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Men and Women of Color Leading The Blockchain Revolution: “Be as visible as possible so that others who look like us in that space, see us”

With Edward Sylvan

Be as visible as possible so that others who look like us in that space, see us. Make it easy for them to reach out. People are inspired when they truly feel they have support. Reaching creates powerful collaborations that lead to even bigger successes.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Edward Sylvan a veteran of the financial markets and CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc. A motion picture marketing and distribution platform with a focus on Print and Advertising financing. Using a hybrid distribution method Sycamore is able to provides filmmakers an alternative to traditional distribution models while offering investors risk mitigated returns on a first priority basis.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

I have to confess that I involved myself in the film and media business by way of the side door. I became intrigued by the securities industry after watching the movie, ‘Wall Street’. Without any prior knowledge of securities and its inner workings, I set out to break into the business. I applied for and took a job in the mailroom at an insurance company while attending university at night.

After a year, I began writing the required industry courses in order to work as a broker and trader. After passing, I landed a job on an equities trading desk at Marathon Brokerage as an assistant to one of the traders. I immediately fell in love the moment I passed through the doors.

The bustle of the trading desk opened my eyes to securities analysis. Marathon covered companies involved in media giving me a quick study in that particular level of operation. Lions Gate Studios just launched. It was exciting times. I read everything on movie production, management and the money flow, and most importantly, which major players were the scions in the industry. I was fascinated by the entirety of media and the business of movies. For the second time, I fell in love.

As the years went by, I developed relationships with film producers and others in the business. I studied the issues involved in film finance and distribution as it relates to independent filmmakers. I discovered a gap of knowledge by filmmakers surrounding securities. The gap between creative and financial minds appeared wide especially as it related to black filmmakers. That’s when I took it upon myself to educate independent film makers on all steps to investment package creation that could be effectively interpreted by private high net worth investors. That inadvertently led to the creation of Sycamore Entertainment.

The lesson of my story is to find inspiration in something and allow it to fuel your passion, driving you to achieve your desire. Failures and setbacks are a certainty on any journey. Your passion is the foundation that will carry you through the tough challenges. Also, temper your fear of the unknown and quell the negative inner voices that will attempt to dictate your path. When I started out, I didn’t know anyone who was even remotely connected to the industry I was about to enter. Simply trust and believe in your capabilities.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

This a very exciting time for Sycamore. We recently completed the acquisition of ‘Lawndale 10, a multiplex theater in Chicago. We are in the process of a complete renovation that will include a state of the art e-sports gaming facility. The acquisition will serve as the cornerstone of our block chain strategy. The newly renovated cinema will have the ability to accept our Film / Movie token encompassing a multitude of uses throughout the life-cycle of the films as well as our other media products. This cycle begins at the first point of contact guests will have with our theatres and ends with streaming and various other applications down the distribution corridor.

Lawndale 10 will be a hub for films made by people of color for people of color, as led by community demographics. Visitors to Lawndale 10 can now access smaller independent films right along-side mainstream releases. Achieving this goal is at the core of our mission statement.

We are currently acting as executive producers for SCOUTS, a narrative on an all black Boy Scout troop, written and directed by Tyrone Dixon. We are quite excited about Scouts. It will be our first film placing us in all three roles; managing the process of distribution, exhibition and payments, all on the blockchain.

We are moving into a time where a great deal of intellectual property rights management will be conducted on the blockchain, filmed entertainment and music rights management make up what I consider to be some of the best use cases for blockchain technology.

As the industry matures more viable and 
 We are very please to be on the forefront of implementing this technology and are at the same time excited to see new developments emerging as the industry matures.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

No person is an island, I know that well. I extend the lion’s share of gratitude to David Rothberg. I met David early on in my journey. At the time, David was managing a medium sized private equity fund.

Regardless of his busy schedule, he always made time to sit and teach the ins and outs of the Securities business. To this day, his insights have greatly influenced my decision making process. David’s people-first policy truly captivated me.

I was a young ambitious black kid with no means or background in finance and he was Jewish and a successful private equity manager. The more I think of it, we were more the same than we can ever be different. He took the time to help prepare me for my securities exams. He helped develop my business acumen and taught me the importance of critical thinking all while expanding my knowledge of macro and micro stock analysis. In addition, he opened doors that led to my first job on the big trading desks.

David was my mentor. Without his guidance, I would have fallen flat during those early days with the larger brokerage houses. I am eternally grateful to him for his leadership and friendship.

I few years back I came across a news article about a man who anonymously paid to keep a skatingrink open on its off day so local kids could skate and enjoy hot chocolate. At the end of the article the anonymous man was identified as my friend, David Rothberg. I smiled and thought to myself “classic David”

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why? 
 
 
 The 5 things that excite me about Blockchain and çrypto are that:

1) Blockchain at its current stage has the ability to surpass what the internet was in terms of wealth creation and its ability to revolutionize the way business is conducted. We now have the ability to keep updated and learn the technology in real time whereas with the dawn of the internet, only those involved in computing or through closed groups with access to expensive computers had first access to its early growth and all that it encompassed.

2) Blockchain is open to anyone who wants to take advantage of its infancy.

