All Articles Tagged "investing"
Lauren Maillian Bias of Gen Y Capital Partners, Brings Together Technology, Marketing, and Investing
Lauren Maillian Bias started a vineyard and winery when she was 19 years old, launching her into a world of start-ups, investing, and technology. After starting her second company, Luxury Market Branding, and becoming active in the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), she was a founding partner at Gen Y Capital Partners, an early-stage venture firm supporting tech start-ups from Gen Y entrepreneurs, where she now serves as managing director.
In addition to her work in the venture and start-up world, Maillian Bias is also active in philanthropic endeavors, particularly in New York City, where she sits on the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the board of the New York Urban League. She is also a lifetime member of the Children’s Aid Society, works on education initiatives with the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, and serves as a judge to Start-up Chile.
Maillian Bias spoke to Madame Noire about how her past shaped her investing future, diversity among investors and entrepreneurs, and how to improve that ratio.
Madame Noire: Tell me about your background and how it led you to co-found Gen Y Capital Partners.
Lauren Maillian Bias: I have been a life-long entrepreneur. My first company was successful, but creating a vineyard and winery from the ground up was an extremely labor-intensive undertaking. Through my membership with YEC, I was exposed to this whole other perspective on entrepreneurship, which is primarily technology driven.
Most of the young entrepreneurs around the country are starting tech companies. They are easy to start and easy to scale and you can start with minimal resources, which was the opposite of everything I found my entrepreneurial journey to be up until that point. I got excited to watch people who I met through YEC launch their companies and grow their companies, so I learned a lot about technology companies, specifically around operations, strategy, marketing, and branding.
I have a bachelor’s of science in international trade and marketing and I found myself in this niche of advising a lot of start-ups around marketing, branding, how to run your company, and media buying for your company. I then started to invest in them as well, became an angel investor, and really liked it.
As for Gen Y Capital Partners, a friend from the YEC came to me and my partner Jeremy Johnson and asked if we would be willing to start this fund with him. We looked at what makes early-stage investing really successful and it was having an additional value add. Things such as networking and advising helped companies excel and see success in some form or fashion. We knew there was something we could do with the network that we could collectively create, and out of that Gen Y Capital was formed.
MN: What do you do at the company? What is its strategy?
LMB: My role at Gen Y Capital Partners is managing director, so I manage the fund. When we came together to create Gen Y Capital, the sole purpose was to identify and successfully invest in early-stage tech companies, hence our tag line “By Gen Y, For Gen Y.” My partners and I are all Gen Y and we invest in companies that have at least one Gen Y founder.
We also use YEC to virtually accelerate the companies we invest in. They have access to peer-to-peer advising and they have all the benefits of being a member of YEC, which is an invite-only organization. All the companies we invest in through the fund are automatically invited, and we’re able to pull together an incredible, dynamic group of limited partners to invest in the fund. Our limited partners are people who are just like us: they had a successful company and are really passionate about technology companies and supporting the future of what they believe innovation should look like. All of this enables us to provide targeted assistance and support and expertise to companies that we fund.
MN: What other companies have you started?
LMB: I am personally very motivated by the opportunity to be one of the early movers or early adopters within the various industries I have a passion for. My first business was a vineyard and winery and out of that, I started a marketing company called Luxury Market Branding, where we do strategic marketing, branding and media buying and planning for luxury goods. We started out doing wine and spirits, and we have since moved into hair care and skin care.
Out of that, we started working with a lot of brands that, while they were not all tech start-ups, they used technology in some light, whether it was for marketing, branding or ecommerce. Out of that, I became more passionate about marrying tech with marketing and branding. I’m most motivated by being able to see what could be potentially major opportunities leveraging technology.
Business Insider recently took at look at the financial history of Michelle and Barack Obama to explain just how they went from being middle class to multi-millionaires. As Senator, Obama was pulling in $80,287 plus another $32,144 from the University of Chicago Law School where he taught as a lecturer. Add to that Michelle’s salary from the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she was an administrator. (According to FactCheck.org, Michelle went from earning $121,910 in 2004 as an executive director at the hospital to making $316,962 in 2005 as a vice president.)
But the couple began raking in serious dough from three investment assets in 2004 the article says. First was the Illinois State Senate Pension Fund, worth between $50,000 and $100,000. Then there were investments in funds with investment management company Vanguard, through which had investments in the Vanguard Wellington Fund (worth between $100,000 and $200,000) and $50,000 to $100,000 invested in the Vanguard Wellesley Fund. Obama’s book deal for The Audacity of Hope, about his famous 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, pushed him into the millionaire bracket.
