Cedric Bobo is the CEO and Co-founder of Project Destined, a social impact vehicle that trains urban youth and military veterans to be owners and stakeholders in the communities in which they live, work and play. Prior to founding Project Destined, Cedric spent over 20 years as an investor and investment banker including over 10 years at The Carlyle Group where he committed over $2 Billion of equity capital.
In 2015, Cedric was named to the “10 Top Powerful Black People on Wall Street You Should Know.”
The name Project Destined was inspired by the 2016 film Destined. It tells the story of a young boy who in one reality is a drug dealer and in the other is a successful architect. The outcome of a single event determines the path the boy pursues. Cedric plans to change the life outcome to a good one for many teenagers without opportunity.
Prior to Carlyle, Cedric worked at D.L.J. Merchant Banking (London) and McCown De Leeuw. He is the co-founder of Charter Board Partners, a non-profit focused on governance in the charter school sector. He also serves on the District of Columbia’s Office of Public Charter School Financing and Support Credit Committee and Beauvoir, The National Cathedral Elementary School.
Cedric received his MBA from Harvard Business School and a BSME, summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:04] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo in order to build better for everyone. And speaking of building better, I’m very excited to share that my company, Small Change, is now raising capital through a community round that is open to the public. Small Change is a leading equity crowdfunding platform for impact investment in real estate. For as little as $250, anyone 18 and over can invest in Small Change, helping to fuel our growth as we disrupt the old boys club of capital that routinely ignores so many qualified people and projects. Please visit wefunder.com/smallchange to review the full details of our raise and to make an investment if you can. And remember, investing is risky. Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose.
Eve: [00:01:35] Today, I’m talking with Cedric Bobo, the co-founder of Project Destined, a non-profit that teaches minority teenagers the ins and outs of real estate investment. The name Project Destined was inspired by the 2016 film Destined. It tells the story of a young boy that in one reality is a drug dealer and in the other, a successful architect. The outcome of a single event determines the path the man pursues. Cedric, who has roughly two decades of investor and investment banking experience, plans to change the outcome to a successful one for many minority teenagers. In 2015, Cedric was named to the ten top powerful Black people on Wall Street you should know, so he has a lot to share. Listen in to hear the inspiring story that took Cedric from Mississippi to Wall Street and the incredible rise of Project Destined. If you’d like to join me in my quest to rethink real estate, there are two simple things you can do. Share this podcast or head over to rethinkrealestateforgood.co and subscribe. You’ll be the first to hear about my podcasts, blog posts and other goodies.
Eve: [00:03:08] Hello, Cedric. It’s really nice to finally meet you.
Cedric Bobo: [00:03:10] It’s great to meet you Eve and thank you for taking time to hear from me and hear our stories. It’ll be fun.
Eve: [00:03:15] Oh, no, It’s a pleasure. I can’t wait. So, you’ve been named one of the ten top powerful Black people on Wall Street you should know. And I’d like to hear a little bit about your background on what took you from Harvard, I suppose all of this started, to Wall Street and then to Project Destined.
Cedric Bobo: [00:03:34] Yeah. I mean, look, I’m a from northern Mississippi and I start every story with that’s where I’m really from. And that’s frankly what frames my story. You know, my great grandfather, you know, bought a hundred-acre farm in the 1890s. I was born there. My mom was born there, and most of my history starts there. And so, I grew up, I wanted to just build something, and I wanted to have a path to a great life. And I didn’t know how to do it. So, I studied engineering in school because I thought it would give me a job. And then I did a summer program at Harvard Business School where you go there for a weekend. That was the beginning of change in my life. I just didn’t know there were all these things you could do with your time, right?
Eve: [00:04:21] And how old were you then?
