Jamaican born-and-raised David P. Mullings is doing his best to take over the digital frontier. From being knee-deep in the world of startups to raising massive amounts of capital and building countless relationships along the way, Mullings’ story is an inspirational one, chock full of Caribbean pride, international tech experience, and incredibly hard work.
Mullings is the general partner of Tessera Venture Partners, a venture fund focused on building the next frontier of digital companies. He is also founder and chairman of Blue Mahoe Partners, a private investment firm structuring investments between Caribbean investors and the USA, and the co-founder and adviser of RunLive, a running startup that is wrapping up a seed round after graduating from the leAD Sports Accelerator in Berlin, Germany. A career deep in relationships and leveraging opportunity has left him with several lessons to share with those who want to follow in his footsteps:
- Invest in your team: “Focus on empathy and providing your team with the tools that they need to thrive. In Jamaica, we have a saying about giving a person a basket to carry water. I think that too many CEOs are cheap, not providing proper pay, budgets, and equipment: a Toyota budget, but expecting Ferrari results. Set your team up for success from day one and show that you value their skills.”
- Celebrate differences: “All of our partners are minorities and that can make us more approachable to minority founders, so we look forward to leveraging that. We are actively courting professional athletes and entertainers because they see what Kobe Bryant has been doing since retirement, what 50 Cent did with Vitamin Water, what Diddy did with Ciroc, but they do not know how to vet deals or even get access to the kind of deal flow we have.”
- Say yes to every opportunity, because you never know where they’ll lead: “While in college, my brother and I launched our first startup, which eventually had the largest collection of Caribbean entertainment videos on the web at Realvibez. I negotiated a deal with YouTube in 2008 to become their first Caribbean media partner, and opportunities presented themselves for me to work at one of the largest financial institutions in the Caribbean working on product development. That led to working with a private equity firm and then a hedge fund, all the while serving as a mentor to entrepreneurs via the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean and itching to launch a venture capital fund. I left the fund this year to focus on my passions and launched Blue Mahoe Partners. I was asked to help Mike Thompson and RunLive raise capital, and then it was the only US startup invited to be in the leAD Sports Incubator based in Berlin, Germany, so I moved there for 3 months to support the company.”
Find a quote that inspires you, and cling to it: “I was born in an era that gave me an opportunity to own a pair of shoes. Had I been born 250 years ago, I would have been owned. I would have been a slave. So I’m very, very aware that my being here has many factors that I had nothing to do with.” -Michael Lee-Chin (David’s favorite)