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Build The Damn Thing

Oct 13, 2021

Choosing yourself isn’t always easy. But after eight years leading digitalundivided -- an organization that she founded to help Black and Latinx women tech entrepreneurs get the mentorship and support they desperately needed -- Kathryn had to do just that. She chose herself, and her sanity, and decided to walk away from the business.

Innovation and the goal of disrupting the industry isn’t just about the work, it also requires a significant emotional lift that many don’t anticipate.

In this episode of Build the Damn Thing, Kathryn openly shares the financial challenges of building DID, why the first cohort was -- in her words, a “hot mess” -- how they “blew things up” to make things better and how initial support from a city or community doesn’t always guarantee ongoing support. She also reveals the impact of building her business while starting her new journey as a mom -- a reality many women entrepreneurs have to face.

The lessons in the episode will help you understand how to take a step back, honestly evaluate where things are in your business (and your life), and when it might be time to courageously let go and make a fresh start.


Insights from the Podcast:
- You have to take an honest look at your business and what’s working and what’s not working.
- Accepting responsibility
- How to learn from your missteps
- Surround yourself with people who will tell you about yourself.
- Go where you’re wanted
- Your sanity is priceless
- You’re the prize


Quotes from the show:

“What struck me about the no’s is that they felt weak… You had to wonder if the space was really ready for the work that [DigitalUndivided] was doing and for the work that Kathryn was doing." -- Danielle Robinson Bell, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #6

“It was really about supporting other Black women who were building things, but there was no money.” — Darlene Gillard Jones, Guest Speaker, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #6

“People often want to believe the worst of Black women.” --Kathryn Finney, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #6

“Something my mom always taught me was go where you wanted.”--Kathryn Finney, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #6

“I could leave feeling empowered because I knew I could build something else.” --Kathryn Finney, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #6

“Sometimes we’re so afraid to leave things, like: “What if I don’t have the next thing...?” But realize that you’re the prize. It’s not the thing; you’re the thing. You’re the one who created it, you’re the one who built it, you’re the one who grew it. So you are, in fact, that prize.” --Kathryn Finney, Build the Damn Thing, Episode #6

Stay Connected:
Kathryn Finney
Twitter: @KathrynFinney
Instagram: @hiiamkathryn
Facebook: Kathryn Finney
Genius Guild
Website: Genius Guild
Twitter: @GeniusGuild
Instagram: @geniusguild


Subscribe to our podcast + download each episode on Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.





Produced by Genius Guild Content Studios

Executive Producers: Kathryn Finney and Darlene Gillard Jones
Post-Production Company: Prosper Digital TV
Post-Production Manager: Joanes Prosper
Post-Production Supervisor: Jason Pierre
Post-Production Sound Editor: Evan Joseph
Co-Music Supervisors: Jason Pierre and Darlene Gillard Jones
Show Music: provided by Prosper Digital TV
Main Show Theme Music: "Self Motivated" Written & Performed by Tamara Bubble


Full Transcript

Valeska Toro
I think the greatest challenge that I saw Kathryn overcome was the challenge of being in a place where you've created something that you absolutely love and adore  and then taking a step back and asking yourself what you want and being willing to make a change. And I think that any entrepreneur that has decided to move on from their startup, whether they're selling it, whether they're stepping down, whether they're deciding to pivot, it's incredibly challenging because no one is harsher to ourselves than we are, right? We're our worst critic.

So I think that for her, I I honestly feel like I have so much empathy for leaders and for CEOs when they're in those places, because I know that it takes a lot of courage and a lot of self reflection to be able to not only identify that something may or may not be right, or that you want something new but then also 

Kathryn Finney
So, in 2012 we started off with this conference, with then mayor Corey Booker who had a startup called Waywire as our  keynote. Now what we did at that first conference is we matched founders up with mentors, and we had people like Anil Dash, and we had these like amazing mentors. And so every founder got two sessions with a mentor. We had about 40 founders at our first focus. And you can imagine partnering them up with mentors was like a Herculean task. It was like really really crazy, but we did it. And we saw the success of that. We saw the partnership of that. In fact, many people who met at focus are still in a mentor mentee relationship, or at least in a friendship based relationship to this day. And we were like, we want to turn this into something a little bit more.

because we could see the future, but partners, potential partners, and corporations did not see black women as innovators, and the future. And so we just couldn't explain it to them. And it was really, really difficult for us. And it was really, really hard. 

