Jamarlin continues his discussion with Frederick Hutson, founder and CEO of Pigeonly. They discuss how he raised capital, the importance of focus, and spending too much time perfecting the product before launch. They also discuss Jay-Z's blueprint for parting ways with team members via his break-up with Damon Dash. Busted and jailed for four years on marijuana charges, Hutson talks about "Hollywood" criminal justice reform, reparations, and Jussie Smollett.
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. This is part two of the interview. Let's GHOGH! So you go through Angela Benton's NewMe Accelerator. I feel like she doesn't get enough credit for being in this space where someone like you, the other accelerators, the white accelerators are like, "No, keep this guy out of here." And then Angela comes up and she's like, "Come on, let's do this thing." How long was the accelerator at that time?
Frederick Hutson: Twelve weeks.
Jamarlin Martin: Twelve weeks. Okay. So you get out the accelerator. You know you have a product, right? You have some traction and you raise about a million from who?
Frederick Hutson: My first investors were Mitch, Erik Moore. The first person that gave me a yes was Erik Moore, which is a brother out of Oakland. I don't know if you've met Erik.
Jamarlin Martin: So the brother?
Frederick Hutson: Yeah. He was the first person that pulled the trigger. And that was big for us because when he pulled the trigger, it made everybody else pay attention and they say, "Yo, what does Erik see that we may not see? What does Erik know that we may not know of." So people started paying attention, and anyone who's raised money before, they'll know, getting that first yes is the hardest thing.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, that's an important point for the audience is just the way the market thinks when they see you. The best way to de-risk rejections or skepticism is see if you can get someone, even if it's a small investment, you need someone who they're familiar with, who they think is safe before you step to them. And I would call it a halo, that if you could go out in the market with a halo, someone notable, someone that's respected, maybe they're on your board, maybe they invest a small amount, but that's extremely important. Yeah. Because in terms of your profile, at least the way the establishment is going to think is, hey, this is risky. This guy comes from prison, he's Black,
Frederick Hutson: Right? Check every box, every box.
Jamarlin Martin: Man, there's too many red flags here.
02:23 --Frederick Hutson: So that's why sometimes I tell people, if I could do it, anyone can do it right, because I had every strike you could possibly have, right? I didn't have the background, didn't have college, came fresh out of jail, Black. I had every strike you could possibly have. So I mean at this point it really shows the importance of, if you're solving a real problem and if you're solving a real problem and the market is going to agree with that, then you should be able to build what you're trying to build.
Jamarlin Martin: This is also a point where, some people say that Black people don't help each other enough or we never help each other. We never do things. But when I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs, they are helped by people who look like them. Like yourself, the brother came up and provided the first big check and sponsorship. Talk about some of the other investors that filled that out.
Frederick Hutson: So after Erik, we had another big one, he's an angel investor, another brother, a former player for the 49ers and Raiders. So he was a huge supporter. And then we had Mitch Kapor, and which Brian, he's heading that up now.
Jamarlin Martin: Brian Dixon? Did you meet him at NewMe?
Frederick Hutson: Yeah, I met him at one of the demo days. So I met Brian first and then talked to Brian. Brian, he got it. He was a believer. Then later on ended up meeting Mitch. Talked to Mitch. And what was interesting is that none of these people said yes on the first meeting. It was a process of them seeing us. And seeing our progress over a period of time. So although when I look back, it feels like it just happened. It really was over the course of six or seven weeks of seeing where we were on week one, week two.
Jamarlin Martin: Doing what you say you were going to do.
Frederick Hutson: Exactly. And that's really important is that, I forgot who said this, I read it somewhere, but they say that investors invest in lines and not dots and that's so true. Every time you come across and meet an investor that's just one dot on their radar. After you meet them enough and they can connect all those dots to a line, that's when you're probably closer to being able to get that investment and get to that check.
Jamarlin Martin: Okay, got it. So you get Kapor Capital behind you. Then at that time in terms of market size, what were you pitching in terms of how big this company can get at that stage? What was the runway for you guys?
