Dimitri is an investment banking and private equity analyst with experiences at Goldman Sachs, Battery Ventures, and more. He is also a co-founder of Equal Equity Impact: an investment firm that specifically invests in startups founded by underrepresented groups which includes Black, Latinx, Women, and LGBTQ+ founders.
In this episode Dimitri shares his journey into venture capital, the differences between investment and private equity firms, and advice on how to stand out in the interview process.
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
Welcome to the black enterprise network Podcast Episode Five. Before we jump into the episode, I'd like to talk about the new book I'm releasing in the coming months. If you're a student or new grad on the hunt for internships or job offers, then I highly recommend that you consider pre ordering my book, navigating the job space with little to no resources are actually in terms of the internet, too many resources can be really overwhelming. And that's why I created a condensed version of those resources and lessons within the book. So if you're a student and interested in knowing how do I actually stand out from these 1000s of applicants, how do I fix my resume? How do I build a network and so many other things then check out the book at the link bi t.ly slash GTO underscore book 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. In this episode, I talk with Dimitri Willard Dimitri is an investment banking and private equity analyst, and a co founder of equal equity impact, an investment firm that specifically invest in startups founded by underrepresented groups. We talk about how Dimitri got started, and in his journey to finance and investing what some of these different buzz words mean in the tech space. And we talked about why now is the perfect time to get involved with social impact. Be sure to check out equal equity impact and see how they're going to beat the status quo of venture capital investing, and level the playing field for black Latinx women and underrepresented founders that really aren't getting enough funding. And yeah, let's kick off the episode. Cool. So let's let's just kind of jump into what started or influenced your path into finance and investing?
Dimitri Wheeler 1:52
Well, it's interesting story, one than I feel, I kind of feel that my path as far as motivation, wise, my path into finance, it's changed a lot I feel my motivations for getting in are a lot different than my motivations for staying on this path. And I feel like the motivations change all the time, it's sort of become like this convoluted journey. But you know, getting to that I originally was, you know, I entered college, I read our college is really two things. One, a certain drive, you could say, so like this, this, this competitive nature in me and just kind of wanting to stretch myself all the time. So I think that played a huge role. And maybe I'll get into that more later. And then technology, my dad's a dentist, and actually kind of, you know, growing up in visiting his office after school, whether it was like helping with snow cones for the during the summer for his patients or wiping down chairs, just after school during the week day.
I got to really get a peek into his business from a young age and I saw how much him as you know, not someone of formal business acumen or you know, someone who went to business school, how much he leaned on his dental practice management software, and seeing how, you know, that was able to help him tackle things like,
you know, handling expenses, marketing, accounting, etc. And I kind of took that in notice that in entering college had this certitude that, oh, you know, technology, better businesses. And that was something that where I just I just knew in so I looked at that as a potential area was nowhere near as technically skilled to pursue something like software engineering, but I did keep that in mind when I did look, I looked at business and I think that, that love for tech, sort of emulated into this, you know, desire to get in finance, because I felt finance was the career that touch tech the most. I kind of started out thinking about marketing, you know, maybe go to some tech company do marketing. Also, I was really into sports, I still am in in, you know, I am in my dream job all through high school is all do marketing at Nike, but then, you know, once getting into college, that that that pursuit of technology started to take over. But ya know, I just I go to school in Utah, and even in Utah, there were, you know, tons of opportunities to get involved in tech investing. And so one of my first internships was with, with battery ventures, it's a technology focused VC firm. And that was just amazing. You know, it wasn't like insanely technical or rigorous. So, I wasn't even focused on the finance when I was doing I was just focused on the technology, but that was enough to succeed in the role. And so from there, I you fell into the world of technology, focus investing, you know, I got some relevant experience with with battery ventures, which is a technology focused venture capital firm. And so venture capital, which you know, that can kind of be a buzzword, I feel so for any listeners that aren't aware of venture capital is sort of that earlier stage of the spectrum of investing. So, you know, you are a venture capital firm would invest in something like Nike,
but they would invest in, in, in, in a startup, something that, you know, let's say 30 employees or less, obviously, can be can be much more, but, um, you know, focus on that startup, you know, area think of, you know, Shark Tank type of side of the spectrum. And so I was looking at companies that were very early stage. And that was a really fascinating experience. Because, you know, unlike some of the later stage companies, where a lot of the analysis is based off numbers, these companies are so early, they don't even have numbers yet, you know, they're hopefully revenue generating, you know, having sales, but even sometimes, that's not a guarantee. And so you're really making a qualitative analysis. So that's assessing the, the, the CEO that's assessing the product, customer reviews, and kind of trying to dial into where you think the growth will go. And so that was really cool. That was really fascinating. But again, it was so early stage that I kind of wanted to take it somewhere else, like I said, before, you know, the motivations kind of changed throughout the story. And so from there, I I want to look at bigger companies, you know, companies that, that were a little larger, and, you know, a little bit more, you know, headline prevalent, you could say, and that's what took me to Wall Street. So my first Wall Street internship, I was with Credit Suisse, which is, you know, one of the largest Swiss banks, and I was on the trade floor there. So that was, that was an experience. I'm sure a lot of people have seen Wolf of Wall Street. It's Yeah, it was that kind of work. Right. Not the same and not the same environment, you know, regulation and, and how they say that, I'd say regulation and compliance of genes change the bat environment, fortunately, but, you know, same kind of work, right. So connecting different stock traders and institutional investors and helping them, you know, their quotas, and it was just so high paced, and I