Danielle Robinson Bell
During my time with DID, one of the biggest challenges that I experienced with the organization that I actually witnessed Kathryn navigate as well is just dealing with a lot of nos. I got to see up close and personal the rejection, the flat-out nos that the organization received after ya know-a pitch for funding or a pitch for some type of partnership. And what struck me about the nos was that they felt weak and it really made me question why they were saying, no

My name is Danielle Robinson Bell and I handled all things communications both internally and externally for digitalundivided.

They were so surface level. And didn't match the level of work that had been put into the initiative.  But again, it wasn't just the rejection. It was the rejection just felt so weak. And so you had to wonder if the space was really ready for the work that DID was doing and the work that Kathryn was doing. 

Kathryn Finney 
One of the things we had was this sort of virtual incubator program, where we were training black women entrepreneurs to be in a space. And one of the things that was really hardest about that is that we took a lot of shit from people. And that's because we're bringing people to this vulnerable space. Technology which can be scary, and vulnerable for our community.  Entrepreneurship and money, which is also another area of vulnerability for our community. And so it really triggered people, and I didn't realize how much it triggered people. And as a result at digitalundivided, we often absorbed that trigger     many times unfairly so.

and sometimes it was directed directly at me. Sometimes it was directly at Darlene, it was directed at other people. And so we knew in order for us to do this, it was going to be really hard for us to maintain. It wasn't a business because it wasn't generating any income. I couldn't no longer put money in, because it was starting to tap into my own safety net. So I was covering losses, and things like that. And I just couldn't do it anymore. There was no end in sight. And then on the emotional end, we didn't have enough staff to be able to absorb, to spread out some of the emotional um punches that we took from from founders. Like we just didn't have enough staff to spread it out.

So, I said, "Hey, ya know we can't do this in New York city. We tried to do it in New York City. um-It was virtually impossible to find an office space to be able to do the sort of thing that we wanted to do." We wanted our own space because we knew that space was really important. And we knew that black women, in particular, didn't feel welcomed in the spaces at that time. Particularly, the tech space was heavily male, heavily white male, heavily a certain sort of tech culture that wasn't, at that time, open to other people.

So-But in Atlanta, we could. And we knew that Atlanta was going to be sort of the future. Like I had saw what was happening in Atlanta. um-I had saw how tech industry was really excluding black people. uh-Atlanta had so many advantages, with an amazing airport. um-The weather is incredible, It had the infrastructure available there. It had a talent pool with the AUC, the Atlanta University Center, which is Spelman, Clark Atlanta and Morehouse.

It also had the university that graduates the most black undergrads at Georgia state. So, it had this pool of talent of black talent that was really, really interesting. And we knew by doing and testing this incubator in Atlanta that we would be able to convince people to come there, because the cost of living was so low. I actually remodeled the space myself with help from my husband, Tobias, as well as a number of task rabbiters. We painted the space ourselves because we didn't have any money. That $100,000 we got went completely to the program. I I think I didn't collect the salary.

I convinced Darlene to help with this... I think Darlene maybe got 20,000 that year. Literally, this was, again, me sort of funding it and stuff like that. But this was a nonprofit and that was okay. um-But we really didn't have any money because nobody, at that time, really cared about black woman in tech, if I'm being really, really honest. 

Darlene Gillard
I remember vividly Kathryn calling me to tell me that Surdna had given us funding to create a space in Atlanta And I was shocked. I was shocked because we had decided that it was over. But when that came through, we, dove head first into the opportunity. And there was a lot of sacrifice involved. And I don't know if people really know that, but but, um, it was difficult. 

