April 6, 2021

#20: Darius Gant - Founder of Tesoro AI and Tech Investor


My guest for this episode is Darius Gant. Darius is the founder of Tesoro AI, an artificial intelligence start up. He's also an investment professional, as well as a former professional basketball player. He talks about how his passion for basketball would change, and eventually evolve into a passion for the tech industry, especially as a founder and investor. He also shares the impact that artificial intelligence has on our society, and how it can be used for more than just self driving cars, but also for social good.

Show Notes

Introduction [0:00]

Why He Pursued a Major in Accounting [03:27] 

Mindset of Other Collegiate Athletes Towards their Majors [05:30] 

Was Basketball Still His ‘Plan A’ in College after Choosing Accounting [08:00] 

Why He Chose to Pursue an MBA at Columbia University [16:41] 

Skills from MBA that He Applied to His Investment Startup Work [23:55] 

Where He Watches Success Stories from Other Folks [30:37] 

What His Work Consisted of as an Investment Professional [31:59] 

What His M&A Work Looked Like [34:10] 

What Sparked His Interest in AI [36:22] 

Why and How is AI Changing the World [39:48] 

His Podcast About Artificial Intelligence [45:53] 

How AI Can Be Impactful for Bigger, Real-World Problems [46:45] 

Challenges He Faced Starting Up Tesoro AI [53:39] 

How He Got Over the Fear of Talking to People about AI with a Non-Technical Background [1:01:06] 

His Advice for New Start Up Founders [1:04:03]

Key Takeaways

  • “Most folks’ podcasts don't go past eight episodes. So, most folks aren't able to stick with it long enough for it actually to catch a win…”
  • When I went to college, we had an advisor in our orientation. I think it may have been 20 folks in the room, along with an advisor, and they said, what do you want to major in? I remember, 17 years old in college, and my response was, look, I'm just here to play basketball.
  • “At the time, my thought process was to do as much, do enough to get by but still be able to play basketball…”
  • Right before my junior and senior year, I think I started to think more rationally. First of all, I need a major, where you can actually get a job. Second of all, I need to start thinking about like, I could still take this path with basketball, but I could also have a backup plan.
  • “I changed my major to business. I took an accounting class, and I just happened to be good at accounting…”
  • At my school though, interestingly, as most people don't end up playing pro ball, a lot of folks were like, let me figure out a career path a lot earlier.
  • “When I started going down this business track, it hit me that there was this whole other world that was available to me in business, where I could leverage my skill set there…”
  • “I went to a conference for the National Association of Black accountants, and it was really my first time seeing Black professionals who had very prestigious jobs…”
  • It really opened my eyes to a new world, that was that was available to me. I was just inspired, for me, it was like wow, this is a whole new adventure I could go down, if I could just tweak a little.
  • Being a part of that conference, seeing people older than me and my age, it really changed my perspective. When I sat next to them, there was no difference in the level of talent, like my talent and their talent.
  • I just needed to change my process for how I was pursuing, what I want, my process and my goals, and what I believed was possible.
  • I took all the lessons that I learned from basketball, to achieve the level of success, take that same focus, and apply it to business, I should be able to get the same results.
  • “Your network really is important. Whether it's getting your foot in the door with a referral, or just having someone tell you point blank, this is what you need to do. This is how you can do it or just someone that can give you that extra push.” – Kimmiko James
  • “Having a network, and not even just a network, but having examples is definitely a game changer. So, representation is important…”
  • I always had friends who asked me if it [MBA] was worth it. And I said, it just depends. It really depends on who you are as an individual…”
  • “I knew that I wanted to get into private equity, but, in my personal network, I did not have people who got excited about doing, and making investments…”
  • I knew that to get into PE, I was going to have to do something to shift to build my resume, give me access to people who can get me an opportunity.
  • “I just think that those [colleges] that are in the top 10 have a deeper network, people look at them a little bit differently...”
  • “I knew I was a bad dude before going to Columbia, but I needed something that other people could grab onto and be like, yeah, this is a bad dude, let me help him out…”
  • “The people who I had access to prior to Columbia, versus who I had access to after Columbia—totally different…”
  • “Having an Ivy League degree from a top 10 school, it definitely boosts your resume, but there's a bill attached…”
  • “Some folks just purely cannot afford it, or don't want to be stuck with that level of debt. And to those folks, there are still opportunities to accomplish the same thing. You either may just have to work harder, or find an angle, that gives you a competitive advantage that someone in that or in a similar position might not have…”
  • Before I went to business school, I got some great advice, from a guy who Barack Obama said he was one of his mentors. He said ‘Listen, a person’s going to be successful, whether or not they decide to go to business school, so that's not going to be the deciding factor, it is just a tool like anything else; it's how you use the tool’.
  • In business school, I was definitely not like the most academic folks. I went in knowing grades are not on my list of priorities for things that I that I thought were most important to get out of the out of the actual program. For me, it was, how do I build a better network and how do I use this new brand I have to accelerate what my what my goals are.
  • “So those relationship skills were developed, the ability to develop those relationships, skills were very important, and the ability to do it without an existing relationship with that person…”
  • “It's really about seeing who you want to be in the future, and then, having the confidence in the present that you'll reach that point…”
  • “Even just like in sports, if you go you get invited to the All Star game, and then you become All Star MVP, well, there's nothing else anyone can tell me about whether or not I should be able to win a championship…”
  • “For me, it was a lot of intangibles that I got from that experience. Less so from what I did on the academic side…”
  • “We all have imposter syndrome, no matter what level you get to, but it's just kind of checking yourself…”
  • “Assess the situation, and do what you got to do to maintain confidence in situations of uncertainty...”
  • Investing for me, it came from added perspective of mergers and acquisitions.
  • What really excited me about it was this idea that if I can go out and buy a bunch of companies and essentially be a leader of leaders. I can impact the culture and improve the existence of minority folks in organizations by being able to put black and brown folks in positions of influence in these organizations.
  • “I actually worked in investment banking, where I spent a lot of time building financial models. So, in Excel laying out the financial financials of the company, looking at past performance and making predictions about what the future would be…”
  • In my role in private equity post MBA, I was actually on the side where I was developing relationships with founders and executives of technology companies, high growth technology companies.
  • It's called business development, but the skill sets you get out of there is critical for what I do now, as an entrepreneur.
  • What sparked my interest in AI specifically, it was never just one specific moment, because I'd known about it for a while.
  • I had a conversation with Robert Smith, and as a part of that conversation, we were talking about artificial intelligence, and he didn't specifically say AI, but he said cognitive solutions. He thought of cognitive solutions or artificial intelligence being the next driver of wealth at a magnitude that we haven't seen, that we rarely see.
  • At the time, I was like, I want to invest in AI driven companies versus, start a company that's based in AI. So, that's kind of where I saw it as a critical technology that I needed. It was a must for me to dive in that experience.
  • “AI is like, you're feeding it data about how all these different types of cake were made. Then what the outcome should be in AI is basically, figuring out the best way to make that cake…”
  • “In our daily lives, it's impacting what ads we see, based on our preferences. It's identifying, let's say for public security, it's identifying weapons, it's identifying negative behaviors, and alerting police to what's happening…”
  • “The podcast that I have now focused on AI is really just exploring all of the different use cases…”
  • “Another situation where artificial intelligence because of its understanding, ability to understand context, and make recommendations can actually save lives…”
  • AI is like, I would say, the gun. If you compare it to a gun, the gun changed the world.
  • The underlying driver, for me being in AI is to make sure my business that I run, Tesoro AI, we're based in Medellin, Colombia, where I live. The idea is giving exposure to folks across Latin America, to artificial intelligence, to building artificial intelligence applications.
  • “It's not just Netflix, Google, Facebook, Amazon, who are able to build AI solutions. Now, it's a larger community of folks, who are who have different ideas that they can apply to AI impact…”
  • There's so much education that needs to happen on a mass scale, that anyone with the hustle and the ambition to learn about AI, and what it can do, they have an opportunity to be on the forefront of the technology’s use on a more global scale and to create value in society.
  • I had an opportunity to learn about AI while investing in software companies.
  • One of the first things I took was a Coursera course on Machine Learning, taught by industry vet, Andrew Yang, and then it was an ‘AI for Everyone’ course.
  • So, what I did, even before starting my podcast was to have hundreds of conversations of people who are actually building AI. Over time, let's say every 50, it's like, a level of graduation, every 50 chats, I've reached the next level of expertise in this space, and then I can tailor my questions towards what I want to learn.
  • “After that much time learning from people who are experts, who have some type of knowledge of the space there, I'd become more [aware], it's a way of developing that knowledge...”
  • “There's a lot of value in understanding the business case for using technology…”
  • “You don't need to know how to build the solution, you just need to know how to find someone who can build the solution…”
  • “Generally, the people who know how to build aren't the people who know the business case…”
  • “We always cited this statistic: 70% of the cost in any business is going to be in human resources…”
  • “You could go somewhere else and look for talent in places with a lower cost of living…people have looked in other places around the globe for talent, because there's such a shortage of tech talent.”
  • For me, it was understanding this issue that tech executives needed solved and finding the solution for them…Essentially, access to talent was a huge challenge for folks. I just happen to be in a position in Latin America, where I understand the market, understand the value added to anyone who wants to build AI.
  • “I was approaching them from the perspective of like, I don't know, help me understand, versus, I'm going to try to teach you something…”
  • “If you cold call them, or if you sent them a cold email, and they respond, they're probably a good enough person where they're going to help you…”
  • I'm approaching it from the perspective of learning, I see that you're an expert in the space, I would love to learn a little bit more how you got where you are today…
  • “I just think the most important thing is the willingness to connect, to reach out to…”
  • Universities are not the best resource to learn about how to build AI.
  • I would say, we have to change the way we think. If you say you want to hire the best, then you probably should be looking globally.
  • The best is more dependent upon your access to the internet, having a laptop and your willingness to work hard.
  • If I can go somewhere and find A level talent at a fraction of the costs, that allows me to reinvest more into the business.

