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John Legend and James Lowry Interviewed by Kobie Fuller | Upfront Summit 2020

John Legend
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Upfront Summit 2020
January 30 2020, Pasadena, CA, United States
Upfront Summit 2020
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John Legend and James Lowry Interviewed by Kobie Fuller | Upfront Summit 2020
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About speakers

Kobie is a Partner at Upfront. He joined the firm in June 2016 after having previously worked at Silicon Valley­ based Accel, where he led investments including UserTesting, Campaign Monitor, AdRoll and Invoca (also an Upfront portfolio company). Prior to Accel, Kobie was the Chief Marketing Officer at REVOLVE, one of the largest global fashion e­commerce players based in Los Angeles.

Kobie brings to Upfront expertise in SaaS businesses and marketing technologies. He has deep knowledge of emerging sectors including VR and AR and was an early personal investor in Oculus, later sold to Facebook for $2B. Earlier in his career, Kobie helped found OpenView Venture Partners and was an investor at Insight Venture Partners where he sourced notable early investments in Exact Target (acquired by Salesforce for $2.5B) and Instructure (NYSE: INST).

Kobie graduated from Harvard University where he was captain of the track team, a multi Ivy league champion sprinter and still current school record holder.

Current and Past Investments:
- AdRoll
- Bevy Labs
- Campaign Monitor
- Cordial
- Exact Target (acquired by Salesforce.com)
- Imceda (acquired by Quest Software)
- Instructure (IPO - NYSE: INST)
- Invoca
- Jagex (acquired by Zhongji Holding)
- Loyalty Lab (acquired by Tibco)
- MetaCX
- The Mighty
- Monetate
- Oculus VR (acquired by Facebook)
- Openpath
- Osmo
- The Wave
- UserTesting

About the talk

Topic: Business

John Legend and his mentor James Lowry talk with Upfront Ventures partner Kobie Fuller about the importance of mentorship and the mutual benefit in a mentor-mentee relationship; John Legend's work in criminal justice reform and local political reform; James Lowry's roadmap for building black economic power and a more positive future for everyone; and John's experience as a BCG consultant building PowerPoint slides by day and creating music by night.

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Awesome to be here. Good morning everybody. The great we got the Legend John Legend. 00:00 We got Jim Lowery. I'm Kobe. And we are going to take the next 30 minutes to tackle some very serious 00:10 topics. Real talk about diversity and inclusion in today's Corporate America. We're talk about the 00:20 importance of focusing on bigger issues in this country like Criminal Justice Reform. But first we're talking about mentorship. 00:30 Red talk about the importance of mentorship. In the guards to how we just build as a community an awfully how that results in US building 00:40

better relationships with people. So John wants to know if you first yeah. He talked about how your relationship with Jim Duvall 00:50 Well as he said when he introduced me, I started my post-college life at the Boston Consulting Group. So 01:00 I worked there for 3 years and I was in the Boston office first and then I moved to New York, but right around 01:09 the time when I started working there and there was this new partner that had come to the Chicago office. He had his own consultancy and 01:19

build up a huge reputation and a huge client base and he was going to come to BCG to bring all of his wisdom all of his Network 01:29 and all of his power to sell to clients to BCG and his name was Jim Lowry 01:39 and I heard about him before. I actually met him. He was already legendary soon as he got there just such a Magnetic Personality 01:48 or dynamic personality. I got assigned to a couple of cases that he was working on and also he came to help BCG 01:58 think about how to diversify their consultant ranks and and get more black and brown Partners moving up the ranks and things of that nature. 02:08

And so we interacted in various ways both through kind of our diversity code for it, but also through specific cases for clients and 02:18 he became a mentor very good friend and we've been friends ever sent and when you have a mentor 02:27 like Jim you learn so much just from being around him. You connect to so many other people because of all the connections that he has and 02:37 I couldn't imagine my life without him being a part of it. a GMC talk little bit about best practices in 02:47

mentorship something. I know you really like to preach in educate people on 02:57 it was a easy easy match because when I first met John I knew who he was. 03:01 I knew what he would be stood for. I do homework on his background and I said, this is the kind of person I want to mentor and I think it's very very 03:11 important as we share. You know, there's a responsibility for people in my like myself to be a mentor. So I always tell them like, I told him like 20 03:19 years ago be yourself be strong take chances get around people have done it well and be the best that you can be in whatever field going to be 03:29

