Jamarlin talks to Travis Holoway, founder and CEO of SoLo Funds, a startup focused on peer-to-peer lending. They discuss Mark Zuckerberg as a liberal tech version of Donald Trump, Jake Tapper’s double standards on CNN towards Black leaders, and whether Silicon Valley has “negro helpers” who set the community back.
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’re here with Travis Holoway, the founder and CEO of SoLo Funds.
Travis Holoway: How are you doing man? Pleasure to be here.
Jamarlin Martin: Good. Tell us a little bit about your background and your path to creating SoLo Funds.
Travis Holoway: I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and, just a little bit about how I grew up, my parents were very strategic with how they raised me. They wanted me to experience all different types of walks of life and diversity. So, in elementary school, I was the only black kid in class. In junior high, there were like two white kids in the class. In high school it was 80 percent Latino. So when I grew up I was exposed to a lot of different things, and what was different between my life and a lot of the individuals that I became close with when I was little is that I had both parents at home and we lived a pretty comfortable life. But there were frequently times where no, my friends and my peer group, I would go to their homes and their lights were cut off and they were going through real tough circumstances at home, and that that kind of stayed with me as I continued to evolve through life. And when I went to college at the University of Cincinnati, I became passionate about having an impact in making a change. After graduating from University of Cincinnati, I moved to New York City, worked in finance as a financial advisor and as director of training and development at one of the largest financial planning firms. But while there I really started to kind of get back to my youth and see that there’s a major disconnect between the average middle-American and these very wealthy individuals who are on the east coast, and that Gold Coast, what they would call Fairfield County in Greenwich, Connecticut.
So at that point I said, I think that there’s a problem that I’m feeling, and that problem was that people kept asking me for money and I didn’t really know why. And I realized that they were asking me for money because they didn’t really have access to money. And originally I was like, you know, well maybe it’s just because I work in finance and I live in New York, but you know, why they asked me for $50 or $150 or $200? What can that really do for them? And I didn’t realize that that was the difference between putting gas in the car and making it to work and not getting fired. That was a difference between lights on, lights off. And that took me back to my childhood of experiencing that with my friends. I thought that this was a problem that only plagued people that look like me, because I’m black. And the majority of my friends are a minority, and when I looked at the numbers, I quickly realized that, at that time, 76 percent of the country, it’s paycheck-to-paycheck and that number has since went up to 78 percent.
So we’re really trending in the wrong direction. And then the bigger stack to me was that 47 percent of the country doesn’t have $400. So at that point I realized that, you know, there is a major issue in this country, and it’s that individuals are being left out, they have no exposure to capital, especially small-dollar loans. And when I looked at how they’re solving that problem today, it’s by taking payday and title loans, which if many of you don’t know, carry 400 percent interest rates on average. They’re reported to the bureaus to help negatively impact your credit scores, but not reported to positively impact your score.
Jamarlin Martin: You mentioned you went to schools that were majority white and then Latino. That’s correct? How many times were you called Nigger?
Travis Holoway: Man, I actually transferred high school after my junior year and I actually went to a different school my senior year because I was called nigger.
Jamarlin Martin: I could relate to that. I’ve probably been in a 25 fights since elementary school where I went to predominantly white and Latino schools. You get a sock as soon as you say that. So.
Travis Holoway: Yeah. No, absolutely. That was a word that, I’m not going to pretend that it was common to me and I think that’s why I blew up the way that I did when I was in high school. But I think I blew up the way that I did when I was in high school because it was a predominantly Latino school, and there was a very small percentage of white individuals at that school. And when I was called that word and then the administration does not reflect the population of the school, they didn’t understand where I was coming from, I just had so much built up emotion that I couldn’t even express it. So all I could do was just say, ‘I got to go’. Not that I run from my problems, but I just couldn’t believe that in a school that had that type of demographic population, that the administration could be so oblivious to what that word really means.
Jamarlin Martin: Talk about the demographic of the underbanked, specifically the demographic that you’re targeting.
Travis Holoway: So the demographic that we’re targeting is really the payday lending industries targeting demographic, which happens to be single women. And a lot of times that’s single minority women, it’s kind of a weird thing because you, you always talk about single women raising kids and there’s this misconception that there’s more single women parents than there are men, who aren’t single parents as well, but it’s typically because the female has the kids. And it’s very difficult to make ends meet. They’re often working multiple jobs and they’re often working jobs where their hours fluctuate. One, wage stagnation is a real problem, but also wage fluctuation is another major problem. If you’re a bartender in Cleveland, Ohio and there’s a blizzard outside, you can’t expect to make the same amount of money that you will make in the summertime and it’s, it’s the NBA finals and the Cavs are playing. That the major demographic.
