Marlon C. Nichols

Marlon C. Nichols

Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Cross Culture Ventures

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 21, 2018

Discussion

Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
Hi, I'm Marlon. I'm Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Cross Culture Ventures and some of my investments include Blavity, Gimlet Media, and Thrive Market to name a few. Ask me questions about VC, startups, careers and cultural investing. Happy to be here!
Andy Ayim
Andy Ayim@andymansmiles · Pathways for undervalued founders
1% of VC backed startups are black owned and only 0.3% black owned and female. I loved your Culture as a Currency report and wondered how do you balance cultural relevance and great investments?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@andymansmiles it's not really about balancing the two. If you make investments in products/ solutions that people care about or that affect their lives in meaningful ways then those products/ companies will have customers. Paying customers make businessess
Andy Ayim
Andy Ayim@andymansmiles · Pathways for undervalued founders
@marloncnichols thank you
YSYS
YSYS@sswupdates · SSW
What advice would you give to a startup founder seeking the attention of a particular VC?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@sswupdates be scrappy, but respectful. Ensure that you are playing in a space that she understands and has interest in. Be diligent and persistent, but not annoying. build something of value that she can't deny
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@sswupdates I always say, you can have opinions about ideas, but you facts and stats are what they are. Build as much as you can and grow as much as you can before approaching an investor.
Michael Berhane
Michael Berhane@michaelberhane_ · Founder at peopleofcolorintech.com
Hey Marlon. Are there any common mistakes that you see entrepreneurs make when attempting to raise capital?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@michaelberhane_ lots. Best generic advice I can give is to know your business inside out, know the competitive landscape and be realistic about where your business sits in that mix. be honest and authentic. engage investors that are relevant for the business that you are building. don't be late lol
David Noël
David Noël@david_noel_ · Digital Strategist | Eyeball Digital
Hi Marlon, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! My question is about the landscape for post-MBA careers in VC. For those of us who are looking to take the MBA path into venture capital, what would be your advice for positioning ourselves to enter VC immediately upon graduation?
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
What skills and experiences make a great VC, for those aspiring to become one?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@abadesi empathy, an understand of business models and what makes a company work, the ability to build relationships, being a good judge of character, flexibilty.....
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@marloncnichols Thanks! I know VCs often recommend Brad Feld's Venture Deals as book to read for aspiring VCs, are they any others you recommend?
randa
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
@abadesi @marloncnichols How do you build these skills? Did you have mentors who helped you learn the VC game?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@abadesi @randathinks best advice I ever got was to be a VC before I was actually a VC. Which meant meeting with founders, learning about tech and trends, and studying deals. Yes mentors are important and can help. VC is typically an apprenticeship.
Ash Phillips
Ash Phillips@theashphillips · Founder, YENA
Hi Marlon – I run a diverse community of startups & scale-ups (with a global capacity now) which gives us really great deal flow for pre-seed & seed stage companies. We're currently doing investor intros for £s and % kick-back but are considering the potential of our own fund and/or incubation model. We're sustainable as a business already and have a membership core to focus on, but are seeing great opportunities come and go without taking the vested interest we'd love to. What would your advice be at this point? If "Raise a fund and do it!", how should we go about it? Or do you think we should spend a few years intro-ing to get a good track record first? ....We just don't want to miss out on opportunities!
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@theashphillips honestly its a personal decision. LPs will care about 1- do you have access to proprietary deal flow 2- can you make good investments 3- how can you prove the aforementioned. I'll add that raising a fund is a full-time job and is difficult so you have to be committed before going down that road.
Ash Phillips
Ash Phillips@theashphillips · Founder, YENA
@marloncnichols thanks Marlon! I do know that I want in to the game, but not just yet. Have a little more to do first (learning, and track record) before exploring. 28 now, so maybe 30 feels like the right time to get going. 2 years timeline. Let's go! Thanks for the feedback :) If you'd like onto our investment mailing list then let me know and I'll add you!
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@marloncnichols @theashphillips that's really helpful insight... are there feasible ways for people with little disposable income to invest? I read an article that said aspiring VCs should email themselves notes of companies they would invest in as evidence to... would LPs buy into that as proof of good investments?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@theashphillips also expect a 1.5 to 2 year process. In the mean time you could leverage Angel List or similar platform to create SPV's where you can share in the upside of companies prior to raising the fund.
