Aligning With Divine
At a recent event where we were examining the plight of our youth and technology, my team member hits me with the, “You have to see this guy that’s coming March 1st, he’s connected with VC’s and…” My mind trails for a second as I scan my mind for my schedule availability. Of course my day is booked, but I respect my team member’s enthusiasm and insight and tell them to send me the invite.
A week later… I trace back through my emails to the invite. Divine, an interesting and a strong name to consider one’s self. Skimming through the description of the invite, allowing words of allure to pique my interest. Hip Hop Artist… Hip-Hop Tech. Okay, that’s nice, Hip Hop has a major impact and tech people like great music- what else? Silicon Valley…VC… Unlikely friendship…Kickstarter… Fintech. While I felt the details of the event were noteworthy, I still wasn’t satisfied and wanted to know what really was it about this man that makes him sparkle and shine, and especially what was it in his Universe that gives him the ability to be connected to the Tech Kingdom of the U.S.? Google time!
I googled his famed mentor Ben Horowitz and then Googled their names together. I see the numerous articles written on the relationship and I read the Forbes piece, Knowledge, Power And Tech: A Q&A With Hip-Hop Artist Divine, written by Will Hayes. This three-part interview starts off with explosive fact. As noteworthy as his achievements, press, and products may be, this is a man that has an irreplaceable stain on his record- one that many never find a way to recover from. When speaking of how he even came to meet Ben Horowitz, he speaks his truth,
“For those that don’t know, I served over a decade in prison. After dealing with recidivism for a while…”
These words ring with me as I reflect on my fathers and their fathers who have had run-ins with the law and unfortunately I don’t get to read about them in Forbes. I finish the piece and scroll through the affiliated social media pages. While Divine serves as his moniker, his real name is Victor Lombard. Like the Lombardi trophy? This guy I need to meet, because these words in black and white can’t always capture a person when you meet them in person. I want to feel that his energy is authentic.
The day arrives for when Divine is to speak at Georgia State University. I rearrange my events, so I can set out on my mission to meet this guy. On the way to the event, questions loom around in my head. If he’s making connections in Silicon Valley, then what is it that others are missing? He strikes me as a non-technical founder, so who is on his team? How did he find his team? He has so many strikes against him, what makes investors listen to him? Often, people speak about Black people having to work harder than everyone else, is that something he finds to be true? Arriving respectably late, when I step into the auditorium the visual of the crowd in contrast to what was on stage is the first thing I noticed. The audience contained a good mixture of college kids with their clothes reflecting their freedom of expression, community figures, and even a quite a few folks of the European persuasion with their suits and fingered mustaches. All here to see Divine, whose pressed Fall Green T-shirt, dark jeans, clean Timbalands, and signature Yankees cap, in addition his raspy, calm voice, appears to be in his element.
Our moderator, Robert Hatcher, founder of Soundcollide- his interaction with Divine was a sight to see within itself. Robert sat and inquired of Divine, like one would of their Sensei. As if Robert and I were on the same enlightenment track, Robert asked him about the characteristics of success, how he found his team, and how he connected with Ben. Divine would slightly pause in between each question, as if his mind would search for the memory that fit the response, and he’d proceed with imparting his knowledge. He dropped his wisdom bombs…
Yes, investors were nervous about dealing with someone with his record…
Yes, he has to be 1,000 times better, and his BLAK (Building Leverage Acquiring Knowledge) Card puts him in the forefront of the most regulated industry (FinTech)…
He loves to read and is constantly doing his research…
He found someone whose technology he admired, told him his story and that’s how he found his technical co-founder…
Robert’s questions drew out so many treasures, that when it came to Q&A, folks needed some time to sift through what was just delivered to them. While one person asked him to speak on BLAK Card, the remainder of the questions spoke to the personal needs of the person asking. I found myself at the mic asking the question that is the underlining question entrepreneurs ask themselves when it seems as if the end of their venture is near- When should an entrepreneur stop working on their venture? Divine’s response spoke to the fighter in him. I would never tell someone to give up on their dream…Quoting the famed Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary and his well-known “Stop the Madness” phrases where he summons the entrepreneur to give up, Divine notes that even though Kevin tells one to stop because he speaks from his own experience, he urges people to stay resilient in their quest for success.