Cedric: [00:04:23] Yeah, I was 20 years old when I first got there. So, I had been in school for a couple of years studying engineering, loved engineering, but I knew I wanted to be a businessperson. So, I got to Harvard Business School and there were people going to work at McKinsey and Company and all kinds of things I’d never heard about. And I was fortunate enough that after that summer I was going to spend a year at Oxford where I was going to study politics and economics for a year just to do all my electives, frankly. And when I was there, I played rugby with folks that were doing investment banking. It was now the second time I’d ever heard that term before, after Harvard. And I was like, they’re doing some of the same math that I do, but their earning potential seems demonstrably higher. And I was like, well, at least I should go and try that. And I have an indulgent mom who was willing and I’m an only child and my mom is willing to support me to try anything except go to New York. So, after some after some convincing, she supported me to go to New York and I went to Solomon Brothers for the summer. And I’ve told people this many times. They put me in the private equity group and it was the first time I had heard that there were people who used other folks money to buy stuff and get a piece of the profit. I think my mom still thinks that that’s a scam because when I told her that she was in shock, I still think it’s an amazing job.
Cedric: [00:05:58] And so, I thought it was just pretty incredible. I loved investment banking, wanted to go into private equity, got a chance to do that. Not in New York, but in San Francisco. So, I followed the job to San Francisco. And that was really a transformational period for me because in New York it’s somewhat like London, where people just pride themselves on all the success they’d had. They never talk about the failures in New York because there’s like a penalty for a setback. But I got to San Francisco, and I was like, people fail forward here. People are always talking about some startups that they started and then it fails, and they learn these lessons and now they’re going to go and start something new. And for me, it tapped into my early desire to build something and be an entrepreneur because I was like, wow, these people are incredibly bright. They try stuff, it doesn’t always work out, and then they go and try it again. And there are these venture capitalists that will support them if everything lines up. And that really kind of blew my mind in terms of financial engineering in a different way, starting businesses. And so, I then went to Harvard Business School, and I was determined to come back to private equity, but I happened to do my summer between business school years in London at a firm dealer to merchant banking. So, I was in their London group.
Eve: [00:07:20] One of the most entrepreneurial places in the world, right? London.
Cedric: [00:07:24] Yeah. London is super entrepreneurial. And I was an American in London, which just gives you, I think, great license to try different things. I think that you start with some credit because they see everyone is like as American, as slightly aggressive. So, they kind of give you a little bit of, I think, special street credit when you have this accent, which I think is nice. And so, I spent a couple of years there and I had a father-in-law who was a surgeon who bought real estate on the side. And I would look at like his capital structure for his deals. And I was like, you buy real estate the way I buy companies. I was like, I didn’t know you could do that. And I was just completely blown away that, like, there were people who were buying buildings using private equity principles. And that was my initial hook into real estate. I was like, wow, like I could be using some of these same skills but be involved in creating places. That was transformational for me.
Eve: [00:08:23] So then what led you to launch Project Destined after that career?
Cedric: [00:08:28] Yeah. So, I left London and spent ten years at Carlyle, still buying companies for a living. But from day I found out that my father-in-law was buying buildings in this way, I started buying apartments and apartment buildings on the side. And I really like, I loved it. I could go all the time. That when you buy a widget manufacturer in South Korea, like, I think I know what happens in that factory, but like, I’m really taking their word for it. But these revenues come from producing these widgets. When you’re in apartment building and people pay you rent every month, it is just very clear the value you add and the contract that you’re entering into with your tenants. And so, for me, real estate just felt incredibly transparent. I felt like I knew how I was adding value every single day and I wanted to find my way back into real estate as a profession. So, I loved Carlyle. Carlyle went public and my wife and I were fortunate enough to where financially we were at a place where I could try something entrepreneurially and it wasn’t going to detract from my family’s quality of living. And I’ve seen this movie about Detroit called Destin, about how much investing was happening in Detroit, and the participation among diverse people wasn’t as broad as certainly any of us would like or probably anyone in politics in Detroit would like.
Cedric: [00:09:48] And so, I flew to Detroit, and I was just blown away what was happening there in terms of investing downtown. And I told my wife, like, I think I could do something and contribute here with my sort of financial engineering background, but also entrepreneurially. And so, that was the beginning of Project Destined. I had this idea that, why couldn’t I create an apprenticeship program starting with high school students, then that train students how to look at real estate. But I was actually going to buy the real estate and teach them while doing that was the beginning of Project Destined. It was 15 students, high school students, in Detroit, and from the first class I was like, this is going to be a large platform. I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but I think most entrepreneurs probably have this experience. Like, I just saw the future in those 15 students, and I knew we were going to train thousands of students one day.