3) Blockchain and Crypto will give way to a whole new set of business protocols and ways of doing business that will create new startups for people to invest in and profit from thus creating new employment opportunities.

4) Schools will have to adapt in order to keep up with these new ways of doing business, this will allow for more young people coming out of schools to find relevant employment.

5) More profits will flow to companies because blockchain cuts out costly middlemen that have a direct effect on profitability. Almost all business through the use of blockchain can reduce costs associated with the supply chain. In the entertainment industry gatekeepers have made billions in profits by being
 in the middle of the supply chain, blockchain technology will greatly reduce this blockage serving to increase the amount of money flowing back to the creative artist in real time.

Blockchain in the Film business will eliminate piracy which will further increase the amount of money flowing back to the artists that created the work

What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

5 things that worry me about blockchain are:
 
 1) The market may not have the patience to flush out the technology to its full potential. We live in a society of instant gratification society now with the speed at which new ideas are developed and brought to market. I am worried that great ideas will be discarded if they are not successful on the very first try.

2) The rate of failures already occurring in some of the use cases is a sign to investors to shy away from backing what are really good ideas. Its made it tougher to keep money coming in the door. Most investors do not have the VC mentality and run for the hills at the first sign of adversity.

3) The lack of a central learning place where everyone can access the required education needed for this complex technology.

4) Blockchain is a very disruptive technology. It stands ready to challenge and take down long standing industries such as banking and currency, which poses a huge problem with respect to implementation. Established banks and in my industry’s case, major movie studios, will resist the change even if in the end we all stand to benefit. These delays can wipe out startup companies with great ideas who don’t have access to ongoing funding.
 
 5) The sheer size of the storage needed in order to manage the data is worrisome. It remains to been seen how existing systems will cope as more and more use cases come online.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

It’s a small local thing but here it goes. I am big advocate of youth sports in fact, my youngest daughter Asia is playing collegiate soccer at Texas Southern University in Houston. During her U14 year her club team who were major underdogs to win the regional championship ended up winning the final match sending them onto to play for the U14 National Title.

Being such a longshot to win the regional title, the fundraising efforts made during the season where not near enough to cover the all expenses required to fly across the country, accommodate, feed, and provide ground transportation for a team of 18 girls, and the coaching staff of 4 in order for them to play in the National Tournament.

When it was brought to my attention as a parent of one of the players. knowing the achievement that the girls had just accomplished, I was able to contribute the funds needed for the girls to make the once in a lifetime trip

Many of the other parents along with myself made the trip to watch our girls play. Despite a hard fought tournament, the girls placed 5th out of 16 teams. Placing 5th was far less important than being on that trip and the bonding that occurred with the other families. Sharing the laughter, joy and exciting memories is something that makes me feel proud that I, in a small way was able to make a difference.

As you know, there are not a lot of people of color in the tech sector. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other men and women of color in the tech space to thrive?

Be as visible as possible so that others who look like us in that space, see us. Make it easy for them to reach out. People are inspired when they truly feel they have support. Reaching creates powerful collaborations that lead to even bigger successes.

Seek out mentorship. I think mentorship is the single most important missing ingredient in the success of people of color. Sometimes the current environment that people of color have to navigate may not be conducive of entrepreneurial achievement, so to overcome this challenge being in alternative environments with people who are succeeding in that chosen field regardless of race, is all it takes for people of color to thrive.

Don’t copy, innovate. As people who had to creatively survive all types of disadvantages and adversity in society, we should use those those skills to serve us in technology space. As a group, people of color have been trend setters in multiple aspects of popular culture. I see an easy transition moving this reality into the tech sector using some of the very same principles that helped grow some of our current leading technology breakthroughs.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more men and women of color into the blockchain industry?

The biggest factor needed to engage people of color in the blockchain industry is funding for our tech ideas. Blacks are one of the largest consumers of technology and media in general, yet we are grossly under represented in all aspects of the creation of technology. This is by and large because of due to a lack of start up funding making its way to black and minority owned technology companies. If we can find a way to increase the level of VC funding going to black firms from its current level of 1% we will see more people of color entering the space.

What is your favorite Life Lesson Quote? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
 

 Short Cuts Make For Long Delays. 
 
 There is no way around putting in time, effort and hard work. I once handed over a film treatment to someone else to write based on a series of notes I had provided to them. It was for a film idea I was working on and I wanted to get it to an actor to gauge interest. I only had one shot at it. When I got the treatment back it was a mess and was no where close to what I had envisioned. I was not able to submit it in that form and It would be close to 3 years before I had the same face to face meeting to make my pitch. By that time, we all had moved on to other projects. The re write still sits untouched on my hard drive to this day.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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 would launch an initiative where groups of people who have traditionally been denied access to stock markets and investing can somehow through just being consumers, get fractional shares in the public companies of which they are loyal users of the companies products and services. It would serve to include a whole group of disenfranchised people who have been left behind in the prosperity of America.

How can our readers follow you on social media?
 
 I can be found on 
 LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/edward-sylvan-338a1119/ 
 Twitter https://twitter.com/edwardsylvan

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