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How Esusu’s cofounders turned 326 rejections (and a long night out in the cold) into a unicorn

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How Esusu’s cofounders turned 326 rejections into a unicorn

On this week’s episode of Fortune‘s Leadership Next podcast, co-hosts Alan Murray and Ellen McGirt talk with Esusu cofounder and co-CEO Wemimo Abbey, who earned a spot on the 2022 Fortune 40 Under 40 list. They discuss the company’s business model—which helps renters and lower-income Americans build their credit while maintaining secure housing—and what drives its success. They also cover what Abbey and Esusu’s cofounder and co-CEO, Samir Goel, went through on the way to turning the company into a unicorn (including a long night in the cold while out searching for funding).

Also on the show is Erika Seth Davies, CEO of Rhia Ventures, which focuses on the U.S. market for sexual, reproductive, and maternal health, who is looking to innovate through the lens of gender and racial equity. Davies is also the founder of The Racial Equity Asset Lab, which centers racial equity in impact investing.

Listen to the episode or read the full transcript below.

Transcript

Alan Murray: Leadership Next is powered by the folks at Deloitte, who, like me, are super focused on how CEOs can lead in the context of disruption and evolving societal expectations.

Welcome to Leadership Next, the podcast about the changing rules of business leadership. I’m Alan Murray, and I’m here with my first-in-class co-host, Ellen McGirt. And, Ellen, I am super excited about today’s conversation because, you know, we talk to a lot of big company CEOs. But today we’re talking about a founder who had an idea that he thought could change the world, make the world better and make him money. And that’s a combination I like.

Ellen McGirt: I love it, and it’s a big idea too. Our guest today is Wemimo Abbey, the co-founder and co-CEO of Esusu. Esusu is a company that reports rental payments to the three major credit bureaus to help people with low or no credit scores build credit history. And you met him.

Murray: Yeah, he was at our CEO initiative event last year. Really impressive. Impressed the whole crowd. I think he got a virtual standing ovation. He is going to explain how Esusu works, we’ll let him do that. But let me just say in introduction, in the five years since he started the company, they have reached over 1 million renters in all 50 states and put some 44,000 people on the financial map.

McGirt: It’s incredible. And it’s such an important focus. It’s such a good idea hiding in plain sight. As many of you listening already know, if you don’t have what is considered to be a good credit score, you’re disqualified really, from fully participating in the American economy. Makes it hard to get a loan, to buy a house or a credit card, secure financial aid to go to college, some jobs as well. And of course, it disproportionately hits certain populations more than others and that’s important to think about too.

Murray: And we’re not talking about a small group of people here: 45 million Americans are considered to be credit invisible, meaning they don’t have a credit score or have had very little opportunity to build credit. And many of those, as you say, are people of color, low income people, immigrants, etc.

McGirt: That’s right. And I think what’s particularly inspiring about Wemimo’s story is that he took what he learned from a very difficult personal experience in his own life, and built those insights into a company that would help other people avoid being in the same exact position. This is not just about building a bridge forward to a better financial life. It’s about dignity. It’s about being able to fully interact in the world as a fully capable person. But I’m not going to spoil those stories because he tells it so beautifully.

Murray: Well, let’s let him tell the story. We’ll get to Wemimo in a minute. But you have another guest later in the episode.

McGirt: We sure do. Later in this episode, I will talk to Erika Seth Davies, the CEO of impact investor Rhia Ventures about how firms like hers are working to make Black-owned unicorn companies like Esusu a norm rather than an exception, and I’m looking forward to that.

Murray: I am too, Ellen, but first let’s listen to Wemimo Abbey of Esusu.

Wemimo, start us off by telling us what Esusu is and why you started.