Jamarlin Martin: What’s the age sweet spot for you?
Travis Holoway: So, the age sweet spot is really between the age of 25 and 35. So it’s a larger gap, but that’s typically the age at which individuals have kids and are having kids who are starting school and dealing with major changes, and those major changes can be just simple things like buying school supplies, buying school clothes, repairs for homes or cars, etc. College students as well. So that demographic is a little bit younger, but college students, and I can recall this vividly of having friends who could not call home to mom and dad when their car broke down in college. I had the advantage of being able to do so. But you know, that’s a huge demographic for us as well. Books are expensive and expenses during school are very expensive.
Jamarlin Martin: Describe what your business does in one sentence for our audience?
Travis Holoway: SoLo is a mobile lending exchange created to provide more affordable access to loans under $1,000.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re in Austin at the South by Southwest conference. What are you looking to accomplish here?
Travis Holoway: For me South-By is all about networking. Who I can meet, who I can rub shoulders with, and hopefully those relationships that are obtained here can be nurtured and kind of curated to longer, more enduring relationships. And when I say relationships, I’m really looking for relationships with investors, but also just my peer group, because when you’re able to meet people who are on the same road as you, you can share stories, you can share experiences. And then you can also point people in the right direction because I may know someone that someone else needs to meet or who they should be talking to. And then the inverse is the same for me.
Jamarlin Martin: As you know, these events are pricey. Can you talk about the ROI for your prior investments into industry events such as South-By?
Travis Holoway: Yeah, they are expensive, which means you can’t come here and just drink and party the entire time that you’re here. You have to come with a real purpose and a real goal, and essentially come with what you want to get out of this, and you can’t stop until you get that. When you leave or when you get on that plane or that bus or that car or however you leaving an event like this, you need to get on that method of transportation thinking I accomplished everything that I actually set out to do.
Jamarlin Martin: And the black founders that you know, that attend these industry events, what percentage probably do that?
Travis Holoway: Very small. I would say very small. I think that’s something that we could collectively do better. I think a part of that is being solved now, there’s more events that are kind of curated for us, but for a large percentage of the time there were events that were not curated for us that we didn’t feel comfortable attending. We weren’t being spoken to when we were there. So at the end of the day I think we would kind of click up and we would go do other things, but now that there are more people that look like us in this world and there’s more individuals who are actually looking to give back, and kind of throw that ladder back to help others, I think that started to change.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, it sounds like John McWhorter would be a happy with your response in terms of, at least the black founder maybe not going as hard as they should when they’re at these events in terms of being disciplined and serious. John McWhorter talked about in his book, when he was a professor at Berkeley that a lot of the black students would show up late and not pay attention to class and make a lot of excuses for a academic performance, but he was very critical of the black students at Berkeley. But that just kind of popped up in my head. Who do you most admire in tech and why?
Travis Holoway: This is a little cliche and I’m not embarrassed to say it, but it’s one of my best friends and my co-founder, Rodney Williams, who runs an amazing tech company called LISNR. If you’re not familiar with it, you definitely should be. I say that because one, I felt like if you can’t be inspired by your friends, you have the wrong group of friends, but two, I believe that, it’s full circle for me. Rodney was a brand manager at P&G, and when he started LISNR, there were numerous times where he would come to New York City and he would crash my couch while he was pitching investors. That came full circle for me last year as I found myself in the tech world, and an accelerator program in Cincinnati, Ohio where I was crashing his place for the duration of that program. So, I’ve seen what he’s been able to accomplish in this world, which is amazing, and I would say he’s the person that I look to and he’s a real mentor to me that I can call on an everyday basis.
Jamarlin Martin: So you mentioned you have a experience as a financial advisor. Talk about that and how that possibly could give you an advantage in terms of scaling SoLo Fund.
