Best of: How can we create a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem?

January 24, 2023

As we continue to honor Black History Month at Indeed, Chris Hyams is joined by Preston L. James II, CEO and co-founder of DivInc., a non-profit organization whose mission is to generate social and economic equity through entrepreneurship.

Preston, who is a former 20-year veteran at Dell, served in executive leadership roles across Enterprise IT Sales and Consulting leading teams responsible for driving $250M+ in revenues. He also served as Managing Director for the Dell Global Center for Entrepreneurship, where he oversaw the $100M Dell Credit Fund.

Chris and Preston discuss Indeed’s sponsorship of the ‘Champions of Change‘ Awards and why entrepreneurship is the core of a good economy.

- Hello everyone. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. And welcome to the next episode of Here To Help. At Indeed, our mission is to help people get jobs. This is what gets us out of bed in the morning and what keeps me up at night and what powers that mission is our people. And here to help, is a look at how people's experience, strength and hope inspire them to want to help others. This month in the US, we are celebrating Black History Month. Black History Month is an annual celebration to honor the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans who have shaped our nation and our history. My guest today is Preston L. James II, Co-Founder and CEO of DivInc. A former 20 year veteran at Dell, where he served in executive leadership roles in Enterprise, IT Sales, and Consulting, where he led teams responsible for driving $250 million in revenue. He also served as the managing director for the Dell Global Center for Entrepreneurship, where he oversaw the $100 million Dell Credit Fund. Preston earned his bachelors of science and engineering degree at Howard University in Washington DC. Preston founded DivInc in 2016. DivInc is a startup ecosystem builder supporting diverse founders with a mission to generate social and economic equity through entrepreneurship. Full disclosure, I am proud to serve on the board of DivInc and also proud to call Preston a friend. Preston, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Thank you, Chris. It's great to be here.

- So let's start where we always start these conversations with a check in, how are you doing today, right now?

- I'm doing great. And I'm blessed that my family's healthy. I'm a father of four children and they're all generally healthy, but if I got to also be honest about our current times, there is a level of feeling sort of like under attack, if you will, and maybe just carrying this extra load associated with everything that's going on more so than other years, if you will. But when I say that as a black person, but I also say, my Jewish brothers and sisters, Muslim brothers and sisters, Asian brothers and sisters are also under attack to a certain degree. You can even go as far as saying our blue brothers the law enforcement are also seeing unprecedented number of attacks as well, but as a black, male in this society, it seems like there's a constant everyday attack coming from the political landscape, the partisan issues, law enforcement, voting rights are under attack. The jobs reports and everything that you see that seems to be coming out seems to be this burden and attack that we're under and I've been really blessed to have strong people around me to be able to manage through that. And it's something, unfortunately we get used to as black people in the US. And despite all of that, my spirit is good. I'm optimistic and we forge forward. And like I said before, I'm blessed really, to have my family and friends, folks like yourself that really help provide that positive outlook and be able to remain happy despite all of what's happening around you. So that's just all transparency and honesty that I think sometimes we don't talk about, but at the end of the day, we're again, happy, moving forward, try to affect positive change as we move forward.

- Well, thank you for sharing that. This is really why I asked this question to start. And we've talked about this a lot on the podcast that I think in the past, if you ask someone, especially at work, how you doing today, the answer, it's almost always, "Oh, I'm doing fine." And in the last couple of years, the pandemic, I think has taken so many issues that have been around forever and just magnifying them and put a spotlight on them and responding, I think with a little bit of openness and empathy, and really asking this question and getting honest answers has been really profound for me. So thank you for sharing that. One thing I think we're going to spend probably most of the time talking about here, and it's really the theme of the podcast, I said at the start, it's an exploration of how people's individual experience, strength and hope has inspired them to want to help others. And I know in my life that when I've experienced what feels like powerlessness, everything that's going on in the world that is causes suffering for so many people. And it's one thing to sit around and to become informed and become aware of those things and to feel the weight of it. And it's another to then say, well, I'm going to try to do what I can about it, which is what you've done. And that's what we're here to talk about. So why don't we start because you are trying to do something really profound about some of these issues that you're seeing in the world around you. Why don't you tell the folks who don't know about DivInc and what the mission of DivInc is and how it came to be?