but I also say too many of my mid-teens be a good mentee to are in the minty just takes it for granted that if you have it and you're going to get on 03:38 you should share it and it's not like that. So I said what other things you got to do and then they close. We don't we respect each other's time and 03:47 our space but he has been a great rate minty and he's helping so many other people and I'm so proud of you for doing that measure. 03:55 the early days and Mackenzie first black consultant and the power of peer mentorship and having 04:06

someone else there with you to navigate some of those complex situations and I know there was the next block consultant hired Bob Holland who was 04:16 a real key Ally for you to talk about the power of that Pier group you were able to assemble is very powerful and I think we have to put in the 04:25 context of your talk about the 60s late 60s. So I was the first black tat at Mackenzie and I think we both went in so we can feel 04:35 they're too many people that we have to bring off and bring Honda behind us. So in the first year, I recruited 19 the black people to do that because 04:44

I was there by myself so Bob and I we're like a Cadre of to every night. We would go to a bar somewhere if they had to learn the culture 04:53 and for two guys, you know, it is very difficult. I mean we didn't need to go to Harvard we can go to go to work. And at that time I'll let all the 05:03 McKenzie people have been to those three schools. Yeah, that was it. So we had to help each other for a good 05:10 for networking gym at your mentor and you're balancing the Dynamics of being a BCG while performing 05:20

his right and it's right. I was in the studio 05:28 and playing at local clubs in New York at night and you know talking about collaboration talk about mentoring. I met 05:37 a young guy from Chicago who happened to be the cousin of my roommate and his name is Kanye West. I think you guys might have heard of it 05:47 but he was an up-and-coming producer at the time and wanted to be known as a rapper as well, but he wasn't really getting recognized as that at that 05:56 moment. But his cousin Devon The good friend of mine still and went to pain with me and and we were roommates in New York. 06:05

He said you guys should collaborate and you know, you could say he was my mentor. He's a little bit older than me and and had a little bit more 06:15 experience in the music business. But I think like Jim is saying a lot of times any kind of mentor-mentee relationship is it needs to be collaborative 06:24 more to be productive for both of you and you need to have something to offer to the relationship. Even if you're the less-experienced person and for 06:33 me and I could offer my musicianship my ability to see my ability to co-write with him and then he was making great beats and he can offer that for 06:41

me and you was making a lot of contacts in the business and he could offer that to me as well. And so we both had something that we could help each 06:51 other with and we were able to grow together and I think most of the best mentor-mentee relationships are those where 06:58 even if Not equal power. Both of you are contributing something that's significant to the relationship. Got it 07:07 a little bit and talk about how to create inclusive cultures in this is a very powerful concept that 07:16

you mentioned to me and you right in your upcoming book about the timing of a smile. So that was 07:26 inspired by you observing very powerful successful Executives like Ken Chenault and others. Could you share that with the the room here? I 07:35 am again, and I've had a long relationship. I remember Ken was a manager at American Express and I've watched this career and he was my client on it 07:45 several occasions, but I watch them very closely and Vernon Jordan and in Franklin Thomas and people like that and I noticed that he never laughed. He 07:54

never laughed, you know, and I've always said that, you know when people of color walks into a room Or is it kind of relationship certain people make 08:03 certain assumptions and an infant have quick opinions and I think Ken was very guarded and he didn't he never lie 08:12 and what he would do with smile at the appropriate time by smiling at the appropriate time to gave him the comfort of being an equal in that 08:21 relationship cuz I said in the book and it will probably take me to password but I said if you laugh too much people to take you seriously, you don't 08:30

laugh at all people feel threatened and Ken had it and he's had it throughout his life. I want to know 08:37 switch over to all the amazing work that you're doing John the guards to Criminal Justice Reform free America. He share with the group here or 08:46 nonprofit in just all the real key problems are tackling with that organization. America is the most incarcerated 08:56 country in the world. We spend billions and billions of dollars every year to put people in cages. We use that money 09:05

and we keep using that money in lieu of investing in the resources that these communities need to grow 09:14 to rehabilitate from drug issues to heal from mental health issues. And it's a problem that I've seen up close and personal in 09:24 my own family in my own community and it's a problem that I've read extensively about and I decided I was angry enough and passionate enough about the 09:34 subject that I I need to do something. So with my team we formed an organization called free America and we started it particularly as a 09:43