Ash Phillips
Ash Phillips@theashphillips · Founder, YENA
@marloncnichols @abadesi yes! Matt Connolly said this at one of our London events too!
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
I'd love to hear your thoughts on Big Data in light of recent events with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica -- how can we ensure a data breach of this scale doesn't happen again?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@abadesi that's a big question and I'm not close enough to either company to have a truly informed opinion. what I can say is that entrepreneurs and investors have the privilege and the responsibility to think about how their solutions impact the world and to ensure that they do more good than harm. I think we are in new territory and some unexpected consequences are coming about. It's impossible to predict the entire future or all scenarios so when something like this happens I think it is super important for the parties involved to own up and then work to ensure they don't happen again. Also I think this is less of a big data and more of a privacy issue. Gotta protect consumer privacy at all costs or it will cost you customers. FB has lost a good deal of trust and it is apparent in the market cap hit they've taken over the past days.
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@marloncnichols Keeping close to the pulse of consumers and pop culture is at the heart of Cross Culture Venture's mission - I wonder how you feel about tech companies that knowingly play on consumers' ignorance / naivety about privacy and data. Is it OK to grow at any cost?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
Zakaria
Zakaria@zackaria01
Hi Marlon What is the most difficult thing about building a successful VC ecosystem ?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@zackaria01 It's all pretty difficult, but like company founders, its always a challenge getting investors to part ways with their capital. I think its even harder to raise for a VC fund because you don't have a product that you are selling to other enterprises or consumers.
Carl Martin
Carl Martin@carlmartin · Founder, >we
Hey Marlon! Thanks for taking the time. I'm an early stage founder in the midst of fundraising, and I've found being purpose and values driven isn't resonating with everyone (context here: http://morethanwe.co/values). Whats your take on balancing profit vs. purpose when raising at such an early stage?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@carlmartin It comes down to who you are pitching and knowing what is most important to them. pick investors that share your passion and view the world similarly to you. That said, we've done a number of investments that promise to improve our world in some way. it's important to us, but its also important to us to return capital to our investors so the venture has to promise to deliver on both side of the coin. e.g https://thrivemarket.com/landing..., https://www.wonderschool.com/
Chacho Valadez
Chacho Valadez@chachovaladez · Investment Apprentice, Backstage Capital
Hey @marloncnichols - What advice do you have for folks that are new, junior VCs?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@chachovaladez figure out what your super power is and do that thing better than everyone else. Best investors find there way into the best deals before they become the best deals.
Chacho Valadez
Chacho Valadez@chachovaladez · Investment Apprentice, Backstage Capital
@marloncnichols thank you!
randa
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
As a person from an underrepresented background in a position of power/influence, do you feel responsible for lifting up other underrepresented folks in VC/tech (e.g. by investing in their companies, mentoring them, exploring ways to systematically change the makeup of the industry)? Curious to hear your thoughts on the topic in general, and if there are any specific ways you go about empowering underrepresented POC.
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@randathinks I think it's important to contribute to the communities success so I do mentor and am pretty giving of my time. One place where I spend a good deal of time is http://www.hbcu.vc/. In trms of investing, I strongly believe that its important to back the best founders who are building the best product in areas that we care about--do so without bias.
Kartik Dadwal
Kartik Dadwal@kartikdadwal · Founder at Questionsly; UCLA MBA
Hi Marlon, Thank you for the chat! Immigrants bring a lot of culture, drive, and determination to this country. Do you think the VC community as a whole should do something about helping immigrants startup companies and bring more prosperity to this country?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@kartikdadwal As a Jamaican born entrepreneur and investor, yes. We can always do more. I go back to JA once a year to coach, mentor, and advise startups in the Caribbean.
Kartik Dadwal
Kartik Dadwal@kartikdadwal · Founder at Questionsly; UCLA MBA
@marloncnichols thanks marlon! What about immigrants in U.S. on a foreign visa like F1 or H1B who want to start companies? Do you think you have any plans to enable these pool of entrepreneurs in the U.S.?
