Episode 74

Apr 11, 2021

3 B’s: Bitcoin, Bubbles And Biden

Jamarlin returns for a new season of the GHOGH podcast to discuss Bitcoin, bubbles, and

uss Bitcoin, bubbles, and Biden. He talks about the risk factors for Bitcoin as an investment asset including origin risk, speculative market structure, regulatory, and environment. Are broader financial markets in a massive speculative bubble? And what is the bubble indicator used by JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, who dumped all his stocks before the 1929 crash? This episode also covers expectations for Joe Biden and why Black America should have low ones, based on the structural orientation of his cabinet. 

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Episode 61

Jun 04, 2019

Cedric J. Rogers

Part 1: Jamarlin talks to Cedric Rogers and Shaun Newsum, co-founders of Culture Genesis, a digital studio focused on remixing technology for underserved audiences.

or underserved audiences. We discuss Cedric’s work as an engineer for Apple, where he offered product ideas directly to Steve Jobs. We also discuss whether all HBCUs should be saved considering rapid changes in debt economics and a tech-oriented environment. Or do we need to reimagine education with new money going toward more fruitful, imaginative and low-debt concepts?  

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Episode 60

May 24, 2019

Jamarlin Martin

Jamarlin goes solo and talks about Facebook’s ban on Minister Louis Farrakhan and whether or

Farrakhan and whether or not Barack Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was always right. Jamarlin looks at then-Sen. Obama’s speech, “A More Perfect Union,” which addressed Rev. Wright’s views that white racism was endemic to America.

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

Jamarlin Martin: You’re listening to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin. We have a go hard or go home approach as we talk to the leading tech leaders, politicians and influencers. Let’s GHOGH!

Okay, so R. Kelly has been in the news. Lifetime put out a documentary and of course there’s a lot of allegations in that documentary. I have not watched the document. I stopped listening to R. Kelly. I’m not interested in R. Kelly. The pattern that I observed over the years, I think what I said on Twitter was, you didn’t need a Lifetime doc to stop listening to R. Kelly. Your spirit should have told you that he is a demonic agent. He’s more dangerous for Black America, because he has mixed religion, gospel with his gift. He is gifted, but he has mixed religion and the Lord with sex.

When you think about what makes R. Kelly original, well, in his mind he has this perversion and he has God, and it has really mixed up the people. And so it was interesting watching some of the commentary, mainly from brothers. Some brothers are like, hey, this is a racist agenda, Lifetime, why are they singling R. Kelly out? Why don’t they talk about Elvis Presley?

They want to inject racism to the R. Kelly discussion. Okay. The problem with that is, let me frame it this way. When you inject racism into the community protesting R. Kelly in terms of his sexual abuse on young girls, when you inject racism into that discussion, I would compare it to a cop who arrests a pedophile in Harlem or Watts or the south side of Chicago. There’s a pedophile running around and he has terrorized a hundred Black girls in the hood. Now the cop takes the pedophile in, and so there’s one side of the Black community that wants to focus on, hey, is the cop racist? That’s one side. The other side of the community doesn’t care if the cop is racist. They are focused on getting this sexual predator out of the community. That’s the only thing that matters. That’s the only thing that matters. In terms of the big picture of things. Race does not have to be the motivating issue or lens on everything.

I think some of us become so drunk on white supremacy and white folks that you can’t soberly evaluate facts and information and use common sense, meaning that you’re so drugged up and drunk on white supremacy and racism, some of the stuff in your community and on the outside, you can’t see straight. So on some level you say, people who have been traumatized and oppressed and discriminated against, we can’t see things clearly. Maybe the people are not to blame for that. However, you should want to strive to see facts and information clearly, sanely, soberly, that talking about racism with R. Kelly, even a little bit in this situation, to me is sick. You should be focused on all those girls that he preyed on, and the terror that he injected into the community. This is not someone who made a mistake or did something when he was younger. This is a person who has committed himself in life to terrorizing Black women, Black girls.

I would frame this as some of our people drugged up and so drunk on white supremacy and racism, and of course this should be a priority in our community, but you need to think clearly. You need to be able to evaluate a situation without injecting white folks. We want the predators out of the community, regardless of whether they’re catching their predators in their community. It doesn’t matter. We want the predators out the community. That’s it. It doesn’t matter if he’s letting his predators go. We’re not defending and protesting for predators. That’s not what we’re trying to do here.

Similarly, in terms of this flawed thinking and drunkenness in the community, Jazmine Barnes, was gunned down in a car in Texas. The young girl was murdered. Her mom survived. And the community got really riled up because the initial reports said that the gunman was white. And so you had some of our people banging against each other saying, hey, why aren’t you talking about Jazmine Barnes? Why aren’t you talking about this white killer who killed Jazmine Barnes? So everyone’s talking about Jazmine Barnes and everyone’s really angry like, hey, you killed Jazmine Barnes, white folks, let’s go after them. Why does this keep happening? And the facts come out. And Jazmine Barnes was killed by a Black man. The Black man is murdering people every day across America, regardless of what white folks are doing.

The bottom line is we are murdering each other. That’s the facts. Nine out of 10 times we are murdering each other. Many of us don’t have a knowledge of self, and we’re sick and we’re killing each other. And so the protests should not stop or the caring and the love that you show for Jazmine Barnes and the loss of that life, it shouldn’t flip so quick, whether it’s a white man killing her or whether it’s our own killing again, the motions should not flip so fast where everyone stops talking about the loss of that life because it was someone who looked like you or someone from your community who took that life. And so this is flawed thinking in our community.

We got to love each other. We got to embrace the value of our lives. In every single case according to its association with white supremacy and white folks independently, there’s certain things that need to matter independently of how white folks operate. Some people may say, hey, you’re trying to get white folks off the hook. No, you can bang against white supremacy, you can go after white supremacists. You can criticize white supremacists, but at the same time, you put so much energy on white folks and white supremacy that there’s nothing left in the tank for your own household, for your own community, to lift your own community up, to protect your community, to care about your community, to love your community. All that energy you’re pushing on banging against white folks, some people, they don’t have anything left in the tank in terms of caring about us murdering each other.

So another thing I wanted to talk about with flawed thinking is Donald Trump and Mueller. So there’s thinking in our community that Black people should not be keeping for the FBI and the feds to take down the Trump family, because of what J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI have done spying on us, booby-trapping our political movements, because of what they have done and what they continue to do. Some people believe that it would be wrong to want to see the feds administer justice to the Donald Trump mafia organization. The corrupt Donald Trump mafia white supremacist organization.

And again, this flawed thinking is you examine everything based on this kind of lens where I can’t look at this situation where there’s a corrupt organization, a corrupt white supremacist organization. These people have discriminated against our people. These people are spiking the white supremacist attitudes against our Brown brothers and sisters, against Muslims. This organization is a white supremacist organization. The Trump organization, the Trump family. Not only that, it’s one of the purest manifestations of white privilege. Essentially, you’re born into wealth, you get by with corruption, crime, people give you a pass, in part because you’re white, you’ve been born with money, they’re going to look the other way.

And so for this clear example of the corrupt white supremacist establishment in the United States, this symbol in the White House, one, I think it’s a good thing. Some of the issues that we’ve been talking about for decades, it’s manifested in the MAGA and the Trump movement for the world to see. We’ve been saying this stuff, but here, look at all these people voting and supporting this guy. We’ve been saying that America is more racist than you think. A lot more racist than you think. So there’s a thinking in the community where, I don’t want to talk about Trump or MAGA because the FBI and the feds are going after him. The thinking is because we were abused by the FBI and in the relationship with Africa, the CIA, you don’t want to see those departments administer justice to Donald Trump. And what I’ll say about that is some folks believing that wanting to see justice being administered to Donald Trump and the corrupt white supremacist MAGA empire, wanting to see justice administered like it’s administered to us, that is not a Negro position.

Hopefully you are banging for freedom, justice and equality. I’m gonna say it again. Hopefully you’re banging for freedom, justice and equality. If you’re for freedom, justice and equality, to see justice being administered to Donald Trump for the decades of corruption, the decades of criminality, for you wanting to see justice administered to him and anybody, that would be consistent with wanting to see freedom and justice applied as it should be applied. This thinking that we should, because of what the FBI and what the CIA has done in Africa, we should be on the side of Donald Trump. And there’s a lot of people in our community where you have become trained to go on the criminal’s side. Essentially when the police or the feds or the CIA has lined up a against a criminal, there’s been so much abuse, you may have developed a gravitation to defend the criminals. And so this is not as a situation where, I don’t think anybody can claim that you believe in freedom and justice and equality, and you’re supporting Donald Trump or you don’t want to see the feds take out Donald Trump.

So within this line of this flawed thinking, it brings back memories to 1997. In 1997 at the Nation of Islam’s Savior’s Day, Sani Abacha, the dictator in Nigeria, he spoke to Black folks in Chicago via satellite, the dictator in Nigeria, Abacha. And so you could probably see videos on YouTube or somewhere online, but essentially a lot of Black folks were cheering Abacha at this event, and the thinking is the United States government doesn’t like Abacha, doesn’t like the dictator in Nigeria. So if the United States does not like that dictator in Nigeria, that dictator must be good. That’s the simplistic thinking of a lot of folks.

However, I have a lot of Nigerian friends. I know people who are very close to the political establishment in Nigeria. And so the bottom line is Abacha stole over $4 billion from the people in Nigeria. It was a theft. We’ve had leaders and preachers stealing in our community, and there’s no one that you know of, that has stolen more money from our people than Abacha in Nigeria.

I don’t need to get information from white folks. That’s not me listening to the mainstream media. I can talk to Nigerians on the ground. I can talk to the political establishment directly. Abacha stole over $4 billion from the people. And I don’t care. I know some people will be like, “Oh, white folks stole money too. So we need to support Abacha.” No, no, no. This madness needs to stop. It’s wrong to steal money, for any leader to steal the people’s money, particularly $4 billion dollars, putting the people at risk, bankrupting the people. And so you have this flawed thinking in our community. You can be against white supremacy, but that does not mean that you’re for whoever they’re against. So the community is getting up and applauding Sani Abacha, this guy who stole the Nigerian people’s money, did you even know that?

Again, this flawed thinking. Around the same time you had cases coming out in the media about the Muslims in the Sudan enslaving the Christians there. So you had some people in our community who said, this is all propaganda, that the government doesn’t like the Muslim leaders in the Sudan, and this was all propaganda. The facts are out there that the Muslims in the Sudan were enslaving and oppressing and raping the Black Christians there. And so, in this day and hour, you have to be sober that outside of religion and ideology and all this stuff, we need to think clearly that because the African is Muslim, that doesn’t mean that they’re doing the right thing.

That does not mean they’re doing the right thing. We know that Arabs were some of the supreme slave masters of Africans. This is no disrespect to the Muslim brothers and sisters out there, but this is just facts. The more objective Black people are, the more we get out of our spookiness and ideologies, and we’re able to look at facts clearly and objectively, the better off the people. The more spooky we are, the people are going to continue to be manipulated, exploited, and abused, and we’re not going to go far. We have to think clearly and objectively. I don’t care what religion you are, when you’re oppressing and enslaving African people, we’ve got a problem. I don’t care if you’re Muslim, I don’t care if you’re Christian and I don’t care if you’re Afrocentric, enslaving our people is wrong and it doesn’t matter who’s doing it.

Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out @JamarlinMartin on Twitter, and also come check us out at https://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!

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Episode 59, Part 2

May 22, 2019

Brandon Tory

Part 2: Jamarlin talks to Brandon Tory, a hip-hop artist and senior software engineer at Google, about the recruiting

about the recruiting process and compensation for new tech engineers. They discuss the high stakes for Black America not scaling up in technology and the potential to weaponize tech against us, whether hip hop dumbs the people down and what a hip-hop summit would look like in 2019. They also discuss harnessing the power of tech outside the big-tech complex to promote freedom, justice, and equality.  

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

Jamarlin Martin: I wrote a book about my life named “Moguldom”. You can get more information about this book at Moguldombook.com. I talk about acquiring the knowledge of self, self-determination and building a business over 10 years. There are some gems in this book that you don’t want to miss. One way to support the GHOGH movement and this podcast is to go to Moguldombook.com. Buy the book on presale to support the GHOGH movement. Let’s GHOGH! 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 the interview. Let’s GHOGH.

Brandon Tory: I guess in terms of the Google piece, the way that happened was… So with Google, you can be online searching for something and if you’re searching for something that’s like very techie or code-related in a certain order, Google will go completely black and will ask you if you want to take a challenge. And so I was looking up something called dependency inversion, which is a paradigm you can use in technology.

Jamarlin Martin: Hold up. Are you talking about at the browser search level, you’re searching for tech, coding stuff, Google will prompt you for something that Google…

Brandon Tory: The whole screen will turn black and it will say, we like what you’re searching for. Do you want to take a challenge?

Jamarlin Martin: That’s creepy.

Brandon Tory: It’s called Foo bar. So that’s not private information. But, me being an engineer, I can never turn down a challenge. So I said yes. And I went on to do that. I completed about five levels of it and at that point a recruiter reached out. And so, that’s when I was presented with the opportunity and based on what Google was doing in artificial intelligence, I thought it was a great fit.

Jamarlin Martin: So Google. Part of their recruiting strategy is they’re using your search browser information to help their recruiting. They identify potential applicants.

02:07 —Brandon Tory: If you’re searching for specific things in technology, they’ll reach out to you directly from the website itself.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, great. And did you know that the tech companies do that?

Brandon Tory: I didn’t know. I didn’t know that at all.

Jamarlin Martin: You complete the challenge, you’re talking to the recruiter. Talk about the interview process.

Brandon Tory: Yeah, so part of the interview process was that challenge. So being able to get through five levels of that was part of it. And after that a recruiter contacted me and then we set up a phone screen. And so on the phone screen, they asked me various algorithmic questions and things like that and I did pretty well on that. And so shortly after they invited me to interview on site. I went on site and it was another like eight hours, nine hours of interviewing. And it was pretty challenging, but it was good. And then I got the offer.

Jamarlin Martin: For an entry level engineer at Apple or Google software engineer, how much are we talking for the audience, in terms of compensation, what are the ranges for entry level engineer?

Brandon Tory: Well, I don’t know. I’m level five.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. But let’s say before we get there, what’s the entry level like?

Brandon Tory: I would say you’re looking at, just industry-wide. I won’t talk specifically about Google, but industry-wide that you’re looking at about six figures maybe. I’d say on the industry average for entry level, maybe $120,000. Yeah.

Jamarlin Martin: And then for entry level, how many years of experience? Hey, I want to pivot to becoming an engineer. How long do I need to study and practice full time before I’m ready to go get that six-figure engineering job on average?

03:56 —Brandon Tory: One of the things I love about the technology industry is, and I’m biased here because I’m an engineer, but when I talk to some of my friends who interviewed with companies in other industries, I can’t understand how the decision gets made. You have conversations and there are certain exercises you do, but it’s not very quantifiable. Whereas in engineering, it’s literally here’s the problem on the board. Can you do the problem?

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah.

Brandon Tory: So that’s actually kind of nice because it means you might have no experience, but if you know how to do that algorithm, you have a chance of getting a job. And so I really like that about tech.

Jamarlin Martin: But don’t you need to have an understanding of specific coding languages or no?

Brandon Tory: No. Nothing about the interview process in any company that I’ve interviewed at has a specific language requirement. It’s much more abstract. It’s much more fundamental concepts and you’re expected to be able to do that in every language or any language that you’re faced with.

Jamarlin Martin: So you don’t necessarily need to be coding in a language for six months to get a job at Apple or Google?

Brandon Tory: Yeah. In fact, that’s counterproductive. So to get a job in one of these places, and again, I can’t speak specifically for Apple or Google, but just in general, it’s less about the specific language. So if you were to come in and say, “I’m very, very good at this one language called Python,” that wouldn’t go that far. What would go much further is if you say, “I have a fundamental understanding of computer programming, which I can apply to any language and I’m able to ramp up on any language very quickly.” When you work at these companies, you’re expected to learn a language on the fly. So if you come in and you only know Python, what the project is in Ruby, you’re expected to learn Ruby as you go. There’s no time for it.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. Got It. And you taught yourself coding game of course at an early age. For the audience out there, where would you point them to where, I want to make a pivot in my career, I want to learn, I want to be an engineer. What tools or resources online would you recommend?

06:00 —Brandon Tory: Yeah. I think everybody’s different. Now there’s all these great online websites you can use to learn coding. I haven’t had much experience with those. I like books. I just like getting a hard copy and working through the book.

Jamarlin Martin: And give me a sample title of what book that would be relevant.

Brandon Tory: One book I’m reading now is called “Deep Learning in Python.” The first book I ever bought was called “Sams Teach Yourself C in 24 Hours”. There are a lot of great self learning guides for coding, but in general, just for me, I like the hard copy, but I don’t know if that works for everybody. I think some people would prefer some of the online experiences. But that’s just my preference.

Jamarlin Martin: For the audience, you talk about hacking where, when I mention hacking a lot of people, they think that it has a negative connotation, but can you broaden that definition for the audience in terms of another way to think about hacking?

Brandon Tory: Yeah. So in general, I think the public perception of hacking is pretty negative. But in the industry it’s really another term for just an expert computer enthusiast. For example, Facebook is located on Hacker Way. That’s the name of the street that it’s on. And Facebook’s not a criminal organization to my knowledge. Right? So the thing about hacking is you have to be so good at computers to pull one of these things off, that in order to get into that space, you almost have to be an expert level computer science researcher anyway, so there’s this kind of culture blend where even if there are people who do malicious things in hacking, they must be talking to people that are doing good things because the knowledge base is shared anyway. So I think, yes, there are bad people out there who use this information in bad ways, but there’s also a lot of people who do what’s called penetration testing, where they do research on exploits on operating systems that protect us because they report the issues when they find them. And technically those people are hackers too because they’re actually one step ahead of the criminals that want to use those things.

Jamarlin Martin: What are the stakes for Black America if we do not ramp up our appetite and curiosity on technology within the culture in terms of, inequality and competition and the wealth gap. Talk about the stakes that if we don’t get more people like you out there and we don’t scale that, what are the stakes and potential consequences as a people?

08:46 —Brandon Tory: Yeah. So there’s a lot of research out there out there right now about what’s called data biasing. And so, a lot of what’s going on and what’s exciting about the computer space right now is artificial intelligence and machine learning. That’s all based on training models using huge amounts of data. And if that data already has bias in it, then the models that we create will also be biased. So essentially, if we live in a system that is already oppressing a certain group and then we train artificial intelligence models using data that comes out of that system, there’s a risk that that will propagate into the actual machines that are being trained. So I think it’s pretty pivotal for us to understand the language of the future, which is technology and also artificial intelligence so that we can be in the rooms when addressing these data biasing issues.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. The way I see it is with the so called diversity numbers and the demographics at these big tech companies, that if they are creating tools and laying the foundation of how society’s going to communicate, how society is going to process information, then if you have systemic white supremacy already built in, that the technology, the algorithms, the oppression would just be transferred to tech and tech is going to execute and process the future oppression and white supremacy. And that’s why I think it’s so important for our people to take this seriously.

10:37 —Brandon Tory: Yeah. I definitely think that we need to, as a people, we need to be a part of the discussion in a serious way, right? It can’t just be the buzzwords. It has to be the actual research. It has to be the actual technology. We have to actually have PhD research scientists who understand how these models work, understand how data biasing works and have a voice that can be taken seriously in the research community. I think that’s very important.

Jamarlin Martin: So what are you doing now on the artistry front? Are you still performing, what’s going on there?

Brandon Tory: Yeah, absolutely. So this year I’ve got a couple of exciting things going on. I’m working on a TV series, which is super cool.