If the Obamas could invest before they had millions, so can any woman with money smarts.
When many women consider investing, they think you need lots of money to get started. Not so, says small business consultant and “worry-free living” consultant Princess Clark-Wendel, president of Princess Clark Consulting Inc. But don’t jump into investing blind.
Before you invest any cash, do your research about stocks, bonds and mutual funds. And, figure out an investment strategy with a professional money manager, financial consultant or broker. “Find a financial advisor to help you find products that will meet your financial goals,” says Clark-Wendel.
Clark-Wendel sent over three top tips via email.
1. Set financial goals. Spend some time thinking about what you what your money to do for you. Do you need to pay for your kid’s college education? Are you saving for retirement?
2. Know your time horizon. When will you need the money?
3. Know your financial tolerance for risk. A large gain could result in a large lost. Could you stomach it?
Call us when you’re rich!
Entrepreneurs quickly become comfortable with the word “no.” They may hear it about a thousand times before they get the “yes” that takes their business to the next level. This rings truer for minority and women entrepreneurs who have the added hurdle of wooing investors who are unfamiliar with the communities they serve.
A New York magazine writer, Kevin Roose, recently came under fire when he deemed the website NaturallyCurly, a leading social network and community for people with wavy, curly and kinky hair, as a dumb investment with “no redeeming qualities whatsoever.” Many felt that Roose ignored evidence that supported investment in the site including the potential market of over 80 million women in the US with textured hair. Roose later updated his article to say he only took issue with the social network component of the idea, but his generalizations underscore an issue many women and minority entrepreneurs face.
Gatekeepers to the business world – investors, manufacturers and the like – aren’t known for their diversity. Largely white, male and upperclass, there is a myopic mindset that makes it all to easy for them to miss the potential and profitability of businesses that target consumers outside of the mainstream. It also creates an additional hurdle of shortsightedness for minority- and women-fronted businesses to overcome.
Kevin McFall, Senior Vice President of NewME Accelerator, an incubator for technology start-ups in the competitive industry of Silicon Valley, traces the root of the issue to a lack of ability to pattern match. “Patterns exist in Silicon Valley of Ivy League dropouts being the ones identified as having all of the big successes associated with their ventures, so some investors look to match that pattern and find others like that to invest in,” said McFall.
“Because there has not historically been a lot of female and multi-cultural entrepreneur success stories, those patterns aren’t as visible or as plentiful as there are of other patterns.” Fair or not, the onus is on entrepreneurs to educate investors on the potential of their ideas and to have the tenacity to not let hearing “no” stop their pursuit of success.
There is no shortage of stories of entrepreneurs who went on to success after major players passed on their ideas. Sara Blakely, the founder of SPANX met opposition from patent lawyers and manufacturers who told her, her idea for spandex-type undergarments to slim and smooth your figure was crazy. She went on to become the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.
Bethenny Frankel, founder of Skinnygirl Cocktails, has been vocal about major liquor brands passing on her idea because they thought women wouldn’t buy low-calorie spirits. Skinnygirl Cocktails is now the fastest-growing spirit brand in the industry.
These women overcame initial opposition because not only did they have a good idea, but they were able to demonstrate success on a small scale. An idea is only worth something if a sustainable business can be built around it. Seth Godin, author and entrepreneurship guru, offers five basic components of a good business model:
- Profitable – Do the revenues from sales exceed the cost of supplies and labor?
- Protectable – Is it difficult for a competitor to enter your market? Have you accounted for potential rip offs of your idea?
- Self-priming – Can your business sustain itself? Will product sales generate enough profit for you to develop more products to sell?
- Adjustable – Is your business model flexible enough to adjust its strategy in response to unexpected challenges?
- Exitable – Have you developed a strategy that will allow your business to function without you?
If you answered yes to the questions above, you’re ready to take your idea to the next level. Tech blogger Paul Graham’s guide to presenting to investors is a good resource. He underscores the importance of being specific and narrow in your description of your idea, having data with specific numbers, and telling stories about your consumers that illustrate how you solve a problem.
The business world is becoming increasingly niche. Every day we are seeing individuals and companies tapping into the passions and needs of special groups. Investors that want to make money are opening their minds to new markets and ideas. The burden of proof is on entrepreneurs to show their potential and profitability.
For 20-somethings, being broke is nearly a fad. We trade war stories about our under-or-unemployed status, dream up creative ways to evade our astronomical student loan payments, and show little shame about moving back in with our parents after college graduation. But once that Twitter hashtag #TeamiPhone or #TeamDroid pops up on our respective timelines, we’re all taking sides and writing dissertations in 140 characters or less about why one is better than the other.
