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57: Building a Business & Community with Intention with Mike Jackson of Black Tech Talent

Published December 22, 2020
Run time: 01:21:34
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Building a company comes with a learning curve for any entrepreneur. Building an app-based company as a non-technical entrepreneur can make that learning curve sharper. Mike Jackson, founder of The Premium Experience, joins the show to discuss his experience building a tech based business as a solo, non-technical founder and how it prepared him for the launch of his next company, Black Tech Talent. Mike shares what he wishes he’d known when he first had an idea and didn’t know where to start, how he pivoted his focus when the global pandemic shut down his company’s growth plans, and how he’s opening doors by educating different viewpoints on hiring Black talent.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What non-technical founders should know about the MVP process and working with tech people
  • How to filter through the noise of investors to see if they’re honest with their process
  • How Mike’s experience building a tech-based business prepared him for founding Black Tech Talent
  • Why there’s a misrepresentation of Blacks in technology and the pipeline Black Tech Talent is building to change that
  • How companies and individuals can support growing the pipeline of Blacks in tech
  • How to align a successful business and a moral mission together

This episode is brought to you by The Jed Mahonis Group, where we make sense of mobile app development with our non-technical approach to building custom mobile software solutions. Learn more at https://jmg.mn.

Recorded November 19, 2020 | Edited by Jordan Daoust | Produced by Jenny Karkowski

Show Notes:

Episode Transcript:

Tim Bornholdt 0:00
Welcome to Constant Variables, a podcast where we take a non-technical look at all things technical. I'm Tim Bornholdt. Let's get nerdy.

Today we are chatting with Michael A. Jackson. Mike's company, Black Tech Talent, is this year's winner of the Minnesota Startup Inclusive Evolution award as it aims to increase the representation of black technologists in both corporate careers and entrepreneurship. Mike is also the founder of the Premium Experience app, the first mobile events reward program of its kind. In this episode, we start with Mike's history and struggles with getting the Premium Experience off the ground, we touch on fundraising, finding the right development partner, and pivoting during COVID. We then change gears and discuss all things Black Tech Talent; specifically, we talk about the problem of representation in technology and how businesses can intentionally address it in their own processes. So without further ado, here is my interview with Michael A. Jackson.

Mike Jackson, welcome to the show.

Mike Jackson 1:15
Hey, thanks for having me.

Tim Bornholdt 1:18
We met like a year or two ago, and, you know, we haven't really crossed paths since then. But then now, I've seen you everywhere lately, like you're all over the tech Minnesota news. And it's really, really cool to see how much you've grown over the past couple years. I'm really excited to have you here.

Mike Jackson 1:34
Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

Tim Bornholdt 1:35
Let's start right off the bat with talking about Premium Experience. Tell tell the listeners here what it is and how it really came to be.

Mike Jackson 1:43
Yeah, so I have a background in entertainment. I was producing concerts and, you know, yacht parties and different events and fashion shows. And I was getting ready to bring Mario, the R&B singer, for a Valentine's Day concert. And I'm looking online, and I'm like, there's got to be a better way to host my fan base and notify them of when events were coming up, reward them for coming out consistently and stuff of that nature. And every time I went on Google, it would be a list of, Top Five Things for promoters to do or top five tools, and you click it and it's like, Use Twitter, use Instagram, se Facebook. And if you're not a social media influencer, that's not going to work for you. And if you weren't a social media marketer, that wasn't going to work really well for you either. And to give the listeners kind of a timeline, this is 2014 going into 2015. So Facebook ads weren't that great for event targeting specifically. There was no building a Snapchat audience yet, you know, no stories. A lot of the tools that we have today that people are used to that are great for promotion, just weren't available back then. And so I was like, well, maybe I can create like a digital black card, like a reward system that also did push notifications, just to like entertain my fan base. And so I started building this thing out, and during the process of bringing Mario and talking to his agent, and she's like, Hey, do you know any other promoters in the Midwest, maybe we can make a weekend of this thing. And I didn't really know any promoters outside of like Minnesota, but I realized, I had an aha moment, and I realized that they don't know where to send their artists when they're not being called for. And so I was like, This needs to be much bigger than just for me and for my fan base. This needs to be for venues and promoters and artists alike to really be able to utilize this tool cause there's a lot of money he could have gotten in Wisconsin, Illinois, in the Dakotas. But they don't know. When you're at the top, and you're on the charts, you know, you're focused on the LA market, you're focused on Chicago, you're focused on Atlanta, you're focused on Detroit, you know, you're focused on these bigger markets for music. And then when you still have a fan base, and still a celebrity and a star, but you may not be charting at the moment, they don't know where to go, and the people on the top markets are still only calling the top artists. And so that brought me to, you know, building in these other features, which was talent booking, digital ticketing, being able to host and build a fan base within the platform. And that just that led me down a whole different journey into tech from the entertainment side because it was such a learning curve.

Tim Bornholdt 4:46
I always love like, going back to what you said before of like, when you go online and you Google and it's like, you know, top five tips for promoting yourself, and it's like, Just use your million followers that you have on Twitter. It's like, who is writing this crap? Like, are you serious? I don't have a million followers, I don't have an email list. Like, I can see why, you know, there's so much advice that's put out there for people that the first things you Google, it's written by people that are like 10 steps down the road from you. And it's like, you don't get the articles that are written by someone that's like one stage ahead of you of like, here's what I did, like one little trick you can do and how you can kind of hustle that way.

Mike Jackson 5:22
Yeah, exactly. And it's like, you know, if you look at other industries, you don't have to be a social media guru to do it, like to be a surgeon, or a dentist. It helps in real estate, but you don't have to be to do real estate, right? Like, with promotions, because what happened with entertainment and nightlife, especially in a market like Minnesota, is when social media came to be, there's no mystery behind who's going to be at the club, or who's going to be at the concert. I can go online and say, Who's going out? Who's not going out? And if I look to, you know, this select group of 5 to 10 people where if I know they're going, I consider it to be popping or the cool spot to be, and they say they're not going or they say they're going somewhere else, well, it kind of becomes a monkey see monkey do thing. So you really have to utilize social media to the best of your advantage to get those kind of popular people to want to come to your events and to get the masses and really build that buzz. And so now it's really become dependent on social media to kind of do these things. And so in building Premium, the goal was to coincide with it, but to also have another platform specifically for events, specifically for promoters and venues and artists to utilize to bring those fan bases out, to push pre sells, for people to interact, and, you know, rate their events and be able to make a better experience overall, hence, the name the Premium Experience.

And that's what we set out to do. And it took me, you know, it took me some years because like I said, I started off as a non technical founder. And so just even hiring somebody. I started off with a guy who was my age and I was doing films at the time and writing screenplays and he was my agent. We were working on some stuff in Hollywood. But he got his start in the music industry, in promotion specifically, working with Live Nation and AEG and big companies like that. And so he knew of somebody who developed an app and some features for I think one of the smaller companies under Live Nation. And so, you know, he made this suggestion, he told me some of the features he built. And I'm like, Oh, that's awesome. You know, I love that. And that's just kind of how I got introduced to the first developer. So there was no real like, vetting process. I didn't know anything about what were the best languages to build the platform in and all this type of stuff. I just kind of like, this is what I want. This is what I need it to do. Can you do it? He was like, Yeah. Hired him. That was like one of the worst experiences out of all the experiences building this. I think he started off with two guys. It ended up just being him, and he would just send me a lot of stuff that wasn't even, wasn't even anything, right? Like boilerplate code, like, Hey, I just got this done. And we went through a lot of features, and he was missing deadlines. And I was making these payments. And in the end, I ended up just getting like a WordPress that wasn't even completely unpacked.