- Absolutely. So DivInc, as we started in 2016 and it was after I had left Dell in 2014, after 20 years, as you mentioned, and in a nutshell, my last role there, it was the Global Center of Entrepreneurship. And what I had recognized was there's a lack of diversity in the startup ecosystem. So by the same token, I got bit by this startup bug. And I said, okay, well, I was looking to do something different anyway, while I was at Dell, an opportunity came to take an early retirement. So I took it with no anything lined up, right? It was like, okay, well, I just got bit by this bug. I'm going to get back in this space. But in what capacity, I had no idea. And truth be told Chris, this diversity equity and inclusion in the innovation economy, if you will, was sort of poking at me, we need to change it. Not just because it was a cool thing to do, but primarily because as I did more research understanding what the economic and social impact of not having a more diverse and inclusive innovation economy, especially through entrepreneurship. And so that for me basically said, hey, this is a economic imperative that's not being addressed. And as I looked and dove into it, I first started as a startup mentor. And just imagine, here I am, this corporate guy, 20 years being the startup mentor to entrepreneurs who are running starting companies, no experience, but I had expertise, right? And how do you leverage that expertise to help founders understand how to build their businesses? The other piece I started was as angel investor, soon after I became a mentor, and as an angel investor, I did a really silly thing. I went to LinkedIn and I changed my profile and I put the title angel investor. So as you can imagine, I was getting calls and emails from all over the country with people reaching out to me, seeking for me to invest in their companies. Well, there was something really interesting when I went through that process, when white males were coming to pitch to me, in general, they were like here in terms of the quality and sophistication of those pitches. For people of color and women, generally speaking, not everyone, they were here. And so that had me questioning, what is this gap going on here? Why is this gap existing? How did it contribute to what we were seeing in terms of the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in the startup ecosystem. So that set me off on a journey to really try to research and understand the why behind that, talking to startup ecosystem leaders, founders, other folks in the industry. What I came to realize is that it comes down to one word and that word is access and access to education and best practices knowhow for entrepreneurs and founders. Number two was access to the social capital, meaning the access to the mentors, to networks, to the technical expertise, not having access to those. And the third was the more obvious one, which is the access to financial capital. And so in my mind, I said, okay, well, how do you solve for this and create this something for them. And that literally led to building this program, accelerator program, which is what we started off as, just purely DivInc as an accelerator program. And then fast forward as we launched in September of 2016, we realized that, oh, that three months for the accelerator is not enough, right? What founders go through the 18 or 24 months after the accelerator are just as critical. And so we continued to build out programming and infrastructure support, these founders, underrepresented founders through these early stage. So Chris, in a nutshell, DivInc is focused on the early stage of that entrepreneurship journey, tech entrepreneurship journey to get them from ideation, basically to the seed stage of their journey. And we're focused there because that is probably the biggest gap that exists in the startup ecosystem in general, but specifically, for underrepresented founders. So today, we have online curriculum for ideation stage. We have an accelerator program, which is a 12-week intensive program. And then we have what we call our portfolio program, which continues to support the founders after they finish the accelerator program. And then what we're adding, two new components, which is adventure studio for those companies out on a very strong trajectory of growth, we want to accelerate how we get them in front of the investors and the corporate partners that they need to be in front of. And then the last component we're adding is an investment fund. So we're actually going deeper with the founders at that early stage, really to help them avoid the valleys of death that they often incur. And it's not meant to save every single founder, every single company, right? We know there's going to be a percentage that may not make it, but where we typically see is that there are founders and companies have something great going, strong team just didn't get the resources in the timely manner to get over that valley of death. And so that's where DivInc is providing that programming and infrastructure to help those companies to get further along in their journey than they would by themselves.