loved it, you know, every second was important, and every second could make make a big difference, potentially million dollars, you know, potentially with millions and millions of dollars on the table type type of scale difference. And so, I was willing to give up on the tech side, because I really enjoyed that fast paced side, I really enjoyed, you know, the companies I touched a really big, you know, these are things I could talk about at a dinner table in. And, you know, it actually kind of could resonate with someone that had been involved in business to know some of the companies that whose stocks I move in, or who, whose companies that I would know, perform deep dive analyses on. However, what it didn't have was any sort of deep dive, right, you always felt one inch deep, one mile wide. So you touched a lot of cool areas, and you kind of you know, you got in or, you know, at some base level interact with some of these really large companies, we never really did much on that. You didn't really talk to anyone in those companies, you didn't really get deep into their financials, you didn't really get to see what their CEO and leadership team were thinking of strategically. And so I wanted that. And I also didn't have the tech and I started to miss that as well. So I kind of naturally the next step for me was investment banking. In a technology focus group, where I worked at with Goldman Sachs internship I just finished a couple weeks ago. And so that was kind of the happy medium of everything. I've got a I got to look at big companies, big companies in tech and media space, which I love, and really think strategically and deep dive, you know, it was a really fascinating career. You know, I'm not allowed to say the names of companies, but very prevalent companies that anyone would know, I was able to, you know, be in, in meetings with, with their, with with CEOs chairman's of the board. And he's, you know, you know, high level things, and I'm here some intern and I was able to be in that room with really intelligent people. And, you know, see what did they think was important about the climate, about
their industries, about their companies, in seeing what they prioritize was such a great learning experience, and I love It, I really did. But one thing that I did feel was missing out on was my ability to, to really think about what I was doing, you know, I perform a lot of strategic analysis. But I was doing so many deals, right, I was on almost like autopilot, I felt with the the amount of work that gets done in investment banking, you know, even though it was super interesting work, you're working, you know, sometimes over 100 hours a week, you know, never under 90, it felt like so, the, the amount of work being thrown at you, you never really have time to think about, you know, how does this fit into the larger picture, you're just so busy doing the analysis, and then the minute you're done, there's too ready for you on your desk, for you to tackle next. And that is great, because that is a, that is the way you learn by doing the reps in, in getting that experience kind of going through going through the pain, you could say it's kind of the same idea with like med school, you know, you kind of have to go through that pain, if you ever want to be a surgeon. And it the same principle applies and finance through through that. But you don't have at least I found I was a little bit on autopilot, I didn't really get to think about these things I was so interested in, I was too busy with the deliverables and meeting the deadlines. And so from there, I recently accepted a job. So to finally do the internship, this will be the full time job, I'll be starting next year with a private equity firm in their sort of technology focus team, where they're investing in, you know, growing companies that they think, you know, that, you know, it's beyond the venture stage, these are companies that are you know, very large international many, but they still have room to go and then but they need money to do it. And they they need ideas, they need, you know, different ways to penetrate the market and become the those big companies. So for an example of one that that that my team invested in is lift, which the investment was 2015 or 2016. So back then, you know, lift was a big company, obviously, but it wasn't anything it is today, you know, it had to sort of go through that middle phase of acceleration. And it's, it's that area of investing that I'm most interested in, because, you know, you get the benefit of interacting with with companies like you do in VC, but they're also you know, very large scale and, you know, ones that interest you a lot. And so that's the firm is the firm's KKR well being in that will be really, I think the best intersection you know, focus on technology, doing the the analysis I love, but not being too much on autopilot to where I can't really start to connect the dots and develop the soft skills side of the job, which, which I think as you grow as an investor, that becomes increasingly important. You know, I think the biggest thing you can learn are the biggest difference maker in a successful investor. And an unsuccessful investor is the ability to, I think it's two things that actually hits. So the two things that I think make the difference between a successful investor and an unsuccessful investor, or at least less successful investor is being able to identify opportunities that other people can't see. And, and obviously, invest in them. And then to and this is my favorite one is the ability to win hearts and minds, right? Being able to enter a room of people who might not agree with this investment, or might not agree with your thesis, and exit the room with everyone in total agreement that is such a valuable skill. And I feel that if you're too much on autopilot, you will miss out on that. And so something I'd say as advice is for people not to just take the most technically rigorous career that they can and you know, think about the long, long term horizon and, you know, think about backwards mapping, perhaps, you know, where do I want to be for me, I want to be involved in investing for a long time. And I know that the more senior you get, the more important those skills are. And so I'm looking at it from that backwards perspective. Which is, which is really again, just touched on the main thing here is that my motivations for entering finance and stay in finance are completely different. Those motivations constantly change, which I know is a long way to tackle how I got into finance but
Kimmiko James 14:42
yeah, that's an that's an interesting perspective. I've heard from someone majoring in finance like usually when I talk to finance people, which hasn't been a lot of people sorry for generalizing whoever's listening, but usually say they just want to get into business and management but they never really mentioned this. specifics of that, especially regarding the tech space where, yeah, I don't even think about how much finance and investing goes into the tech space. So very interesting perspective. Like, I'm excited to dig into it. I saw a lot of your internships, they say, finance analyst, venture capital, analyst, and just all these different things. So, what is it? What does it mean to be an analyst and these positions? And what kind of work were you working on?