Where to Find Darius Gant

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/m-darius-gant-cpa-44650aa/

Instagram: dariusgant https://www.instagram.com/dariusgant  

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DariusGant

Website: https://dariusgant.com/

Transcript

Note: Black Enterprise Network transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcription. They may contain errors, although we do our best to avoid them. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting a transcript in print. Questions? Errors found in a transcript? Email us! 

Kimmiko James  0:00  
This episode, I have a conversation with darious. Get founder of tesoro AI, and artificial intelligence startup. He's also an investment professional as well as a former professional basketball player. He talks about how his passion for basketball would change and eventually evolve into a passion for the tech industry, especially as a founder and investor. He also shares the impact that artificial intelligence has on our society, and how it can be used for more than just self driving cars. But also for social good. Let's get into it a small percentage of black people are currently represented in the tech industry and entrepreneurial spaces. This includes engineers, startup founders, investors, and especially those that hold leadership roles. I want to share their stories. Yeah, firstly, I just want to say I appreciate you reaching out to me and emailing me because I generally love when guests reach out, I wish more of them would I feel like they're kind of, I don't know, shy. Like they think I just interview premiere people. I'm like, No, no, if you're like entrepreneur, tech person, please reach out. But but I think you just have an amazing background and story. And I'm just happy to get started.

Darius Gant  1:08  
Yeah, no, thanks. I appreciate it. I think a lot of it too, is like people aren't. podcasting is still pretty new. So a lot of people surprisingly, don't even know that they can reach out to be on a podcast, right? It's like, doesn't register net. But like now that we're in this era where everything's digital is becoming more popular. But yeah, it's been like my buddy just started a business to help people get on podcasts. Right? Like, you know that that did not exist. That was not a thing. You know, years ago.

Kimmiko James  1:43  
Yeah, it is pretty new. I would say like, I guess it's been nine months now since I started this. I took this Crash Course podcasting course. And this by this guy named Paul C. Brunson. He was basically just describing like, yeah, even though there's 1000s of podcasts out there, it's still very new given you know, Africa is still catching up, there's a few other countries still catching up. And for me, I guess sometimes it's a little demoralizing to see most of my downloads are in the US. But then I realized, oh, most of my downloads are in the US, like, there's still time for people to figure it out and see it. So

Darius Gant  2:16  
yeah, still very new. And to your credit, most most folks podcasts don't go past eight episodes. So, you know, most folks aren't able to stick with it long enough for it actually to catch win. Right? And so, you know, that consistency is also a huge thing. And, you know, I need in what you're talking about is in a target market, where people just don't have access to information specific to them. Right. So definitely, yeah, I'm excited. I'm excited for what you're what you're building and I think it's definitely for you, you know, I kind of just look at them looking at some of your background, right just you know, the focus on tech yourself, but also kind of we saw something with MLT love that love that group. And then some of the kind of the other work that you had right internships and then completing some schoolwork now, like, definitely an opportunity for networking. And, you know, even just having a profile out there with like, hey, look, I'm not just like, out here, you know, doing the basics, right? I'm out here trying to take it to the next level, you know, so So definitely, kudos to you for putting in that work is definitely makes you it differentiates you.

Kimmiko James  3:27  
Yeah, yeah, I appreciate that. But yeah, so from what I've learned about you, it just looks as though you started off in accounting, finance, then you spend some time being a professional basketball player, and then you made your way back to finance by being an investor. So see, I'm just excited to get deep into it. No, firstly, I would just ask, why did you want to pursue a major in accounting?

Darius Gant  3:49  
Yeah, so that's a good question. And I was, you know, I was basically one of those folks who I went to college, and literally, we had an in our orientation, we had a sit down with like a pot of folks, I think it may have been 20 folks in the room, along with an advisor, and they said, you know, what do you want to get? What do you want to study? You know, what do you want to major in? What do you want to get out of this, this experience? And I remember 17 years old in college, and my response was, look, I'm just here to play basketball. legit, legit. People looked at me like I was the biggest idiot. But that was my true answer at the time. And so at the time, my thought process was to do as much do enough to get by but still be able to in play basketball, right? I'm a competitive person, even in classroom so while I was not doing the things to like, get straight A's, I wasn't doing horribly. But you know, when I got to my junior right before my junior and senior year, I think I started to think more rationally. Do you know what I need? I need. First of all, I need a major, that actually where you can actually get a job. Second of all, you need to start thinking about like I could still take this path with basketball. But But I could also have a backup plan, right? And so I changed my major to business. I took an accounting class, and I just happened to be good at accounting. I don't know why I wasn't even going to class as much as I should have been. But I was still getting good grades. So the professor is like, Oh, you seem to be talented here. You should think about a major, you can have a job before you graduate college. Oh, really? Okay. Yeah, let's do this, you know, so but it was really that simple.

Kimmiko James  5:30  
Yeah, that's, that's actually kind of an interesting point you brought up I feel like, this is me just assuming this means assuming. But I've heard a lot of the collegiate athletes, especially in football and basketball, they probably do go into college thinking, yeah, I'm just here for the scholarship. I'm just here to get into the national leagues and stuff. I don't care about my major. So we did a lot of other guys have that mindset too, or were they? You know, after a few years, they were getting rational thinking as well.

Darius Gant  5:57  
Yeah, you know, I think people you know, I got an I was in college at 17 years old, right? So part of it was just me being young and dumb part of it, you still got that hope, a plan in the pros, right? And you don't want to deal with the reality that you might not right. But on the other side, I wasn't. I didn't completely not think of things because the school I went to Illinois, Wesleyan University is a great school. Right. And so and I had other opportunities at larger schools that at larger schools that I could have gone to, but the academic element wasn't there. So there was still some portion of it me selecting school based on you know, the opportunities post graduation. But yeah, I do think folks tend to Kenya early on, it's you know, I don't really know what I want to do with my life. Right. And if you didn't have folks who, who were able to show you a path, like pre college, like my school, my sister went, I think her whole time she knew she was going to be an engineer. Right? She played division one college basketball at University of Wisconsin. I just did you know, in terms of a career path post college, like, I didn't enter knowing anything about what I wanted to do. Not even with it being in business. And I think a lot of people are in a similar scenario. At my school, though, interestingly, a lot of folks because most people don't end up playing pro ball. I think a lot of folks were kind of like, let me figure out a career path a lot earlier. I just wasn't, I wasn't one of those.

Kimmiko James  7:17  
Okay, okay, thanks for sharing that perspective. Because it's like, when you, you know, when you see these big guys interview that I don't know, I guess you could use the broad as an example. He didn't really attend college. He's he's just like, at the age of I think it was 1617 ages into the league without doing that. Just like I didn't care about college. I'm just gonna enter, I guess the the draft without even finishing and yeah, yeah. So that's why I wanted to dig a little deeper with that.

