion dollar beauty franchise.”

Jamarlin Martin: You got to own it in your mind.

Diishan Imira: You have to be it. You have to be that and you have to see yourself that way. And that is, coming from where we come from, it’s a further distance to travel to mentally to get there. And so you have to put in extra work to get yourself and keep yourself in that mind, in that mind frame.

Jamarlin Martin: He didn’t say it in those kind of these words, but kind of like, “Hey dude, you’re undervaluing your vision and what you bring to the table.” And he’s just telling you the real.

Diishan Imira: He was like, “I can see on you, you don’t see yourself as big yet as you are, and you need to see yourself as bigger.”

Jamarlin Martin: If there could be two pillars you can leave the audience with in terms of being successful and being a successful entrepreneur, what advice would you share for the audience?

14:26 —Diishan Imira: One, I think that you have to invest in your strengths and invest in things that you have an advantage in. So there’s a lot of people saying, I want to be an entrepreneur and they’ll come and they’ll talk to you about, “Oh, the market for this thing over here so big and this thing over here is broken and Dah, Dah, Dah.” But what does that have to do with you? Why are you suited to go after that? A lot of people miss that step. You have to know yourself that you have to take inventory of what you’re good at and what you suck at. So, if you’re like a sociology major and you’ve been working at the bookstore and then you come and say, I’m gonna make a marketplace for Uber. I’m going to make an Uber for parking or something, because the market’s so big. What are you talking about? What does it have to do with you? The business you go into has to be based on you or else someone else who that business that you’re going after, that business is for them, they’re gonna kick your ass. You’re just going to get walked all over because he has, or she has the advantage. So one is, I tell people you need to sit down and you need to take inventory of who you are, what you’re really good at, what your strengths are, what resources do you have that other people do not have. You need to take stock of what you have. And then based on that, look out into the world and say, where does all of this fit into, which one of these slots? And then that’s your lane. Don’t try to just pick a lane cause you think it looks good and pretty and big and then you just cause it’s a big opportunity, you pick the lane and then you just throw yourself down and then four or five years later you realize, this other competitor, he was born for that shit. He was born for that and now he’s walking all over. You don’t get yourself in that position. So it’s a very broad thing, but it’s self-awareness, be self aware. One thing that changed a lot of things for me in terms of in the early stages of things was for me to stop thinking about time so much and be more patient about when things are supposed to happen. In my early twenties, I was like hustling and buying shit out from China and selling shit out the trunk of my car and I was just making fast money and I was like, by 30, I need to be a millionaire. And that was very destructive. That was not constructive for me because it forced the very short term thinking way of looking at opportunities. When I got past that and it really just became about, alright, pick the thing that you’re meant to be, the lane you’re meant to be in, commit to doing it and there is no time. The amount of time that it requires for this to be successful is when it’s going to happen. Don’t put a time frame on stuff. Just find the thing that’s for you. Get to work and just commit to it.

Jamarlin Martin: Recently Amazon was planning to create over 25,000 six-figure jobs in Long Island city/ Queens. There was backlash with Amazon. People started asking questions in terms of, hey, Amazon, their market cap is $800 billion. Why would New York tax payers offer them $3 billion in tax subsidies or incentives. Apple or other corporations, they come and set up shop in the state. They’re not begging for any corporate subsidies or whatever. Hey, you want to do business in state? You guys are worth almost a trillion dollars. You guys pay for it. And the deal based on recent reports, it came down to the subsidy and also a push for union protection for workers. I personally don’t know why you’re worried about a union for jobs that are going to be a $100,000, $150,000. They started asking questions and Bezos just said, look, you guys are going so far to the left, I don’t got time for this. I may have to pay out $50 billion in a divorce. I got people tapping my phone. I don’t got time to talk about…

19:44 —Diishan Imira: That’s why I need it. That’s why I need the $3 billion, I got to give her $50 billion.