I’m Darlene Gillard Jones, an Executive Producer at the Genius Guild, and a friend of Kathryn Finney.

It was really just about wanting to support other black women who were building things, but there was no money. I mean, I got paid pennies on the dollar to be part of an organization. And, and It was really, really hard. And I don't know if I would have been able to do it, had it not been for the support that I received from my family.

Kathryn Finney
In hindsight, maybe that wasn't the best way to do it, because our first cohort... Because our first cohort was a hot mess, a hot boiling pot of mess. Think of like Fatal Attraction bunny boiling in pot mess. I mean like that's how much of a hot mess it was.

I was being blamed for things that, frankly, I didn't have time. Like I was a mom, I was a wife. I just moved to a new city. I'm trying to run these things like I literally didn't have time to be nefarious with anyone. Because I was barely sleeping at that point.

I also wasn't making any money. Like there was no money coming in. And so, we just started to get shitted on. I mean, it was just crazy. And I realized that the founders in the program were being promised things that I didn't even know they were being promised, and that the expectations weren't aligned. And because I was so busy trying to be the superwoman, I was in DC trying to get them, during the last years of the Obama administration, to invest in black women entrepreneurs, to fund VCs, all this sort of stuff, that I didn't realize on the backend, sort of those insecurities and things weren't being managed. They were being left to fester.

And it was just a lot of finger-pointing and blame. And it was... To this day, I'm surprised I didn't give up. I really maybe should have, to be perfectly honest, at that point. Because I think from that point on, it became really hard to do Digital Undivided for me, because I felt that umm... Not that I expected people to pat me on the back for the things that I was doing, but I didn't expect to get personal darts thrown at me for things that were like literally there to help others.

And the one lesson I've learned is that people often want to believe the worst of black women. even when things say differently, people will believe the worst of black women. And other black women saying that will often help people believe that.

But I understand now, again, if I had to look back on that first cohort, they weren't in a safe space and they didn't have guidance that they needed and they didn't have leadership. And that's a responsibility I have to accept, but the responsibility I won't accept is for people treating me like shit, and not being adult about it and not coming to me and not talking. That I won't I won’t accept.

That's not on me. And so we made a lot of changes after that first cohort.

We blew up the whole thing. That's what we did. We completely restructured everything.  We changed it to call it the Big Accelerator. 

Kelechi Anydieagwu
I think that, being part of the accelerator, one thing that really helped me to understand is where the gaps were. Right. I mean, I, I felt like I was trying to build a team. I was, you know, trying to get the funds necessary to continue growing the company. I was trying to better understand the overall operations of, running the tech company. And so I think that, there are a lot of nuances there when it comes to what you really need. Right. And so I think that, you know, being part of DID really helped me to better understand okay, what I needed and when? And kind of what that, trajectory needs to be. 

My name is  Kelechi Anyadiegwu. I am the CEO Uju, I was at the first focus 100 conference as a focus fellow and I've worked for the organization in different capacities over the past last couple of years. 

I think for me, you know, I had a tendency to like want to micromanage every aspect of the business Versus being comfortable with like letting go and letting people handle things while I kind of worry worried about some of like the kind of bigger aspects of the business. And I think that,-that was probably my biggest lesson, but it's just learning how to, for me, as a CEO focus on the big picture, versus, dwelling too much in the nitty gritty and the day-to-day of the business. 

Kathryn Finney
But it still was hard managing DID. We we never really had the money to do it right. we never were able to hire the people we really needed to hire. Um-What we realized too is that there weren't many people in the space that we could hire.

And so we hired people that we had to train. We hired people who we thought were going to be good fits. And that was really, really difficult. Any leader who's been through the hiring process knows the hiring process is incredibly hard. It's made even harder when you don't have resources because you don't have the resources to get the right recruiters to help you. We couldn't afford recruiters. um-You don't have the resources to pay people at the level in which they should get paid.