Tim Bornholdt 8:43
Yeah, because I think that's when we met, was back when you were at that point. And I remember like, you know, we weren't in a position, because when I saw what you had and what he had done, I was just like, Oh, my God, this dude got fleeced. Because yeah, and that happens more often than you would think in this space because I think people like you, it's like, you have this really great idea. And you know that this would be a valuable service, like you have that entrepreneurial aha moment. But with tech, it's like, there are so many people that are in tech know that people are scared of tech and that like most people see tech as this like, wizardry. It's kinda like people working on your car. You're like, I could probably figure this out if I sat down and did it, but it takes a long time. Right? And it's probably the same for you. It's like, some guy came to you and is like, yeah, I could do it for that much. And away we go. And then you kind of come out on the other end of it. And it's like, I didn't get anything that I wanted. And I'm just kind of in this spot now where I'm like, hung out to dry. So how did you end up moving from that spot of, you have this kind of half put together codebase. How did you actually get it built out and and moved on to the next step of it?

Yeah, so I was, you know, at that time, I was funding a lot of things. And then I had really slowed down on some other businesses to focus on building Premium. I stopped doing events to build out Premium and so I was putting a lot of money and energy into it. And so when it ended up just being that, I'm like, okay, maybe I can at least have somebody finish out the WordPress and then maybe I can generate some money from doing events. And then maybe I can raise some money. And so I went through maybe two or three more people to work on WordPress. But once again, me not knowing the difference in these different type of developers, like one guy, he was like, I build things from scratch. I don't even know how to, you know, work on WordPress platforms, not saying he couldn't, but he was just saying, like I would have to learn how to do it, and then do it for you. And so I went through that process. And then I found some people who could work on it a little bit, but then they couldn't really customize it because of the templates fully to what I wanted. And so I rocked with, you know, we got one pretty close on the website, and I rocked with that for a little bit. And then, you know, I almost gave up. I just sat with myself, and I'm like, I'm running out of money here. I got these other things I need to be doing and investing in. And, oddly enough, I checked my email, and somebody had responded to an old Craigslist post of me looking for someone to build the actual app. And I saw it, and I just ignored it, because I was discouraged at the time. So I just ignored it. And then every time I'd go on my email, I'd see it. So I finally got in there. And I responded to the guy, and we ended up meeting. And I told him exactly what I just told you, you know. I had this experience with all these different people. And I'm like, you know, I don't even have a lot of money left to invest in this thing. So if you can't do it, just let's not even go any further. I don't want you guessing or kind of learning on the job. Like figuring stuff out is fine, but like if you're looking at this project, and you don't know how you're going to tackle it, like, let's not do it, because I'm gonna be mad, and it's not gonna be good. And so he was like, Yeah, man, he's like, you gotta have faith in me. I can do it. And I said, Well, I'll hire you if we can do the payments small to big. And he said, alright, so we agreed on the milestones, we wrote out the contract, and he started building it out. So I think the first payment was like for a thousand dollars. And from that he was supposed to show me like the layout and all that type of stuff. And so the payments got bigger as we got closer to the time, and this is 2017 going into 2018. So I think we finished by November 2017. And then we went into 2018, and I was doing these Super Bowl events. So we kind of kicked off with some Super Bowl events.

Now that's a great way to launch, at the Super Bowl. I'm glad you got it done in that time. Because now having an event business is probably not profitable in this day and age, but back, man with the Super Bowl, you probably cleaned house. So going back, just jumping back a little bit in your story, we had talked about, like, the articles of people saying, you know, like just promot it to your social media account, like it needed to be said. If you have a million followers, of course, you're going to do that. But like we were saying, it'd be nice if there was somebody who was like one step ahead to be able to look back and say, Hey, here's a lifeline, you know, on how to come ahead. Is there something that you wish you would have known right at the beginning, like anything with dealing with technical people, or like kind of building up that gut feeling of whether you could tell, you know, like, I think you could probably agree that when you met with this last person that actually got it done and built it out, there was something about that person that clicked with you that you were willing to take that chance on them. Where the five people before it, you didn't get that gut feeling. Is there anything that that you would say of when somebody is in that position of I have an idea, but I absolutely have nowhere to start, like, is there any way that you can guide or any tips you would give to kind of help them have that gut feeling?

Mike Jackson 14:30
Yes. So I'll speak on it from two angles, one, finding the talent and then two, looking to... because I built it to be invested in, right. I built it knowing that I was going to need capital to grow it to its full potential. So you know, looking back, I would say, one for sure, I mean, and like I said, this is 2014 going into 2015. So I think, things are a lot different now. You can kind of Google and research a little bit more. But I think if there was a platform, or a source or a meetup group, that was specifically for people who wanted to get in, that would be helpful, because I got introduced to people along the way. And they were awesome for talking to me, because a lot of them, like I said, was through introduction. But obviously, I'm not paying them, a lot of them were further in their career where they're commanding a lot of money. So they would give me advice, but it wasn't necessarily good advice for somebody just starting. It wasn't, Hey, look you're trying to build this thing. You know, if you're trying to build an MVP, you should do this, this and this, or, hey, this group over here, you know, they'll develop it for this, or, hey, if it says this. I didn't get any of that. It was really drive-by information. There's so many people, like you mentioned earlier, that have great ideas, maybe some aren't great ideas. But I think if there was a process like there is for almost everything else, where people can go to actually find that information and know, what are the latest languages being coded in for these different platforms? Especially for like apps, most apps are going to function the same way, right, you have games, you have ecommerce, you have these different things. So I also think about best practices for hosting, right? You have all these options for hosting. And if you're just starting out, and you don't know any better, you may use a host that's not the best or that crashes a lot. I use Bluehost, and they're still a popular hosting platform. But I had problems with them because I had other websites connected to my server. And so when one of my old WordPresses, for instance, would get hacked, or spammed, they would take everything down. So then I'd lose Premium too. And we might be in the middle of an event where people are trying to buy tickets or already bought tickets and they need to be scanned. And that would always put me into emergency mode of finding somebody else to get it back up in a timely manner, which at certain points, you know, were costly. And luckily, you know, every now and then I'd find somebody like yourself that was willing to jump in and help and get it done as much as you could. You were working on some pretty cool and major projects at the time. I think you were, besides building apps and stuff, you were working on like a self driving car or something like that. And like we met I think through, I can't remember if it was through Craigslist or how we met, but we connected and we met in person, and you helped me out a couple of times get everything back up and running. So for the newbies, I would say, you know, do as much research as you can. But I think answering the question of like, what would be something I wish was there before, you know, like Upwork is a great resource. I've used Upwork for a couple of different projects, especially when I'm just launching something like via WordPress, but just having a constant resource of knowing what's a good way to start, which languages are the best to start with, how to interview somebody for their technical skills I think would have been good resources. And then like standard practices, like, what should a developer show you at different milestones? I've had people be like, Oh, I can't really show you anything until it's done.

Tim Bornholdt 18:41
Yeah, that's not really, that's not gonna work a lot of times.

Luckily, like you mentioned, what made me trust the last guy who actually built the platform out. One, he let me, you know, do payments from smaller to big. The first guy I dealt with, I think I gave him like 30% up front, and then monthly payments, and then the payments weren't based on time, like in 30 days you pay me this. It was based on milestones. So it was like, Oh, you pay me, you know, $500 to get started. So I feel good. And then I'll start and then when I show you the layout, then you give me 1000 and then from that, that'll give me to this point, and then you give me 2000 and it'll get me to this point, and so on and so forth. So at least then even if I felt like okay, even if I lose some money, because it doesn't work out, I'm not giving you 30% up front and then trying to fight you to get that back. Right?