- So I'd love to talk for a minute about, and obviously, your origin story and where you came from, and it makes sense that DivInc would come together the way that it did, but there's a larger picture as well for why the focus on entrepreneurship, and we talked a little bit about this, I think the first time we ever met and you came to an Indeed office several years ago and sort of were explaining the idea behind this. And I think many people know the stats, but many more, I think don't about the racial wealth gap, for example, in the US where the net worth of a typical white family is somewhere north of $170,000, which is roughly 10 times that of a typical black family, which is about $17,000. And can you talk a little bit about why the focus on entrepreneurship and how that is uniquely able to start to chip away at some of the gap that has existed for hundred of years in this country?

- Yeah, Chris, that's a great question. And the reason why we focus on entrepreneurship, in particular tech entrepreneurship, because the statistics will show that tech entrepreneurship, you traditionally have higher income levels, job creation, stronger job creation, short term and long term. And then also the contributions into a giving community as a result of those companies being successfully established. Diverse founders have a tendency to hire more diverse people, which is great for our economy and also our communities. So that's one reason. The other is obviously with strong economic development. We know that has a direct impact on the social side as well, in terms of the families being able to do well, creating more opportunities for demographics and more demographics of people. So there's definitely a economic and social tie-in but really important, as we got into this, 'cause is understanding the concept of creating an asset of value, right? Because to create generational wealth, you have to have asset ownership. So be it a home, be it land, property, business. And so how do we essentially create the opportunities for diverse Black, Latinx, people of color, women, entrepreneurs to build companies that have value? And I'll share this story very quick with you, Chris, I talked to a entrepreneur a long time, about several years ago. And she had been running her business for about seven years at the time. And I said to her, I said, "How much is your business worth?" And she said, "Well, I don't know." I said, okay, well, if somebody came and offered you $10 million for your business, would you sell it? And she said, "No, I wouldn't." And I said, "Well, we just had a conversation "about your struggles financially "and you don't see the rewards of all of your work "and years of work, but yet you don't know the value "of your company, but if somebody did offer you $10 million, "you wouldn't take it." And so I think that's a mindset shift that needed to happen with regards to how are we creating wealth through asset ownership, through the businesses that we create, that our businesses are worth something. And that is an asset that goes in part of our net worth just like our homes, the land and property that we we own. So for us, the entrepreneurship piece is really, really critical and can be generational, but also spread across the families as well. Because if I'm successful, my children are going to learn from me. My nieces and nephews learn from me, my sisters and brothers learn from me and that will have some positive impact, right? Where we're able to learn directly and indirectly on how to build those assets. So that's really in the path, I mean over, not overnight, but you build a business, it's 5, 6, 7 years, it's worth the valuation of your company, 3, 4, 5, 10, $20 million, that's on your asset line. And that's something that we need to understand and get much, much better out, overall.

- Yeah, and I think the other aspect that you talked about is that entrepreneurship has the ability to create these assets, which can be the foundation for generational wealth. But there's also this multiplicative effect because of all of the other careers that are impacted from this. And as you said, and we see this very clearly with DivInc, diverse founders hire much more diverse teams, which creates opportunity and look at Indeed, we've been working on trying to improve our own diversity, especially at senior ranks for a long time. And we've had frank conversations about this. I joined Indeed 11 years ago and the entire executive team was all white men. And so it takes time when you have something that was not created as a foundation that way and we've made great strides, but when you start with a different foundation, then it can create so much opportunity for people. And for every founder and CEO, there's a CTO and a head of sales and a head of operations. And all of these people who are building up their resumes that can go on and found their own companies, or be part of senior teams of other companies. So it's extremely powerful to have been able to watch this. So let's talk a little bit about some of the stories of DivInc and I'm going to ask you both, first to talk about a couple success stories and then also to talk about, because I think it's really important to the startup world, the math is that very few companies will actually quote, make it, many don't make it past year one and certainly, very few make it past year five, but that ecosystem, the whole thing is important. I got my own experience through trying to launch and not making it through the long term with a startup, which was invaluable to all of the things that I've been able to do since. So let's start with some success stories. What are some things that would be illustrative for the folks listening today to hear about what DivInc has been able to support?

