A recent article I read from Venture Capitalist Adam Draper made me think about my own relationship with money, and how it has changed in the last couple of years. In the article he explained how he sometimes deals with founders who have a hard time accepting the fact that they need large amounts of money to fulfil their company mission.
“We institute what progress is and that the impact they would make with money is paramount. Otherwise you aren't solve a big enough problem.” – A. Draper
My own relationship with money has always been a bit complex. I've always focused too much on the dark side of it, and the way money changes and influences people. It's funny how I've been able to always see the good and bad in so many things, and with money my opinion has been very black and white for a big part of my life.
I was always one of those people who'd say that money was not important at all to me, but at the same time it was the reason to get out of bed and go to work every morning. Having my salary deposited into my account each month made it something that I did not have to think about too much. As long as I went to work everyday, and did what was expected from me, all was good.
This changed when I said goodbye to my office job, and moved to Cape Verde. Believe it or not, but back in 2014 I negotiated down when I started working for myself. I remember one meeting, with someone I still work with today. She offered me 10% commission for certain services, and I said no. She looked at me in anticipation of what I was going to say next: “I'll take 5%, that's enough for this service.”
It's one thing deciding on a fair price together, but why turn down an offer made by a potential partner who had already decided that it was a fair deal for her. It's a good example of the way I was dealing with this new situation, in which I had to make my own money, and decide my own worth when it came to pricing certain services.
A few years ago in a radio interview with Alice Fortes, I remember explicitly saying that I didn't want Sonvela to become a 'millionaire charity'. Back then, the examples I had of large charity organisations were of those with incredible amounts of money to spend, but actually achieving very little.
But looking back it was also about me not wanting that responsibility. By saying that it was not what I wanted to achieve with Sonvela, I would never have to chase it. Which was a way easier option than having to work hard to come up with an intelligent answer to problems other people and organisations were not able to solve.
Today I say bring it on, I want your money. Because I now believe that I'm a much better alternative than (large) charities who aren't solving any major problems. I can now see money for what it can be, which is an instrument for change. If we want to build the Cape Verde we all want to see, we are going to need large amounts of money, and above all, very smart allocation of that capital.
“Think of money as a big magnifying glass. If you are a good person before you had money... then money makes you an even better person. If you were a charitable person before you had money... then money makes you even more charitable. But if you were an asshole before you had money... well then, money makes you an even bigger asshole!”. - The magnifying theory of money
In December of 2016 I would go on adventure of a lifetime. I had bought a cheap bike, and decided I wanted to reach Colombia from Rio de Janeiro, where I was living at the time. I went on this adventure completely broke, which forced me to spent my nights outside for the first time in my life. These nights, especially the first 5 or 10 of them, where very difficult. But they also opened my eyes to important things I was missing up to time in my life.
One thing I really did not like was the lack of options. Without money, me sleeping outside was not a choice (and simply part of the adventure), but it had become the only option available for me. This was a huge difference in how it made me feel.
First, I was looking at and thinking about the implications of not having money on my own situation. I understood that the adventures I loved to go on could only be possible if I had the money to afford them, even the very low-budget type. Next, thanks to the amazing book 'The Social Entrepreneur', I was learning about what it means to really build highly sustainable businesses that focus on changing society.
This book was the first capitalist approach to socio-economic problems I'd ever seen. I've continued to study this subject since then, and now it makes sense that productive capitalism is a powerful thing. However, at the time of reading 'The Social Entrepreneur', I was one of probably many people in our society who did not believe in the good of capitalism.
“We thought capitalism was the reason for the suffering of poor people.”. - Hamdi Ulukaya, Billionaire CEO
I love this quote by billionaire entrepreneur Hamdi Ulukaya, who explains what the view point was when he was growing up. As he became a successful business man he saw the positive influence of the money he had and was making and how it could be used to have an impact on many people's lives. Ulukaya is well known for his leadership, and made headlines after giving his employees 10% of the company's stock.
Another strong quote from Ulukaya:
“Business is still the strongest, most effective way to change the world.”
Money will allow me to work toward everything I believe in. Allocating that capital effectively will propel it all, and make it possible to go after the biggest problems of Cape Verde. We need private initiatives and companies working to solve critical issues in important sectors.
I wrote this article to share my journey and this process with you. I'm currently working on a 'new' Sonvela. I will be focusing on partnering up with tech & startup entrepreneurs/companies, and also micro businesses. If you are interested in joining me on this journey, consider investing in our people along side me today:
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