So we kind of pieced it together with chopsticks and band-aids and some Elmer's glue um-in order to do this. Now from the outside, it seemed like we were killing it and we were amazing. But internally, it was like we were putting things together and I was really learning how to um-be a better manager and leader. We had four generations in our organization, from baby boomer down to gen Z. We haaad white and black folks who I realized later, living in Atlanta, there isn't actually a lot of interaction between white and black people here. I didn't know that. That's naivety on my part. I did not know that, I was naive. But I had an organization that had white and black people together who normally don't interact together.

Our mission was so clearly focused on supporting black and Latinx women. And I realized that some of our white staff didn't really believe in that, which was really hard for me. And that some of the constructs that I had built was really to make these white staff members feel comfortable. it took  one of our founders, became my chief of staff, Valeska Toro, who's an amazing woman. And it was many years later, we were at a conference  in San Francisco, was her first time going to San Francisco. And we're sitting at this table. We had this house that we had rented. It was just her and I, and she told me what I did. She told me about myself.  And In the gentlest kindest way you can tell someone that you kind of effed up, she did. And I had to come to the realization as a black woman who is unabashedly pro black and pro people and pro woman that I had created a space in which a white woman was centered.

Valeska Toro
So when I came into digital divided, as chief of staff, I had already been trained as a organizational and executive coach, and that made a huge difference because it meant that I could assess the organization and like, understand what the unspoken agreements or like the implicit biases were within the organization. And I was also able to lead a confronting conversation with the leader and also I had built so much trust with Katherine cause we had been working together for so long. And so when I gave her the feedback, the feedback had actually very little to do with the people themselves. What I was speaking to and I was giving her feedback on, as a CEO was on how the system was designed 

Hi, my name is Valeska Toro. I was formerly digitalundivided chief of staff and I am now the founder of uncommonly.

And so, um, and giving her the feedback. I think the thing was one, making it clear that my intentions were not to blame not to criticize, um, not to judge the intention was to identify it, to, um, address it and then to co-create a better system. Right. Uh, and then I think also by focusing on the system itself and not like the people or this person or that person or whatever, um, we were able to create a long-term solution. We weren't looking at it like as something small, we were able to see how it's playing out in every interaction. Uh, so I think that's, that was definitely my intention. And I think framing it that way and bringing it to her that way was what allowed us to just continue to work through it. And there were so many changes that we made after that conversation. And I think, you know, it leads to digital divided still being around today.

Kathryn Finney
that's probably one of the hardest things that I had to come to in my professional life, because that was the opposite of what I was trying to do.

 And that was really a a management lesson for me and a lesson about understanding where you're at, meaning even physical location and coming in and taking time to really absorb and see, which is why I say our first cohort, it probably would have been better if that cohort had been delayed a bit. We did it because of money, the funding to do it, not money that came into my pocket. But the funding to do it, we had to complete the programming in a certain time period.

But in hindsight, it would have been better for us if we had waited a year, and if I had spent some time really understanding the community that I was coming into, because I frankly didn't understand.

And so it created all this friction. The program was going amazing. We were hitting all of our key performance indicators, our KPIs, we were just killing it. But that part I missed. That part I missed. And um so, we were just scaling and we had this great space and amazing people like Stacey Abrams. And we were starting to help put Atlanta on the map. Atlanta was already on the map, but when we came in, in the tech space, people start to ask what was going on in Atlanta, because there was a lot of news that was coming out. In 2018, we did our second ProjectDiane that had received significantly more financial support. So it was a significantly better and bigger report. And we did massive. It was like massive promotion and PR from it. And it was just everyone was talking, I was sort of everywhere.

And everyone's talking about what's going on in Atlanta. What's happening in Atlanta? Because we're hearing about Atlanta, we're hearing about ProjectDiane, we're hearing about Kathryn Finney and people started to like really notice. And I think if there's one thing that has come out really well of me doing DID in Atlanta was that it helped Atlanta, which is a great city, get more shine in the tech space, specifically the tech space.

Atlanta had already had shine and music and other spaces, but tech, no one was really paying attention to. So uh-from that standpoint, it was amazing. And if that's the thing that I could give to Atlanta, Um then-then it was a great thing. But it was really hard for me because I didn't spend time in the South. I didn't understand Southern dynamics. I didn't understand how deep race and racism is in the soil here, in the constructs here.