Darius Gant  7:40  
Yeah, that's, I mean, that's one that's that's one approach to life. You know, there this, if you're in such a small percentage of people who actually end up playing Pro, so it's kind of like, you're really betting your cards, you know, or I can say betting everything on, on that, you know, so So there has to be some level of rationality that kicks in.

Kimmiko James  8:00  
Yeah, yeah, that's a good point. So I guess my follow up would be just so now that you're getting this rationale, like, Oh, I could have a backup plan with this full time job, you know, was basketball, you know, still your main number one plan? a,

Darius Gant  8:14  
um, no, you know, and I had actually decided, because, so I did end up playing professional basketball, right. But it was not immediately after college. So okay, when I started going down this business track, right, or, you know, it hit me that there was this whole other world that was available to me, right in business where I could kind of leverage my skill set there. And at that time, it was, obviously there were people in business that were black men, black women, that I could see and could relate to. But those those examples weren't, like, I didn't really have exposure to those examples. So the reality of that world, it wasn't real to me. And so everything changed for me, right, I went to a conference for the National Association of Black accountants. And it was really my first time seeing black professionals who had very prestigious jobs, right. So these were folks who are, you know, kind of advanced in their career, but there were also folks who came to that conference that were at my age, and they were getting this like Big Four accounting firms getting offers to work at those big four accounting firms. And it really opened my eyes to a new world, right, that was that was available to me. And I was just inspired you know, for me, it was like wow, this is a whole new adventure I could go down and you know, if I could just tweak a little because what I saw I think unconsciously I believe that jobs like that, right? You work for a big four accounting firm. Those are for you know, like, I only saw white people getting those jobs to be honest. Right? So unconsciously I thought, those that's for them, and you know, maybe I can go I'll figure something out right, but like Being a part of that conference seeing people older than me and my age getting that, like I was, you know, it really changed my perspective. And the thing is, when I sat next to them, you know, there was no difference in the level of talent, right? Like my talent and their talent, right? It was just, the difference was in the process that they took to achieve the goal that they set out, right, which for them was in accounting, I had a different process at the time for how I was pursuing my career. And so I just needed to change my process for how, you know, I was pursuing, you know, what I want and my process and my goals, right, and what I believed was possible. And so then, when I got back to school, I started looking at, again, all the white students who were getting the job and like, their process is no different from it, the process of the black folks that I saw, so then I was like, Alright, well, I just need to change myself. And so that realization, right, it created a fire inside of me that made me want to go down the path in business. And accounting just happened to be the first vehicle I saw to achieve a greater objective that I had developed, which at the time, I was like, Look, I want to be a CEO of a Fortune 100 company. Right. So that was a path for me to get there. And so that's what kind of so then the crazy thing that ended up happening is, I took all the lessons that I learned from basketball, right? To achieve the level of success, I did a basketball at that time, I had to make it through a ton of rounds of cuts, right and had to, you know, develop myself physically and intellectually, to play at that level. And I'm like, Well, if I could just take that same focus, and apply it to business, you know, I should be able to get the same results. And that was the major shift for me and process. It's all of the things I've learned, as someone who aspire to be a professional basketball player, the way I approach training my body, in my mind, I'll just apply that to a professional career in business.

Kimmiko James  12:00  
Yeah, that's, that's probably, that's a pretty positive spin on it. Like, I know, it's kind of cheesy, but I do like watching those motivational videos from time to time. Yeah. And one that features Coby, he was just talking about how, you know, I'm not as physically gifted, naturally physically gifted as these other guys. So how can I change my training my mindset so that I can get to that ability, but just in a different kind of way? And I was just like, huh, yeah, no, by this the real life too, and various other ways. It's, yeah, it's just a lot of training and mindset training. And it's kind of crazy to me.

Darius Gant  12:34  
Yeah. I mean, I'll tell you a quick story. Prior, I think maybe after my sophomore year in college, I had probably like a 1.7 or 1.9 GPA. It was horrible.

Kimmiko James  12:48  
Yeah, that's pretty bad.

Darius Gant  12:50  
Yeah. But the crazy thing is, so I'm going so I went to the conference, that accounting conference after that, and I was like, yeah, you know, I'm an accounting major, I would love to work at one of these big four accounting firms. And they're like, Look, I love your hustle. I love that you have an ability to connect with people. But this GPA, we got to do something about this, you know, and so, there was actually so so they told me I need they were pretty straightforward with me told me I need to get my GPA up. One of my professors around that same time had introduced me to a partner at KPMG and I got to give him a lot of credit for helping open the door for me. But you know, after I kid you not after one of his speeches that he gave to one of the accounting societies at our school, I was able to speak to him afterwards. And I had flip flops on I had you know, flip flop with socks, typical athlete, I had a school of hard knocks long sleeve shirt, you probably don't remember those I had sweats on and no haircut, right and, and a goatee, a Pastor Troy goatee. It was crazy, but he's still you know how to Hey, look, you know, just stay in contact with me, you know, and if you can improve some of the you know, things in your resume, get an internship, you know, there may be an opportunity. And so literally from that day, my last, I ended up doing four and a half years at in undergrad. So my last two and a half years, I got straight A's. I went and boosted my GPA significantly, and I stayed in contact with him for those two and a half years. And I don't think he kind of I don't know if at that time when we met he was like, yeah, you know, this guy has a real opportunity to work here with the firm, but I think overtime, just showing that hustle and he even said it. He's like, Look, you know anyone who hustles like you in terms of just getting the GPA and networking and all of the all of these things. That's pretty impressive. And we need to have someone like that working at our firm. And that's literally how I got the opportunity at that particular firm. So shout out to Bill Tom's.

Kimmiko James  14:53  
Yeah, it's I mean, I've said it a million times over in the last previous episodes and I guess even from the beginning, but you're That work really is important. Whether it's getting your foot in the door with the referral, or just having someone just tell you point blank, this is what you need to do. This is how you can do it or just someone that can give you that extra push. Because like it, it makes so much more of a difference versus just having that terrible GPA by yourself and just being like, well, I got to get it up. But

Unknown Speaker  15:20  
yeah, I

Unknown Speaker  15:20  
don't know how I'm gonna do that. Yeah,

Darius Gant  15:22  
yeah. I mean, yeah, it was at that time. At that point, it was Game on. I'm like, Look, I got something to prove here. So.

Kimmiko James  15:30  
But before we move on to the next question, I just kind of wanted to highlight something that's kind of it was kind of similar experience for me, like going to a conference where it's in a field you're in with people, they just look like you. And for me a few years ago, that was the nesby National Conference. And I was I ever had already had some software engineering experience. I was like, I guess it's just good time to get some free food, and explore different stay, whatever. But I guess kind of like us just very eye opening to just see people, not only my age, but people starting their careers, you know, early 30s people that are already established in their careers. in software engineering and product management in business and the tech industry. It's crazy to me, I don't know, I don't know why that affected me as much as it did. But kind of like you was just like, oh, if they can do it. Yeah, I can do but versus like school, you know, that demographic really isn't there. You're just like, well, that imposter syndrome comes down. You're like, well, I don't really have what they have. How am I any different? So

Darius Gant  16:30  
right? Yeah, no, that network that and not even just a network, but having examples? Definitely a game changer. So representation is important.

Kimmiko James  16:41  
Yeah, definitely. So a few years later, you started pursuing an MBA at Columbia University. And I wanted to know what influenced this because not many people want to pursue the NBA because it's so much money, then people say it's only worth the network. But I wanted to know why you chose to pursue it.

