David Imonitie of ‘Believe Nation’: “Traction”

Traction– I look at the high, and I look at the low meaning I look at how far the organization has risen, and how low it’s fallen in it’s tenure. I look at what was happening at these particular stages. I look at what was happening in the market at the time, and what was […]

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Traction– I look at the high, and I look at the low meaning I look at how far the organization has risen, and how low it’s fallen in it’s tenure. I look at what was happening at these particular stages. I look at what was happening in the market at the time, and what was happening internally within the organization. Finally, I look at where it’s at, in regards to that right now.

As part of our series about “5 Things I Need To See Before Making A VC Investment”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Imonitie, the founder of the free personal development platform, Believe Nation. He is an inspiring entrepreneur and investor who went from being a college dropout to making his first million by the age of 27 years old. Over a decade later, David is an investor with a varied portfolio of which he brings far more than capital to the table. David has a gift for supporting brands and individuals as they scale communities. Growing communities is an essential aspect of growing a business, and is at the heart of not only his companies but also those he invests in. Another key component in Davids’s investment approach is his founder focus. He lives by the mantra, “We become what we think about,” and this law has guided his own success. A healthy and positive belief system for the founders he’s invested in is crucial in their mutual success. David is often heard in coaching sessions with founders and speaking engagements, saying, “The difference between earning six figures and eight is not just work ethic, it’s 100% MINDSET. If you can develop the Mindset of an 8-Figure earner, then you will be just that.” These days, aside from his serial investing, Imonitie is on a personal mission to inspire one billion people into achieving mental, physical, and financial health and well-being through his free social platform, Believe Nation.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Early on in my entrepreneurial journey, I recall a book that my mom kept on hand, The Millionaire Next Door, and I remember reading it and finding out there were everyday people who’d become millionaires through investments. These were people you wouldn’t be able to tell were actually millionaires, and a lot of it was through timely investments made. Additionally, Robert Kiowsaki’s book, CashFlow Quadrant and the breakdown of the employee/self employed business owner and the investor quadrant really resonated with me when I learned only 1% of the world participated in the investor quadrant, and that 1% controlled literally 96% of the wealth. I knew early on, in order for me to create wealth, I would have to become an investor.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

My favorite quote would have to be from Proverbs 23:7 , “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In today’s language that quite frankly means, you become what you think about. This quote has shaped everything about my life. Every single success, every single setback, every single failure, every single triumph, every single fall, all of it has been predicated on my thoughts, my thinking, and how I was feeling. And it is also why I don’t live life with fear. I love to combine this with what Shakespeare said in Hamlet, which is, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Your thoughts are creating every perspective you have on life.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

There are so many different definitions for leadership. But I would say leadership is the motivation to influence. The ability to influence people to do great or bad things. There are great leaders out there, sure, but I think it’s important to be a good person first, and then to be a great leader. Specifically, because we’ve had great leaders, in the past, that have used their influence to lead people to kill other people, and to even commit massacres and other various crimes against humanity. That’s why I don’t think being a great leader is always such a badge of honor. You can be great in your ability to compel action, but compelling actions towards nefarious deeds is detrimental.

So ultimately leadership to me is influence, but more importantly, it’s being a good person. And then developing leadership skills to influence, motivate, inspire, encourage, develop and to overall be an example to other people.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

That is all my success has done is to bring goodness to the world because, I believe my success serves as a source of inspiration to those that may be in a similar situation that I was in ten to fifteen years ago- trying to manage and figure out their life, and it inspires them to go through, and grow through what they’re facing right now, whatever the challenge is. Secondly, through my foundation, The I Believe Foundation, established in 2013, was created to facilitate transformative thinking for youth and young adults by enhancing their belief system. Belief is the bridge between where you are right now, and where you desire to be. At the heart of the foundations work is the notion that individuals can change their lives and current status with a positive outcome by raising awareness and creating belief in something greater than themselves. And if we can change people’s mind, we can we can change their lives.

In addition to this, we focus on serving the immediate needs our community in ways such as:

  • Feeding the local, Houston community through partnerships with organizations such as Houston Foodbank
  • Providing COVID-19 testing for those who can’t get access
  • Engaging in police reform to institute change
  • Providing youth education and literacy programs
  • Offering health-care services in urban communities

The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share a few things that need to be done on a broader societal level to expand VC opportunities for women, minorities, and people of color?

