Podcast

The Secret to Success from a Prolific Creator and Venture Capitalist

2Q21

An insightful discussion on the many ways our upbringing, personality, and background can influence or motivate many of our professional ambitions and life goals.

Read The Transcript

Adrian Grant is a Venture Capitalist and Entrepreneur whose passion lies in working with start-ups and helping them find success. We speak about his experiences as a young immigrant living in America, and learning to adapt to a shifting culture. We examine the many ways in which Adrian’s early experiences, his upbringing, and his values influence his professional goals, and the importance of nurturing one’s self-identity. Adrian’s varied & impressive professional journey as an entrepreneur provides a unique perspective on life & business that offers life lessons that any individual can learn from.

We also talk about some of the challenges he has faced in life, and the importance of controlling one’s mindset in order to overcome those. Adrian found ways to incorporate his sense of humor & personality into his professional identity and found that it afforded him greater success as more people began to follow him and show interest in joining his network. Finally, we speak about some of the keys to finding success in the world of entrepreneurship, including the importance of relationship building, mentorship, and reaching out to be of service to others.

Key Insights

  • Discussing some of the common experiences of children of immigrant families trying to fit in & succeed in America
  • The importance of embracing your identity, and learning to let it shine through the work you do
  • Understanding the mindset needed to be a fearless entrepreneur & venture capitalist
  • The importance of getting relevant, timely advice from a good mentor
  • Understanding the importance of relationship building in finding success as a businessperson

Guest Bio:

Adrian Grant is an Entrepreneur with a passion for helping small start-ups succeed. He’s enjoyed a decade-plus long career that spans product design, engineering, and venture capital, all with a unique ability to balance his expertise in both tech and business.

As an entrepreneur, Adrian has built Media for AI companies with customers spanning Pepsi to Post Foods, including ventures that received backing from the likes of Comcast, Samsung, and Dreamit Ventures, amongst others. As an Engineer, Adrian has been featured in publications from Forbes & PC Magazine to Black Enterprise and recognized by Apple for his work.

Adrian’s skills include Full Stack/Hardware development, early-stage venture capital deal sourcing, seed fundraising, and product management & optimization. He has assisted over 100 start-ups with product design, strategy, and fundraising.

Additionally, Adrian is a published author, who’s book Students of Life aims to provide incoming, current, and former college students of color the tools to control their mindset to be one that that will not only aid in utilizing dormant potential to better oneself, but also energize readers to participate in socially productive activities. Though designed to enrich the lifestyle of up-and-coming and current college students of color, Adrian’s book and its techniques are applicable to all who strive for the conquest of their fears and or goals.

Resources:

https://adriangrant.org/about

https://www.linkedin.com/in/adriangrant3/

Adrian’s Book, Students of Life

 

Real Wealth Real Health

Alpha Investing

[email protected]

Podcast Transcript

AdaPia d’Errico:

Welcome to Real Wealth Real Health, the show that empowers you with insights, information, and inspiration to achieve your version of financial wellness. Learn how to balance living a full life today with planning for the future. This podcast is brought to you by Alpha Investing, a real estate centric private capital network that provides exclusive investment opportunities to its members. And now, here are your hosts, AdaPia d’Errico and Daniel Cocca.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another episode of Real Wealth Real Health. Our guest today is Adrian Grant. Adrian is an entrepreneur with a passion for helping start-ups to succeed. He’s enjoyed a decade-long career that spans product design, engineering, and venture capital, all with a unique ability to balance his expertise in both tech and business.

AdaPia d’Errico:

As an entrepreneur, Adrian has built media for AI companies with customers spanning from Pepsi to Post Foods, including ventures that received backings from the likes of Comcast, Samsung, and Dream Adventures, amongst others. As an engineer, Adrian has been featured in publications from Forbes and PC Magazine to Black Enterprise, and recognized by Apple for his work. Adrian’s skills include full-stack hardware development, early stage venture capital deal sourcing, seed fundraising, and product management in optimization. He has assisted over 100 startups with product design, strategy, and fundraising.

AdaPia d’Errico:

These days, as many of us are pursuing our passions in parallel to careers and others are making a career out of their passions, this conversation with Adrian really dives in to what it means to embody the multi-hyphenated, ever evolving, creative and generative entrepreneur that he is. Whether you are a single-source income professional or you identify as a creative, as an investor, you’ll be inspired by what Adrian has learned about staying true to himself across industries and across opportunities as he is diving into even more as one of the first Clubhouse creators that is going to be featured in mid May. In fact, Adrian’s ability to be true to himself is the secret to his very impressive success.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Adrian, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. It’s a real pleasure to have you.

Adrian Grant:

Awesome, awesome. Thank you for inviting me, I’m glad to be here. Hopefully, to add some value to some listeners and viewers. Yeah, excited.

AdaPia d’Errico:

You’re going to fall into the category… When we do our podcast, we’ll have more technical, economic, real estate investing episodes. I do want to touch on that a little bit with you on the venture capital side, and then we have these episodes, we call them story episodes, like an entrepreneur’s journey, and I think you fall very squarely, I would say, mostly in that category.

AdaPia d’Errico:

We were talking about this in our pre-call, this idea of being multi-hyphenated. So many of us are in this world, and you just really live in that space. You live in that space of flow, in that space of constantly generating, constantly being creative, and in your story, even just looking at your LinkedIn and what you’re up to these days, is that you seem to follow some kind of an intuitive, creative sense that’s always bringing you the next opportunity. You just seem to go with it, which is not how most of us with a crystallized set of ideas of what life is supposed to be and who we’re supposed to be operate. So I really want to touch on that with you today.

