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A #thread about what has and has not worked for me since launching my first startup in Feb 2002 with my brother, striking some big deals, raising capital, losing money and rebuilding.

I hope you find it thought-provoking
We built some hype around @realvibez with our branded car, sponsoring events like Stages, ATI, Blink and Reggae Sumfest but we also knew that we had to be authentic - the website actually had to have the content on it
We did not want sugar-coated B.S. interviews so we focused on cold, hard truths when I asked questions.

Hence why I asked Collie Buddz about racism in this interview -
We had seen the 80’s and 90’s “fake it ‘til you make it” approach but we’re never interested in posing.

We were honest about the hardships, about the lack of capital in interviews and meetings with potential strategic partners as well as potential investors
We also did not want potential competitors to realize exactly what we were trying to build or notice that we had graduated with MBAs at 21 and 22 from @UMiamiBusiness

So we made sure to act the fool by climbing speaker boxes at parties. We were the party guys, not business guys
That bought us time because few people were reading the interviews we were doing, such as when we spoke at Boston College and the school paper called @realvibez “the Caribbean MTV”
Those small actions helped us get meetings with MTV and lead to Flux powering the community backend of the site, alongside MTV.com so you had the same login.

It lead to learning about Tempo and the plans for the Caribbean tv station
But it was the absence of arrogance and a focus on teamwork that landed us on @Mun2TV every Friday for “The Roof” thanks to @DJGQ with us helping with artistes and showcasing the latest dances from Jamaica.

It aired in 14 countries as #Reggaeton was taking off
This watch our first time on set and @DJGQ brought us along. That’s me in my Reggae Boyz Kappa away jersey being the “box boy” (humility) and helping out a friend who went to both my high school AND community college.

Gary wanted to help. Teamwork -
My high confidence was and still is often mistaken for arrogance but when you know EXACTLY what you want to do with your life and know that you will get there at some point not matter the obstacles, most people cannot relate.

Ultimately, that’s my fault for not managing that
I used to blame others for my mistakes and failures but taking personal responsibility changed my life.

Why complain about someone going behind your back to the same people when you offered to help?

I was wrong to trust that person. It was my fault. Blame myself.
Same with potential investors...I knew the odds were against me raising capital from certain people but I still blamed them for not getting our vision and being willing to bet on the jockeys.

But I was trying to raise in Jamaica...a country with no true startup ecosystem
Thankfully that has changed thanks to First Angels and other groups, Branson Centre, Founder Institute , the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme and more.

I continue to assist and give back.
An example of personal responsibility overcoming wishful thinking was how we landed the YouTube deal.

It was 2008 and our videos were being stolen from the site and uploaded to YouTube.

My brother proposed that we do takedown notices. I disagreed
I proposed that we use the videos to market the website for free by redoing every video with our logo and website then let people steal them and upload them.

We could then figure out a way to make money from YouTube after our videos proved popular
He thought I was nuts but agreed to try while studying how to send takedown notices and if we could even do that for music videos since we didn’t actually own those copyrights. Only our original videos would probably be take down (which is correct)
YouTube launched their partner program and you could click a link at the bottom of the page to apply.

It said that only 5% would be approved and they took into consideration your views on YOUR channel.

We applied and were rejected within 48 hours. 😐
But “Perseverance” is my middle name (actually it’s not but it does start with a P).

I saw that Google was having an all-day event in Miami to explain their various business lines and there would be a 1 hour session about YouTube presented by someone from YouTube
I signed up and remember seeing Chad Cunningham, a well-known Jamaican tech entrepreneur and sometimes mentor to me, also attending and we chatted quite a bit.

I sat in the front row, close to use presenter, determined to be the first person to talk to him after he wrapped up
I explained @realvibez to him and he immediately got it, offering to introduce me to Matt Villacarte at HQ.

He made the intro via email and we set a day and time to talk.

I had gotten a WARM introduction now and finally had an internal champion.
Matt and I spoke. He began explaining video on the web to me and I told him that he didn’t have to, then proceeded to explain how we launched in 2002, years before YouTube and what we felt the business model was for us.

He said that it was rare for people to actually get it
My potential Jamaican investors never got it but the guy at YouTube did.