As an African American man, fortunately or unfortunately I’ve realized that I need to be exceptional, and that I cannot be average or just like any other person, because I’m automatically, at a perceived disadvantage. So the advice I give minority founders is that it’s important to make sure that whatever your business is, that you’ve made sure that it is exceptional, where people have no choice but to invest. We have to take responsibility by taking the power out of anyone else’s hands. Putting the power back into ourselves, our thoughts and our abilities. Because if you haven’t noticed, we’ve waited for a long time for society to step up, and quite frankly, they have not, not to the degree or satisfaction needed to move the needle.

From the investment standpoint, I want to encourage more minorities to invest in other minorities. From an industry standpoint, we need more minorities on investment teams , and not as a token, but as a real source for diversified deal flow. Additionally, I’d like to see a platform like FundersClub, Wefunder and/or Angellist for women, minorities and people of color lead companies from around the world. The time is right now for something like that.

Can you share a story with us about your most successful Angel or VC investment? What was its lesson?

I would say one of my most successful investments has been the couple of Bitcoin mining companies I’ve invested in. And the lesson from that is, be careful who you listen to when investing, always listen to the people that have studied and have invested the time to know the inner workings of that particular industry and/or market sector. And when Bitcoin itself dipped in 2017, I actually invested more in those portfolio companies.

Can you share a story of an Angel or VC funding failure of yours? What was its lesson?

I haven’t really had any problems with my portfolio, because sometimes, it’s good to take a loss. Especially when you’ve had tremendous gain. You want to offset some of those gains with some losses as well. So I don’t look at losses as a bad thing. I look at the overall health of the organization, the market landscape around it, and assess the stage of the growth the company is in.

My approach ultimately depends on how much I believe in the product, the company, leaders of the company, if I believe in them, then I’m okay with the perceived loss and riding the wave until we’re up again.

Is there a company that you turned down, but now regret? Can you share the story? What lesson did you learn from that story?

Tesla. The lesson there is to study the founder for yourself. I listened to hearsay about Elon, and how volatile he was, and that he was unstable, and the reality is founders are pioneers, and pioneering takes a bit of madness to go places that not only have others not been, but that others don’t even believe exist. To moonshot is volatile, and you don’t make that journey without it leaving it’s imprint on you.

What are your “5 things I need to see before making a VC investment” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Market Viability– What I call my recession test is, I ask myself, are people going to use the product or the service, regardless of what happens when the economy goes down?
  2. Leadership- My primary goal is to understand the leadership of the company. Who are they? What do they believe? How do/have they navigated change?
  3. Traction– I look at the high, and I look at the low meaning I look at how far the organization has risen, and how low it’s fallen in it’s tenure. I look at what was happening at these particular stages. I look at what was happening in the market at the time, and what was happening internally within the organization. Finally, I look at where it’s at, in regards to that right now.
  4. Commitment- I determine if this is a company that I would be willing to be invested in long term. If it’s not, then I don’t invest in it.
  5. Consensus– Finally, I look at the co-investors, who’s leading the round, and how much are they invested? I look at those firms’ investment track record, especially if they have experience in the particular sector the investment company is in. I look at the recent plays the co-investors are making. All of this helps me get an idea of the potential journey we are about to embark upon, the duration of the hold, and the potential success we are in for.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I built a free platform, Believe Nation, dedicated to helping people achieve not only mental and physical, but especially financial health and well-being. Dedicated coaches on the platform provide guidance, insight and tips that are crucial in building healthy and sustainable individuals and communities. I personally have a commitment to supporting minority and black and brown communities to build generational wealth, and this is at the core of everything I do.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Michael Jordan. Why? He gave me wings as a child. He is the first person to inspire me to dream and believe. That I could be something. He’s my greatest inspiration outside of my mother. I’d actually love to invite him to a guest at my 40th birthday celebration. In my opinion, MJ is the second greatest human being ever. He’s inspired me to believe beyond what I can see, and that hardwork is the currency of success.

This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.

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