Ryan Hoover
Ryan Hoover@rrhoover · Founder, Product Hunt
Hi, @marloncnichols! CCV has a unique focus that's increasingly relevant as tech shapes culture and visa-versa. Within that, what industries or opportunities are you most excited to explore?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@rrhoover yup, we follow popular culture to understand consumer needs and behavior--we believe consumers should be the core focus of any successful business so understanding them is paramount. We are actively investing in healthcare, education, automotive, logistics, parenting, fashion, new-media etc. those are very high level, but the under current to all of our investments that they are poised to ride the waves of emerging cultural trends. we are industry agnostic and consumer centric
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
Andy Ayim
Andy Ayim@andymansmiles · Pathways for undervalued founders
Diversity & Inclusion has risen in prominence. What do you think VCs can do to take meaningful action on improving D&I in 2018?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@andymansmiles I think LP's should fund more firms that have true diverse leadership, I think there needs to be more diversity with in VC firms. Hiring one woman and then saying you are diverse isn't really doing it. Try to understand/ realize our personal bias and work to change. But I think the most practical thing is to flow dollars to those that are actually walking the walking.
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Marlon 👋thanks for being here today! What's one piece of career or life advice that's stuck with you?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@ems_hodge Shits hard, don't quit. Don't try to perfect everything, sometimes you need to get something good enough so you can test/ reflect and move on to the next phase (iterate quickly). Appreciate the journey while going through it.
Sheldon Smith
Sheldon Smith@sheldon718
Hello, Marion. I wanted to know if you look at pitches for reviews and critique and also do you think it's a good idea to ask celebrity people to be co-founders just for their names? I've been really working hard to solve the lack of new music reach to a customer base which is different from the fan base. And I want to take advantage of the flaws and weakness in the streaming services. I also believe the lack of reach is the biggest contribution to low sales for the artists. So I designed, a tech startup based on the artist needs and consumers want's. So based on what I described what type VC should I be targeting?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@sheldon718 My name is Marlon with and L instead of an i. I reach pitches all day everyday. next to meeting with entrepreneurs its the most efficient way to learn about a business.
Justin Whitman
Justin Whitman@jwwinc · Founder & CEO, UMuseUs.com
Based on everything surrounding FB and several investors now openly announcing their interest in social networking opportunities, what is it that you and your team look for (if you’re looking at all) in a social network startup?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@jwwinc We think about investments differently. I think I'd be more interested in a solution that solves privacy abuse than I would another social network. That said you never know what someone will build and if it will resonate with consumers in a unique way e.g. no-one expected twitter, or snap until they were there.
Justin Whitman
Justin Whitman@jwwinc · Founder & CEO, UMuseUs.com
@marloncnichols I appreciate that. We developed a social site for everyone from musicians to music lovers. However our site also allows for competitions (think American Idol meets all musicians) in addition to having an activity feed, videos, music, etc. Our differentiating factor is the fact that we encourage both online interactions as well as physical interactions based on finding musicians to play with, events to go to, or competitions to participate in. It’s definitrly been exciting building a fully functional site for everyone from musicians to music lovers...that will actually be free for the users. There’s definitely more I can’t share in this discussion, but if you’re ever interested in hearing about it we’d love to chat. Thanks for all answers to everything else...it’s been great reading all your responses.
YSYS
YSYS@sswupdates · SSW
If you invest in African startups, what do you look for - from Tobi
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@sswupdates We have one Africa investment https://msurvey.co/ The founder was brilliant, spends much of his time in the US and the business appeals to large US brands that are interested in doing business on the continent. The off shore deals are a tall order for us, but we are open if all the boxes are checked and we see a significant opportunity.
#MoKnows
#MoKnows@mobillionaire
Do you see an opportunity at the cross section of music, tech and media?? If so, where?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@mobillionaire Sure, Spotify is a great example in terms of how they are looking more and more like a new kind of label that is actually good for the creators. Also interesting is digital rights management that can auto-tag and enforce payment and usage rules.
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
What are your thoughts on tech's role in space exploration? There's a lot of hype about the work being done but I personally worry that space travel will always just be for the billionaires who can afford to go. 🚀
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@abadesi LOL the world was once believed to be flat until it was round. There may be some real benefits for humans beyond the Earth's atmosphere. Why not explore, especially given the damage we've done to our planet.