And so I realized that it was going to be hard to win in Atlanta. There was a number of things that happened, again, because of my own being naive. I I didn't understand there were certain expectations of me as a black woman. There were certain existing relationships that kind of dictated how things move.  In fact, we would get these sort of interestingly veiled threats. There was a threat that Darlene got, which was a very well-known investor in Atlanta said to her, this sort of analogy about “sometimes you wade in the water too deep and before you know it, you're in over your head.” And he said that to us.

But it was stuff like that, these sort of thinly veiled threats of you're not being who we need you to be, you're not playing the game.

And so being in that space, I knew that this wasn't going to be the right environment for me. And that's difficult because  there's so many great, amazing things about Atlanta. But at least in the tech space, and that's the only space that I can talk about, it was not necessarily at that time, welcoming to women.

Darlene Gillard
one of the things that I was responsible for was going out into the community, meeting folks attending events and representing DID in the city of Atlanta. And I was at an event at Morehouse college and saw an investor who I had known and gotten to know over the years and had seen, you know, at a number of events around the country. And he says to me, you know, let me, let me tell you how it worked down here in Atlanta and Atlanta. it's like, you're waiting in the water and everything is fine. And then, you know, you take that step and you're into deep. That's how it works here in Atlanta.

I'm like, okay, thanks for telling me that, you know, not thinking anything of it, but as I thought deeper about it and shared it with Catherine and some of the other team members, I realized that dude was trying to tell us that we're doing too much, that we're overstepping, which was a little disconcerting for me, right? Because we were only trying to be additive to the community.

And, but I think people were maybe a little jealous about some of the attention that we were getting. it was, you know, all for the good we thought, but I think people had a problem with that and felt like we were overstepping. And so initially we had support, we thought we had support in Atlanta, but then not so much things sort of changed or maybe they were the same. I don't know, but we definitely had a tough time in Atlanta.

But the good news is that we as black women, strong black women decided that we were going to still continue this mission to uplift other black women in spite of any opposition that we received. In Atlanta

Kathryn Finney
The ProjectDiane in 2018 found that over 50% of black women founders came from either LA or New York. so if we were going to build an incubator program that was really going to be this catalyst and pipeline, we need to be in the New York area because that's where black women founders were. So we talk with Prudential, we talked with our partners, found an amazing space and started to build on our space in Newark. Newark embraced us in a way that frankly, Atlanta didn't. So where Atlanta was unsure about us, at least towards the end, Newark embraced us with like running arms. They were like, "Come on in," from the mayor down to the economic development.

I had went to Rutgers, so Rutgers had a really strong presence there and it was Lyneir Richardson and Jeff Robinson, both at Rutgers who were like, "Hey, we want you guys to come. We think this is really great." And they were just selling some Newark, just selling us in Newark." And that was something that we didn't get  in Atlanta. And something that my mom always taught me was go where you're wanted. And there's something about going where you wanted, the people see your value. Basically go where people see the value that you're bringing.

Jeffrey Robinson
I remember uh-when we were talking about bringing digitalundivided to Newark and I was, I was  convinced once I heard the story, the first time, let alone when ya know Kathryn and Darlene brought the data. I mean to me, that combination was a slam dunk, digitalundivided does something that most groups aren't able to do well. uh-Number one, they have a successful program.  They've  got a way of working with women of color who are entrepreneurial and taking them through the the steps in the path and and hopefully the proof of concept to get to that to that stage, to present uh their their ideas to investors uh-but then, digitalundivided does a second thing, which most groups aren't able to do.

My name's Jeffrey Robinson. I am a professor at the Rutgers Business School. I'm also the academic director of the center for urban entrepreneurship and economic development.

Lots of folks have programs with varying levels of success but to be able to see how the data is changing over a period of time and what your efforts and other people's efforts are doing to make a difference, that uh that to me, separated digitalundivided from the rest. So It was easy for me to support uh to support them coming to Newark.

