GENERAL PARTNER & CO-FOUNDER
“I was leaving for school, and my dad said, congratulations. You’re going off to college. I really hope it goes well. But if it doesn’t, you’re never coming back here. You’re going to the military. And that stuck with me.”
Phil and I have known each other for the last X years. Phil started as a self-described snotty-nosed kid running around Baltimore trying to play ball and became one of the most successful venture capitalists in the D.C. area.
“I was leaving for school, and my dad said congratulations. You’re going off to college. I really hope it goes well. But if it doesn’t, you’re never coming back here. You’re going to the military. And that stuck with me.”
He started in venture in 1999 and worked his way up, gaining his apprentice-style experience through a big fund that had $650 million under management. “It’s hard to learn the business outside of the industry. You sort of have to learn it by doing.”
Phil shares his journey of what it is like to be a black man in venture and how we can break the cycle of making deals with “the same people we always have.”
“How does venture work? It’s driven by two things—your relationships and pattern recognition. You do research and other things. But, you also say, well, I backed the person who looks just like that person who reminds me of this person. And that makes you more comfortable doing that deal. So when your networks are white males, it’s going to lead to referrals that are from other people who look like them.”
Phil has an incredible way of seeing things from others’ perspectives and finding a workaround to be successful. “Often, we allow emotion to color our perspective on the situation. But you have to pay attention and separate that from your decision-making.”
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