Eve: [00:10:38] But what’s the problem you’re trying to solve with those students? Let’s talk about that. And who are they? You know, why them? You know, that’s really the question, right?
Cedric: [00:10:48] Yeah. Well, I think it always starts with who you are, right? I mean, so like, this is I tell people that, like, starting Project Destined is a completely selfish act for me. I’m solving my problem is that, like I was a small-town kid in Mississippi, I had incredibly big aspirations. I didn’t know how to get there. There was no path. No one could say to me, first to the engineering, then go to Wall Street, then go to Harvard. I didn’t have that. So, my access problem started with a visibility problem. Like, what if I wanted to play pro football? It was completely clear what you do, do good in high school, go to SEC school, get drafted, but wanted to do business. In my small town there was no transparency. And so, the problem I’m trying to solve is an access problem, but really, it’s a visibility and pathway problem. I think the access can be created if you have the vision for yourself and you have someone who will help you create the network. So, the problem solving is really an access problem that I had as the kid in Mississippi. And now the people that I have a chance to impact, it started with these 15 kids in Detroit, primarily African American. Right? But today it’s young women in London, right? It’s, you know, young women and men in India. Right. We all have these access problems when it comes to being an owner and business leader. So, for me, like, our market is pretty large, but it started with me and then it transfered to, transitioned to 15 kids in Detroit, who I viewed as seeing their city change and they felt more victim than participants. I wanted to teach them how to become a participant. And in doing it with those 15 students, I was like, There’s so many people that face the same roadblock, whether they’re rural, Caucasian kids in West Virginia or they’re black kids like me in Mississippi, like I saw an access problem. That to me is a huge opportunity for the real estate sector. That’s the problem I’m trying to solve.
Eve: [00:12:45] Yes. So, the other day I read this really alarming statistic, which I’ve known, but it just, sort of, reinforced what I think is going on in real estate, and that is that last year, venture capitalists invested 2% of all the funds they invested in women and 1.4% in minorities. And every time I see that number, I think, what makes people think real estate is any different? You know, as a female real estate developer, I can’t say for sure how I’ve been hampered, but I certainly feel my trajectory would have been different if I’d been a white male. So, how do you, like I think you have a very unusual story. Probably a somewhat rare one. How do you tell these kids really what they’re up against?
Cedric: [00:13:35] My story is rare in terms of some of the places I’ve had a chance to work and learn from. Right. But my story is quite common when it comes from, I thought I was smart enough but didn’t know what the hell to do with it. I think all of us suffer from some degree of imposter syndrome. And so, what I tell students from day one is the first part of being successful is knowing you deserve to be successful. Once you know that, then what you need is clarity of path and a network. And I tell every kid, I’m going to give you both of those. All you got to do is stick with me for nine weeks. So, we have a nine-week program where today, the thing that we’ll do for today. We’ll train, from those 15 students of Detroit. We’ll train close to 2500 students this year.
Eve: [00:14:24] Wow.
Cedric: [00:14:25] We’ll turn 1000 this semester alone. But we had 3000 applications from 290 students for our program this semester. And our program is every semester fall, spring, summer. Right. And so, we’ll have a thousand students who will join our community. We kick off on September 26, and on the first day of class, I tell them the same thing, which is that you’re already going to be successful. I get a chance to be a part of it but let me describe to you how it’s going to work.
Cedric: [00:14:52] First, I’m going to teach you a ton of stuff about real estate, but then I’m going to mobilize the real estate community to be a part of your journey. So, you’re going to learn in multiple ways. First, you’re going to learn from me lecturing you. I’ve got to give you some language. I’ve got to help you build confidence and using that language, that’s sort of step one. The second thing is that I’m going to put you on a corporate backed team, right, where it’s going to be ten of you all on a team. You’re going to be backed by some fancy company like Brookfield or JLL or Goldman Sachs, and you’re going to have mentors from those companies that are going to be part of your journey. And every three weeks you’re going to meet with them to prepare for a competition. Here’s what’s going to happen, in the beginning, they’re going to be kind of passive and like, it’s nice to meet you, you’re a nice person, and then you’re going to go and compete and represent their brand. And if you don’t finish first, they’re going to be pissed off. And the next time they get together, they’re going to say, I know Cedric cheated you. I know the judges didn’t get it right. Now, how do we make sure team Goldman-Sachs wins next time? And now what we have built is a bond to where they’re not feeling sorry for you.