- I mean, we've got some great success stories and I'll start with one more recently, a gentleman by the name of Anthony Gantt. He's a Marine Corps veteran getting ready to retire, actually. He's also a father of six children and he's the founder of At Ease Rentals. And when I first met Anthony, he was a very articulate, very sharp, but sort of mumbling and bumbling about this idea. Couldn't really get it together, but you can tell he was onto something and just watching him over about year or so, continue to mentor him and make introductions. He did apply to DivInc and I think wasn't quite sure if he was ready. And I said, well, no, I like him. He's got that grit and that perseverance and that drive passion. And we have watched him since he's participated in the accelerator program to grow into this amazing CEO leader. His company now, I believe in year two, two and a half is raising over $1 million. Has his strategic partners and has got contracts with federal government and other strategic partners. So he's on this growth trajectory. And in a nutshell, what he's building, Chris, is based on his own personal experience, as you know veterans move from place to place. And he had one experience where he went and booked a Airbnb. While under the federal travel policies, you can do that, but you will not get reimbursed. And so for a family of six, they never always had the right places to stay. And he said, well, why can't we have the ability to get homes, rentals and get it approved and so on and so forth. So he's created this separate entity, sort of like the Airbnb of federal military home rentals and put a process in place that certified and has the security requirements that allow military and federal personnel to stay at his At Ease Rentals and get full reimbursement from the federal government. Never had done been done before, right? So that's a great story. And he's on a tremendous growth trajectory right now. Another gentleman, Tito Salas, who founded CodersLink, which was a platform essentially connecting major corporations to tech talent in Latin American countries. And he founded that 2015, so right before the previous election between Trump and Clinton. And so as you know, Trump became in office and there were a lot of issues with immigration. And so that had a direct impact on Tito's business, where he had to pivot as he was launching. And so he can no longer necessarily bring people to the US. So he had to do it sort of remotely. And so he has set up a sort of a marketplace for the tech talent and Latin American countries and major corporations looking for that tech talent, which there was a huge gap in talent pool for those open positions. I think it was like something like 3 or 4 million open positions and no technology pipeline for that. And so he's created this business, had gone over to Mexico as well, built up a really, really strong brand, generating over a couple million dollars in revenue over the last, since 2016, so six years. And now he's at this place where he's ready to grow his business exponentially and seeking investment funding to scale that. So a tremendous, tremendous story for Tito, young guy built a team, didn't really know what he was doing, but giving him that network of support, education and network, he was able to really continue and grow over time. So really great stories between those two. And as we move forward, we got more and more to come, you'll see over the next couple of years. But so one thing people have to realize is that this tech entrepreneurship is still relatively new in the Black, Latinx community. When I talk about new, I don't mean like, oh, it's just starting, but to get the volume of entrepreneurs in this space, we're still relatively at the early stages. So over time, we'll see more unicorn stories that'll come about.

- Yeah, it's remarkable to see the impact that a program like DivInc can have because I met Anthony for the first time at the end of his cohort when we had the sort of pitch day for all of the folks at the end. And I remember talking to someone afterwards and you were saying that when he came in, he maybe didn't seem as..., his was I think the best pitch of the day that I saw and just the level, I mean, clearly, there is something really powerful when an entrepreneur's story of what they're doing is based on their own experience because they've lived it, they know it, it sounds like for both Tito and Anthony, that's the case, but the clarity of this vision and this idea and how so many great ideas seem obvious in retrospect. But when I heard him pitching this, the idea that why does this not exist? And how is it that it's taken a program like this with so many hurdles to get to the point where Anthony could even get that pitch refined and make it, but yeah, it's incredibly exciting to see what these folks and so many others have done. So I would love to then take a little bit of time and talk about what are some of the things that have been, and again, I think it's important to normalize the word failure because failure sounds a lot worse than it is, but it's part of this game. Anyone who is going to be an entrepreneur has to know the numbers and you have to be incredibly convinced that everyone else is wrong and you're right. And that this thing is definitely going to work. Because you couldn't get up in the morning trying to lead a business, trying to do something that hasn't been done before, if you didn't really believe that. And then at some point you maybe reach a point where things are not clearly working out from the numbers. I've always had this, from my own entrepreneurial experience, I sort of developed this point of view that there are two patron saints of entrepreneurs and it's Don Quixote and Mr. Spock. And you have to kind of have a little bit of both, right? You have to believe that that you're right and everyone else is wrong. And then occasionally, you have to take a step back and without emotion and just with sort of logic and rational thinking saying, is this working or not? What are some of the experiences that you've had with DivInc that you would sort of put in that bucket of things didn't work out, but where maybe something came from that in terms of learning or experience.