campaign where we would go around and listen and learn about the issue. We didn't just want to come in and say here's what we think should be done. We 09:53 said let's go out and listen to the communities who are affected. I've been personally affected but I wanted to hear from other people around the 10:01 country other activists other stakeholders from prosecutors to public defenders from people who are currently in prison 10:07 to their families people who were victims and survivors of crime. We wanted to hear from all of them and start thinking about what we could do to use 10:17

my voice use my platform to make a change. So we started this is listening and learning campaign and we really did listen and we really did learn we 10:27 visited prison we visited immigration detention facilities. We visited state legislatures around the country. And we started to identify 10:36 activist around the country that were Grassroots that we're doing interesting things and and proposing really important changes in their state 10:46 and local government that would really move the needle in the on this issue and we started to get involved we started to weigh in once we identified 10:56

some of the key issues that we cared about one of the key issues is prosecutor reform. So a lot of people are unaware that Most 11:05 prosecutor elected around the country and they have a lot of power a lot of times prosecutors run unopposed or with only token opposition, but they 11:15 have a lot of power in your community and they can decide whether or not to charge someone they can decide what kind of charger going to go for 11:25 weather to overcharge or two under charge or whatever and and their discretion because most cases don't go to trial their 11:32

discretion actually rules the day when it comes to how the outcome of the case is going to be decided in most cases. So it's really critical that we 11:42 know who are prosecutors are and that we elect people who are progressive and have great values and understand that Justice isn't necessarily locking 11:52 people more people up for longer time. It's striking that right balance between keeping the community safe, but also thinking about 12:01 how we invest our resources and what the best way to make Arkham. Any safer is and a lot of times it's not locking people up. So anyway, we've 12:09

got him involved in a lot of prosecutorial elections around the country including in Chicago where Jim lives in Florida and Los Angeles 12:19 all over the country. We've gotten involved in these races and back more Progressive prosecutors and most of them have one in and that's been an 12:29 exciting thing. We've also got involved in ballot initiatives like Prop 47 here in California that reduced six felonies 12:38 down to misdemeanors and read a lot of people from prison. We're currently there and also changed a lot of people's criminal records downgraded those 12:48

felonies to misdemeanors making it easier for them to get jobs. And then we got involved with Amendment 4 in Florida, which was one of the biggest 12:57 things we've ever done with the Florida rights restoration Coalition. Their goal was to reinstate the voting rights of people who have been Convicted 13:06 of felonies 1.5 million people got the right to vote because that Amendment passed and that was a major big deal. We got involved in New York with 13:15 bail reform and other Criminal Justice Reform package there that just passed and these are all big initiatives a lot of people think so much about 13:25

Federal elections. And who's the president who's our Congress person who is our Senator but most of the criminal justice decisions are made on the 13:33 state and local level. Most people who are locked up or locked up in state and local prisons and jails and so we've gotten very involved with state 13:41 and local organizations to change these laws and we freed a lot of people we've helped a lot of people and then just to tie it back to mentorship. One 13:50 of the things we've done in partnership with Bank of America a new Prophet was to Found this organization called unlock 14:00

Future's So unlocked Futures is an organization that thought about ways. We can help people who were formerly incarcerated and affected by the 14:10 criminal justice system help them become entrepreneurs. So we take applications of people who are running interesting 14:19 nonprofit or for-profit ventures in this area. We want to help them give them mentorship funding connections with 14:28 all of our Network and help them get their organizations to the next level and that's been extremely rewarding for us and then one of the most 14:38

powerful things we've done is awesome really good. That's why I love this guy. Detroit weather 14:47 The gym I want to switch gears a little bit to you and you lay out a 10-point plan for black economic development in your upcoming book, 15:03 which I thought was extremely powerful. Could you sialoquent possible 15:13 on why we're focusing on that 15:18 is if we look at the numbers in the black community, we're going backwards the Pew Institute household net worth 15:28 1983 2015 net worth increased in the white Community 42% from 100000 hundred forty-one thousand Hispanic net worth in the 15:36

household increase 40% 9800 to 13000 in the African American net worth House of decrease 16% From 15:46 13011 thousand. So if you look at those statistics and you look at the Westside in Southside of Chicago, you're seeing we have serious problem 15:56 economic problems. So that instead of just crying and discrimination or whatever and if expecting the government to do everything we had a 16:04 create major major businesses in our own community. So the 10 points I will say it very quickly and I want embellishing any of them one black leaders 16:14

