Lindsay Siegel is the Head of Impact at a different kind of venture capital fund. Company Ventures is not just looking at profitability and return on investment – they partner with the next generation of entrepreneurs that are seeking to build with purpose. The firm has worked with over 250 founders who share a common dream of building companies the right way. One of those is People’s Choice co-founder Troy Walcott, whose journey to impactful entrepreneurship started after a 20 year career working for the man – and now he’s fighting for the people.
Alisa: Welcome to Inside Impact, where we give you a behind the scenes peek at how organizations can create positive change in their communities. I’m Alisa Herr, founder of Unity Web Agency, and on the show today, we’re headed to New York City to meet with Lindsay Siegel from Company Ventures and Troy Walcott from People’s Choice.
Lindsay: And that’s where this. This all started to click. It was innovation, entrepreneurship opportunity, dreaming, big meets, impact. The good news is that entrepreneurs are idealists and they are visionaries. And. They, are in it because they have like, they, they have the belief that they can create something totally new and optimism that comes with that, which means when you start to talk about like, systems of oppression and like, you know, structural racism. There are ways to bring that into that optimism to say, and you can design to do better than that.
Alisa: Company Ventures has worked with over 250 founders who share a common dream of building companies the right way. One of those companies is People’s Choice, and for co-founder Troy Walcott, his journey to impactful entrepreneurship started after a 20-year career working with Time Warner Cable.
Troy: In 2017, once Spectrum took over from Time Warner Cable, they immediately looked to attack the union part of the workforce, which I was a part of. At the point where they look to take away our retirement, our medical and everything else, we ended up having to go on strike.
It wasn’t too far into the strike that we saw that they had a different idea of what they were doing. It wasn’t more about trying to negotiate for lower rates, they looked like they were trying to eliminate more of a way of life of unions. We came up with the idea that we may need to think of something different. We collectively, as workers put together our money to pull together to come up with a business plan and we say, you know, what, what if the city on the cable system? So that way we could at least have some accountability, we can elect people in and out, you know, guarantee good jobs.
We gave the business plan to city officials. They loved it, but no one moved on that. So we said, you know what? We already built a system, the people don’t like the cable companies and what they’re doing, why don’t we join together with the public? And we could own the cable system. And that’s where we started moving. It wasn’t until we actually got on that path that I learned that what we were doing was a cooperative. So I’m into that. Introduction, I’m someone that was helping us early on during the process while we were on strike, Eric Foreman was able to still connect and work with us and connected us to, I think this was during the third year of our strike and at the height of the pandemic, it was a grant and, two companies, Metro IAF and Black Power, were charged with trying to build out a system to provide internet service to these people who are now locked in their homes and couldn’t have access to the rest of the world.
We were already looking into try to build out a system that could have ownership between us and the community. He was able to link us both together and we were able to start building out these systems. So now the cooperative idea that we have to try to build these systems had a jumpstart and we were able to now handle even more of a dire need because these people now needed this system. Honestly, they always needed it immediately, but now it’s just highlighted more and we were able to help get it done.
And so we started, we started moving on that goal from there aligning what we had as our cooperative goal to build out and make this thing possible with the immediate need to provide service to these underserved areas.
Alisa: That’s incredible. I wish that, I guess I hope that that kind of model can spread to other communities. Have you heard interest from elsewhere about that model that you’re building already in New York City?
Troy: I mean, I’ve seen a lot of things that now relate to it, even with the, talk of the infrastructure bill and how things are being built out. The question is if it’s built out and we use this money to solve this problem, does it solve the problem if we give it to the same people and put them in the same position as it was before? Or can we look to do something a little different, like, you know, providing ownership of the system they build with the money, now it’s not just about providing internet service, but what if the money from the internet service and portions of the bill that people now have to pay every month can be recycled and reinvested right back into the community.
And the community gets a say in how those dollars are invested to improve the community. So let’s create an, you know, providing a need that’s there and creating an economic empowerment for that community. And that economic empowerment can start to make societal changes within those communities. So it’s kind of like a kind of like perpetual motion kind of thing.
Alisa: Yeah again, so many feels that’s really cool. I’m really excited that you’re on this show and we could talk about kind of this merging or not merging, but like how Company Ventures and the city fellowship is able to really companies help like People’s Choice get off the ground. Is that how you think about Company Ventures and this fellowship that you’re in?