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, that sounds amazing. It’s funny, it’s like, as you’re describing this person, like wait, who is AdaPia talking about?

Adrian Grant:

My story, in a nutshell, is one in which I think it all stems from having ideas and wanting to put it out there in the world. Being in the fortunate position of coming from a third world country, whole immigrant story, and having friends and family members and parents that sacrificed so much so that I could work in tech and enjoy my days, that privilege and that blessing is something that keeps me going. It has been the catalyst behind all these arcs and pivots and stuff like that.

Adrian Grant:

I’m more than happy to dive in. I don’t know if I should give my bio or wherever it is you want to start, but looking forward to this conversation.

AdaPia d’Errico:

I think that’s a really great place to start. What I thought about when you just introduced yourself right now, is this immigrant story. From your perspective, having gone through it, because I think I’m right in saying this and Dan, you can correct me if I’m wrong, but Fark, our partner and CEO, his family is an immigrant family, as well. My family is an immigrant family, and Ann’s family, our head of underwriting, is an immigrant family, as well.

Adrian Grant:

Dan’s the lone sheep over there.

Daniel Cocca:

And so is Chall, so is Chall’s family.

AdaPia d’Errico:

So is Chall’s.

Daniel Cocca:

I’m the lone white man at a private equity shop, never heard of before in history.

Adrian Grant:

You’re the diversity hire.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, he is. He’s our token white guy. It’s really awesome. But now there’s all the statistics, and there’s all the data, and there’s McKenzie, and everybody is talking about the value of diversity. And I don’t think we set out to do that on purpose at all. It’s just you hire the best people, the people that are most aligned, and there is so much alignment. I talk about this all the time. I talk about having met them a few years ago, and it’s just been the most perfect, manifested partnership I could ever want. And so much of that has to do with an alignment of values. And Adrian, I wonder from your perspective, coming into a country that is all about opportunity and it’s all about make your own way, but it’s not easy for everyone to make their own way. Not everybody starts at the same playing field. What has been your experience in creating what you’ve created in your life from that perspective?

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, it’s funny. As you were just saying, it brought me back to what you were saying in terms of being multi-hyphenate, and I’m thinking, “Why am I multi-hyphenate?” And I think there’s something to it, and I assume this is all… Immigrants share this story in the sense of you come to a foreign land, and you have to fit in, especially America, you have to fit in. When I first came here, I was around seven, eight, or whatever the case may be. I’m originally from Jamaica. When I came here originally, we spent time in New York and New Jersey and inner city areas, and I was different because I was the kid from Jamaica.

Adrian Grant:

Then parents worked really hard, and we moved to the suburbs, and then I was the kid that came from the inner city. So, I was different then. Then, of course, going to college where, of course, being black in a university like New York University, there’s not like there’s a plethora of folks out there that look like me. And so, I feel like that story of being other and being different is what, my assumption, at least this is my story. It feels like, “Okay, how do I showcase who I am, add value to the conversation knowing that everyone else is going to view me as something that’s different,” and that ability to adjust to these different context, in terms of whether you’re talking to… Whether it’s you’re different because you come from a different socioeconomic background, you’re different because of the color of your skin, or you’re different because, like I’m passion about music and tech and things like that, and most my friends or folks like Dan, ex-lawyers, VCs, and stuff like that. So my personal passions and interests doesn’t allow a bunch of folks in my phone, and so I feel like that immigrant, foreign, that ability to adapt in something that is…

Adrian Grant:

It’s been like a pro definitely more so than a con, and I think that’s fueled the ability to be multi-hyphenate.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, I think that as you’re speaking, what really just comes through is an acceptance of who you are, where you are in that, let’s call it a socioeconomic system, or wherever you are. There’s a level of accepting and knowing yourself that I think is underneath how you show up in the world and what you’re willing to do. Like what you said, you’re one of very few, maybe the only a lot of times. That’s a lonely place to be. How did you motivate, or self-motivate? What was going on in your mind, or even emotionally, to do that, because I feel like we can position ourselves to be on either side of that polarity, if you want, like “Oh, I’m over here. I’m alone. I’m different,” or, “I’m going to jump in. I don’t care.” How did you approach that?

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, so this may be the first of many politically incorrect, insensitive things that hopefully will not get my canceled, and if it does, please blame Dan and AdaPia for inviting me. These are my personal thoughts, but in the sense, the first thing that sticks out to me is the, again, coming here in elementary school and being teased, literally just being teased and bullied from sounding different. My accent was so thick, I got placed in ESL, even though I spoke English, actually the Queen’s English, because Jamaica was once a colony of Britain. Yeah, being teased and being made fun of, and then not wanting to have that feeling and wanting to fit in. My immigrant background, we weren’t buying the fancy clothes, not even fancy. Things like a JanSport backpack is fancy for my family as we were growing up. That feeling of wanting to fit in and wanting to not be in the butt of jokes is what fueled me to go out and get under-the-table jobs. My parents were not going to buy me fancy Nike sneakers and Timberland boots, and Tommy Hilfiger. Yes, I’m dating myself. I’m very old, but these were the fashion.