must accept those who control Capital control the country. I think conceptually within our leadership. We never understood or appreciate the value 16:24 of capital capitalism and free enterprise system. And because we didn't embrace it we went the other direction and mini by Leaders with that way to 16:33 working to working collectively. We must create and I'm serious about this as many black billionaire companies. In 16:42 America my dream before I died in the like paying is it say I played a part in creating 10 billion dollar black companies in 10 cities in assuming 16:52

if we did that impact those companies that have on on the communities low-income we should support and it's the likeness of a John has been doing 17:02 official to work in our behalf, too often in our community. We elect people cuz they look good. They are very articulate or they went to the same 17:11 fraternity or sorority the hell is that ever elected official irrespective of race gender or anyting what they did in that Community. 17:21 What is the metric Mosey impact economic impact and I think that's one of the things we have not done in the past that we have to do five high and we 17:31

have to invest in Pula capital. Getting back to this grout to buy properties gentrification is not going away and it 17:39 was going to happen. The key question we have to ask ourselves is how can blacks and Hispanics be a part of that in benefit from that and how do we 17:49 pool our money to be investors with other people are going to Detroit or going to the south side of Chicago and be a part of positive second. We're 17:58 not doing that. That was 5 I'm talking very quickly. Kobe. See you looking at me funny, 18:06

but I do is add this number 18:12 doesn't mean and I can give you examples a very outstanding board members who made amazing contributions to the company to the shareholders 18:21 and represent people of color in the right way. I am not reporting somebody on the board who just happen to be black and Kim Define the word 18:31 diversity. So I think that's important seven. This is going to be hard but I think we can do it. We have to form a John when you first started you you 18:40

subsidize a village in Tanzania. We don't think about Africa. The wealthiest people in the world are in Africa dangote is one of the wealthiest 18:49 people so we have to form strategic relationships with influential and Global black leaders is very important that the acura's are the other thing 18:59 which is sometimes very difficult for us to do we should support only nonprofits who are effective efficient and have them packed same kind of 19:07 thing with our elected officials. We can't just take people and give money because of nice people and nonprofits. We have to make the nonprofit's work 19:17

for us 9 conduct research. I think it's a group at the community. We don't do you people have done so well, but it's a research entrepreneurs your 19:25 research industry. Do you research friends? We have been reluctant historically black colleges to really analyze business Economic Development away 19:35 and make it I was embarrassed to see how few of those academic programs had even classes on business on capitalism, you know, 19:45 which is probably be a John you're going to tell me cuz you got more juice. Dim when I put out is we got to stop fighting and fight crabs 19:54

in a barrel if we don't help each other and that's one of the things I wrote for it and report for Kaufman I was so proud of what I did and it was 20:04 probably inappropriate the hip-hop generation because John's generation in the people in his fields are collaborating like he said with Kanye and 20:11 they're making money together we bout to take it Beyond just that in the in the entertainment business and make it to the larger blocking it. 20:21 OK Google What's a jaundice piggybacking on that a little bit he talked about how some of the 20:35

work you're doing and philanthropy is really focused on his race in America, May 6th and Lil Bit of fun summer activities. Well, I think everything 20:44 there's so much that afflicts the black community that is driven from our original sin as a country, 20:54 which is slavery and and the the fact that slavery kind of solidified a caste system 21:03 in America that still persists to this day because being black was an intrinsically connected to 21:13 being unfree being a used as well as a as in slave labor the 21:23

entire nation's infrastructure and and Foundation. Is it infused with that 21:33 caste system? And so we have a lot of work to do to to end that and you still see it when you see housing segregation 21:42 when you see school segregation are schools are more segregated now than they were in the sixties and seventies which is 21:51 insane cuz it as much as we talked about gentrification in and folks, you know, living in the same neighborhoods in so many and so many places are 22:01

schools are more segregated than ever since this incident, you know, after Brown vs. Board of Education. So these are issues that we're stealing 22:11 still dealing with as a nation. And of course we have a president that has taken things backwards with not only is rhetoric what is policy but we as a 22:21 nation a lot of these decisions are made on a local level, you know, and folks have to even examine their own practices when it comes 22:31 What kind of schools they send their kids to and are they a lot of cities are are are 22:40

breaking apart because white folks don't want their kids to go to school with black kid. These things are happening in 2020 2019. 22:48 These are things we have to deal with this a nation and until we deal with them. They're still going to be these persistent issues. And when the black 22:58 community is hurting it's not just the black community that hurt the whole city hurts when the black community starting the whole country hurt. No, 23:07 20/20 real Pitbull. We are in this country. Can you share with us some words of optimism in of 23:17