Dimitri Wheeler 15:26
Yeah, no. So yeah, great question. A lot of analysis, you know, very clearly, but not to really dive into that the roles are honestly very different, but kind of the constant you'd see is just an ability to, you know, tackle a lot of things at once multitask. And, because especially in these initial roles starting out, you know, you never really enter, you hardly ever enter with any expertise at all right, so everything's always new. So it's being able to tackle up new information, sort through it, and sort of through that produce, whether that's some deliverable, an analysis on trends, or some sort of write up, you know, it's just being able to process a lot of new information coming at you from all different directions in bringing out some sort of Policy Project, or Oregon deliverable. But you know, kind of looking through that, you know, I started out in, I started in more like a corporate finance role, it was less finance more strategy. So I was with next era, energy, which is, so just big fortune 500, renewable energy company, they were, I mean, that's honestly a funny story. And getting there, again, in the motivations have changed so much, so at the time, so they're based in just outside of Miami. So at the time, I, you know, being just a young dumb freshman, wanted somewhere, so I just wanted to intern somewhere nice, you know, not the company, just, you know, a nice location somewhere, I'd want to spend my summer and, you know, I type in cities, I love it, like, like, I'm from San Francisco. So I love that I love LA and New York and Miami. And so I just, you know, looked into Miami internships didn't network didn't know anyone, and it kind of just worked out, it was kind of like a nice big break, you could say, but so that analyst experience was a lot different than VC, because, you know, like, for some of those VC roles, for example, those are, you know, very lean cultures, you know, you don't have these mega companies, you know, hundreds of offices, dozens of different countries. So the work is different, your role is different, which, which actually preferred, because I'm, you know, working at that big company, next era, I was such a small piece of calling it a pie doesn't do it, justice, I was I was part of the wind division. So, so wind power wind turbines, in within that I was sort of the business operation side of it. And within that, you know, we were only looking at things in, in the western North America. So, you know, very, very niche. And, you know, I there was so much happening around me, I no idea what was going on, you know, I didn't have any sort of sight into what other divisions were doing, what other departments were doing. And I didn't really like that. So I, that's kind of when the technology interest started to take over having an external campus battery internship and say, Okay, this was something that's really enjoyable. And I got to kind of see what was going around firm wide. And I felt important to the overall mission of the firm, which was, you know, about a venture, invest in technology companies. And so my role in that was finding those investments, you know, it was it was very, you know, my, just my everyday work was very in line with the firm's mission. And in, in that I, you know, felt a lot of purpose. And it was great. And, you know, I didn't have to worry about being focused on one specific company. And I had the ability to kind of dive into this interest of technology and let that take me wherever did so that could be, you know, looking at more on the consumer internet side, or more technology, like AI enable our artificial intelligence enabled solutions that help business automate their processes. So I was just going anywhere I really wanted to, and I was in that control. And, and, and, yeah, really long winded, but
Kimmiko James 19:34
no, it's okay. Like, details are the best. Like, I kind of just wanted to know that, because you mentioned that there's a difference in what you did with the traditional kind of financial analyst position versus like the VC one. So like, what are the day to day look like for one versus versus the other because a lot of people might not know what it means, what business strategy means or what it's like to work on things in the startup and tech based world. And I know this is where it gets a little a little sketchy for people who like not sharing too much information, but just like, sharing the tasks you did would probably be helpful, if you can,
Dimitri Wheeler 20:15
