The evolution of self is a never-ending principle.
Monique Idlett-Mosley is not biting her tongue when it comes to giving advice — especially to entrepreneurs who are women, and people of color.
Understanding that those two categories are underserved, and overlooked in the business sector is the main reason why Idlett-Mosley started her career in venture capitalism. While other companies and funds see a blindspot, Idlett-Mosley’s company, Reign Ventures Capital (RVC), an early-stage fund, sees that as an opportunity to pay close attention, and invest.
Prior to RVC, Idlett-Mosley was the CEO of Mosley Music Group (Timbaland’s record label) which has worked with a number of artists Nelly Furtado, Keri Hilson, One Republic, Tink and had joint ventures with Interscope Records, Epic Records, and currently with Def Jam. She’s also led marketing campaigns for Verizon, represented musicians like T.I., and Kanye West, and founded the Always Believing Foundation.
Entrepreneurship wasn’t a hobby or a career that Idlett-Mosley just fell into. Far from it. Dressing up in her mother’s clothes, with rubber bands in it so it could fit just right, Idlett-Mosley created a makeshift desk, giving her sister demands on what she needed to do for their ‘company’ to succeed. This, might I add, was all at the age of seven.
It was that moment, Idlett-Mosley’s mother recognized her entrepreneurial spirit. At 16, while her classmates worked at Baskin Robbins, Idlett-Mosley was the manager of a jewelry store.
“As parents, I think when we pay attention to children they pretty much show us who they are. I know I showed my mother who I was very young, she made it a point to make sure that she nurtured that side of me. I do believe it starts early,” Idlett-Mosley says. Now, she’s making sure she’s doing the same for her three children.
In our interview, Idlett-Mosley discusses misconceptions in entrepreneurship, what she considers potential as a venture capitalist and Silicon Valley’s biggest issue.
Her Agenda: You started your company, Reign Ventures Capital with your co-founder, Erica Duignan, who you met in business school. Tell me a little bit about the conversation between you and her?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: It was a little deeper for me. I went back to school even after being a successful CEO and co-founder of [Mosley Music Group]. So while I was [in business school], it was the first time I had ever even been introduced or heard of angel investing, and private equity. Even though we had a financial advising team, it took me going back for my masters to hear about angel investing, and private equity, which for me that was like, ‘wow, this is a problem.’
Her Agenda: Right. And, what was the problem?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: I became one of the more engaged investors, and started seeing that a lot of the founders that were originally brought to us to invest in or just traditional founders that we had seen in the past were white men. So I started saying, ‘Wow, if this is the way that you build up a Fortune 500 company — meaning early stage investors now get to become the voting board members — and that’s how the C-Suite level appointments are made; well, this is the reason why we don’t see diversity, and inclusion, in companies because we’re not investing early. We’re not getting engaged, and we’re not being a part of the buildup of company.’
Her Agenda: And that’s why you started it. So tell me a little bit about the brands, and investments you’ve made so far?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: Reign Ventures Capital is an early-stage fund that invests in exceptional founders who are building extraordinary companies, but we have a lens that focuses on diversity for people of color, and for women. This category has been historically left out. Less than one percent of minorities get funding. So, we have that extra ear, and eye to it, and actually invest intentionally to help find these amazing founders.
We started doing that, and I can give you a list of some of our most recent [investments]. We [invested in] Buzztable, Bespoke Posts, Appy Couple, Lisnr, Record Gram, which was the first music app to ever win at Tech Crunch. We have Snowball, and Village Luxe. These are all recent investments that have really been amazing for us, and it’s a diverse portfolio, which is really important.
You have to be curious to grow, and to be innovative.
Her Agenda: What about these companies really stuck out to you the most? Why did you invest in them?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: First, we started finding companies that were not in Silicon Valley, and only one of our companies is actually a Silicon Valley company — Snowball. The founder, Tanya Menendez is also the founder of Maker’s Row. Then, she went on to find Snowball. But, outside of that we want to help build a healthy ecosystem, and find founders who are not located in Silicon Valley. Record Gram is out of Miami, Lisnr and Solo were originally out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Village Lux is a New York company. Bespoke, Appy, Connxus — those are all New York companies.
We’re trying to give opportunities to companies that are not located in Silicon Valley. When we assume that the only safe company to invest in is in Silicon Valley, we become part of the problem. It’s important for us is to find the ‘it’ factor in entrepreneurs who were trying to build outside of Silicon Valley. If every company that’s growing is based in Silicon Valley, what does that say? Everything is transitioning somehow, some way. Technology is impacting every single industry. So, if we say that the only type of growth comes out of Silicon Valley, what are we saying to all of our cities, and to all of the people who are existing outside of Silicon Valley? That there’s no talent? There’s no real business model? And that even though we know technology is impacting, and disrupting in every way, that every industry is doing business, that’s the only way we can change it is through Silicone Valley? I think that that should be scary for anyone!