Mike Jackson 19:41
So that was on that end. On the investment end, for me not coming from that background and not having really any, like, none of my immediate relatives are entrepreneurs or business owners. So my reference for investment was some books, shows like Shark Tank, going online and kind of looking up stuff. And even now, I've met some investors over the last couple years, and just having general conversations, not even pitching what I have, but just more or less learning the layout more. And a lot of them still aren't really honest with their process. Some of them are but some of them arent. I've asked real simple questions like, Do you invest in solopreneurs? Like, if somebody doesn't have a full team, do you invest? Oh, it just depends. But then you look at their portfolio and it doesn't just depend. You don't. And actually there's one, I've asked that to a couple of them, but there's one I asked, and he gave the same kind of answer. Well, it just depends. And because I subscribe to his YouTube and on his YouTube, he posts a video saying if you don't have a team, you're dead.

Tim Bornholdt 21:05
That's very inspiring.

Mike Jackson 21:06
Dude, I just met with you. I probably inspired this video. And then you know, just certain other things like, you know. So I went through a process of learning stuff I would have never thought of. And that's because I think, you know, getting into cultural, black people, a lot of times, have been had to do a lot with the little. And so you know, me, I'm looking at it from this aspect. I'm like, I got skin in the game, I invested my own money. I built out the platform. It's got dope features, I got some users, I got some revenue that's come in. I've gone through the struggles of building it, I've gone through the success of actually getting it done, I have a vision for it. You know, now I'm going to look for investments so I can build out the team and kind of go to the next level. So that was me in 2015, '16, '17, looking at it. And then going through the last couple years, I went through Google for Startups, I went through Founder Gym and MITA. Those are, you know, incubators or accelerators, whatever you want to call them for the listeners that may not know. And so you know, going through that, there was just a lot of things. Like some people were like, Well, maybe you overbuilt the platform. Well, who would assume that you can overbuild a platform? If you're using limited money, you want to build as many features as you can for the money you have. Right?

Tim Bornholdt 22:28

Mike Jackson 22:29
But then, like the conversation of like, Well maybe start over with just like an MVP? So that's something you don't know. If you're not in that world, you don't know that. You're thinking like, Let's build the best thing possible. And then people will be impressed. And we can, like build this thing, you know, even better and build the business. So that's one thing that I had to learn that I wish I would have known.

Another thing I would say would be like, I've met other founders that I've talked to, and I'm like, Well, you seem to have a lot of meetings, you have a lot of press. Why haven't you been invested in? And then one guy told me he asked for too little one time. They're like, I want $1,000. And they're like, We don't invest in anything under 2 million. And so like, once again, coming from, you know, my background and culture, like you're used to having to impress people by how much you can do with a little. And so just learning all of those type of things, and just kind of learning the language and stuff like that has been a big jump and pivot. And now I have the pacing right and really know the game very well. But coming in and building this thing, I didn't know those things. So I wish there was more training to people who want to get in, because once you're already in it, you're already in it. And if you don't have the financial resources to kind of stay afloat while you're learning this other part of the game, then it's going to be difficult, and a lot of people treat you like it should be second nature to you.

Tim Bornholdt 24:00
I totally agree with that statement. And that's what I wanted to jump in and say was, I think a lot of times investors, you hear like, you know, if you look at Silicon Valley, and you look at all the companies that are in Silicon Valley, they play to a very specific story. And that's because most investors look at past experience, and then try to invest in those stories. You know, like, everyone wants to invest in the nerdy white guy that dropped out of college when he was a sophomore and built this billion dollar company. Like, that's what people are looking for. Right? They're not looking for the black founder that is trying to do as much as he can with as little as he's got. And so I think that's a really interesting point that you make of it's really hard for investors to not invest in things that they know and a lot of times, like, that's where the money is right now is, it's tied up in white businesses with white people. And you see all the stats of like, with women specifically, it's like 3% of the money that gets invested in businesses go to women-run businesses, and I think I'm sure you know the stats too with like how much money goes into black founded businesses. It's gotta be so frustrating because there's like, all that money out there, it's like, I only need $1,000 to get to the thing that I need to do. And people are like, No, you need more than that. And I'm not going to invest in you because of that. It's like, if somebody came to me and asked me for $1,000, and they showed me like an ironclad business plan, it's like, why not take a shot at that or like, help them coach them along? It's like, that's what's so frustrating to me. And I mean, it's frustrating to me, I'm not the one living it like you are, like, I can't imagine how frustrating it's got to be for someone like you.

Mike Jackson 25:34
Oh, yeah, man. I mean, it's extremely frustrating, because like I said, you hear all these things. And you follow that formula that's at least public that you can get ahold of, and then you actually get in these rooms. And it's like, you have to have an MBA to even talk to these people, or you sound dumb. Right? So, yeah, I mean, it is a process, man, and for me, like I said, I like being independent. I like building companies that could be independent, but I knew getting into technology, and like I said, being a non technical founder, this was something that was meant to be invested in.

But the biggest thing, and I think that the hardest thing to convey, is culture. And right now, black culture runs America. If you're talking about entertainment, I mean, from the slang, to the clothing, to the social media influencers, to everything. Even Trump had to go out and try to get Lil Wayne and Ice Cube and all these people to try to get the Black fan base. It didn't work. And, you know, the Black vote went to Biden, but it's like, when it comes to culture in America, like we run culture. We're a huge part of culture and with the platform that I built with Premium, like I said, if I had, going back to then, if I had an investor, let's say in the angel sense, that was somewhat like a mentor, had the money, I built out a team, and I could go out and get just a few artists to endorse the product, we would have already been in a whole nother lane. Because right now, a lot of these major artists, they're doing deals and stuff, but a lot of them were doing endorsement deals. Right now they're finally understanding like, taking equity instead of cash because a few of them, NAS, Jeezy, Jay Z, you know, a few of them have had success with that and publicly spoke about it. 50 cent within his Vitamin Water. And so we could especially back, you know, mean, three, four years ago, we could have easily went got a TI, we could have easily went and got a 50 cent or Rick Ross, some of these large staple artists, maybe even the Chris Brown, gave them some equity. And been out of here. I didn't need a whole lot of money. I needed enough to hire an inhouse team, enough to put together the marketing, and enough to go out and get the few major endorsements. And then we could have got some of these social media influencers to push our social media presence. And then after that, it would have just been about getting the deals with festivals, and we would have been out of here already.

And what sucks is, you know, because I still haven't taken any venture capital. In 2020, I was actually about to do what I was trying to do. So I had a situation with Diddy's company, Revolt. I was at the top of their vendor lists for proposals for their Revolt Summit. And they were doing three different locations. I think it was New York, Miami, and LA. And I would have been their ticketing vendor for all of those locations. And then I would also handled all their data. And then I was working on a situation with a couple record labels. I won't say their names yet but with a couple of record labels to handle some of their touring stuff and some of their festival stuff. And then we had a bunch of events we were going to do inhouse. So it was actually looking like it was going to be a really good year and literally the Thursday before we got our stay at home order, I was booking the celebrity for my celebrity slumber party. I was booking venues for the Fame Summit, which is an entertainment summit that I put together to teach people how to get into entertainment. Ao I was literally booking people that Thursday, and then Tuesday we got the stay at home order.