Wemimo Abbey: Thanks, Alan, for having me. Every time I talk about Esusu, I always think it’s important to go down memory lane and talk about the why behind this issue. So for me, I grew up in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria. I was raised by my mother and two very spirited sisters. And one thing my mother has always believed in was the importance of education. She offered my school fees to one of the finest high schools in the land. And that’s what led me to this magical place called America. I emigrated from 80 degree weather in Lagos to negative 22 degrees in Minnesota…

Murray: Oh my goodness.

Abbey: …which was an experience. And you know, these days when I tell my New York or California friends, I love to deer hunt and ice fish, they look me weird. But Minnesota taught me a lot about myself. But something important happened during that transition to Minneapolis. My mother and I did not have a credit score. So when we came here, we walked into one of the biggest financial institutions to borrow money and were turned away and had to go borrow money at over 400% interest rate from a predatory lender. My mother sold my dad’s wedding ring. We borrowed money from church members. And that’s how we got started in the United States.

So really inspired by that experience, my co-founder and I started Esusu on three core premises. No matter where you come from the, color of your skin, and particularly, your financial identity shouldn’t determine where you end up in the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen. And that’s what led to Esusu and what we do at Esusu is really simple. We work with the largest owners and operators of real estate to help renters capture on-time rental payments and report it into the consumer rating agencies, to help them establish and build their credit scores. And when folks can’t afford to pay rent, we essentially help them out with zero interest loans paid directly to their landlord so they are not evicted.

Murray: That’s such a fascinating idea. I mean, so right now, most people, if you pay your rent on time, it doesn’t show up in your credit rating at all, it just isn’t recorded. And so what you do is you capture that on-time rental payment and make a record of it so that people can develop a credit score and the credit rating agencies are willing to work with you on that.

Abbey: They’re really, really excited about this innovation here. Because if we take a step back and think about it, for low-to-medium income people, rent amounts to 30 to 50% of their monthly expense. And it’s bewildering to think about the fact that we don’t include this particular data points to understand someone’s credit worthiness. We have a system today that’s essentially built on the construct of making sure someone is guilty until proven innocent. I have to go into debt to prove that I can essentially meet a debt obligation, which just doesn’t make sense. So the ability to capture this data is a welcome opportunity from the consumer rights agencies, namely EquifaxExperian and TransUnion. And the enthusiasm for this data has been, you know, really, really great. And we’ve also seen good reception from the federal government, supporting the idea that rental data should be incorporated in consumer credit profiles.

McGirt: It’s a wonderful idea hiding in plain sight. And before I go into where the big picture is in the racial wealth gap, first of all, thank you for bringing your fresh perspective on a really intractable problem that we’re having here. But I want to say that on several reporting trips, I’ve been lucky enough to visit Lagos and, and many, many, many parts of Lagos and as many African-Americans, I don’t know where I’m from. And I immediately decided that Lagos was my home, and I was surrounded by cousins. I was accepted as a cousin. [Abbey laughing.] You’re laughing because you know how emotional it can be. And I have cousins I still keep in touch with and I appreciate the the cross-pollination of good spirit and good feeling here.

I was also raised by a single mom who couldn’t get credit and we were really in trouble. And if we didn’t have places to stay, we would never have recovered. And this would have been an amazing tool. So that leads me to my actual question is, what is the big picture solve? Where does this fit into the bigger picture of the racial wealth gap? And how vulnerable is the population you’re serving now that we’re looking at some inflationary headwinds?

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Abbey: Well, Ellen, there’s no doubt that you’re Nigerian, and I’m excited you call Lagos your home. You asked a very compelling question and the challenge of the racial wealth gap in this country. I’m a student of history and I always try as much as possible for us to stay grounded in what has happened in the past before. You know, when you think about these United States, this country I reside in. It was built on the premise of cheap debt, right? You look at the legacy of slavery, look at the legacy of Jim Crow, you think about the housing discrimination in the ’30s of the Federal Housing Authority fundamentally leveraging the law to exclude people of color from building wealth. The biggest driver of wealth in the history of this country has been home ownership but people of color were systematically essentially left out of that equation. So that’s the bedrock of what we are trying to tackle, that essentially contributes in rhetoric to this important matter. We’re trying as much as possible to actually do something that can count as record so people get their fighting chance.

