Jessica O. Matthews on Owning Who You Are | Impact Theory | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Jessica O. Matthews on Owning Who You Are | Impact Theory".
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- Hey everybody, welcome to Impact Theory. You were here my friends because you believe that human potential is nearly limitless, but you know that having potential is not the same as actually doing something with it. So our goal with this show and company is to introduce you to the people and ideas that are gonna help you actually execute on your dreams. All right, today's guest is a force of nature. She is a venture backed founder, CEO and inventor. She created her first game changing product at age 19, and she founded Uncharted Play, a renewable energy company at 22 while still attending Harvard. And instead of dropping out like other high profile entrepreneurs, she just did both because well, when you box for fun and consider yourself across between Bill Nye and Beyonce, that's just how you roll. But I'm not sure that even the superhuman that would be the Beyonce Bill Nye hybrid could keep up with today's guest. Despite having no formal training in the hard sciences, not only did she invent a product that turns a soccer ball into a power plant, but her company now holds 15 patents and patents pending.
Journey Of Invention And Vision Execution
Inventing The Soccket (00:59)
She also managed to raise $7 million to supercharge her company's growth, the largest raise ever by a woman of color. And she's partnered with Fortune 500 companies to completely rethink how energy is generated and distributed. Not surprisingly, Inc Magazine named Uncharted Play one of the 25 most audacious companies in the world, Fast Company named them one of the 10 most innovative companies in the world, and she personally was named to Fortune's most promising women entrepreneurs list, Forbes 30 under 30, and when Obama needed somebody to represent small businesses when he signed the Historic America and Vents Act, he chose her. Please help me in welcoming the female innovator who has been called the Elon Musk of Kinetic Energy, the woman Oprah named to the SuperSOL 100, the real life Riri Williams, Jessica O Matthews. Jessica, thank you so much. - Thank you. - What a pleasure to have you. - Real life Riri Williams. - Yes, which is why I'm wearing this shirt. - That's so dope. - So I completely really enjoyed doing the research on you, and when I saw in one of the articles that I was reading that you dressed up as Riri for Halloween, I said, all right, I respect that. So I'm huge in a comic books and really believe that they actually have tremendous power as archetypes, as mythology. - Me too, like anime and manga, and I remember the first time I read Akira. I just believe in the ability to use play to think about the world. So that to me is exactly what comic books do. - All right, well, I didn't expect to start here, but since you said that, I just got right into the tooth fairy. - Yes. - So tell us why the tooth fairy is meaningful to you. - No, so I believed in the tooth fairy until I was 12 years old. And okay, it is generally embarrassing, but I like to tell people that because I didn't necessarily grow up in a house where we allowed certain stories like this to kind of just spread and progress and become bigger than life. My mom was the mom that would be wrapping up the Christmas presents the night before Christmas, being like, oh yeah, hold this, do this, do that. Like, there was no, the Santa Claus was not coming to my house. I knew exactly what my mom paid for it. I knew what was going on. I knew the hard work that went into it. But for some reason, given, I rather despite the fact that I had parents who were very, I think, direct about the realities of life, the realities of the world, and the hard work it takes to get anything, they decided to kind of move forward with the fib of the tooth fairy. And so for me, because that didn't really make sense, I just assumed, well, the tooth fairy must be real.