Travis Holoway: Yeah. So the way that I look at the market is very different because I know that there’s this disconnect between the haves and the have-nots. What I found was when I was working in that world was that no one cared about the person who was making $75,000 a year. They just didn’t. When I was in that world, I was really focused on people or households that made $250,000 of income with $500,000 of household income being that sweet spot. And people were just completely ignoring that person that makes you know, $100,000. And I don’t think that that was right. And I think that that needs to change. And those individuals where they were essentially getting no guidance, they did not know how to diversify their capital. They either had it just in cash or they had it just sitting in their checking account or savings account which was virtually earning nothing. I just feel like coming from the demographic in which I come from, I know how to speak to my target demographic because I know that I know the things that they’re going through and I know how to relate to them. The average person who’s in financial technology or fintech, what we would call, they don’t know how to speak to the minority demographic. They don’t know how to speak to people who don’t make, two or three or $400,000 a year. Uh, so it’s in their messaging. They just don’t know how to capture that demographic. They don’t know what they want, they don’t know what they need, they just don’t understand them. So I think that mixture of kind of seeing both sides, it gives me a competitive advantage.
Jamarlin Martin: You use the word minority, it’s an efficient word to use, but do you feel the word minority undermines black people. That word troubles me often in terms of using it and just throwing it in the bucket?
Travis Holoway: Yeah, I can totally see your perspective. I think we’ve started to give a lot of other individuals the minority tag as well, and I think that they’ve been able to benefit off of that tag.
Jamarlin Martin: Not only that. In the big scheme of things, of course, darker people are the majority. We’re not, as African descendants, a minority in any shape or form. I just feel like some power is given away when we use that word.
Travis Holoway: I’ve actually never thought of it in that way. I know in terms of stats, there’s no major U.S. American city where it’s not majority minority, if you would say. And that doesn’t only include African Americans, that includes multiple other races that are just non-white. But I do understand exactly where you’re coming from. And I like that though.
Jamarlin Martin: I can actually see where the demographic trends in the United States, they’re rapidly changing. I can see people using minority. It’s so ingrained in people, they’re no longer the minority. White people are the minority, but people are going to keep on doing it.
Travis Holoway: The problem is that we still feel like minorities because a lot of the places that we frequent, the places that we want to go, we are the minority still. Put yourself in Austin, Texas right now. And we are the minority at South by Southwest.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. This relates to what I believe the promiscuous use of the word diversity. Where it’s now ambiguous, right? Everybody’s a minority. All different types of people are minorities now, and then within the word diversity, now everybody’s in it, right? Black people have a very unique experience in the United States. As you know, we’re the descendants of slaves. Our oppression, in my view, is is materially different than other groups. Do you feel like there’s a problem with that minority bucket, that diversity bucket where black people are going hard with these words, and if everybody’s in that same bucket but they haven’t gone through your experiences in the United States, and there you go again. So as you know, with the predatory lending, you get trapped again, that’s how we got over here. Do you see a correlation between that word minority and the issue that I described with the word diversity?
Travis Holoway: Yeah, absolutely. I think you just made a very valid point and what I would say is I think that it does dilute the experiences that our ancestors have had, not only in this country but worldwide, and when we dilute what we’ve experienced, and I’m not even going to say just our ancestors, but what people of a black and brown skin still experience today. When we dilute it, we’re giving all of that power back and we’re not allowing ourselves to just say, this is what it is, this is BS and we’re not going to pretend that it isn’t this way. It is this way and we need to talk about it and we need to be honest. We need to be transparent about what we’ve experienced and not go and just say, you know, well, it’s okay because other people, the Muslims are being oppressed, uh, as well, or the Jews were oppressed, etc, or the Irish were oppressed. We’ve experienced some real things and there’s been a system that has been created to keep us in a certain place, and I don’t believe that that system has been constructed to keep all of those other individuals in oppression.
Jamarlin Martin: We’re seeing quite a few celebrities invest in startups such as a Jay-Z, Nas, Kevin Durant, Steve Curry. Do you think these blacks celebs should have a mandate to invest in mostly black founders such as yourself?
Travis Holoway: I don’t know that it’s fair to tell people where to spend their money, but I think that they should have an innate sense that they should be spending their money with people that look like them because for a very long time and still to this day, there is a European group of people who are not spending their money with people who look like those celebrities that you just named. And in order to put ourselves on an even playing field and to give ourselves a chance, I think that we have to invest in each other. You know, when I look at those individuals, I am seeing a bit of a change and the shift and the shift that I’m seeing is that those individuals who are (in their) 40s, maybe pushing 50, are looking down and are being more helpful to the generation after them than the generation that came prior to them. I know a lot of black individuals who have done very well in their70s and 60s who just don’t care to help other people that look like them up. I don’t know why that is, but those are the same individuals who, Jay-Z will talk about and say that, they never respected him. They never helped them. But I look at him and I see what he’s doing in multiple arenas and I would say that I think he is helping people that look like him. And I think he does have the platform to do.