ya know, I'll be I'll be as transparent as possible. So, yes, looking at the strategy side, again, a lot comes through just the difference in size and scope. So, you know, for for that role, you know, it's very huge company, you know, 10s of 1000s of employees, whereas the VC firm, you know, probably sub 1000, right? So, just in that the nature of the job is completely different. So looking at strategy, again, with a bigger company, you're everything's a little bit more targeted. So, um, so again, I was working on, you know, the wind division, I had a specific region, and I was, I wasn't doing anything, I was involved in engineering of wind turbines that wasn't involved in, in selling them. My was just involved in looking through cost optimization, different strategy implementation. So that could be, oh, if we have these two buildings, how much money can we save, if we had some sort of, you know, truck center or something in the middle to you know, reduce traveling costs? Right. So, you know, very targeted, you know, had nothing to do with the overall broad picture of the of the company? Or is the VC role, especially in, you know, pretty much any investing role at the junior level, you're involved in sourcing. So sourcing is essentially, the prospecting of potential investment opportunities. So you're kind of as an analyst, or an intern, you're kind of the frontline in finding opportunities, because these, these firms have raised funds. But that's only half the battle, if that now you have to find opportunities to invest, which, you know, they got to be they got to one fit the mandate of the investors, you gave my answer, because investors don't just want to give money away, and not know where it's going to they have their own, you know, I don't want this to go to X, Y, and Z. And so you have to fit that. But also make sure it's an attractive opportunity. And that's a really cool experience, you know, being able to talk to CEOs and founders, being able to learn about different industries, and understand trends and potential growth areas. And then once you find something you like, being able to run the due diligence on it. See, okay, I like some of the external factors. I like the industry I like, or I like the management team, but let's dive into the business. Is this viable is the product market fit? And so I felt those that role, you know, comparing investing to the more big business, I thought I felt it was a little bit more, you know, you're a little bit more control. And, you know, you took the work where you want it to go. And you also, you're just really core to everything going on?
Kimmiko James 23:02
Yeah, yeah, thanks for breaking that down a bit more. Because like, I can definitely see that the way I interpret it from like, an engineering perspective, is how you work for, let's just say, Facebook, or Google, sorry, Facebook, or Google workers. But let's say you work there. And it's like, you're making some impact, but probably not as much as you think you could just because kind of like you were saying, when you work in these big businesses and companies, you don't really have as much exposure to you don't have much control, you know, much control of working on the stuff that drives the company forward more than ever, because like, they're gonna be fine without you.
Dimitri Wheeler 23:42
So it's almost like a support staff.
Kimmiko James 23:45
Yeah, yeah, that's, that's basically what I got from the engineering perspective. So that's why working at small, medium, medium sized companies, you get a little bit more control and just more impact.
Dimitri Wheeler 23:57
Kimmiko James 25:52
Yeah, that makes sense. Like, I guess what's hard for people, and sometimes myself is just knowing how to challenge yourself. Because that's kind of what you described it like, you know, this is really boring, I already know what's gonna happen, it might be easy, but I just can't continue with this to just jump into like the abyss of the unknown for who knows what could potentially happen. So I guess to kind of follow up on that, like, how do you know when you're bored? Because a lot of people might not know.
Dimitri Wheeler 26:24
I don't know what I'm bored? That's a great question. I think. I don't know. I think it's, I think you just got to have some some, just in an introspective mindset and look, hey, you know, what did I learn this month? Like? am I learning the same thing? Am I reinforcing something that I've already learned, which, which could be great as well? Or am I a little bit over exhausting on on the same skills they don't feel are taking. And, you know, that's, that's why I love internships. I, you know, all through school, internships, you know, there's hardly been a semester I did have an internship. So even during school, and that was, despite, you know, being a student athlete, or, you know, taking, taking a lot of, you know, quite heavy courses, I just felt you learn so much. And you got to see so much through those internships and being able to have that experience of constantly diving into different scenarios. And, you know, different companies, different perspectives, you learn a lot in, I've always wanted a career where even if I stayed at the same firm, I could have that same experience, I could feel things were changing, I could feel, you know, I was being stretched or pulled in different areas, and over over time, was developing a really good tool set of skills that, you know, can make can make me more marketable than perhaps if I took a little bit more stable and less hectic route, but, you know, maybe didn't learn things that that I would have had had it on the other route.
