Investors need to be willing to give female general partners capital to invest. There are far too few women in decision-making roles at VC firms and the easiest way to change that is by supporting women-founded investment firms.
As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the VC gender gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing David P.A. Mullings is Founder, President and C.E.O. of Blue Mahoe Partners, Inc., a private investment firm based in Florida. He is a seasoned entrepreneur with experience in the finance industry in Jamaica and the USA, most recently serving as Investor Relations Specialist for Left Brain Capital Management, a long-biased hedge fund ranked among the top 10 best performing funds worldwide by Opalesque in September 2017. He is a Mentor for the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship — Caribbean in Jamaica.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” that brought you to this career path?
My brother and I launched our first startup in October 2001 during our MBA program and launched our Caribbean music video platform in February 2002. It grew to be the largest and became YouTube’s first Caribbean media partner in 2008. A close family friend was our largest investor and rand a private equity firm. He had us study Warren Buffett and eventually had me join him to learn the PE industry. I eventually spent time in the hedge fund world as well to better understand the various alternative asset classes since I originally came from an early-stage world.
Can you share a story of your most successful Angel or VC investment? In your opinion, what was its main lesson?
A close friend of mine, Ray Guilbault, started 8and9 Clothing in Miami and we grew close. I invested my time and had my parents provide a small amount of capital during a growth spurt. Today the company is very successful and also produces the merchandise for Vice. I still wear 8and9 shirts as often as possible.
Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding “failure” of yours? Is there a lesson or take away that you took out of that that our readers can learn from?
So many to choose from! Early-stage investing is brutal and you cannot predict the winners. The biggest lessons tend to be reminders that a coachable founder with a willingness to build a strong team and keep them motivated and properly incentivized is critical if they are a first-time founder. Too many of them think that it happens quickly and just like in the TechCrunch articles. Also, if it is a tech company then you need to have both tech and business skills in the team with someone having prior experience.
Was there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn from that?
My biggest regret is a business process outsourcing company in Jamaica started by a close friend of mine. I wanted to invest but the structure that I created at my previous firm did not allow me to make that decision and I got pushback. They have grown from less than 30 employees to over 1,000 employees now and operate in 4 countries. We are still great friends. The lessons is that this time around I made sure that I get to choose my investments myself.
Ok let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this article in Fortune, only 2.2% of VC dollars went to women in 2018. Can you share with our readers what your firm is doing to help close the VC gender gap?
We have done three specific things: Firstly, brought in a female tech entrepreneur that is well-connected, Melissa Powell, as an Entrepreneur In Residence, so that we can get more leads while helping to support her buildout. This first-hand experience allows us to better understand what female founders face on a weekly basis. Secondly, we are engaging two women with tech and company building experience to help us identify startups and then help the founders scale. Thirdly, I personally agreed to join the advisory board of GGWP, an Australian eSports startup founded by a female entrepreneur. I have been helping with term sheets, financial models and investor introductions, in addition to committing to participate in the current round. This is just the start.
Can you recommend 4 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender gap. Please share a story or example for each.
- First, investors need to be willing to give female general partners capital to invest. There are far too few women in decision-making roles at VC firms and the easiest way to change that is by supporting women-founded investment firms.
- Second, work environments and workplace culture needs to be more inclusive of women, especially the way that they are treated.
- Third, parents need to raise their daughters to not be afraid to ask for what they are worth.
- Fourth, companies need to promote more women into leadership positions so that more are available as mentors and potential high quality founders. Last, equal pay for equal work would dramatically raise the available capital to be invested in female-founded companies since investors are most likely to invest in founders that are like them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Recently I decided to proactively try to leave each person I interact with happier than I found them. It’s hard, especially if you got into an argument but being mindful of the energy you put out reminds you to be positive. I would like to pay that forward like in the movie Pay It Forward.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Steve Jobs has the best quotes for my life and it’s hard to choose one but the one that most hits home is “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Definitely Robert Frederick Smith. I already know another black billionaire very well, Michael Lee-Chin, and consider him a mentor. It can’t hurt to learn from two black billionaires! Michael has taught me a lot about his life and his investing framework. I believe that understanding how successful people think is more important than knowing what they’ve done. It’s what they don’t do that makes them that much more successful and I am curious about Smith’s decision-making framework.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.