Frederick Hutson: Yeah, at that time I didn't know what I was talking about. I was saying some bogus numbers. I don't remember, I don't even remember. It didn't make no sense, but what's funny about it, when I think back at it now, we were saying something like, 10 billion and just we're going to do this. We're gonna do 100 million our first year. We were saying all kinds of nonsense. But what it really came down to is that early stage people understood that we didn't know exactly what it was going to be. And at the time we only had one product. We only did one thing, just photos, right? So they was really invested in our ability to figure it out. And also they were invested in us as individuals and as a team that just had a very strong understanding of the market and an overall problem that we were trying to solve. So overall, today we understand what the market looks like. Like I said, we have several competitors that are in the billion-plus sphere, right? So it can be just as big as anything else. But at the time then it was more so betting on us to be able to understand that we're going to be able to be disruptive enough and introduce a product that is sticky enough that will allow us to display and take some of those other larger companies's market share.
Jamarlin Martin: Since you launched a Pigeonly, can you describe for the audience your two biggest mistakes as a founder that they could possibly learn from?
06:08 --Frederick Hutson: I would say spending too much time trying to have a product be perfect or spending too much time in your own head or in your own process of building something before getting it out there because your learning is accelerated a thousand fold if you're learning in the market versus you have all these random ideas and you're trying to keep making these changes while you're keeping the product in the oven, you're still baking it. Right? And you keep adding this feature and adding this feature or this would be cool. That'd be cool. I would say that's probably one of them. I would say the first big one that's even bigger than that one is being able to have discipline, being focused an, learning early on that you can't be all things to all people. And we realized that some people will try to, even though it might be good and well or good attention, sway you to take your product one way or sway you to take a product different way. You really have to focus on a very core problem that you want to solve or core customer demographic that you want to target and focus on that because it's very difficult, especially when you're small, to be able to boil the ocean and to be able to do everything. So that's what I would say is the biggest thing that very early on we weren't as focused as we needed to be. We were a little bit scattered which slowed us down a great deal, and slowed down our learnings, which you wouldn't have known until the market would have taught you, but had we been in the market a lot faster, we would have had those learnings a lot quicker.
Jamarlin Martin: So don't wait for 100 percent, go at it at maybe 70 percent and learn and get it to 100 percent.
Frederick Hutson: Yeah, exactly. Do it. Don't be afraid to change the engine when the plane's in the air. The second one, I would say the importance of team and focusing on building a team around you sooner than later. Right? So a lot of times, especially when you build it, you don't have resources, you're so used to doing everything yourself. But sooner rather than later you have to, as you start building a team around you, you have to start being able to trust your team to be good at whatever respective disciplines that attracted you to them or them to you in the first place. And the more you leverage the team, it allows you to be more efficient, allows you to focus on what your strengths are and allows you to do more. So often I became the bottleneck because I had everything in my head or I was the person that was involved in every single decision and things like that. And I became my own bottleneck and slowing the process down. So now I'm fortunate enough to have a very strong team and everyone that really can carry the load and they know that they're experts in their own areas and allows us to operate. But I got to that a lot later than I should have because I was too hell bent on holding everything so close. Right? I didn't want to let it go. So it was really important to be able to not only build a team, but then trust your team to be good at what they do. And then when you find someone that is not a good fit, get rid of that person sooner rather than later. It's one thing that Tony from Zappos always says is, hire extremely slow and fire very quickly, and that's really important to do.
Jamarlin Martin: How long did it take you to get comfortable on, this is not the right person, I can't get all emotional about this, it's time to give them their walking papers?
