Getting to Yes, And

Kathryn Finney: Build the Damn Thing


Kathryn Finney

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Kelly connects with Kathryn Finney, the Managing Partner of Genius Guild, a $20 million dollar venture fund & studio that invests in amazing Black founders. She is a serial entrepreneur and she’s written a new book: “Build the Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business if You’re Not a Rich White Guy.”

You write that the world of startups is quite lazy when it comes to dealing with human beings. Say more about that.

“One of the things I think is key to understanding Silicon Valley and the tech world in general, is that a lot of the people who lead it don't actually like human beings.  And when you realize that it becomes easier to understand why things are the way they are. Why are we having such vitriol on Facebook and Twitter and social media platforms? Why are people routinely excluded from the development of tech for many, many years? For example, it was very hard with sensors if you had dark skin for it to work; so, you would go into an airport bathroom, and this happened to me all the time, I would run my hand over the sensor and it wouldn’t work, and that was because the initial censors were not trained to recognize black skin.”   

You’re a bit of a flamboyant dresser and you say that came from advice you got from your dad.

“He said, ‘You know, Kathryn, you're a big girl.’ I’m a very big person. I'm five-ten, almost five- eleven. ‘When you walk in the room, you're going to get noticed, and there's nothing you can do about it.  People are going to notice you. You just are noticeable like you are. People are going to turn and they're going to look. So, give them something to look at.” 

You have a great quote in the book that “Your self-care is also your company’s self-care.” 

“Is your mind right? Are you well, because you have to be to go on this journey because it's not going to be easy. Entrepreneurship is not rational, it isn’t. There are much easier ways to get money than being an entrepreneur. And so, you're not being an entrepreneur for money. You are an entrepreneur because you want to be creative and entrepreneurship gives you the ability to do that. And so, in order to maintain that, you have to make sure your mental health is great. You have to spend some time with that, and I don't think we really talk about that enough. I mean, we never talked about that in terms of entrepreneurship until recently.” 

Photo credit: Kathryn Finney

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