In the context of Esusu, you know, what we are trying to do is this concept of financial identity. You heard from my story, when my mother and I came to this country, we couldn’t get credit. The point here is, how do we make people be seen in the American financial system? If you don’t have that three digits number, you have a poor one, you’re not going to be seen and you’re going to be denied access to quality financial products. And by reporting a large expense on a monthly basis, it can help establish for the first time and improve people’s credit score.

Murray: I love this Wemimo, but I have to ask you, this is a business show, how do you make money? I mean, you work with the real estate companies, you collect this data, you give it to Experian and Equifax. But where do you get your cut?

Abbey: So I’m glad you asked that question, Alan. I think Esusu was built on this premise called justice capitalism. We believe in doing well and doing good and that’s by no means mutually exclusive. So how do we make money? We charge the owner and operator—so the landlords—$2 per door per month to report this data. And you might say why should they pay for it? We also have an innovative model where we essentially raised over a billion dollars in philanthropy cap, so from the largest philanthropic institutions that are focused on homelessness, they usually fund homelessness when people are already on the streets. We turned around and said, why should we fund homelessness backwards? So we started doing eviction prevention program and deploying zero interest loans paid directly to the landlords, when renters can’t afford to pay rent. So it’s a win win win construct: a win for the renter, so they’re not evicted and who can get this zero interest loan and pay back and show their creditworthiness. A win for the landlord because they’re profitable, they’re not missing out on rent, [hard to hear], it’s not hurting their reputation. And a windfall of us because we’re not spending taxpayers money, solving homelessness backwards. So that’s the concept Esusu was built on.

McGirt: That is wonderful. I want to focus in on the population that might need that zero interest rate loan. The business question is, what’s the default rate on that? And what do we learn from that? And then the visionary question is, what do we learn from that population? You’re vulnerable. If you need that loan, you’re vulnerable. What other factors are happening in their lives and what other interventions are possible?

Abbey: Yeah. And so if we take a step back, I said it very clearly, America was built on cheap debt, right? VA loans, FHA loans, people were paying zero interest. So this concept isn’t quite foreign, right. It’s just something leveraging the playbook we’ve leveraged in the past. So the population, we are sort of focused on a platform of folks that earn under $45,000 a year. And that’s, that’s changing as we bring on more people on our on our platform. Our owners and operators are north of 3.5 million rental units in all 50 states, and over, you know, 10 million people live in those rental units. And to give you context, there are 45 million rental units in the country. So we have a significant reach when you think about this marketplace. You know, what we are doing here is trying as much as possible to give people a fighting chance. Without this zero interest loan, people will be evicted and sent out on the streets. What we have a timing difference issue. If I work at McDonald’s or I work out of any other restaurant chain, if my shifts get cut and I can’t afford my rent, I get late fees, that sets me back. I can’t afford my insurance to essentially go get a car note. And then that disrupts my entire life. People just need a fighting chance. They don’t want a handout. And that’s what this money essentially serves. Making sure they can get their fighting chance and create a win-win construct. A win for us, a win for the owner, a win for the renter and a win for society at large.

Murray: I just want to go back to those numbers you went through there and make sure I heard them right. You basically have a 20% market share of all the rental units in the country.

Abbey: I can’t confirm or deny that.

McGirt: Alan’s good at math.

Murray: You said 10 million and you said there are 45 million in the country. That’s, that’s big.

Abbey: So Alan, just to set the record straight that we have 3.5 million rental units on Esusu’s platform. There are 47 million rental units. There are 110 million Americans that rent and over 10 million on Esusu’s users platform. So if your response is close to 10%, yes, but not quite 20% yet.

Murray: Not quite 20%. Got it. Do you have competition in that marketplace? Is there anything to keep you from scaling?