Tim Bornholdt 29:36
That's got to be a good, and actually I'm not sure. Is this the transition then for when you kind of pivoted and moved into kind of focusing on Black Tech Talent?

Yeah, yep, exactly. So to backtrack a little bit, in 2018 I consulted on BITcon, the Blacks in Technology Conference, and I helped book Nipsey Hussle. And then you know, just helped with whatever else was needed at the conference, did some ticketing for a couple of events and just literally helped with everything, whether it was takedown or set up, just whatever they needed. And then after the success of that one, they asked me to, you know, basically help co produce the second one. And so I worked on the second one for 13 months straight, worked on all the sponsorship stuff, worked on the venues. I brought in Google to sponsor one of the after parties. I spoke on like five or six different panels, just helped, you know, organize the whole thing, like I said, for 13 months. And then I did Fame Summit, which stands for film, art, music, and live entertainment. I did that all by myself. And I took eight months to do that while doing BITcon.


Mike Jackson 30:51
So we did the first one, then the second one, then I introduced Fame Summit. And so from doing those two events, I ended up dealing with a lot of corporations that were asking me to recruit, you know, help them recruit or throw recruiting events. I did a couple hackathons with a few different corporations. What else did we do? We had some companies that just wanted to get in front of our audience. I had built up maybe, at that time, 150 members on meetup of Black technologists here in the Twin Cities, and then of course, the emails and stuff from BITcon. And so I kind of already had that. So when everything shut down, I kept looking at my emails, and I'm like fighting to not get depressed, cause I'm like, Dang, this was gonna be the first really great year. I just did Google for startup for nine months, I just met all these investors, I just did Founder Gym, which is solely focused on raising capital. So I learned a lot of game and, you know, got a lot of feedback on my pitch deck. And I'm like, we're gonna kick off this year with these in house events. And I'm going to try to raise money for a couple months. And then we're going to come back and then we're going to hopefully have the Revolt situation and these record label situations. And then we're going to have Fame Summit. And so now I'm like at zero, sitting at home. And I'm like, Man, you know, just that momentum. You know, like waking up every day, refreshing your emails, you know, potential sponsors, different celebrities, people being interested. I have a couple of different whiteboards in my office, and they're all filled out with all the things we're going to do. And it's like, now nothing. But I'd look at my emails. And I had a few emails from a couple companies that on the diversity inclusion side had asked to do stuff with us in June. And so I'm like, Well, I'm just sitting there, and I'm like, well, who still has money? I'm like, government's struggling, citizens are gonna struggle. Because this is April at the time, so it wasn't as bad as it is now. And so I'm like ,well, they still have money, and they're gonna have to pivot. And a lot of them did, you know, furlough people, lay people off and stuff like that. But I was looking at the future. And I'm like, Nah, everything's going online. They're gonna have to hire more people. They just don't know it yet. And then I was looking at it from the standpoint of, you know, some of the big, big corporations, where you're talking about Microsoft and Google and Apple and Amazon, you know, they sponsor a number of events every year. Now they're not going to be sponsoring that. So they have money in different departments they're not even looking at it that they're not spending anymore. So I hit up a few companies, and I was like, Hey, you know, I'm gonna launch this company called Black Tech Talent. We're gonna focus on, you know, recruiting, we're gonna focus on community building, we're gonna have a job board, we're gonna put out a lot of great content. Is that something of interest? And I think I hit up two or three, and all three of them were like, Yeah.

And so I started building it out. I bought the domain like April, started building it out by mid June. I had already put together a small team, there's five of us total. We finished the website by beginning of July, we got our first paying clients. By September, we had won the Inclusive Evolution award for the Minnesota Startup Awards. And we were featured in Spokesman Recorder, Business Journal, the Tech.MN podcast, KMOJ radio, and the list goes on. And so I mean, I think we just closed our first 10 corporate clients into September, mid October, something like that. By the end of the year, we'll probably be at, you know, around 20 plus. And we're getting our first podcast sponsor as well coming up here. So, I mean, we just put in a tremendous amount of work. In September, we started focusing on building up the social media platforms. We're at over 1000 on Facebook now, which anybody who's starting a brand new Facebook page knows how hard it is to get to 1000. I looked at a few other people in the diversity, not necessarily doing the exact same thing as me, but just like, focused on getting Black people in tech, whether they're on the education side, the recruiting side, or you know, nonprofit stuff like that just to gauge where they're social media is at. And a lot of them don't even have 1000 yet, and we just started adding in September. So, yeah, we've built our base up overall throughout all the platforms to over 1000, or over 2000 members, you know, over the summer.

Tim Bornholdt 35:42
There's a, you know, Steve Austin, the wrestler, I listen to his podcast, and he always talks about making chicken salad out of chicken stuff. And I hear that story of being where you're like, in live events, and then having nothing, and then just thinking of the idea, like, Well, there's all this money sitting there that should go to live events, where could it go instead? And to think to channel that into something so positive for a community that could really use that help, especially in a time like a global pandemic, tt's like, my God, that's brilliant. It's so, so cool. And of course, like every company, it's like, given all the stuff with George Floyd that happened here, and with everything around the world, with all the kind of waking up like in our culture here, there's just like, what a great, it's just brilliant, like I'm so proud to know that, to know you, and to know that you were able to kind of turn that bad situation into something so positive.

One question I had for you was, it's really obvious that there is a big misrepresentation of Blacks in technology and in entrepreneurship in society in general. But why do you think that's true? And why do you think that is? And what are you doing with Black Tech Talent to really change that around?

Mike Jackson 37:08
Yeah, so I think the biggest thing is, you know, it just goes back to the history of slavery, segregation. And the reason why I go all the way back to slavery is because you start off with Black people not being able to read, Black people supposedly not being intelligent enough to read, you know, Black people not being fully human. And so when you start from that basis, and then you go, Well, what do Black people do, and then you're like, physical labor better than anybody else. That's what created segregation. So you have Black slaves, and, you know, you're beating them, whipping them, killing them, to essentially force them to work harder for less. That's still the theme today. I just mentioned that earlier when it came to venture capital, right? You're not giving them more food, more protein, you know, making sure they're in the gym working out. You're just beating them and saying work hard, work hard, work more, and more cotton, more vegetables, more fruits, chop down more trees.

And so then you have Black people are freed, and then what? Well, Black people are way more skilled, especially physical labor, than white people because of slavery. So now they had to create segregation because Black people were getting all the money. Black people, actually, in certain states started getting rich when slavery ended. That's why you had the Freedman's Bank. And that money was stolen. It was a bank that Lincoln created so that freed slaves had a place to put their money. And the bank ended up running off with that money, which I think today was estimated with inflation to like trillions or something like that. That money never ever returned to this day.

So then you have segregation, and Jim Crow, and things such as that. And so now you have, you know, white people going into schools and just learning more and learning better things, but the positive and the negative to segregation was that, at that time, Black people had to work with each other. So we had Black schools, and we had Black businesses, and whatever money resources we did have, we kept amongst ourselves. And so there was a Black bus company that was bought out by a white bus company because it was making so much money.

So then you get into desegregation, which still was met with a lot of racism and was still hard to do and all this type of stuff, and you had redlining and all these things that we won't get into, so it doesn't take long to get to the point but you know, you had all these things throughout history, and so when you talk about tech. When computers first became available, even just in colleges, you know, when you read about Bill Gates and people like this, I mean, it was rare for them to even have it. Right? So, you know, when I look at, you know, I'm 31. And so when I look at, you know, the internet, I mean, I was in when I was in high school, we were still on DSL for internet, right? And like I was in ninth grade, and I was like one of the few Black kids that had a computer. And the only reason I had a computer is because we had bought a family computer. And it was a crappy computer. It was an emachine, if you remember those.