Jamarlin Martin: So if the data came out, dollar for dollar and it said, Hey, Jay-Z, Nas, Kevin Durant, Steve Curry, and a lot more celebrities who are getting involved with tech, if the data came back dollar for dollar and said 90 percent of that capital actually went to white founders, do you have a problem with that?
Travis Holoway: Yeah, I will have a problem with that. I will 100 percent have a problem with that because this isn’t going to change unless people that look like us start to understand us. We speak a very different language than the average VC that lives in Silicon Valley or New York City or even Austin, and they don’t understand our pain points the way that we do. A lot of phenomenal ideas will be started by founders of African-American descent because we have different pain points than a lot of other people in this country. Not to say that payday loans don’t affect all different races. They have been preying on African-American and minority communities in inner cities for a very long time, check-cashing institutions, etc. But that’s a pain point that we feel so, an idea like SoLo, it derives from people that look like me, not having other resources to go to and I think that can be said for a bunch of other companies. I think Bevel creating a shaving system for people who have a certain type of skin, that’s going to be created by someone who has that skin type and fills that pain point that couldn’t be created by someone who doesn’t have our skin type or hair products, or people that don’t have our hair texture. So I think that’s important.
Jamarlin Martin: Who is SoLo Funds’s competition?
Travis Holoway: We have no direct competitor, but we do have a lot of competitors. Payday lending institutions are one.
Jamarlin Martin: In terms of your approach though, your peer-to-peer approach, the technology target market, who would be your closest competitor?
Travis Holoway: I think our closest competitor, there’s a couple of companies out there, I’m not going to say their names, I’m not giving them free publicity, but what they do is essentially they will pull money together. So if there’s four people in a room and everyone has a $100, there’s $400 in this pot and at some point one of us could take a loan from this pot. We pay interest to the other four people who are in it, but all four of us can’t go get a loan at the same time. Once that loan is paid back, now I can take another loan from that pot or someone else can take a loan from that pot. But that is about as close as you get from a peer-to-peer standpoint of what we do. And we’re just drastically different. But we have no direct competitor who does exactly what we do in this country. And as far as I know, don’t sue me on this, but globally as well.
Jamarlin Martin: If you like what you’re hearing, you can check us out at Moguldom.com. We have the information on tech, crypto, the business of Hollywood and economic empowerment. You can also check me out on twitter @JamarlinMartin. Let’s get back to the podcast. Quite a few blockchain companies going into the space. Do you feel like that’s a threat to your model or are you considering some type of a blockchain application?
Travis Holoway: I’m not. I think that we will integrate blockchain at a later point. But am I worried about that eating into my target demographic right now? I would say no. We’re talking about people who don’t know what a Roth IRA is. They definitely don’t know blockchain and they don’t understand cryptocurrency. These individuals literally need $50 so that the lights stay on, and if we could get that to them in a very quick way, in a way that they understand, I think that is the most efficient and effective way to do it. I’m not even going to go into the fluctuation of currency, but, I would say that I’m not scared of that right now.
Jamarlin Martin: A lot of folks talk about 1 percent of VC dollars are going to people who look like you and they talk about thIs big diversity problem in Silicon Valley. I don’t really hear anybody specifically calling out names. Individuals or institutions, right? A diversity boogeyman who’s creating this really bad culture. It’s not inclusive, but there’s no individuals, there’s no institutions. Nobody’s speaking out against specific individuals. Right? Why do you think that is?
Travis Holoway: This network of people is very small and people talk a lot and as soon as you say something you will be condemned and they will go and they will run and say, well this person said this about this person. Let’s stay away from them because you don’t know what they’re going to say about us.
Jamarlin Martin: So, you’re seeing that there’s a blacklist system within this club, and you start to speak truth, calling people out, your asset is going to get blacklisted. Yeah. And does this club that you’re talking about in Silicon Valley, do they have negro helpers who are within this club and they’re reporting on other people? For example, Ben Horowitz, he’ll call, you know, some of his black boys and say, what do you think about this guy? Are you saying that that’s probably how it goes down?
Travis Holoway: I believe so. And since there so few African-Americans in that space, if you are kind of on the outside looking in even just with that relationship that could put you in a tough place because oftentimes we need a way into those firms or those meetings. And oftentimes, hopefully it can happen by someone who looks like us.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you know of this club and Silicon Valley? It’s a very small club, powerful club. If they don’t like you, they’re gonna call up the New York times and put out a hit piece on you, and in Peter Thiel’s case, Gawker reported about him losing billions of dollars on his hedge fund Clarion Capital. And I believe that that was the primary motivating factor for a shutting down Gawker. So you’re talking about a very powerful group. Do you know of kind of some of their negro helper, that’s really part of the club? Like, ‘I’m looking for more checks and you know, we got to keep some of these more progressive black people, I’m going to warn you about them’.