Adrian Grant:

Actually now, maybe in Vogue. I don’t know, things are all cyclical, but essentially, my family wasn’t going to spend a lot of money to buy these things that a lot of Americans took for granted, and I wanted them, because I wanted to fit in and I thought they were cool. So I had to go get a job. Yeah, I don’t even know if that’s even possible now as a kid working under-the-table. Now I feel like you’re violating some kind of state or federal law. But many, many moons ago, yeah, work jobs under-the-table, and since the age of, oh gosh, I can’t even remember, but I’ve been working at least one or two jobs since before teenager. I think that’s what you see probably reflected in my LinkedIn profile of a variety of different things and friendships from here, a startup here. Just that hustle mentality and building, it’s fueled me. It’s like you worked to get money to provide things that you like. I’m not someone that’s beholden to money. I don’t necessarily chasing money, but it allows you to get things that you like. So that’s really been that catalyst for me in terms of not wanting to be feeling like other, wanting to fit in and figuring out ways to fit in.

Adrian Grant:

That’s also what’s enabled me to develop my personality not necessarily being the tallest person in the room or the most prettiest person in the room, but people like people that can tell jokes and make people laugh, and figuring out ways to incorporate that and be more outgoing as someone that’s naturally shy. These are all things that at one point were really negatives for me and brought me down. I thought these are things that made me less, and then as I got older and got out more in the world, I realized it’s actually more positive than a negative.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, I understand that. When you said the bullying, I remember going to school, and I had Nutella sandwiches. And kids would make so much fun of me, and I’m just like, “You don’t even know what you’re missing out on. I get to eat chocolate, chocolate for lunch, and you’re eating some kind of ham. I don’t know what you’re eating. I’m eating my Nutella sandwiches.” It leaves you very much… I recognize that, also, in myself of wanting to fit in and how much of ourselves we put aside to do that. It kind of makes me think, too, about the career choices that we make. We think that that is the thing that we have to do, and I know at least for me, dating myself as well, a child of the ’80s and a teen in the ’90s, it’s like what are your job choices right now? There weren’t that many, or it wasn’t as open as it is today. And so you follow these few paths. And then at some point, you wake up, and you say, “Hold on a second. I have more choice. I have more opportunity. I’m an adult. I can make my own decisions,” and you start taking this path.

AdaPia d’Errico:

I think some people are born entrepreneurs, and other ones figure it out along the way and really carve their own path. What you said about not being so focused on the money, that is a very common thing to hear, and just following your creativity. Now you’re in venture capital. How did you arrive in this world of venture capital so naturally?

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, it’s funny. So I started my career off in the Ed Tech space, then I transitioned over to big media. I was over at BT, a subsidiary of Viacom for a while. In the midst of doing this, I’m nights and weekends tinkering, building little project. I taught myself how to code. In the midst of doing that, we built something, got a little bit of traction, and we got a term sheet. Someone wanted to invest in us; a group of angels. But the terms, even as someone that wasn’t as educated about the concept as I was, I knew they were a bit heavy-handed. And so we ended up walking away. And this was a time, I’m in my mid to late 20s. I decided to quit my job, work full time on my startup, and walking away from something… I was living home, commuting two hours back into the city. My peers at this point, some of them are purchasing their first homes, they’re getting married. Some of them were fixing to become managers.

Adrian Grant:

And so here I am in this spot of trying to build something. Someone offers the most, it was $250K for half the business, which I knew was a bit much. But you have to keep in mind, for someone like myself, there’s no one in my family has never seen a check that size, ever. To this day, I haven’t even told my mom that story, because she would just be like, “What? Someone gave you, and you said no?” She’d just flip out.

Adrian Grant:

But to get to how I got into Venture. As we got that horrible term and we walked away, and I was like, “This is probably a bad idea, but I need to live with myself,” I started looking into Venture opportunities and how to get into the field. I saw a bunch of different job applications and stuff like that, and I saw a post for someone looking for a general manager. At this point, this firm, they’re in the process of having several companies in the process of going public. And so they were looking for someone that could help build and scale their company, someone who had previous startup experience. Keep in mind, my backgrounds a little bit of software engineering. I built a little prototype of a little tool, worked at BT for a while. So there’s nothing there that’s screaming start up guy, Google, Harvard, Stanford, blue hoodie. There’s nothing in that screamed that, but I was like, “You know what? Let me just apply. Why not? What is the worst thing that could happen?”

Adrian Grant:

And I met with associated and the partners. And long story short, they’re like, “Hey, we all like you. Clearly, you’re unqualified for this position, but if you want, you can come here, join us for like a month as an intern.” And I was like, “Of course,” because for me, what I wanted to get out of it was essentially learning the business, understanding what term sheets are and ‘pro rata’, and ride-alongs, and all these different things that from the outside looking in, I’m just on tech crunch, and at that point, Mashable was really popular.

Adrian Grant:

And so how I got into Venture was, to this day, the greatest folks in Venture. They’re awesome folks. I can’t tell you what they saw that made them want to offer me an internship, which lead to me staying there for way more than a month, becoming a full time employee and learning the business, I can’t tell you what they saw or how I got in, but I think there’s something to it. Again, going back to background and being able to figure stuff out, and being the odd person out, and being able to communicate. I was very trustworthy. I don’t know startups or business. I’ve only been full time employees of these big old tech companies, but I’m incredibly passionate about it, and I think that’s what they saw.