Kimmiko James 27:56
Yeah, it's really hard to know, I guess you're learning track in terms of life and real world experience. Even myself, I'm still figuring it out. So thanks for sharing that. And that's honestly a good segue for a question. I did have of like, a lot of people, especially students, they want to get into these investing in business internship roles, especially when it comes into when it comes in venture capital. How did you find these opportunities? And how did you stand out from the hundreds of other applicants that applied? Because it does seem to be very competitive to get into? Yeah, no,
Dimitri Wheeler 28:32
it is. I think that I think a lot of people, so a lot of people miss understand the purpose of interviews. And so something that was really cool is I had the experience, I worked for an investment bank, where the interns, the previous interns, would run the interview process in the earlier stages for the next year's interns. So I got to be on the other side of the table, which was really awesome. And really cool. You know, I got to see what goes into those decisions. And you'd be surprised how little the things you say matter, and how much the feeling in the room and the way you said the matters, because no one's really going to recall after especially, you know, if someone's writing an interview process, you know, you take take Apple, for example, how many applicants you think they've gone through, you know, they're not going to recall the one thing you said? They're not going to recall? You know, the extra fact you threw in answering the question. What they will remember is, you know, were you nervous? Did you did you, you know, explain yourself with confidence. Did you show actual interest in what you were talking about? Or were you more robotic? Did you have charisma? Did you ask great questions at the end of the intern interview? Did you Did you have a good story in the beginning that showed Okay, this is something that you generally want, or did you kind of walk into the interview in kind of leave a forgettable imprint on on on the other side on the interviewer. Because then I noticed the people we'd get introduced to where were those people who they're memorable? You know, you could tell he wanted it. And it's it's being able to communicate in a in a nervous setting. You know, interviews are very nerve wracking for a lot of people they were for me in the beginning as well. But if you can, I think the best way to stay out of the crowd is to hit those things to hit those soft skill points of not being too jumpy in your answers not being uncomfortable not being robotic. I think that goes a long way. Because a lot of people approach interviews like that, because whether they're they're up all night trying to cram studying in or, you know, they have a lot on the line, you just kind of got to zone out and just be authentic and be real people, because people want to work with people that make them comfortable, quite frankly.
Kimmiko James 30:55
Yeah, that's honestly solid advice and can definitely relate when I was, gosh, yeah, behavioral interviews, people really don't take them seriously. I know I didn't, when I first started, I was like, it's just having a conversation. But when you really first start interviewing, yeah, you're really shaken up in the beginning, and you kind of lose track of what you thought you were gonna say. So a question I kind of have for you is like, what are some things you said, If you can't remember? What are some things you said? That helped you stand out in those behavioral interviews?
Dimitri Wheeler 31:27
Yeah, I think I think you just got to really analyze yourself. And because every, you know, I feel like people always get stumped on this some sort of like, tell me about a time question. You know, what's a moment when question, and we all have those moments, but without the proper preparation, it's hard to pick, pick those back, pick those out of your brain and deliver them in an interview with a question that you weren't anticipating. Right. So it does take a lot of preparation, that sense of really looking back and reflecting Okay, what are times where, you know, I overcame something I didn't think I was going to, because we all have them, or once a time where I really demonstrated leadership skills. In a difficult setting, you know, maybe the problem you're tackling was changing a lot. And I really had to step up for some reason. And that could be anything that could be, you know, something as simple as a school project, right? For me, I really just looked at one, you know, being an athlete, I had a lot of team and leadership experience through that, which was great. I've done a lot of volunteering as well, which is, which is, you know, a whole different area, a whole different field, and you don't want to come off as too one toned, you want to have, you know, different things you can bring up. So whether that's school involvement, whether that's sports, whether that's something you're passionate about, maybe you're, you're in some debate team, or maybe you you frequent some some sort of club, in school or outside of school, you know, thinking about those things, because it's, it's, it doesn't always had to be the business story, right? Oh, I was at work. And I did this and that, they get that all the time, you know, stand out a little. And so me, for example, I've leaned a lot on, on sports. So I play hockey. And you know, if you if you ever asked me some sort of team experience, or you know, a time you didn't get along with with a co worker, or teammate or a time your leader said something you disagreed with anything like that, I can instantly think of something through through sports. But honestly, everyone has to play sports. So think about, you know, what do you dedicate your time to? Is it music? Is it a band, you know, those are all you don't think about? Those are co worker experiences to it to a degree and they they totally apply in an interview. And so I just really tried to stay away from the generic business answers, because I could have easily You know, I've done a lot of interesting stuff that easily said, Oh, this time I worked here, so and so and I didn't agree on on the solution. So we we got through it, etc. But that's boring, right? A lot of people are gonna say that, stand out a little more, by letting your true personality shine through, you know, don't sort of fake yourself to get a job. Because if you have to, it's probably not the right job for you. Instead, be yourself and the, in the firm or the company, but you would thrive and as yourself bill it you'll just gel, you'll understand. You know, I for example, I so I just finished working with Goldman Sachs for an internship. And many people would call it that one of the best if not the best investment banks to work at especially starting out, but on the road to that journey. I got rejected by come by companies or banks that you would think aren't as good, right? And that's all because you need to go where you fit. And, you know, maybe I could have come across a little different to try and get the offer to try and fit a culture but then that's the culture. I'm stuck in. For the next few years, if not longer, so being authentic and being yourself, one, I think it helps you as a just for your life to get somewhere where you actually fit the true you fits. But it also helps. But it also helps your performance in an interview, because that's how you stand out. The people who are real and authentic in the interview room, typically get the job, in my experience realizing.