- Yeah, I could tell you one major experience and was the losing a co-founder and the business we had done like two, maybe three accelerator programs and Dana, she was sort of the heart and soul of the programming and a great co-founder, but we weren't generating enough revenue income to support the team. So for the first two and a half years, Chris, Dana and I were full-time volunteers. And DivInc is a nonprofit. So we had to raise money differently than a typical start up. So we were getting sponsorships and so forth, but we weren't doing a very good job of that. Dana got to a point where, for her family, she had to make a choice and it was very difficult to see her go and basically left me, "Okay, what am I going to do?" Because I got to figure out this revenue issue. And we pull together a board, also had a partner that came on board, who's my current partner now Monica Morales. And the timing was just so impeccable like right in time. And I see that as like, when you lose a co-founder that's like, ouch, right? Are we going to make it? Is it going to go through? And in time, decided it did lead to, okay, we got to lean in and get serious about this, more serious and that had me seeking other opportunities very hungry for that revenue, right? And the board came together, people who supported DivInc really came together. They said, "Okay, look, we need to do "and this is what the timeline is to make it go, "or we're going to have to come up with a decision." So we were at that point, Chris, and we came through and we came through, thanks to some major partners, one that I would love to call out, Notley Venturous, Dan Graham and his team. And that gave us really that seed boost that we needed to keep going. And that was almost four and a half years ago. So that was one of my failures. The other one I would love to share, a lot of people don't know this, before I started DivInc, I tried to start an angel network focused on investing in underrepresented founders. And it kind of, small group of angel investors, but we couldn't get to a critical mass of angel investors. And I realized after the fact what we were trying to do is really get black and brown angel investors exclusively to invest in black and brown founders. And this was back in 2015. Lesson learned probably not the right time, too early. The target audience for investors did not have any experience necessarily doing angel investing in startup companies. So that was just too risky. So a lot of education needed to be had, and that wasn't going to be my job at that time. And so that was a huge lesson, like, okay, if you think about it, if we had started in the angel network focused on funding, black and brown founders, pretty far ahead of our time, it sounds crazy, but that's the reality. But what it really led to is diving in deeper to understand what founders really needed. Because when I was telling you about that gap, that gap said, oh, even if you give them money, they still may not get there. They needed the education, they needed the access to the networks, they needed all those things. So the failure of the angel network allowed me to focus on developing DivInc. That was kind of the pivot.

- That's fantastic, and it's interesting. I had not heard that story. So I didn't know about that, but that's a great part of the origin story, but I think the other piece that you talked about in the previous example, is that I think most people who hear about DivInc or who come to one of the events, or maybe even who might be a mentor, certainly the participants, they might not really be thinking in the forefront. DivInc is a startup too, right? So DivInc has the same set of challenges in that you're doing all this work to create a sustainable program, to help support other other folks. So this seems like a great opportunity to talk about funding model. And one piece of that is fundraising. So we have coming up on March 3rd, our Annual Champions of Change Award. Do you want to talk a little bit about this program? What Champions of Change is all about and for folks who are interested in supporting DivInc, this is one very tangible way that folks can come and learn a little bit about DivInc and help support us.