Jamarlin Martin: Definitely in the right place for that.

Brandon Tory: Yeah. So that’s one thing. I’m also, uh, releasing an album in June and I’ll be having another one of those big parties that I talked about shortly after that, probably by the end of the summer. And we’re also in parallel working on a documentary, just about this whole multi-dream concept and about the blend of hip hop culture and tech culture and about some of the insights that I’ve had in my story and things that I hope to share with the youth.

Jamarlin Martin: Back in the day, I remember, I believe Russell Simmons and I think the former leader of the NAACP, Ben Chavis, they put together a hip hop summit where they talked to a lot of the hip hop artists out there in terms of how we can move the people forward. If you had the rappers of today in a room, you had your Drake and Little Sean and you had the dominant artists that are out there in a room and you had the mouth piece to talk to them about moving the culture forward, what type of stuff do you think you would say to them in terms of your unique background and perspective and how you see things playing out in the culture, and you had an opportunity to drop some game on them in terms of how we can move this new generation forward?

12:43 —Brandon Tory: Some of the artists I look up to I believe are doing that. You know, Nipsey Hussle for example. He discovered a kid named Iddris Sandu, who’s heavily into tech and he recently did a Ted talk in L.A., about some of the subject matter. And he was discovered by a rapper like Nipsey Hussle. Jay-Z, I know, was doing a lot of things in prison reform and other positive initiatives, which I think is great. For me, I guess if I had them in the room, I would probably lean on the side of, in addition to these great things that we’re doing, let’s try to embed that in the content itself as well. I think a lot of times in our culture we kind of feel pressured to make content that’s dumbed down to sell records and to get streams. And then we go off and do a bunch of positive things with the money. But I think it would be great if we could get to a point where the content itself also has shimmers of this positivity, that can be spread in a big way because people listen to this stuff and growing up in these neighborhoods, we listen to what these rappers say and how they say they would handle a situation. And when you’re 15, sometimes that can be your default. “Okay, that’s how I’m gonna react in this situation.” So I think it’s important that not only we do these positive things, but also talk about it in the content that’s being spread so widely.

Jamarlin Martin: Net-net, would you say that when you add everything up, the pluses and minuses in hip hop, that hip hop as a cultural influence dumbs our people down, when you add up the pluses and minuses?

Brandon Tory: I wouldn’t say that. I think hip hop is a reflection more than anything. So I think that in these communities these things are happening, right? And these things were happening before hip hop became super popular, I believe, in the Black community. They were already issues, poverty and drugs and so hip hop was a reflection of that. I don’t know if I would be here today if it wasn’t for certain verses I’ve heard from artists I love.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, but that’s your individual case. But you couldn’t you see that, hey, it’s cooler to be more hood. It’s cooler to be closer to this culturally. We can agree right that the more street you are, the more hood you are in the culture that that’s more positive. You’re going to be endorsed and sponsored and not looked at as a weirdo, the closer you are to the street. So, my thinking is people who may like reading and books and school and technology and coding, that that is a net negative culturally. So, there’s forces where people try to be on the more negative spectrum than what they ordinarily would be. And of course the hip hop culture is reinforcing this.

15:43 —Brandon Tory: To an extent. I think it depends on what your definition of hood is. Of course there are people that do negative actions in our culture and in other cultures. But there are also elements of being hood that I look at as very positive character traits, loyalty, being able to deal with adversity. I actually attribute those things to hood culture as well. So I don’t think that. For me, one of my biggest pieces is how can you be successful in technology without forfeiting your culture without saying, okay, because I can go into Google and absolutely annihilate an algorithmic coding interview, it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to address and speak the same language as the people I grew up around because I don’t believe that those cultures are necessarily mutually exclusive.

Jamarlin Martin: From a policy standpoint, let’s take Kamala Harris or Cory Booker. They come to you, you’ve been in the game, you’re in the tech streets in terms of Apple and Google. You’re at these top companies. And they say, “Look, I want to talk to someone real. I want to talk to someone who came up from the bottom and made it in these kind of elite areas.” How would you advise them on kind of moving specifically Black America forward, in terms of the inequality and the developments in the economy? If they came to you for advice at a presidential level, where would you kind of direct them on policy?

Brandon Tory: I don’t have any ideas when it comes to policy. I do have ideas when it comes to content and when it comes to the entertainment space. For me, I was heavily moved by a couple of movies, in my childhood that really impacted the way I looked at myself and the way I looked at my future. One of them was “Good Will Hunting”. We have a lot of great movies in our culture that tell our story, but I think we’re missing some content that can do exactly what we’ve discussed, which is do we make this other stuff cool as well?

Jamarlin Martin: That’s an important point. It sounds like what you’re saying is, look, people who are checking for the government to fix a lot of this stuff, you’re checking in the wrong place, that the government is not likely to fix what we’re looking for, in terms of inequality. But hold on, hear me out. It sounds like, moving the needle, the big progress is going to come from media and content where people start seeing more people like you and seeing more people who look like them be successful, who have a big wallet, but they’re choosing these kind of alternative paths than what they’re usually seeing. That maybe most of the progress is going to come from taking your Goodwill Hunting experience and seeing this stuff and being inspired by this stuff. But how do you scale that?

18:48 —Brandon Tory: Well, it goes both ways. So for me, what I intend to convey here is that my idea would be in the entertainment space, right? But if I were to bring my best friend here who’s a UCLA researcher on education, he’d have a completely different idea in terms of what we should do with policy. So I think that you need to get a couple of people in the room who have different perspectives. Somebody from education, somebody from entertainment and technology myself, and really come up with, like you said, a scalable solution. But obviously I don’t think just making entertainment can solve the problem and can get enough people in. I think it has to be a big part of a bigger initiative. But it’s one idea.

Jamarlin Martin: One path for Black people is of course you can get a really good job at a Facebook, Salesforce, Apple, but in terms of our journey here in America and the big complex problems associated with our journey in America, how can coding and engineering be weaponized outside of the corporate complex where people are building applications and software to solve for some of the biggest problems as it relates to Black people in America?

20:10 —Brandon Tory: Yeah, so I think that innovation, from my perspective, is often the act of socializing a language and then applying diversity to that kind of fundamental language such that you have new perspectives that come out of it. There are certain math theorems and certain research that you can’t get to the next level without understanding the fundamental paper that proceeded it. So a lot of times in research you want to innovate, you can’t innovate until you’ve read the prior art. And I think that in order for us to do what you’ve said, which is to kind of, in addition to having corporate jobs, also being able to take action ourselves with some of this technology. We have to understand the language. And again, not in the buzzword perspective, but the actual research. If you take a diverse group of people and give them these tools, here’s how matrix multiplication is used inside of a machine model. Here’s how recurrent neural networks work, and now you have a diverse group of people who have different backgrounds. They can think of all kinds of colorful ideas to use that stuff in a new way. I think that we have a lot of catching up to do in even getting to that point. And I think that that’s probably the most impactful thing we can do.

Jamarlin Martin: Alright. Where can people find your music and find you online?

21:33 — Brandon Tory: You can find me @BrandonTory. I’m on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube and Instagram is my favorite place.

Jamarlin Martin: Make sure you check Brandon out. Thanks for coming on the show.

Brandon Tory: Thank you so much. Really enjoyed it.

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!

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Episode 58

May 21, 2019

Brandon Tory

Part 1: Jamarlin talks to Brandon Tory, a hip-hop artist and senior software engineer at

nior software engineer at Google. They discuss Brandon’s journey from homelessness to teaching himself to code and working with Timbaland and Jimmy Iovine. Brandon talks about feeling cultural pressure to hide his “geekness” from his friends and how he landed a job as an Apple engineer.

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

Jamarlin Martin: I wrote a book about my life named “Moguldom”. You can get more information about this book at Moguldombook.com. I talk about acquiring the knowledge of self, self-determination and building a business over 10 years. There are some gems in this book that you don’t want to miss. One way to support the GHOGH movement and this podcast is to go to Moguldombook.com. Buy the book on presale to support the GHOGH movement. Let’s GHOGH! 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! Today we have Brandon Tory, a multitalented senior software engineer at Google and hip hop artist. Welcome to the show.

0:47 —Brandon Tory: Thank you. Very happy to be here. Super excited.

Jamarlin Martin: Share with the audience a little bit about your family background and the path to getting into coding.

Brandon Tory: Yeah, absolutely. When I was about 14 years old I wanted to be a hacker more than anything and so I had seen a couple of movies. One of them was “Good Will Hunting”. One of them was “Hackers” with Angelina Jolie. And I just piqued my interest so much so that I began coding maybe about 12 hours a day. I was online on chat rooms called IRC. That’s internet relay chat. And at that time there were channels where you could go in there and you could talk to coders kind of anonymously. You’d have no idea how old they were or who they were, but you could learn from them. And I didn’t have access to many resources so my first computer I actually went dumpster diving and built myself. My mother loves to tell that story. It’s not something that I even really remember much of but she talks about it. And I found various parts. I put together a Linux operating system machine with an AMD processor. And I used this thing called freedialup.org, which was a way you could get the internet for free at the time. And it was a point to point networking system that you had to configure properly. And from there I was off to the races. I bought a book called “Sams Teach Yourself C in 24 Hours”. I taught myself C. Then Python and Assembly. In those chat rooms, a lot of the guys that were in there, they’d say things like, if you don’t know C, if you don’t know C++, you can never be taken seriously.

Jamarlin Martin: And for the audience you’re just talking about coding languages.

02:15 —Brandon Tory: These are coding languages yeah. And so I became really passionate about it and I was really young. So I would say, that’s how I got into coding. And then later on in high school when I was like 16, 17, that became not so cool. So I was more so into everything else. I was playing basketball, I was in the city with all my friends and coding was just something that I didn’t talk about, but I was always really good at from a young age.

Jamarlin Martin: It had nothing to do with kind of parents or friends. This is just something kinda unique to you?

Brandon Tory: Yeah, coding was specific to me. But there was also, there was a Radio Shack in my neighborhood, right. And I could walk to the Radio Shack and see parts and they had little circuit diagram books and my grandfather was very supportive. He would always buy me spare parts if I needed them from Radio Shack and things like that. So that’s how I got into electronics. But coding was really because I wanted to be a hacker and I just got passionate about going into those online chat rooms and learning about it.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. Can you share with the audience a little bit about your parents or your family background?

Brandon Tory: Yeah. I come from a religious family. My grandfather was a preacher at Mount Moriah Baptist church in Brockton, Massachusetts. My parents were young, they were about 18 when they had me. So we had financial troubles growing up. We moved around the city a lot. At one point when I was 15, we were homeless. We lived in a shelter and at that time, that’s when my mother loves to recall the story of me working on that Linux computer that I had spray-painted black kind of zoned out. I wasn’t thinking about what we were going through at the time. It was kind of my escape. And maybe that might be one of the reasons I was so obsessed with it back then was just, it was a way to kind of escape from what was going on.

Jamarlin Martin: So you’re experimenting with coding while homeless essentially?

03:59 —Brandon Tory: Essentially. Yeah. I mean there were bits and pieces. I mean, homelessness is, there’s a lot of transitionary phases, right? We lived in a motel at one point, then we lived in a transitional facility, then we lived in a homeless shelter in Brockton. And then ultimately I lived in a place called the Family Life Center that was owned by the YMCA. And there was a building that had about 14 families in it who were transitioning out of the homeless shelter that we were in. And from there the YMCA actually supported me a lot. I was actually, I was essentially a YMCA kid, you know, I was in the YMCA everyday playing basketball.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. It sounds like literally nobody can say you’re not from the streets. You can’t get more streets than that.

Brandon Tory: Yeah. I mean, all my friends. I got a lot of hood friends. I’m not a gangster or anything like that, but I got a lot of hood friends.

Jamarlin Martin: What’s the step where you go corporate, like what’s the bridge between that and working at some of the biggest tech companies out there?

Brandon Tory: So I would say my journey to getting to Apple and Google actually came from my journey in hip hop, believe it or not. I was the kid who was, not to hype myself up, but I was pretty good at taking tests so I could go to school and not do much homework, not even bring it backpack to school and still be able to do good enough to get through my courses. And then when it came to the SATS and things like that, it was just something I enjoyed doing. So I tested well enough to get support from the state of Massachusetts and I went to the University of Massachusetts on several grants and scholarships, and a small loan as well. And so I got my degree in electrical engineering. The reasoning for that was I thought I was already too good at coding, so I wanted to do something different. I was wrong. There was a lot more to learn, but being young, that’s what I thought. Let me try something else. But it turns out through the electrical engineering program at UMass, you learn a lot of stuff in coding anyway.

Jamarlin Martin: Is that Amherst?

05:55 —Brandon Tory: Amherst, yup. And so after graduating I did get a job in Boston as an engineer. I got a patent while I was there in an LVDS firm, web design. And then I decided I want to be a rapper, and so I left on good terms, my boss was happy for me at the time and I decided to buy a $1,200 van and pack everything I had, and my girlfriend at the time who’s now my wife, she came with me. We packed everything we owned and we drove to Atlanta where I had some friends in the music industry.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I’m thinking of Tom Cruise in “The Firm”, where they just packed the car. Yeah. Go ahead.

Brandon Tory: Yeah. So I ended up in Atlanta and at this time, coding is probably the last thing on my mind. Making trap music. I’m going to open mics at places like Apache Cafe, bars in College Park. Just wherever they had open mics with different venues that you could perform and get your chops up and meet people. I was doing that and it was hard, it’s really hard to even make a dent in the music industry. And so Atlanta was great though. I learned a lot. I had a roommate at the time named Yvonne who taught me a lot. He’s a great musician. And so being around him, I picked up a lot of musical traits and I became really, really passionate about learning and becoming a student of the game and music. One of the things I did while I was in Atlanta to try to fund the music operation was I began working on IOS apps at the same time. So I kind of revived the coding thing by doing IOS apps and trying to get into the startup world in parallel. And so through that I was still active in the coding scene even though music was my top priority. And then I moved to L.A.. I moved to L.A. after about two and a half years in Atlanta because I wanted to change my sound. I wanted to get more into a little bit lighter, not so much trap, more guitar, more pop, more melodic stuff. So I moved to L.A. and one of the first things that happened when I moved to L.A. was I won this national songwriting competition by Timbaland and Open Labs. And it was, there were 6,000 contestants. I won that.

Jamarlin Martin: How did you find out about it?

Brandon Tory: My friend Jimmy texted me the link, like anybody else and I was like, “Bro, there’s no way I could win this. There’s too many people.” It was what are the chances? But at the time I had a song that was guitar-driven, it was pop. I was like, you know what, this might be perfect for this kind of thing. And so I submitted that and it climbed up the ranks everyday. We were looking at it and it was going higher and higher until ultimately the advertising agency called me and said, “Hey, you’re in the top five, tonight we’re going to call you and tell you about more information for the contest.” And so I’m all excited. That night when I thought they were going to call me, it was actually Timbaland on the phone and he says, “I love what you’re doing. I love your song. You make one more song. I think you got this.”

Jamarlin Martin: How nervous are you when Timbaland calls or not?

08:34 —Brandon Tory: I think excited was really the word, just really excited. Definitely a little bit of nerves in terms of, okay, now I gotta make this song.

Jamarlin Martin: He’s like a heavyweight. What year was this?

Brandon Tory: Yeah, this was 2014. This was 2014 when this happened. So long story short, I won that. I flew to Miami, I got to meet Timbaland. And I was already jaded from my time in Atlanta, so I wasn’t really going into it thinking, okay, well this is going to change everything, but it’s a great next step. And to my surprise, Timbaland was so positive and so cool. And he was like, listen, I want you to take my number, I want you to call me as soon as you get back to L.A., we’re going to continue to be in contact and continue working. And that happened, as soon as I got back to L.A., I was walking down San Vicente, towards the corner of San Vicente and Hauser. My phone rings, it’s a 305 number, it’s Timbaland. “What’s going on, where’s the next song? What are you doing?” And so for the next year he was just pressing me, “Where’s the music, what’s next, what’s next, what’s next?” And so the first mixed tape I put out, which was called “Shine”, really came from that pressure of Timbaland kind of mentoring me and being like, “Where’s the music?” And not having any excuses. Before that I would wait for inspiration. Let me get past this writer’s block and I’ll make a song. But with Tim it was more so like, this is work. It doesn’t matter, where’s the next song? And so that really helped me to grow as an artist.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re working with Timbaland, and how do you get to Google? What’s the next step?

10:03 —Brandon Tory: So this is all happening, right? And we, my partner and I, John, who’s here, we’re throwing parties now in L.A. to release the music. So we threw this really big mansion party for the “Shine” release, we do another one for the next one. And these were very lavish 500-plus people parties.

Jamarlin Martin: When you say “Shine”, are you talking about shine, shine?

Brandon Tory: Well, “Shine” was the name of the project. That’s just what I named it.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay got it.

Brandon Tory: And so this was costing me a lot of money, right? We’re doing all this stuff. I’ve got friends that supported me from my neighborhood, but it’s still costing me a lot of money. And so ultimately I ran out of money. I went broke in L.A., because I didn’t have a hit song.

Jamarlin Martin: A lot of volatility in these parties. Some hit, some don’t.

Brandon Tory: Well the parties were free. So we weren’t charging them. Everybody come out, 500 people come out. We’ve got new music. And so I wasn’t trying to make money off the parties. I was just trying to build a buzz, you know what I mean? And I had the Timbaland thing, so it was dope. But that being said, in the music industry, if you don’t have a big hit song, the financial part is not very lucrative for an up and coming artists. And so that was a challenge for me. And essentially I ran out of breath and when that happened I had a decision to make. Am I going to stay in L.A. and figure that out or am I going to bank on who I am, which is a really talented engineer at the end of the day. Why not use that at the same time? So I decided to join Apple.

Jamarlin Martin: At that time. In your mind, did you think you were a better coder than an artist?

Brandon Tory: To this day I know that I’m a better coder than artist. Music is something that I love and I’m very passionate about and I feel like I’m growing and evolving. Coding is something that comes very natural to me. It’s just something I’ve been doing since I was a kid.

Jamarlin Martin: Did she think of yourself at that time, because you got started early, and then under adverse circumstances, did you think of yourself as a prodigy at the time?

12:00 —Brandon Tory: At coding?

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. At coding.

Brandon Tory: I would say I did think of myself in that way. I don’t know if that’s the reality or not, because I’ve met a lot of talented engineers, so I can’t really say. But in my mind, yeah, in my mind when I left the tech industry to move to Atlanta, I had thought I could always get back into this because it just comes naturally to me and I really enjoy it. So why not take a risk and try something else?

Jamarlin Martin: So how did you get your job at Apple?

Brandon Tory: Yeah, I pretty much just applied and they flew me out for interviewing in Cupertino. And actually before they flew me out, we had phone screens, so they called me and we went through some technical questions and algorithms and things like that. And then I flew out there and it was eight, nine hours of just algorithms and white-boarding. And so I did that as well. And honestly, funny story, when I walked out of the interview, I was really nervous because I thought to myself, I’m going to have to move to Cupertino. I didn’t get the offer yet, but I could feel it. And I was like, “Oh man, now I’m really going to have to make a decision here”, because I’m an artist. I got a bunch of stuff going on in L.A.. I got a whole team that’s in L.A., but I know that I just kind of got this, based on the interview. And so I got the offer and that was another tough decision. And so at this point it was a turning point because I began to not tell people what was going on. And so my partner here, my whole team in L.A., I pretty much said I’m going to the Bay for a couple months and I’ll be right back. And so I moved to San Jose to work for Apple as a senior software architect. And at the same time was traveling back to L.A. To do shows and parties.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re driving back and forth?