Kimmiko James 35:27
Yeah, that's, again, always solid advice, especially for students starting out interviewing, like, for me when I was interviewing. Yeah, I don't know where it was getting my advice from, but I thought I just had to, like, stand out and kind of show off this stuff I'd been working on and it came across as arrogant. And yeah, it was not a good first few rounds. But I just took your advice, like, you know, whatever. I'm just going to work on stuff that's kind of out out of my scope of my in terms of my major, and then just be myself when I'm talking. Because you're going to have to be yourself once you get the job. And you can't really can't really fake that once you're there. So solid advice. How did you like find these bc internship opportunities? And do you have any advice for those looking to get into it?
Dimitri Wheeler 36:17
So that's, that's actually probably something I should preface so I only actually done one VC internship, the rest have been more private equity, which is more of the area that I'm in, I actually, so actually just took an analyst job. So I'm not even going to Goldman I took an analyst job at a big big private equity firm, like way beyond the scope of VC. But in there more growth oriented team. So that question, maybe we should word it, just say investing instead of
Kimmiko James 36:47
gotcha. Yeah, it's a we can may turn this spin this into some different of like, what is the difference between working at an investment firm versus a private equity firm?
Dimitri Wheeler 37:05
Okay, yeah, no, that's so an investment firm is probably the broadest you could you could take it. It's sort of the top of the umbrella. But private equity is a stem from that. So private equity, isn't the private equity firms are investment firms. Where they differ, is they? Well, an investment firm in general, that could be anything, right? invest in real estate and be an investment firm, you can invest in cryptocurrencies only and still be an investment firm. As long as you know, investing is the mandate is the reason the firm exists. And so private equity is a take on investing in companies. Again, so so private equity is a method of investing in companies traditionally, through buyout or majority control through a small equity contribution, surrounded by a larger debt contribution that's raised from other investors. Let me say this, let's talk
Kimmiko James 38:09
I know it's okay. Like it. I know it gets deep into into,
Dimitri Wheeler 38:13
but I didn't say that, I'll say that less technical. Okay, so. So private equity. On the other hand, while it is an investment firm, it's a specific subset of, of investing, where it's, you know, the simplest way I could put it is, it's, it's almost like flipping companies. So obviously, everyone knows about, you know, flipping houses, by some sort of property, maybe add on a guest house or redo the yard, redo the kitchen, and now you've raised the value, so you sell it for more, it's kind of like it again, that's that's a really rough take on it. But essentially, private equity firms, they buy companies that they like, or that they see opportunity for improvement, and they hold those companies for a certain amount of time, do the improvements. You know, perhaps that could be anything from expanding internationally, or purchasing other companies, other other competing companies to make your company much bigger, invest more valuable, and making the company better, and then ultimately selling it for more than you paid for, or at least more than the private equity firm paid for because the private equity firm is only donating a part of the only putting a little bit of money into the pot. They get the rest of the money from other people but their key responsibilities, they manage that investment. complicated. I know it's
Kimmiko James 39:39
complicated. I know it's okay. It's before we kind of jump into what you're currently working on equal equity impact. I just wanted to know what are some resources people could use to learn more about VC because like it like you just said it's, you can go really deep into it and Yeah, do you have any resources that people could use to just follow up on everything you shared, just because it is kind of hard to fit that in kind of a 31 hour segment, in terms of like Wall Street and investing in just stuff like that.
Dimitri Wheeler 40:17
So you mean more like, resources to get prepared? If you want to pursue a career in those fields,
Kimmiko James 40:23
resources to get prepared, or just if you're curious, because for me, when I think of investing and private equity, and venture capital, it's like, there, it's kind of like data science, you know, it's just like this, this term, everyone's using grouped up into 1000 other things, and you just don't know how to really define it. So just repeat that might be curious as well.
Dimitri Wheeler 40:46
Yeah, definitely. Um, so I think to keep things if you want to approach it from just an understanding standpoint, they're really great YouTube videos, actually, that I feel with the visuals make it a lot less of a complicated, convoluted concept. So YouTube's i think is a great source for that. There are also websites that start to bring a little bit deeper if you've kind of gone from a curiosity of you know, what is it some more how does it work, if you're sort of progressing that there's there's really good websites out there, like invested pedia mergers and acquisitions, just filled with, with with articles, and, you know, deep dives into different glossary terms, or types of firms type of types, investments, financial terminology, which I think getting that knowledge makes everything a little bit easier. But for someone who's interested in pursuing it, there are there are tons of guides and resources that are that are floating around the internet for free, or hopefully going through school, through any sort of finance club that typically most schools have in that typically, most of those finance clubs have access to those guides. And so those guides are essential, they're kind of like, they're kind of like l SAT prep guides, right? You know, if you if you plan to get involved in investment banking, or the investing spirit, whole venture capital, private equity, you need to interview and to do well in those interviews, you need those guides in so those guys are just filled with questions, you know, question after question on different concepts and you kind of need to go through them tons of times, in get those reps for it to really start to sink in, you know, some people can just get through and get it right away, I was one of the people, again, from a family with, with with no real, you know, financial background are much involved in in business at all, a lot of the terminology is new for me. And so I had to go through again and again, before things started to click. And so it's kind of like that, you know, a lot of these interviews they do, they're almost like verbal, like a verbal a CT, if you would, you know, they'll throw things like different brain teasers, different, you know, accounting questions, but then also more More, more personal questions, trying to understand you as a person giving you scenarios and seeing how you would react in those scenarios or make you call upon past past this is in Jeddah made make and why you made them just so they can really see how you think
Kimmiko James 43:27
I really excited to talk about equal equity impacts, like I looked at the website, just the statistics to see the statistics about black founders and entrepreneurs not getting as much funding really hit. Just because it's, it's something you hear so often, but yet, there's still not much being done about that. So could you just tell me a bit about what it is and the work that you've been doing? with it?