Darius Gant  16:57  
Yeah. So for me, it was funny, because I always had friends who asked me if it was worth it. And I said, it just depends. It really depends on who you are as an individual, right? Like, I didn't have for at that time, you know, I was I knew that I wanted to get into private equity. And but like, in my personal network, I did not have people who got excited about, you know, doing making investments, right. They're like, like, genuinely excited, right? genuinely excited about talking about deals like, like, there are people who talk about making investments in doing deals in the same way that that I can sit down and talk to a friend about, you know, what LeBron James did last night. And I think that that makes a huge difference. Right? So having that network was critical, you know, in it, for me, it wasn't just about, you know, the network of folks and private equity, but a broad network of folks who have interests across different businesses. So that was one, I didn't have that, right. The other side is I knew to get into PE, I was going to have to do something to shift to kind of build my resume give me access to people who can get me an opportunity. And an MBA I knew would do that, especially what particularly from a school, you know, an Ivy League school or top 10 MBA program versus versus any of the other ones, right, and not to knock any of the other ones. I just think that you know, those that are in the top 10 have a deeper network, they have the people look at them a little bit differently. So for me, one of the important things that I took out of it is like, I remember when I was in Chicago, and I'd reach out to certain people, and they just wouldn't answer, you know, and they wouldn't answer, partly because it's like, they, they have limited time, themselves. And so, you know, they have to justify why they would take your phone call. I was every bit as talented as I was after the NBA, you know, in my mind, right? Like, I knew I was a bad dude before going to Columbia. But I needed something that other people could grab, grab onto and be like, yeah, this is a bad dude. Like, let me help him out. Right. And so the people who I had access to prior to Columbia, versus who I had access to, after Columbia, totally different, right? So for me there was it was kind of like, well, what, what are the things that are going to create a lot of value for me going to an MBA, and then how can I use that to flip? And you know, what it is I'm ultimately trying to do? Like, I think about it like investments, right? Like, if I have to make a investment of $200,000. You know, is that a lot of money? Well, it depends on how much you think you can make at the end by investing that $200,000 if I'm gonna make $190,000 after that, probably a terrible investment. But if I can make $2 million after that, right, and I can 10x based on based on that investment, then it's then it's a good decision. Right. And so, you know, I think it's a personal I think it's a personal decision, and a decision based on what you want to accomplish, unfortunately, right. The bill that you have to pay is really high and I think Having an Ivy League and Ivy League degree from a top 10 school, it definitely boosts your resume. But there's a bill attached. And I think, you know, unfortunately for minorities, you're, I'm not gonna say people are gonna look down on you, because you're a minority, but they're definitely like not saying, Oh, this person is really talented, whereas there are other people that have assumptions based on how they look, that they know that they're that they either have a strong work ethic work ethic, or or no, you know, great math, mathematical abilities, right? There's stereotypes associated with those backgrounds that we don't necessarily benefit from. So then it's alright, well, how do I, you know, I need something that speaks to my level of talent before I walk into the door.

Kimmiko James  20:47  
Yeah, that's a that's a very valid point. And the same goes for like computer science and software engineering. You don't technically need the bachelor's degree in computer science to be software engineer. Like if I had a bunch of side projects. I knew the recruiter very closely. Are you an engineer very closely. Google, for example, it's very possible to get a job there. But it's a very long, but the bachelor's degree makes a difference, because it's like, okay, What proof do you have that you actually know what the hell you're doing? Aside from your personal projects, which again, for me, I don't agree with that. Because I think the personal projects more realistic than what you do in school, but hey, so yeah, the the piece of paper matters.

Darius Gant  21:24  
It does. It does, right. But it's also like, if you got a bachelor's degree from MIT, right, recruiters will be more likely to give you a shot. But you know, for everybody, that does not make sense, right? it you know, some folks just purely cannot afford it, or don't want to be stuck with that level of debt. And to those folks, there are still opportunities to accomplish the same thing. You either may just have to work harder, or find an angle, that gives you a competitive advantage that someone in that in a similar position might not have, right. So you just have to kind of before I went to business school, I got some great advice, you know, in just thinking about how to generate wealth and whatnot, actually, from a guy who was who Barack Obama said he was his, one of his mentors. I was like, Okay, well, this guy must give some some. But he did say, right, and he graduated from Harvard Law, right. But he says, Listen, persons going to be successful, whether or not they decide to go to business school, right. So that's not going to be the deciding factor is just a tool like anything else. It's, you know, how you use the tool, which is going to be more I know, a lot of people that went to business school had no clue what they wanted to do going in, got lost in the herd, right? Because there's a huge herd mentality in business school, they got lost in the shuffle ended up doing something they don't really want to do after Business School. Right? And so, yeah, and now they got a bunch of debt and a job they don't like, right. So I think it's like all, it's all like, look at it as a tool, and how do I use it? And ultimately, is there something that I see post business school where this tool is going to allow me to multiply the investment that I put into it?

Kimmiko James  23:08  
That's very good advice. Because I feel like for people I know, I mean, I used to be that kind of person, too. But thankfully, I've kind of changed my mind for now for now. I'm like, you know, these deferment programs where I can if you're a senior or junior, I think in college, you can apply to business school, and then you get a full time job work three, five years, and then you automatically get in that business school after. And yeah, people just think getting a Master's getting an MBA, that's just, it's a lot of clout associated with it. But in reality, it's just like, we don't really take the time to think about do I actually need it? What am I going to use it for? Is it really just for the cloud to show I did it on LinkedIn? Or what is there more to it? So very good advice, a lot of introspection needed when making these kinds of decisions?

Unknown Speaker  23:53  
Absolutely.

Kimmiko James  23:55  
And I just wanted to know, outside of, you know, the network that's been really beneficial to you, what other skills? Did you get out of it? And how have you applied it to your investment startup work?

Darius Gant  24:06  
Yeah. So in business school, I was definitely not like the most academic folks, right? Like I was not, I went in knowing all right, grades are on my list of priorities for things that I that I thought were most important to get out of the out of the actual program. Some people for some people, it was right, but for me, it was, you know, how do I build a better network? And how do I use this new brand, I have to accelerate what my what my goals are. So for me, it was all about Alright, well, who are the people that I want to meet? And who are the people that I don't know that I should meet, that I should be meeting. So just the ability to connect with folks, the ability and just overall right, the ability to find different ways to connect with folks was important and maintain relationships was important and that became important As an investment, because as an investor, you're really, it's also very relationship driven. And so how do you how do you develop relationships with great companies in a way that they'll want to have a conversation with you in a way that they'll want to, you know, share sensitive information with you, and then ultimately have interest in you kind of joining them as an investor. Right. So those relationship skills were developed, the ability to develop those relationships, skills were very important, and the ability to do it without an existing relationship with that person. Right? So how do I go from zero to Hey, we're cool, let's grab a drink. Right? I think that that was something that I really took away. And then also just having the confidence, you know, one of the big things for me, and maybe this comes from me, as an athlete, like, I was always, like, I know, I don't want to sound like I'm hyping myself up too much. But like, it's really about seeing who you want to be in the future. And then, you know, having the confidence in the present that you'll reach that point. And so, like, when I looked at business school, it was okay, this is where the best of the best go, right? Not all of the best of the best, but there's, you know, the cream of the crop goatee, so I'm gonna go there to put myself up against the test to see what I really got. Because I think I'm think I'm the best of the best too. Right? So New York City, here I come. And so when I got out there, I looked at, you know, I'm developing relationships with these people, but I'm also assessing my strengths and weaknesses. And then trying to understand, you know, what, how I stack up what I need to develop, but also developing confidence. Because, you know, even just like in sports, if you go you get invited to the All Star game, and then you become all star MVP was like, well, there's nothing else anyone can tell me about whether or not I should be able to win a championship, right? Like, I definitely have the skill set. So now I just need to do the things to get me to that next level. And that's how, you know, that's another thing you know, business school did for me, it's just give me the confidence to to sit in a room and know, like, my shade is tight. You know, like, at least at a fundamental level, at a fundamental level is tight. Now I just need to do all the prep work ahead of time to make sure that in every situation it stays tight. And so for me, it was a lot of intangibles that I got from that experience. Less so from you know, what, what I did, as a, you know, on the academic side.

Kimmiko James  27:32  
I really liked that that last bit about confidence. I don't think it's cockiness whatsoever. I mean, obviously, cockiness exists, but you really do you have to believe in yourself and have the confidence in yourself because no one else is I mean, of course, you might have your mom, your dad, family members that support you. But even then, like, you have to do the work, you have to believe you can do the work and put in the work, you have to believe you will get to the level you want to be at. So definitely agree. 100% about the confidence thing.

Darius Gant  28:01  
Yeah, no, it's interesting. I mean, we all have imposter syndrome, you know, no matter what level you get to, but just, it's just kind of checking yourself, right? Like I remember at the very beginning, some friends had a conversation around like, man, answer some of the students in the you know, some of my classmates are giving this like ridiculously intelligent, I would have never thought about that. I don't think I belong. And I'm like, well, let's look at this. Realistically, right? Like, no one comes in knowing everything about a subject, some people, like it's a finance class and that person worked in finance, they're going to have a head start in terms of what they know. But here's the other thing, people are only going to raise their hands to answer questions that they know the answer to. Right. So if they're already confident because of some past experience, yeah, they're going to sound way more intelligent than you because because of that, I guarantee if the professor just cold call, like they do, and, you know, people probably wouldn't sound that smart, right? So just kind of, you know, not letting imposter syndrome sit there, but really assess the situation. And, and, and cut, you know, don't you got to do to maintain confidence in situations of like uncertainty.