Cedric: [00:15:59] They’re saying, you’re team Goldman Sachs, and we didn’t finish first. So, how are we now going to work together, so you finish first. And what’s happening there is we’re transitioning from them feeling sorry for you to feel like they get a chance to enhance your life’s journey. And what I feel all the time is that I don’t know how to scale pity, but I know how to scale self-interest. And if I can get Goldman Sachs people to care about you winning at life, not why you’re losing, then now you have a friend for life, right. Now, all you got to do is really focus on two things. Curiosity, when you have those Goldman Sachs people in the room, ask them tons of questions, and then after they answer them, send them a thank you note. Curiosity and gratitude will win you friends for life. I’m going to put you in the room, but then you take it from there. Like that’s sort of our philosophy. And we’ve gone from 15 students to 1000 this semester. And it’s really those principles, I’m going to teach you. You’ve got to be confident and then you’ve got to be able to connect with people, so they’re part of your journey. That’s what we do.
Eve: [00:17:05] So, tell me about the kids, the students you’ve trained. Where do they come from? How are they finding you?
Cedric: [00:17:11] If I get a chance to do life over again, I’m going to be like a sports agent because, like, I love like, I love that idea that there’s some small-town kid in Arkansas who looks like me, who’s smart as a whip, but doesn’t know how to get to work on Wall Street. Like, I want to go and find those kids and help train them, train them up. So, I find them however, we have to, right. So, we do everything from, we register at 300 plus universities that our program is available to every single semester for nine weeks. Every kid earns at least a $500 scholarship stipend for doing this. They get paid to learn. Then secondly, we’re on LinkedIn all the time. We’re always posting about students winning and we get to be a part of it. So, I’m not telling Cedric stories. I’m telling a thousand different student’s story who’ve come into our program and hopefully had a better life. So, I’m celebrating talent and other people watching say, oh, I could be like that. That kid is me.
Cedric: [00:18:11] And then the other thing is that we must be in like a thousand different Facebook groups. I’m confident the CIA must track us for like, why the hell are we in so many different student real estate groups? And the reason why we do that is because I need kids to know that I don’t feel sorry for them, but that I need their talent. And every call I tell every kid, you got to be self-interested. If I don’t do something that adds value to your life, do not waste your time with me. And I think by saying that by being transparent, kids like, well, maybe there’s something there for me. So, we’re on social media, we’re at college universities we’re wherever it takes. But I think the composition of the learning plus the scholarship plus the mentoring gives them three things that they can sort of bank on as being maybe helpful in their lives.
Eve: [00:18:56] So, I’m guessing that the criteria for being accepted into the program is curiosity and desire, right?
Cedric: [00:19:04] Yes, all of that. We have an application. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete it. And the most difficult question is how can our program improve your life? Because if you can answer that, I can improve it. But if you don’t have any visibility on how I improve your life, you’re just taking it for like whatever reason. So, it’s not about your GPA, it’s not about what year you are in school. We have first semester freshmen all the way through graduating seniors. It’s about, do some research on our program and tell us how we can help you. If you can answer that, then we will probably 90% of the time be able to improve it.
Eve: [00:19:43] So, I’m also gathering that the program is virtual. Is there any in-person program these days?