Brandon Tory: Yeah. Driving back and forth and wasn’t telling the people closest to me because I was very insecure about that. I was very insecure about the idea that I had tapped out of music and went back to tech. And so I didn’t want people to think that, so I didn’t tell anyone.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. So I read that there were insecurities in terms of the hip hop crowd of revealing your passion for coding.

14:12 —Brandon Tory: Yeah.

Jamarlin Martin: You had some kind of internal conflict about that in terms of how we think about what’s cool and swagger. Talk about that.

Brandon Tory: Maybe it was just in my own head, but to me it was from growing up, when I’m at the barbershop and people say, well, what do you do? What are you into? I might say computers, but I’m not going to say C++.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. I don’t think it was in your head. I definitely think in the culture. Particularly Black culture, the more hip hop culture now, the more you’re talking about murder and I did time and I’m serving time, I’m popping pills.

Brandon Tory: Street culture.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s a high street IQ. And then the more you’re talking about Urkelism or “I want to be a computer geek. I want to get into technology.”

Brandon Tory: Exactly.

Jamarlin Martin: I think that’s pretty systemic in terms of a negative viewpoint.

Brandon Tory: So you get it. You understand exactly. And that was the mindset I had and what I’ve realized through kind of being me, just being myself, and people like my little sister talking to me about it, is that that’s a dated mentality. In the future, even in the hood and even in the street perspective, technology is going to be a big part of that. And you can see it now, you see people now who are in the streets and they’re talking on encrypted apps. They know about encryption, they know about things that are important in the technology space. And so I think that that whole thing, it is a real perception issue. But at the same time, I think it’s going to go away because technology is becoming so prevalent in everything we do.

Jamarlin Martin: You think it’s going to flip where Black kids in Harlem and Watts and the south side of Chicago, that you’ll see more being into technology and coding than wanting to be a rapper, in let’s say the next 15 years.

16:09 —Brandon Tory: I really hope so and I believe so.

Jamarlin Martin: You believe so?

Brandon Tory: Oh, I don’t know about more so than being a rapper. But I think that those two things will become more synonymous because when you talk about the lingo, when you talk about what’s relevant, technology is just as relevant as fashion. It’s just as relevant as anything else.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. Would you say that it’s like you’re in the middle culturally because you have a heavy dose of hip hop culture and you are an artist and then you’re a engineer at the same time. In my view, I know this is simplistic, but all the push, we over index on hip hop and street culture and all that stuff, but it needs to be flipped on the other side in terms of technology and how technology and the groups that are deficient in technology culturally are going to be left behind, in terms of how the global economy is developing. But it seems like Black culture, we need to flip it, in terms of the priorities being in many cases, hip hop and hip hop culture, where the priorities could be shifted over to technology

Brandon Tory: Tech culture. I don’t know. I don’t know if it necessarily needs to be flipped or if it just needs to be merged.

Jamarlin Martin: Merged yeah.

Brandon Tory: Because there’s a certain power that music has that I’m not sure any other form of content will be able to replicate when it comes to bringing people together and conveying an emotion. And so I think that the content itself can be used to spread the message about tech and about innovation. And I really think that’s the direction that things are going to go. I think that talking about things like encryption and artificial intelligence and things like that are becoming cool.

Jamarlin Martin: You see it in the culture?

Brandon Tory: Yeah.

Jamarlin Martin: You see it on the street level?

Brandon Tory: Yeah.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s encouraging. So you’re at Apple. What happens next?

18:20 —Brandon Tory: So I’m at Apple, and I’m living this double life. I’m essentially lying to my friends and my family and my fans because I’m not telling them what I’m really doing, and I’m just traveling back and forth. And that worked out for a little while. I did a bunch of shows. I shot a video called “6OG” with me and about 40 of my friends from my neighborhood. And people really loved that because it was gritty and it felt authentic. But after a while that starts to weigh on you. The travel starts to weigh on you, the making up stories about where you’re going to be, it becomes a lot. And for me it started to become like, who am I at this point? You know what I mean? And so it was almost, I don’t want to use the word depression, but it was going in that direction. I felt very uncomfortable with the life I’m living right now. So I wanted to find a way to come clean about it. So I had this idea called multi-dream and I was going to do a short documentary series and kind of base it all on hip hop and my life in L.A. and Hollywood and Timbaland and all these things I’m doing. And then at the end, I was going to say, “But I’m a senior engineer at Apple” and I want people to understand that that’s how I’m able to do some of these things in terms of financially. And so I’m working on this. I shot about four episodes of it. People had seen it, my sister saw it and she goes, this is my little sister. She goes, “It’s too boring. Nobody’s going to care. You’ve got to do something else.” So I’m like, alright, so I throw this party, this huge mansion party, the biggest one yet. We had about 1,200 RSVPs, and I figured if I throw this party and I make the image so street, so hip hop, just a thousand people out of here, show performance and a lot of bottles, a lot of champagne, a lot of sparklers, pool, view of the city, and kind of do this great event, that’ll be footage that’ll be powerful enough for me to tell my story in an exciting and entertaining way. So I threw this party, it was success. Everybody came. It was great. So my little sister was there. So at the end of the night, it’s about 3:00 AM, everybody left. And now it’s just me and my closest friends and family in the hills, smoking cigars, drinking champagne. And I’m pretty much elated. I’m super happy with how the night went. She looks at me and goes, “You should fire your whole team,” and I said, “What do you mean fire my whole team? Do you not see what we just did?” She goes, “Yeah, what I see is that the person you are in real life doesn’t match the person you are online and you’re not really using your story in a way that could really captivate a much larger audience. I don’t think you understand how trendy and how popular tech is right now. You need to be yourself.” So this was my little sister talking. And so she convinced me to, instead of putting out this documentary, to take that exact same footage and prepare a one-minute mock commercial for Apple in which I stated that this multi-dream concept of breaking down the barrier of art and science, of hip hop and technology, could be attributed to the technology that Apple is building. And so I did that. I sent it to executives at Apple while I was an engineer there. And Jimmy Iovine, who was the executive of Apple Music responded to me within nine minutes.

Jamarlin Martin: Wow.

21:26 —Brandon Tory: And so, at that point I pretty much dropped to my knees and praised God. I was in shock because for anybody in the music industry, Jimmy Iovine is pretty much the top person you could speak to. And so I actually didn’t respond to him for about two weeks because I was trying to think of what’s the right thing to say here. And I finally responded, I said, “Hey, Mr. Iovine, I need a mentor, can we meet?” And he agreed to meet with me. And so I met with him at the Culver City office here in L.A., and we met for about an hour and he really grilled me on like, what is it you’re trying to do? What are your objectives? How can you make this make sense to more people? Because right now it’s not clear. At the time it wasn’t very clear what my overall objective was. And he offered his support. He connected me with people at Apple Music to get my songs more exposure and it just became a really great moment and really great meeting. And so I left there with a larger network and a much clearer focus of what it was I was trying to do.

Jamarlin Martin: This is part one. Tune into the next episode for part two. 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!

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Episode 57, Part 3

May 14, 2019

Howard Franklin

Part 3 of the Swamp Series: Jamarlin continues his talk with corporate lobbyist Howard Franklin,

lobbyist Howard Franklin, who has represented clients such as Amazon, Google and Sprint. They discuss the backdoor lobbying techniques of the swamp and the Congressional Black Caucus backing DCCC’s Cheri Bustos, who threatened to “blacklist” young candidates that challenge the DNC establishment in the 2020 election. They also discuss the Congressional Black Caucus supporting the Clinton crime bill (mass incarceration) and the case for reparations for African-American descendents of slaves. 

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

Jamarlin Martin: I wrote a book about my life named “Moguldom”. You can get more information about this book at Moguldombook.com. I talk about acquiring the knowledge of self, self-determination and building a business over 10 years. There are some gems in this book that you don’t want to miss. One way to support the GHOGH movement and this podcast is to go to Moguldombook.com. Buy the book on presale to support the GHOGH movement. Let’s GHOGH! 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 three of my interview with Howard Franklin. Be sure to check out part one and two on previous episodes. Another trick. I want the politicians to do something for me. The politician has plans to either increase the wealth of their private foundation, for example, the Clinton Foundation, where the donors, they can give to the foundation, “Oh, I want to help people”, but the donors are looking for something. I may give $10 million, I may give $20 million, I may give $100 million, but I’m not just trying to help people. I’ve got to play this swamp game at a high level. And so donors to the Clinton Foundation, donors, a lot of Silicon Valley money went into the Obama Foundation. Okay. I’m not suggesting that there’s a lot of conflicts or the conflicts with the Clinton Foundation is connected to the conflicts or swampy activity, potential swampy activity with the Obama Foundation. I’m not saying that. But a lot of the Obama donors, a lot of corporate folks that were riding for Obama, they donated to his foundation. And let me just say, I think Obama’s intentions with the foundation in terms of helping particularly Black America, I think they’re pure. I think he has good intentions. But do you think that there needs to be stronger laws where, hey, you know, I’m going to kick it with Google and I’m not gonna do any regulations for Google and Facebook. I get out of office, Google and Facebook will give my foundation $100 million. What can you do about that or can you not do something like that because there’s no transaction, there’s no paper trail. It’s kind of just an understanding, it’s how the game is played.

Howard Franklin: I think, I would start from a different place in that transaction. When President Obama or President Bush or President Clinton or now President Trump is in office and is not being responsive to calls for regulation, now’s the time to have the conversation. After this person has transitioned to doing post presidency and now can live out the rest of his or her days in a much different space, I don’t know that you have, again, nearly as much leverage in this conversation. So, I don’t have a regulatory framework that I would propose this moment, but I would say if you’re concerned about those issues, the place to do it is with the Congress we have today and the White House we have today.

Jamarlin Martin: You do believe there’s room for improvement in terms of integrity. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Well, of course we talked about a Ferguson brother hiding cash in his freezer, swampy activity. What was his first name?

04:01 —Howard Franklin: Was it William?

Jamarlin Martin: I think it was William. But Cory Booker, if Google is investing in your private company while you’re a politician and you start to start up and you sell it and you have the chief of Google investing in your startup, hey, we know that America’s a very corrupt place, but he’s allowed to do stuff like that.

Howard Franklin: So you’re advocating for rules that wouldn’t allow people who serve at the highest level to take investment or do business?

Jamarlin Martin: I think the first step is the voter has a lot of power, right? If we can dilute the influence of the swamp, that the voter could just vote these people who are doing these questionable things, don’t vote for them or vote them out. The voter needs to be informed about the rules of the monopoly game…

Howard Franklin: And a lot of the people that you’ve named checked are on a ballot next year, right. We’ll have an opportunity to say, hey, your political career goes forward, you pass go or stops here today. I think that’s going to happen for a lot of politicians.

Jamarlin Martin: Do you agree with, when that Black agenda, that serious, cohesive Black agenda is ready to go, that the Black agenda is better off if you made significant strides with how the swamp works. Meaning that, if you try to get good stuff through a elevated swamp environment that maybe it’s better that you knock down a lot of these swamp norms and how the swamp works and the people become more educated, when that Black agenda is time to go through the system, it’s not gonna be diluted.

Howard Franklin: Let me level set here because I feel like maybe you heard me say something earlier and it may be different than what I wanted to come across. I agree…

Jamarlin Martin: So you agree with that?

Howard Franklin: I agree that we should be trying to figure out ways to make influence and money less pervasive in our politics and frankly as someone who is in the influence business, it actually would be better for me so that I don’t have to come to clients and say, listen, you know we’ve got a better idea, but this guy paid some money or we’ve got a better piece of legislation, but this guy’s plugged in.

Jamarlin Martin: Do you agree with this simple framework for our people? If the lobbying value in the United States goes down, the Black numbers, the way we vote cohesively in terms of 90 percent voting for the Democratic Party, meaning that we’re voting together, which could be powerful, that if the lobbying value goes down in the United States, Black voter equity goes up, meaning your vote is going to count a lot more. It’s going to be more powerful if this other stuff is reduced.

Howard Franklin: I enjoy a good hypothetical question as much as anybody, but if you are watching what’s happening in state houses, city halls, at the federal level in Congress and the White House, the reach, the ability that lobbyists have to deploy in the system is not shrinking. It’s growing, right? So if somehow we could fiat that the business of influence were to shrink and would have reversed the trend lines that we’ve seen the last 10, 15, 20 years, then I think this is a worthwhile conversation. In the absence of that reality, I think we’ve got to figure out how to be more impactful in the one that we’re already sitting in, right? My clients aren’t going to pay me to say, hey, if we lived in an alternate universe, I could’ve gotten this bill passed. They’re going to say, well, what can you do today in this universe, in this reality. And that’s kind of the plane I’m trying to have this conversation on. The business of influence is not shrinking. It’s not going away. I think we need to figure out how to engage with, and thank goodness…

Jamarlin Martin: But it’s being attacked, where folks like Bernie Sanders, I believe they have led the charge where now you’re seeing other folks like Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, they’re saying, “Hey, we don’t want any corporate PAC money.” So I’m just saying that there’s things moving,

08:30 —Howard Franklin: No meaningful things. I think you’ve already laid out the avenue for those dollars to find their way into those campaigns in other ways. Other means.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re just saying that, I know about the swamp. That money’s getting in there.

Howard Franklin: It’s going to find a way. I don’t want to turn a blind eye to it. I would rather we say, more important than any dollar you could collect is a vote, right? We has the SEC primary four years ago we had all these southeastern states lined up, casting their ballots for our president and if we speak with the collective voice, it’s going to be much more than any dollar amount could ever amount to for any politician. Money’s only out there to buy the votes. If people say, my vote’s not for sale, I’m actually educated on the issues and the candidates and here is how I’m voting my conscience, all the money in the world won’t change the outcome. Let me just say, I mentioned at the outset of this interview, I spent the first dozen years of my career running campaigns and plenty of those campaigns, we got outraised on, right? People raised more money than us and then still fell to the sword when it was time to count the votes on election day. It’s not strictly a matter of dollars and cents. It certainly is important, right? And I wouldn’t acknowledge that if we didn’t raise any money, we would have still won. But I think we’ve got to acknowledge there are ways to beat back the influence of money in politics.

Jamarlin Martin: Are you familiar with the name Cheri Bustos?

Howard Franklin: She’s a daughter of a president, I believe.

Jamarlin Martin: Cheri Bustos is the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Howard Franklin: So no, I was not familiar.

Jamarlin Martin: Are you aware of the beef that has broken out in the Democratic Party where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they have said that if you’re a vendor who works with someone who’s challenging one of our people who are already in power, we’re going to, I don’t like to use blacklist, we’re going to whitelist you. They’re saying that we don’t want another AOC. We don’t want some of these young people to challenge some of these people who’ve been eaten chitlin fries for 20 years or 30 years, not shaking things up. They’re part of the establishment. They’re comfortable, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is saying that if there is a democratic candidate that runs against someone who’s already an office, we’re going to whitelist you. Hold on, let me just finish. So there was a report last week that the Congressional Black Caucus is not, it’s not a surprise, they’re on the side of Cheri Bustos and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in terms of this role that we don’t want anybody running against our people in 2020. What do you think about the Congressional Black Caucus siding with the establishment?

11:55 —Howard Franklin: This is not where I’d like to see them. But I’ll put it in some context. You know, DCCC gets behind 10 or 12 hyper competitive races every cycle. We have 435 members in Congress. Each of them is up every two years. 10 or 12 of them will be hotly contested, flipping back and forth between Republican and Democrat. I’ve worked on dozens of races. I’ve never worked along with the DCCC. When I say worked alongside I mean work directly with, and I think this is another acknowledgement of where our politics is going. I would acknowledge that so much of it is certainly problematic. Right. I think part of the issue too, and you know, we talk about this all the time, Atlanta being the home of the civil rights movement, we’ve got plenty of elder statesman in politics who’ve been around for a very long time who need to make room for new blood, new ideas and new leadership. Right? I think most people who are bumping around in politics, at least in my generation, feel that way. But there’s still only one way to send them home and that’s to beat them at the ballot box. But I’m with you. I don’t like the CBC taking this stance.

Jamarlin Martin: Does that sound like the CBC is playing in the swamp?

Howard Franklin: I just think they’re protecting their own, right. Their membership is going to be older Black members of Congress who came in when reapportionment and the voting rights act allowed for seats that would allow Black and brown people to be elected to Congress. Many of them have served 10, 20, 30 years, right? Yeah. It’s encumbered protection and everybody does it.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. And this is not a Black thing or a race thing, but let me say this. In Africa you’ve had leaders rob people like Sani Abacha in Nigeria. Over and over again you have leaders that do not want to give up power. They would prefer the people to shed blood or the country goes bankrupt and they want to stay in power until they die, including Mugabe. Okay, so there’s people who are drunk on power and if the people are better off with someone else, they don’t care. If the people are better off with a different vision, a younger, fresh vision, they don’t care. But in these African countries, they want to stay in power. It’s more about them than the people, and I’m saying that the Congressional Black Caucus, it may look different, but you have people where it’s clear that there’s better leadership, there’s fresher leadership, new ideas, who want to present the people with a different vision and they want to stop them. They don’t even want them to run.

Howard Franklin: Well, let me just say I’m not ready to compare autocratic dictators in developing and third world countries to Black politicians in Congress who have largely been out of power and out of favor. Being a member of the minority looks great. You’re still on television. You got some perks. He may be good to go on and MSNBC or Fox or CNN, but it’s not like being the president of a country where you don’t even have to abide by the rule of democracy, right? These people still have to win elections at the end of the day. They still gotta win elections. And plenty of incumbent politicians, even at the congressional level, have lost elections to young upstarts, not just AOC. Ayanna Pressley knocked off a 10-year or 10-term incumbent in Mike Capuano this past year as well. And plenty of folks in the Democratic establishment, myself included, were excited about her leadership, met her and supported her financially and otherwise. So, yes, that’s a bad example and we shouldn’t be encouraging it, but it’s not preventing turnover in leadership. We’ve had I’m sure, as you no doubt have heard, the youngest and most diverse Congress in the history of this August body.

Jamarlin Martin: But it’s a swampy practice.

16:15 —Howard Franklin: This is a swampy practice. I mean…

Jamarlin Martin: You’ve got somebody who’s in the swamp saying that the Congressional Black Caucus, that’s a swampy practice. And how could someone, at first is that the mothership, they’re answering to a white woman named Cheri Bustos.

Howard Franklin: Are you sure she’s white?

Jamarlin Martin: Yes. From the pictures, I’m assuming she’s white. She’s also another one of your multimillionaires.

Howard Franklin: About 90 percent of Congress is millionaires, man. It’s hard to single out the few that happen to be Democrats that are millionaires.

Jamarlin Martin: One other thing on the CBC. So you have some people in the Black community, they give Biden a hard time because he advocated for the Clinton Crime Bill, mass incarceration, Biden banged for that. It’s hard for me to criticize Biden and these white politicians who supported the crime bill, when I know my research says the CBC was advocating for this. My research says Charles Rangel was one of the leaders who brokered that mass incarceration deal. So if white folks in government in power, if they say, hey, I got to listen to you guys, I got to listen to these people who are closer to community. But if our leaders are going to go to D.C. and say we want mass incarceration, or we’re willing to support mass incarceration and they don’t realize that this is very short-term thinking, that it sounds good, but you’re talking about a big beast and based on how the system is designed and structured, your people are going to be worse off. Meaning that our leaders may not even have the vision.

Howard Franklin: I agree with what you’re saying.

Jamarlin Martin: Do do you agree that before we go at Biden and say, “Man, Biden was for mass incarceration. I can’t vote for him.” Shouldn’t we hold our own leaders accountable who voted for mass incarceration? Who told some of these other leaders, yes, this would be good.