Story Telling (03:44)
Like, it must be because my parents would not give me money from my teeth. I just don't think they say the value in my teeth. I have Nigerian parents, like, this just doesn't make sense. And what I love for that, and I'm really like, I have several reasons for why I love my parents and everything that they did, but, and continue to do. But I think what really made that something that was special for me is that they allowed me to be a person who believed in magic. You know, a person who believed in hard work, a person who believed in science, a person who believed in how you can create real tangible solutions towards something that you want, but that there can also be a bit of an intangible, unquantifiable sense to what you're trying to do. And there's a way to make room for that without losing your stability and your sturdiness on what really matters in the world. And so when I finally did realize, like, that my mom was the one basically putting these dollar bills under my pillow, it happened, you know, at the age of 12, and an age where I had already started to really dabble in science, dabble in thinking about how to build robots or, you know, entering different science fairs. And so my frame of the world, my way of thinking had already begun to really form. And so I think it just ended up making me the person who I am today. - I love that. So as a company, we're making a big bet that millennials are doing business in a way that nobody has done before. And I think that story really illustrates what I think is happening, the shift. So 15 years ago when I first got into business and you'd go into a board meeting or you'd present to a VC, it was so buttoned up. And so business-like and everybody would have, you know, moved their company to Silicon Valley to be a part of that. And I get that, right? That actually makes a lot of sense, but they were very happy to sort of subvert themselves in who they are naturally to fit in, to make the world make sense, to maybe overemphasize the science aspect. And what I find fascinating is, instead of doing that, you move to Harlem. - Yeah. - And, you know, looking at what your parents did with the teeth and seeing wonderment, I think what you said was I found wonder in the unknown. - Yeah. - And talk about that, I think that's really interesting. - So there's several things there, right? Like, so one, there's a concept of getting to know oneself and owning that. And then going down a path that fits who you are versus kind of fights against who you are. And starting first with the last thing that you brought up, you know, wondering the unknown. - Yeah, I mean, there's just so much excitement in figuring out how things work for me. I don't know, like whether it's people or the things around me, like what stresses me out is not hard work. It's not knowing what work is going to be involved, you know? So as soon as I have a process in place or I have a framework of how something should be so I can build up steps to how I want to address it, it's not stressful. So like, you know, think about, I've been doing this now for almost 10 years. It's never been really, really like kind of intense or like, or difficult for me. So it's always been hard, you know, a lot of work.
Wonder in the Unknown (07:15)
But because I've, I understand what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing it for. I know what I'm fighting for. I understand the steps in terms of what's involved to make sure that I never lose sight of what I'm fighting for. So everything else is just kind of going through the motions, the motions that I know to be valuable. And that ties back into what you're saying before in terms of choosing to go to Harlem, you know, choosing to be as authentic as possible in the way we build this company and seeing that not as something that we were just doing because it was a nice idea, but because we really believe that it is our competitive advantage. It is the thing that's going to really catapult our company to being the first billion to our tech company in Harlem. And one of the most meaningful tech companies in the world if, you know, if we keep doing what we have to do. And it all goes back to this idea of realizing, you know, okay, so I am a black girl, you know, with immigrant parents who grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, you know, decent schooling, but nothing spectacular, was lucky enough to get into a great college, mostly just because my older sister was one of the first people from my high school to get in there. And she set the path, she's actually right over there. And she set the path. Yeah, she set the path where I was just like, oh, and like, you know, when you're only two years younger than your sister, you're like, oh, okay, if you can do it, I could do it. It made it real, you know, it didn't make it too scary. But I'm not, you know, the classic Silicon Valley CEO. You know, I think that for me, I used to believe that that meant that I could never really achieve what they achieved, that there were certain parts of the world, certain levels of success, certain levels of business that were just going to be too big for me. It's like, how can I dare say I'm going to run an energy company, like that I'm going to build wealth for a community? Like, who the hell am I? How did you get over that? 'Cause I think most people have that, but they stop there. The first thing that I did was not think too far ahead. So the idea was, instead of imagining from day one, oh, I want to build an energy company, it was more imagining or really envisioning, well, why am I getting up in the morning?
Execute Vision (09:30)
Why am I, you know, what's the point of my day? And so for me, I'm really, really excited by self-actualization. I'm really excited by the idea of figuring out ways to one, kind of recruit people to be part of the solution to the world's problems, because I truly believe that there's, given how complex our problems are, there is no one person or company that's going to solve all of them. The only chance and hell that we have is as many people as possible are engaged and feel empowered to be part of that solution. And so I think it's like, how can I then create systems and products that, I almost want to call them domino innovations, like they basically beget other innovations. They inspire the right people to start to solve the things that I can never imagine solving. And in doing that, they've made that one life that they're living, that one life that they have, feel like it was worth it, you know, on whatever day happens to be their last day. And so that really excites me, especially also I think I would add to recently, wanting very much to make sure that little girls who look like me believe that they can do anything and believe that they can do more than just media and entertainment in particular and believe in the value of their perspective. And so that's what gets me up in the morning.