Abbey: You know, one thing one big accelerator of our growth at this juncture has been our collaboration with the government-sponsored entities, you know, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The two government sponsored entities saw the importance of making sure rental data is factored into sort of consumers credit profiles. So they’ve been creating incentives to make sure owners and operators can get a discount or in some cases cover the entire cost to pay for the service. So engaging with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae has made us a force to reckon with in the industry. There are other players that engage in this marketplace trying to report rental data. A lot of them are working on the direct-to-consumer model, whereby you go to Alan on the streets and say Alan report your data, that’s consumer data, there’s no way to verify that information. We use a B2B approach, which is the one-to-many approach. No one in the marketplace does the zero interest loan, because it’s too good to be true. And that’s the kind of business we want to build—a business that’s too good to be true. And the last thing is we have a suite of products and the eventual vision for services too is how do you take people from financial identity towards wealth building, right? It’s not about just keeping a roof over people’s heads and the vision of the company is leveraging data to bridge the racial wealth gap.

McGirt: Wemimo, on a very practical basis, how long does it take for this to start working for people? How long are they on the platform when they start to see an improvement in their credit score?

Abbey: Great question, Ellen, it could take up to 60 days for renters to start seeing that impact on their platform. Rent reporting you can go back as far as 24 months and take all your historical rental payment to help you establish or build that credit score. So on an average, for someone that did not have a credit score, by establishing their credit scores at a prime number around that 670 range. For someone that has an existing credit score, if a report two years of historical data, they can improve their credit score from 51 points to 92 points. So it’s incredibly powerful, and one of the most accelerated paths to establish or build your credit score in the American financial system.

[Music]

Murray: I’m here with Joe Ucuzoglu, the CEO of Deloitte and the sponsor of this podcast for all of its seasons. Thank you for that, Joe.

Joe Ucuzoglu: Pleasure to be here, Alan.

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Murray: Joe, we’ve had this rising talk about a notion of stakeholder capitalism, that businesses have a responsibility not just to their shareholders, but to their employees, to the communities they operate in, to the natural environment. Is all of that talk real? And will it last—particularly when times get tough?

Ucuzoglu: I see a pretty durable shift ,Alan, with a lot of momentum here. CEOs are prioritizing sustainability. They’re prioritizing purpose. They’re prioritizing trust. You certainly see some noise. On one end, there’s some skepticism as to whether this is virtue signaling. On the other end, there’s some lingering debate about whether this broader focus on stakeholders detracts from shareholder returns. If you cut through all the noise, what we’re seeing is actually a huge convergence of interests. This is core to sustaining a vibrant capitalist system. If you take a long-term view, the only way that you’re going to deliver sustainable shareholder returns is to take really good care of all those constituents that you referenced.

Murray: And is it working, Joe?

Ucuzoglu: Well, business was at the heart of leading society through the pandemic. Business is at the heart of addressing the climate challenge. We’re seeing massive momentum with very tangible commitments and tangible actions towards decarbonizing the economy. So yes, I think the evidence is ample.

Murray: Joe, thank you.

Ucuzoglu: Alan, it’s a real pleasure.

[End music]

McGirt: You know, we’re catching you at such a wonderful time. You’ve reached unicorn status and you’re getting a lot of attention, deservedly so, and you’re making headway on a very big problem in a compelling way. And there’s probably a lot of other social injustice-oriented entrepreneurs and founders who will be listening to this, who are earlier in their journey. And I know that you struggled to get your first foot in the door and get your own funding journey going. What advice do you have for them as they fine tune their approach? And on the flip side, what is your advice for anybody who’s in a position to fund and write a big check to really think about these kinds of solutions in a meaningful way?