Tim Bornholdt 40:47
Yeah, I had an emachine.

Mike Jackson 40:48
It was like the cheapest available computer on the market, right? And, of course, my parents weren't savvy with technology at all. So once it was slow, it was considered to be broken in the household. And so I asked if I could have it, and they gave it to me. And I figured, you know well, I guess there's no harm in me taking it apart if people consider it to be broken already. And so I took it apart. And I just looked at all the pieces. I didn't know what I was looking at. But I was just looking at all the pieces. And then I'd go sit at Microcenters and stare at all those pieces and say maybe if I buy this and put it in that, it'll work. And so I started learning about RAM and hard drives and stuff like that. And then I ended up like kind of rebuilding it. And then I had a friend who knew how to get software. And he got me, you know, the updated version of Windows. And then this is when DVD burners first came out. So I bought a DVD burner, the CD burner, and I had DSL internet and I was one of the few Black kids that had a computer, let alone one that could burn CDs and movies.

Tim Bornholdt 41:54
You definitely weren't on Napster or anything then at that point, right?

Mike Jackson 41:57
No, I was using, I don't remember what it was called, but one of those ones. Prior to Limewire. But in the same vein.

Tim Bornholdt 42:12
No, no, I don't know anything about this. Wrong topic, right?

Mike Jackson 42:18
Oh, so anyways, you know, I leveraged that situation in school to make some extra money. But yeah, so that was kind of like my introduction. I always thought technology was cool. What turned me off, and this fits in with your question as well. Even though it sounds like we're sidetracking. But I wasn't really good at math. And the reason I wasn't good at math was because I went to like 11 different schools before graduating high school. So when I'd switch schools, sometimes I would switch districts, and they would be way further than where I was at before. So when I had started getting into multiplication, I switched schools, and they were already like, deep into multiplication, getting into something else. And so, me continuously switching schools just kept putting me behind to where I couldn't catch up.

So that was like, one factor. But when I was like, Oh, I want to build websites, I want to you know, do these different things. And then my teachers would be like, Well, you've got to be really good at math for that. You've got to be really good at algebra and geometry, and blah, blah, blah. And so that just kind of turned me off from pursuing it earlier. So had I'd had encouragement back then, instead of discouragement, I probably would have been already advanced in tech, at this point.

But, you know, to answer it in a general sense, people forget, because technology is moving so fast, people forget that there's still people right now that don't have Wi Fi. They're talking about it in, you know, in different, you know, urban neighborhoods, like there was a picture floating on the Internet of a kid who still went to their school to sit outside to use the Wi Fi for their iPad. Like there's still Black kids that, I mean, Comcast if you remember, over the last five, six years put together programs to try to bring free internet to inner city kids, and even before that, when I first graduated high school in like '07, yeah '07, '08, there was uh... They still have it too I forget what it was called. But it was like Wi Fi through the city where you could just pay the city on a monthly basis to get it. So to answer your question, in a broad sense, there's a lot of people that don't have even access to the internet to then look up tutorials and go on YouTube and then find a mentor. And then finding a mentor is hard. So even going to your previous question about things I wish I would have had. Honestly, if I would have just had somebody who was like, Listen, I'm going to tell you, I'm not going to do it for you, maybe. But I'm going to tell like ABCD, go get that done and then come back. And I'll let you know if you're on track. Or somebody to be like, Hey, is this guy really building this or what is? Because like I said, I'd get introduced to people, and they'd give me a quick five minute tip that didn't really help. I still appreciate the tip, because it wasn't like they weren't trying to help, but they were just so advanced and I wasn't advanced enough at the moment to get a quick tip like that, right?

Tim Bornholdt 45:29

Mike Jackson 45:30
So I think there needs to be more mentorship, and it has to be from a place of intention. Because otherwise, you know, if you look at pitch competitions, it's still looking for the best of the best. If it's venture capitalist, it's looking for the whitest of the white, because a lot of times it's not the best of the best, but it's like, You remind me of me, so I'm going to invest in you. You remind me of me when I was younger, you know, whatever it may be. And there's also a level of confidence, when you have, you know, white privilege to kind of, the consequence, the stakes aren't as high, so the consequences are different. Like, it's hard to be entrepreneur and be like, I love doing this, but I also need to, like, take care of my family and make sure my mom's good and, you know, etc, etc. Because then in the back of your mind, it's not a matter of, I really want to do this, and it would suck if it doesn't work, like I have to do this. Because if I don't, I'm wasting time where I could have went to school for something else, or I could have been learning something else or this money that I'm using on this, if it doesn't work, like maybe I won't be able to buy a house for another five years, or I won't be able to, you know what I mean? Like, the stakes are higher. And so, you know, when you're looking at a lot of the help that is available, it's still not as accessible as people pretend it to be.

Tim Bornholdt 47:00
It sounds, you know, from like, my perspective, I hear white people all the time talking about like, you know, Well, I have struggles too. Like, we have problems. It's not like none of us have issues. And it's like, Well, yeah, I mean, you no matter how you slice it, you can slice it at a number game, if you want. If you want to play the numbers game, it's like, you might have a couple of disadvantages. Yeah, but look at how many things you don't have to worry about. Like, you don't have to take care of a huge family, you don't have to worry about how fast your internet is, or the fact that you have a computer. It's like, there's just certain things that people don't realize, like, if you're lining people up at a start line, it's like, you can line up everyone at the start line. But then if you give someone a three quarters head start to the finish line, of course, they're gonna finish first and prosper. They still have to run, but it's like, they don't run as far or run as hard. And it is just like, so frustrating to hear those stories. Like, you'd think in 2020, things would be different. But I mean, as evidenced by the mass civil unrest that happened this summer, clearly things aren't, you know, and that's why it's really cool that you started Black Tech Talent. And I wonder like, what are some things that you're doing? Like how are you using your platform now that you're building here to help kind of even the playing field even a little bit? Like are you working on distributing computers? Are you working on like finding those mentors? Are you working on finding ways to get Comcast to actually provide decent internet to those areas? Talk about some things that you're doing there with Black Tech Talent.

Mike Jackson 48:32
Yeah, so a few things. So one, like I mentioned, you know, earlier, we're building a pipeline. So me, you know, participating in BITconn speaking on different panels and working with different corporations even prior to this, one thing that was brought up a lot was a pipeline. And I'm like, well, nobody's doing it. And my conclusion, my personal conclusion, so it's not a fact. But from what I saw, a lot of these people weren't entrepreneurs. And that's why they weren't able to do it, because they didn't know how to put the business and the mission, the moral mission, together. And so I'm like, okay, I said, we're gonna focus on these main things. We're gonna focus on the job board and recruiting. We're going to focus on community building, and we're going to focus on putting out culturally specific content, right? I said, now everything else we're not doing, we're going to partner with somebody who is doing it and see what they need and how we can assist with our specialty and skills. So I talked to an organization that teaches Black people how to code. I can't remember if it was a four or an eight week boot camp, and they give them a $750 stipend for while they learn. And you would think like, Oh, that sounds great. Why would they need you? Why would they need Black Tech Talent? But I asked. I don't know why they need me. Let me ask and I said, What can I help you with? Well, they're having trouble with outreach. They're having trouble with their marketing. That's something that we're really good at. We've already built a pretty big community. So getting more awareness for their program and the type of people they're trying to get in there. So now when people come to us, which has happened, they'll come to us and they'll say, I want to learn how to get into it. Now I can refer them to our strategic partner over there.