Travis Holoway: Yeah. I don’t know how effective they are at what they do, but I have heard things, both with my own ears and from other people. who will say that, you know, if people in the club. Yes.
Jamarlin Martin: They representing the club, they’re throwing up that flag.
Travis Holoway: Exactly.
Jamarlin Martin: They’re throwing up kind of a micro Illuminati flag, a Silicon Valley flag. Yeah. They’re banging for Silicon Valley.
Travis Holoway: I think there’s a lot of individuals who are super helpful and I think that there’s some people who only want to roll with the winners, if you will, and until you have been proven to be a winner, you are on the outside looking in.
Jamarlin Martin: So if these weak negro helpers have been co-opted by this elite society in silicon valley and they’re banging, how, how are the people, the people who really represent black people, how should those people bang it back against the establishment and their negro helpers?
Travis Holoway: I don’t know that I’ve thought through that and actually want to make one other comment on that. I think that the negro helpers, if you will, are no different than that African-American person that is a partner at the firm and is not willingly helping that person who was on their first day and they’re their junior attorney. They’re just not being helpful. They don’t speak when they’re in the kitchen, they don’t offer them advice, nothing. I think we have a lot of that in every industry. Not only this one. I think when I worked in finance and in the corporate world that black people didn’t talk to each other and I never understood why, but it’s because we see each other as competition and we never want someone that looks like us to be doing better than us. And I think that that rings true in this world as well because, you make one introduction to this person and they become a billionaire and you still make what you made before, I think that can eat at some people.
Jamarlin Martin: So I’ve been to the Facebook campus a couple of times. I noticed that the black people that I saw, saw quite a few African immigrants working at Facebook. Do you believe a lot of the diversity stats that are horrible, at least from a black perspective, do you believe even those stats are very misleading, where essentially a lot of the black people that your Google or Facebook are taking are coming from Africa or the Caribbean, so if you want to talk about the African-American, it’s significantly lower, or materially lower?
Travis Holoway: Absolutely. I want to be really sensitive with what I say here on this because to be honest, because to be honest, I don’t know for a fact, but I feel like there’s two things I think when, when individuals come from Africa or they come from the Caribbean and they come to the States for school, I think they have a different mindset and a different focus once they get here, which oftentimes drives them to be more successful. But at the same time I feel like those individuals did not grow up in this system that has been created to keep you where you are, keep you from getting to college, keep you in a certain circumstance. So I think that African-Americans have a very difficult time achieving the same rates of success as individuals who come from immigrant countries.
Jamarlin Martin: How fair is this? Because African-Americans have been through slavery, discrimination, we carry a massive amount of baggage in terms of how we see things, right? A lot of people will say, we are paranoid from that experience, been traumatized, and so when we look at the opportunities in America, we’re looking at it within foggy goggles. So one extreme possibly produces another extreme, whereas that sister coming over here from Mozambique or Ghana or Nigeria, she’s not seeing all this stuff right? And so she can kind of, she’s in a better position to actually go get it. Do you believe that’s fair to say that.
Travis Holoway: I do. And I think there’s a different focus. I think that they’re coming with a different purpose and of course there’s a language barrier, there’s cultural differences, there’s expenses, there’s a lot of different things that they’re going to encounter, but those same individuals, even though they may come from Nigeria, it’s not the safest place in the world, and I totally get that. But when you’re an African-American growing up in South Central Los Angeles with lack of resources and your schools are terrible, the police are harassing you and your family, your mother can’t pay the light bill, all of these different stresses compounded and then the post-traumatic stress disorder of growing up in these very dangerous neighborhoods. I think that compound is enough to keep people where they are and not let them see the same levels of success that a female maybe perhaps from Nigeria might realize.
Jamarlin Martin: You probably read about this, but the Trump administration is rolling back regulations in the payday loan industry where essentially the Obama administration put in place protections where you have to do more due diligence that the person can actually pay back the loan. Right? Are You surprised that he’s just kind of tearing up stuff like that?
Travis Holoway: No, not at all because his friends are the ones who own the payday lending institutions and they have the dollars and people vote with dollars. They don’t vote with just ink on paper, they vote with their wallets, and with that said, they have his ear, you don’t have his ear when he was just screaming nonsense. You have his ear when you say I have money and I’m willing to either put this money behind you or I’m willing to take it away from you.