Breaking things down into small victories (11:01)
And then everything else, the details, like I can push through that day. And what I found is that, instead of trying to live a successful life, if you aim to have a successful day, you know, just, you know, 12, if you have 13 out of the 24 hours of your day, if you won those hours, you won the day. And if you win most of the days in a week, you won the week, you know, we just need a simple majority here, right? And if you win, you know, most of the weeks in a month, there you go, most of the months in a year, most of the years in a life. And all of a sudden, look at that, without even trying, you've been able to kind of get somewhere. And so the biggest roadblocks for me were kind of in those big, momentous moments then. So like getting ready to raise the round, for example, was one of those big moments when I realized that without knowing it, I had been building a life up to this big leap. But it wasn't about starting there, thinking about the leaps, thinking about the big momentous things that would have to happen. It's like, you just go hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. And then all of a sudden, five years into working on something, I have the opportunity to raise the largest round any black ones of a race in history. And I'm afraid. I'm afraid, despite everything I've gone through to get there, I'm afraid. And it's because I still am just like, yo, I know me and Mark Zuckerberg went to the same college, but that's about it. I was on the step team, I know he wasn't. You know what I mean? Like, yeah, I mean, from what I understand, he wasn't. But like we have a different life. And I know that ultimately these investors are looking to invest in people that they understand, right? I think actually a lot of people, I don't think I'm special in that, I think people like to understand things. And in the worst of times in my business, if they don't understand me, they're not going to understand my decisions. They're not going to have faith in how I'm going to get us through this. And it was actually this person who's currently one of my advisors works for one of the top VCs out here in the West Coast. And he said, without missing a beach, Jessica, Mark Zuckerberg could have never invented the socket. It is your life. It is your unique perspective. It is who you are that has brought you here. So anyone who invests in you is going to want you to be who you are. They're going to have to trust that being who you are, even if it's different from who they are, that that's going to be the thing that's going to take this to the next level, no matter what.
It is your life (13:28)
And I think for me, that was the critical piece of advice, right? Like, we all need someone to say the thing that's been so obvious, but we've just been too head down to realize. We all have our struggle, regardless of who we are, whether you're male or female, black, orange, green, who cares. We all have our struggle. And we all have our privilege. I considered a privilege to be born of Nigerian parents. Like, forget Tiger Moms, Lion Moms. I still should be getting my law degree right now, according to my mom. Right? You know what I mean? Of course, because he hasn't done nearly anything. Yeah, exactly. But that's the push, right? That to me is privileged to have parents who believe in you irrationally so. I feel privileged to have gone to the schools I've gone to. But in the end, it's about recognizing the value in our own struggle, being appreciative and aware of our privilege, so that we can have empathy for others and their experience. We can bridge the gap for them. And then being able to take all of that and own it. Say, this is who-- can we curse? Can I curse? Go for it. Let's get crazy. I'll try not to, though. Trust me. I'm not going to try not to, so jump in the water's warm. But yeah, no. I mean, like, this is who the fuck I am. There you go. This is who I am. Hello to who you are and to who you are. That's great, but this is who the fuck I am. Take it or leave it. I know that no matter what happens, if I stay who I am, I will feel good about it at the end of the day. That's all-- the only thing that's going to be constant in this ever-changing world, especially in the start of space, is who I am. And so in really meditating on that and thinking, OK, you know what?
I don't know what's going to happen with this round. I don't know what's going to happen with this company. But I do know who I am. Let's double down. Most people, they raise money to get out of Harlem. We went to Harlem. I don't think people really believed it until I also moved my ass to Harlem, because I don't like to commute. I'm all about that walk. I'm all about round the corner walk. And so we moved the company uptown, I move uptown, and we immerse ourselves. And it was the best decision I made, not just because, again, it reminds us-- it's such a diverse community. We're talking about building products for people of diverse experiences around the world. And the beauty of Harlem is that you'll meet seven different types of people on the way from the subway to the office. And they're living their lives in seven different types of ways. From your rabbi on 96 to your barber on 125th, these are experiences that account. These are voices that are meaningful. And so honestly, for us as a team, it's like, how can we give back as much as we're getting? How do we make sure that in being here, we're promoting urban renewal and not gentrification? And so we've done things like-- we created a 501 called the Harlem Tech Fund, which is entirely designed to figure out how can we help the legacy members of Harlem be a part of the tech conversation, the entrepreneurial and innovation conversation.