09:14 --Frederick Hutson: Yeah. It took a while. It took a couple rounds of doing it where, because most of the times what I've found is that by the time I would fire someone, everyone else would say, "What took you so long?" I'm thinking I'm going to hurt morale or it's going to be some kind of blow to the rest of the company and everyone else is like, man, I was waiting on you to pull the trigger type of thing. That's the biggest thing. That's what I've seen.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. That's really true, a lot of entrepreneurs, particularly new entrepreneurs, first time entrepreneurs, we overthink letting people go. You're thinking that it's going to be a lot worse than what it is. And I remember I had to terminate a young woman. She came back, I was thinking about it, possibly could have done it sooner. But she came back and said, hey, I understand. And she wrote an email, thanks for the opportunity. But a lot of times you're overthinking the impact of doing the right thing for your business. And do you think there's anything cultural going on where maybe people who look like us, we're not pulling the trigger fast enough based on what's best for the business because we're caught up on or we're paralyzed with the emotions culturally. Do you think there's any cultural differences there?
Frederick Hutson: Absolutely, that's one thing that I've learned is how to separate my emotions from what needs to be done. And I might be too good at that now where it's almost like I'm a robot, but I think a lot of times we sometimes might go into something from the position of, will I be able to find somebody else or will somebody else be willing to work for me. You have this inferiority type of viewpoint, which comes from a lot of things in our society in general, even when you're talking to investors and whoever it is, is that you're giving these people an opportunity to be a part of something that you're doing. It's not the other way around. So I think it's just important to keep that in mind as you go out and you build and as you do things, because you really do have to remember that you're creating value in the world and it's dependent on your leadership to be able to reach its full potential and no one can stand in the way of that. So if someone is hindering you from accomplishing that, especially in the business, then that person needs to go.
11:47 --Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I think on a larger level, it's not a coincidence that Jay-Z is almost worth $1 billion. And he looked at his partner who he was loyal to, Damon Dash, in his mind was hurting him, hurting the business, having so many problems with partners and deals and being an egomaniac. "If I want to be worth $1 billion, I got to put my emotions to the side and let this brother go do his thing." Because I'm not getting full value for what I bring to the table. He wasn't gonna let him Damon Dash get in the way of what his destiny was. And I feel like on a smaller scale, that's how you got to think about letting employees go who may be hurting the business or maybe you can get someone a lot better. You're shortchanging yourself.
Frederick Hutson: Absolutely.
Jamarlin Martin: Van Jones, in so many words, crowned his girl Kim Kardashian as one of the queens of criminal justice reform. He said in so many words that she has become one of the biggest leaders on criminal justice reform. Is that problematic for you? I don't want to get you to go at Van Jones.
Frederick Hutson: I think in general because of the platform that she has, I think Van wants to leverage that for his initiative. I'm not one of the type of people that get in my feelings about people that don't look like me or don't think like me because I've done business with people that I don't like. I don't care. So I don't get caught up in that. It's more important to understand and take the stand point of what are you trying to accomplish? What is your goal? And if I have to align myself, maybe align is not the right word, but I have to co-work or work with someone that we may not have the same views in all aspects, but if we can agree on one thing and it can allow me to push my agenda and push my thing forward, then so be it. At the end of the day I'm getting a job done and that's how I look at it. As long as it's not causing conflict with your morals and all that, then you know you should be able to work with someone that you don't necessarily agree with on all things. I think sometimes us, we get caught up in that too much, where because I don't fuck with you, I can't even get work done with you. I can't get business done with you and it's going to be very hard to really build something at a large scale and make a huge difference if you're not able to accomplish things with people that you may not agree on every single thing with.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. What makes that problematic for me is that Black women, Black people in general have been doing things including yourself, tackling this issue, and the Kardashian family, they have been in bed with MAGA and Trump in terms of, hey, we're wealthy, we're white, we connect in kind of similar wealthy circles. And so now because of this, I have access to Trump, I have access to Jared Kushner, that Watts or Harlem or people like us, we don't have that access. So to let this wealthy white woman become the sister soldier of criminal justice reform and all the Black women and other folks have been fighting, you're going to have to give the streets and Black women props before you crown this wealthy white woman.