- Yeah, so Champions of Change is our annual fundraiser. And what we do is recognize individual, exceptional leaders that are in DEI in the Austin community. And we do that specifically recognizing individuals, not necessarily organizations or corporations, because oftentimes the individuals are the ones that are sort of overlooked. And so we wanted to say highlight those who are really in the trenches, doing the heavy lifts for diversity, equity and inclusion. And we look at it as sort of our way to give back. But the goal is really to recognize as well as inspire, so you want to recognize our leaders, but also inspire community to get behind these leaders and support them in their efforts to make Austin more diverse, equitable and inclusive. And I will tell you, this is the fourth annual that we're having. And I'm so excited and humbled by it as well. Because I never envisioned we would be on the fourth annual, but someone once said, Champions of Change Awards, you need to be here, because this is the who's who of DEI in Austin. And it's also probably the most diverse event in terms of the population and the demographics and being around like-minded individuals there to recognize eight, well, more than that, actually, it's like 30 to 40 leaders and then give an award to one in over eight categories. And so we're really excited, executive of the year, student of the year, startups of the year, nonprofit leaders of the year, rising stars and also people's choice. So just a tremendous evening where the community comes together to celebrate DEI and so I welcome everyone to come join us. It's a great time, music, food, just comradery, community, and just a wonderful experience. So I hope for all those to come out, for our corporate partners, a great way to support this event as we're looking to raise $100,000 to support our programs that support our underrepresented founders directly.

- Fantastic, so if folks are interested, I'll just give the plug here and we'll give it again at the end. If you go to, you can find out more, it's coming up on March 3rd. We're going to going to be back in person this year, which is very exciting. We had an amazing event last year that was totally virtual and was really incredible, but it's going to be great. It'll be outdoors. It's going to have all the COVID protocols. And so it's going to be safe, but it really is an extraordinary experience, especially for those that have been in Austin for a while and might have heard the sort of stories that Austin just doesn't have diverse talent. It's impossible not to see things differently if you come to this event and the funds go to support DivInc and its mission, which again, will be really on display at the event. So would hope that some folks will come out to join us. And I'm very honored to be the honorary chair of the event this year. So I'll be looking forward to getting that.

- We're excited to have you.

- So, one thing that I've heard you talk about, and I think that this is a really great opportunity to talk about this is that we talk a lot on this podcast about the importance of empathy and what it takes for people with privilege to develop some empathy for marginalized communities. But I've heard you talk very powerfully about having empathy for those with privilege. Can you talk a little bit about this idea and what this means to you?

- Yeah, Chris, it's natural for me, kind of grew up in a very diverse environment, being a resident born and raised in New York. So I know what's possible, right? Living together in the same block with different people. And so I've always had that lens. I'm very blessed and very fortunate to be in a situation where I can see and have relationships with those with privilege and having those conversations with individuals and recognizing there are vulnerabilities. There are challenges, there are fears with those that are privileged and oftentimes, you don't necessarily see that, right? It's like your white privilege or your privileged, just do something. But what I've recognized through conversations, and I had a tremendous amount of conversations after George Floyd, being invited to a lot of dialogue, if you will, amongst leaders and most so white male, but a lot of privileged individuals. And through those conversations, I've heard things like we want to help, I want to say something, but I'm scared I might say the wrong thing. And it was really interesting to have that conversation. And so in all honesty and being truthful, I said to that white male friend of mine, I said, oh, that's interesting. And I'm glad you shared that, but guess what? I already know you're going to say the wrong thing and I got your back. And what he told me after that was that, "Oh, thank you for saying that. "Thank you for really just sharing that 'cause I don't know what to do." And what I would say is, in that particular situation, I get it, but we have to also understand that side, right? You also have to understand too, that there may be white persons of privilege or persons of privilege that don't know or really understand at the core, what's going on and how to address it. And so they're sort of paralyzed. Like I know I do care, but I don't know where to plug in. I don't know what to do, where do I go? Because the world and the networks are so different that there is no easy way for them to plug in. And so in those scenarios, I've got to extend a hand and say, come on in just dip your toe in here. If you care a little bit, or if you care a lot, just come on in, but they've got to take that step, understanding that sitting on the sideline is not a good option, you know what I mean? It's like you need to come in. If you're standing on the sideline, then you're almost as an adversary by standing by the sideline. And so a lot of those conversations I've had, I'm also in a situation where my personal life, I live in a predominantly white neighborhood and there are various activities where I get to see white privilege on a daily basis. And the worlds are almost totally disconnected. So I have to look at that and say, "Okay, I kind of get it. "You don't understand my world, 'cause obviously, you're not a black person. So it's very, very difficult for you to see it through my lens, but I can see it from your lens as much as I can. Obviously, I'm not a white male, but I see the everyday living. And so I'm in this place where I'm just holding, trying to pull both worlds together. And I think that that empathy allows me to reach out and extend the invitations and have conversations that maybe some of my peers would not have or be unable to have because they're not looking at it from that perspective. But I think for us to be a better people, better communities, we have to be able to do that. Empathy is not a one-way street. It has to go, it has to go both ways and the better we do it, the better we will be.