Another thing that came to our attention was, it's hard, because I'm an entrepreneur, so I've never had to go interview for a technical job. But I've heard from Black talent and our members that it's hard to even get the interviews and some of the interviews are difficult, not because they're not doing a good job, but because they're fresh out of college, or they just finished a boot camp. And so we teamed up with a company that does career coaching specifically for IT. And they partner, they pair the student with a senior level person in whatever field they're going into. And that's an eight week course. And then at the end, they help place people. So now, you may go, Well, if they're placing people, doesn't that conflict with you're doing? Well, we just work out a referral fee, which would come out to, you know, whatever we would get anyways, if it was just job board or something like this. So we're really more focused on building the community. Of course, we're a business, we're a startup, we're for profit. So we're going to figure out how to make money because that's the only way to be sustainable. And like I mentioned earlier, that's why I believe a pipeline hasn't been built, because you'll have people who start nonprofits, and they're not sustainable in the space. And then you'll have people who start for profits, and they're having a hard time community building. And then they're also looking at other organizations as competition. And for us, I know how to put everything together and still make it make sense. So we're working with organizations that focus on kids, organizations that focus on Black women, organizations that focus on Black people all together. I just had an awesome conversation with Tech Dump about partnering with them. And they work with felons, and an ex addicts. We're working with awesome people who work at some of these giant companies, just on the side, outside of the corporation, want to be mentors, want to develop curriculums with us. I have somebody from Facebook, and somebody who's actually retired now that we're working on developing an online curriculum to teach people how to code efficiently enough to get some of these entry level jobs. Also, within our community, we have senior level people, we have people that already work at the major corporations, and some of them just want to be mentors, or they just want to be a part of the community. They're still lonely. Because it's still a field that not everybody knows. So just because you meet other Black people or have Black relatives doesn't mean they want to talk about tech all day. So they're still looking for that Black tech community, you know what I mean. And so whatever we're not doing in house already, we're partnering with somebody to bring more awareness to what they're doing. And also to, you know, like I said, build out that community to make it even bigger.

And then of course, we're partnering with different corporations to find them jobs. I'm in talks right now with five different corporations about creating internships for Black people who are getting the education through boot camps, or learning IT Helpdesk through programs like Summit Academy. Some, it's 100% free, but it is like real school. So that can be a barrier from the sense of, if you already have kids, or if you have, you know, you have a day job, you have to kind of figure that out. Google has an awesome course on Coursera. But we're partnering with corporations that traditionally would only hire people with a college degree or if you're connected, if you're self taught, and you got in, that was through a connection, right? So we're working with different companies to take away that barrier and expensive college, so that we can get more people in and they can, even if they don't get hired on, they can at least get that initial paid work experience on the resume.

And then like I said, we have the career coaches, and everything else to take them to the next level. So we're working on a lot of different things to try to break down those barriers, but we want to be strategic. So we don't want to, you know, just promise a million things and be like, We're gonna get everybody free computers and do all this. And then once again, we don't become sustainable because us partnering with one of these companies and they give us computers and then we give them out, that's not financially sustainable for us. Because guess what, now we have to teach them how to code too. So we got them computers. We didn't get any money as a startup because they gave us the computers as the money and we gave the computers out but now we have to teach you. Now we have to have a facility. Now we have to, you know, be able to run Facebook ads and grow the community and pay for all these different platforms we're using to host our community and innovate with the website. And so it's important for people to understand that we are a startup, we are a business, and we have to have a sustainable model. But just like I said, as of right now, we're opening up a lot of doors. And we're educating a lot of diversity inclusion officers and HR and IT recruitment managers on different viewpoints on hiring Black talent. And I think that's helping a lot.

Tim Bornholdt 55:37
Well, that kind of leads perfectly into my next question, which, first of all, that's awesome. And I really appreciate that you're taking, like an entrepreneurial look at this, like, it's an actual problem. How can we build a business around this? Because it's hard when you're kind of a mission based company, and you have such a socially driven spirit behind the company. It's like, how do you give back while also making sure that you're not going bankrupt? Because it's like, you still want to make money at the end of the day, but you also are doing a social good. So I'm glad, like you've kind of are finding that that balance between the two. But where you just left off was talking about, like, kind of getting community or getting companies to, you know, figure out how to do this for themselves. So that it's not just you, but everyone's kind of working together. So what do you tell those companies? Like how can companies support growing pipelines of Black people in technology? And, you know, whether that's entrepreneurial wise or development wise, what would you say for companies, like because I'm saying this selfishly, like, I run a company, and I want to do this. What would you advise? How do we get started with this?

Mike Jackson 56:50
The biggest advice I would give is be intentional, like that needs to be on your whiteboard. Intentional. Right?

Tim Bornholdt 56:57

Mike Jackson 56:58
This problem was created intentionally. People get mad at companies like mine for solving this problem intentionally. America is funny, because we're built, we're actually built on abundance. But then people have been, you know, I call them civilians, which, you know, my definition of civilia is just somebody who's not on the inside or privy to certain information. They've convinced civilians that there's scarcity in a country that's idealistically built off of abundance, right? And so, you know, now you're gonna have white guys that are like, Well, if you're hiring Black people, what about me? And part of that is, you know, there was a book authored, and he's a white guy, and he was like, you know, he was like, It's black excellence against white mediocrity. Because if you look at all the standard testing, you will go, and you're only picking from white people, you will go, these are the 10 best people. And that's when segregation was in place. For instance, look at sports, black people dominate sports, and there was a time we couldn't play baseball. You know what I'm saying.

Tim Bornholdt 58:21
And how ridiculous is that.

Mike Jackson 58:23
The top athletes are, I mean, now baseball's you know, it's still heavily white, but it's like Dominican, African, and like look at soccer. And so when you look at it, you go, These are the best baseball players. And then you let Black people in and you're like, Oh, whoa. And then you look at how much hate they're met with because then the mindset goes, Well, what about us?

Tim Bornholdt 58:48
Well and look at football, like, I mean, just look at quarterbacks in general, it's like, we went from an era of like, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, just it's like, that was kind of the era of like, quarterbacks sit in the pocket and just throw the ball, they don't do anything. Where now you get like, you know, Patrick Mahomes, you get like Cam Newton, you get these quarterbacks that like scramble and the game is 100 times more exciting and 1000 times different. Where it's like, just look at how great things are. Whenever I'm met with that argument too of like, Well, if we let Black people get jobs, then what about me? It's like, well, if everyone was on the same page, then the pie would be bigger, too. Like we would have Black people getting, like, there'd be more contributions into society, more businesses would start up. It's like you said, it's more and more and more, it's an abundance. It's not like we are trying to take this tiny little pie and trying to cram more people into it. It's like we're trying to make the pie. We're trying to get a bigger oven to bake this pie.

Mike Jackson 59:49
Exactly. So I mean, so there it is, like intentional, you know, intention. It was built, you know, purposely to leave us out. And now systems are going to have to be built purposely to let us in. Another thing that I tell, you know, certain corporations, because, you know, we'll get some that are just like everything they post on the job are senior, senior, senior. And I had to look at it. And I just asked some of them because I do follow up calls with all my clients and I was just like, Are you saying senior because you actually need senior level talent? Or is that code for Best of the Best? Sometimes the best of the best comes from you.

Tim Bornholdt 1:00:32
And that does make a lot of sense.