Adrian Grant:

In terms of my ability to build things and network, it’s not like I had a pedigree or I got a warm intro, it was just me. Yeah, I wish there was a secret sauce, because I get this question. I’m so far along, now, in my career where I talk with a bunch of college students, and folks my age trying to transition into Venture, and they’re always looking for the secret combination. I think from what I’ve seen and from my experience is that it’s really, this tech, you could really ascertain who’s in it for the money, who purely views this as an opportunity to double, triple whatever their personal income is, and who are passionate about it. Me personally, I think people that are passionate about it get a little bit further along, because MBAs are a dime a dozen. You can get Harvard MBAs, Wharton MBAs, whatever the case may be, and fill up your investment team like that, but I feel there’s something to be said about folks that are passionate and able to wiggle their way in.

Adrian Grant:

That’s why you see some firms, you’ll have folks that have liberal arts background or coming from music industry, or folks that are coming from industries that have nothing to do with finance, but are able to finagle their way in, and I think that’s something that a testament about, they’ve been able to communicate their passion. I’ve hired people off that, too, personally. For whatever that’s worth, I think passion, a lot of time, it speaks a lot louder than your resume or your LinkedIn.

Daniel Cocca:

I’ll say this on my behalf, and you know this Adrian. There was a period where I was a young lawyer, wanted to get into early stage companies. And I remember going to this panel at General Assembly in Flat Iron where it was a bunch of ex-lawyers turned venture capitalists telling their story. And I thought, “Awesome. Here’s my path.” And then I heard every single person speak, and they went from lawyer at a firm to in-house council, to general council, to something happened. 25 years later, now I’m in venture capital. And for me, that was the wake up moment. You either got to do it, or you’re going to be stuck here watching other people do it.

Daniel Cocca:

That’s why I think you and I have become such good friends over the years. When I think about this fearless serial entrepreneur, you’re one of the people that comes to mind. My question for is how do you do it so fearlessly? What’s that mentality like?

Adrian Grant:

This is probably going to sound crazy to a lot of folks, but I speak so frequently with folks that are at very lucrative jobs, managers at Google, name big tech company here, and their thing is that they want to do something else, but they can’t leave, because the golden handcuffs, I believe is the expression. Maybe they have a home, and Google, or X company, or big firm, whatever the case may be pays them so well, they’re not necessarily passionate about their job, but they can’t switch over, because they’re so used to having so much, and their bills being paid for, and everything else like that.

Adrian Grant:

My background, I don’t want to make it seem like we had it rough. We did not have it rough. I’ve been fortunate. In unfortunate positions, I’ve seen people had it a lot rougher than we had. But the sense of I know what starting from zero is, and I don’t have a fear of that. Put it in context like this. The worst neighborhoods I’ve seen and been to in America, they all have running water. I’ve never been to a place that didn’t have running water. I’m sure they exist. I’m sure there’s places, rural areas, whatever, that doesn’t have running water. I’m sure it exists. But all that to say, the places where I’ve been to and I’ve grown and I’ve slept it, I’ve been to, that’s not the case. Even electricity being a constant thing, or even the internet.

Adrian Grant:

That context, which again, growing up, it didn’t seem like, “Oh, I’m learning about having conviction in myself, or I’m learning gumption,” I didn’t think of it like that. But seeing that, that’s what’s powered me. Okay, worst case scenario if the startup we’re working on fails, okay, I can figure out how to get a job someplace. And that’s what’s been fueling and inspiring me, especially given the fact that, yeah, worst case scenario, this country’s, this going to sound sappy, but this country really is great. The opportunities provided for myself and my family members, it is beyond what is provided… It’s beyond what’s available in elsewhere. So I know it’s cool to say, “Oh, this country isn’t great,” and obviously just things that can be improved, but I’m one of those people who’s like…

Adrian Grant:

I’ll put it to you like this. When we first came here, my mom bought this flag. This is going to sound crazy. It said, “America, love it or leave it.” And that was always her mantra. This is the greatest place. Yes, my parents came in. They had some medication. They had to take lower paying jobs, whatever the case may be, but they worked hard because it provided them opportunities to send all three of us to college, which was, again, very normal thing for America, but in other countries, that’s not necessarily the case.

Adrian Grant:

That context of seeing less and knowing what zero looks like and being comfortable going back there, that’s what inspires me. It’s like, “Oh, startup doesn’t work. Okay.” It’s not the end of day. Just to put a cap on it, the reason why I started with the whole golden handcuffs thing is that I feel that we’re so used to having everything like our Netflix, our fancy phones and all that kind of stuff like that, and the fear of losing that I feel is such a strong motivator for people, and that’s why they stay in jobs and career fields that they don’t like. That’s their life choice, but for someone like myself, I’ve seen my parents both work two full time jobs. My friends, a lot of them were from single-family homes, and they thought that was the case for me, because we would always just be by ourselves or with one parent in, but I grew up with both parents. It’s just that they worked.

Adrian Grant:

That context is why I have no qualms with putting out there ideas and startups and pitching investors, and getting told no to my face a million different times, because it’s not the first time I was told no, and it’s not going to be the last time. It’s not going to stop my passion and ability to create, because I feel like my parents put in a lot of work so I could get this opportunity. It’d be a shame for me to spend my days doing something I don’t like because they had to do that.

Daniel Cocca:

And you had a super savvy lawyer who gave you a ton of free legal advice.

Adrian Grant:

That is also true. That is also true. Daniel Cocca, esquire.

AdaPia d’Errico:

But I remember when I joined Alpha. And what I didn’t know at the time was how little you and Fark were essentially paying yourselves at that time, because it was still so much of a startup. You went from your high-paying, corporate lawyer job to basically being paid less than, on an annualized basis I think, minimum wage, which is extremely brave. We’ve obviously built Alpha up so much in the past few years, but I just wonder if you would want to speak to that, because you don’t often, and it’s really impressive.