Jamarlin Martin: What would you say that, Obama in his eight years in office, he didn’t act in any way in terms of any type of regulatory reviews for your big tech companies, your Google, your Facebook. Obviously a lot of the Facebook folks helped Obama get elected and went to the Obama administration. And then other Obama administration people went to Facebook, where Trump is just banging for his side, whereas the liberals in Silicon Valley, they were letting big tech and the elites out there run wild without any kind of any regulatory thought, ‘Just let that shit go because they’re funding us’, they’re friends, the liberals. Do you believe that Trump has just been banging for his side, where the Obama administration and a lot of the elites in Silicon Valley who are supporting him in that lobby, they were banging for their side, but both sides are doing damage to consumers and there’s nothing really different about it?
Travis Holoway: Right? I think that’s a very fair assessment. I think that’s Trump’s game. He knows people in finance, he knows people who are rich. Not to say that the founder of Facebook is not extremely rich, but it’s very different. And Trump has no connection to the people who are being affected by the payday and title lending industry. He knows the people who are profiting off of it, but he does not know what a debt trap is, or he doesn’t know what that feels like. So I don’t think that he has any incentive to have any type of regulatory body, keep these people from doing what they want to do.
Jamarlin Martin: You mentioned Facebook. What are your thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg, and there is no Mark Zuckerberg without Sheryl Sanberg. What are your thoughts on those folks in that company?
Travis Holoway: I’ll be honest, I think he’s one of the greatest minds of our time just because of how much he’s been able to take a company that started with what it was and what it has evolved into. Now, he doesn’t do that with a lot of help. Maybe he’s not one of the greatest minds of our time. But what he has been able to do is pull from some of the greatest minds that are around.
Jamarlin Martin: When you say pull from the greatest minds, what minds come to mind?
Travis Holoway: I think you mentioned one.
Jamarlin Martin: You mentioned Mark Zuckerberg is one of the greatest minds. Obviously he’s a brilliant entrepreneur, that’s obvious, but when you study the history, he cheated a couple of people early on, including his co-founder. The co-founder has a record of it, right? He pays the co-founder off, the Harvard twins, they hire him to, to be a consultant for their social networking site ConnectU, right? Mark Zuckerberg steals their idea and was like, hey, I’m going to go start this on the side. So Mark Zuckerberg then settles with them. Facebook was fined by the European Union for lying on their acquisition, on WhatsApp. They were fined hundreds of millions of dollars where the European Union said that they were misleading. But throughout Mark Zuckerberg’s history, I don’t see a big difference other than he’s liberal and Trump’s right. What’s the difference of Mark Zuckerberg and Trump in terms of Mark Zuckerberg running over people, he seems very transactional where he’s not concerned about society. He’s not concerned about what the world could look like in 10 years, you know, he’s just trying to get his money right? He’s running over the co-founders, he’s running over the twins who hired him, in terms of how Facebook has handled the Russian investigation or how they’ve handled media companies where I’ve had a personal experience with that company and I’m like, wow, you guys are on another level. You guys are out here on these streets, but you’re definitely banging for the evil side. So I just see Mark Zuckerberg as a technology Trump. He’s very transactional. It’s not clear this guy has a lot of ethics.
Travis Holoway: Yeah. So I think there’s multiple ways to look at an individual. From an ethical standpoint, I think you made phenomenal points and I think you hit it right on. There is track record of him being unethical, being dishonest, and essentially stealing ideas from others.
Jamarlin Martin: But you just said he’s your greatest…
Travis Holoway: I know, but at the same time, I’m really only speaking on a business level, and what I, what I’m saying is I remember, you know, the early days of Facebook when you had to have a college ID to get on it and I see what they’ve been able to accomplish over the last 10, 12 years, and that idea that was essentially stolen. It was stolen. So let’s take that idea. Do we think that those same individuals…
Jamarlin Martin: Like black people, we were stolen, right?