Kimmiko James  29:11  
It's like, I don't know what it is. But it really is just assessing your situation, not looking at everybody else. And then just taking it from there. Like for me, I don't know what it was. But I think this summer of 2018, I was doing all these networking events in the Bay Area, just like I wanted to internship, I want to work at one of these companies. I got a lot of recruiter emails. I never got a lot of students get referrals. And I was like, next summer I'm gonna be working over here. I don't know how I'm gonna do it. Yeah, I don't know if I can finesse my way in. I will. I'll study all day if I have to, but I'm gonna get a summer internship and then I got one.

Darius Gant  29:48  
Exactly, yeah, but it's that like, it's that look, I'm going to commit to it. I'm going to commit to it now. And upfront. I'm going to commit to doing all of the things I need to do to get there. And then at that point, You probably didn't know all of the things that you are going to need to do. And it's probably a good thing. Because if you did no, you'd be like, oh, wow, I don't know. That sounds crazy like to tell you, like, Look, you're gonna literally spend three months figure, you know, in 16 hours a day, you know, you may not have committed to that upfront, but once you're in and you're like, well, I got to get it done, you know, got to get it done now, so. So yeah, I mean, definitely, I've got stories like that as well. And, you know, I also like, let's listen to a lot of kind of success stories of folks who I admire and I, you know, similar, same thing you said, right, like I committed to it. And I'll just figure it out.

Kimmiko James  30:37  
Before we jump into the next question, I kind of want to know this kind of like a resource plug, where do you listen to or watch those stories that in case someone else might be interested?

Darius Gant  30:45  
Yeah, you know? Yeah, I YouTube was big for me, you know, just finding people on YouTube, who had stories that I like, but audible was another huge thing for me. I've got a ton of, you know, you know, and I just love to hear the crazy stuff that they were doing when, you know, Ilan, guys like Ilan Musk, guys, like, you know, Michael Jordan. Folks that, you know, for me, personally, I looked up to right, Bruce Lee was big. Warren Buffett, read his book. I'm trying to think of some more names have Rockefeller, john D. Rockefeller was big. Yeah, I mean, like, I just really did a deep dive into into what they had to do. Obviously, you only get a small EEG, a book is only going to tell you so much, but it's still going to hear those things.

Kimmiko James  31:36  
That's a good point. I mean, I only asked because I was like, oh, Is there like a website for this? But

Darius Gant  31:40  
oh, you know, there used to be there used to be a website that was like, dedicated to all things inspirational. I don't know if it's still Oh, this was like, when I was listening to it. This had to be back in like, 2008. I probably still

Kimmiko James  31:51  
Oh, that's a different time.

Darius Gant  31:54  
Exactly, exactly.

Kimmiko James  31:59  
But But yeah, this was like kind of around the same time period and feel free to correct me. But you were a summer associate at airplane partners and investment professional at K One Investment Management. So what did your work consists of? And I guess why are you so interested in doing it? Because investment is, you know, it's something we all say we're interested in, like, whether it's private equity, or blockchain, I mean, oops, not blockchain. Bitcoin. But, yeah, it's a very interesting field to get into. So

Darius Gant  32:31  
yeah, so investing for me, like I came from it, add it from the perspective of of mergers and acquisitions. And I'll tell you why I was even interested in this. Like for me, okay, well, how do I, how do I think about scaling a business? Right? There's one way to do it, you can build it from the ground up, which is I actually tried that. When I left KPMG. My first job, but then I learned about m&a is, there's a guy out there who's buying a bunch of small businesses. And he was merging them all together to create a larger business. And I said, oh, wow, you know, that's interesting. And so then I went learn about folks like, Reginald Lewis, and then Robert Smith, billionaire tech investor, right. And these folks were, they were doing their black men doing the same thing. Right? And I'm like, wow, that's interesting. But what really, what really excited me about it was this idea is, hey, look, if I can go out and buy a bunch of companies and essentially be a leader of leaders, right, then I can for for minorities, right? Oh, who are who are talented enough to be in C suite positions, I can impact the culture and improve, you know, the existence of minority folks in organizations by being able to put black and brown folks in positions of influence in these organizations. So that was kind of like, that's what really excited me about that role, like private equity owning businesses. I had a kind of a shift in thought after that, but like, that's what that's what excited me about the space and what kind of what kind of inspired me to actually commit to working in that field, post MBA.

Kimmiko James  34:10  
And what did some of that work look like? And if you're like gonna use super weird finance term, be sure to LIKE A give a quick 10 second definition.

Darius Gant  34:19  
Yeah, so it's different, right? Like I was more in the on the technical side. So pre investment or at a pre investing. I actually worked in investment banking, where I spent a lot of time building financial models. So in Excel, basically, the laying out the financial financials of the company, looking at past performance and making you know, predictions about what the future would be. That is essentially what I did and then understanding how you know, the numbers drive, how the numbers should represent this the story that's being told. And so in my internship, I was I actually interned at at zero point nothing now arrow mark, right. They were more of a finding It's heavy, you know, that was more of a finance heavy type role, where the folks at that company were coming out of Warden, very numbers driven, like to look at the world through numbers, right. And so I did a lot of work in terms of like financial modeling, again. And but when you do it on a private equity level, you go way deeper. So I was able to go a lot deeper in terms of in terms of, you know, well, how do we think about, you know, a business and and what are the numbers telling us? And how do we think about various scenarios. And also, it's very numbers driven technical finance role. In my role in private equity post MBA ik one, I was actually on the side where, you know, I was developing relationships with, with founders and executives of technology companies, high growth technology companies, and I had already had the hardcore finance. So then it was about understanding how to find a good company, and how to develop a relationship and reach the point where, you know, the founder, where there's a mutual interest, right, between the, you know, the founder, folks who made the decisions at these companies and in us, so it was more kind of, it's called business development. But the skill sets you get out of there is critical from, you know, for what I do now, as an entrepreneur.

Kimmiko James  36:22  
Yeah, kudos to you. Because biz dev is really hard. as an intern, and I was like, I don't think this is for me. This is like, kind of a good segue into your, your founder experience, because it sounds like when you were working with these tech startup founders, there was kind of an interest there, in which you wanted to start something of your own. So I just wanted to know what maybe I should figure out how I can frame this. I started with like, what sparked your interest in AI? Yeah. But let me see. Yeah, go for it.

Darius Gant  36:56  
I can I can answer that. So Sure. So AI, like it was a, it's been a buzzword. It's not a new thing. It's been around for decades. But now a very big buzzword. Yeah. But because of compute power, because of the availability of data, because of some of the tools that big tech companies have have opened up and what some of the startups are doing to enable AI infrastructure is become a lot more available. But what sparked my interest in AI specifically, it was a, it was never just like, one specific moment, because I've known about it for a while. But when I decided to go all in it happened. Like, you know, it didn't happen until, you know, I left the world of investing. But essentially, you know, I actually, I had a conversation with Robert Smith, I forget maybe 2017. And kind of as a part of that conversation, we you know, we were talking about artificial intelligence, and he didn't specifically say that were but he said cognitive solutions, right. And so, you know, just his thought of cognitive solutions being or artificial intelligence being the next driver of wealth at a magnitude that we haven't seen, that we rarely see, right? And this whole idea of the fourth industrial revolution, we can go more into these things, if you want. But, you know, that was kind of, you know, opened my eyes, you got this industry, Titan, who's who's had the best performing technology investment firm in the world. For decades, right? Or, I guess it's decades now. But, you know, is saying, look, the next huge wave is, is is AI, you need to look at this, we're trying, we've got a strategy around it, right? That that we're trying to implement. So I'm like, oh, okay, at least, you know, I at least need to be taking some notes here to figure out, you know, to to dive more deeply. So then when I got into investing myself, I start as I'm interviewing a lot of these startup, tech companies, all of them are saying, like, we have AI on our roadmap where we use AI, right? Not many of them actually had it at the time. But you know, I could see that there was this kind of in that roadmap, there was this desire to add artificial intelligence to what they were doing. And so that made me dig a little bit what what actually is it about AI that everyone is excited about? Right, and so well as, as an investor that made me start to dig deeper. Let me figure out what it is. Let me figure out what value it's creating. And then also, let me think about why everyone wants to use it, but they're not many people who actually have it. And so, you know, that led my research and at the time, I was like, I want to invest in AI driven companies versus, you know, start a company that's based in AI. So that's kind of where where I saw it as a critical technology that I needed, you know, it was a must for me to to dive in that experience, I should say.