Howard Franklin: Charlie Rangel’s no longer in the Congress. Biden’s going to be on a ballot. Sure, so I’m agreeing with so much of the “why” that has driven your advocacy and your passion around these issues. The question I’ve got to ask as an operator is how, right? I hear exactly what you’re saying. I know how to hold someone like Joe Biden accountable because if he does decide he wants to declare his candidacy for president, then he’s got to come through all 50 United States. But if someone like Charlie Rangel up in Harlem, obviously who’s no longer in the house, made a decision that I don’t agree with. I don’t really have…

Jamarlin Martin: But the institution he would bang for, the Congressional Black Caucus.

Howard Franklin: And just to be clear, you and I aren’t funding the Congressional Black Caucus. The same organizations that you got on your soapbox about earlier saying, “Hey, these guys are spending all this time and this money proping folks up there helping these presidential candidates or these prophetic Black leaders. These are the same organizations writing max checks and donations.

Jamarlin Martin: AIPAC.

19:38 —Howard Franklin: Not just AIPAC. And they’re doing it across the aisle. Right. But my point is, the way this works is, I’m just asking what’s the lever you would pull to hold these folks accountable? Right. Beyond talking about them. New York is a thousand miles away from where I live. I don’t have any standing to vote in that congressional seat, right. And whether or not I give my money to this organization or that one is not going to change one iota.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s what I’m saying. When the Black agenda is organizing, crafting a cohesive agenda that has a big tent that brings a lot of people in. It needs to have an element, it’s obvious, we’re going to bang against America, we’re going to bang against white folks. We’re going to bang against white supremacy. That has to be in the Black agenda. But also in the Black agenda, we have to hold ourselves and leaders accountable, that because the system is rigged or white folks have done this and they’ve done that, self-accountability is a critical piece of the Black agenda.

Howard Franklin: Exactly what I’ve been saying this entire time.

Jamarlin Martin: If our politicians are going to go out there and crip walk for mass incarceration, or our politicians are going to go out there and be hoodwinked and vote for the Iraq war, there has to be accountability for the people that we send to D.C..

Howard Franklin: Absolutely. I’m in total agreement with you and I think that’s the thread that connected my comments here. I think it’s great to look outwardly and to say, here are things wrong with the system, but if we can’t even after 50 years of a CBC and plenty of other organizations, I don’t want you to put it at their feet. We got the Urban League and NAACP and National Black Caucus of State Legislators and plenty of other organizations that have organizational heft, that have institutional knowledge, that have relationships to power and have insights into our problems. And if we haven’t come up with a cohesive agenda yet, I take issue, I can’t point my finger at those guys taking advantage of our lack of organization and our lack of discipline. First, I’ve got to say, are we doing what we’re supposed to do? And then after that, and if we have, and we’re still running into brick walls, if we’re still being outspent and out-organize and out-fundraised, if our voices are still being drowned out, then it’s a conversation we need to have about how we address this swamp, and this is not an either or, by the way. I think it’s certainly important, but I have a tough time thinking about all the things that we aren’t doing and worrying about what other folks are doing in the absence of our action.

Jamarlin Martin: Where does reparations land in your Black agenda and how you think about what folks should be focused on? Or do you even support H.R. 40 and reparations?

Howard Franklin: I support the idea. I think a lot of folks, a lot of leaders, whether they are thought leaders, whether they are political leaders, whether they are revolutionary leaders, have talked about how we might do this. And I think the biggest issue isn’t a question of if we should, or why we should. It’s how we could such that this government wouldn’t fall down under its own weight. Right. I don’t think this is a question of whether or not this country owes a debt or whether or not it should be repaying it. I think that the challenge is, with all of the complexities and governance today, that you gotta be careful about pursuing something meant to uplift one group of people if you can show that it might harm another. And I think that’s really the stumbling block that we’ve run into.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s where the study of reparations, I mean, I believe in a process. So one is, America needs to commission a credible study and this is where you don’t want your Black swamp people being on the council, who would be studying this issue. Meaning in terms of these people.

23:54 —Howard Franklin: I would hope an issue like this with supersede whatever social…

Jamarlin Martin: So one is, the study of reparations is not just for white America to understand what happened. The study of reparations is a lot or most of us don’t understand the trauma, the psychological and cultural after effects of slavery and what was done. For reparations to work the Black men and woman here in the United States, first we need to understand. A lot of us have not studied what really happened and we can’t quantify, hey, what happens when you take a person’s name and they don’t have a country that they can connect with, they can’t reference anything and you just cut that off. And they just have to kind of just figure things out. What happens when you systemically rape a lot of the slaves in terms of how can that be an impairment on their thinking going forward or their ability to function normally. And so a lot of our people don’t even understand that a lot of these pathologies are connected to slavery. And so there’s an economic component obviously. But another piece I think that’s lacking is we got to understand what was done to us and how that has impacted our culture in terms of “Shitty Cuz”, who was the killer and a lot of this violence that we see in our streets, even in terms of the self-hate.

Howard Franklin: I totally agree. Let me just say this though. Congress didn’t come to the SCLC or NAACP and say, hey guys, we think it’s unfair that our laws don’t allow African Americans and women the right to vote. Outside agitators had to go make noise, perform demonstrations, shame elected leaders into coming around and then still had to have sharp elbow negotiations to get what was owed to people who built this country. I don’t imagine reparations to be much different. Why shouldn’t we have, in a country with more than a hundred HBCUs and plenty of other PWIs, an academic approach to this that doesn’t have to be green lit by Congress or by a president? Well, we can come back to those leaders and saying, listen, we have performed academic studies that have now plumbed the depths and the horrors of what you put our ancestors through. Here is what we think it’s worth. Here is how you have to come correct. Here’s what we expect going forward. Right? My only concern is that if we’re waiting for elected officials to take on an issue that has proven to be a lightening rod in a divided house where the Senate is controlled by Republicans, the House is controlled by Democrats. I don’t know who’s controlling the White House these days. We’re not going to see it happen. Right? So much of this is self-determination. I’m not saying the responsibility fully is ours. I’m just saying, if you acknowledge that you’re not going to give me what I’m owed, then I’ve got to come knock on your door and demand it, and I can’t do that while waiting for a handful of Black leaders who make up the CBC or any other institution to wrestle the agenda from the majority parties and ascend it in my direction.

Jamarlin Martin: Would you say that the fact that reparations is gaining popularity as an issue in Black America and I give the ADOS movement a lot of credit in terms of building on the prior work on reparations of others and using social media to organize and educate folks. Although I don’t agree with everything the ADOS is saying, I credit them with increasing the visibility and popularity of that issue. But what you say that the fact that Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker now, Nancy Polosi supporting H.R. 40, study reparations, that reparations is becoming a democratic party issue, at least starting with the study of it, that’s reflective that there’s nothing left in the tank in terms of the Democratic Party and Black people. Meaning that, we’ve seen what the Black politician can do, right? You got a lot of credit. Like Obama’s Black, a lot of these Black politicians are Black, great Democratic Party, this, that, but the old stuff does not work for us. These little tricks that the establishment have used to get us, hey, we’ll go to the churches around election time. We’ll bring Jay-Z out. We’ll do this, we’ll do that. We’ll run a Black candidate. Look how sharp he is. A lot of the stuff that has flowed through the system in terms of strategy with the Democratic Party and some of their advisors like Mark Penn and the stuff, all the darts and weapons. The Black people have seen all that stuff, right? Baltimore still looks the way it is, right? The people are still not satisfied. So hold on. So if you need something more potent, and we saw a little bit of this with HRC,

29:50 —Howard Franklin: I read it differently than you do. I think we have a clown car of a Democratic presidential primary. We have almost two dozen candidates, jockeying for airtime, for visibility, and to stake out the opportunity to be the party standard bearer from the left. And so I think there are going to be a lot of ideas that get consideration because we’re just in the silly season. So I’m not disagreeing that there might be oxygen for this discussion, but I think a lot of that oxygen, it’s part and parcel of the presidential race. If we didn’t have prominent politicians from all across the country declaring their candidacies for president, I don’t think we’d be talking about this. Somebody would be, but it wouldn’t be the echo chamber that we’re hearing right now.

Jamarlin Martin: Well, what I would say, I’ve been involved with politics probably since I was 16 and I think Black America is at a point where the inequality, the wealth gap, the stuff that we see, the racism, the white supremacy, the way that other groups have a mastery of tricknology and corruption. And that leaves us at a disadvantage as we saw with the admissions corruption where the guy in Newport Beach has clients all over America and he’s cheating and helping their kids get into the best schools. So we know that this type of stuff is systemic, right? And so if the white supremacy and discrimination is systemic and is not going away anytime soon, I think people are smartening up, particularly the younger generation, is that I cannot give that Democratic Party 90 percent credit every election and this stuff is not moving. And so I get about all this stuff, “Oh, you know, Trump might win if you put reparations on the thing. And white folks may not vote Democratic. So we can’t push reparations”, this and that. But I believe that the Black voter, when you go into that booth, you need to be thinking about the hood. You need to be thinking about people who have a lot less than you. How would they be voting? How much patience do the people in the ghettos across the country, how much patience do we have? I believe that there’s a sense of urgency where you’re going to have to get more for that vote. I’m not saying that go to a reparations-or-bust strategy in this election, but reparations hurting white Democrats in white folks and other groups. Fuck that. I’m not… Shit, all these policies, a lot of them, someone’s getting hurt, and I’m not saying that we’re looking to go out and hurt people, but America has committed a war crime against their people, and so the whole thing is coming down. I think the whole thing is coming down anyway, but if America wants to have a chance to heal, to go on a path of healing. If it wants to possibly save herself in terms of the racial issues in the country, it’s going to have to go through taking that medicine because the country needs to revisit what happened to our people in slavery. It’s not comparable to any group. The Frankensteinization of Black people in America, it’s not comparable to any group, but the people need to understand what happened to us, including us. Go ahead.

34:02 —Howard Franklin: Yeah, I agree in most of what you said. I think one place we diverge, I don’t think it’s up to millennials or young people to vote in place of downtrodden Black and brown people across this country. Right? I think those people, all of us need to do the same thing collectively, which is to vote for our economic futures, right? What we believe the agendas should include. And when politicians and leaders present themselves and the ideas that resonate with us, we ought to find ways to support them. We shouldn’t say, the college educated version of me or the guy who got out of this neighborhood is going to cast that vote for me. The beauty of the American political system is one man, one vote and I think one of the things you gotta be acknowledging, you gotta be cognizant of is that we’re moving toward a majority-minority society. We’re not there yet obviously, but I think the closer we get to are the easier it’ll be to have some of these conversations. Again, my suggestion is not that we should be waiting.

Jamarlin Martin: I disagree with that.

Howard Franklin: Okay. Tell me more.

Jamarlin Martin: So when you say, and here is where I deviate with the Black consensus, a lot of folks will say, hey, once this country becomes majority non-white things are going to get better. Right? Let me just say. I’m telling you that I don’t care if the country flips to majority non-white. A lot of our people, whether consciously or subconsciously, believe in white supremacy. Okay. A lot of the brown men and women, they believe in white supremacy. The system is still in place. You can put a Black face, you can put a brown face, you could put a woman, you can change these things in terms of what’s on the outside. But we need to be looking at the institutions changing, and that all because something is non-white or all because something is brown or Black are female, that that has an impact on the institutional beast that we’re dealing with.

36:30 —Howard Franklin: I agree with you. It’s not all about the color or the gender of the person.

Jamarlin Martin: I’m saying in terms of the demographic shift, I just think that that’s overplayed in my opinion.

Howard Franklin: So I think we can find a happy medium here. I’m not saying that the moment we go majority-minority, all the problems are solved. All the Black and Brown folks lock arms and they enact this agenda that we believe ought to come to fruition. But I do think that part of what you’ve acknowledged is that some of this is a game of sheer numbers, right? And if you’ve got people who will be diligent in their study about who they should be supporting, who are educated about the issues that they want to see addressed, then that electorate will get you leaders who won’t sell their souls to moneyed interests, who will vote their conscience when the time comes for it, and who all strike meaningful bargains that still move the country forward. I’ve got to believe that some degree of balance will be helpful to where we’re headed. And I think it’s going to address a lot of things. You acknowledge, and I think there’s some truth in this. You talked about the Democratic Party being able to rely on 90 plus percent of Black voters casting a lot with this party. I think that you get to a place where you’ve got, again, a melting pot of minorities and women and young people, millennials and now generation z, what have you. I think it’s gonna reset the boundaries of what we expect from our parties and what we think is possible. Hell, we might get a third party or another organization that’s more responsive to what we’ve been asking for for the last 50 or 60 years.

Jamarlin Martin: I want to thank Howard Franklin for coming on the show. Where can people check you out online?

38:21 —Howard Franklin: On social I’m @Iruncampaigns, and our company website is https://ohioriversouth.com/.

Jamarlin Martin: Great conversation. This is one of the longest episodes out of 50. I enjoyed the conversation and you’ll definitely be back. Hopefully.

38:35 — Howard Franklin: Thank you.

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!

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Episode 56, Part 2

Apr 30, 2019

Howard Franklin

Part 2: Jamarlin continues his series on The Swamp with Howard Franklin, who has lobbied

Franklin, who has lobbied for Amazon, Google and Sprint. They discuss AIPAC, Beto O’Rourke calling Benjamin Netanyahu racist, and whether there is a basket of deplorables in Israel. They debate whether the Black agenda is connected to U.S. foreign policy and the swamp. They also discuss the swamp practice of millionaire politicians transferring value to family members and sacrificing good policy while in office for anticipated gains once they leave the swamp.  

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 Howard Franklin. What’s going on here? Okay, now that you brought up AIPAC…

Howard Franklin: Let the record reflect, I responded to a question about AIPAC.

Jamarlin Martin: Let’s keep on talking AIPAC. Okay, so Cory Booker. Of course Hillary Clinton was busted by hackers affiliated with Russia where she said, I don’t want to release the transcript of my speech with Goldman Sachs, these bankers. Of course, the Democratic Party they run in 2008, “Oh Wall Street messing up the economy. Oh, it’s not fair.” But she’s out there getting her paper.

Howard Franklin: I take serious issue with that.

Jamarlin Martin: Hold on. Getting her paper. Not only getting her paper from Wall Street, who the Democratic Party is blaming and who the government is not prosecuting, anybody, in terms of the financial crisis. She wants to keep it secret. So they hacked and they get the transcript of Goldman Sachs. Okay. Now, just a couple of weeks ago, Cory Booker meets with AIPAC privately. Someone smart enough to say, forget the hacking after the fact. I’m going to go in with a tape recorder. Okay. Cory Booker said that if I take a step back from AIPAC or the cause of Israel, cut off his finger, if I remember correctly, he said cut off his finger. What is going on there? I have not heard any Black politician in my life talk like that for the people in Watts, in Baltimore, in Harlem. I have not heard the politicians talk with that passion and dedication where there start talking about cutting off fingers if they back away from the community and sell out. What’s going on there?

Howard Franklin: That’s crazy. That’s crazy.

Jamarlin Martin: You have someone who knows about AIPAC, who’s had tea with AIPAC. That sounds kind of far out there.

Howard Franklin: I didn’t read that story, but that’s when I’ve got to go back and look up. That’s crazy. But let me just say Jamarlin. I think you’re right. We haven’t heard politicians of this ilk make that sort of pronouncement in the past. I hope we don’t hear him making it in the future either. I hope that this story, although I don’t think it must have gotten wide circulation because I had not heard that story. I wonder whether or not there are others pandering to different subsets of the political apparatus. Right. And again, my point isn’t to say that some of this stuff isn’t wrong. It is to acknowledge that it’s happening and if we’re going to be a part of this ecosystem, we need to open our eyes and to engage. And I’d love to hear, you talked about this gauntlet and how it is going to suppress the Black agenda, the Black American agenda. And I’m just curious, if we’re not engaging…

Jamarlin Martin: I’m just saying that AIPAC is a critical piece of the swamp system in terms of the monopoly board. The bigger picture. It’s not just AIPAC for sure. However, they are a critical piece of a system that dilutes the equity of the Black voter who may not have the resources and the connections.

03:54 —Howard Franklin: Let me give you a better example, so I told you I started a company focused on the southeastern United States. In Georgia we’ve got five democratic out of 14 congresspeople. Four of them or African Americans, but in most of our neighboring states, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, you have one democratic Congress member for the entire state. You talk about diluting Black political power. That’s where it is, right? It’s not because we’ve got Jewish brothers and sisters in Mississippi holding on to congressional seats, or in Alabama.

Jamarlin Martin: It is. Hold on. If Jewish voters…

Howard Franklin: In the states I just noted.

Jamarlin Martin: Not necessarily your states. Broadly speaking, if the Jewish voter is going to say, I’m going to throw away all justice claims within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, I’m going to throw away a lot of the critical issues that Black Democrats care about. I will throw that away. If you guys move away from Israel, you’re in our way. If you take that position, if people speak out and defend a hundred Palestinians being murdered or they don’t want war with Iran, and if you’re going to say, hey, I’m going to look at those issues and throw the Black community’s concerns away and I’ll vote for Desantis or vote for a Republican because they’re banging for Israel, you are in our way.

Howard Franklin: I respect that perspective. Again, I’m 18, 19 years in the end is in this business. I’m not going to take a single affiliation and say you did this because of that. Right? The same way I’m not going to go bang for Herman Cain because we happen to fly the same colors.

Jamarlin Martin: You know Herman Cain?

Howard Franklin: I met him. I don’t know him, but I know it’s politics well enough and I’ve seen him as both the radio shock jock and a politician. We’re divergent on a number of issues. Someone might say, that’s your guy, that’s your Morehouse brother. Now, Cedric Richmond wants to say, you know, here’s what I stand for. I know him well enough that I could stand up for his issues and I’ve seen him in action. My only concern is that I don’t want to paint people with a broad brush, but I respect where you’re coming from. I think that the bigger issue is that it’s tough to criticize or to throw stones when you’re not fully in the game.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I take issue, we’re coming…

Howard Franklin: Let me just say, we’ve got a Congressional Black Caucus. I’ve been going to CBC for 10 years. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve made friends. I’ve forged partnerships. I’ve developed business. What I haven’t seen in the 10 years or so that I’ve been going, and I don’t want to pretend I go to every salon or plenary session. I haven’t seen a singular, compelling Black American agenda arise from that weekend in September that we can all walk away with and say, by the time we get back here next year, we’ll have ticked these things off the list. I can’t be mad at other organizations, whether they’re ethnic or otherwise, business or otherwise for pursuing their agenda within the confines of this country, when my people aren’t leading us to pursue ours, which is why I’m here. Right? So it’s not just about corporate advocacy.

Jamarlin Martin: I get the point of view. Let’s talk about Beto. Okay. So Beto came out and he’s shocked a lot of people. He said, Netanyahu was racist. Okay. If Netanyahu is racist, let’s say Beto’s correct. If he’s racist, then when did he become racist? And here’s where I’m going. Hillary Clinton, one of the most amazing things that she said where she took risk and just put the truth out there during her campaign against Trump, she said that a lot of the Trump supporters are a basket of deplorables. So she told the truth that a lot of these Trump supporters, they’re supporting him because they are racist. They are white supremacists and they fear losing power. She called them a basket of deplorables. She didn’t go after Trump, which is the easy way. If she was going after Trump, that’s an easy cop out. Oh, it’s just Trump and these people are fine. But she said all these people backing him after saying all these racist statements, the birtherism, the Mexican brothers and sisters, the brown brothers and sisters are rapists. And these people who support a guy like that, thy’re a basket of deplorables. So she held the Trump supporters accountable. Okay. So if Netanyahu is a racist, and as you point out, the election is being held today. If Israel decides to go with a racist Netanyahu, what are we talking about here? If the state of Israel is banging for a racist, if they’re banging for a leader who represents and promotes racist policies, we have to take a step back and say, “Look, this partnership that you’re saying that has always existed, and our humanity, it’s just not about race, this is about humanity. Our humanity won’t allow us. This is where that Black AIPACers are going to be crushed. The humanity in Black America is not going to allow the group to move over to support a Netanyahu regime in Israel.