Abbey: That’s a very thoughtful question, Ellen. I’ll share a story. When we were raising capital for Esusu, 326 investors—yes, 326, I keep scores—said no to us. And when we signed our first contract at the University of Minnesota, and my co-founder and I, Samir [Goel], couldn’t afford an hotel room because we had $100,000 in credit card debt, compound interest, right? We decided to go to a restaurant in Fargo, North Dakota. It was incredibly cold. Our idea was to crash there. Walk all night, and then catch a flight to San Francisco to go ask for more money from investors.

Unfortunately, we were kicked out of that restaurant at four in the morning, because we dozed off and rightfully so, the restaurant manager said, guys, I want to keep you here, but I’m going to get fired. So you gotta go. So we’re kicked out of a Denny’s because we couldn’t afford a hotel room. So I’ll answer your question. My advice to founders is never give up. Persevere against all odds. People will say no to you, in our case was 326 investors. You know, just know that no, is an ideal opportunity for you to mold your idea or hang in there. Because when you hang in there, you know, the sun will rise again. And I always believe there’s always a rainbow after the storm.

Murray: It takes a pretty special person to hear the word no 326 times and continue to believe that this is a good idea and I’m going to continue to fight it. So what is it in your background and your upbringing? What is it that gave you the the fortitude to listen to the word no 326 times and say, I don’t care what all these smart rich people say. I know I have a good idea here.

Abbey: You know, I think it’s my mother. My mother barely had a high school degree. She worked at the post office for 21 years. But she made a big mistake. She afforded my school fees to one of the finest high schools in Nigeria. So everything these wealthy kids want, I go to her and say I want. And she’s like, no, no, no. And I come back with different ideas until, I actually found a way I actually found a way to then talk to some of my classmates and figured out what they wanted, right? I’m like, whoa, this body now students want Gameboy Advance games, they want PlayStation CDs so I went to the market and buy it and sell it at a 300% markup. So I think that’s where my idea of this come from. A no is not necessarily a no. It’s a not now. And you have to go back to the drawing board, remold your idea, use it as an inspiration and say because you said no doesn’t mean that’s the final bus stop for me. I’m going to leverage that and do something special. And that’s how myself and Samir,  my co-founder, have always thought about the scenario. And you know, we’re grateful for the billion dollar valuation. But in my mind, the billion dollar valuation is a mortgage and you need to pay, you know, the monthly payments down every time.

Murray: What’s the end game? Do you sell yourself to an Experian or an Equifax or to a financial firm or real estate firm? Where do you think this is leading you?

Abbey: Ronald Reagan once said something really, you know, interesting. I know this is a spin. Ronald Reagan once said, America is too big for small dreams. We didn’t build Esusu thinking we’re going to sell to incumbents. We built Esusu thinking we’re going to go all the way. And that’s, that’s the premise for us. You know, one day, hopefully, you know, we go public and serve as a beacon of hope to other entrepreneurs of color. So other people that have been rejected and said, they can make it to say like, if they did it, I can sure do it. And that’s what we intend to do. But if there’s a strategic that comes along the way, we also look at what’s in the best interest of our investors and fiduciary responsibilities.

Murray: I see a new financial powerhouse in the future. There was the game plan. All right. Well, meanwhile, Wemimo Abbey, it’s so great to have you with us. You’re going to have to come back in 10 years after you’re doing the credit cards, and the mortgages and the and the other banks are banging at your door. Thank you so much for taking the time today.

Abbey: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a thought provoking conversation.

McGirt: I’m here with Erika Seth Davies, who is the CEO of Rhia Ventures, focusing on the U.S. market for sexual, reproductive and maternal health, looking to innovate through a gender and racial equity lens. She’s also the founder of the Racial Equity Asset Lab, a venture that centers racial equity in impact investing. So we’re here to talk about all of that and more. Erika, thank you so much for joining me.

Erika Seth Davies: Thank you so much for having me, Ellen. It’s a pleasure.