Because despite having one of the highest unemployment rates in the country right now, studies have shown that millennials are the fastest-growing segment of luxury goods and services purchasers.
MSN.com recently reported that “although some millennials – people between the ages of 18 and 34 — are launching promising careers, most are burdened with large student loans, and thousands are unemployed. Despite all this, they are making luxury purchases a priority.”
Jason Dorsey, a millennials expert and the chief strategy officer for The Center for Generational Kinetics told MSN that he believes social media is a driving force in getting young people to prioritize spending money on high-end items. In his opinion, we are buying things so that we can say we did on Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media site. That in turn makes others want to say they did as well. The constant stream of conversation works as a way to sort-of peer pressure virtual strangers into owning non-essentials like flat screens, iPads, luxury cars (along with luxury car notes) and Android cell phones.
There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things, but can we afford those things on top of necessities and debilitating debt from a degree that has yet to result in a real salary? For many, the answer is a resounding no. A survey by WSL/Strategic Retail found that nearly a quarter of millennials are unable to make ends meet. We’re creating lives for ourselves that we cannot afford.
The good news is, studies show that we are less likely to use a credit card to bridge the gap between the money we have and the money we need to buy something. We are charging less and therefore paying off our credit card debt at a faster rate than other age groups. Low bank balances have also morphed us into super frugal shoppers, always finding the lowest price.
The bad news is that even a $250 iPhone from Craigslist is still $250 for a phone.
Of course, a phone isn’t standing in the way of anyone wanting to reach total financial independence, but the mindset that goes into making these costly purchases can be problematic — especially if you’re making these purchases in lieu of saving and investing your money.
Many phone companies are touting $100 a month for a cell phone plan. That seems reasonable for “unlimited everything,” but still that’s $1200 dollars a year. I looked up some numbers on personal finance website, The Motley Fool and it turns out – If you invested that $1200 yearly at a 9 percent interest rate instead of handing it over to Verizon for the next decade, you’d have 22-thousand dollars in 10 years and a whopping 480-thousand dollars in 40 years. $208 a month is $2,500 a year and investing that at the same rate will net you a million dollars in 40 years.
Here’s the thing, in our 20’s, being broke is still something to joke about with friends; but there isn’t anything funny about working our entire lives and then joining the legions of senior citizens who can’t write a five thousand dollar check because we squandered what little disposable income we had while we were young.
Luxury items are great and quality of life is important, but I hope we are more #TeamInvestingInOurselves instead of just #TeamPaddingThePocketsOfThoseWhoAreInTheBusinessOfKeepingUsBroke.
Which side are you on?Alissa Henry is a freelance writer living in Columbus, Ohio. Follow her on Twitter: @AlissaInPink or check out her blog This Cannot Be My Life
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Tax return time is a favored time for many because you get back a big check from the government. Of course, while this can seem as if it is “free money,” in reality, you are getting back cash you paid all year. You can squander this money and have nothing left to show for it, or you can make a smart choice and consider one of these better ways to spend your tax return.
I recently read an article on Forbes.com comparing finding the right investors to dating/relationships. Having gone through the process a few times myself, I would say that this is a good analogy and I’ve actually heard it made before. But when I read it this time, it made me realize something. If getting investment for your business is like dating, then I guess that explains why there’s so little investment dollars going to Black companies.
Despite all the ruckus caused by high-profile interracial celebrity couples and the stereotype of white women being the Black man’s kryptonite, most people actually prefer to date within their race. I personally don’t think this is either good or bad, it just is what it is. People generally tend to feel more comfortable spending time with other people that can relate to them, and you can’t force people to date someone they don’t want to (arranged marriages notwithstanding).
Investing in a company really is a serious commitment, like a relationship, and viewing it from that perspective, it’s understandable why many investors (who are mostly not Black) have problems investing in/committing to Black-owned businesses. They’re just not that into us. So I guess that means Black people are going to have to step up and invest in themselves rather than relying on other groups to commit to us. This means forming more investment clubs, events, websites and organizations that match up Black folk with more money than they know what to do with (e.g. athletes and entertainers, Iverson) and Black companies that know what to do with it. And most importantly, after we’ve started and invested in the best of these companies we need to at least be able to rely on Black consumers to buy their products and services and promote the ones that they like to their friends and family. Now if we can only get Black entertainers to name-drop Black-owned brands instead of Gucci, Prada, Michael Kors, Louboutin, and [insert overpriced-brand-owned-by-white-folks-that-care-nothing-about-Black-people here]…
It’s time for another Back to Africa movement…but this time updated to the times in which we live. First, I already know that the vast majority of so-called African Americans have little desire to even visit Africa, much less move there. That’s not what I’m suggesting here, although everyone should make the pilgrimage “home” at least once. While I do encourage people to start physically moving to Africa if they find an opportunity and desire to do so, what I’m really suggesting is that we start going “back to Africa” economically. Look at the chart above. Now think about the US economy. Look at your stock portfolio and your bank accounts, then look at the chart above again. Now look at me. I’m on a horse. Old Spice.