Kimmiko James  39:48  
And I would kind of just adding on to that. I would say that. Not too many people really think about how much AI plays a role in our everyday lives. Like for me, I kind of have to explain to my parents how like Siri works. Not just hard coded of if I asked her what the weather is, she's just gonna put out the same thing or ask her to play a specific song. Artificial Intelligence is being used for that. Especially when she tells jokes and other things. She's just conversational in general, but whether it's from Siri to Alexa self driving cars and other pieces of tech, so many other things, just why and how is AI changing the world? I know, very good question.

Darius Gant  40:25  
Yeah. And well, in a lot of ways, right? There's the there's the ethics piece of this, where, you know, AI is much like a child, right? It starts with some basic, very mean, some basic understanding of the world. But as you feed it, data, you're training it, how to think now, if you train it on good data is going to be able to produce good predictions. Ideally, right, if you train it on bad data is going to create is going to produce bad, right? And so changing the world in the sense that now, you know, if you look at what's what software is doing it static code, right? If we were cooking a cake, the static code is alright, well, here's every step that you need to do to make this cake. AI is like, you know, you're feeding it data about how all these different types of cake were made. And then you're, you know, and then what the outcome should be in AI is basically, you know, figuring out the best way to make that cake. Right. So

Kimmiko James  41:24  
that's a very good analogy.

Darius Gant  41:27  
So then, so it gives you, you know, the ability, it depends on what you're trying to do with it, right, because it can take in so much more data than any individual human can do that it can probably understand patterns, that me dairies, I'm never going to see that Pat, like, I just don't have enough time or strength in mind to, you know, take in all this data, compress it and figure out, you know, make the best prediction, whereas AI is able to is able to do that. There are other things that humans are just a lot better at, right? Like, I can look at a if you tell me, you know, hey, there's a horse, and it has a a Cohen hat. Oh, that's a unicorn, right? Like, you know, Ai, you know, I want you just need to tell me that one time, right. Ai needs a ton of examples, and whatnot. But like in our daily lives, yes. It's impacting, you know, what ads we see, based on our preferences. It's identifying, you know, you know, let's say for public security, for example, it's identifying weapons, it's identifying negative behaviors, and alerting police to what's happening.

Kimmiko James  42:35  
Hey, guys, Pardon the Interruption, but I just wanted to take a minute to talk about the new black enterprise network podcast website. If you've ever been curious about what a guest looks like, or what their social media links are, then we have detailed guest profiles for each episode. And there's also detailed show notes with time markers in case you wanted to find a specific point or piece of advice without listening to the entire episode. There's also readable episode transcriptions. And also the website allows you to easily sing questions and feedback, if you want to get in contact with me, just know that the website will be updated on a weekly basis. So if you don't see something done already, then it will be done soon. Check it out at Black enterprise network.fm. Right?

Darius Gant  43:17  
There are places that are using facial recognition, right. And that can be good. If all your debt can be bad, I should say, if all your data is trained on, you know, white faces, then what is the aI think when it comes across a black face, it may not recognize the black face or may recognize a bad black face and market is doing something negative? So I mean, it's just a ton of different ways to explore what it's doing. And part of that like, right, so we talked about podcasts, right? You know, I had so many conversations with executives, in terms of what AI is capable of that I you know, the podcast that I have now focused on AI is really just exploring all of the different use cases. And you know, it's not really, you know, anyone, no matter what stage you're in, you'll get a lot of value from it. But you know, it's really built for people who are not data scientists, not machine learning engineers, in the sense that like, we're not using like, oh, here's what machine learning algorithm, you know. It's about like, you know, the things that everyday, you know, everyday folks are going to be able to understand it. Right? But really focused on the impact. There was one company that I recent recently interviewed and you know, the CEO, interview the CEO, and they're talking about, you know, the way farmers produce crops. So historically, farmers have had to rely on a lot of chemicals to get the best crop production, but because you don't really have a unique or an intimate understanding of the soil, or it's kind of guesswork. You know, how much chemicals you're putting on what chemicals you put you add to the soil right? They say, Well, you know, actually, let's analyze the soil. Let's figure out what microbes exist. And what are the network of microbes that exist? Then what what can we do not using chemicals to be able to produce maybe a better tasting crop? Or yield? Or have a higher yield on crops, right? To address the food shortage and the health quality of the food? Right, so just using AI to understand what's in the soil and the microbiology of, you know, crop production, you're kind of solving problems that we have, you know, as humans in terms of food shortages, and you know, no one likes, you know, what's it called? Well, we're all on a healthy food cake. And everyone wants to, everyone wants to, you know, I forget what the term is. Non GMOs.

Kimmiko James  45:53  
No idea. But, but that's really cool. Like, I think, that word, artificial intelligence, and also as well as machine learning, and data science that scares people away, because it's, it's such a mainstream term and tech, and if you're not a part of tech, it's just like, I'm, I don't want to deal with it. So it's cool that you have a podcast that just breaks it down, and kind of just English like he just did. Cuz I feel like it's hard for technical people to break down technical concepts. But for you, I feel like you do a great job. So what is the name of your podcast?

Darius Gant  46:25  
It's just my first and let darious gant.com. So Da, RR uS gant.com. And if you're looking on, you know, apple, or any of the other larger podcast platforms is the darious. Gantt show. But yeah, the main site is darious Gantt Comm.

Kimmiko James  46:46  
And this will also be linked on the website, so no need to remember. I'm trying to think I feel like he kind of answered this one pretty well, I was gonna say like, aside from the consumer based examples I mentioned in the beginning, and you kind of briefly mentioned, how impactful can AI be for bigger real world problems that can impact society as a whole specific groups or social good? And you kind of touched upon that with the the plant based thing and world bait, and the world hunger problem? But if you could add a little bit more, that would be cool. But otherwise, I feel like you kind of did a good job.

Darius Gant  47:19  
Yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean, you know, in terms other ways that it's been proven, there's another, there's another group who is using artificial intelligence, in conjunction with an avatar, to have conversations with aging adults. Right. And so if you think about the issue that, you know, the pandemic accelerated, right, there was this, there was a social isolation issue that aging adults have, unfortunately, you know, in the United States, relative to other countries, you know, you have your nuclear nuclear family, but then, you know, grandparent like they become further removed versus having them living in the house. Right. And so, you know, that having someone to communicate with is very important. So what this company essentially did is, basically, they have an avatar that has conversations with the aging adult with the aging adult, and basically understands, you know, what the adult saying is, can can provide a response? Well, the interesting thing is that there are things that people will tell an avatar that it will not tell their kids, because they don't want to be judged. There are things that you may tell an avatar, who you don't think is going to judge you then your best friend, right. And so, through that, it's it's a way for this way to improve health, right to make sure that folks are maintaining, like if there's some type of diet they need to be on, if there's some type of regimen for medication they need to be taking, or if it's, you know, something as simple as man, it's really hot in the house. I'm sweating profusely, right? Maybe, maybe the situation is that, you know, the AC broke, right? And the and, and the technology needs to notify someone that that something is, you know, there's some type of anomaly that's happening. You know, those are kind of that's another situation where artificial intelligence because of its understanding, ability to understand context, and make recommendations can actually save lives.

Kimmiko James  49:18  
Well, thanks for breaking down some more railroads were real world examples. Because for me, when it comes to artificial intelligence, I think I just think of the simplest ones, like telling the difference between a cat and a dog feeding data so that it knows the difference, but knowing that it can actually save lives and improve lives overall is it's pretty impactful. So thanks for breaking it down. I

Darius Gant  49:41  
mean, AI is like like, I would say, you know the gun right? If you compare it to a gun, right, the gun changed the world. Right? He decided who has power and who doesn't? Now how you use a gun can be good or can be bad. It's a tool like anything else, right? You know, Ai, how you use AI can be good, or it can be bad. There are people who are using AI for very negative things, right? You think about like deep fakes, right? Like, I can create a video of Obama saying whatever I want him to say. Right? And and it looks exactly real. And so, you know, it's we have to be thoughtful about, you know, how we use it, who's using it, and, you know, which is why it's important for everyone to get involved, right? You don't want to be sitting on the sidelines, not knowing what happened. Right? So So I think it's critical, even if you don't want to understand it, like, hey, look, I need to build an AI solution. But just knowing you know, what goes into it and being a part of kind of the trend, like the the wave and the growth of AI, it's important for for everyone.