McGirt: On this episode of Leadership Next, you’re joined with another interview with with Wemimo Abbey, who’s the co-CEO and founder of Esusu, which focuses on housing security, with a very specific mechanism through reporting of on-time rental payments to credit-reporting agencies. It is an interesting idea hiding in plain sight. And it’s both venture backed and philanthropically backed. So in a general way, what are the challenges of getting these ideas into the marketplace?

Davies: Oh, gosh, the challenges are many. I think when operating in those spaces, where people want to actually fund solutions or interventions that are going to address social need in particular communities or for particular communities. Even in those spaces, it’s hard for BIPOC, people of color-owned, black-owned businesses to still get a look, something as brilliant, and as obvious as this has been around again, what people don’t know that really dominant mindset around profit first. I’m not saying that profit is bad or that returns are bad. What I’m saying is, there has to be a cost that we’re not willing to take to seek that. And so there’s bias, both implicit and explicit about who can manage money well. And so we have this way of looking at risk that actually makes people risky, not the idea or the business. And so, what is unfamiliar will seem risky. And if you’re unfamiliar with Black communities, if you’re unfamiliar with poverty, right—like if you’re unfamiliar with the ways in which your decision making changes when you don’t have resources, and what you end up having to prioritize, those are all unfamiliar concepts to people who hold significant amounts of capital—and so they will view a strategy like this as risky and either won’t invest, or won’t invest what’s needed to actually make it viable. So you have this idea of risk and people aren’t, I don’t believe, always thinking deeply about Wait, what am I saying here? Who? What’s the risk? Is it, you know, is it investment risk or operational risk? Or is it risk because I don’t, I’m unfamiliar with the concepts that are in front of me.

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McGirt: And the person who’s in front of me asking for the money. So speaking of risk, just a couple of days ago, Cambridge Associates did their biannual survey on institutional investing, and found that sustainable and impact investing activity was up 81% over the last four years. And we know that ESG is now in the air, in the water that we drink, and the music that we hear. So my question is twofold. One, is that number meaningful? In your view are we seeing the kinds of investments that will actually have impact or just look good on a portfolio? And then now we’re in a new risky environment where ESG is getting real political pushback, will investors and managers and executive teams stay the course on their commitments, or will you see them start to wobble?

Davies: So if we take the your first question, I think it’s it’s potentially significant to see the increase in these types of investments. What I am challenged with and where the tension exists is, what’s leading the strategy? You know, are people developing strategies, it’s called greenwashing at this point, but, you know, it’s greenwashing and I call it white washing with respect to some of the social justice and racial justice efforts of late. But are people still developing the same strategy, just putting a different label on it? And kind of playing with things at the outside of the edges in very superficial ways? Or is the the investment thesis being led by the impact itself? And so if it’s, I’m just trying to figure out a way to make money, then you’re you’re just replicating what’s already been at play. If it’s, I’m actually trying to figure out how to solve for this issue first, and figuring out the ways that I can leverage capital to do so, that’s a very different approach. And I think that, yeah, we I would hope to see an increase in investment in that type of approach. But that’s only going to come when we have accountability, when LPs asset owners and investors are actually prioritizing these things, holding people accountable for the decision making along the way, thinking intentionally about, sort of, the mindset, the shifts that need to happen there, these deeply held beliefs. So it’s a number that I think I’ll just say requires more investigation. Before I would say, yep, that’s something that’s, that’s exciting.

I will actually, though, say, caveat, that paying attention to it, right, like this doesn’t happen overnight. So at the very least, the fact that this is on the radar, it’s something that people have to respond to, is important. That even if it is in a superficial way, you can no longer get away with not dealing with the impact to people and planet of investment decision making and of the strategies that people are investing in.

McGirt: Well, that made me feel better. I appreciate that. You also strike me as a person who knows your way around a shareholder meeting or a vote given your overarching strategy. How can somebody who is an interested stakeholder or potentially has a world-changing idea, get the attention of senior leaders? How can you get them to either change their mind or get on board? What have you seen working lately?