The speaker series concludes after a few more questions. Avoiding the crowd that often ensues after the main attraction, I search the auditorium to connect with those I knew and those who I wanted to know (P.S. listen to the Q&As, where people introduce themselves, for these people can be your next connection, partner, resource. If you know a more direct answer to their question, give it to them, you may never know where it may lead). I then approach the stage to complete my mission and to re-confirm the glimmer of a man I have read so much about the other night. Divine and I exchange introductions and the same level of attention he gave the moderator he extended to me. I showed my appreciation and continued to my next array of activities. It was some time afterwards that my newly found connection (made at the speaker series) invites me to an evening event at a Black-Owned venue where Divine is supposed to be as well. Feeling like the Plain Jane that gets an exclusive invite to the ball, I arrange my schedule to attend.
Stepping into Studio No. 7, where I’ve been before for other networking events at the times that I had been to this place, various lights and musical notes would bounce off the open spacious rooms. Tonight’s intimate encounter had the lights low and the crowd in chairs and bar stools at arms-length from Divine. A camera team filming him, this time he’s positioned center and low, fingers occasionally interlocking as he lets the crowd into his insight. In addition to myself, I see a few familiar characters from the earlier event along with new faces. Q&A time comes around and tonight’s session revealed the usual shameless plugs and testimonies, laced inside the inquirer’s questions. I smile to hear the question of self-taught coder and Red Rooster Technologies founder Michael Westbrook. This millennial wants to know how he can get the support of Divine for his desire to teach the youth to code. Divine takes a moment to let the question settle and offers with ease that Michael should “Align with Divine”…
Coming into the event shortly behind me was Cassius F. Butts. B.O.S.S. readers remember him as our cover for Issue 22 and even though he has transitioned out as the President Obama appointed Regional Administration for the Small Business Administration Region IV- his journey as a leader and change agent hasn’t ended. Right on que before the event wrapped, Butts is cordially asked to impart a few words on the crowd. He takes a seat next to Divine and in his jovial tone he speaks of his latest roles- CEO & Founder of CFB Advisors and his position as Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgia State University. He continues and sheds light on an unknown common thread that him and Divine share. Butts recalls his experience with Afeni and Tupac Shakur and the impact that Hip Hop played on his career. Yes, the same man that plays Hans Zimmer throughout his work day pays his respect to Tupac for changing his life. Butts closes with a strong proclamation to continue to support Divine on his current and upcoming successes.
I set out on a mission to find out what made Divine sparkle and shine and if Divine’s energy was authentic. Similar to how you check for fool’s good, I visually inspected for his authenticity stamp and with every interaction I checked for the density in every word he spoke. What I found is that his internal awareness of self and purpose is what gives off a sparkling allure. It is this sense of self and focus on purpose that also transmits into a parallel energy that emits, so that whether he addresses a VC, the crowd, or you, the genuineness never leaves.
Here’s some takeaways that I implore to readers to take away from Divine’s journey:
- Power of Acquiring Knowledge– Knowledge is only as good as it applied. Divine invested his resources and time in obtaining books and other information for everything he was interested in pursuing. With information so readily accessible with the internet, there’s so much you can learn and apply to your current situation.
- Power of Seeking Mentorship– Divine understood that one of the keys to changing his course of life and achieving his goals was to expand his network. Reaching out to people like Ben, he not only sought mentorship but worked to exchange value in the relationship.
To continue to support Divine, look out for him as he is a writer for Black Enterprise as well as a member of their steering committee for BE TechConnext Sum
mit that will be held in Silicon Valley. He will share a panel with the esteemed Shaka Senghor as they speak on fintech and how technology can play a role in prison reform. Divine will also be a featured speaker at FranceFintech on March 28th.
Follow Divine on Twitter, @4thlettermusic.