It is estimated that out of the top 10 fastest growing economies IN THE WORLD over the next 5 years, 7 will be in Africa. Black people are missing out, and our “Black leaders” are completely clueless. Meanwhile, the richest Black person in America (Oprah) is not even close to the richest African in terms of net worth (and no, you won’t find those numbers in Forbes because they’re not public…just ask any Nigerian). Read one issue of the African Business Magazine (they have a free iphone app) and you’ll begin to see the vast opportunity that is not even on Black folks’ radar right now. While we’re worried about begging for jobs and scraps in America and spending money that we don’t have, there are billions of dollars ready and waiting for Africa’s long lost sons and daughters who are willing to help contribute to Africa’s sustainable development and help themselves in the process.
African immigrants and first-generation Africans in America already know this, and since the financial meltdown in the West, many are returning home to greener pastures. Europeans, East Indians, Australians, and Chinese investors all know this. So-called African Americans, those who’s families haven’t stepped foot in Africa in 100 years or more, need to wake up. Those other groups have no interest in the sustainable development of Africa or her people. They see dollar signs, and they’re going after them. You can’t blame them for acting in self-interest. Why aren’t we?
But Black people in America have an advantage. First, we have the technical and managerial knowledge that is desperately needed in Africa. Second, we’ve been integrated in white schools and companies for over 50 years now, so we know everything they know, plus some. Third, we look like Africans…we are Africans. We just haven’t been home in a while. And in reality, most people are more comfortable doing business with people that look like them. Despite popular belief, most Africans will welcome us back with open arms. Yes, there is still some tension left in the relationship between “African-Americans” and Africans, but these are small potatoes compared to the generally destructive and exploitative relationship between everyone else and Africans. So if the Europeans, Indians, and Chinese can invest in Africa…we should be able to as well. We can do it better.
There are a lot of negative views about Africa in the Black community, some of which are true, but many of which are perpetrated to keep the secret about the land of opportunity from us. Most people think the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries are where the hottest investments are. Well guess where the BRIC countries are investing? Africa.
So how does one invest in Africa you ask? That’s the tricky part. There are some African stocks you can invest in directly or through ETFs, and that’s a good start, but that’s not where the high returns are. You need connections and people on the ground in Africa to see any real money. If you don’t know the right people you will probably lose your money.
Michelle Thornhill is the Senior Vice President and African American Segment Manager at Wells Fargo/Wachovia. Michelle has over 15 years of experience developing consumer initiatives for diverse audiences in the financial services and non-profit sector. Michelle earned a Bachelor of Science from Virgina Polytechnic Institute and State University, a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University and a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University, the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Michelle resides in Charlotte, N.C. with her husband and two sons.
Along with stocks and bonds, real estate is one of the most common forms of investments. There are various types of investment real estate. They include residential, commercial, industrial, retail and mixed-use. Profits are generated in numerous ways. One is when the real estate appreciates. That means the value of the property has increased. You receive cash flow income when you collect money in the form of rent. You receive commission income from buying or selling property and ancillary income is earned when additional ways to make a profit are developed within the property. Providing coin laundry services inside an apartment building is an example of this kind of profit. If you’re interested in real estate investing, there are many lending options available to consider.
For more information on how Wells Fargo is helping customers who are facing financial challenges, visit www.wellsfargo.com/homeassist.
(Smart Money) — As markets went berserk in August volatility, a record number of investors turned to smartphones and tablets to review their holdings and to execute trades. The ranks of mobile traders are small, but at some brokerages they’re growing faster than the market for smartphones. At TD Ameritrade (AMTD: 14.05, -0.47,-3.24%), mobile usage of its app has more than doubled over the past year, due in part to a major boost in August. ShareBuilder, which introduced mobile investment banking this year, reports four to five million page views from mobile apps each month and that roughly 30,000 investor trades were executed in August, up 63% from July.
(Bankrate) — For CD investors, safety of principal typically trumps building wealth as an investment goal. They’re willing to earn a reduced yield for the knowledge that they can’t lose money in the investment. However, there’s another risk, and that’s purchasing-power risk. If the yield on your CD isn’t higher than the inflation rate, your deposit loses purchasing power over time.