Daniel Cocca:

Yeah, listen. If you talk to my father, he’ll still tell you, “I don’t know what my son is thinking,” Because neither of my parents went to college. My grandparents were the first ones to move here from Italy. They grew up in a very urban, poor area, and it wasn’t an option for either of my parents, really. They stressed education so hard to us. When I was in eighth grade, I was talking about I’m going to be a lawyer. My younger brother was, “I’m going to be a doctor.” Now, we’re a lawyer and a doctor. It’s because our parents really, really drove us there.

Daniel Cocca:

So when I was 27 and started thinking for myself, and said, “Hey, I’m going to leave this job where I’m making mid-six figures to start something, and basically pay myself nothing indefinitely,” it was met with a lot of resistance internally, and it was a hard thing to get over. But in my heart, I knew that the things that I valued, whether it just be autonomy or feeling like I was having a direct impact on the work I was doing, building a team as opposed to just being a cog in the wheel and playing the game.

Daniel Cocca:

Adrian and I met when I was very much the-

Adrian Grant:

Oh, yeah. Fancy suits. New York City lawyer. It was great.

Daniel Cocca:

Yeah. And now, thank god we’re not sharing the video. It’s a different world. And for me, the thing I always tell people is that despite all of the uncertainty that existed, I had never been happier in my life. And for me, that’s what made all the difference.

Daniel Cocca:

Adrian, we talk about this all the time. He’s a huge part of the reason why I made the jump. When I was talking about, “Should I come and join with these guys at Alpha? Should I make this move?” We sat down and had this conversation, and it’s a big part of the reason why I got in your team. And there are no guarantees, but if you don’t come from inherited wealth, whatever that may mean to everyone broadly, you either make it yourself or you spend a lifetime making money for other people, living a life for other people. And that just didn’t work for me, and maybe that’s a generational thing, as well, just a sense of entitlement. “I’m entitled to follow my dreams,” but I feel that way.

Daniel Cocca:

Sometimes, with my parents, they didn’t feel that way. My dad felt like his job was to have his two jobs, to make money for the family, to do everything he could to make sure both is kids got an education, and that was his life goal. That allowed me and my brother to actually go out and try to do what we wanted to do.

Daniel Cocca:

So to Adrian’s point earlier, you always have to look back and be very aware and respectful of the fact that there are a lot of people who gave up on their own dreams so that you could do what you do. And that’s a really important part of how I frame every day.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah. I’m so glad you shared that. I think we don’t really often share our story so much on here. It’s amazing, because you and Adrian, obviously your stories intertwine so much, because you were parcel of each other’s journey.

AdaPia d’Errico:

This is what it’s all about is just being able to find other people on the path, too, and we lose people along the way often if people don’t really align or they don’t support. Sometimes, you can’t really get rid of your family if they’re not supportive, but you have to work around it, but then there are other people. I wonder, Adrian and your experience, did you have, as you grew, did you experience people who resisted your success if you want to call it success, or your growth? Did you lose people in your life? How did you deal with that? Because I think for a lot of entrepreneurs, there are a lot of people how go to make a leap. One of the biggest fears if who are you going to lose when you make that leap.

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, I could definitely share a story about that. It’s funny, because it’s all coming full circle. At NYU, going to New York City, big city, first time on campus, autonomy, whatever the case may be, I went nuts; absolutely nuts throwing dorm parties. We escalated renting out places. This is pre-AirBNB, throwing parties and stuff like that. It was great. We were making money, having fun, parties, et cetera, et cetera. Almost flunked out of college.

Adrian Grant:

So you can imagine, immigrant parents, and them getting a letter saying, “Wait, we’re paying tens of thousands of dollars to Sallie Mae, and you’re almost flunking out?” It was almost like they’re like, “Are you suicidal, or something? You know you can’t come back here without a degree, right?” And so we put together a youth group to help ourself and other kids to get acclimated, especially at Stern, which is the undergraduate business school, the business school at NYU. Help them get acclimated, especially if you’re a first-generation college student, or if you’re a student of color. There wasn’t really initiatives and programming for us by us, so we created a program. We pitched the university for it. They gave us funding. We weren’t a club. We were actually a Dean’s initiative. That was my first entrepreneurial experience. So we went from throwing parties, almost flunking out, to winning a bunch of awards including the highest awards you can win at a NYU.

Adrian Grant:

I’m getting to answer your question. So the reason why this stands out to me is that I was just doing it. We were having fun, whatever the case may be, helping kids. We’re getting people internships, bringing in speakers, and a friend sent me a really… He called me up, and gave me a really nasty phone call. I won’t go into details, but essentially, after the phone call, I realized, “Wow, this person’s jealous of me.” I was like, “Why would he be jealous? There’s nothing I have. I don’t have any… It’s not like I have money or any…” but it was my first realization that for some people, even a small thing like a little club where we get together and eat pizza and talk about what it’s like on campus, for some people, that’s a big deal. And that was a really big… My first awakening as to being conscience of some people may view what it is that you’re doing and not necessarily be a support, even though this is someone that’s my friend, and stuff like that.

