BE Modern Man: Nasir Qadree
Venture capitalist, impact investor; 34; Venture Partner, Pier 70 Ventures; previously associate director of social investments, AT&T
Twitter: @NasirQadree; Instagram: @Nasir_Qadree
As an impact investor, I joined AT&T in 2017 to find, develop, and invest in high-growth and -impact social entrepreneurs across our country who are building proprietary technology that directly enhances students’ skills in preparation for tomorrow’s workforce. Our investments allow founders to realize their company’s full potential while promoting economic growth through education and career readiness. To advance AT&T’s diversity efforts, our team sourcing strategy is aimed at ensuring every entrepreneur is getting a “fair swing at the plate.” Today, our Social Investment portfolio consists of 63% women-led and 42% minority-led ventures.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN LIFE?
I believe one of life’s biggest challenges is finding our purpose. Most people grapple here. While it took me some time to figure out my own purpose, I now live a life where I wholeheartedly believe the saying “work-life balance is vital” is overrated. My passion for alleviating oppression in our most vulnerable communities to finding solutions that directly support these communities as an impact investor is what I’m most proud about. Like most, finding our purpose comes with a great deal of support, I’m blessed to have committed champions such as my family, mentors, and close friends who celebrate with me when I win and comfort me when I lose. A close friend shared with me, “Nasir who we believe we are, how we relate to others, and how we engage with communities around us is directly aligned with your purpose.” It is imperative that I also share this concept with my mentees because it is even more important.
HOW HAVE YOU TURNED STRUGGLE INTO SUCCESS?
My career on Wall Street comes to mind. I share often with mentees that I had severe imposter syndrome. I felt I did not belong. However, with the support of a number of early mentors, I found my confidence and began to feel a sense of acceptance. I also realized my purpose was not to climb the corporate ladder and make MD (managing director), but instead use my time on Wall Street to gain a solid skill set, exposure, and personal financial capital. With that experience, I’ve been able to find my passion by coupling my experience as a traditional investment professional supporting social entrepreneurs across the country, particularly those revitalizing rural and urban America, as an impact investor.
WHO WAS YOUR GREATEST MALE ROLE MODEL AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM?
I’ve been incredibly blessed to have a number of powerful male role models. My father Tony Johnson and former American Express CEO Ken Chenault [a 2018 Black Men Xcel Award Honoree] have taught me incredible business acumen. I also admire my grandfather, one of the greatest people I met in my life and best [example] of family legacy and the importance of community service.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE MANHOOD?
Being a man of your word. A man says what he means and means what he says. His word is his bond—he’s committed to his faith, family, and community. He values mentorship to young people who are coming behind him.
WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Wayne Gretzky famously said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Know who the experts are in that space, take them out for coffee and ask them about their experience and record it in a personal journal. Become part of professional organizations that bring together communities of experts. After you conduct thorough due diligence, go give it a try. Failure is much more valuable than success.
Also, my grandmother shared with me the idea of “Never letting your wins go to your head; never letting your losses go to your heart.” Throughout my career and personal life, I carry this idea close with me and share it often with my mentees.
HOW ARE YOU PAYING IT FORWARD TO SUPPORT OTHER BLACK MALES?
I’ve dedicated my career as an impact investor to educational access and supporting those who have the desire to become entrepreneurs because I believe there is far too much genius that goes untapped, which is unfair for young people and bad for our economy. In my work, I have the privilege to support black and brown young men who will become the first in their families to graduate from college. They each have the aspiration to build a technology company or advance their career in STEM.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A BLACK MAN?
Black men in our country continue to break barriers and act as positive role models to black boys and young men. While it’s important we acknowledge and celebrate their leadership, there remains a great deal of work that needs to be done in advancing opportunity for black men in America.
As a black man in America, I carry a chip on my shoulder every day. However, in my work as an impact investor, I understand that while the odds are systemically stacked against us, it’s vital I power through with zeal and push uncomfortable conversations that directly yield economic mobility for our communities.
WHAT PRACTICES, TOOLS, BOOKS, ETC. DO YOU RELY ON FOR YOUR SUCCESS?
I spend early mornings in prayer and running. After making up your bed, it’s an indicator of self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
I enjoy podcasts and classic books. I’m currently writing my first book, which will be a candid resource that outlines the role entrepreneurs play in revitalizing rural and urban America. Coming early 2020.
I also make time for hobbies that fulfill me and that are fun. While I love running, I also find myself unwinding by playing pickup basketball, or more recently, perfecting my DJ skills with DJ Sixth Sense here in Washington, DC. DJing is a newfound passion that allows me to share my music artistry with our community.
BE Modern Man is an online and social media campaign designed to celebrate black men making valuable contributions in every profession, industry, community, and area of endeavor. Each year, we solicit nominations in order to select men of color for inclusion in the 100 Black Enterprise Modern Men of Distinction. Our goal is to recognize men who epitomize the BEMM credo “Extraordinary is our normal” in their day-to-day lives, presenting authentic examples of the typical black man rarely seen in mainstream media. The BE Modern Men of Distinction are celebrated annually at Black Men XCEL (dev.blackenterprise.com/blackmenxcel/). Click this link to submit a nomination for BE Modern Man: https://dev.blackenterprise.com/nominate/. Follow BE Modern Man on Twitter: @bemodernman and Instagram: @be_modernman.