Kathryn Finney
And we built this amazingly beautiful space. If you ever get a chance to go to the digitalundivided space in Newark, like go, don't pass it up. . It's just beautiful. We were right down the hall from our friends at Rutgers. It was this community that we had. We were working with Newark Tech Week and amazing, amazing leaders like Medina, who is so pro Newark that youuu can't help but also to be pro Newark. And so it was just the welcome that we received. The clarity, the partnership, it was not something that we had in Atlanta.

So I'm going to tell you about my love affair with Digital Undivided. Because when the ladies, the leadership team came into Newark, it was such a unique introduction to a organization that I had respected from the work that was being done in Atlanta. So when Digital Undivided came, for me, the unique points were the invitation to the table and what would be built. And the offering of one of the very powerful components of the entity known as Digital Undivided, which is even the sister organization, the project Diana Initiative.

My name is Medina. I am the proud founder of Equal Space and I am a digital advocate for equity space for people of color.

For me, Digital Undivided came and said let's look at what the ecosystem is, let's identify the pain points, the gaps, and talk about how together we can bridge those things.

And for Digital Undivided to have been so focused on black and Latinx women who are doing all the work, who are getting none of the accolades, for me it was like, this is an institution I don't only have to get behind, I have to get behind in such a way that it looks like I am a partner, if not a part of the team. And so many opportunities popped up that gave us that kind of unique bonding experience to do something in a city that I love, that I have been a part of.

Kathryn Finney
And so we were able to build and really build strong partnerships and relationships. And so as a result of this, I had to start discussions several years before with Pivotal Ventures. Pivotal is a investment firm led by Melinda Gates and a number of people, and then met them at South by Southwest and spent a long time talking about digitalundivided and what we were thinking of and things like that. I didn't think anything of it. And over the years we would have these discussions just about what I was thinking of and how I was building and very intellectual like discussions, discussions on research, what were the things that I was seeing,  what resources.

And so, .We were building out a sort of advisory board of people and we had reconnected and they had said, "Hey, ya know we’re-we're kind of interested in maybe giving you funding," uhm digitalundivided funding. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, that's great." I wasn't thinking about the level of funding. I was just thinking that's great.  And we received a significant amount of funding from Pivotal Ventures  in the spring of 2019.

It was interesting because we received it at the same time I was sort of thinking of what's next for me. At that point, I had been at DID for seven years. I had found DID, I grew it and was kind of thinking of, what's next for me? Um- I felt that I had did the most that I could do for the organization and start to think about what does transition look like? What does life for me look like after DID. What does DID look like after Kathryn? And so I started to really think, and the Pivotal money came at the same time that I was thinking about it. And I hadn't made a clear decision, but I had started talking with mentors of like, what does life look like afterwards?

Kendra Bracken Ferguson
nothing is ever stagnant or nothing can ever stay stagnant. You have to pivot, you have to change, you have to evolve. And it's hard. It's hard to change. It's hard to pivot. It's hard to not get lost in the comfort zone of what may have been, or even knowing that what you may have set out is not exactly how it is right then. Right. So being able to restrategize, refocus, um, reset your intentionality to move and intentionality

my name is Kendra Bracken Ferguson. I'm an entrepreneur founder advisor investor, and the founder of brain trust. 

And so for me, it's always been about, understanding the journey. If I can learn something and carry that with me into the next business, into the next opportunity into the next deal, then that's success, right? Because we constantly have to move and pivot. And we have to find our own validation from within, especially as an entrepreneur, because you're constantly told no, or it's not going to work, or you should do this, or you should do that. 

Kathryn Finney
And so, when we got our investment from Pivotal, it created a space for me to leave. It actually created me the space where I saw that I could set the organization up with an amazing foundation and I could go forth. 

I wanted to leave it in a position that whoever took over from me, whoever became this next CEO was going to come in already winning. They already had the cash. They had the staff, they had everything that they needed. So any sort of changes they wanted to make would be cosmetic. It was almost like the house was remodeled, you didn't have to do anything. If you want to do stuff, go ahead, but you didn't have to do anything. And that was my goal when I left, but I knew that I had to leave.

