Tapping into community
The beauty of community is a sense of belonging, a support system, and a place you feel at home. With what 2020 has had to offer I can’t stress enough how we need community now more than ever.
Back in June I was scrolling through my Linkedin feed and saw a friend comment on a post that read: “Black founders, I’m here for you…if you want to talk shop, talk life, talk period. Let’s connect in solidarity”. It was from Clayton Bryan, not someone I knew but clearly someone who could relate to what I was feeling in that moment. I’ve always considered myself a person of faith and felt this was serendipitous. I realized I just wanted to talk to someone that I felt would get where I’m coming from and create space to hear each other.
For context, I live in Nairobi, Kenya which is also where my co-founder (Wossen Ayele) and I run our company, Pariti. But, I was born and raised in Northern Virginia by my loving parents, both Eritrean immigrants. I’ve been hunkered down in Nairobi since the start of the pandemic and through all the challenges of being away from family and running a business during such a turbulent time I was managing pretty well (I’ve been lucky to have a great support system). However, the continuous wave of news of Black people in America losing their lives broke me. My spirit felt beaten, which takes a lot. I just felt deep sadness, frustration, anger, and resentment. Focusing on work and being productive became an uphill battle. It’s hard enough trying to run any business but building a venture-backable company is unlike anything else. There are so many hurdles that it constantly makes you question if you’re crazy for even trying. And the unfortunate truth is that help and support sometimes are rarely as available as you’d hope. It’s why we built Pariti; to build the platform that will empower entrepreneurs to access talent and capital to build organizations that could change the world.
Thinking about our first conversation with Clayton, I realize it was like all the conversations I truly appreciate. We started talking about life, the things that drive us, who we are and how we got here. Wossen and I shared our stories of first getting to know each other in the DMV (DC/MD/VA) and how we kept running into each other over the years. How we bonded over our passion for going back to the continent and hopefully being a part of the Africa Rising story. Clayton shared his ups and downs of being a Black VC, working with startups and seeing how unbalanced the system was for us to succeed. The thing I liked about Clayton is he’s a really good storyteller, he brings things to light and walks you through his journey all the while dropping in some philosophy. We had no idea he worked with 500 Startups (funny enough) and we hadn’t applied to the program but before the call ended Clayton asked if he could share our deck with his team. We thought, hey - it can’t hurt.
At this time things were tight like they were for many startups. We were wondering how we would navigate the troubled waters of this new Covid era. I tried to remind myself of my mantra that I recite every morning: “faith over fear”. We didn’t know where the solutions would come from but we knew if we kept working and were resilient we’d find our way.
A few days after our first call with Clayton he emailed us for a follow up. He was excited and wanted to have a call with some partners on the investment team at 500. I think this is the first point where we really thought this might turn into something but we were cautious to not get our hopes up. But after a few more conversation and sharing more about our business, it was clear that 500 was serious about investing in Pariti. Eventually, in July, we got the news that we were accepted into 500. We were thrilled.I can’t stress this enough, persistence and resilience are key tosuccess and it reminds me of a quote that I chant in my head from an icon, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and personal motivator:
"I’m not gon’ lie and portray this ultimate poise like I been had it figured out. Nah, I just didn’t quit. That’s the only distinguishing quality from me and probably whoever else is going through this, or went through this or is gonna go through this, is I ain’t quit. I went through every emotion with tryna pursue what I’m doing, you know what I mean? And I think what’s gon’ separate whoever’s gon go for something that you ain’t gon’ quit.”
That quote has helped me so much during this journey - especially during this period.
It’s now been a few weeks since we’ve started the program and I’ve been really impressed how much the 500 community is willing and able to support us. We have some really exciting opportunities on the horizon which I look forward to sharing as they are ready. I want to leave whoever is reading this with a sense of hope, resilience, and motivation. I hope you take the call, you never know where one conversation will lead or what connection you may make. In our case it was the power of community via LinkedIn. Resilience; it has been my word of the year and I think it applies to us all trying to make it. Hold your head up and keep pushing and rest when you need to but don’t fold. I hope this serves as motivation because we all need it on this marathon and it can come from anywhere. Lastly, I’ll leave you with another quote for all those in the arena:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly”
The Marathon Continues,
P.S. If you are a startup, investor, freelancer or simply someone who wants to contribute to be a part of a mission lead organization, please stop by our site at www.pariti.io. We'd love to have you join our community.