I have always identified as a long-shot hustler.
While statistics tells us that playing the lottery will always be a losing bet, when it comes to betting on people, I have come to believe that not every bet is created equal. Dumb luck is an undeniable component of success, and as far as winning the PowerBall goes, it truly is everything. However, unlike the PowerBall ticket—whose odds of success are unchanging and hopeless—experience has taught me that placing bets on the long-shot hustler is entirely different, particularly when that hustler is yourself. Those odds are dynamic and promising because your luck is a function of preparation meeting opportunity, and that agency over preparation means everything.
As a first-gen college graduate (Go Blue Devils!), a child of Dominican immigrants, and a South Bronx native, I have always identified as a long-shot hustler. From a young age, I found meaning and purpose in learning to live by preparation and live for opportunities. What has mattered to me most—and what has guided me through all manner of circumstance and adversity—is devout optimism and relentless self-conviction. I hold fast to two beliefs: that there is no such thing as insurmountable odds, and that no matter how miniscule the impact of my efforts may be, any impact is better than none. As such, it has been my imperative to take full ownership of what traces of agency I did have: my ability to be prepared.
As to how I landed in seed-stage investing with Ulu, it was really one of those times where clarity and purpose emerged almost spontaneously out of chaos. I had been cultivating a career in investment banking during my time at Duke when Covid suddenly took over the world. With my internships uprooted and even my housing situation becoming uncertain, I was connected with Miriam in May 2020 to help produce a research project that aimed to draw attention to VCs’ underinvestment in diverse founders.
The deal was sealed for me one day after I’d asked the team for podcast recommendations; our CFO Steve Reale suggested Invest Like the Best with Patrick O’Shaughnessy. The first episode I listened to featured Jeremy Grantham, likely the investor I respect the most given his encyclopedic knowledge of all things markets and his sixth-sense for investor behavior. Although he had built his career on systematic value-investing and asset management, he spent the final quarter of his interview speaking about how—in spite of everything he’s accomplished in decades of equity investing—his greatest fulfillment and success came in the early-stage venture investments he had made toward the end of his career. He spoke about how public equities investing often felt like sweeping around the same pool of money with little value creation, while VC felt like the true economic engine of the future. It was a bit surreal, almost as though Jeremy was advising me directly. The universe had seemingly put this sign in front of me and asked me to make a choice.
The next day, I thanked Steve for the recommendation, and knew that regardless of what would transpire in the short-term with Covid, with Duke, or with investment banking, I would be back at Ulu fulfilling that call to action.