We had a board meeting in February where I had said that I wanted to leave. I don't think ... We had a board meeting in February. I said, I want to leave. None of the board took me seriously. I said, I want to leave. I said, I'm burnt, I am done, I'm tired. I'm doing so much. The organization's in a point where it doesn't ... like we could start the process to find a new CEO. We can get somebody else and it doesn't have to just be me. We have amazing amount of women who are available. They didn't believe me, I think, or hear me or listen or whatever, it wasn't heard.

And so, I was really thinking in earnest that February after coming from that board meeting of feeling, not listened to, not appreciated, not understood, not understanding that me moving on wasn't anything about the organization, it was just, I need to grow, and feeling not being allowed to grow. 

Laura Weidman Powers
my first impression with Kathryn, which I think has proven to be true is that she's a total powerhouse,, just a really,, sort of commanding presence., but the thing that I've always appreciated about her is that she's a very intentional listener., and she is really gifted, I think, at,, getting to know others and what their needs are,, and thinking about how she can, kind of help, help folks move their goals, move closer to their goals., and she's someone who,, doesn't need or ask for permission, she takes initiative and she, she does what she thinks is necessary, both in terms of her own goals and aspirations, but also in terms of, helping push others towards theirs.

my name is Laura Weidman Powers. I am, the outgoing head of impact at echoing green, and the incoming operating partner at phase 10 of venture firm in San Francisco. 

and I, I feel like I saw that pretty early on with, with her work at digitalundivided divided, but it's, it's proven to be the case over and over again over the years, that combination of, just sort of strong personalities, strong willpower, and also a strong listener and, uh, someone who's willing to be in service of others is quite Rare.

Kathryn Finney
I left DID for me. I left it because... I had a vision and I want to do something and I just felt constricted, restricted. And that I couldn't be myself. Like I couldn’t,  I couldn't be cute. I couldn't wear great hair because if I a great hair and "Oh, she's not really serious about tech." It was all these things, I just couldn't be me. I like style. I like fashion. I like hair. I like nails. I like money. I like investing. I like startups. I like building. I like people. I like being funny. I like being goofy. I like laughing. I like swear words. I like hip hop. I like classical. I like jazz. I like a lot of stuff. And I felt like I couldn't like and be fully myself in the space. So I left digitalundivided for me.

But what I did was I, I left everything. I left DID with nothing. I didn't get any money. I didn't have severance. I didn't have anything. I just left because my sanity is priceless. And I always reflect back to the story that Dr. Dre tells about leaving death row records, where they were like, "If you leave, we're going to keep everything. You don't get anything." And he was like, "So what? You're not the prize I am." And that's the thing that I realize, is that I'm a builder. Digitalundivided wasn't my first thing, it was my third successful thing. 

So I could leave feeling empowered because I knew I could build something else. And I knew I could do other things. And I knew I had ideas and the ideas were great. And so I think it's really important because sometimes we are so afraid to leave things like, "What if I don't have a next thing?" Or "What if I don't... Something doesn't happen." But realize that you're the prize. It's not the thing. You're the thing. You're the one who created it. You're the one who built it. You're the one who grew it. So you are in fact that prize. And that's what I realized. 

Darlene  Gillard
One of the things I've often said to Catherine during our time at digitalundivded was that we were doing the impossible for the ungrateful and I sacrificed quite a bit,time with my family, time for myself, sacrifice myself, my income for digitalundivided. But in all honesty, I think it was worth it because we've really done a tremendous amount of work in changing the face of entrepreneurship for black women in technology. And my life has been changed because of it. My husband is an investor in technology companies because of his proximity to tech. My son graduated from Hampton university as a computer science major an HBCU because his interest was piqued because of my affiliation with the organization. And my daughter works for Tesla. So I'm grateful. I'm thankful to Kathy, and appreciate being part of her journey.