Adrian Grant:

And the reason this is so eerily funny is that yesterday, we had… The organization’s still around, so approaching 18 years or 17 years. Don’t quote me on that. That’s the longest-running thing that I’ve built that’s still standing, and it’s generated hundreds, definitely hundreds of college kids help people get internships, help people get full-time jobs. We’ve had several marriages come through the program. And so I was sharing the story with them yesterday and that you have to be mindful of folks, and even though you may think you may not have stuff going for you, you never know. Even with the recent Clubhouse announcement, Clubhouse pick up this little show idea, I’ve seen positive stuff. I’ve seen negative stuff. I’m thankful now of that first experience way, way, way back when in college and getting that nasty phone call, because everything opened my eyes to grow a thick skin, because I thought, “Hey, we’re helping people. Why would someone be against that?” But you never know.

Adrian Grant:

That’s what fueled a lot of me, and I think one of the things that we connected on the pre-call out of here is I mentioned I tried not to do a lot of this; chatting about myself and stuff like that. I don’t personally find it interesting to talk about my background and stuff like that, because what I like to do if you follow me on social media @AdrianGrant or on Clubhouse @AdrianGrant there, too, you’ll notice a lot of stuff I do is entertainment. I like to do informational and entertaining. I like to bring levity, especially if I’m doing anything on Clubhouse, or the podcasts I’ve done, or blogs and stuff. I try to put a smile on people’s faces, and that’s what I use my platform for. People to actually to come on and talk about, “Adrian, what’s your experience building startups or working in Venture? What was it like working in private equity for that while and pitching VCs?” I don’t have a desire to talk about that, but if it’s something more fun or entertaining or something that we could actually enlighten and lift people up, I’m all about that.

Adrian Grant:

I feel like life is just so short, and I try to use my little mini platforms to put stuff out there; positive vibes and stuff like that. So again, when Clubhouse first started, a bunch of tech, VC people got access to it obviously, because we’re all in the business of knowing what’s the latest and greatest. Everyone was doing rooms around gross margins, and MRR, and CAC, and not hot things, QSBS around tax loopholes and stuff like that. I’d get pinged in, and people wanted to chime in. I could speak about. I’m educated about it. I’ve worked in the field, I can speak about it, but I have very little desire for it. I am much more interested in… I use Clubhouse to play music, and interview artists, and talk about creators. I find that a lot more interesting, because the feedback I already received, the people saying, “Oh, thank you.” They’ve learned something, or they had fun. That to me is way much more a better use of my time than being another pundit talking about big tech and all this other stuff that everyone is talking about in the zeitgeist. I don’t know.

Adrian Grant:

Hopefully, I’m making sense. But essentially in a nutshell, yeah. It’s just being your full self and being cognizant that some folks, even whatever modicum success you may have, some folks may view that in the negative light. I don’t know, you can’t please everyone. I just try to please who I can, and the other folks that fall by the wayside, it is kind of what it is.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah. It’s a great story, and it’s a great story because it turns into this, like you’re saying, 17 or 18 years now that you built something that is so long-lasting, which is amazing. It serves other people. I feel that there’s two really big things there in what you said and how I’m perceiving, as who I’m perceiving you to be is really you’re rooted in your genuine self. I’ll call your authenticity. I think that word gets overused, but you’re so genuine, and you’re genuine about everything that you do. That’s that multi-hyphenated. And those are the boxes we most need to break out of, because we can’t just be one box. I call it an acceptable identity. My ego will be like, “Here’s my acceptable identity to my parents. Here’s my acceptable identity to this person or that situation.” We’re probably driving ourselves crazy in our heads instead of just opening up and saying, “This is all of me.”

AdaPia d’Errico:

In my experience at least, the more I’ve done that, it’s almost permissive to other people to open up and be a little bit more of themselves. And then all of a sudden, it is generative. There’s all this creativity, and you’re speaking to each other, and you’re creating things together. It just feels more natural and more fun, and there’s better results from being able to be 100 percent of who you are. And I think you’re just a great example of that, clearly. You’re doing it all.

Adrian Grant:

Well, thank you for that. That is definitely something that I stumbled upon. I definitely didn’t start my career out saying, “Oh, let me be outspoken about my background.” It’s funny that you’re saying going to school eating Nutella. It reminds me. So for me, I was going to school eating things like goat and all sorts of different ethnic foods that very pungent. So you could imagine the looks and stares and oohs and ahs that I got as people were eating their Lunchables and here I am with rice and beans and stuff like that.

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, but all that to say, the eye-opening thing to me in terms of bringing your whole self, one of the things that I stumbled upon is when I first joined Twitter, like everyone else here, probably not all listeners, were always on LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s our professional platform. So I assumed, and I’m apart of tech Twitter, so I assume I’ll follow a bunch of VC, et cetera. So I was like, “Oh, so I should do that, too. I should talk about business stuff, share business articles and trends, and things of that nature.” I did that for a while. I started looking at my page, my profile. I was like, “This is really boring. It’s not really interesting.” So I was like, “You know, I’m just going to do whatever I want to do, and if people don’t follow or if I don’t get any, it doesn’t really matter. I’m just going to be myself.” So I started putting up incredibly graphic and explicit rap lyrics, songs, different memes, things that I would just look… I like to look on my page and laugh. I like to go back on my page, and make sure this is something I would actually follow.

Adrian Grant:

As is started doing that, I started noticing people I was trying to, maybe investors I was trying to pitch, maybe it was potential partners I was trying to partner up with, people would start following me. I was like, “How is this possible?” I thought the thing to do was content marketing, and, “Here’s 10 ways to pitch to investors.” I thought that was the angle, and then I just realized that… And it’s been a boon to me in terms of me being myself on social media and transferring Twitter to LinkedIn to Clubhouse, and it’s enabled me to get consulting gigs and full time gigs. I’ve met so many different investors in my business off these platforms. It really enables life to be easier, especially for myself as a black person. The whole thing around context switching, which is the way black people speak to other black people, the way black people in the workforce much less, if you’re a black entrepreneur pitching a VC, there’s so many different nuances and things you have to be mindful of.

