Overcoming adversity and setting your sights high with Delane Parnell

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On this episode Abadesi talks to Delane Parnell, founder and CEO of PlayVS. PlayVS is the community for amateur high school esports. He was previously the youngest black venture capitalist in the US and built and sold his own esports team prior to founding PlayVS. He also has an incredible story of overcoming adversity to get to where he is today.

In this episode they discuss...

His incredible “origin story”

“It wasn’t support in the sense that they were able to help me financially, but even encouraging words like ‘I believe in you. You can do this.’ You can’t put a monetary value on the impact that that can have on a kid.”

Delane grew up in a tough neighborhood in Detroit. He says that he had to avoid a lot of gang activity growing up and got his first job at a very young age as a sign twirler at a cell phone store. It was at the cell phone store where he got his first taste for entrepreneurship. There, Delane realized that he needed to be an owner in a business to earn significant money from it. At age sixteen, he set out to be a partner in other cell phone stores around town.

How he learned to set his sights high

“I was never interested in small-time business. I think that's because I had the exposure super early on from working with Sam to how much a person who owns a dozen cell phone shops made. I wasn't really interested in that. I was dreaming about vacations in the south of France.”

Delane had an aunt who was an executive at an auto company and she helped Delane by giving him business magazines, which helped form his life aspirations . He says that the individuals in his neighborhood typically didn’t have aspirations to make it big in business and that he was lucky to have family members who encouraged him to aim higher. He says that Jay-Z was his number one inspiration and explains why he is a “role model and icon” for Delane.

How he became comfortable with risk-taking and his advice about giving advice

“I try not to give people quote-unquote expert advice. People look at me as an expert because of the amount of money we raised or what we’ve accomplished. But I’m not an expert. People don’t realize the effect that expert advice has on entrepreneurs on young people finding their way.”

Having been exposed to business at a young age, he became comfortable with the mindset needed to take risks and be an entrepreneur. He built a few companies that didn’t end up working out and explains how certain pieces of advice that he heard from certain people who he considered to be mentors left him very deflated. Delane explains why he remembers that experience so vividly and why it means he avoids giving advice to young people.

What he learned from failure and why founder life is less glamorous than you think

“People think it’s very glamorous, but it’s not as glamorous as people think. There’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of work, there’s a lot of responsibility. You’ve got to be prepared for it, otherwise you’ll really struggle.”

Delane explains what he learned from failure, including why he was so inspired by Groupon, the story of the subscription-based competitor he came up with, and why it didn’t end up working out. He says that there is always the possibility for redemption and recalls that even Steve Jobs was written off as a failure at one time. He also talks about the day-to-day of his work at PlayVS, why it’s not quite living up to the high hopes that magazines and television held for his imagined future, and why it’s nevertheless rewarding in other non-material ways

Of course, he also talks about some of his favorite products.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Companies and Products Mentioned In This Episode

Albert — Actionable financial advice on your phone.

Discord — Find people who share your interests.

Slack — Be less busy. Real-time messaging, archiving and search.

Superhuman — The fastest email experience ever made.

194 episodes