Travis Holoway: That’s a fact. But do we think that those same individuals were capable of taking that company from where it was to becoming what it is today? And I don’t know that answer and if I had to answer that, I would say no because they haven’t really come up with any other thing that’s put them in that same realm or that same conversation. The difference between Trump is that he goes out and literally with his rhetoric is speaking out against complete countries and nationalities, and that particular piece rubs me incredibly the wrong way. But then also there’s a track record of him being a failed businessman time after time after time. We don’t have that same track history of Mark Zuckerberg being a failed businessman. So when we look at it from just a sheer business point, I think that Trump has been able to fake it. I don’t think he got a lot more help from his father than what he’s willing to admit. But at the same time he has a failed airline. He has a failed football team. He’s filed bankruptcy multiple times. There is a track history of him not being as savvy of a businessperson as the world wants to believe, but what he has been able to do is market himself in a way that probably makes him one of the greatest self marketing minds of all time. I will put Floyd Mayweather in there too, but Trump is just not as rich as people think he is. And I think that’s part of the reason why we won’t ever see his tax returns
Jamarlin Martin: Fair point. One thing I think is underappreciated with Mark Zuckerberg, it goes to your point in terms of he’s bringing great minds in it and listening to them. Particularly, one thing that comes to mind is, Sean Parker, he talked about how all MySpace had to do was replicate Facebook on the side and when MySpace was really hot and had massive skill and that really informed Zuckerberg’s M&A strategy where you’ve seen defensive moves where any platform that looks like it could have a billion users, ‘I’m going to buy that shit’. So I believe the author of that kind of paranoia is Sean Parker, but I think Mark Zuckerberg gets an A on his M&A. The M&A strategy has been super on point. Spike Lee is coming out with a show and he’s calling it the “Black Zuckerberg”. Do you have a problem with using “Black Zuckerberg?” Do we want black boys to be modeled after a Zuckerberg? He has a big wallet, but it doesn’t seem like there’s no soul behind it. We don’t want black boys to have that transactional Zuckerberg-Trump, just, I’m going to go after my wallet and just kill everybody in the way, right?
Travis Holoway: Exactly. We don’t really even know what that man stands for. So to model our young black men is crazy. Spike has been [inaudible] lately. That’s insane. But no I don’t think that the show should be the “Black Jordan” either. I don’t think it should be the “Black Lebron”. I don’t think it should be…
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, I don’t think he’s going to title it that, but the way it’s being described in the media and the way he’s describing it is as “Black Zuckerberg”, and that Zuckerberg is a genius and this guy’s a black genius.
Travis Holoway: No, there’s a million other people I think that that could be modeled after. I don’t care if he uses one of the billionaires in Nigeria before we use him. That’s just as crazy, especially from Spike.
Jamarlin Martin: Recently CNN journalist Jake Tapper, he’s been on a media jihad going after black leaders, Keith Ellison, the congressional black caucus and saying, ‘hey, why are you negroes talking to Farrakhan?’ You know, as you know, there was a photographer, Askia Muhammad, who took a picture of Obama with Farrakhan at an event and the brother held the photograph back and said, ‘I don’t want them to use this against our brother Obama.’ And you know, he could of got publicity, could have gotten money, but he held it. And then of course, he released it this year. It makes Republicans think, ‘See, I told you Obama has something going on that he’s not really telling us’. But Jake Tapper, he’s going to all the black leaders, congressional black caucus, ‘Hey you black leaders, don’t go talk to Farrakhan. Don’t try to build a bridge with Farrakhan. He’s anti-Semitic. He’s homophobic, he’s anti-Semitic, he’s racist essentially. So why are you black people talking about Trump talking about the alt right? Why are you guys taking pictures with Farrakhan? Why are you going to the event?’ One sister who was involved with the Million Youth March, Tamika Mallory, she went to Savior’s Day in Chicago. He’s attacking her, ‘You black people are hypocritical. You guys talk about equality, but why are you guys going to Chicago to listen to Farrakhan?’ How do you feel about Jake Tapper going around pointing his finger? Hey, you niggas need to condemn Farrakhan.
Travis Holoway: I don’t like it. People just feel so entitled to speak about everything. And, and I think what, you know, obviously he has a platform on a major network, but everyone now has a platform in that pocket and everyone feels compelled to talk about something and then say what they think other people should be doing, who they should associate with and it’s always with their view of what they believe, but until he is going out and he’s saying the same things about Trump and the statements that he’s making about, you know, entire countries and other nationalities, until he’s condemning the people who have relationships with people like Richard Spencer, on the flip side, I don’t think that his comments are valid. I don’t think they hold any weight.