He sent me over the agreement and asked me to sign and FedEx back overnight then introduced me to the PR team to craft a press release.

@CarletteDeLeon helps us with it
Not only would YouTube authorize OUR channel to earn revenue but they would also allow us to authorize OTHER channels to earn revenue with a focus on Caribbean content.

This also unlocked special graphics options for those channels, differentiating them from regular ones
The pitch had been simple - “We know our music, you don’t. We know our culture, you don’t. Let us curate”

It had worked.

This is the release we put out - fastcompany.com/946089/realvib…

Back then I could write an article myself on @FastCompany lol
We quickly approached Tony Hendriks for his Jamaican Paleface channel, having grown up watching “Paleface Point of View” on local television and always in stitches.

He was willing to experiment. He also asked us to use the rental option for “Laugh Jamaica” and so we did
We were approached by the Jamaica Tourist Board and authorizes their channel, not for the monetization part but just to allow the additional branding.

It felt good supporting the country of my birth.
We negotiated with Island Stylee but never struck a deal, instead landing the opportunity to rent the last documentary with Michael Manley, former Prime Minister of Jamaica and a polarizing figure in history.

Here is a clip -
This whole story was told by @karelmcintosh for her webzine Outlish, not by a Jamaican mind you.

Read it here - outlish.com/realvibez-how-…
The @JamaicaGleaner did run the story - old.jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/200809…

But something unexpected happened: Someone in the USA contacted the reporter and us to say that the deal was a lie and that we were not “acquired” because some metadata would change on the site.
I showed the reporter the signed agreement and we pointed out to the person that it was NOT an “acquisition” but they were insistent about their beliefs.

That taught me about Haters.

Don’t waste your time proving anything to them. They are a waste of your energy and oxygen.
The YouTube deal led to a bigger deal with Imeem - their video player would now power our website, drastically reducing our server costs, their music player would lower the music player AND we could pick videos to be featured on both the music page and front page!
Naturally, the first fall was to @brandnewmachine to find out which video they had coming up for @duttypaul that they would want me to premiere on Imeem.

They said “Watch Dem Roll” -

We did a front page takeover
Imeem is defunct now but it was doing well back then. Read about it here - en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imeem

It was confidence-building to know that we could negotiate and hold our own with the best in tech, people that had raised millions and grown their userbase massively.
Small actions, not wishful thinking; teamwork instead of arrogance; authentically building something instead of defending hype; personal responsibility instead of blaming others; All of these combined to help change my life
Yes, we didn’t have some massive exit to YouTube or MTV. We understand why.

That does not detract from the many successes we had along the way, the strong friendships we built, the people we inspired and continue to inspire.

Most importantly are the lessons and network gained
So when you see me talk about @runliveapp or Tessera or bluemahoe.ventures or @MahoeBlue best believe that our team, our network, our experience is coming correct this time around.

@realvibez never died either. It became @RealReelvibez
@RealReelvibez continues to rent equipment in Jamaica while also won the HoneyBun film competition with @Bertitude editing now.

He also had a short film premiere at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival last year thanks to JAFTA and @Jamprocorp

@realvibez has quietly existed
So here are some cold, hard truths about entrepreneurship and business:

1. Do not expect most people to understand you level of confidence

2. Do not expect to be able to always pay your bills on time

3. Do not expect everyone to cheer for you and like to see you win
4. Do not expect your fellow countrymen and women to “get it” or automatics,lay throw their support behind you. In fact, some will actively try to tear you down and damage your reputation.

Why? Human nature! Crabs in a barrel? Jealousy? Envy?
5. Do not expect it to be an easy road. Success is not for the weak-hearted

6. Do not expect most investors to get it and cut a cheque. 99% will say no so speak to 100 of them, preferably more

7. Prepare to persevere
8. Stock up for a marathon

9. Evaluate the TIMING of when you launch - Realvibez was early. The Apple Newton was early. The iPhone and iPad were right on time. I think @runliveapp is right on time
10. You cannot succeed alone. Build a team, lay out the problem as you see it and then ask them Opio help you solve it TOGETHER.

