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Marcus Howard: Are There Racial Issues in Gaming, Esports, and Raising Startup Capital?

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

We're back with episode guest Marcus Howard. Hear about what it feels like to be in a startup pitch competition and cause a double-take when you're not part of the wait staff - and then win that competition. Then years and countless investor meetings without investment - in a hot market like gaming and esports. Marcus talks about the challenges of being a black male startup founder trying to raise venture/angel capital and the rarely discussed issues of race in gaming and esports.

SPONSOR: Secure Startup ( - securely managing the important documents between startup founders and investors.

Full Episode (YouTube):

01:05 Introduction, husband, father of two, full-stack, full-time developer for Gerdau Steel. Side projects and startups include, many with his identical twin brother Malcolm - ProjectMQ, IdeaGist, Blockchain Game Alliance, GameCredits, and TAG.

03:48 Why should corporate support employee-preneurship? Gerdau Steel is a great example of how this can benefit the company while also supporting the employee’s entrepreneurial spirit.

06:35 What is the difference between employee-preneurship and intra-preneurship?

08:35 Allen talks about his own departure from a large company to pursue a startup and how the CEO personally supported him before and after.

12:10 SPONSOR: SecureStartup ( - Securely managing the important documents between startup founders and investors.

13:04 Marcus talks about how he and his brother went to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA, studying Information Technology (Malcolm, Computer Science). Allen’s grandmother lived in Statesboro so he spent time there as a kid, has family there today.

15:35 Marcus talks about how he and his brother were obsessed with gaming since childhood. During college he and his brother did everything together, lived together, same job, same fraternity.

16:57 Marcus’ uncle marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his grandmother’s house was firebombed - the fire department didn’t immediately come.

17:32 Marcus grew up in the Atlanta area, in a mostly all-black neighborhood then later moved to a mostly all-white neighborhood. He and his brother were in accelerated academic school programs and were picked on for being ‘smart’.

23:07 Marcus and his brother once took a week off to beat the game Halo 2.

25:12 Is our brain muscle being strengthened through gaming to prepare us for competing with computers in the future, i.e. artificial intelligence?

26:27 Marcus says he learned more about business in gaming than he ever learned in college. Decision-making, solving complex problems, and working together multi-player.

27:20 Esport athletes show the same degree of brain engagement and stress levels as physical sports players.

30:35 Marcus talks about ‘trash talk’ in online gaming that goes too far (racial and sexist slurs, with anonymity) and the lack of diversity in the industry executive ranks.

35:15 Gaming industry executives are overwhelmingly white males. Only 2% of the professional players are black, 12% of our population is black, but 20% of the esport fans are black. And that’s before you add-in brown players and fans. All together at least 40% of players and fans are brown or black.

39:23 After trying to raise investor capital for 7 years and only raising a ridiculous $5k, Marcus says he stopped being filtered on the topic - outspoken, but with respect.

40:19 Marcus and Allen talk about how women led startups seem to be making progress but black male founders it’s not so clear.

44:37 We talk about how we don’t think investors are inherently racist or sexist but we do think that investing in people that look like you (and maybe a younger version of yourself) feels safer and easier to assess, more comfortable and familiar.

48:05 The data says that women and minorities produce better results - and investors should understand that minorities approach and solve problems differently, and can open bigger doors on a worldwide scale.

49:30 Diverse teams can better deliver value to a diverse customer base.

50:10 Investors should see that the future is very diverse so betting on diversity is smart.

51:15 It’s interesting that investors are committed to diverse portfolios (varied types of companies and sectors) but not yet to diverse teams and founders.

54:20 Race aside, Marcus and Allen touch on ‘success bias’ and the mental game of entrepreneurship - and that everyone in entrepreneurship is struggling more than they are letting on. Marcus is committed to transparency on this.

57:15 Where is Marcus in 5 years? He’d like to have a financial exit and then start a fund for gaming, esports, and indie games.

59:00 And there’s another issue with minorities and gaming - it’s that serious gaming requires about $3k in PC hardware to really compete. That is beyond the realm for most low income families.

1:09:30 Closing - the Tampa Bay community is lucky to have Marcus as a tech leader and advocate for esports, gaming, diversity, and change.

Marcus on LinkedIn:

Full Episode (YouTube):


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