Perception Is Reality For Black Founders

Perception is reality…it creates the outcome. As one of the few black founders in technology, I found it hard to stay motivated because of these perceptions. Here’s why:

Every time we meet someone new, our mental impression decides whether we want to “keep them around” or ditch them. But, it’s not an even playing field, since history and experience influence perception.

Prior to starting Quick Theories, my friend Ryan and I founded a digital art startup known as 23VIVI. As broke college-dropouts, we needed to raise money from angel investors and venture capitalists. We found ourselves pitching 23VIVI every day for about a month straight.

During those 30 days, we really noticed the power of stereotypes and reinforces the saying: perception is reality.  You could see the tattoo across their foreheads as we entered rooms, “Wow! These guys are young. I can’t imagine giving them my hard earned money.”

Then we would get into our pitch. Given the startlingly low numbers of black founders in tech, they always expected and looked to Ryan for the pitch.

But, those weren’t our roles. I was the tech and business development guy, while Ryan was the art guy. So, I always spoke on the business model with Ryan’s help sprinkling in all of the art knowledge.

From December 2015 to April 2016, 23VIVI sold $8,935 in digital art, helped 17 artists sell their digital art, and was at the precipice for digital file ownership. Because we ran out of cash and didn’t see eye to eye with our potential investors, we had to turn down seed money and shut down 23VIVI.

But, perception isn’t the only reason we failed. We failed to stay motivated.

Perception is reality for black founders that don’t stay motivated

In startup culture, everyone believes revolutionizing an industry is only for the “first with the idea”.

This is wrong.

You see, we were the first digital art marketplace powered by blockchain. We no longer exist because we weren’t the “first to stay motivated”.

Black founders (all founders for that matter) succeed if and only if they are the first to stay motivated.

Would Michael Phelps have had as big of an impact if he had lost motivation after not medaling in the 2000 Olympics or after winning six gold medals in the 2004 Olympics? Probably not. But, he stayed motivated and is the most decorated Olympian of all-time.

Google was the 9th search engine to be founded. And what are they 9th at now? They were definitely the first to stay motivated.

Don’t get me wrong, original ideas are great and we should all continue pursuing them. However, the idea isn’t the whole story.

For five months my team and I endured failure in signing artists, selling artwork, and gaining recognition from the art industry. Overall, we failed at raising money.

The main point here is that success isn’t on some island. It’s not a destination we discover or an idea we have one day. And it’s not served on a silver platter because of our race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Every winner fails at some point. Every winner must face the perception of doubters. True success lies in being the first to stay motivated no matter the failure you encounter.

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6 Comments

  • Drew
    4 months ago

    Always important to constantly reevaluate just what color our glasses are. An age old construct (as evidenced by the fact that poet as old as Emerson would have been writing about the same thing) that people often go their entire lives without even bothering to question how their own point of view effects the outcome of basically every interaction. Most certainly worth calling our attention to – thanks for raising the questions we all must ask ourselves; this is a very valuable insight you’ve brought to the fore.

  • Corinne
    4 months ago

    Well put, Drew. Also it reminded me I hadn’t read Desiderata for some time: ‘.. listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story’.

  • Nancy
    4 months ago

    Wise words

  • Stephanie
    4 months ago

    You are never too old (or young!) to learn. Yay for lifelong learning!

  • Brad
    4 months ago

    Sage advice.

  • Sanjith Vasudev
    4 months ago

    Loved the article – Explains most part of human interactions and outcomes. Tells a way out for a better life. Thanks!

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