Even Steve Jobs had a team. Vision means nothing without a motivated tram to execute it.
11. Build hype but also back it up with substance

12. Dress for success but don’t fake it. Be honest about your shortcomings and financial position when meeting with potential investors

13. Network, Network, Network

14. Read, Read, Read
15. Get very broad shoulders so that you can’t take criticism without taking it personally. Consider the message and not the messenger.

Always remember what Jesus said on the cross to prevent you from getting angry: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do”
The Haters and Naysayers mean nothing once you realize that they don’t know much about you or your vision.

16. Do not avoid the spotlight. The right people will come to you as well like moths to a flame. Good attracts good. People want to play with someone they consider a winner
People pick perceived winners to be on their team, just like the playground and school. So go be a winner, not pose like one because you’re gonna be found out when the sh*t hits the fan and things get real.
17. Perceived and real success also attracts the wrong people.

These are the people who want 20-30% of YOUR company before they lift a finger. The people who demand “co-founder” status in order to do meetings.

The people who claim that they know people and can raise money
They exist in every country. We can spot them easily.

They post pictures with people that they cannot get to and only met once. They jump on bandwagons quickly but have never actually executed a business.

They constantly have people around them abandon them and say the same
When Mike offered me “co-founder” of @runliveapp I to,d him that I didn’t care. It meant nothing because my execution for him and my shares where all that would matter.

I would rather make sure 5% equity was worth 100x in 5 years than ask for 20% today.

I believe that is right
Avoid the hypemasters, the showmen with no substance, the Wizard of Oz who does not want you to look behind the curtain.

The Greatest Showman on Earth was Ana amazing movie. He did have substance to back it up.

You can hype and have substance. Learn from that film
But also learn the following:

18. Your family will never look at you as a failure so do not neglect them.

19. Do not drag your spouse into a deal without asking them. The Greatest Showman on Earth taught me that my approach to “asking” my wife to let me go to Berlin was wrong
I am not proud to say that in early August, with a 7-month-old, a 6 y/o and a 5 y/o, I asked my wife permission to move to Berlin for 3 months to help Mike with @runliveapp and the @leADsports accelerator because they wanted me there

I said that if she said no, I’d never forgive
I told her that this has been a dream since I was 15 and I wouldn’t forgive her if she took it from me.

That was stupid, arrogant, heartless and mean.

I was an ass.

I’m lucky she didn’t pop me and burst my lip right there.

She let me go to Berlin.
Within 3 weeks I had to be back on a flight to Orlando to save my marriage.

Mike noticed that I had become distracted and said go make the save.

I watched The Greatest Showman on the plane and cried because I realized how stupid and mean I had been.

Me of all people.
I spoke to @melissapowellco @CaroleBeckford and my parents for advice.

They were all so disappointed in me.

It hurt like hell.

I spent 2 weeks in Orlando, Skyping into the accelerator while apologizing everyday and reworking my approach to Berlin
My wife laid out the deal and let me know that she would have let me go in the first place.

Money was super tight but we would have to find a way for me to go back for 2 weeks in October and November, unable to miss VC day and Demo Day.

RunLive couldn’t pay for the travel
My brother stepped in and offered to put some flights on his credit card. My parents gave me pocket money.

My return flight was paid for by a high school friend who wanted to invest but wasn’t liquid yet. But he had a credit card 😉

My network came together to make sure
I don’t pretend to be rich.

We finally have assets under management but the fees are minuscule until we grow the AUM.

I don’t earn a monthly salary yet like most people. I don’t work a 9-5. I work 24/7 because I dream about this stuff too
But I also know the seeds planted since 1996 are bearing fruit right now and the next 6 months changes everything.

I can be a Wizard of Oz that pulls back the curtain and reveals far more than people expected.

If you can’t do that, stay quiet until you can 😉
And finally...

20. “Measure your life’s success through one word: Love” - Warren Buffett

Does your family love you? Your spouse? Your close friends?

Not the masses, not the media. That’s adoration and it can quickly change for the worst.

Focus on what really matters in life
Please do not make the mistakes that I made up until age 38 and Feb 3, 2019.

You can be way better than the old me.

I know that I can.

Peace out and don’t forget...”lose yourself in the music”

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