Cedric: [00:19:49] We launched it in virtual in 2019, not because of COVID, obviously, but because of transportation in New York. Amazing public transportation. Kids can get anywhere. Go to Atlanta. It’s much more challenging. And so, we just saw we were losing students because they couldn’t get to a class on Saturday. So, we started doing virtual in a partnership with Brookfield and Westfield and Los Angeles Lakers and Walker Dunlap in 2019, where we did 90% of the course virtual on Zoom. So kids could do all the training. And then we would have these in-person experiences, tours, meeting with mentors, competitions, and we saw that students could always get to a tour, they could always get to a competition. But they found it more challenging to get to weekly training. And so, that was the beginning of us doing it virtual. And so today, when students do the program, all of my training is virtual. Their mentor office hours is virtual because when mentors travel, it allows them to still be able to fulfill their responsibilities. But every kid is invited to a site visit an office visit in person on their team so they can get the magic of kind of being together. And you meet with mentors every three weeks, and you are fully welcome for those to be in-person or virtual. So, many of our mentors do virtual because they travel, but like Goldman Sachs in New York, they did every meeting in person at Goldman Sachs headquarters. And so, we try and have that blend because that flexibility means that people can consistently meet their responsibilities.
Eve: [00:21:25] So how many mentors do you have right now?
Cedric: [00:21:27] So, we’ve probably had over a thousand mentors since we started. We’ve had a ton. And so, every sponsor provides somewhere between three and five mentors. So, this semester we’ll have over 250 mentors that are with us. But we’ve had years where we had like 4 to 500. It varies every semester in terms of the number of mentors and sponsors that we have.
Eve: [00:21:56] So, then I have to ask, what does your team look like? It’s a lot to manage.
Cedric: [00:22:02] Yeah, well it’s fun. I mean, part of the benefit for me, this is where I think Carlyle comes from my experience, it that for the first three years, I didn’t have a single corporate sponsor. My wife and I funded everything personally. And it makes you really learn how to operate in a lean fashion when you write a check. And even today, I don’t tend to invoice my sponsors until after the program is over, because I do believe in like operating really, really lean. And I think sometimes surplus can lead to you not being as efficient. So, our team today is about 160 folks, U.S., Canada, Europe, because we’re now, so now we’re U.S., Canada, Europe, and we’re going to launch Asia in the spring. But all of my staff as requirement, are all alumni of Project Destined. I only hire my alums. If I don’t hire them, why the hell should anybody else? And so, our team is truly built out of diverse perspective. And I think part of the reason why we can be extraordinarily innovative is that I have all of these students who’ve taken our program and now work on our staff. And if there is something they want, they’re very clear on it.
Cedric: [00:23:15] So for example, where we’re launching a new affordable housing bridge program this fall, that came because lots of my students said, Cedric, why aren’t you teaching me how to explore affordable housing? And I was like, well, we should do that. And so, we had an event with Standard Communities, and 200 kids showed up. So, I was like, you know what? We should probably launch an affordable housing course. So now we’re launching an affordable housing program. So, our staff is the true source of our innovation because every day they are telling me what they want. Today, we’re going to announce a new program with Greystar, where we’re teaching students investment management and real estate development. That came because our students were like, Cedric, we want to go and get these jobs. If you give us more exposure, we got a better shot. We launched a financial modeling course with NYU and Columbia’s graduate schools over the summer. It’s because more of my students were like, Cedric, we have to pay $500 for these modeling courses. We can’t afford that, and it keeps us from getting jobs. So, we built the course. And so, by having staff who are the beneficiaries of this work, they drive our innovation.
Eve: [00:24:22] So, when they start asking you how to do a community capital raise, you’re going to come and talk to me?
Cedric: [00:24:28] Exactly. We’ll have a new course.
Eve: [00:24:31] Because that’ll be the next thing you know, how can I spread the wealth to my community? Right?
Cedric: [00:24:35] I think lots of students want to understand it. They’re still building the language, right? Because right now they’re still in school and they’re thinking about all these things that they want to do. And these things require capital. First, they want to get a job right because they want to get some reps. But ultimately, all of our students, I think, fall in love with real estate because of the chance to both shape a skyline but also influence their community and participate in it.
Eve: [00:25:01] Yeah, absolutely.
Cedric: [00:25:02] They’re going to start learning to raise capital. They’re going to be like, you know what? How do I raise capital to actually do what we have been professing?
Eve: [00:25:09] Yes, well, that’s what I do.
Cedric: [00:25:11] Yeah.
Eve: [00:25:12] Yeah. And I love it because, you know, one of the things I love about the SEC regulation we use is that we’re required to explain everything in plain English to investors. So, you can’t use words like capital stack unless you bring in your glossary, like really plain English for people who have never done it before. So, I think that is an important feature. Anyway. So, I’d like to really hear about some of your favorite success stories. Can you give me a few, buildings built?