Dimitri Wheeler 43:55
Yeah, definitely. So to kind of lead into that, you know, I've been doing work in finance, whether that's private equity, venture capital, or investment banking, and kind of the, the constant amongst all those varying careers is, you know, where are the brothers right there. Those are very white Dom predominantly white industries. And it reflects in the clientele that you deal with, because the companies are pretty much the same as well. And I just being someone that knows they're, you know, there's so much so much black innovation so much, you know, Latino and innovation, actually, there's so much there's so much opportunity to reinvigorate the investing landscape by looking at underrepresented groups in areas, whether that's, you know, the lack of females in these industries, the lack of you know, black and brown professionals, LGBT professionals And that reflects in in the clientele the companies that you invest in the companies that you represent. Now, those are also very predominately white clients as well. And so I know that there's just so much innovation in some of those underrepresented areas that that that the industry could tap into. And so really my whole mission with with equal equity impact was to found a VCs a venture capital initiative that can invest in solely those groups. So right from the get go, focus on some of these underrepresented, often overlooked founders, companies, communities, so that, you know, we could level the playing field and give them an equal chance by focusing on them. Right, and, you know, talking about equal equity impact. So it's a nonprofit, which already is very unique for an investing firm. And so what does that mean, for us, that means that, given our not for profit structure, any sort of profit that comes through investment, instead of returning that to an investor, we put that back into the fund to further our outreach to further our impact. And why that's possible is because with the nonprofit structure, we don't actually, we aren't actually at the mercy of investors, we're not, there's no investor reporting to, in giving, giving a profit to all monies raised through donors. And, you know, we have a lot of kind of other initiatives we thought of through that. Something that we're going to be launching will be scholarships, for example, scholarships for underrepresented founders that are still in school, because oftentimes, starting up a venture, while you're in school can be a really risky, risky action, because you know, if you don't have the degree yet, you might have nothing to fall back on. If you take that full time, or, you know, if you drop out of school to pursue that startup, which, you know, we all know, many startups fail. So it's, that's not very unlikely. So something we want to do is scholarships that can be used to help, you know, reduce barriers that keep student entrepreneurs still in school, but still able to pursue their their passion and pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations, while still getting them sort of a greenback, to fall back on. And that being obviously a degree should things go south.
Kimmiko James 47:22
Honestly, the work that you and your co founder and your board of advisors is doing. It's just, it's amazing to see because, again, from my perspective, getting into the tech space and entrepreneurship, you don't, you don't see a lot of these investment firms. And I'm probably gonna butcher the term. So I won't say I was gonna say, these investment firms and venture capital, but yeah, it's, it's hard. But yeah, you just don't see a lot of investment firms really just putting their money where their mouth is, I would say, just because, you know, with Black Lives Matter, I'm sure you've seen it, LinkedIn, all these emails and stuff like, these companies will say, We need more diversity, let's get more diversity, and let's find more black founders. But I guess I'm not as confident that they're willing to just do just that. So seeing you just have this initiative for these underrepresented groups that aren't getting the recognition and support they need is just amazing. So thank you.
Dimitri Wheeler 48:25
Yeah, no, and I appreciate that. And kind of just to add to that, it's really the same as Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter, right? Because, you know, there's so many people that can get offended by the term Black Lives Matter, you know, it's only black lives matter. You know, it's not, and it's the same with us. It's not that we think white entrepreneurs, or, you know, white male entrepreneurs aren't as innovative or aren't as important or wouldn't be as good of, you know, investment founders. It's not that it's that these underrepresented overlooked groups matter. So we're gonna focus on them, you know, to bring them back, all entrepreneurs matter. But there's, there's someone that's being overlooked. And we want to focus in pinpoint on that area, so that it can be more of a an evening play, even playing field. And I think that's the same as Black Lives Matter. And focusing on you know, potentially discriminated group more than other groups, so that they can eventually rise. And there can be that equality and all lives can matter in that regard.