Dont build in Harlem and ignore Harlems needs (16:40)
Tell me about what you think the obligation of business owners are today, because you've talked pretty eloquently about the onus that businesses have. I don't know if there's an obligation. I don't know if I think that anyone has an obligation just because they run a business. I just know that I won't get up in the morning if it's just about profit. I want to make sure that on my last day, whatever day that might be-- and maybe this is just more prime for me, again, because of my struggles. Because I remember a year when my aunt, my uncle, and my grandfather died just like that. Because I have a younger sister who died. You start to realize that there's this life, and then there isn't. Because I feel blessed despite the hardships we may have had as a family growing up in Pecipse and making sure we'd have enough money to be able to put ourselves through school and all these different things. My parents always made sure I had what I needed. And I think I feel like I've had a great life. I've often felt like, to be honest, that I used to think that God gave me too much and that he did it by mistake. And that the only way for him not to notice is if I just was super productive for that we think. And it's like, keep him busy. Keep him busy. Oh, don't look at me over here. You don't look at the nendous socket. Hey, I don't worry about it. Go look at LeBron. He's too tall. Don't worry. And so when you are appreciative and grateful for what you have and the life you have, you want to give back. You want to make the most out of it. And you want to make sure that on your last day, you don't have regrets. Because that to me is the only solution to death is accepting it. And so being 100% just focused on profit, in the end, if you have to look in the mirror, you have to be with just yourself when you close your eyes at night. If that completes you, dope. Dope.
How do you hold the balance of being yourself and your business? (18:49)
Yeah, that's what I love about what's happening in business and the changes that are coming now. And I think in many ways, you're really an amazing example of that. Somebody who refused to be anybody but themselves. And I think the quote you gave about not moving to Silicon Valley was, I would have to change who I was in order to survive in Silicon Valley. And I'm prepared to do that. I love that. And then looking at the business realities, what it means for you specifically to be encountering a very diverse population that you can do that in Harlem that's really, really smart to look at it. But you don't come at being yourself from an obstinate standpoint. And you've already pivoted the company. And moving from the socket sort of as a primary vehicle to your more technology. And walk us through that insight. Walk us through-- because here's what I think people need to really understand and what I think is really powerful about you-- is being able to hold these two ideas in your head. I'm going to be me. And I'm going to listen to the marketplace. And the ability to do both is, I think, incredibly liberating. And I think for young entrepreneurs, especially to hear that message of, yes, be you. Yes, you need to know who you are. But you're going to run a business. You have to listen to the market. I mean, I think that the parallels are actually very similar. Let's say a startup is like a-- I don't know-- a young celebrity actor, something like that. That's how I used to think of the socket. It's just like, super flashy, super amazing. But are we developing the right way as a business? Are we actually asking the right questions of ourselves to make sure we have the longevity so that we're still getting roles when we're 30 seconds? And I think for me-- so when I say, I know who I am, I guess the unsaid portion, though, is like-- and then for the things I don't know about myself, I'm open to finding out. And so I think the idea is to think about our lives as a constant research experiment. Who I thought I was and what I thought I wanted when I was 19 is to a certain extent similar now. But there's also a lot of difference in the nuances and the details of the execution. And I think what it is is that we all have a core that is our soul, that is our ethos that we're born with. That's our ethical nature, that we get from our families and our friends and where we grew up that ideally and hopefully it's good. And I think that nugget, that's always unchanging. And you have to figure out who that is, what that is inside of you as soon as possible. And I've always been a very reflective person. I've always been someone who will ask myself, every six weeks or so, am I happy? And it's a really simple thing. It's just like-- the answers are either yes or no.
How do you do a personal check-in? (21:49)
And I mean, that's, you know what I mean? And if it's a no, it's like, OK, well, am I doing things that while right now, maybe I'm not blissfully happy, are working towards something that I know will make me happy? And am I generally happy with the idea of the trade-offs that I'm making right now or that I have to deal with? Does that make me happy? And if that's a yes, it's like, OK, cool. But if it's still a no, it's like, stop everything. Nope, this doesn't make sense. And so I've always been the kind of person who would check in, again, because I feel like-- Give a system for that, like, where you literally just say, every morning I'm going to ask myself this or-- No, I mean, I think there are two systems I really have. One is that I like to make a to-do list almost every single day, except for weekends when I just feel like doing nothing. You need-- everyone needs rest. But ever since I was 19, and I made the mistake freshman year of college of going in and having no goals. Freshman year, you know, I actually did horrible in class because I didn't know my goals of what I want to achieve academically. I let my body fall apart. I just-- I lost myself. And because of that, I realized that I'm the kind of person who needs to work to know herself and consistently keep track of who she is and what she needs. And so-- OK, also, the high level is like when they tell you, hey, so we're going to need you to leave school because, like, you know, your grades are bad. And then, like, your Nigerian parents are like, so we're going to need you to leave our home. They can do that. They can do that. But they were just kind of like-- it was more like just the look, the silent look of disappointment. It's the worst. Any Nigerian can tell you, like, I'd rather get arrested than have my mom's disappointing look. But so with that, you come and go, OK, I need a solution. And so I started doing two simple things. One was the check-in, which I do just-- it's more like you can sense. If you take some time to be quiet, you can sense when you're not in equilibrium. And then that's when you ask. That's it. You should just running, running, running, running, running without taking a time to just figure you know where you are. I mean, then there's probably going to be other symptoms where you're just overeating or overdoing this or not sleeping. Like, people will be able to tell you, yeah, you don't look balanced if you asked, if you ask them. So like, that's the time to ask yourself. And then the second thing is a list. And the key thing about that list is it's always more than what I could ever reasonably accomplish in that day. Because I like to push myself. You always end up accomplishing still more than what you think. And I like to never feel satisfied with myself. And I've been doing those two things for 10 years, and that's why I'm here. I love that. Yeah, staying unsatisfied is something that I think a lot of people don't-- they don't know how to balance that. Because they think if they're unsatisfied, that they'll be unhappy with themselves, that it's somehow corrosive. But really, I find that virtually everything I've accomplished in my life is because I'm always unsatisfied.