Cedric: [00:25:44] Yeah. So, I’ll give you a few of them. The first is after we did Detroit, I went to my hometown, Memphis, and we launched a program there and there was a tall, lanky kid that reminded me of myself who was just finishing high school, who joined our program. He was just turning 18 years old. He was a star in our program. It turns out he’s going to school at GW in D.C. and I have a presentation at Freddie Mac in a few weeks, and I’ve never built the presentation. We didn’t have any successes. So, I was like, Myles, they don’t give a crap about me. They want to hear from students. And so, I said, Myles, why don’t you come present? And so, his parents drove him up a day early to start school so he could present at Freddie Mac at a town hall. And he was so incredible that David Brickman, who was then CEO, said, you know what? We don’t have a summer internship program for freshmen, but I think you’d be great. So, Freddie Mac hires him for the summer, he crushes it. He then goes to Cortland, the large owner operator, and is a sophomore intern there, their top sophomore, and their top intern overall.
Cedric: [00:26:52] And then he’s like, I really wanna work at Brookfield. So next summer, he interns at Brookfield. Then he’s like, Cedric, well I want to go and do something with Hinds. Then he interns at Hinds. So, this is the kid I met when he was 18 from my hometown, Memphis, and he’s worked at Freddie Mac, Cortland, Brookfield, Hinds, and now he’s working full time at Cortland. And that’s that sort really taught me something. Going back to why I created it is that I don’t know what his life’s journey would be without tragic death, and I think he’d still be very successful. But even for a rich white male, that’s an incredible set of college experience.
Eve: [00:27:26] It’s just incredible.
Cedric: [00:27:28] That we’re creative because not me. Because his vision for himself changed once he got in the game. And the whole point is that lots of kids have big dreams. They just don’t know how to ask those questions and ask the world for that. And so, that’s one of my favorite stories. The second one is, we have a program in New York with the Real Estate Board of New York, where we’ve trained now 500 students for them. They’re our largest partner in the world. And all we do is train CUNY students for them. And CUNY is an incredible place because there’s a young woman who joined us, Christina Ceccarelli, as a freshman after her freshman year at Baruch.
Cedric: [00:28:07] I don’t think she cared much about real estate, she wanted to be entrepreneur and thought real estate could be interesting. Did our program for the summer. She crushed it. She joined our staff. She then spent the summer at Greystar doing property management this past summer, and then next summer she’ll be at Blackstone. So, to go from like your first stint at Baruch and you don’t know what you want to do and really think it’d be interesting to then you’ve been at Greystar and then soon at Blackstone, like, that’s just a surreal experience and it highlights our program is going 60% women since the beginning and we only had our first women’s program this summer with the WNBA and US Bank. So, her story just highlights that there’s so many young women who want to explore real estate, but they don’t see an opening for them. But when you bring in the idea of community and ownership that speaks to things that are important to them, then they realize the world of opportunity. So, those are two that really stand out as powerful in my mind.
Eve: [00:29:05] That’s pretty, pretty fabulous. So, clearly, it’s more about the people than the real estate for you because you haven’t talked about real estate success stories. But like, is there someone who’s built a portfolio that they would never have dreamed of because of your program? Or is it just too early days?
Cedric: [00:29:21] Well, look, we start very young. When we started in 2016, we started with 15-year-olds. We only started doing college in 2018. You know, we start with freshman. So, our first college graduate group is just coming out. But one of our students, Ishmael Almanzar, who was in our first college class that was backed by Judy and Jamie Diamond and John Gray from Blackstone, he started, he was a freshman at Bronx Community College as a freshman. Did our program for eight different semesters, interned Tishman Speyer, JLL, then went full time of JLL and bought his first investment property this year. And the kid is 22.
Eve: [00:30:03] Oh, wow.