Hope and things that people Miss room to be thinking about as we are really trying to make this world a better place will I 23:27 think 20 20 years are critical year for democracy? Because if we want this nation to continue as a as a democracy that that represents 23:37 the people's interest that that isn't drifting toward at their authoritarianism that is inclusive. 23:47 This election is everything is so critical and not just presidential. I think we get so caught up in the presidential that's obviously very important 23:56

obviously very important to talk about before with criminal justice even with education policy. So 24:06 many of these things because of our Federalist system are are decided on a state and local level. And so we have to be Very mindful of who are state 24:16 and local elected officials are and democracy only works if we own it. It's a beautiful powerful system. If we are informed if 24:25 we're engaged if we are boating but not just voting following up holding politicians accountable for what they promised they were going to do. 24:35

All of these things matter are capitalist system doesn't survive if our democracy doesn't survive our education system doesn't survive if our 24:44 democracy doesn't survive are none of these systems work if our democracy is not healthy for democracy is not informed and engaged and 24:54 20/20 needs to be a year when we fight for the survival of our democracy. 25:04 No, I didn't want to rush you on this last question. So get any proper time. You share with me a 10 25:14 point likert endpoints put a 10-point plan and recommendation the Next Generation for how we can actually Architects 25:24

a global transformation for a better tomorrow. I love for you to be able to share those pain points as we close out the last chapter by 25:34 last chapters with vagina was saying was the reasons I will not quit as old as I am. I will still stay in the fight because it is like John said it's 25:43 not about just black people is not about hispanic people's about the stability of our country. And as long as I can play a role, but I was so moved 25:53 when all the kids got together after they spit, you know, the shootings a mass shooting in Florida and had that men just tremendous event in DC and 26:01

people of all different colors and raises and ages in an S. Depressive was about a lot of things I said, there's the hope there is a whole been 26:11 I did dedicate a chapter to the Next Generation and I listed these 10 things vote for and support politicians who believe what you believe 26:22 in Johnson Embrace embrace the US free enterprise system and make it even better. Train ourselves 26:32 and others to be invaluable asset to the new Global technological economy and one of the reasons and here's Technologies going to control the 26:41

world. You are part of it. You're making it here are the leaders in it. We just have to get more young people in it in a positive way for be 26:51 bold and think big and I said your towel. Is it going to take you so high but more importantly your brand is going to be 27:01 bigger and his brand is bigger, and I'm so proud of you for what you represent invest in 1 activity. In a field of your choosing 27:11 and be the best you can be six have a passion to be a change agent. This great country was built on people who were change and 27:20

not just Civil Rights Movement, but anybody who wanted to do things differently and better? Then I say except the wisdom of those who have 27:30 many who have had meaningful Journeys. There are people out there who want to help the younger generation. You have to reach out. If you're a young 27:40 person to those people they were share with you join hands with the people all over the world and appreciate the cultural differences because they 27:47 are different people in Africa eating people in South America the different people to people in your group you require very different from the people 27:57

in Brazil and we have to understand and appreciate that now, I know it be difficult for the younger generation but delay instant gratification. 28:04 And enjoy every Milestone along your journey and then 10 except that they will be those who will oppose you. 28:15 Bite them fairly with collaboration. Well, well thought-out plans and a very very positive mental attitude. 28:25 Got to know we're pretty much close to running out of time. Do I know you're headed to Dubai pretty from after this. So 28:44

really appreciate you rearranging your schedule. I know to to make this happen and so happy to have been here. I'm so excited to spend some time with 28:53 you all. Thanks for having me that it is always good to hang out with Jim Lowry. She was playing piano and 29:02 he was a quiet guy in the corner. So who's that guy? This is John Stephen. He's playing the piano stop playing around and he said I 29:12 said John do whatever you want to do. But remember they ain't going to be too many people 29:20

in your field who have an Ivy League degree. So remember that brand remember where you can use your skills that you learn it pain and 29:30 make the the world difference and when he was listed and I'm going to say this would he was listed on Time Magazine. One of the most hundred most 29:40 influential people in the world. I said, do you know. I know it's parrots take more credit, but I remember that conversation. So proud of you. 29:49 Thank you so much. Both of you everyone has to 29:57

thank you. 30:07

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