Full disclosure: I invested in Freeman Capital in 2019 and 2020.
Our founder for Startup Showcase #4 has lived a great life so far.
By his own admission, he did everything he was supposed to do in this world as a budding professional.
As a youngster in North Carolina, Calvin Williams Jr., founder of Freeman Capital, was recruited to build top secret government websites for the U.S. Department of Defense at age 17.
He then parlayed that tech background into founding his own firm and sold his first company at the age of 25.
Calvin thought he was winning.
That is, until he started searching for a wealth advisor to take him from point A to point B, to manage his money and to help him grow his assets for his family (he now has a wife and son).
Coincidentally, Calvin needed exactly the kind of help that he now assists others in receiving through Freeman Capital.
That’s when Calvin learned he didn’t yet have enough money to stay on the phone with his financial planner for his initial intake call, despite his recent windfall.
Dejected and initially unmotivated, he shifted his paradigm away from victimhood to return to his entrepreneurial roots and address a problem that still evades the largest financial planning firms on the planet: the racial wealth gap.
It’s a source of anxiety for middle class folks who could slip backwards into poverty in the not too distant future, at rates unseen in our lifetime and quite frankly, unimaginable.
Freeman Capital emerged from this opportunity but required extensive up-front investment from its founder.
Specifically, Calvin invested $150,000 into Freeman Capital in 2018 and spent years prior focusing on consumer needs to create an inclusive platform that people wanted (and enjoyed) using on a daily basis.
From Charlotte to Harlem
So why did Calvin travel from Charlotte, NC to our Harlem brownstone to meet with guests, friends and current investors?
Well for one, Freeman Capital is becoming a household name in Charlotte and their success story is already fairly well-known locally in that region.
If you’re like me, you know that sometimes you can reach a maximum with respect to the resources available in your locale.
So traversing nations to meet new people at some point becomes more business imperative than an optional luxury.
Despite being relatively unknown in New York City, Calvin entered our Pastor’s home (of Mother AME Zion Church) on the same block that housed one of the earlier and most successful black startup founders of all time, the late Madame CJ Walker, and also A. Philip Randolph and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Freeman Capital is expanding, and the vibe that night was nothing short of silently explosive.
On Harlem’s historic Madame CJ Walker Street (across the street from her house) we gathered for a startup showcase, where the only goal was learning more about Freeman Capital, what a new financial planning company might look like and how to sign up for more information on Freeman Capital’s crowdfunding campaign.
Checkout our full recap video here.
In the words of Rev. Dr. Malcolm Byrd, “if you feel sacred vibes emanating from the ground up through your body, it’s because you’re in Harlem”.
Startup Showcase #4 was busier too with more pizza, drink and additional buzz around our resident Wall Street artist, Robert Newman III.
In true Black Wall Street fashion, Calvin captivated our guests and fielded insightful, sincere questions from a well-informed crowd of curious investors, guests, venture capitalists, artists and you guessed it, lawyers.
Our video recap best captures Freeman Capital’s showcase content, including direct engagement with guests that pushed him to consider entering Africa’s global marketplace, and finding more precise ways to connect with African American women interested in “buying black” back in the States.
Who is Freeman Capital?
According to Calvin Freeman Capital helps customers with “a personalized wealth building plan that’s inclusive of their entire human life.”
For Freeman Capital, it’s bigger than buying stocks more cheaply or budgeting each week, it’s about increasing net worth.
If you’re like me, you may struggle to invest because you think investing means “picking” but that’s not the full story.
“And then what?” says Calvin Williams, Jr. “wealth isn’t building.”
Here’s What I Learned from Startup Showcase #4: Freeman Capital
- Preparation is nice, but you can still get swept off your feet by a well-informed audience.
What was special about this startup showcase was how personable and approachable Calvin was all night.
During our tech-enhanced networking portion, I could barely get a word in as Calvin spoke to each guest individually, and in groups, about his journey and vision for the future of Freeman Capital.
I never witnessed an awkward silence that night, only a growing circle surrounding him.
Calvin cleared the room for his startup showcase and I’m convinced that his commitment to telling his story is the reason why.
In fact, it’s the first time I realized that this vulnerable space that we’re creating truly has genuine demand from key stakeholders and our local communities.
And, despite being our first tech startup founder with a live crowdfunding campaign during their showcase, Calvin stuck to the basics and told the story of Freeman Capital’s past, present and future, much to the enjoyment of our crowd.