Mike Jackson 1:00:34
I mean, if you hire someone, I'm not saying get somebody that sucks. But if you get somebody that's good, but their experience is two to three years, and you're saying senior level with five to, you know, 10 years or whatever, five years plus, six years plus, well, why can't you get them at three years, and then they come up under you and they're already good. They're sufficient for what you need him to do. But they're going to think more creatively, they're going to work way harder. And then if you're good at what you do, they're going to learn whether directly or indirectly, how to be even better. And so we have to consider that when we're looking at, are you in it for the long haul or not? Because if it's just, you know, I just tell them, like, we have plenty of senior level talent. I think, you know, initially, when I started building out the meetup, most people were already senior level. And now we're getting more people that are like, just getting into it, or like, you know, two, three years in, but I tell them, like senior level talent have senior level jobs already. You ask for five to 10 years, you don't think they found a job within the last five or 10 years. I mean, you know what I mean, like not everybody got laid off. So it's like, if that's the case, then you got to hire us for our recruiting services, and then we can tell them why it's best to work for you versus where they're at. But, you know, but that to me is not, I mean, that's good. It's good. We're grateful for all the business that comes through, and everybody that's making an effort. But like, there has to be some intention as well. And I'll see some of these companies post, like, they'll come to us and they'll post a job, senior level, front end developer, back end developer, whatever it may be. And then I'll see them post online for something that's like more entry level, and I'm like, you should have posted both of them with us. Or you should have hired us to recruit your senior level and posted the entry level on the job board.

Tim Bornholdt 1:02:25
Right. Well, and I really like that intentional bit, because I think of, I swear, if I got like $5 for every time I've used the Steve Jobs quote, I'd be a billionaire. But there's that Steve Jobs quote of like, you know, The world is made up of things that people made up. Everything around you was made up by a person. And so it's like, the world was made up. At some point, we decided, like Blacks are worth x and whites are worth y. And like, that was a decision that was made 300 years ago. It's no one's fault now, specifically, but it is like, that's the way the world is. And if we want to change it, we have to find a way to bring up, like people who were purposefully pushed down. And now we need to find a way to intentionally push people back up. And yes, I mean, people that are on top, obviously, probably don't like that. But again, it's not about like, bringing people up in order to pull other people down. It's all about like, let's increase the size of the pie. Because we do live in a world of abundance. And there is plenty of space and jobs and things like that to go around if we make an effort to actually include everybody.

Mike Jackson 1:03:34
Yeah, and this is what I would say to those people who feel like, you know, what about me? First off, if you're good at what you do, you're good at what you do. That's number one.

Tim Bornholdt 1:03:48

Mike Jackson 1:03:50
Number two, we have to think in abundance. If you Tim's in this position, they hire Mike on, and Mike's good, he's full of energy. I'm coming early, I'm staying late. You have the option to do the same, but you've been here longer. So you should already have the respect from your boss to not have to do the same. Right?

Tim Bornholdt 1:04:11

Mike Jackson 1:04:13
But even within that, if Tim embraces me, and actually gives me advice and game and shows me how to navigate the job and the work culture and the boss, I don't want you gone.

Tim Bornholdt 1:04:26

Mike Jackson 1:04:27
See, people aren't thinking like that. I'm gonna try to get him out of here and I'm gonna try to, you know, this and that. And a perfect example is Trump supporters, not even Republicans, Trump support because that's like a colt. Right? That's like a whole other thing. I never saw people ride around with a Bush mirror on their pickup trucks. Like, it's a whole different, whole different thing.

Tim Bornholdt 1:04:54
You see flags around that say like Trump 2020, no more bullshit. It's like, When's the last time you saw it the word bullshit on a flag for a political candidate, like, what is this?

Mike Jackson 1:05:05
Yeah, it's wild. So what's funny to me from a psychological standpoint, is that, Okay, Trump got in, he's your guy, that's fine. And then you spent four years being racist on everybody. And now you're mad that he didn't get another turn?

Tim Bornholdt 1:05:26
Yeah, ridiculous.

Mike Jackson 1:05:28
Did you think none of the Mexicans were citizens? Did you think African Americans weren't citizens? Like everybody he ---- on and then you said, well, who says he's racist? And who says he this? And who says he's that? And then you're mad that your guy didn't win. And that's a major problem with a lot of these structural things in America is, I'm going to ---- on you and then I never think the tables are gonna turn. So the people who are smart, like people talk about, you know, allies, and some are in favor, and some are like, Nah, they're just trying to co-optand blah, blah, blah. But just looking at it from a strategic point of view. If you're like, I see, Black people are coming up, I see Brown people are coming up. I want to be on their side, because it's inevitable that they're going to come up. That's just smart. But you still have people that aren't even smart enough to think like that. And be like, you know, I want to help. They're still like, I want to hurt. I still want this racist guy in office. I still want, you know, it is what it is. Why does everything has to be Black? I hear that a lot. When I did BITcon, why does it have to be a Black conference? I said, everybody can come but this is who we're catering to.

Tim Bornholdt 1:06:45
That's a really good point. Because I've always felt like as a white guy, I see, like, women in tech, Black in tech, different minority groups that are coming up. And I love it so much. And I want to participate, but I feel like, would it be weird for me to go? Like, would it be weird as a white guy to go to a Black in tech conference? Like, how would you respond or react to something like that?

Mike Jackson 1:07:11
We had a lot of white people come, and we had a lot of Asians come as well. We had the MBA students at St. Cloud do a research and that was one of the questions. It was like, Do you feel like this, if it's named this, do you feel like you should come? And Asians were like, yeah, based on the price. Like if it was cheap or free, Asians will go through. A certain amount, white people will go. But then like, but yeah, like a lot of white people in the survey was like, I don't feel like it's for me, bah, bah, bah, because of the name. And it's like, but that's how we become more inclusive, because the biggest thing, and this is from an economic standpoint, if I can't create something that benefits Black people, where white people don't participate, then that's where the whole issue lies. Because then I have to cater to white people. And then in the Black crowd doesn't feel like it's for them. And then they don't come, they don't get the information or the experience. And then it's just another thing where it's a bunch of white people feel invited. So it's basically a way for Black people to know they're safe. It's like a safe space. And it's like, being intentional.

But you know, when you look at hip hop, for instance, like the genre is literally owned by Jews.

Tim Bornholdt 1:08:41

Mike Jackson 1:08:42
Like literally the labels are owned by Jews, and they own the masters to the music so they own the actual music. Only in the last five or so years have artists really been known to like own their own masters. Two Chainz only owns the masters to the project he just put out like this week in his last project.

Tim Bornholdt 1:09:10

Mike Jackson 1:09:11
So the literal music is owned by these labels. And a lot of these labels were created by the Jews and they didn't even like hip hop when it came out. They just knew Black people liked it. So they're like, we can make money off of this. And so when we talk about, you know, being intentional, it's like, we need you guys, we need your help. But we also have to create platforms where we can have ownership, where we can have economic inclusion, and then you guys can come in and learn and participate. And then we'll become inclusive as a society. But it can't be, you go to white dominated things and you support me doing my own thing in theory, but then you don't come because then that means you didn't buy a ticket so you didn't support economically, like you didn't show up and if you show up, and you're like, this is great. And then you tell your partners, or you tell your kids or your relatives and you're like, Yo, this was really dope. And I learned a lot. And like, I see why a Black tech conference is different. I saw the nuances and the difference of how they put there's together, and how we put ours together. If you're not able to do all that, then we stay separate.

Tim Bornholdt 1:10:22
Well, and that just goes back to segregation then. If it was straight up, like, Okay, this is a white conference, and this is a Black conference, then we're back to like, who was before Brown versus Board? You know, segregation ero.