15:55 --Frederick Hutson: Absolutely. I think it goes both ways. In addition to that, we can't isolate ourselves either. We have to be able to work with people. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier, to push our own agendas. That's important. But you know, I think it's PR, I think his talk, I think it's really for him to leverage that platform. But there's been people who have been in trenches, like you've been saying.
Jamarlin Martin: You've got to give the other people props first. So today it was reported in the New York Times that now the Elizabeth Warren campaign is coming out and saying that she is supportive of reparations without any details. Kamala Harris, of course, on the Breakfast Club said that she's also supportive of reparations without any details. What are your thoughts on the reparations discussion as it's kind of developing with this campaign cycle, particularly with Democrats where, there's increasingly more Black voters who are saying, look, you can't just give me a Black candidate this time. I don't care if it's a Black woman, but what do you have? What type of policies do you have? Because there's no more credit card for the Black candidate just getting our vote because the establishment and elites put a Black person in front of us. So speak to reparations.
17:39 --Frederick Hutson: Yeah. I think from that standpoint, like I said, I'm all for it, but it needs to be something more specific, needs to be something more concrete. Right. And you look at what's happened with other groups that had been promised reparations in the past. Whether it is the Japanese and the Jewish for the Holocaust from Germany. It just needs to be very specific and detailed or how are you going to do this to be able to try to make up. Now do I believe it? Nah, I don't believe it, but I think they're just saying some general things to try to get Black voters, but I think we need to hold them to the fire and say, give us specifics on what are you actually going to do for us that's going to change and improve our condition in this country versus just general top-down politics of rising tide raises all ships type of stuff.
Jamarlin Martin: Don't you believe that before you can even get to talking about reparations policy, first America needs to have a day of mourning for the Africans, our people who were slaughtered and oppressed in the African holocaust, and we need America, the present day people to understand what type of trauma Africans have gone through. It's not just getting beat, not just getting killed, not just getting raped, but the psychological trauma where we prefer in some cases white supremacy over the Black options. So the mental, psychological impacts when you look at us and in some cases, look how crazy we are, that how all this stuff is related, where this country will never heal without people understanding how this has impacted Black people.
Frederick Hutson: I mean, that's the one thing that hasn't really happened, at least that I have seen where as a country I haven't seen the acknowledgement of the cause of the condition that Black people incur in the end, and where that comes from. You hear a lot about, you just have to rise above it or you just have to work hard and all that bullshit. But you don't see a lot of very specific acknowledgement of saying, "Okay, we understand why you think this way. We understand why you see the world this way. We understand why there's poverty in neighborhoods. We understand the effect that redlining had. We understand all these things." Until you talk about that, to your point, you can't even talk about how much I should be compensated for that. You haven't even acknowledged what you've even done. So that's the first step.
Jamarlin Martin: I do think is possible.
Frederick Hutson: You think they'll do that?
Jamarlin Martin: Possibly because I think the racial problem in the United States, it could get to the point where people trying to rationalize how do we get out of this mess? And the fact that Barack Obama said no on reparations. Bernie Sanders said no. Hillary Clinton said no. Now, the Black voters are waking up and saying, we're not going by this old tricknology, we're not going by this anymore. We want something, we want something deeper. We want you to bang for Black America like you may bang for American Jews or the AIPAC lobby where there's something specific to protect them or to protect Israel. What about the protection of Black America? What about the rising inequality? The only way to fix this, or, it's not going to be a total fix, but you're going to have to go back like an abuse victim and talk about that trauma as a country so that people can understand how we got here.
21:51 --Frederick Hutson: Exactly.
Jamarlin Martin: Jussie Smollett. Are you familiar with that case?
Frederick Hutson: I'm familiar.
Jamarlin Martin: When it first came out, how did you think about it?
Frederick Hutson: When I first heard about it, it sounded strange and I'm not just saying that. It just sounded strange to me. The bleach thing was weird and I was like, we'll see. But it's disappointing, man. We got enough bull shit going on where you're making us look bad brother. We got enough problems. You got people that are really out here struggling and fighting and dealing with this. I have friends that have had real altercations with real racists at a gas station, throwing blows, right? So when you see that you have somebody just making it up, whether it's to sell albums or to get attention, it's just disappointing really. That's the best way I can describe it.