09:54 —Howard Franklin: You know, three years ago I might have agreed with you, but most of what you just said could describe our president and our country today.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s what I’m saying is the hypocrisy.

Howard Franklin: But I don’t think those people are out there banging for Trump. They’re not saying, hey, we want Trump to be reelected in 2020.

Jamarlin Martin: Let me clarify my point. Okay, so what I’m saying is that Hillary Clinton held the Trump supporters accountable. And so Beto, I didn’t give you the full statement. What he said was, Netanyahu is racist but we’re not going to allow this individual to mess up our relationship. He doesn’t reflect the Jewish people. I say, Hey that’s a little courageous statement Beto that you said because a lot of people are scared to make that statement. There’s a lot at stake if you say that. But it’s a cute trick to try to separate Netanyahu from the majority of the voters in Israel. You’re trying to say that Netanyahu is bad and the voting majority most likely, if he wins, are good and it’s just Netanyahu. And what I would say is that we need leaders who can be consistent. So if we’re saying that Trump voters, Trump supporters are a basket of deplorables, that we’ve got to hold them accountable, a lot of them are racists, then there’s a basket of deplorables in Israel supporting Netanyahu.

11:28 —Howard Franklin: I think there’s a difficulty here. So you almost have to bifurcate this argument. You’ve got to say there is a class of people who have to the word you used, the luxury to be in a plush studio debating geopolitics on a Tuesday afternoon ti even have this conversation. We are not representative of the vast majority of American people. And so when we have these discussions that require nuance and require context, not things you can just pick up and read in the front page of your newspaper, but things that require history and insight. They’re going to be difficult rallying points for a presidential election, for a congressional election, for mayoral election. Right? The vast majority of folks won’t be able to say, I know that Netanyahu has served four terms as president, that he’s lost and he’s won, that he’s up for his fifth term. That a luxury that people having this discussion can enjoy, but I don’t know how useful it is in the context of a presidential primary with 20 candidates. Right. No one is gonna parse. I think it’s an important point you’re making, but I don’t think the vast majority of the electorate can parse through these statements and make a decision on Beto O’Rourke on this basis. Right? They’re going to say, if I’m voting for him, it’s going to be on the basis of identity politics or geographic policy or issues that I care about, etc. And rarely would they rise to the level where this would be a deciding factor. So I guess I’m not saying that these aren’t important. I’m just saying I’ve got a separate what’s true from what’s credible, what I can do something with versus what I’ve got to save for another day.

Jamarlin Martin: Let me frame it differently. If the people of Israel say, we’re rolling with Netanyahu, I don’t care what you say. They’ve been rolling with him for a while. This would be his fourth..

Howard Franklin: Fifth term.

Jamarlin Martin: Fifth term as prime minister. You got me thinking that AIPAC may have sent you in here.

Howard Franklin: I know my history.

Jamarlin Martin: So this would be his fifth term. Israel is rolling with Netanyahu. This is his fifth crack at the apple, so it is not realistic to say Netanyahu just became racist, meaning that now people are openly saying that we can’t defend the racism anymore. Beto is out there campaigning, calling him a racist. If he is a racist and this is his fifth time as leader, that’s not reflective of the will of the people? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

Howard Franklin: I’m not sure. Let me just be clear. I don’t know enough about the policies that would put him in a different class of politician, but I do know that we had a presidential election here just two and a half short years ago and the majority of voters voted for somebody else and yet the guy in the office still sits there and he said both as a candidate and as the occupant of the White House, plenty of deplorable, racist, homophobic, xenophobic statements, disrespectful statements. Again, I’m not taking with your, if the discussion was how can we impact geopolitics so that it will somehow boomerang back and uplift and empower Black people, I’d have to sit back and think about that. If you were like, Hey, what’s the straightest and most direct line to implementing a Black American agenda, It starts at home and I just have not seen any evidence of Netanyahu or anyone else erecting barriers to the things that we need to do for ourselves.

Jamarlin Martin: I see it as connected. So let’s take Cory Booker. So Cory booker says, Hey, or the Congressional Black Caucus, we’re going to work on a Black agenda here domestically, but we’re banging for Netanyahu. Okay. And so if other groups have equity in our leaders, if other groups have ownership equity in our leaders, where our leaders have to answer to people outside of the community, outside of the voters. If they got to go and kiss the ring, you have to be a fool if you think a Black agenda is going to be a rock solid or the best that it can be. Because if you have leaders who are in these high seats, the Cory Bookers, the Kamala Harris and other folks, if you have a Black agenda, you’re going to have to work with them, right? You’re going to have to work with them. But if we are to think that this is going to be a pure process, this is going to be a healthy process, this is going to be an objective and effective process. We don’t want leaders who will say that, hey, I’m going to bang against Donald Trump and MAGA because that’s popular, it’s not threatening. A Democrat going against Donald Trump. That’s cool. Nope, you’re not threatening the system. A Black politician saying that, but the same politician will defend or stay silent on the MAGA in Israel. And so it calls into question. That’s what I’m saying is I believe that you have to deal with the swamp and it’s not just AIPAC, it’s not just this for sure.

17:10 —Howard Franklin: Let me just say I agree with you, but the two people you’re pointing out, let’s be clear, they’re the junior senators from their states. The Congressional Black Caucus has been around for 50-plus years. I want to say CBC is older than the State of Israel. At least it’s being recognized formally as a country. I can’t take 50 years of legislative policy and dealmaking and boil it down to two junior senators. Right. I don’t know that they can carry the water. And the beauty of this is we have 50 caucuses and primaries over the next 18 months to decide who gets to be the standard bearer. So running for president is a self-selecting exercise. You or I can do it right? We’re American citizens, we’re over 35 years old. So the fact that they’re on the stage isn’t the end of the show and it’s the prelude and we still have a long time to vet their policies and their affiliations. And I think the way you put it is a meaningful and thoughtful way to put it. You’re talking about people having purchased or derived equity in our leadership, but I think we’re at a break point, we’re going to decide, is this person going to be our leader? Cause Kamala is a leader in California and Cory is a leader in New Jersey. We’ve got a year and a half to see if they can be a leader of the entire United States.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, so let’s go deeper into what I would call swampology, the science of the swamp. Are you aware of a trick that the swamp uses where based on legal restrictions, the congress person, they can’t directly receive value from the swamp, directly from the swamp. Obviously that would be a red flag, right? So the swamp can get in the door through the spouse or partner. And so there’s instances where quite a few of the powerful people in the Democratic Party where there were millions, Pelosi, Feinstein, Maxine waters. There’s a lot of millionaires in the Democratic Party.

Howard Franklin: There’s a lot of millionaires in Congress.

Jamarlin Martin: Yes, but I’m going to focus on the Democratic Party. Are you aware of a swamp kind of practice where how some of these congress people become wealthy? Going into politics, you don’t get a big salary. How do you have all this money? How do you guys have all these big houses? And so the swamp and the politician, realizing the criminal exposure possibly of a direct link, like our brother in Louisiana who got caught with money in the freezer. Jefferson. That you channel the swamp funds to the spouse or a kid or something else that that doesn’t go directly. Are you familiar with a systemic problem with that?

20:27 —Howard Franklin: I think anywhere you collect money and power, people will find ways legal or otherwise.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re aware that that’s a trick?

Howard Franklin: Absolutely. I’m aware of it. I have this conversation. I used to play poker with a group of guys and they did all kinds of things, all sorts of professions. And they gave me the hardest time about being a lobbyist and being in politics. And what I often said to them was that you guys want me at the table. If you guys think it’s bad right now, and that’s with me watching our backs and trying to advocate for things that we care about. Just imagine if I said what you guys were saying, which is I’m throwing my hands up, I’m gonna push back from the table. I’m not going to engage. I think any place where there’s an opportunity for corruption, for enriching oneself, corporate America, the church, plenty of other institutions in American and global life, none of them had been without scandals. So I take issue with holding out politics, especially, and I appreciate what you’re saying. This is the one institution that is held up by the people, right? Our votes are supposed to have a sanctity. We’re supposed to be electing people who are reflective of our values and our visions, but every institution in American life has had some crisis of corruption at some point or another. So I can’t put it in a separate box.

Jamarlin Martin: Do you find it problematic that Pelosi would be looking at Facebook in big issues with Facebook, but her family is of course wealthy, husband is wealthy, they own millions of dollars of Facebook stock. But as a citizen…

Howard Franklin: That doesn’t sit well with me.

Jamarlin Martin: That doesn’t sit well with you? That’s a big issue.

Howard Franklin: I mean we’ve got a president whose tax returns we haven’t seen.

Jamarlin Martin: This is another problem I have with a lot of you Democrats. Donald Trump is not the bar. Don’t lower the bar. A lot of people are though. A lot of people are saying, hey, this person’s better than Donald Trump. Look at him. He raped women and he did this. He did that.

Howard Franklin: That’s not my point, my point is to say that we don’t really have in many instances the rules and regulations that would prevent this sort of thing from happening. Right. I think the only reason that you could suggest that Donald is the bar is because he has more power as the president. Right. The speaker obviously has plenty of power as well. I don’t mean to denigrate her responsibility to mislead or to take advantage of her perch as a member of Congress and the speaker of the house. I totally agree.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, so the first swamp trick we we covered was the corporate or special interest delivering value to the spouse, to an affiliate, to a kid and the corruption is channelled that way to get around the laws. Now another trick would be, while I’m in office, I’m going to think about my future career. When I’m voting on things or I’m dealing with legislation and dealing with the lobbyists and all that stuff, I got to think about, I could be voted out. I got to think about, hey, I didn’t get in this game just to be a politician. Once I leave government, I’m going to get paid. I’m going to get a lot of money once I leave office. So historically, a lot of folks, once they leave government, once they leave office, they go to Wall Street. Goldman Sachs is going to hire you. JP Morgan may hire you. So they would call it the revolving door. So you leave office and you sacrifice for that smaller check. You can get paid more. But I know the longterm game. So if I get these connections in Washington, I get connected with lobbyists and all these people, I’m going to get big dollars when I leave because I’m gonna go work for Wall Street. Okay. Hear me out. That has changed a bit where the power has shifted to tech in Silicon Valley. So there were several reports of, of course, a lot of Obama officials, some went to Wall Street, that’s the how the game works. But a lot of them went to Silicon Valley.

24:49 —Howard Franklin: I would tell you the ones that I know are still in the trenches, fighting on campaigns.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s true. The majority, they may not have gone.

Howard Franklin: And I think you got to think about this. I listened to a podcast with Valerie Jarrett just the other day. And in it she talks about having joined the boards of Lyft and some other companies.

Jamarlin Martin: Eric Holder, he’s getting paid by Uber. He was getting paid at Airbnb, I believe.

Howard Franklin: Yeah, you may be right about that. But all that to say, some of these folks already had careers at the pinnacle of their respective professions beforehand. I’m not going to begrudge, when you say a trick, I’m not sure I can acknowledge this as a trick, right? I think there are rules in place. It could be tighter.

Jamarlin Martin: You don’t have to use it. You can use something else…

Howard Franklin: There are rules in place that say take a quiet period. You can’t come back and lobby your former colleagues. And what’s to say if I worked here on Tuesday, that on Wednesday I couldn’t be thinking about what happens when a year from now or five years from now when I move onto my next role. So I’m not taking issue with what you’re saying, but I don’t know that this is the most addressable or the most important.

Jamarlin Martin: It’s something that the voter needs to be aware of. It’s something that’s not clean in terms of, hey, if people are going to be making political decisions that impact kids, that impact the water that we drink, that impact our health.

Howard Franklin: I totally agree with you.

Jamarlin Martin: That impact our privacy. That person needs to be focused 100 percent on the people. If that person is thinking about making big dollars when they get out and that taints their decisions, that’s not the system that you want to promote.

Howard Franklin: But let just say, now we’re talking about thought crimes. Right? Now we’re saying while Jamarlin was casting his vote, I know somehow that he was negotiating his next role or thinking about how it might impact his next ability to provide for his family. I think a more useful juncture for this conversation is to say if you vote against things that are a part of our agenda, we’re voting against you. Period. Point blank. I could care less about what you got set up next, who you did it for or why you did it. What I need. And I think what we started this conversation talking about was a litmus test on the issues we care about. And for whatever reason, politicians diverge from it. We’ve got something formed. But once you get into the place where you’re saying it was because of this or it was in lieu of or expectation of that, it’s going to muddle it. I wish we had an electorate who could sit for an hour and a half through a conversation as wide ranging as this one about geopolitics and D.C. Lobbyists. But at the end of the day, you and I both know, kitchen table issues, public safety, the state of the economy are going to drive the winners and losers at the ballot box.

Jamarlin Martin: First, let me say that you’re starting to see a regulatory spread. In Europe, their regulations on Facebook, Google, Amazon, it’s very pro-citizen, pro-consumer. Let’s think about the consumer first. So they have significantly cracked down and fined and policed Facebook, Google, Amazon, who are now of course the power brokers or play a key role in terms of the power brokering of the economy. So there’s a regulatory spread developing where weak tech regulations in the United States, stronger regulations in the European Union and in India, who stopped Facebook’s Basics program, smartly stopped Facebook coming in there with so-called free Internet with the colonialist mentality. You’re starting to see other countries that don’t have the amount of corruption and lobbying as the United States. They have a different viewpoint on how to regulate tech. Right. And so, do you think that the cozy relationship between the Obama administration and Silicon Valley big tech, that had something to do with the regulatory silence for eight years under Obama, where you have Mark Zuckerberg saying, “Hey, we’ve got to move fast, break things. We’ve got to collect all this data. We’re doing all this stuff with the stuff. We’re selling this, we’re selling that. We’re doing whatever we want.” But Zuckerberg knows Obama, they’re like political homeys or whatever, right? Booker, he’s been connected with Eric Schmidt at Google, they invested in his startup company that he sold. So Cory Booker, Obama, even Kamala Harris connecting with Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, there’s real coziness between big tech in Silicon Valley and the Democratic Party establishment. Do you believe that that coziness factored in to this regulatory silence that ended up hurting a lot of people in terms of the lack of regulation?

30:15 —Howard Franklin: I’m not sure I can speak to the harm, right. I agree with you that the E.U. and countries in Europe and in that neck of the woods are doing what America needs a turn its attention towards doing. But the same way that Elizabeth Warren can make a proposal that gets everybody up in arms about potential breaking up some of the larger Internet based companies or the same way an AOC, a freshman member of Congress can drop a green new deal and have everybody talking about it. For those reasons, it’s difficult for me to fathom a conspiracy where three or four people you mentioned could stop 535 members from making an issue. Let me just say, Barack Obama had two years of control of a congress out of an eight-year stint in the White House. The other six years he was getting his ass kicked by the Congress, right? It wasn’t him dictating for them an agenda. It was him trying to hold onto Obamacare. It was him trying to use executive power to advance his agenda. I can almost buy this if Nancy Pelosi had been speaker for eight years, he had been president, we had the Senate, then I could say, okay, let me blame the Democrats. But that wasn’t the case. So Republicans could have done exactly what you’re talking about.

Jamarlin Martin: So you’re telling me that Barack Obama is going to get elected by banging on Wall Street, banging on Hillary Clinton taking money from pharmaceutical companies.

Howard Franklin: I said no such thing.

Jamarlin Martin: Obama said, “Hey, I’m going to bang against Wall Street. I’m going to bang against lobbyists.” Hillary Clinton is more connected to Wall Street special interests. There’s videos you can see Barack Obama campaigning on this stuff. He’s banging on lobbying and special interests and he’s to the left of Hillary Clinton, who he’s positioning as an establishment candidate. Okay? So Obama was elected, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, stuff is falling apart and he has a blame, right? It’s the Wall Street. It’s the lobbyists. They’re messing things up and now we’ve got the financial crisis. Okay, that’s how he’s framing things in so many words. Power and wallets shift from Wall Street to tech, Silicon Valley. It’s shifted, right? So there’s more regulations on Wall Street who tend to vote more Republican. So we’re going to slap some more regulation on Wall Street, which was needed, but with tech and the stuff moving so fast, we don’t care about that stuff. Hold on, hear me out. We don’t care about that stuff. We’re not speaking about, hey, there’s a risk that the same greed that explains the rise of Wall Street, that you’re going to see the same stuff that can hurt the people in Silicon Valley. But I’m just saying that you’re telling me that the coziness of Democratic Party leaders with Silicon Valley has nothing to do with the regulatory silence over the eight years. Let me just give you this last thing.

33:21 —Howard Franklin: Okay.

Jamarlin Martin: Chuck Schumer, he told Mark Warner, a senator, to back off looking at investigating Facebook. Chuck Schumer is, I guess, friends with Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg. Chuck Schumer’s daughter reportedly works at Facebook. He’s telling the senator who wants to investigate Facebook to back off. Why would he tell the senator to back off Facebook? His daughter works there. He’s connected to the big people at Facebook. That’s the swamp. So I’m just saying that it is wrong to think that the Republicans just do bad things and it’s the Republicans. This swamp that’s in the Democratic Party that Chuck Schumer displayed in trying to protect his people, protect his friends at Facebook, his daughter’s employer reportedly. That’s not good.

Howard Franklin: Chuck Schumer has been in the Senate for nearly 30 years. He could get his daughter a job anywhere. Let me respond to what you’re saying.

Jamarlin Martin: But that goes to the swamp. What do you mean he can get his daughter a job anywhere? Why?

Howard Franklin: Well, because he has served in a high position in American government for a very long time. If you had been, if he had been the president of Facebook or of General Motors for that long, he would move in circles such that you could do the exact same thing. My point is different than the one you’re making.

Jamarlin Martin: Obama’s daughter going to work for Harvey Weinstein.

Howard Franklin: The point I would make here is that, I acknowledge some of the silence that we saw on regulating social media and technology companies. It’s been deafening, no question.

Jamarlin Martin: But why?

Howard Franklin: Well, what I would tell you as someone who’s worked in government for a very long time. I think you would acknowledge, if you’ve had any experience with government, local, federal or otherwise, government is slow to move. Government is not on the bleeding edge of decision-making. Government is not ahead of culture or ahead of business. Right? I think in some ways government just gets caught with its pants down. It wasn’t ready. I’ll give you another good example. We in Atlanta and in cities around the country are dealing with something you guys are familiar with here, which is the proliferation of e-scooters, right? I assume you guys are familiar. You’ve got all these e-scooters popping up everywhere. People are riding out in the right of ways on streets, on freeways, etc. My local government has been working for more than a year, trying to figure out how to put together a regulatory framework to keep people safe, to keep people riding where they’re supposed to and out of places they’re not supposed to. But the problem is technology moves faster than the speed of government. So I’m not giving the Obama Administration a pass for at least being more curious about how we should look at regulating some of these companies.

Jamarlin Martin: His friends?

36:45 —Howard Franklin: I think the problem is that you’ve got to acknowledge that, if you’re going to climb to the highest heights of elected government, not just in America, but anywhere on this globe, you’re going to have friends from different places, right? People are going to show up with a check in hand with the public policy requests in their back pocket and they’re going to make their case, and it’s going to be up to you to decide whether or not you’re going to support those folks. I can’t get past the responsibility of the voters. You’re telling me you want voters to factor geopolitics into the decision-making. If they can do that, then they can also make a determination about whether Barack Obama deserves eight years in the White House or whether the congress was active and aggressive enough in regulating these companies.

Jamarlin Martin: Well, let me say this. In theory if the officials at Facebook and Google and Amazon, if they’re pure in intentions and they say, hey look, the politicians, they have a very low tech IQ. They don’t know anything about tech.

