There are traditional entrepreneurship, financing and business methods, as well as Jelani Memory’s business methods.
Chief Executive Officer A children’s company In 2019, he launched his own business in Portland, Oregon. Media entrepreneurship began with a book entitled “Children’s Book on Racism” written by Memory for his children. The memory is black, the father of a mixed family of four white children and two brown children.Memory is already the founder Circle Media, A successful technology company that provides parents with tools to manage their children’s use of devices and applications.
When people started asking for copies of his books for their families, he decided to make another entrepreneurial leap.
Two years later, the original book publishing company has expanded to include podcast production, and this month the company launched a series of online courses for junior and high school students. The issues covered on this startup’s platform include divorce, anxiety, activism, cancer, career choices, authenticity, gender, and other challenging issues.
“We consider ourselves the most inclusive and diverse children’s media brand ever,” Memory said.
In April, this start-up company completed a US$7 million Series A financing. Pendulum Holdings And it is almost entirely funded by black investors, including some people who are usually excluded from venture capital opportunities. Pendulum was recently launched by Robbie Robinson, financial adviser to former President Barack Obama, According to recoding.
Through cash injection, A Kids Company About quadrupled the number of employees to 25 in the past year.
We recently interviewed Memory in an interview with GeekWire to learn more about his non-traditional business strategy that supports diversification, from product creation to building investor capital tables. The answer has been edited for clarity and length.
Geek Line: You used an unusual method to create your content, making it easier for new contributors to break into the media. How did that happen?
memory: I wrote my book, and my children continued to read it, and then other parents, teachers, adults, etc. did the same. So I thought,’How do I redo what I did? ‘
First, I need to work with someone. It is impossible to send them to a hut and let them stay brilliant for six months. I must work with them.
Second, I might find someone who is not in writing. They may not be writers, but they do have something to say. So I’m going to look for these “own voices” who can express opinions on these topics. If I have “authors” for each of them, who are trained writers, it will become more difficult and inclusive.
The first book we created after me used this seminar model, and it was very simple. Yes, let us work with this first-person voice story. Let us create a fragile environment where all of us can be honest with each other, truly share what we really want our children to hear, and create some honesty and urgency for this, and write this book together in the room.
GW: Can you describe the workshop model in more detail?
memory: For our book, we finish it in one day. We invite people to participate in a 5-hour seminar. We are now using podcasts and courses to do this. Of course, the whole thing was not completed at that moment, but we made all of this content for the core of the content.
So for podcasts, this is the name of the show, conceit, number of episodes, themes, ideas, and the tone and voice of the show. For the courses, we discuss all the courses in the class—location, tone, method, and we basically developed what I call the shooting script.
GW: You emphasize being honest with your children. Why is this important and how do you promote this?
memory: As adults, we always feel the need to lie to children, just like all the time. Keep them safe from hurt, painful feelings, tears, and potential confusion. They may not understand the word, or I said this too early.
So my work in the workshop is really helpful [authors] While writing this book, I also urged them to ask: “When you are six, what do you really want someone to tell you?” No, everything will be fine. You want someone to tell you the truth, right? So we are pushing storytellers to do this.
[Workshopping] It is a test. We don’t know if it will work. We read the first 12 books, and it’s like, not only does this work, it may be the only way to tell these stories, because it creates so much honesty, so clarity. Then the cool thing from the author’s point of view is that this is a very low requirement: “Write a book with us.” This is the opposite of what usually takes 8 to 12 months.
GW: Your financing round was led by Pendulum Holdings, a newly established company.What can you tell us?
memory: In many ways, they are a traditional venture capital company. They deploy capital at a specific stage and have a specific theme to reap the rewards. This is normal and average, and everyone in the VC world does this.
The difference I like is that they focus on black founders and they are cutting checks that are not suitable for small amounts, which I call “peanut checks.” They deployed more than 5 million US dollars of capital to the company, which is actually the A round, B round and later rounds. They are a majority-owned black general partnership.
GW: Why is having a diversified company and investors important to your mission?
memory: I am the second founder. The last business I started as a co-founder, as the chief product officer, raised 30 million US dollars. I am the only black or brown person among all investors. This is the worst case. It’s really unfortunate, but it’s not. Rare.
So when I assumed the role of CEO and founder of this company, I just said it wouldn’t be that way. Our team will be diverse. Our authors, our collaborators, teachers and moderators will be diverse. Our cap table will be diverse because we think it reflects and embodies our values as a company.
GW: Black investors provided most of your capital. How did that happen?
memory: I have the opportunity to prove that it can be done in different ways. It’s not the same venture capital, the same angels invest in the same companies, these companies have become companies with more than one billion dollars, made all the money, and then do it again-there really is a new way to do it at this point.
This is what I really did in the seed round and the A round. There are many things I call “unconscious disorders” that happen to exclude people of color from investing in companies like me. One is the certification rules about who can invest. Do you approve or disagree? It turns out that you must have a lot of money to be recognized.
We have accepted unapproved investors, which is a big no-no in the venture capital industry. They would not say that, but it is a big no-no. They call it no clean hat watch. They also don’t like you accepting small checks. I said, “Listen, this is my company. I can decide who is the cap table. If you don’t like it, I don’t want you to appear on my hat table.”
With this, we have to go out and let those who provide $1,000 checks and $5,000 checks. I can tell you that we don’t need those checks. I have people line up to write me a check for more than $1 million. If we want, we can fill it with two investors.
But we decided to open up space for those who are not normally included in the wealth creation process, not because they should not be included, but because of the rules and regulations and the opportunity to obtain these transactions. All these people, they bring diversity, they bring investment, and they bring credibility. They bring a lot to what we are doing.
(Editor’s note: The net worth of an accredited investor in the U.S. needs to be at least US$1 million, excluding the value of its main home, or in the past two years, an individual has earned at least US$200,000 per year or a couple has earned at least US$300,000. And expect to get the same amount produced in this year.)
GW: Do you think you have set an example for others on how to support diversity in a meaningful way?
memory: It is not only the development direction of the entire industry in terms of start-ups and venture capital, but I hope not only to prove that it is possible, and it can be normal, it is not necessarily extraordinary, it can actually be just a normal business Way.
And founders, it is their responsibility to really choose the people they want on their salary schedule. For me, if you want to establish a partnership with a VC, you go to their team page. Everyone is white and male. As a company, you just need to ask yourself, “What do we care about? What is important to us ?”
I must do my job; I must build a healthy company and develop it. We must have some kind of meaningful liquidity event. This is my job, and I am trying to do this. However, who I ride with is very important.
In this country, the gap between rich and poor between blacks and browns does not always exist, and I cannot treat it as a problem for other people. As part of its mission, this company can solve my problems, which is okay for me.