Kimmiko James  50:43  
Yeah, that's a, that's a very interesting perspective that I'll be thinking about From now on, as well as other people on the podcast to have like, you know, the gun did start off as a very positive thing. Now, look at where we are, it's not the most positive in terms of its usage. So that's a very good point.

Darius Gant  51:02  
Yeah, exactly. I mean, it. I mean, you could be you could really be using it to feed your family. Right. If you're a hunter, you know, some people may think that that's bad. But like, yeah, I mean, again, there are,

Unknown Speaker  51:13  
there are definitely

Darius Gant  51:14  
good uses of it. You know, it's just, it's whoever has the power of AI in their hands, is it? You know, that's what's critical. And, you know, for me, the underlying driver, for me being an AI is to make sure, right, like my business that I run, tesoro AI, you know, we're based in Medellin, Colombia, where I live. But you know, the idea there is number one, giving exposure to folks across Latin America, to artificial intelligence, right to building artificial intelligence applications. But then it's also not just, you know, allowing big tech to use AI, it's opening and opening up opportunities for startups or people who just don't have an unlimited budget, to invest in AI projects, to then be able to get the whatever initiatives, they have to get them off the ground. Right. And so we were able to provide that which opens up access to folks, right, like now, it's not just limited to, you know, Silicon Valley, right? Now we got the entire, you know, you can look across the entire western Western Hemisphere hemisphere. It's not just Netflix, Google, Facebook, Amazon, you Right, right, who are able to build AI solutions. Now, it's a larger community of folks who are who have different ideas that they can apply to AI impact. So it's really kind of, you know, how to, you know, for me, it's how do I leverage my positioning, you know, my influence to make sure that it's something that everyone has access to them getting back to, kind of, you know, how I thought about scaling, you know, for me joining private equity is all of us giving access to minorities, I put them in positions of influence, right? It's like, Look, AI is going to create an incredible amount of value. So you know, and it's an opportunity for people to participate in now, because it's, it's still relatively new for most people, meaning that there isn't this kind of old guard of folks who are controlling who get in and who don't, right, there's so much education that needs to happen on a mass scale, that anyone with the hustle in the ambition to learn about AI what it can do they have an opportunity to be one of the folks who are on the forefront of that the the technologies use on a more global scale and, you know, to to create value in society, leveraging that that technology.

Kimmiko James  53:39  
Well, this might prove to be a terrible question, because you seem very knowledgeable in AI. But we can we can roll with it. I mean, you can correct me, of course, but my the original question I had going into this was just what were and are some of the challenges you face starting up tesoro AI, you know, just the company in a space that you aren't familiar with. But it seems like before you even started, you just knew so much about AI just deep dived into learning more about it. So yeah, I don't know, how we how we can frame that. But you get what I try to say, Yeah,

Darius Gant  54:14  
well, you know,

Kimmiko James  54:16  
it's kind of like hiding from

Darius Gant  54:19  
Yeah, so so it's kind of like, Well, how do you upskill yourself rapidly? Right.

Kimmiko James  54:24  
Okay,

Darius Gant  54:24  
you know, what I did, I had an opportunity to learn about AI while while investing in software companies, right. So AI can be used by any company software or not, it just so happens that software companies are the primary adopters, you know, because they are already technology focused. And some of them not all of them are already leveraging, you know, data to make decision making. Right, so I had an opportunity to, to kind of read research and learn from folks but still very far from you know where I am today. But that gave me a basis, right? Like I'm not, I'm definitely not the person who's going to get in and build an app. application for you, me myself. But when, you know, when I decided, look, I'm going to build a business right around this, I did need to learn the language, I needed to learn the technologies that were going to be used. So one of the first things I took a Coursera course that was free as machine learning, taught by, you know, industry vet, Andrew Yang, I took that certification and based on you know, in then it was an AI for everyone course, that I took as well, just to get that, like, that's the very basic of basic, but doing those two things, like, you know, a lot more than general population, and even a lot of, you know, CEOs and and people who, you know, who are in technology, so then you know, but for me, then it was like, Well, what, what can it actually do? And it took me back to some of the conversations I had around what people were doing in the past with AI. So just what I did, even before starting my podcast was have hundreds of conversations of people who are actually building AI. And so then it's kind of like a, you know, imagine having, you know, 300 Coffee chats with people who are telling you about what AI can do and how it's built, right? Over time, you know, let's say every 50 like, it's like, a level of graduation, every 50 chats, that's, you know, like, I've reached the next level of expertise in this space, and then I can tailor my questions toward what I want to learn, right? And so after that much time learning from people who are, who are experts, right, who have some type of knowledge of the space there, I'd become more, you know, it's a way of developing that knowledge. Me Myself, again, I'm not gonna sit down and say, or build any custom ml algorithms myself, right. That's, that's like, that's what we're folks who get PhDs in AI do. I'm not, I'm a long way from that. But, you know, what, I where I excelled, right? And this is why I say everyone should get involved. You don't have to go in the PhD route. And, you know, look, understanding, there's a lot of value in understanding the business case for using technology. There's a lot of folks who they leverage AI, but they themselves are not AI experts, right. But just understanding the business case, like, you know, what's a problem that I think needs to be solved in the world that, you know, in the context of a startup, right, that there's where's the problem that needs to be solved, and people are willing to pay for it? Right? And if you can understand that, then you understand, like, you know enough about AI is like this is a potential solution. You don't need to know how to build the solution, you just need to know how to find someone who can build the solution. Right, exactly. And you how you partner with that person, they could be a co founder, they could be you know, you could do joint venture partnership, you could hire them, there's a bunch of different but find the part because generally the people who know how to build aren't the people who know kind of the business case, right? So there's kind of like there's value. And then if you're just an industry expert, right, like, now, like, let's say, I'm a heart surgeon, right, I understood, I have a unique understanding of a specific space, right. So if then I go through, study up on AI, I might see something that no one else sees, because I am an expert in my industry, a data scientist is going to be is not going to be an expert, nine times is not going to be expert in my industry, right. But if I can understand how the tool is used, then I can understand how to solve a problem that only I saw. Right? So I'll give you like, what's interesting about what I saw, and why I started to sort of a, you know, look, I as an investor.

So you we always cited this statistic 70% of the cost in any business is going to be in human resources. Right? And so, in most businesses fail startup because they run out of cash. Yeah, they so how do you? So what's a solve for that? Well, what a lot of folks did was say, hey, look, we can't, you know, we would love to hire out of Silicon Valley, but it's just too expensive. You know, and we don't and, and we, we don't even have the budget to do it if we wanted to, right. But you could go somewhere else and look for talent in more places with a lower cost of living. And so what you've seen is a lot of people, you know, whether it's front end, whether it's, you know, back end, like people have looked in other places around the globe for talent, because there's such a shortage of tech talent. And so the same was true for data science and machine learning. What most folks didn't understand was that in Latin America, there is a ton of talent here. So now you got people who are the best of the best at what they do every bit as good as someone in Silicon Valley, but because their cost of living is nowhere near as high as someone in in Silicon Valley. Now, you know, I can afford to that project that I wanted to to initiate if I hire someone there, I can afford to, because I just don't have the budget. Like if it's if I have to spend quarter million dollars to get someone with three, three years of experience, I just don't have the budget to do that. So the decision is not hiring, you know, hire in America or hire outside of the US, right? The decision is do the project or not do the project or hire outside of the US, right. So, you know, for me, it was understanding this issue that tech executives needed solved and finding the solution for them. Right now it goes a lot deeper. But essentially, like talent, access to talent was a huge challenge for folks. And I just happen to be in a position in Latin America, where it's like I understand the market, understand the value add to anyone who wants to build AI. And so then is Alright, what now I need to excel at being able to organize and mobilize resources to help folks to initiate you know, their AI initiatives, or even at first educate and then initiate.

Kimmiko James  1:01:06  
Well, I know you didn't mean, well, there's two important pieces of advice that I know you probably didn't meet as advice, but they really stood out to me. So the first thing you mentioned was basically like talking to 50 to 100. Plus people, even though it sounds like he talked to way more than that. But I feel like that's something not a lot of people do because they're intimidated. And it's just some I'm even intimidated. Sometimes it's that piece of advice, you see all the time of like, talk to 10 people that are smarter than you. It's like, why would I think I'm an idiot doesn't know anything, but it seems like that really paid off for you. And a follow up for that first piece of advice would just be to how did you just get over yourself of, you know, coming from a finance investment based background to talking to all these techies that know it techies and PhDs that know a lot about artificial intelligence? Yeah. How did you get over that fear?