Kimmiko James 49:30
And essentially, it is just to even the playing field. And unfortunately, I could go on for days about this. But just in summary, unfortunately, and a lot of people just don't see it that way. They just assume everyone has the same lives the same background and went to the same grade school, parents and yeah, just the same support system, but it's not like that. Like it's really not like that in tech, at least for me and maybe the same for you. I have to work 10 times harder to kind of put myself in this position for internships. So yeah, thanks for explaining it. Just a great summary overall about evening the playing field. Yeah, definitely have like, do you have any thoughts and advice for students looking to start something that brings change in social equity, like your investment firm, but they, they don't really know how to get started, you know? Because you, you started this, I saw LinkedIn, July of this year, I'm like, That's insane. He's him and his co founder starting this during all this pandemic, the racial injustice, and so much going on, like, have you have any advice for people? Yeah, I
Dimitri Wheeler 50:40
mean, you'll be surprised how many people out there want a change of pace, you know, you have, you know, you're talking about social impact, you know, most of the companies in the world that that are receiving funding or receiving money, or people are buying their stock, they're not the companies that are solving those global issues. You know, they're not the ones focused on equality, world hunger, you know, clean energy, clean access to water, that, you know, Tesla's not worried about that. Amazon's not worried about that, yet. They're, they're so valued, and so coveted by investors. So you'll be surprised how how much people want a change of pace, if you do come at them with something that that, you know, sure, there could be a financial return, as well, but also that social return, that's just as important. And so with that, I'd say just get started, you know, people, people want to get involved in that stuff. And that's what I noticed, you know, I feel if I was just raised, trying to start some venture capital firm, with no specific diversity focus, you know, I don't think I would have gotten much traction. And, you know, obviously, it's such a timely thing with with, with, with Jacob Blake, and in George Floyd. But, you know, even regardless, I feel those didn't have those awful instances didn't happen, we would have, we, I think we still would have garnered some that interest in gotten that traction that we've gotten, just because people want that change of pace. And so anyone out there that's listening, that that has an interest in some sort of social solution, you know, go for it, you know, it's very easy to raise grants, for those kind of things, it's very easy to start, it's very easy to receive grants for those kind of things, and to potentially get a scholarship, there are a lot of support systems out there for things focused in, you know, in social impact. So that'd be my advice, get the ball rolling, you'll never, you'll be amazed at people that that want to see for that mission. And kind of made before you take the initiative to share what you're doing, you know, tell people have people have you on their radar, you know, be involved in things, if there are certain issues or social issues that you're you're passionate about, you know, that could be as small as showing that passion through social media, or that could be attending certain events, you know, build a network around people that are, that are, you know, as passionate about certain certain topics as you are. And when you find a solution that you want to pursue that can address that problem. You have this huge support system of people, I can encourage you people that can, you know, donate their time, donate, you know, potentially their money, or help connect you the right people that can meet some of those startups reality.
Kimmiko James 53:37
touching upon what you said, Now is the time to get involved. And it's the best time to get involved. Because, you know, as much as we want to crap on the companies I stated earlier, Facebook, Google, they are they're definitely down to probably donate money, and help you towards creating more social impact. They're not necessarily going to do it themselves, obviously, as you kind of touched on, but they're willing to support you and that journey. Now is the time to to get the ball rolling for that social impact you're doing. Where can people follow you and equal equity impact and just all the work you're doing in general.
Dimitri Wheeler 54:17
So we have a website with sort of a news channel that not much news has happened yet, but that will will start to take effect and start up a little bit. As far as social media, we have a LinkedIn page where we plan to be pretty active, I plan to hopefully throw some potentially interviews with Western founders that we talk to talk about some of these issues to post articles that raise awareness to some of the gender and racial disparity and that's going on in the investment sphere. And, you know, might move on to other social media platforms from there, but I'd say probably get a LinkedIn page and the website would be Do the best place.
Kimmiko James 55:00
Thank you for being on the show and just sharing so much wisdom, I would say just, I really do just appreciate you just taking the time to just come and share your story and inspire others on how they can get involved too. Because, as I said previously, you you and your co founder started this during this year during this summer. And that's just amazing to me. So thank you for coming on and sharing your story.
Dimitri Wheeler 55:26
Cool. Thanks so much.
Kimmiko James 55:28
If you're interested in keeping up with Dimitri and the work being done at equal equity impact, be sure to check out their website and keep up with them on LinkedIn. And the next episode, I'm going to be talking with Kenton Rowley. We talked about his detailed journey to product management, and his current startup called Hello group. Thank you again for listening to the black enterprise network podcast and it would be greatly appreciated if you could leave a review on Apple podcasts or any other platform that has reviews.
Dimitri has worked in various private and public investment roles at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, and Battery Ventures. Dimitri is a member of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance and is on track to earn his designation as a Certified Nonprofit Professional in early 2021.
Having a passion for inclusion and social enterprise, Dimitri has volunteered with and worked for a number of NGOs including Village Capital, a DC-based social impact investing firm.
Dimitri is also a member of both Brigham Young University's Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Committee and Men's Ice Hockey Team.