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
#MoKnows
#MoKnows@mobillionaire
How important is MRR to the investment decisions CCV makes? What are the key factors you look for? And, how do those compare to that of Suzy's and Troy's?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@mobillionaire We are pretty lock step as a team. The number one factor is the entrepreneur and whether we believe in her ability to build an enormous business. Metrics are also important because they help us to validate our opinions on a particular opportunity. We love revenue generating companies so MRR is usually important, but it depends on the type of business.
randa
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
Hi Marlon! I see a lot of investors avoiding media companies -- what makes you / CCV so bullish on that industry?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@randathinks We're bullish on Blavity because there isn't another new-media company that is targeting the multicultural millennial in the way that Blavity is. There focus on young black people is novel and their reach within that demo is way more significant than the next distance player. Not to mention the buying power of that group and brands' needs to connect with them. Media is interesting and will continue to experience change due to the power of cell phones and the internet. TV/cable/satalite in their current for will disappear in the coming years
randa
randa@randathinks · Deal team @ AngelList
And... I'm surprised no one has asked yet, what's your take on the crypto space?
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
Yes! Would love to know your view on crypto @marloncnichols 🤑
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@randathinks We are looking into an investment in that space now. Less interested in the actually currencies, but very intrigued by platforms that facilitate trading
Marc Herold Guirand
Marc Herold Guirand@marchg · Analyst
Hi Marlon, Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions - I'm personally grateful! What do you think your competitive edge is as a VC?!
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@marchg my perspective and ability to walk in lots of different circles
Marc Herold Guirand
Marc Herold Guirand@marchg · Analyst
@marloncnichols when or how did you come to that realization?!
Kartik Dadwal
Kartik Dadwal@kartikdadwal · Founder at Questionsly; UCLA MBA
where is the link to the live chat?
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@kartikdadwal Hi Kartik - you are in it 😀 @marloncnichols is here for the next hour responding to questions. Just ask using the text box top of page.
@kartikdadwal Yes how do we hear you?
Kartik Dadwal
Kartik Dadwal@kartikdadwal · Founder at Questionsly; UCLA MBA
@marloncnichols @abadesi got it! I thought it would like podcast style live chat :)
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@kartikdadwal @prarthna Hey this is a text based AMA just like Reddit. Write your questions and you'll receive written responses back from @marloncnichols 🙂 thanks
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@marloncnichols @kartikdadwal Ah yes... that's something we can work towards in future 😄
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
Is that it? Any more topics/ questions?
David Noël
David Noël@david_noel_ · Digital Strategist | Eyeball Digital
Hey @marloncnichols, sorry if I missed it but I didn't catch your response regarding the post-MBA career path into VC.
Abadesi
Abadesi@abadesi · Co-founder, Elpha
@marloncnichols There's a few left to answer still from @jwwinc @sswupdates @sheldon178 @ems_hodge @zackaria01 and more - be sure to keep hitting refresh 💫
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
Be bold y'all. Let's talk
Kwame Som-Pimpong
Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Consultant at Deloitte
@marloncnichols @david_noel_ Would also be awesome to get your thoughts on what impact Management Leadership for Tomorrow has had on your career to date.
David Noël
David Noël@david_noel_ · Digital Strategist | Eyeball Digital
Hey @kwamesompimpong, I thought that my experience with MLT has been invaluable so far. I'll be entering an MBA program this coming fall and it wouldn't have been possible without the preparation and introspection that MLT set the groundwork for. Hit me up on IG if you have more specific questions or want to chat: @daveednoel
Kwame Som-Pimpong
Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Consultant at Deloitte
What do you think about Travis Kalanick's new gig? My take is that if he is as effective as he was at Uber, we could see gentrification go into hyperdrive. That's concerning.
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@kwamesompimpong haven't given it much thought honestly
Chris Lindsey
Chris Lindsey@chrisear2ground1
What do you think sets CCV apart as a Venture Fund? What are the key differentiators that you are most proud of?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@chrisear2ground1 Probably a better question for any of our portfolio CEOs, but we pride ourselves on being hands on partners. We roll up our sleeves and help our companies where they need it. Additionally we have a pretty diverse network (entertainment, sports, fortune 100, government, etc.). We're also pretty good about curating settings for the various members of our network to engage in meaningful ways.
Graeme
Graeme@graeme_fulton · Making Prototypr.io and emailOtter 🐭
Hey Marlon, companies like Webflow in fast-paced industries like design tools/prototyping hadn't taken on much funding from VCs, yet they still compete well with those that have. When it's possible bootstrap companies and get very far (e.g. MeetEdgar https://saasclub.io/podcast/laur...), when is the right time to accept VC funding? And why should anyone choose to?
Marlon C. Nichols
Marlon C. Nichols@marloncnichols · Managing Partner at Cross Culture VC
@graeme_fulton when you need it to scale and compete