Adrian Grant:

And the thing that I have done, and I’m trying to do be even better of if be myself, because my day-to-day is spent. Sometimes it’s on the VCs, now I’m talking to creators, now I’m talking to artists and things like that, because some of the Clubhouse stuff I’ve been working on have been going really well. And I try to just be myself so I’m not trying to be some super person here, or some crazy person over here. Just makes life a lot easier. And obviously there’s drawbacks to that. Maybe not everyone… If you’re in a career field where they’re expecting you to be buttoned up, and you come in with some crazy beard and crazy hairstyle, I won’t look at who or point fingers as to who I’m referring to, you may not be welcomed in certain places. But I think one of the beauties of working in tech and in Venture is that I feel it’s a bit, at least from my experience, it is a bit welcoming in a sense of if you’re different or if you’re other, I think it feels a little bit more open than other places.

Adrian Grant:

And that’s not to say that tech is inclusive or diversity and inclusion isn’t an issue in tech. It certainly is, and that’s not to say that folks of diverse backgrounds are getting the same Venture dollars as others, because that’s not the case, but I feel like at least from my personal experience, has been being myself and communicating that to potential investors and partners, and have folks fall of. The folks that gravitate towards you just makes it more meaningful in conversations, because they know it’s you, and it’s not a polished version of you. It’s just who I am.

Daniel Cocca:

Yeah, I think everything you do also comes off very genuine in a way that a lot of people try to come off that way. But when I think about the things that you and I have done together, dinners we’ve gone to, event, you’re always like, “Hey, let me loop you into this mentoring thing at WeWork. I’m going to do some office hours for some startups. Come meet me at this drinks for this Venture group,” and, “Hey, meet these three guys in their 20s who are thinking about different things. Maybe you can intro them to someone.” It’s never self-serving. It was never self-serving. It was never, “Hey, I’m trying to network my way to some place.” It’s always like, “Hey, let me help everyone around you.”

Daniel Cocca:

I think that’s one of the things that I’ve always admired about you. So yeah, man. Kudos to you. We’re excited to have you on here to talk more about it.

Adrian Grant:

Yeah. A mentor of mine once said, and this goes back to how I got into Venture. He gave me some really good feedback that I take with me every day. He essentially told me that my job, my role, and this was not necessarily in Venture-specific, but he’s just like, “In life, it’s just about adding value. Whatever circle you’re in, it’s just about adding value, and then the universe will pay back in and of itself.” Again, I’m butchering what he says, but I remember that moment like it was yesterday, and that’s something that’s transpired of me, and that’s why mentor Techstars, Mentors4U, different kind of places is just helping folks out. I feel that if times got tough, hopefully I have a few folks that I’ve helped that is willing to put in a kind word if I’m looking for a job, or whatever the case may be.

Adrian Grant:

Yeah, letting the universe take care of itself and not being so tre-… It’s very easy in our world to be transactional. It’s so easy. It’s the easiest thing is, “Oh, you’re trying to do this? Okay, let me make that connection,” or, “Oh, you want this X amount of dollars for whatever the case may be.” I get it. There’s people that do that, and I’m not saying that’s right or wrong. That’s their life, but that’s just not my personality. I don’t live like that. If it’s something I could help with, I’ll do it. I can’t tell you how many times people’s like, “Oh, you should take a piece of this.” I’m like, “Dude, that’s not how it works.” If I can help, I’m going to help. I want to be very careful I don’t come across as trying to be Mother Teresa. There’s way too many positive things. I’m also, I was going to say something negative about myself, but I’m not going to do that either, because this is being recorded.

Adrian Grant:

But yeah, just being helpful to people. You don’t need to be a saint to do that. It’s just it’s helpful for business. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think our business is one of which it’s all about relationships. At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships. I’ve seen people raise money based solely off their relationships, not because of their traction, not because of their pedigree, not because they hired a rockstar team. It’s solely based off their relationships. And so I’ve seen people raise capital off that. I’ve seen acquisitions happen like that. I think there’s something to be said around adding value to folks and being helpful, and being as transparent. If you can’t help or you can’t do anything, just being outspoken about that. For better, for worse, it’s gotten me here, and I don’t plan on changing that any time soon, because I try to do that and hope other people do that for me, too, as well. I’m a big believer in a universe and the creator, and I feel that what you put out there, it’s a big reason why I try to evoke positivity as much as I can. I feel like what you put out, you’re going to get back.

Adrian Grant:

I’m not going to be the one that’s going to be trying to tear down a startup or a venture firm. I try not to participate in stuff like that, that negative stuff, because I don’t think it’s conducive to anything. Buy if anything positive or uplifting, I’m all about it, especially if it involves me using my platform.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Yeah, and I think that just described how we framed you as genuine, everything you just said. So I, going off of that, would love to hear, this is what we always do with all of our guests at the end of the episode, is to ask you what does wealth mean to you?

Adrian Grant:

Wealth is being able to do what you want to do and have fun doing it, and then I’d be like, “I feel wealthy now,” but I don’t feel wealthy now. I feel like that’s definitely a part of it, the ability to do what you want, which I’m very thankful and appreciative. I wake up every day, and I thank my creator for that, because again, I don’t come from people with those means. But I feel like wealth is obviously the ability to… Now that I’m speaking of it, now I think I have a good answer for you.