Darius Gant  1:01:58  
Yeah, just kind of like, I'm gonna sound like an idiot? Well, you know, I think the good thing is I was approaching them from the perspective of like, I don't know, you know, help me understand, versus, you know, I'm going to try to teach you something, right. And I think there's a lot of value in that, because people like to teach, you know, and if you're connecting with people, like if it's someone you're connecting with, if you cold call them, or if you sent them a cold email, and they respond, you know, they're probably a good enough person where they're going to help you, right, they're going to give you whatever information you need, or at least, you know, point you in the right direction. And then if it's someone who's in your network, or you know, a second degree connection, you know, they'll probably help you as well. So it's really just that outreach. Like, if someone reaches out to me, you don't know anything about tech, and, you know, or not tech, or let's say AI, and I take the time to chat with them. I'm not going in, you know, I'm gonna start I'm gonna start at the level they're at. Right? And so, but it's different if you go in, and you're kind of cocky about it, like, you know,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:59  
if I was to go in there, yeah,

Darius Gant  1:02:59  
I was an investor, and I didn't, you know, so, you know, how cool is your company? You know, what are you doing? What are you doing in revenue? They're gonna be like, Who is this dude? Right? But yeah, but it's like, Look, I'm approaching it from the perspective of learning, right, I see that you're an expert in the space, I would love to, you know, learn a little bit more how you got where you are today. And then if you could just share a couple, you know, one or two places that I could look, if people are going to, people are going to respond to that, not everyone, because, you know, sometimes people are just busy. And we should never be, you know, we should never be offended. If someone says no, or someone doesn't answer you. People are just busy, right? Or they just might be in a bad mental space. So, you know, just I just think the most important thing is, is the willingness to connect, you reach out to, you know, 40 people in five respond, like, I don't care about how many people said no, I asked five more conversations that I had, that that made me 100 times smarter. So that that was kind of my that was my approach.

Kimmiko James  1:04:03  
Very well said. And I believe the last piece of advice. Well, the last advice segment question I got to have is the that you mentioned was outsourcing, which I think is also very underrated. A lot of people will have started a tech company and you probably think this too, but they might assume they have to have the best tech talent in the Bay Area on the east coast to build up this startup. Super cool AI technology. I can't have anything less fun for you, you know, building out your company in Colombia. It's it's obviously like kind of a different mindset. Okay, I have to think about what works. what works best for me and the company's budget. Yeah, rather than spending, like you said, half a million dollars on 123 engineers and which the startup might be dead by then. Right. So I guess how, what do you have for new founders that might have that initial mindset of thinking they need the best and the most money but they can outsource So I

Darius Gant  1:05:00  
would I would suggest a shift in mentality, right? There was this old there was this belief that everyone who is the best is in Silicon Valley. First of all, that's, I mean, a lot of people have left, right. So, so for that reason, it may not be true. You know, but but the world has changed. And I'm not meaning just, you know, because of the pandemic, I'm just meaning in general, because of what people are able to do with the internet. Right. So historically, you know, access to education dependent on your ability to get to a university. So the countries that had the most money, had the best universities were able to train up the most talent, and that talent went on to get the best jobs. Well, now, especially if you're talking about AI, universities aren't even training. I mean, I don't want to say they aren't, but like, they're not the best resource to learn about how to build AI, right? There's so many different other programs that people have access to that now, I just need an internet connection, and a laptop, and I can start learning. Right? So the best is no longer based on your proximity to a university in a first world country, right? Now, the best is more dependent upon your access to the internet, having a laptop and your willingness to work hard, right. So we used to think the best, you know, associate the best being in, in the US. But there are people who are developing software, who are developing technologies, who are ridiculously talented, every bit as good, as is the best folks that you see, you know, whether it be anywhere in North America, right. But, you know, they just happen to live in a different country. And, you know, maybe you can recruit them to come to your startup in the US, but like, not everybody wants to go to the US either. You know what I mean? Not everyone wants to live in Canada, not everyone, some people love their family and want to be close to their family, but are just ridiculously talented. So I would say, you know, just we have to change the way we think. And it's kind of a little bit of bravado that we have behind how we think about where the best of the best talent is. But we have to start thinking more globally, right. If you say you want to hire the best, then you probably should be looking globally, right, versus a city of 9 million people at the at the largest. And then the other side is Look, if you are able to find someone who's really, really high quality, and they just happen to live, you know, have a lower cost of living right? Now. Now you're helping them and you're helping yourself, right? versus, hey, I'm going to sit on this idea I had for a startup, because I don't have the money, I don't have as much money as I need to build with, you know, an engineer based in Silicon Valley. I can, you know, now you can move forward on those ideas, right, which is giving more people with talent with great ideas and opportunity to press forward. So then it just becomes a matter of how do you get access to those people who aren't in your backyard? Right. And that's kind of what we do. But yeah, I mean, in terms of, you know, just just really in the great thing for founders now is that access to those people, like, you know, there is a relationship element, but like, again, we got the internet, right, so we got the internet, so, so then it's just kind of Alright, well, how can I you know, build trust in terms of hiring those people in who we work with? And obviously, I think, you know, working relationship depends a lot on on, you know, look timezone. I don't like to be a bit too in the morning, every day. I don't. So yeah, so then it's like, Alright, you know, I just got to make sure they're in the same timezone quality is good, you know, we get along. Okay, good, let's have let's have a conversation. But yeah, you know, those are, those are my thoughts just haven't, you know, seen it from the venture side, right, having, you know, been in close proximity to the valley. And I don't want to sound like I'm just knocking the valley because it is, you know, there were great things about it, right. But then also having lived in, you know, and seeing other countries, other cultures, you know, talent, globally, you know, it just inspired me to think a little bit a little bit differently. And, you know, again, if we take, if we come back to this point with about, you know, 70% of the costs are in talent, right? If I can go somewhere and find, you know, a level talent at a fraction of the costs, that allows me to reinvest more into the business. And look, if I want to bring those folks local. The success of my product will allow me to do that. But if I'm never able to get my product off the ground in a significant way, you know, I'm missing out, right, unnecessarily.

Kimmiko James  1:09:38  
sought advice all around, and I really like that quote, I might add to social media at some point for your episode, but all you need is internet, laptop and hard work. I really liked that quote. But, yeah, that's all I have for you. derrius Where can people follow you in your journey, whether that slink Instagram or Twitter? Where can people follow you?

Darius Gant  1:10:02  
Yeah. Instagram is just my name at darious Gant. Same thing with Twitter. Definitely Find me on LinkedIn, though. My LinkedIn is on m dot darious Gant. So I'm there. And then I would generally recommend, you know, just want to the website darious camp comm that I recommend that I actually have. So I do understand, like, every not everyone is ready for for AI. But I gotta I've actually got a podcast that I'm launching later this month. And that podcast is specific to telling the story, the journey of black and brown founders. So it's more about like, what are the as someone without a problem with a great idea? of right, how do I go from great idea to traction. And so we interview black and brown founders to one just, you know, look, getting back to that point, you know, meet at the NAB convention saying, Hey, folks are just like me, and they're like doing really amazing things. What's their process? Right? So just observing their process, specific to building tech companies. And then we'll also be diving into, you know, strategy. So not just the tech piece, but like, how do we think about sales? Right, go to market strategy, we got to make money. So

Kimmiko James  1:11:20  
yeah, thanks for sharing that. And for anybody listening, that's just another podcast that's in the space, because there are a few of them featuring black faces and entrepreneurship in the tech, but there aren't that many. So definitely be sure to keep an eye out for darious this new podcast.

Unknown Speaker  1:11:35  
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Darius Gant  1:11:35  
And you're doing great work yourself. Like I said, I love what I've heard so far, and what you are doing personally, and, you know, just the conversation that we had, and you know, the the hustle that you've put in, I can tell that down the road. I don't know we haven't taught what it is that you ultimately want to accomplish. But, but look, you got all these you got all the ingredients there. So I look forward to how you start putting the pieces together. Thanks for having me on and, and you know, any anytime I can be helpful, definitely you know, let me know.

Kimmiko James  1:12:12  
Yeah, thanks for coming on. I really appreciate it. Join me in the next episode, and we'll try have a conversation with Daniel humanise current growth manager at sequel dBm and founder of deadly a financial tech company that aims to help people get out of debt and save money. Thank you again for listening to this episode of The Black enterprise network podcast. It would be greatly appreciated if you could leave a review on Apple podcast or any platform that has reviews