Jamarlin Martin: So, there’s growing tech backlash where Silicon Valley, Google, Facebook, not Silicon Valley, but big tech, Amazon, people are starting to ask really big questions in terms of the inequality in society and just a few companies kind of controlling a lot of share in the economy. What are your thoughts on Amazon pulling out of New York because of these issues?

Diishan Imira: Full disclosure, I don’t know all of the details of all of this stuff that went on. Certainly I could just say that Bezos can do that. He’s a very strong example of what patience gets you and patience ultimately gets you a lot of leverage to do whatever the hell you want to do. But these companies and these businesses are from inception devised to be winner-take-all businesses. Silicon Valley, this is what they’re looking for.That’s the mandate. The mandate is, how are you going to take all of it? So I’m not surprised that we’ll find ourselves in a world where you do have companies that have leveraged technology and massive, massive, massive amounts of capital to develop impenetrable moats around them and leverage that cannot be broken, so Bezos can put the thing wherever. He’s gonna get it where he wants it, how he wants it ultimately.

Jamarlin Martin: Do you see anything wrong about New Yorkers saying, look, we’re concerned about this place turning it into a Frisco, where there’s a hundred thousand or so homeless everywhere that’s getting in your way while you go into a Starbucks, homeless everywhere. But all these tech companies are doing good.

22:19 —Diishan Imira: No, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’m from Oakland and I don’t like how Oakland is now because of the culture that has spread out from Silicon Valley and bled into Oakland and all the Black people can’t afford to live there anymore. And so now it’s like a lot of just transplants from San Francisco or all over the country who live in or work in Silicon Valley have zero understanding or really any respect for the culture that was there or the history that was there in Oakland and feel very…

Jamarlin Martin: Or Seattle.

Diishan Imira: Or Seattle, and feel very entitled to the place. I personally don’t like the culture that has been created there and the culture that has been sort of diluted or erased out of there as well. So no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just saying it’s a very hard force to fight back against.

Jamarlin Martin: And for the audience, when these talk about hiring 25,000 people at 150k salary, they’re not hiring people in Queens or Long Island City, those people are getting pushed out. What the community is saying, we need to start looking at this stuff because we see San Francisco, we see Seattle, let’s be thoughtful about this. It’s not just simplistic. 25,000 jobs. Let’s start crip-walking for Amazon. What’s your response to this tweet? “When everyone thinks micro and short term, they often lose macro and long term. Hollywood gave it all to Netflix. Media companies gave it all to Facebook.” New York just had a few questions for Amazon, that when people are simplistic and short term and they can’t rationalize markets and they’re not thinking about the big picture, well Netflix is going to break Hollywood, Facebook is going to break the media companies and control the advertising market, when you’re not thinking big picture.

24:31 —Diishan Imira: I would agree with that. And I think again like people taking short money is always the downfall. Taking the short money is always the downfall and the person who’s got the more patient capital is going to get you in the end. The leverage comes with the time. So it’s really tempting to just try to take the bag, but then that’ll be all you’ll ever get is the bag and you won’t get any power, right? There’s bag and there’s power and power comes from leverage. And leverage comes from having influence over a large area of some sphere of influence. And so if you just keep selling off little pieces of your influence and whatever for little bags, you will not have anything left. So I think that’s good for New York to be asking those questions and for New York to value itself like that, right? Not undervalue itself and say, “Why am I to give you all my shit just for you to come over here and kick it and make even more money.” This is New York, this is New York. I feel him. I feel him. They’re like, don’t come in here acting like this isn’t New York. You know what I mean? So I’m with them on that and I don’t feel any sort of way, I don’t feel sad for Bezos. He’s gonna be okay. He’ll be okay. I’m guessing even after he loses the $50 billion.

Jamarlin Martin: On that note, I want to thank Diishan Imira for coming on the show.

26:16 —Diishan Imira: Thank you, man. This was fun. I appreciate it.

Jamarlin Martin: Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out @JamarlinMartin on Twitter and also come check us out at Moguldom.com. That’s M O G U L D O M.com. Be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter. You can get the latest information on crypto, tech, economic empowerment and politics. Let’s GHOGH!