Herbert L. Drayton III is not your average venture capitalist. After nearly 30 years of establishing, buying, and managing a dozen businesses in a variety of industries, Herbert founded Hi Mark Capital to invest in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and women founders in the southeast. Herbert saw how systemic racism and implicit bias put these entrepreneurs at a disadvantage and recognized that something in the very fabric of VC culture had to change. So, he started Hi Mark Capital.
What inspired you to start your company?
May 25, 2020, marked a low point in American history. The death of George Floyd extended beyond reforms in policing. For me, it led to a more comprehensive look at systemic barriers that constrained Black economic mobility. In the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed, a few of my colleagues reached out expressing the desire to commit resources to the Black community. However, charity was the way they wanted to do it. My challenge to them was to invest in Black-owned companies and change the story of their entrepreneurial journeys.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your founder journey?
Having conversations with entrepreneurs. Every day, I get to listen to people with great ideas and ambitions and help their dreams come true.
Any lessons learned that you would like to share?
The founder’s dilemma is very real, even in early-stage companies. The Founder’s Dilemma refers to a common set of challenges and trade-offs that entrepreneurs and founders of startups often face during the early stages of their venture. It was coined by Noam Wasserman, a professor at Harvard Business School, in his book “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup.”
Initially, I tried to do everything on my own because I thought I had the necessary skills to handle any challenge that came my way. However, I quickly realized that lacking the core competencies required for the next level of growth would hinder my progress. One area I thought I knew well was marketing. However, when I worked with vendors who simply followed my instructions without question, the results were consistently disappointing. It was only when I started to challenge the vendors and avoid the simplistic “What do you want to do?” approach that the results began to show improvement.