Adrian Grant:

I think that wealth is not only being able to live a life that you would like, but provide for others similar opportunities, and I think that’s why maybe I wouldn’t classify myself as being the cliché, because I don’t have the means yet to… I would love to be able to invest in other people. I would love to be able to invest in other people’s business. I’ve also taken different creative ideas, which hopefully, you’ll see on Clubhouse and a few of the different platforms, but I feel like that’s how I would define wealth, and that’s what keeps me up and motivated is to get to a point where not only I can continue to do these creative pursuits and business endeavors, but help others and financially help others. I feel that’s a big component. It’s not just waking up and liking what you do, but it’s also having the financial means to, “Oh, yeah. That is a great idea. You should do that,” or, “Oh, yeah. Even though you have golden handcuffs now, here’s some little bit of capital so you could switch over and work on that social impact thing that you’ve been tinkering on,” or whatever the case may be.

Adrian Grant:

That’s how I define it, but also I feel, too… I’m sorry for being long-winded, but wealth, I feel like, and I know it’s a very American thing, fame, and wealth, and these are things that we strive for and attain for, but that stuff doesn’t really motivate me in terms of, “Oh, my gosh. I can’t wait til I get my first $10 million.” Those thoughts never really cross my mind. It’s more about having fun, and meeting folks like Dan and you, AdaPia, and making connections, and going through life. You never know what may happen. Again, this program we put together in our dorm room as a way to figure out not to flunk out, I never thought it would be here 15 plus years later, and people would be getting jobs. There’s judges now that came through the program and investment bankers. Now that’s our mini network. I never thought that, and I think that that little seed, ironically they named the organization called Seed, but that seed I take with me in all these different things. It’s like just plant them. Just spread these things out. See where it grows, not necessarily in pursuit of a certain bottom line or a bank account statement, even though that would be nice. But more so, in pursuit of being able to continue to be creative and help others be creative, and help push the world forward, and society forward. What else are we here for besides that?

AdaPia d’Errico:

Well, the world is so grateful for you, for being here, for just being who you are and doing what you do. It’s so refreshing to hear, and it’s encouraging. I’m really glad that you take that stance of focusing your attention on what is that which you want, because if we’re always focusing on what I don’t want or what’s negative, then that’s where our focus goes instead of focusing on how can I have more of what feels good, of what brings me joy, of what is of service. And that will grow, just like you said, the seed.

AdaPia d’Errico:

So thank you so much for being with us today, for everything. This has been a really fun and inspiring conversation. I know a lot of people, they’re going to be uplifted. I really feel that, because I feel uplifted after this conversation.

Adrian Grant:

Oh, well thank you for saying that. And if there’s anyone listening that would love to reach out to me, let me know. It’s [email protected] So that’s A-D-R-I-A-N @AdrianGrant.org. Thanks again for the kind words out of here, and it’s funny. You just remind me of exactly why I don’t like doing this, because spending so much time talking about myself is very weird. You know what I mean? I’m someone that I’m naturally confident, so I don’t need to feel anymore. And just told myself this feels very humble-bragging, which just feels very ewie. But I hope it helps other folks out there, and if I could be of help, if anyone’s… So I actively deal source, work with a variety of different firms including TheFund.VC, awesome folks based in the city. So if you’re a startup or entrepreneur looking to raise capital, especially if you’re at the VC Stage, definitely reach out to me. Yeah, if any ways else I can help, let me know @AdrianGrant on Twitter, and if I can help, I’ll let you know. And if I can’t, I’ll let you know even faster.

AdaPia d’Errico:

And on Clubhouse, because you have a show there. You’re one of the first batch of original programming. So when you were talking about Clubhouse for people who are listening, that’s what Adrian was referring to. Was just announced a couple of days ago, so early May.

Adrian Grant:

That’s right, that’s right. See, at Clubhouse we’re doing, it’s almost how the TV networks would do their fall lineup, or whatever the case may be, this is their first instance of doing original programming. So we’re doing this show called The Lobby, which is a game show, AI-driven, trivia type of thing. To be honest with you, I don’t know what the particulars of it. I did not create it. I did not produce it. It’ something that created itself. So I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world. It’s something that I’m pretty sure no one has ever seen on social media, much less a social audio platform.

Adrian Grant:

And what I was saying in terms of the Clubhouse, the name of the show is called The Lobby. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time it’s ever been done in terms of how we’re thinking about AI and gaming. And the reason why I’m so passionate about it is it could either two ways. It’s either going to be massively unsuccessful, or massively successful. And so I’m looking forward to sharing it with the world and seeing where it goes.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Wow. I’m really excited to follow along and share in the success no matter how it goes. So thanks again so much, Adrian. And I look forward to stay connected on all these platforms. So it’s such a pleasure to have you.

Adrian Grant:

Likewise, thank you so much.

AdaPia d’Errico:

Thanks for tuning in to Real Wealth Real Health. We hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and found it both informative and insightful. We welcome all your questions and your feedback about today’s episode, and especially we welcome your questions about specific topics that you would like us to cover. So shoot us an email at [email protected], and if you have a moment, we really appreciate ratings and reviews as it helps us grow our online community and our interactions with you. And we’ll also be linking to a number of relevant articles on topics that we might have touched on during our conversations. Some of them are broad. Some of them are technical, but we’re always aiming to provide information that helps you better understand mechanics of building this healthy financial foundation, especially if you’re looking to do this with Real Estate.