On this episode of LA Venture, Upfront Ventures partner Kobie Fuller talks about his approach to investing, understanding users’ needs and why he tries to keep a ‘neutral’ mindset.
Fuller is also the co-founder and chairman of Valence, a community and network for Black professionals.
Only four CEOs in the Fortune 500 are Black, Fuller noted, adding that more work needed to be done to empower Black professionals and give them opportunities to meet. This became the mission for Valence.
Valence provides its community of Black professionals more exposure and access to senior-level Black professionals and creates a network to help them get support and advice.
“We take a digital community and connect them with, one, each other. And, two, entities that want to find ways in which they can fund, empower, hire and input [them] on board positions,” said Fuller. “It was an idea that came to me, really, because I was frustrated it didn't exist.”
Fuller started his venture career at Insight Venture Partners, cold-calling and sourcing investment opportunities. In any given week, he’d make around 100 calls to founders he thought might be interested in investing with the firm.
“It's a lot of sales to be quite honest,” said Fuller.
Prior to that, Fuller developed his research skills as the chief marketing officer at Revolve as the company was undergoing a rebranding process, where he took a deep dive through focus groups to understand what people like about the brand. That process came in handy later in his career when, as an investor at Accel Partners, he invested in UserTesting. He still encourages portfolio companies to focus on user testing.
"If you're not understanding the voice of the consumer in a way where you can develop product and design for this,” Fuller said, ”what's going to happen is you're going to wake up one day and realize that you've been leapfrogged by someone else who asked."
Even as a successful professional, Fuller said the color of his skin plays a role in how he’s perceived in a landscape that’s primarily white. “That's just the facts of the matter,” he said, adding that Black professionals still have to work much harder in order to get credit for their efforts.
“I just have to be very aware of what it takes,” Fuller said. “Don't complain about it, and just do it and have a neutral mindset.”
That concept, of the ‘neutral mindset’, came from Trevor Moawad, a personal friend of Fuller’s who served as a mentor to a number of professional Black athletes and investors, including Seattle Seahawks quarterback and investor Russell WIlson. Fuller credits Moawad with introducing him to the concept of the “performance mindset” and the notion that negative thinking has a massive impact on performance.
“If you actually articulate negative thoughts out loud, it actually has a potential seven to 10-x multiplier effect,” Fuller said.
That insight had a profound impact on how Fuller views his challenges. He said it taught him “don't be negative, just be neutral–neutralize the negativity, because that will get you in the mindset around what you actually have to do next, which is focusing on the next step.”
- Valence Funding Network Intends to Boost Black Startups - dot.LA ›
- Navigating the Venture Capital World as a Black Person - dot.LA ›