Howard Franklin: You saw those hearings, right?

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. So we need to educate the politicians on how the game works, right? If their intentions were pure, like, hey we are masters at this stuff, the algorithms, a lot of stuff. And there needs to be communication between the tech companies and the politicians where the politicians understand how the stuff works so they can be more intelligent about their legislation. Okay. And the issues. But what we’ve seen in the last eight years is they spend all this time cozying up with big tech in Silicon Valley, but in the hearings they’re dumb still. So that’s telling you right there that when you look at those politicians who are cozy with big tech and Silicon Valley, they are dumb and don’t know what’s going on, which is dangerous. So all that coziness was for what? And for who?

38:51 —Howard Franklin: I think, as someone who just bought his Mom an iPhone a month ago, I just got to acknowledge some of this is generational, right? I’m sure my kids will be playing with some toys 10 years from now that they’ll have to school me on that I won’t have grown up with. They won’t be native to me that I won’t have an intrinsic understanding of. This is not an excuse. The members of those committees we’ve seen as they’ve interviewed Mark Zuckerberg and others. Zuckerberg in particular was really painful. These people have hundreds of thousands of dollars of staffers behind them. They’ve got all sorts of research and other resources. They should have come more prepared to have a discussion about what regulatory framework could be imposed upon a company like Facebook. I totally agree, right? But we only have one remedy for all of this stuff. It’s to get rid of the people that we think are underperforming in their roles. That’s it. All the talk, all the advocacy, acknowledging that there’s these pipes in this swamp that’s already been built to insulate and protect these elected officials and others, acknowledge that the most powerful tool, the only real leverage and you can’t take away, is the ability to revoke their ability to sit on this dais. Right? That’s it. I don’t know another way to box them in or to make them make better decisions.

Jamarlin Martin: This is my interview with Howard Franklin. Be sure to tune into the next episode for part three. 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!

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Episode 55

Apr 23, 2019

Howard Franklin

This is part 1 of “The Swamp” series. Jamarlin talks to corporate lobbyist Howard Franklin,

in, who has represented Amazon, Google, and Sprint. We unpack former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s saying, “lobbyists write our laws,” and debate whether taking on the swamp should be a top 5 issue in Black America. We also discuss AIPAC aggressively recruiting at HBCUs and whether voters for the pro-Israel lobby group blew up Andrew Gillum’s campaign for governor of Florida.

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! Today we have the great Howard Franklin on the show from Thompson Victory Group. How’s it going?

Howard Franklin: Very well. I appreciate you guys having me.

Jamarlin Martin: Let’s dive right into your story. Of course, we connected and you have represented big billion dollar clients such as Amazon and Google. Walk the audience through your career trajectory to becoming what they would call a lobbyist.

Howard Franklin: That’s a great question and a difficult one to give you a picture of. I would tell you the vast majority of people who are political professionals of any stripe come to the profession in so many different ways. I think the one common denominator, and it’s certainly where I started, was volunteering. I volunteered for a nonprofit organization that former mayor Maynard Jackson actually founded. And really just from reading about it in a newspaper at All Weekly in Atlanta. And from there, spent time working for another great mayor, Mayor Shirley Franklin on the city of Atlanta for almost three years. And between those inauspicious beginnings and where I sit in front of you today, I’ve done virtually everything in politics. I’ve been a staffer in large urban government. I’ve been a contract lobbyist. You mentioned Thompson Victory Group and that’s where I’ve parlayed those skills. I have been a campaign guy, a campaign manager and a campaign consultant all across the southeastern United States, Georgia where I live, but Mississippi, the Carolinas, even in the Cayman Islands and other parts of the Caribbean. And I’ve also been a nonprofit executive director. So the skill set and the relationship network really played well off one another. But it’s never a linear path. I might be able to point to a few people who said, “Hey, I got out of college with a poli sci degree. I went to law school. I was a staffer and then I was in politics.” But the vast majority of us, I would say, find different routes, whether it’s campaign work, whether it’s advocacy, whether it’s staff work, the entire gamut. It’s really just you find yourself in it.

Jamarlin Martin: What type of family background did you come from and where?

Howard Franklin: Yeah, so I’m originally from Detroit. I’ve really only lived two places in my life outside of the Cayman Islands, and my entire Childhood in Detroit where my parents were both retired from General Motors after a lifetime. I’m working in the factories, both blue collar folks, but funny enough, kind of part of this great remigration. My parents had both southerners who moved to Detroit for opportunity. And then as soon as I got an opportunity, I went to Morehouse College and moved back to the south and stayed in Atlanta.

Jamarlin Martin: When I was at Morehouse, I had this term that I used, “Oh, that’s a Cosby kid.” Were you a Cosby kid in terms of your upbringing?

Howard Franklin: I got in my fair share of trouble, so I don’t know that I would qualify.

Jamarlin Martin: You qualify. Your house was far from the Huxtable house?

Howard Franklin: My mom still lives in the house I grew up in. I remember a story I used to tell a couple of years after finishing my freshman year. In 1997, the FBI produced a crime index and you could actually see how dangerous a neighborhood was by inputting a zip code. This is when we first got computers and access to the web, broadband, all that at Morehouse. And I remember putting in 30314, which was 830 Westview Drive, that’s where Morehouse College and the entire AUC is located. And I think the crime stat level was a seven or an eight. And then I put in my home zip code, 48238 Northwest Detroit, Michigan. And it was a nine. So to put it into context, I don’t know if I qualify as a Cosby kid, but I was a good student. I had a 4.0 until I got admitted into Morehouse. I was obviously very studious and knew that education was a way out of the city.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. So you graduated from Morehouse. What was your degree?

03:58 —Howard Franklin: I double majored, actually. I started with English. I got a journalism degree or a journalism scholarship. But when I, as you probably know, dear old Morehouse. Journalism’s what they got to lure me there. But when I got to the actual school, I guess the demand for the program had waned to the point where only English literature was available. So I did English Lit and then I picked up sociology and I finished both degrees in those four years.

Jamarlin Martin: And then where did you go after you graduated?

Howard Franklin: I did a bunch of stuff. I actually worked in the dotcom arena for about three years. I worked for two venture-funded and one bootstrapped dotcom company that did really interesting stuff. One of them is still kicking. I still talk to my former boss today. And then the other two have gone the way of the dinosaur. So I did all kinds of stuff. I did research and analysis. I did marketing. One of the difficulty… I love Morehouse College, but particularly if you don’t have a business degree from Morehouse College, the path for career placement isn’t one that’s well defined. I know that’s something they’re working on today. And it was definitely true when I graduated in 2001. I just kind of kicked around and found something I could do, I got my first job right before 9/11. So if I hadn’t gotten that job I probably would have moved back to Detroit and we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. Got It. So how do you get into politics?

Howard Franklin: That’s a great question. Very slowly. As I mentioned earlier, I volunteered for a nonprofit. So at the time I was working for a really prominent and still very successful PR company which is more along the lines of what I wanted to do. Right. I’d gotten an English degree. I spent all four years writing for the Maroon Tiger. I saw myself as potentially a journalist. I did a bunch of assignments as a stringer for Black publications and independent publications around Metro Atlanta and the state of Georgia, and then I got a PR gig. So I thought that was exciting. Right. And that gig allowed me to travel and put on conferences and editorial tours in D.C. And New York, and traveled to see clients all over the country. So really exciting stuff. But what I realized in the commission of this work probably a year, a year and a half into it was that I didn’t feel like I was meeting the potential that had driven me to go to Morehouse and to study sociology and feel like I was really making an impact on the world. So I set out for a volunteer opportunity. I read about this pioneering nonprofit that Maynard Jackson had founded. And I went to a meeting that the article happened to mention and in this meeting a couple of the board members who obviously knew Maynard personally took an interest in me and set up, in fact, one in particular, his first wife arranged for us to meet. So basically got me on his calendar. I really didn’t have an appreciation, a full appreciation for who he was or what he had done for the city. I had some sense, but not probably as much as I should have. Showed up at the Equitable building, 22nd floor, spent an hour talking to him about young people and Morehouse. As a little bit of context, the nonprofit was focused on youth voter outreach, so it was really about getting young people, it’s kind of a precursor to vote or die or some of the other organizations that have kind of cropped up in more recent years. So showed up, met him, talked about everything under the sun. We both enjoyed it. He said on the way out, tell my assistant to put you back on the calendar for two weeks. We did that for about two and a half, three months, so probably met six, eight times. And toward the end of it he called me at my office and said, one day I want you to consider running this nonprofit that I founded. And I went to my boss and said, “Hey, you know, Atlanta’s former mayor just asked me to take on this adventure with them. So I’m sorry, but I got to leave”, and I did.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, nice. And then so how do you jump to, “Hey, I’m going to found my own lobbying firm.” I know that there’s not a lot of people who look like us in that game. So how do you get there?

07:56 —Howard Franklin: So again, I think most of it was really doing a bunch of different things where I knew I had the confidence, I had the relationships, I had the skillsets to actually go out and stand on my own.

Jamarlin Martin: In hearing your story is, you graduate from college and a lot of people are figuring things out. So you get exposure to the kind of the tech bubble dotcom, you’re doing marketing, you’re doing public relations, and it could to the outsider seem like this guy is all over the place. However, when the right opportunity comes, you’re the only person who could connect a lot of these different skillsets, which makes you of course a more effective professional or more unique professional. And I think your story, I could relate to that.

Howard Franklin: Well, I appreciate you saying so. And I think you’re right. In a lot of ways, I credit having worked in client service with being able to build a business, right? I think I learned so much from the client service arena before I had even gotten to a place where I was fully ensconced in politics and policy. Right? But I mean, as I was saying before, I think a big part of the confidence and really the foundation to be successful as an entrepreneur comes from being able to do and having done a bunch of different things. So I had been a policy staffer for the state’s largest county. I had been a campaign manager for a gubernatorial candidate. I was the deputy communications director for Stacey Abrams when she first became the minority leader. So watching other ambitious people who were breaking barriers, who were doing impressive things gave me, one, confidence because I was in their sphere of influence. But two, when it was time to let me find my own thing, I knew I had people I could call upon. I knew I had experiences that clients would pay for and I knew I had reach that probably was uncommon in my neck of the woods.

Jamarlin Martin: What year do you start at Thompson Victory?

Howard Franklin: So I should clarify. So I spent the last five years as basically of counsel to Thompson Victory Group and it is actually a Republican led consultancy that does mostly regulatory affairs, worked for some of the companies that I mentioned. The company that I founded is called Ohio River South and I probably should’ve made that clear sooner. But Ohio River South is really a narrative driven organization, the focal point being the South Eastern United States. In my mind, the southeast in particular is almost like the new New England. Right? When you think about how this country was founded, where all of the intellectual capital, all the industry, were all invested in one part of the country to start, right? And that part of the country has continued to do well and to live off of that or that original, initial investment. But what we’re seeing today is that the southeast in particular, with this great re-migration, with all the confluence of companies, culture, innovation, colleges, etc, the southeastern United States in particular, the fastest growing region in the country, one of the youngest regions in the country, and also one of the most diverse is really where it’s at. So I named the company Ohio River South because the Ohio River was actually the original line of demarcation between north and south prior to the Mason Dixon line. And so our focal point has been the Ohio River and South. And so, our first three years of existence, we’re just three years old now, we’ve worked for better than 40 organizations across seven southeastern states, and then also included the district of Columbia and California. So we’ve really been focused on bringing scale, capacity and professionalism to a region that doesn’t have them like you might see in a Chicago or D.C. Or an LA or New England for instance.

Jamarlin Martin: In one sentence, the way you think about it, define a lobbyist in one sentence.

11:51 —Howard Franklin: That’s a good question. I have two ways to answer this question. When I get into an Uber and I’m in a suit and people ask, “Hey, where are you going and what do you do?” And I tell them I’m a lobbyist, as you might imagine, that always sparks a conversation. I haven’t had one of my car before. I want to hear more about what you do, etc.

Jamarlin Martin: Speaking of Uber, I read an article today where the guy picked up a passenger, dropped the family off at the airport, went back and robbed the house. So I guess that’s the new Uber hustle.

Howard Franklin: That’s crazy. My stock and trade answer is that I get paid to stop, start or stall legislation. That’s the shortest answer and probably the most direct answer I can give you.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. I feel like that’s an honest answer. And it sounds like you’re oriented for the swamp in terms of how the political game works in terms of powerful interest groups, big wallets, like an Amazon or Google, that they may want legislation stopped, paused, modified or whatever, and you’re banging for these companies.

Howard Franklin: So I’ll say two things to that. One, my very first client at the state legislature, before I even knew what a lobbyist was. At the time I think the organization was 22 years old, they took a chance on a kid like me. I think I got paid $500 a month. This is 2002, 2003, a couple years out of college. I worked for an organization called Men Stopping Violence. They are a lauded organization, nonprofit that basically takes male offenders from domestic disputes, puts them in a half year program and basically rehabilitates them as men who can go out into society and could raise families and be trusted to do so. And when our state legislature which for more than a hundred years had been controlled by Democrats flipped to Republican, this organization which had never taken on advocacy before joined arms with other organizations and said, we want to make sure that this shift in political leadership does not a erode protections for women and children. And so they hired me to basically organize a dozen years of graduates from this program who were former batterers, some who had been referred by the court systems, others who had decided on their own that they want to get help to basically go down to the capitol, learn how it works and then the advocate for protections for women and children in the voices and from the perspective of the men who make the decisions at the state capitol. That’s my orientation. That’s the first time I ever came to the capitol.

Jamarlin Martin: So that sounds like good lobbying, but can you describe for the audience how you think about good lobbying and bad lobbing? What would be an example of bad lobbying?

Howard Franklin: The number one qualifier of bad lobbying, if we’re putting it in those terms, is operating outside of good faith, and as you probably know, I think based on even your career, the vast majority of successful people in this space are able to operate successfully because they can be trusted when they talk to lawmakers, when they talk to other advocates, when they talk to people who are stakeholders in the process. And so I think if we are qualifying bad lobbying, I think it starts with operators who are willing to bend the truth or stretch the truth in the service of making something happen.

Jamarlin Martin: Well, what about, it’s in the interest of the public, let’s just quantify it, to have a privacy system that’s rated eight. It’s really pro public, we want to protect your data and privacy, but Google and Facebook are like, hey, if it goes to an eight I could lose $10 million, $10 billion, if the public gets what it needs and wants, so I need to hire someone like you to go out there and politic and try to reduce that eight simplistically to a five where I could still make my quarterly earnings numbers or we could make x amount of profits, so I need to water down that legislation.

16:34 —Howard Franklin: So I would say again, two things. One, I’ve spent the majority of my career at the state and local level and I think although the attention gets paid to the presidential race or to what congress is up to, the vast majority of legislation that impacts people’s everyday lives is made at the State House, is made at city halls, county commissions and school boards. And sometimes even what Congress does or doesn’t do, because as you know, the last several years, our Congress has been confined by partisan gridlock. Right. So very little that requires bipartisanship is actually getting done at the federal level these days. Right. What is happening, because many of our state houses are controlled lock, stock and barrel by one party, that’s where so much legislation is actually taking place. I’ll give you a good example. Just two weeks ago, the state of Georgia passed very onerous, very restrictive abortion law, House Bill 481. We call it the heartbeat bill, and basically it says that after six weeks an abortion is illegal, making it one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Now when you talk about or you hear about abortion, and not to get into the culture wars, but we talk about this as Roe versus Wade, what the Supreme Court might do, what Congress might do, but we’ve got individual states that are taking the congressional standard, the federal standard, and they’re making it even more onerous at the local level. And I’ll be willing to bet you a lot of the things that you care about, the state level is actually putting a finer point on whatever congress is or isn’t doing.

Jamarlin Martin: But the swamp is functioning in similar ways at the federal and state levels, right. So folks would really big wallets, folks who have a lot to lose. Sure, there could be good lobbying for good causes. But for the most part, the big wallets, big pharmaceutical companies, big tobacco, big tech, these groups, they want to get inside at the state, federal level and state level to promote their interest, their view of things, how things should work. And let me just throw out a quote. Eric Schmidt, he was the CEO and chairman of Google, who I believe is one of the most underappreciated masterminds in Silicon Valley in terms of showing people how to do big tech lobbying at scale, making long-term bets. He said that lobbyists write our laws.

Howard Franklin: That’s true.

Jamarlin Martin: Do you have a problem with that as a citizen?

Howard Franklin: Absolutely.

Jamarlin Martin: You do have a problem with that? The game needs to change?

19:22 — Howard Franklin: Well, let me explain a little bit about why that’s even possible. So again, we’re in Florida. Florida is a part time legislature. I think you guys have 160 members. It’s very similar to Georgia. We’ve got 236, part time legislature. We make all of our laws in the first quarter of a year. Citizen lawmakers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, farmers, you name it, pharmacists, they come down to the state capital in the city of Atlanta. And from January until late March or early April, they basically look at 2000 to 3000 pieces of legislation with no real backing professionally in a lot of the arenas that they’re making decisions on. This is true. I’m from Michigan, which is a little bit different there. There are 10 state legislatures in the entire country that are full time, right? So we’ve got people making decisions about billion dollar budgets. Our budget in Georgia is nearly $30 billion. And we’ve got, as I mentioned, teachers and doctors and dog catchers and dentists making decisions about the kind of things that you care about. That to say a part time state legislature makes lawmakers dependent on subject matter experts, right? So when you get a net neutrality bill, when you get a bill on certificate of need in rural parts of our community, and it comes before a committee and you’re a lawyer and you’re smart, but you’re not a subject matter expert, you’ve got to go to someone who says, I understand what this means, I understand the implications. I can share with you what a decision in one direction or the other would actually mean. The same thing is true virtually across this country. So part of the reason it’s possible, and I don’t think it’s true at the congressional level, congressional members make enough money to only do this, right? They have ample staff, they’ve got ample resources. But at the state level, these folks are citizen lawmakers. Oftentimes they’re in over their heads. They’re just not in a position to make a decision in three months on 3000 pieces of legislation without any real backing, without any legislative support. So I want to make that distinction because it’s only possible, in part, because of the way our government is set up.

Jamarlin Martin: You mentioned to me that in so many words you thought that hey, maybe there’s room for a more balanced view in terms of on the GHOGH show, or you go to my Twitter account or you go to Moguldom.com, I talk a lot about the swamp, about lobbyists diluting the equity specifically of the Black voter where money, special interests swamps up the will of the people, the protections of the people. And there’s conflict. Why do you think that the swamp has not come up as a top five issue in Black America? Because we don’t have an AIPAC, which is the lobbying organization for Jewish Americans. We don’t have a wallet like Google, Amazon, or big tobacco, our community. So the only thing we got is our vote, right? And we have these political leaders, but the wallets are so big in the power is so big, but Black people possibly have the most to lose from swamp activity.

Howard Franklin: So I have so many things to say to that. One, AIPAC has been successful and I’ve studied it as well.

Jamarlin Martin: Are you connected to AIPAC?

Howard Franklin: Not connected to it.

Jamarlin Martin: Have you been a member?

Howard Franklin: I’ve never been a member. No.

Jamarlin Martin: Did AIPAC sponsor your trip to Israel?

Howard Franklin: No. An organization that is affiliated with AIPAC, I assume.

Jamarlin Martin: That’s the thing. Just for the audience, when I say AIPAC, and this is where I part ways with people like Bakari Sellers who you probably know, where they’ll say that AIPAC is only an organization and it doesn’t do this stuff, but AIPAC has affiliates, AIPAC has members. So when I talk about AIPAC, I’m talking about the big umbrella, the affiliates, the members. That is a big powerful force.

Howard Franklin: So I’ll separate. Bakari and I went to Israel together.

