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IWC Schaffhausen

IWC Schaffhausen




Originally appeared on Forbes.com on October 1st 2019



What is the one most pivotal point of your career that you celebrate as your greatest moment of success? IWC Schaffhausen will explore “the moment” with Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list makers to understand the story behind their biggest milestones.


Forbes selects 600 inspiring and aspiring young movers and makers out to change the world for its 30 Under 30 list, from 20 different industries. 30 trailblazers under the age of 30 are chosen for each industry, chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada. Take a look at the stories of Brandon Bryant, Jon Yao and Blake Tomnitz.

Brandon Bryant Is Changing The (Very White) Face Of Venture Capital


After relentlessly pursuing a career in investment banking throughout college, it didn’t take long for Brandon Bryant, now 29 and one of the founders of Harlem Capital Partners, to observe that he and his new colleagues had little in common.


“As a person of color, you sit next to the kid who played lacrosse, whose father and mother is somebody, and you get to actually understand how they move in the world,” he recalls of the old boys’ club that seemed to dominate his majority-white workplace. “My big takeaway from my experience is to be on the offense now, and be excited to make my own opportunities and connect my own dots.”


He’s done that by launching an early-stage venture-capital firm with three black friends that’s committed to investing in businesses owned by people of color and women, who receive as little as 3% of VC funding despite representing 70% of the population, according to Harlem Capital. Of course, trying to break the cycle of white, male financiers investing in companies helmed by people who look like them hasn’t been easy. 


Photo credit: Forbes/Ivan Clow

My big takeaway from my experience is to be on the offense now, and be excited to make my own opportunities and connect my own dots

The Moment of Inspiration


Bryant, a member of last year’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list, eventually left his Wall Street job, but he didn’t leave behind the mentality that got him interested in finance to begin with. Several of his former cube mates, roommates and college pals were similarly unfulfilled by what their banking jobs had to offer them, and they started sharing small-scale investment ideas to pass the time.


“We kept seeing so many opportunities to invest in real estate, to invest in small business, to invest in startups,” Bryant says. They weren’t wealthy enough yet to make meaningful investments themselves — but they could make a difference for a company by pooling their resources.


He and his future Harlem Capital cofounders started reaching out to each other to hustle together some funds. “Jarrid [Tingle] goes, ‘Hey, man, I have all these really cool opportunities. Do you have $10,000 to put towards it?’ Henri [Pierre Jacques] texted me, saying, ‘Hey, do you have $10,000?’ I say, ‘Yes.’ We go to a few other people. We had $50,000 in 30 minutes.”


There wasn’t one light bulb moment in which Bryant, Tingle, Pierre-Jacques and John Henry, who completes the quartet of leaders that now makes up Harlem Capital, decided that the individual investments could become a firm. But there was a meal in a cramped Harlem apartment in late 2015.


“We had a meeting in Jarrid’s living room about new deals and new opportunities. We ordered some takeout food. It was pretty low brow,” Bryant recalls. The four still had their day jobs but were essentially running their own small firm on the side already. They realized, during that get-together, that “we’d been building an airplane in midair,” Bryant says. “It was just like, ‘We need to put a wing on this. Then maybe we should have seat belts. Then maybe we should have a pilot. We need staff, we need people, we need air traffic control.’”


The staff of four were already flying, but they needed a mission. 



PILOT’S WATCH CHRONOGRAPH|(0.357,0.2653,0.6359,0.6361)

Photo credit: Forbes/Ivan Clow

The Moment of Challenge


Bryant and his cofounders set out to research exciting young founders so they could help them get their companies off the ground — but found that the buzz was most often surrounding the same type of faces. “When we started focusing on startup founders, we are only seeing white males,” Bryant says.


It occurred to them just how little venture capital goes to people of color and women and decided to focus on these under-funded segments, with a goal of investing in 1,000 diverse founders in the next two decades. “This is such a huge market opportunity. If we can position ourselves as that leader, we could really have outsize returns, while having crazy impact,” says Bryant.   

But they weren’t sure Wall Street would share their enthusiasm. “We knew that no one was going to believe in four black kids starting a fund, so we put our own money up,” he says.


Still, to scale up, they needed money from outside the foursome. While this new MO for Harlem Capital Partners may have been personally inspiring for its founders, it wasn’t (and still isn’t) especially motivating for the investors they approached.


“Fortunately, we had a few top-tier people. But, to be honest, a lot of people already had their capital elsewhere.” They approached their connections, then their connections’ connections. “[Pitching] our first degree of separations was tough. Then, we had to go to the second degree, then the third. I’m thinking we’re on a six now. That’s not just six no’s — that’s hundreds. We’ve had 300 meetings, and I would say maybe 5% of those meetings are positive.”


Bryant and his colleagues handle that negativity the way they always have: by letting it roll off their backs. The team takes every meeting, every interview, every panel or podcast opportunity that might get the word out about their mission. And they lean on each other for motivation.


“One of our 60+ Slack channels is called ‘quotes.’ A young woman emailed us and said, ‘Hey, would love to have my son come into the office just to see how black men are working on something bigger than them,’” he remembers.


“Whenever we’re down, we just go look at those quotes,” Bryant says. “We live, breathe, sleep, eat this stuff. Our Slack goes until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and then it goes right back up at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. Ding, ding, ding, ding!”

Photo credit: Forbes/Ivan Clow

Photo credit: Forbes/Ivan Clow

The Moment of Success


And of course, occasionally, there are yeses. Big ones. “One day, someone reaches out to interview Henri, and that person said, ‘Hey, I actually interviewed XYZ person, and she would be a great person for you to talk to. Her and her husband are investing.’ They ended up being our first million-dollar check,” Bryant says.


All the buzz they’d sought to build had created the connection they needed most. That investor introduced them to one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which now has a minority stake in Harlem Capital Partners and invested in Harlem’s first pooled fund, which seeks to raise $25 million.


As for the money going out, the firm has invested in startups like Wagmo, a pet-insurance company (founded by a woman); Aunt Flow, which establishes menstrual supplies in schools and offices (founded by a woman); and Jobble, a gig economy marketplace (founded by a black man).


Still, Bryant and his team are staying humble, as their job remains to “shake the can,” as he puts it, and ask for other people’s money. He doesn’t expect that to get any easier, but he’ll continue to seek out people who believe in Harlem Capital’s work as much as he does.


Bryant returns to the metaphor of flying. “This plane only has a finite amount of seats, so it's okay if you don't want to be along for this ride,” he says. “But we’re going to Mars, and then we’re going to Venus and then we’re hitting Pluto. So, see you there!”

Created by Forbes, in partnership with IWC

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