Jamarlin Martin: But even looking at a guy like Richard Spencer, is it the same in terms of black people in terms of our history of being oppressed, and where police are still murdering folks. Jake tapper, if you remove what you call extremist voices, who else is gonna talk up and talk independently against the establishment and the lobbies that pretty much have a lot of the politicians and corporate folks. A lot of our leaders in their pocket. So my question for Jake Tapper is, if you remove a lot of these extremist voices, who’s going to ride hard for the people? The people in Watts? The people in Compton, the people in Brooklyn and Harlem? CNN, Jake Tapper’s not doing it, right? Trayvon Martin or somebody else gets shot, you guys are not going to be in these streets. Right? So essentially because of economic insecurity, we don’t really have people who can go hard. Everybody’s scared to lose checks. Yeah. So Jake Tapper, who else is going to be speaking out for our people in the streets? Because all the other corporate folks and politicians, they’re all paid for. Right? So, you know, I don’t believe you can compare a Richard Spencer or white racism where it’s more institutional. A lot of times people will say things, but what’s really important is what you do, the institutionalization of racism, right? Not necessarily just the words and the optics, but one question I have is, ‘Hey, Jake Tapper, are you going to denounce everybody who went to the Trump inauguration?’ He’s racist.
Travis Holoway: Exactly. And that’s my point. I don’t think Richard Spencer and Farrakhan are one and the same. I don’t think Farrakhan is the African-American version of Richard Spencer. But at the same time, you can’t make a comment about one side if you’re not making it about both sides. We know that you’re not going to stand up against police brutality, against the systematic racism that disparity of African-Americans who are incarcerated. You’re not going to talk about it and you know, who is? Because to your point, everyone is bought. Everyone is afraid to lose their platform, their check, jeopardize their family situation. So you know, until you have someone who essentially can’t be bought and a Farrakhan, you’re in a tough situation.
Jamarlin Martin: Why do you think it would be OK with Jake Tapper for Tamika Mallory and some of our people to go to a Trump inauguration, a racist who’s institutionalizing racism, you can go support, a Trump inauguration?Obama was there and Michelle was there. A lot of black people were there. Why would the establishment believe black people should love a Trump inauguration or embrace it? There’s no real concern if a black person takes a picture with Trump, right? As far as we’re concerned, he may as well be a KKK with a lot of power and a big wallet. But why is it OK for people to take pictures with Trump?
Travis Holoway: Because they call it patriotism. They think, alright well, he’s an american president and he’s the leader of the free world. So if you take a picture with him and showing that you love your country, you’re showing that you’re supportive of this establishment. Whereas the inverse, it’s that they’re painting him as being anti-patriot or anti-patriotism, so I think that that’s how they sell it. That’s how they get you to believe it. That’s how they get the mass media to buy into that and say this person is being anti-American because, you know, they’re saying these things, but if Trump says, you know, the, the problem is, is that his statements are, even though we, we view them as being racist in the grand scheme of things, a lot of the population sees that as being pro-American or they think that’s how things are supposed to be. That’s the difference.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you believe it’s racist when the elites in this country, such as Jake Tapper, who come from privilege? When you look historically at Marcus Garvey, right? He was brought down by negroes, right? The government brought him down. But negroes essentially helped the government and set him up, but going back from Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X, Black Panthers, the media has always gone to black leaders and they say, ‘Hey, you need to condemn this other black leader that’s going real hard against the establishment. They’re going real hard against racism, they’re going real hard against us’. You know, this is nothing new what Jake Tapper is doing. But do you think it’s racist for these white elites to be coming to the hood, coming to black people, you need to condemn this person?
Travis Holoway: Yeah, I think it is. I think it’s just a double standard. And I think the double standard in this particular case is racist.
Jamarlin Martin: If black people said, Jake Tapper, you’re Jewish American, you need to condemn the apartheid state of Israel, you need to condemn Netanyahu because he did this or he’s doing this, he’s about to kill 100 Palestinians. You’re Jewish, so you need to condemn that. Do you believe that’s fair to Jake Tapper to look at that within the context of his race and say, because you’re Jewish, you need to condemn Netanyahu?
Travis Holoway: No I don’t. And I think that’s where I see this as being the same across the board. I don’t think that he’s built to bear that cross. So why should I put that cross on him if he’s not ready for it? And it’s the same thing for him to do that to other African-Americans who, one, you don’t know their view, two, your opinion is now a cross which you’re asking them to bear. And I don’t think that’s fair.
Jamarlin Martin: Thanks to Travis Holoway, the founder and CEO of SoLo Funds. You can check out SoLo Funds, at Solofunds.com.
Travis Holoway: Thanks so much. It was a pleasure.
Jamarlin Martin: Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out at Jamarlin Martin on twitter and also come check us out at Moguldom.com. That’s M O G U L D O M dot 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!
This interview has been edited for clarity.