Jamarlin Martin: The sad thing for me is that a lot of his supporters, even after the tricknology that he tried to use and exploit the Black and gay community. They still support him. They still are talking about, hey, he shouldn't have to go to jail because this white person did this, this white person did that. And it makes me think about, during the time of the OJ Simpson case. I lived in LA and I actually saw the Bronco right on the 405 overpass. I was really deep in that OJ Simpson trial culturally, being in LA. And a lot of the people, because of the pain and suffering, they I think knew that the fact pattern, the blood and all this other stuff, that hey, it looks like this guy killed those two people. But because of the intoxication with the pain and suffering, the community was willing to look past a double murder where OJ Simpson, I believe, murdered Nicole Simpson, Ronald Goldman, chopped them up, possibly with someone else. But the Black community is kind of so doped up on political, crystal meth, racial crystal meth, alot of us dismiss facts, dismiss basic humanity. It's wrong to kill people. It looks like this guy has blood going from LA to Chicago. The facts were saying this. It had some racism in it, but some of us got to the point where I don't care, I want him to get off the hook because it's a punch back to the system.
24:54 --Frederick Hutson: Yeah, that's what I was hearing too. I was hearing the same thing. It was like, let him get off because there's so many people who couldn't get off and they were mistreated or wrongly accused. So at least we let one go. I've heard that argument as well.
Jamarlin Martin: Don't you think that now a lot of people are talking about, there's an abuse and pimping of identity, whether it's race, gender, sexual orientation, that people are pimping identity for profit to come up to exploit that. We have to start thinking about, hey, we can get so intoxicated on, let's call it a racial stuff and white folks and racism, where if you're not careful, you'll start to dismiss facts, just basic logic, common sense facts because you're intoxicated on racial crystal meth.
Frederick Hutson: Yeah, I agree man.
Jamarlin Martin: It can become unhealthy.
25:58 --Frederick Hutson: Absolutely. You can't get so emotionally wrapped up. Cause I think one of the things I believe is that we as a community, we should hold ourselves accountable more so than anybody else. Right. So if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. It doesn't matter whether I'm Black or not, right. I think we need to hold ourselves accountable. The family should check the family, you know what I mean. And then other people will say, okay, my people are going to check me first. You know what I'm saying? And we used to see that in prison, is that one group would get out of line and his people would check him so that it would prevent a problem with another group that wasn't like us. And that's how it had to work. And what that did was it kept the level of respect and it kept order where people knew that they were going to be held accountable for the actions. Right? So you can't get so caught up in all the inequality that we do have and all the stuff that is real and use that as a path to say I'm gonna do something...
Jamarlin Martin: Okay for OJ Simpson who murdered Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Okay for this guy to commit fraud. Now you don't want him to be held accountable by the system because the system is messed up. Let him go out and start committing some more fraud and abuse his own community in terms of the currency we have with our claim against white supremacy. He's abusing that.
Frederick Hutson: Exactly.
Jamarlin Martin: You've got to hold him accountable.
Frederick Hutson: Right. And that's the problem because now people are gonna use him as an example in the next argument. Right? When you say racism does exist. You guys are making it up, right? That's going to be the next argument.
Jamarlin Martin: Alright, I want to thank Frederick for coming on the show. Where can people check you out online and get more information about Pigeonly?
27:41 --Frederick Hutson: You can find Pigeonly online at http://www.pigeonly.com/. You can find me on Instagram, which is where I'm mainly at, or Facebook, just under my name, Frederick Hutson on Facebook or on Instagram @Iamfastfreddy. That's pretty much where I'm at.
Jamarlin Martin: Thanks for coming on the show.
Frederick Hutson: Thanks for having me.
Jamarlin Martin: Let's GHOGH! 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!