He’s been waiting to tell his story for years, in an atmosphere cultivated by culture and human capital, like we displayed during Startup Showcase #4..
I’ll be honest with you, his speech was shorter than I expected!
Our agenda allocates four minutes for founder speeches, but I was genuinely surprised when he finished after about 2.5 minutes.
Luckily the alacrity of our guests in asking questions didn’t disappoint, and filled the next half hour.
Right out of the gate one of our seasoned guests asked an apt question about how Freeman Capital could interpret their survey data to identify not just Freeman’s target market but their consumers’ target motivation, a theme that came up frequently that night.
But again our questions pushed Calvin to go deeper still and he embraced the moment to get vulnerable with us.
Here’s the deal, Calvin was frank in saying the artificial intelligence his firm is building is still in its earliest stages; and that right now, their existing platform is what’s driving value-add to Freeman’s customers.
Despite his constant testing (and retesting) of Freeman’s product offering, Calvin brought his product to the market to get real time feedback, as early as possible.
Calvin’s focus is on learning who their customers are first, and then scaling.
In fact, he intends for Freeman Capital to spend its earliest dollars on marketing to users: to best identify who their customers are, where they like to interact with financial professionals and the processes needed to grow their customer base over time.
However, I must admit, this was a bit of a new concept for me.
Rather than diving into the weeds on Freeman Capital the product, what I gathered most from Freeman Capital’s startup showcase was how interested folks are in FinTech companies in general.
In fact, we had a few folks who drove two hours to hear Calvin speak, and others who stayed late or left early begrudgingly, all to hear from a founder they would otherwise never have met.
That is unless (or until) Freeman Capital takes off.
2. Folks are interested in finding founders solving BIG problems.
Here’s the deal, of all the challenges a founder can attempt to tackle, bridging the racial wealth gap might be one of the toughest.
At a pitch competition in which Freeman Capital participated, one judge asked “If X hasn’t figured it out, what makes you think you can, from North Carolina?”
Fortunately, this wasn’t Calvin’s experience with us, as we emphasize mutual vulnerability.
Not out of weakness but out of strength.
Also, you know what’s funny about money?
Everyone thinks they know about it.
How do you create a better financial planner than human beings?
That’s a question I rarely ask myself, but Calvin does.
In fact, I’ve learned through Calvin why meticulously testing your product is paramount and why diligence in founding a FinTech startup the right way can make all the difference: by taking the time to build a team, register with the SEC and actually hitting the actual pavement to grow his company.
Having previously built a successful company, our guests witnessed the beauty of Calvin’s experience and the confidence related thereto.
3. We expect founders to be psychologists too.
If you’re like me, watching Calvin field psychological and methodological-based questions excited me, although it didn’t surprise me at all based on the makeup of our crowd for Startup Showcase #4.
Our guests are smart (and vocal).
Most rooms struggle to get the kinds of questions Calvin fielded, and it was a joy to watch an incubation of ideas develop, in under thirty minutes.
A few guests really pushed Freeman Capital on tapping into existing recommendation channels black women use to gather investment advice.
You can see how this plays out more in the recap video here.
4. NYC’s tech scene can absorb out of towners seamlessly.
Believe it or not, Calvin was our first tech startup founder from outside the NYC-area.
To me, this shows that NYC’s tech scene is nimple, and can absorb diverse founders from across the country, and maybe even the world.
Calvin laid a startup financing foundation for others to consider as well.
If you’re interested in asking friends and family to support your business financially and attracting sophisticated professionals, you should check out Calvin’s crowdfunding campaign for more information.
For a deep dive visit wefunder.com/freemancapital.
5. We are finding the right mix of guests to create win-win-wins.
If you’re a Black venture capitalist with industry connections, our startup showcases are a great place to come (lowkey) to enjoy welcoming audiences supporting positive feedback loops to a diverse startup founder, without feeling an obligation to invest.
Alternatively, aspiring startup investors who would otherwise struggle to meet diverse tech startup founders can come to our startup showcases and enjoy a short obligation-free pitch, then listen (and participate) in a Q&A session with a sharp and curious crowd of folks interested in building not just one billion dollar company but fostering an economy of unicorns.
If you’re connected to the tech world at all, our startup showcases are a scene you can join seamlessly; and network with countless new faces.
Founders also have a chance to be celebrated, tell their story and expand their advisor-base.
If you want to get involved just visit www.d-tech.fund.
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