Cedric: [00:30:03] And we have a lot more students like that are coming because once you realize the process of becoming an owner and the fact that there is nonrecourse debt and everything is tied to your name, it’s like the world really opens up to you. So, I think we’ll have lots of additional or new entrepreneurs, but they’re still early in the game. And Eve, what I preach to all of them is that, look, I didn’t start out buying companies. I went to work for Carlyle to learn how to buy companies, so I could learn from them and then build scale. So, I tell all of my students, I support entrepreneurship, but go and get some reps at the best firms in the world and learn how they do it so you can scale your efforts once you build expertise. I think many of our students will practice entrepreneurship, but they’ll also work at Greystar and Brookfield and Blackstone and others because that’s how they build the network and the kind of confidence to do it on their own at scale.
Eve: [00:31:07] So, I hesitate to ask this question because I’m not sure you’ve had any, but what are some of the challenges that you’ve had building Project Destined.
Cedric: [00:31:16] Yeah. I think the biggest one is that. I think there is this view that sometimes if you are training young women and young brown men, that it’s a charitable act. It’s about pity, not about talent. And so, that’s been the biggest sort of early challenge. I think people just thought, well, let me go in and do the right thing. It’ll be nice and I can put it in my report. But now that’s completely transitioned to where you’ve got 4000 alumni. I’m trying to hire summer interns or full-time people. All of your kids are doing 50 hours of real estate training on top of school. That’s an amazing talent pool. So, I had to shift the mindset from pity to opportunity. And that’s been the biggest challenge, is just that mindset of like the talent is already there. Now we can be your scale partner and you can see 290 universities through us, through your own efforts, just by limitations on human capital, you probably recruit from ten schools. That shift was really challenging, and we still fight every single day.
Eve: [00:32:30] You know, I think you’ve just described what the whole country is like in every industry. Like, you know, we’re still in the pity stage, right? We really need to see an opportunity. So, final question for you. What does success look like for you and Project Destined?
Cedric: [00:32:50] Look, I mean, I want global domination. I want to have a globally dominant talent platform. Even if a recession hits, whether you like it or not, you know, we’re going to double and triple in size every year. I don’t care what happens in the economy, because I know that there is a need for a vehicle that provides scaled access to diverse talent. So, I won’t be satisfied until we’re training tens of thousands of students every year across the globe US, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa. So, we’ve done all of those markets before, but we haven’t scaled it in Asia, we haven’t scaled it in Europe, we haven’t skilled it in Africa. So, we’ve got to have a scale platform. So if you’re JLL and you need someone in New York, in London, in Munich, in Dakar, in Hong Kong, you should be able to come to us and know that those folks have all received best of class training. That’s what success is for me.
Eve: [00:33:50] Maybe you can help shift that horrible 2%, 1.4% number.
Cedric: [00:33:56] Well, one thing I’ve learned about capital, I learned about capital, is that capital certainly has a bias.
Eve: [00:34:04] Very big bias.
Cedric: [00:34:06] But it is driven by a certain level of greed. And just like in football or basketball, if you see a bunch of players come out of Africa and Poland, you know what happens? You start going to Africa and Poland to get talent. So, what I’ve got to do is make sure we produce the wins, and we tell the story so that capital feels like it’s missing out if it doesn’t include scale. And that’s the shift we have to make, is that capital has to be competitive for our talent and our time, and they don’t feel like they have to compete for it. And we’ve got to transition that mindset. So, the storytelling, what you do today through this podcast is vital. The quality of the storytelling has to match the actions and the outcomes.
Eve: [00:34:51] Well, I can’t wait to see the outcomes. I’ll be watching your progress, and I really appreciate what you’re doing. Thank you very much for joining me.
Cedric: [00:35:00] Eve, my pleasure. Great to see you. And it’s always good to spend time with you.
Eve: [00:35:20] I hope you enjoyed today’s guest and our deep dive. You can find out more about this episode or others you might have missed on the show notes page at RethinkRealEstateforGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. You can support this podcast by sharing it with others, posting about it on social media or leaving a rating and review. To catch all the latest from me you can follow me on LinkedIn. Even better, if you’re ready to dabble in some impact investing yourself head on over to wefunder.com/smallchange, where you can invest directly in Small Change and our mission to democratize capital formation to create impact in commercial real estate development. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music, and a big thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Cedric Bobo