- That's beautiful, thank you. We're running low on time. I did just want to make sure that we get in this. Can you talk just briefly about the new Social Justice Innovation Accelerator program that you launched at DivInc? I think last year was the first year. And just talk a little bit about what the goals and mission of that program were.

- Yeah, so in a nutshell, the social justice innovation accelerator was in response to what transpired after George Floyd's death and disparities, inequities were shining bright after COVID. And our thought was that, how do we leverage innovation in technology to develop solutions that allow us to address institutional racism and injustices in our society? And our hope is to accelerate the adoption of those solutions not just for the tech purposes, but we figured, if we can get solutions implemented that we can effectively change the mindsets of individuals that are engaging with those solutions and ultimately get to a place of social and economic equity as a result. So we are looking for those technology, social entrepreneurs, that have technology innovations that address inequities and disparities associated with home ownership, healthcare, education, criminal justice reform, voting, anything you could think of where we can drive greater equity in our society for all of us.

- Yeah, and we might need a whole other podcast time just to even dive into some of the amazing things that have come through the program. But folks, again, can learn more at So to wrap things up, I could talk for all afternoon with you Preston, but we like to close with the same question that I have been asking everyone since the start of this, which is when you look back over the past couple of years, since the start of the pandemic, with everything that has gone on, what if anything has left you with some optimism for the future?

- I mean, I'm very optimistic because I see people who are coming together that they normally would not have. I see people who are showing their care and their passion that are coming forward, stepping in, leaning in, even if they don't know exactly what it is they're going to do, they're saying I want to do something. And that's a great start for us to really pursue this together as a people. Leaders like yourself, Chris and others, CEOs in the community are stepping up and that's what we're going to need. So I'm really optimistic to see folks come together to really try to create transformative change. People are trying to understand things better at the core, right? As opposed to treating symptomatic and feel good about themselves, right? It's like, no, no, no, this is about us diving in and doing things differently and let's do it to together. So when we put our minds together, we can make magic work. So we need to continue to do that. And this is a long haul, right? And I think people are learning that this is not a short, hey, let's do this for a little bit. And oh, we see a little bit of success, everything was okay. That's not it, that's not what we're doing here. We've got some really heavy lifting to do. And the more of us that can come together, the better. So I'm excited to see that happen over the last couple of years. We need more people to come on in to join us in that mission.

- Well, Preston, thank you so much for joining me today, but really thank you so much for everything that you do to build a new vision, really, for what a diverse and equitable ecosystem for entrepreneurship could look like. And I'm so thrilled to get to be a part of it in my small way. And I'll just plug one more time for anyone that's interested, March 3rd, Champions of Change Award,, please come check it out and join us. And thank you again, Preston.

- Thank you, thank you, pleasure.