When we assume that the only safe company to invest in is in Silicon Valley, we become part of the problem. It’s important for us is to find the ‘it’ factor in entrepreneurs who were trying to build outside of Silicon Valley.
Her Agenda: Let’s say for someone who wants to pitch you their idea, or their company, what are some things they must have to get that yes from you?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: There is a vetting process. There’s due diligence. We typically find out about founders through other great founders and great accelerators. It’s not as if there isn’t a real process for building out your business and getting funded. The process doesn’t change — the access changes. We’re more available to founders, and I have a philosophy that if any founder who reaches out to me, I read, and respond to every single email, text or DM. And if it’s something I can help them with, then we help.
We help as much as is possible, even if it’s as simple as diverting them to an accelerator that they can apply to or figuring out if they have the right business materials to actually create an investor deck.
I have a philosophy that if any founder who reaches out to me, I read, and respond to every single email, text or DM. And if it’s something I can help them with, then we help.
Her Agenda: What is a misconception about entrepreneurship, and venture capitalism?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: In talking to a lot of founders, entrepreneurs, and people who are considering being an entrepreneur, there’s this misconception that it’s easy or that because you have a great idea, and it’s solving a problem that [money] should automatically just be available to you. No! This is money that’s being invested. And, people have to understand investing for exactly what it is. When people are investing, they are looking for a return.
None of us would get anything done by ourselves. The team is just as important as the idea, and the business model.
Just because you have a good idea or just because you do personally believe that you have something amazing, you also have to prove the business model. You also have to prove that there’s a financial growth to it. That there’s some type of growth for a business community. There’s a lot of hard work outside of just the idea. There’s a real business plan. There are real financials that have to get done. You have to show that the company can scale. Your team has to be amazing. We do not invest in founders who [are] a one-person show. None of us would get anything done by ourselves. The team is just as important as the idea, and the business model.
Her Agenda: That is so true. As a leader, what is it that you look for in your team?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: One of the things I look for and live by is how does someone respond to no, or the answer not being right there? Do you give up? What’s your mental mindset? So many people don’t understand that the mental mindset and mental health is just as important as being alive, awoke, and available to be prepared for work. How you approach things mentally is just as important as making sure that you are making money, or that your team is healthy. That’s really important. When we’re looking at founders we’re also taking into consideration how is this person going to deal with all of the stresses that come with entrepreneurship, how are they going to deal with failure because we all are going to fail. Do they take it as a lesson or is it like you just don’t know how to come back from that? Their mentality is a huge thing that we pay attention to. The level of professionalism is what we pay attention to. I think now, especially with digital media and social media, you are your image, and so what you’re putting out there, how you’re behaving, what you’re showing is important to you on social media.
Her Agenda: Speaking of communities that are underserved: why do you think women of color don’t receive enough funding?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: This is why I got involved in investing, right? We look at a company from its very beginning and this is for anyone who starts a company when you first start, it’s very small. It’s you, and you normally fund it with your money, right? If you look historically where the wealth has been distributed, not so much in our community, right? Who’s funding our startup businesses? That’s usually what they call the family, friends, and fool rounds. It’s either a family member, really close friend or a fool who’s going to invest in you without a proven method, yet. But, that’s what it takes to grow, and scale a business. It’s to have some type of conception from the beginning. And, if it’s not funded, how can you get past that stage? You can’t. You cannot.
Black women are not getting funded. Where are they getting the money? Now, the narrative is starting to change, but historically and even just a few years ago, how many Black women did you know that could bet on other Black women, financially?
How you approach things mentally is just as important as making sure that you are making money, or that your team is healthy.
Her Agenda: What is your motto? What is that one quote that keeps you going?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: I tell myself and my staff every single day: the evolution of self is a never-ending principle, and that we have to be curious for the rest of our lives because that is how we continue to stay educated, and progressive. We live by that motto to be curious. You have to be curious to grow, and to be innovative.
Her Agenda: We’re already in May, the second quarter of the year. What are some of your goals for Reign Ventures?
Monique Idlett-Mosley: One of my big goals is to align with other funds so that we can actually have strategic investing. Instead of us all investing in a bunch of different companies, we align with a few companies so we can start creating our unicorn companies as investors the same way that Silicon Valley does. My biggest thing is to start contacting and collaborating collectively together as venture capitalists, especially the ones who have more of a voice, and more founders that want to be a part of it. Strategic investing is going to be very important for our companies with minority founders.
[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]