Jamarlin Martin: You guys were sponsored by AIPAC?

23:53 — Howard Franklin: Well, there’s another organization, an educational organization, but yeah, affiliated. And it was a truly an educational trip. We were not lobbying to take a position. Bakari is an a little bit different situation than me because he’s been an elected member of his general assembly. He’s run for higher office. I have no designs or holding elected office. But what I will say about organizations like AIPAC is that when you look at them, I think there’s an appreciation that someone like me as an operator has to profess because they’ve been single minded in their one goal, which is the safety and security of Israel. Right? I think the difficulty when Black America says we want reinforcements, we want legislative backup, we want folks out there advocating for us is that we’ve got so many different voices speaking about so many different issues that it’s hard to get everybody on a single page, but let’s make no mistake. We have plenty of organizations that have stood in the gap and advocated for Black America over the last 50, 60, 70 years. Now, whether or not they have advocated for a singular item on the Black agenda is certainly a question. And I think it’s important to note, money is very important in congressional politics, in presidential politics. Absolutely. But what’s more important for the people who are serving in these roles are votes. And I think the difficulty again, is that a lobbying organization says, let’s take all the points of contact we have and let’s apply them at a single point so that we can be heard and felt.

Jamarlin Martin: Let’s continue on AIPAC. So AIPAC, a lot of people don’t know this, but they recruit at HBCUs. They’re looking for future political stars, like Bakari Sellers. They have a particular profile and they send the Black college student to Israel. And many people believe that they are giving that Black college student a point of view that’s pro-Israel, that’s Zionist in scope. Okay. And so in reading some of the interviews with the Black students who have been sponsored to go to Israel, they say, “Man, I got to meet Netanyahu. And they hooked me up with this and they hooked me up with that.” Now, if the AIPAC group has a $100 million budget, but other groups, the Palestinians, they don’t have a budget, right? Some of the Black groups, radical groups or pro-Africa groups, they don’t have a budget. AIPAC does have a budget, right? And so if they’re going to be well organized and have a big wallet on HBCU campuses, wouldn’t that lead to an imbalanced point of view for Black people in America as relates to issues in the Middle East. And that’s where we get into the swamp, where people, particularly disenfranchised groups or poorer groups, that if the Jews in America, Jewish Americans, if they have a much bigger wallet on average net-net than black America, they have the luxury where we don’t necessarily have them focus on domestic issues. We’re good in terms of relatively speaking. So because we’re good on the domestic front, we’re going to focus a lot of the attention and our resources on the international scene.

Howard Franklin: So let me just say you’re telling me things that I don’t know to be true. So I never heard and I wasn’t recruited. I wasn’t invited on a trip to Israel from…

Jamarlin Martin: Come on, man. You’re AIPACing.

Howard Franklin: No. Seriously. So I went to Israel in 2011 and we actually got a diversity of views from Palestinians and Israelis on the ground. It was not some, but again, you’ve got your own experience and I’m sure it’s informed by other people who’ve been there. Let me just say this…

Jamarlin Martin: But I mean if AIPAC sends you and Bakari over there, you’re not going to say that they gave you an even point of view about that.

28:13 —Howard Franklin: Again, we’re adults, right? We have plenty of time to go out, forge our own relationships. I had friends of mine who have nothing to do with AIPAC who were already in Jerusalem, who I got to hook up with and hangout with while I was there. So it wasn’t as if, Bakari who had served in the legislature, me, who had been a lobbyist, who had been operating in politics, was completely out there being force-fed whatever was given to me. I think that’s that same perspective. It’s tough for me to swallow when I think about my experience with Morehouse College. You could send me anywhere, I’ve been to a bunch of different places. I’ve been on State Department trips at the behest of Hillary Clinton. Right. But her politics at that point in my career and in my life couldn’t be foisted upon me in such a way that I was unable to grasp anything else. If you are Morehouse College or Howard University or Spelman, etc, you’re already developing a worldview, right? You’re there because you want to develop a worldview. I don’t think you can just take a six day junket and then say, I’ve been brainwashed and my entire perspective is different. But I will acknowledge something you’re saying. I hadn’t really given serious consideration to the other part of the world until I visited it. Right? So to the point you made about, again, the Black American agenda, that’s what I was focused on. I’m like, “Hey, let’s worry about domestic issues that we can address.” And by the way, we got $1 trillion in collective spending, right? So if you say that we don’t have a budget, I just say maybe we haven’t prioritized engaging at the government level, right? But we have plenty of organizations that collect millions of dollars every year. Put on big confabs. I go to Black caucus every year. I go to the National Caucus of State Black Legislators. I think what’s missing is a more pronounced and articulated Black agenda that people like me can get onto and support. It’s not a juxtaposition.

Jamarlin Martin: So you make a good point. However, this is where I deviate from the Black consensus, is that groups like AIPAC and the lobbyists and the design of the monopoly board, the swamp that I would call the swamp, your Black agenda has to navigate the monopoly board, the swamp in terms of the lobbyists. Eric Schmidt, of course he’s out saying that, hey, the lobbyist that we pay, they write the laws and they’re highly influential in the laws. So the design of the monopoly board and the swamp, the Black agenda has to go through those pipes. So if AIPAC has an inordinate amount of control over the Black politicians, you could see very healthy legislation that’s in our people’s interests being diluted, being weighed down. And so AIPAC, other special interest groups, lobbyists that that Black agenda needs to go through a pipe, right? It needs to go across and around the monopoly board. So what the lobbyists and AIPAC and all these people are doing, you’re going to have to confront that. And I believe my thesis would be that if you confront the swamp and how the system is gamed and rigged and diluted by lobbyists and special interest groups, that the Black agenda is going to move faster. We have to organize, we have to put it together, we have to move it. But that thing is going to move faster if you confront this big beast in the swamp.

31:48 — Howard Franklin: I’m gonna say two things to that. One, all the money, all the lobbyists, all the campaign contributions or the television commercials don’t amount to one thing that is the trump card, pardon my French, which is the vote, right? Every elected member of a Congress or a state legislature or city hall or any other jurisdiction, they have one goal first and foremost. And that is to return to office when the voters make a decision. And so to the extent that all these other things are in the way, and I acknowledged him, I think you still, I think where the Black American agenda can rise above all these other things that are happening is to say, here’s who we’re going to back for president. Right? And if that person’s got to have some degree of ideological purity or some degree of a priority for the issues that we think are most important, right? And all the money in the world is not going to save a politician or a lobbying organization that isn’t in line with a group of people who say, “We are voting for our future.” Alright. But I’m gonna say one of the things about AIPAC that you mentioned, when AIPAC and the ancillary organizations approached me, the way it was couched was reconnecting the historical alliance between Blacks and Jews that was forged through the civil rights movement. You would surprise me if you could tell me one piece of legislation that AIPAC or any of the affiliates have advocated for that has been anti the Black agenda. The entirety of my knowledge as it relates to congressional politics has been safety and security for the state of Israel. It’s been really allocating funding…

Jamarlin Martin: That’s what you’re advocating for?

Howard Franklin: No, no.

Jamarlin Martin: Oh, you’re not saying that.

Howard Franklin: I’m just telling you that as someone who’s learned in this space, who has some relationships in his space, if you told me that the companies or other organizations took policies as it related to privacy, etc, that were anti or against the Black agenda, we could debate that. I’ve yet to see AIPAC get behind a piece of legislation in America, which is what I’m concerned about, that would be antithetical to what I believe a Black agenda should include.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, so let’s go there. You’ve opened up a can of worms. I was trying to protect you and not to go too far into AIPAC. Let’s talk about this. AIPAC and its affiliates, they banged against Barack Obama when all Barack Obama wanted to do is establish peace with Iran. Okay. So Barack Obama said, “Hey, there’s all these forces outside of the United States that’s pushing the United States and those Black and brown troops to go to war with Iran.” Barack Obama stood up to AIPAC, he stood up to Netanyahu.

Howard Franklin: And then congress invited him to speak behind his back.

Jamarlin Martin: And they disrespected him. AIPAC put money down to stop Barack Obama in trying to get a peace deal with Iran. So Netanyahu, who is, let’s call it an AIPAC affiliate. He disrespected Obama. The Congressional Black Caucus didn’t like the disrespect that Netanyahu was showing Obama. Many believe, that I’ve talked to in south Florida, our brother Andrew Gillum, who I support, he lost by around 50,000 votes or 52,000 votes. There was a report in Politico that I read, that Gillum underperformed in Jewish districts in Florida, and Desantis, MAGA and you have some fanatical a AIPAC members where if you don’t ride with us, we’ll blow this whole thing up. We’re voting Republican. Look Negro, if you don’t get in line with this one focus on Israel, we will not vote Democrat. We will vote Republican. Okay. So some believe, we don’t know for sure, that the AIPAC voter stopped Gillum because of fears he was not hard-line pro Israel. So I gave you two examples…

36:32 —Howard Franklin: Neither of which has anything to do with AIPAC as an organization or domestic policy. Let’s imagine…

Jamarlin Martin: You don’t think that a lot of these Florida voters are members?

Howard Franklin: I think any affiliation could be spun as anything. I don’t want to make… We’ve got a Morehouse brother who ran for president, is now up for federal board chairman or a board seat. I’m not going to go on television or on a podcast on radio and defend him because we happen to have the same alma mater. He has the ability and the right to advocate for whatever he wants. And I think that what we’ve got to keep in mind here is that the ability to advocate is enshrined in the constitution, the first amendment. So I think we’ve got to figure out how to play the game, not to say that the game is rigged and we won’t play.

Jamarlin Martin: Absolutely not. So if you’re telling me that Cory Booker, who’s an AIPAC favorite, right? And Bakari Sellers, who’s on the national board of AIPAC, that when our politicians come up, they fill a need because they can’t get money in other places. They can’t get support in other places. They’re desperate. And so AIPAC, but hold on, let me finish.

Howard Franklin: I don’t know if I can agree with the premise of the question.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah, you can disagree, but what I’m saying is that AIPAC will connect with Kamala Harris. They will connect with Cory Booker. It will sponsor Bakari Sellers and these people have in their mind, the game has always worked like this. You gotta go kiss the ring to AIPAC. That’s how the game has worked. We didn’t set the game up, but we got to play it. Other people are playing it. We got to play the game and I’m telling you that that game is going out the door and you see the Democratic Party moving to the left where you got to kiss the ring at AIPAC. You’ve got to follow AIPAC. You’ve got to vote AIPAC. You’ve got to get the money. That stuff is going out the door.

Howard Franklin: There are 14,000 registered lobbyists in Washington D.C.. AIPAC is not even the biggest spender of them. Right? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a big spender.

Jamarlin Martin: It can’t be measured by money.

Howard Franklin: Well, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that these guys have to go play the game and go get the money, but then don’t count the money when you bring the facts in.

Jamarlin Martin: The money is a factor, but AIPAC…

39:02 —Howard Franklin: Let me make a different point. My point isn’t that anything you said is wrong. I don’t know it to be true, but I don’t believe it’s wrong. Right. I don’t know Cory Booker. I can’t speak for whose backed him, etc. I don’t believe that when he ran for Newark City Council and then for mayor, he was on folks’ radar and that’s how he won those elections. Right. I have friends who were in those spaces and I think there are plenty of other stakeholders that powered his electoral success. Maybe when you get to the point where you’re on the U.S. Senate, then you’re on everybody’s radar. I don’t know, but I will say this, I think you made a really important point, which is that Black leaders need resources. Every campaign is driven by three resources, people, time and money. That’s all you got in any campaign from dog catcher to president. The challenge that I think you’re underscoring and rightly so, is that when you’ve got a community that wants to support a leader, but they’ve got a deficit of any of those things, that other organizations come in and fill that void, right? You’re saying, Black folks should be able to say, “Cory Booker, we’re going to tell you whether or not you can be president and it’s going to be up to us.” We’re going to provide you with the manpower or the dollars or the connectivity or the worldview that should shape the decisions you make in the White House, should you succeed. But if we fall short on one or two or three of those things, then you’re saying someone else swoops in, and my point is to say, well, let’s not fall short on those things because there’s always going to be someone to swoop in.

Jamarlin Martin: This is part one. Tune in to the next episode for part two. 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!

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Episode 54, Part 2

Apr 16, 2019

Frederick Hutson

Jamarlin continues his discussion with Frederick Hutson, founder and CEO of Pigeonly. They discuss how

igeonly. 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!

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Episode 53

Apr 08, 2019

Frederick Hutson

Part 1: Jamarlin talks to justice-tech pioneer Frederick Hutson, who founded Pigeonly to create communications

ons products for inmates and their families that reduce the destructive impact of incarceration. They talk about his time in the pen for selling marijuana, developing the Pigeonly idea on the inside, and raising capital from investors. They discuss Pigeonly defeating lobbyists from the prison industrial complex and how we can weaponize technology to fight back and solve problems that disproportionately impact African Americans.

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! Today we have Frederick Hutsonn, the founder and CEO of Pigeonly. How’s it going Frederick.

Frederick Hutson: I’m doing well.

Jamarlin Martin: Let’s dive right in. You have a super interesting story. Can we start with your background in terms of high school and how did you get to the point of starting Pigeonly?

Frederick Hutson: Yeah. I grew up in Saint Petersburg, Florida, which is right outside of Tampa. Just where I grew up at, it was just the drug culture, right? So that was always around me, for the most part though…

Jamarlin Martin: Saint Pete. You guys have another name for it?

Frederick Hutson: Yeah, we called it “The Burg”. Yeah. So most of that time, I managed to stay out of trouble and stay on the right path for the most part. And then even one of the most successful people in my family at the time was my uncle who I looked up to a great deal and he was in the Air Force. So I said, that’s probably what I’m gonna do. So I got out of high school, signed up, went into the military, and then some of my close family friends when I was in the Air Force, they came out to Vegas. They told me what they were doing as far as moving marijuana from, at the time, Texas through to Florida and how they were doing it and how inefficient it was. I said, I can make that a lot better, make it a lot more efficient. It got so efficient, it caught the federal government’s attention, and I was indicted when I was 23 for distribution of something like 8,000 pounds of marijuana, something like that. So it was during that time when I went to prison and I just started noticing and seeing this huge population of people that no one’s paying attention to and more importantly that everyone had the same problem. It was very difficult and expensive to stay in touch. And then what I didn’t know at the time, which I learned later was, that my observation of how often people can stay in touch, how difficult was, was backed by over 40 years of research showing that people who couldn’t afford it, didn’t have the financial means to stay in touch, were more likely to get in trouble, more likely to be back in prison. The people who could maintain those family connections, those are the folks I didn’t see come back. Long story short, got out around 2012, I got my co-founder Alfonso who I had known for a good while, while I was in the Air Force, and we started what’s now Pigeonly, which in a sentence is basically a platform that makes it easy for people to search, find and communicate with their incarcerated loved one. So today we have customers over in 88 countries and we’re shipping over 3,000 to 4,000 orders a day all over the United States. We do a little over 2 million phone minutes a month. So now we’ve gotten to the point where we’re pretty well known in the industry as far as at least one of the largest independent providers providing that communication.

Jamarlin Martin: You were incarcerated for selling drugs. Was it marijuana or all types of drugs?

Frederick Hutson: Marijuana.

Jamarlin Martin: Marijuana. Okay. Got It. And would you say that your experience in the Air Force helped you in the drug game in terms of, it gave you a unique…

03:08 —Frederick Hutson: I would say what I got from the Air Force was discipline. It really taught me a lot of discipline. It really taught me how important it is to have a process to everything that you want to do, because the military has a process for every single thing, right? It’s really outlined and it’s very rare you can do something that’s not on a program like that. So that’s something that I took forward and that’s something I was very disciplined about, regimen because we had people in three different countries and over 50, 60 people you’re managing and it’s not your typical employee or type of employee that you’re managing. Right. So it took a lot of discipline and took a lot of process to be able to manage it at the level where I was doing it. And I would say that’s probably some of the things that I took with me then that I even still to this day, because you know, for the most part business is business, it really doesn’t matter. Whether you’re selling marijuana, whether you’re selling cupcakes, for the most part it’s all the same process.

Jamarlin Martin: I’m thinking that that unique experience probably not a lot of people, if anybody, in Saint Pete are pushing marijuana but they’ve been into that system of the Air Force where you put the streets and that together, you may have a competitive advantage and that may have of course, helped you in tech as well. You get busted. How did that come about?

Frederick Hutson: Yeah, so it was going on for about three or four years, probably closer to four or five years actually. And it was just one day. So at the time because the volume was getting so much, we had to get to the point where we had tractor trucks and it was just so large where we had to graduate from just using shipping centers and I used to go to different UPS stores and Mailbox Etc.s and Fedexs and things like that to ship it and got to the level where it wasn’t enough. So then I opened up my own mail store so that I would be able to have the means to be able to ship as much as I wanted. So one day I was at that store and it was really quiet. A couple of my friends that was in Saint Pete, I hadn’t heard from. Usually I would hear from people pretty early on the west coast, cause it’s early on the east coast. So I would hear from people around six, seven and I didn’t hear from any people that day, so the day just started out feeling weird.

Jamarlin Martin: I’m thinking Johnny Depp’s movie Blow where it’s like the final run…

Frederick Hutson: Yeah. That morning just didn’t feel right because it was a few days after big shipment hand went down. So I was waiting for the money to come back from the east coast. We’re not talking about $5,000, $6,000, $7,000. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. Right? So that stuff was like clockwork. That morning just felt strange because usually we would have our check-ins and messages and stuff like that. And it was just silent. So I said, I’m not going to strip out, this is not the first time that we’ve had scares. It’s not the first time that something has went sideways. It was just a part of the process and part of the business where shit will go sideways more often than not. So it didn’t throw me off right away, but it just didn’t feel right. So I end up going to the store and then about five or six cars just pull up, all of them marked cars and agents jump out with guns drawn. And at that point I knew what was happening. So they took me in to the federal building, which was maybe about 15, 20 minutes away from there. And they read me my charges and that was the beginning of the end.

Jamarlin Martin: It was all good a few weeks ago. Did you have some team members that took you out?

06:47 —Frederick Hutson: The thing about drugs is that you can’t do everything by yourself. Right. So at some point you’re going to involve other people and the more people you involve, the more opportunities or more links that can be broken. And that’s what happened. Right? We had UPS drivers and Fedex drivers and DHL drivers on payroll. Then you have UPS drivers that start making a lot more money than what they’re used to. And then you start going to work at UPS and you trade in your Camry for a Porshe truck, and people start asking questions. So that’s how it was. You start asking the right questions to the right people, start applying the right pressure, before you know it, people say, okay, yeah, it’s not coming from me, it’s coming from there. And then before you know it, I was the last person they picked up because I was the guy at the end of the chain. So it just one of those things where it just went upstream.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. Got It. So you spent time in the pen. Four years. What was that experience like? What does the public get wrong about spending years in the pen?

Frederick Hutson: It’s different. I could speak on federal because my time was in the federal institution, which is a lot different than states. But from the federal side, it really depends. So I went in when I was 23, so because of my age and because of the crime. So one of the things that the government has is if you have over certain amount of drugs, even if it’s marijuana, they classify you as a violent offender. So because my indictment was over a thousand kilograms, it classified me as a violet offender. So I had to do things like register in Vegas as a voilent offender and all those other kinds of things. And what that also does is that when you go to prison, they raise your security level so that instead of going to a camp or going to a low institution, you shoot straight to the top and you go to a penitentiary, which is the worst of the worst, right? So you might have a five or six-year sentence, but you’re doing time with somebody who has life. So it creates a very different dynamic. But what I will say is one of the things that the way the institutions and just the culture of prison, is that everything is really driven by respect. You give respect, but then you also have to know how to demand respect back. And that’s pretty much how it is.