Mike Jackson 1:10:39
Jim Crow and all that.

Tim Bornholdt 1:10:39
Yeah, and so it's nice to hear that, like, it's not so much that it's a Black conference just for Black people. It's like, this is a safe space for Black people, specifically intentionally created and we want everyone to come and participate, because then that's how we as white people would learn and see the differences and nuances, like you said. And then you can come back and incorporate that and also invite people that you meet at the conference, like you build those relationships, and then that's where some of that, like, you know, mentorship and investment, and all of that stuff can come in is when you've actually stepped into someone else's world and met them where they are and helped to bring them up, you know.

Yep, definitely. And you know, just as a Black man overall, even outside of, you know, just my companies, like I want white people to have to come to us to get our culture. It hasn't been that way. You know, when you look at rap music, I just told you who owns most of it. And then white kids in the suburbs are able to listen to it in the suburbs with each other.


Mike Jackson 1:11:48
There has been times where I'll go to you know, a club, and nightlife, like it is still segregated here. Like I've had them just be like, Come back on Thursday. That's your night. Yeah, so I'll go to a white club, Uptown, Northeast Minneapolis, just something to stop in. And they're, you know, rapping to Migos, of course, they love Drake and all that. And DJ might though some Taylor Swift or some Bieber in there. But it's like, if you love hip hop, why don't you come out to where we're at?

Tim Bornholdt 1:12:28
Do you think it's like, I'm trying to think of like, you know, is it the responsibility of Black people to like, make it over the top like, We want white people here. I mean, if I was black, and I'd had my entire, like culture stolen and you know, had 300 years of being oppressed. It's like, why would you roll out the red carpet for having a bunch of white people like, show up at your event? You know?

Mike Jackson 1:12:59
And I think what you just what you just mentioned is like the big misconception, and I think there's different levels, and we could get you know, maybe deeper into it just on a one on one conversation, but Black people really don't hate white people like that. We don't. I actually did, because I my whole team do some diversity inclusion training, so we're not just saying we're diverse, because we're Black. We've done different trainings and courses and went through, you know, disability and, and ageism, and, you know, LGBTQ and all this, women and all that. But I did a bias training too. And I did one on white versus Black. And my results came out that I don't view white people differently than I view Black people. Like as far as liking them, like, I don't hate white people. I don't think white people are better than Black people, according to my results. So a lot of times there's a difference between somebody being mad at you and somebody hating you.

Tim Bornholdt 1:14:09

Mike Jackson 1:14:10
You know what I mean? And so, I think and like I said, on the deeper level, it's like, maybe we should, but for the most part, we just want to succeed in life. That's the biggest, that's the biggest thing. It's like we want to move on from it too. Like we want to move on from it too but then you get hit with all these different things. And I've experienced a lot of them myself even in recent time. So it's like we want to move on from talking about slavery too. We want to move on from all of that. But when you go to the club and they say, Come back on another night, that's your night. When you apply for a loan, and the computer comes back and says essentially, it's up to the banker or the lender, and they're trying to find a reason to say no. And those are all problems. And then you talk to people, you tell them about these problems, and they tell you they don't exist. And that can be frustrating. And so then you have to go back to slavery to explain and show the timeline of why this is effective today. There's a meme I shared the other day that was like, Why do people say Black people are, you know, still crying about what happened to our ancestors? And it's like ancestors? You mean like my grandma? Like, segregation was just 50, 60 years ago? Like, this is my grandparent. And you've got to think of like, let's not even get into the money yet. Let's just talk about the mentality. Like I've had white people that have said those same similar things. And I'm like, Let me ask you something. Did you learn anything from your father that used today? And they're like, Yeah. And I'm like, What about your grandfather? And they're like, Yeah. What about your great grandfather? They're like, Yeah. I'm like mine were still, I'm the first one. I'm the first one that can freely go live in the suburbs. And the worst thing that will happen is I may get pulled over a little bit more, and I'll get side-eyed. Like, I'm the first one that when the banks mess with me, I can, I can stand my ground and figure out how to make it happen. Like, I'm still going through the effects of it. But I'm the first one who has a little bit more freedom and understanding of how things work to fight it a little bit. And I'm the first one that probably has enough white allies, to where they may say something if they see me being discriminated against. So, you know, I didn't learn how to work on cars from my stepdad because the cars we had were leased, or, you know, pieces of ----. They had to, you know, the shop had to take care of them. Like I bought my house two years ago, I did it on my own, I didn't have a father or grandfather or uncle. I'm the oldest of my brothers, nobody showed me how to like, read through the contract, do a proper walkthrough, you know, hire a realtor. I literally had to like learn and Google and do everything on my own to make sure I was getting the best terms and doing everything I needed to do and making sure I had enough money at closing and all these type of things. So I've literally had to learn, you know, everything. Like when I think about retirement, I think about starting over and doing everything that I've been doing, but doing it from a place of enjoyment versus survival.

Tim Bornholdt 1:17:39
You know, I could have this conversation all day, because this is fascinating to me. And you can count me among those white allies you got because I think what you're doing in the community, for the community, and just your story, and everything is just, it's really inspiring to me and I hope you know, you can always give us a shout out here too if you ever need any help or any anything at all. But in wrapping this up, I want to give you a chance to, you know, send people to wherever they can go to, you know, learn more and to help out. So how can people find you and get in touch with you and everything that you're doing over at Black Tech Talent?

Mike Jackson 1:18:19
For sure. So the website is BlackTechTalent.org. Of course, you can reach out on there via email, or we have the Messenger app on there as well. You can reach me personally on Instagram is the best route, which is MikeJisForever. Black Tech Talent on everything else, so Black Tech Talent on Instagram, on LinkedIn, on Twitter and on Facebook. And just you know, reach out. I'm always you know, available to talk with people and mentor and do different stuff. I joined the organization 100 Black Men, and if you're not familiar with them, I believe it's actually worldwide now. I think they have some branches in Africa and maybe Europe but it's huge organizations. It's been around for a long time, I'm helping launch the Twin Cities chapter because we didn't have one yet. And essentially, we mentor young Black youth, and we get them career ready and just ready for society and help them through family issues and different stuff like that. And you asked earlier about you know, giving out computers and stuff and so through 100 Black Men, we are giving out, I think, almost 100 Microsoft Surface Pros.

Tim Bornholdt 1:19:37
Ah man, not any emachines.

Mike Jackson 1:19:39
No, not emachines. We're handing out the new Microsoft laptops to the students that we're going to start working with in a program where we're going to teach them about different careers including tech. And I think we're kicking that off if not December in January, so I'm a part of that organized too. So if you have some young Black men and women that are looking for mentorship, once again, just feel free to reach out on those different platforms and get in at me.

Tim Bornholdt 1:20:11
Well, Mike, thank you so much for joining me today. And thank you for everything you're doing for the Black community. I really appreciate it.

Mike Jackson 1:20:18
Appreciate you as well. I appreciate you guys for reaching out and highlighting the story. So I look forward to continuing our relationship.

Tim Bornholdt 1:20:27
Thanks to Mike Jackson for joining me on the podcast today. You can learn more about Black Tech Talent by visiting blacktechtalent.org. And you can download the Premium Experience app on the App Store and Google Play.

Show notes for this episode can be found at constantvariables.co. You can get in touch with us by emailing Hello@constantvariables.co. I'm @TimBornholdt on Twitter and the show is @CV_podcast. Today's episode was produced by Jenny Karkowski and edited by the canorous Jordan Daoust.

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