Davies: So in the last I’d say since since the SB8 decision, in Texas, and that was in September of 2021, when the Supreme Court refused to hear that case, and it went back to Texas and all of a sudden women were no longer able to access abortions without fear of, we’ll say, almost vigilanteism. Right? Like just being sued or having people around them sued for facilitating an abortion, access to an abortion. After six weeks, you started to see this uptick in employee pushback in interest and what is my company doing? And I would actually say back in 2020, that’s what you saw as well with racial justice protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. So you saw a lot more internal disruption, actually more than external pressure, that was forcing companies to have another look at or having to deal with something that heretofore, they were able to either kind of push into their corporate social responsibility program and not really tackle as a full on institutional concern. And so I would say one thing is to understand that that’s still important, like the voice of people who are in the workforce. You know, whether it’s through the employee resource groups, or just sort of the the groundswell and that asking questions, right, just from the inside is one way to think about where some of this pressure is going to come from. From the outside, yes, well, where investors are actually placing some pressure. And, and, again, this is a long strategy because you, you’ve got to get enough support when some submitting a shareholder proposal to see it actually show up for a vote at an annual meeting. And so that requires a lot of strategy, a lot of organizing investors. So that too, it’s a bit of a long game. But once that starts to gain momentum, I don’t know that corporations want to have to deal with that at the at the next level, right, where there is that forced shift or transition. And so it opens up opportunity for dialogue, to get the policy or to get focus or to get actual action. But as individuals, it does start with asking some of these questions about whether it’s in your own retirement plan or your own financial planning. Some of these questions are things that you need to start bringing up like, what am I invested in? And that’s at an individual level. I think also understanding it’s the type of capital that’s needed as well. Right? So is it philanthropic? Is it an equity investment? Or is it a loan? Right, like so going to, you know, traditional banks, of course, but also CDFIs, which are very often underutilized, because a lot of people don’t know they exist. So community development financial institutions are another important onramp for for Black-owned businesses as well. And so there’s, there’s so many angles to this.

McGirt: Yeah, no, no, no, the idea of deal flow, I know you said it doesn’t, a Black-owned asset manager does not necessarily have to look in a different pool for ideas. But the idea that you could increase the deal flow, the quality and the diversity of the deal flow is a really compelling idea. Given the momentum that we’re seeing in impact and sustainability investing, given that we’re seeing money moving into Black- and BIPOC-owned asset fund management, and given this turning point moment that we’re in, are you optimistic that companies like Esusu, who are bringing a creative and innovative capital market approach to a pressing social problem will find traction going forward?

Davies: Oh, yeah, I’m hopeful. Yes, because now there is a glimpse into what is possible. And so heretofore, there wasn’t even a look, we didn’t even have, you know, people didn’t even have the tiniest bit of insight. So now that the window has opened, unfortunately, folks are trying to close that window. But now that the window is open, there is a recognition that to not to do these investments, not to be intentional about engaging Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, is actually leaving money on the table. And so with that understanding, I think there is definitely continued opportunity. The challenge is, is it making sure that that stays intentional, again, in the process, and that we continue to even expand, again, where people are looking and the ways that they’re willing to leverage capital. So you mentioned he had both philanthropic and investment capital, it takes all the things. It does take that sort of creative leverage. And it’s all capital, right? So it takes intention to see what the need is and making sure that it’s being met. So I’m hopeful and now we have even more strategies for for getting it done.

McGirt: I love that.

Murray: Leadership Next is edited by Alexis Haut. It’s written by me, Alan Murray, along with my amazing colleagues Ellen McGirt, Alexis Haut, and Megan Arnold. Our theme is by Jason Snell. Our executive producer is Megan Arnold. Leadership Next is a production of Fortune MediaLeadership Next is a production of Fortune MediaLeadership Next episodes are produced by Fortune‘s editorial team.

 

Source: Fortune

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