09:09 —Jamarlin Martin: Were you tested there?

Frederick Hutson: Yeah, I mean things would happen. For example, I’ll tell you a funny story. So in the room there’s just an open room. You have TVs on the wall and all the TVS have radio tuners so that in order for you to hear the TV, you tune your radio. So the first thing you do in prison is you buy a radio and then you can tune to the radio, you can listen to the music or you can watch whatever’s on the television. So guys that’s been there a while, they have spots. So if you’re new, you don’t know what somebody’s spot is, and the spot is not distinguishable from another spot. It’s just a spot on the floor and this is this guy’s spot and this is where he’ll put his chair to watch the show. So I was there for maybe not that long, maybe a couple of weeks. And I put my chair in the wrong spot. So I’m sitting in someone’s spot, I don’t know whose spot I’m sitting in.

Jamarlin Martin: You don’t know the rules.

Frederick Hutson: Yeah, I don’t know. Right. So the thing that’s interesting is that everything is segregated. So all the races stay together. So the Blacks with the Blacks, the whites with the whites, the Mexicans with the Mexicans. There’s some Mexican gangs that role with the Blacks. There’s some Mexican gangs that role with the whites or some Mexicans that role by themselves. Because I did my time mostly on the west coast, the gang culture is very, very strong on the west coast.

Jamarlin Martin: So what state were you in?

Frederick Hutson: At this time I was in Arizona.

Jamarlin Martin: Arizona. Okay. Got It.

Frederick Hutson: Yeah. So institutions on that side of the country are majority Mexican. Right? So any conflict that you have. I can have a conflict with one individual, it doesn’t end with me. It turns to all the Blacks now have a conflict with whatever group that person came from with all his group. So that’s what happened. So in the TV room, because me and this guy had his conflict, then all of a sudden it was Mexicans against the Blacks because of that conflict. Right? So that was one of those things where they put everybody on lockdown and it was all crazy, but it just gets crazy because, and that’s just one of many incidents. There were guys in a dispute over a washing machine and we had a riot that went on for days.

Jamarlin Martin: It’s like individual conflict is like tribal conflict.

Frederick Hutson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s just how it is. And it’s one of those things where, where are you from? You have the groups within the group. So if you’re from Florida, you’re with the Florida guys. Florida guys are within the Blacks and then the Blacks are just as a whole. Or if you’re a Crip and you’re a Crip within the Crips, and the Crips are within the Blacks as a whole. And then that’s how it goes.

Jamarlin Martin: You take this experience and you come up with an innovative solution, Pigeonly. Talk about putting the idea in place and how far away is that from you getting out of jail?

11:42 —Frederick Hutson: Yeah. So it takes a lot of time to get adjusted. You’re in a whole different world. Once you kind of get that adjusted and you kind of get into a routine, whether it’s working out, going to the law library, going to the regular library, whatever it is that you do. Then you start figuring out how to program, what you call it inside, you call it programming because you had to figure out how to do the time or else you just lose your mind. Right? So you basically set up this program, I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do this. And it just uses up your day and that’s how you can get through the day. So what I used to do was, after working out obviously, and read and things like that, I would just brainstorm business ideas and I would just make the whole business model in my head or on paper, whatever I had access to. So I would go through every step from just envisioning how much money I would need to what I would buy, how many people I would employ. And I would just basically, it was just my way of, for lack of a better word, mental exercise, just to kind of go through the process of what I thought, at least what I understood. The cool thing about federal prison is that what you’re also with are with a lot of white collar guys, right? So these are the guys who were at Fortune 500 companies and who are in for tax evasion or there was a lot of politicians and things like that. So you get a very diverse group of people when it comes to federal institutions. So I had a lot of people around me that I leveraged for mentors and they would teach me, not only the language of business in some cases, but also the steps that you had to take. And I would just apply that to all the problems that I would see. So I’ve always naturally been good at identifying a problem and building a solution for it. But a lot of those guys turned into my mentors and how to put a framework around that and what is it like to build a financial model. Things like that. Things that I didn’t know before, I learned a lot of that in jail. And that’s what I’d be doing. So I did that for several business ideas, whatever I can come up with. Some were stupid. Some made sense. Some didn’t. But it was all about practice for me. It was all about that mental exercise for me. And it necessarily wasn’t about actually doing it. It was really about just going through that mental exercise of going through all those steps. By the time I got released, I almost felt like I did that shit already before. You know what I’m saying? So it really went down, from the outside looking in, people were looking at us and they were looking at the speed of which we were getting things done. But it almost felt like I had run through this and through my mind over and over and over and over for years with different ideas.

Jamarlin Martin: You’re saying you had Pigeonly in your mind while you were locked up?

Frederick Hutson: Yeah, I actually tried to give it… We laugh about it now, but one of my dudes that was in my housing unit, I actually tried to give the idea to him, cause I had so many ideas and things I wanted to do and I was like, hey, why don’t you do this? He’s like, “Nah, I don’t wanna do that.”

Jamarlin Martin: Are you thinking about subscription and stuff like that?

Frederick Hutson: I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about just a business to make it easy at the time for people to be able to upload and send photos from their phone and have those photos shipped and delivered. So that’s as far as it went at the time.

Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. What I love about your experience is that we can get into technology and the startup game and maybe some people want to use this and go work at Facebook or work at Google or whatever, but we can also solve problems that are specific to us and we can weaponize it to lift our people up. It’s not just kind of, hey, get into STEM or get into tech. You can go into the Silicon Valley pipeline, but you can also get into this game and create positive weapons for us, people who look like us. You spent four years, almost five years in the pen. And how do you feel about white folks being structured to legalize marijuana and then start making billions while there’s so much pain and suffering among the Black poor who were doing the same thing under an illegal, so called illegal regime. You have a lot of skin in the game on this issue. How does that make you feel?

15:56 —Frederick Hutson: I think one of the things that shows and reminds you the world that we lived in is the fact that I have a felony with marijuana that prevents me from ever being able to participate in the legal marijuana business. And that’s not just me, that’s anybody that has a felony. You won’t even be able to qualify for a license. It’s what we’ve seen time and time again where there’s systematic and systemic things that are in place that allows one group of people to be more prosperous than others. It’s no different. We don’t start on a level playing field. We don’t start at the same line. Even if you’ve never seen a day of prison or if you’ve never been outside of the law in your life, you still don’t start off on an equal platform as your white counterpart. It’s just not true. So it’s one of those things where, at least for me personally, it makes me more so, one, be conscious of it and then do what I can to be involved in policies and to make sure that I can use whichever leverage that I have and network that I have to make sure I’m in the rooms when these policies are discussed and when those things are happening because that’s the only real way we’re going to see change. I mean, there’s more to just voting and all that. It’s really about putting your money and energy to have people pushing your agendas like what other groups do. And I think that’s what we’re missing.

Jamarlin Martin: In terms of lobbying and special interests.

Frederick Hutson: Right. And I think that’s what we have to start thinking that way if we really want things to turn our way. Other than that, it’s just somebody that wants to do something for you. But when you think of other groups and you look at other initiatives that have happened, and you can pick whatever initiative that’s happened in the past, they had a group that not only was pushing for something but they also put in their resources and energy behind that to put that person in the front to say, hey, we’re hiring you to get this job done, so to speak.

Jamarlin Martin: It sounds like what you’re talking about is, the design of the monopoly board is so much more important than whatever the thimble is doing in terms of. for Black people, we’re getting caught up on these micro issues. These issues may be important, how someone looks, the gender, someone said this, someone made you feel a certain way. But the monopoly board is based on lobbying money and special interests. Those are the people who are designing the policies and your oppression. According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and then the chairman of Google, he said, lobbyists write all the laws. So why aren’t we?

18:50 —Frederick Hutson: We’re just not thinking that way. And I had no idea it was going to get into all this. Just going to role with it. But it was one of the things that we started paying attention to what our company is, is that we realized that in order for us to really be disruptive, I mean we’re going against two multi-billion dollar organizations that are in our space that basically had the correction space locked up when it comes to communications. And I learned early on…

Jamarlin Martin: You’re talking about the private prison complex, the industrial complex.

Frederick Hutson: Exactly. So what started exposing me to what we’re talking about is I realized that we can have as good a product as we want. We can have all the investment funding that we need, but unless you have the right people in the right room that’s pushing your interest, you’re not going to get anywhere.

Jamarlin Martin: The lobbies have so much power.

Frederick Hutson: You’re not going anywhere. So I’ll give an example. So over the past 10 years there has been a huge battle in the FCC when it comes to phone rate blocking. So basically what these phone companies were doing, these prison phone companies in particular were doing was that if you was consumer and you signed up for let’s say Pigeonly or a company similar to Pigeonly, and that would allow you to save rates or save money on your phone calls, they would block your calls. So essentially what they were telling Jamarlin is that you can’t use Sprint, you can’t use AT&T. You have to use this provider because they knew that that were guaranteed that they would be able to get the most revenue out of you. So what we did and what we learned the hard way is that we had to invest in attorneys and lobbyists to make sure our interests was heard, to say, “Yo, this is fucked up. You should not be able to do that. You should not be able to dictate to a consumer what phone company they can and can’t use.” So this went on for years. We put a lot of money into that and the law eventually passed where you can’t do that anymore. Right. So now it is illegal for that to happen. That wasn’t illegal a few years before we existed.

Jamarlin Martin: Is that at a specific state level?

Frederick Hutson: No it’s federal. FCC-wide. So that’s just a small example. Yeah. That’s a small example of us pushing our interest, talking to the right people…

Jamarlin Martin: And banging against the lobbyists.

20:51 —Frederick Hutson: And then pushing an agenda that not only was good for us, but also was good just for the consumer because the consumer should not be forced to always have to make a call a certain way then ensures a company makes the highest profit. That doesn’t make sense. Right. But it’s been that way for years. And the people that has paid the price of that was all brown and Black folks. They was complaining. They were sending all the letters that they want. But until someone actually put dollars and effort into it and put the right people in a room that has an influence, it doesn’t change. And that’s true with any policy, major policy shifts and that’s what we’re starting to see with criminal justice. All this criminal justice talk that you’re seeing. You see all the people that are talking about it, but behind the scenes you have people that have financial interest in changing things. You have the Koch brothers, you have a lot of big people that are putting lots of money into what we just see and we feel like, oh, everybody’s talking our criminal justice now. And so I think as a people, we start understanding how the game works, we can start playing the game for our own benefit.

Jamarlin Martin: We need to think bigger in terms of lobbying. Yeah. I would say when you hear a lot of Black voters who are politically active, lobbying and special interest groups doesn’t make their top five. That’s a problem because that’s where the design of the monopoly board of course is taking place. So your revenue model, where do you generate the most revenue?

Frederick Hutson: For us, we have a subscription-based model. So right now people can basically pick and choose. We have six consumer facing products. We have the phone product, which obviously is our most popular.

Jamarlin Martin: How does the phone product work?

Frederick Hutson: So it’s very similar to Google voice or Skype when you sign up. You tell us, “I want to be able to receive a call from John Smith.” One of the things that’s unique to us is that we built a database that tracks everyone who’s in the system. And it tracks every institution. It knows information like what’s the phone rates at this given prison, what’s the address. what’s the visitation rules, what’s the pricings? And it tracks it out. There’s over 17,000 facilities that it’s tracking 24/7, because each institution is different. You can be literally across the street from each other. They’re completely different. So when you go to our site and you put in John Smith, it’ll allow you to see where John Smith is. You can say, “Okay, cool. I want to be able to get calls from John Smith.” You can press the phone button, it’ll give you a telephone number and then going forward, John Smith will call that number instead of your regular number to be able to reach you. And then when he calls the Pigeonly number, we’ll connect that call to your existing cell phone or land line. In doing so, we’re routing the call the cheapest way possible. So for example, instead of paying, in federal prison, you get to speak 300 minutes so it costs $70 at 23 cents a minute. With our service, the same 300 minutes costs you 18 cents. So it’s more expensive to not be a Pigeonly customer than it is to be a Pigeonly customer.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, got it. How many of your customers are Black in the United States?

Frederick Hutson: I don’t know that stat, but if I use the prison stat, I would say the majority.

Jamarlin Martin: You’ve got subscriptions, you’ve got phones.

24:02 —Frederick Hutson: We have phones, we have letters, postcards, greeting cards, articles. So basically we just give people multiple options on how to stay in touch. Basically try to connect all of us who live in this digital world, to this population that lives in a mostly analog world.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay. Got it. Can I use your platform to type a letter online and then you’re going to send it out?

Frederick Hutson: So basically how it works is that you’ll type the letter, you can sign it with your finger just to give that personalized touch and then you hit the send button and it goes off, and then it’s printed, shipped and mailed. And then the inmate receives the actual tangible letter that you typed in three to five days.

Jamarlin Martin: Can you talk to the problem of, a lot of our people, some family members get lost in the system?

Frederick Hutson: Absolutely.

Jamarlin Martin: Can you talk about how big a problem that is?

Frederick Hutson: Yeah. That’s one of the reasons why we built what we call Haystack, and Haystack is basically our platform that makes it very hard for someone to be lost in the system. Because one of the things that we found out, at least from my experience as well, is that I was in eight different institutions. So some of my close family and friends couldn’t even find me. Right. And there’s some attorneys that can’t find their clients because you’re bounced around so much and it’s not like there’s some customer service line you can call at a jail and say, “Hey, I’m looking for somebody or where’s this person.” You don’t get a notification. It just happens. So when I saw that, I said, we can tie all these databases together and one of the problems is that, you would think that this wouldn’t be the case, but states don’t talk to each other. Institutions don’t talk to each other. So you can go from one institution to another. There’s no communication between the two. So, for example, the way criminal justice data is stored and tracked in California is completely opposite than how it’s stored and tracked in Texas and how it is stored and tracked in Florida and none of the institutions talk to each other. So what basically what we built was a software layer on top of that to tile these independent data sources together. So you can have one centralized database that can kind of see from a 50,000 foot view of everything that’s going on across the system. So what that helps, for example, we have a lot of attorneys that use our service to be able to know at any time where their loved one is or where their client is or whoever they’re trying to see. They can see where that person is. Even though I’m all that data’s there, it’s just not tied together. It’s very antiquated the way it is set up today.

Jamarlin Martin: You have your business model thought out before you get out. It’s time to get investors. Talk about that process.

Frederick Hutson: Yeah. So, when we started, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. So we first built the first version of what Pigeonly which was a very basic, ugly, barely working but worked way for people to upload photos…

Jamarlin Martin: How did you get your first developer? Did you go to Odesk or something like that?

Frederick Hutson: It was freelancer.com.

Jamarlin Martin: Okay, got it. Yeah, that’s what I did. Early in the game, scraping.

Frederick Hutson: Exactly. So you went on it and you post a job and we got that first person and I was looking for someone that I can just talk plain English to because once again, I didn’t know the speech. Now I can speak fluent developer talk. But at the time I couldn’t, right. So I had to hire someone. I can just speak in plain English and say, “Hey, this is what I’m trying to accomplish, what I’m trying to build.” And then they can convert that into functional specs that an engineer can use to actually build something that is pretty close, if not exactly what you want. Because there’s always a disconnect a lot of times between the business parties and the engineering team or the design side of the house in engineering teams, a lot of times it disconnects between the two. But we had somehow figured out how to get the product built, Alfonso and I. And I was watching CNN one day and then CNN special “Black in America” came on and it was talking about the NewMe Accelerator. At the time I didn’t know what accelerator was. I’d never heard of an accelerator. We had talked to a couple of people in Tampa about an investment, but there was like…

Jamarlin Martin: Florida.

27:51 —Frederick Hutson: Yeah. It was like, what tech? What do you have any assets? I was like, what assets, it’s software? Right.

Jamarlin Martin: At least, I know at this time Florida would be super low on tech and high on crazy.

Frederick Hutson: They don’t understand. They just don’t get it. Right. So I almost started to give up on it and we were just focused on making revenue. Right? So then I saw this thing and it was talking about Silicon Valley and I was like, what the hell is that? And then I started reading about it and Google and I was like, “Yo, there is a place where they embrace this and give people money if you have a tech business?” I think we kind of qualify as a tech business. So I started applying to all of them that I could find. I applied to Y Combinator. I applied to Techstars. I applied the NewMe Accelerator. I apply to everyone that I could find an application for. I even found one, I forget the name of it, they’re gone now. But there was one in Tampa that I even applied to. Right? They all said no. A few months rolled around, the next class was coming out. I did the same…

Jamarlin Martin: Did they ever give you feedback? Any of them?

Frederick Hutson: No, they would just say, no, we didn’t accept you, they’ll let you down softly, keep pushing, you’re doing a great job, but whatever.

Jamarlin Martin: I got to think they’re thinking the market’s not big enough. This is just some off the wall shit. Go ahead

Frederick Hutson: So then the second go around we got a response from NewMe and it was maybe two or three weeks before the class was about to start. And at the time I’m on probation, I’m not allowed to leave the state. So I pick up and I leave. And I said, “I’ll just figure out the rest later.” And I’m like, man, I hope I don’t get stopped, I hope I didn’t get pulled over cause I’m violating my probation, they going to send me right back to jail. So I get out to San Francisco to start the program. And then I would be in a program and I’d shoot back to Florida so that I could be around if the probation came around. Eventually I sent the letter of acceptance that we were getting into this program and I sent it to the probation officers and they gave me approval to travel and while I was in the accelerator I was the only person that had the probation officer showing up at the damn accelerator house. And the other guys are looking at me like, “Who the hell is this coming flashing a badge and stuff around.” But that was just a part of what I had to go through. So, long story short, as we went through that program, at the end of it, we were the only company that had a tangible working product with customers and was making money every day. And it wasn’t because we knew that that was important to have, because we didn’t know anything different. We didn’t know that. We thought that was the norm.

Jamarlin Martin: You didn’t know like, Hey, I’m just trying to get in a situation. I can lose money for seven years.

30:27 —Frederick Hutson: Exactly. So we just were doing what we thought we had to do. And basically, when it was time for Demo Day and was time to talk to the first batch of investors that they introduced us to, we stood out because we knew what our customer acquisition costs were, we knew what our revenue per day was. We knew what our growth rates from week to week was. So we knew what those things were. It validated that at the bare minimum, if people didn’t understand what we were doing because they’d never heard it before because most investors, after they said, “We’ve heard just about every variation of every type of pitch in the world. We haven’t heard anybody talk about anything remotely close to this market.” We were one of the very first companies to even talk about doing what they’re starting to call justice tech and all this kinds of stuff now. There wasn’t a thing then. So people had to at least pay attention to us because we had tangible numbers and a lot of what we considered our peers, not necessarily in the class, but just a new company starting out. A lot of them didn’t have customers. A lot of them didn’t have revenue and things like that. And we had that, right? So a lot of them didn’t have a customer acquisition strategy that worked. So people had to pay attention to us at that point. And that’s how we were able to secure our first million dollars in seed funding.

Jamarlin Martin: This is part one. Tune into the next episode for part two. 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!

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Episode 52, Part 2

Apr 02, 2019

Bärí A. Williams

Part 2. Jamarlin talks to tech attorney and diversity strategist Bärí Williams about the growing gap in big

e growing gap in big tech regulations between the U.S. and E.U., and why Democrats have been slow in bangin’ against Silicon Valley greed compared to Wall Street greed in 2008. They also discuss reparations and artificial intelligence being weaponized against Black people. 

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Episode 51

Mar 26, 2019

Bärí A. Williams

Jamarlin talks to tech attorney and diversity strategist Bärí Williams about her experience working at

her experience working at Facebook and whether Trump could be talking about Sen. Cory Booker when he claims he could blackmail a U.S. Senator. They also discuss some criticism of Sen. Kamala Harris that is “out of pocket.”

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