Making Money Doesn't Touch Insecurities (24:42)
And that whenever I set a goal, by the time I get to that goal, I've already set another goal this far the way. And I am constantly moving the goal post myself. Because that keeps me going. It keeps me hungry. It keeps me pushing. Because you, right, it's not about the money. And the one promise I can make anybody. You're going to feel exactly the way you feel today about yourself. You will feel-- even if you earned a billion dollars, you'll feel-- whatever insecurities you have, all that-- money can't touch that shit, right? It's like a black hole that you're feeling with the wrong things. And again, I try not to be too prescriptive in what people-- I can only speak for myself and what I understand in my limited number of years on this planet about life. But I don't think there's anyone who said on their deathbed, so glad I made that billion dollars. I don't think that's the thing. Can I want to push you on that a little bit? And the reason is, I think a lot about this, because we've chosen not to have kids. So I often run the scenario of, OK, when I'm on my deathbed, everybody tells me I'm going to be thinking about the people in my life and all of that. So I'm going to have that moment where, for sure, I'm going to be some part of me will wish that I had had kids. I can already put myself in that position and I can get it.
Making Money Leads to a Deeper Purpose (25:55)
But I don't want to live for that moment, right? So we all have phases, cycles, and things we go through. Like right now, I will tell you, this company would not exist. This impact theory is the deepest reflection of what I want to do in the world. And it is only possible at this level because I made money. And if I hadn't made money-- so I am literally thinking, thank god I made that money. Because now I'm able to do what I-- my whole life has been building towards this moment. My whole life is about the reason that I mentioned Riri Williams in the beginning is, I believe that there is a-- we are going to usher in a movement where people really understand pop mythology and understand how to become you because of it. That there is some girl right now because of how we're going to bring things in and fuel that kind of mythology and all the stuff that we're going to wrap around it that a young girl who did not believe that she could become you is going to become you because she read a comic book that really espoused the kind of philosophy that you've cobbled together over the years to become that. But nobody's handed it to them before and said, this is real. Like, don't read this like a comic book. Read it like it's real. But to bring it back, so all of that is only possible because I made the money. So I think there's something more interesting, I think-- and you'll correct me if I'm wrong-- there's something that's more interesting that's driving you. There's something more interesting that keeps you on the sort of compass of who you are and who you're becoming. And I want to talk about your concept of thinking outside the boundaries. So how did you not let people define you? Because you literally-- there are so many boxes people trying to cram you in, but you're a real human. Like, how have you-- Oh, gosh. --shocked all that off. I mean, so it's interesting, right?
Insights On Economic Edges And Genuine Gratitude
Snatching Economic Edges (27:31)
So to your first point about needing resources to accomplish what you want to accomplish, I think that that definitely makes sense. I think it goes to the idea of saying, sometimes you're doing things that are hard and exhausting and not fun and aren't in the moment making you happy, but you're fine with it because you know why you're doing it and that's fulfilling. And I think for me, when I think about everything I've been through with Uncharted Play and all the work that's still ahead, because I know that if I am not-- I like to call it snatching economic edges. So when you snatch someone's edges, it's like with the precision, you're able to snatch an edge. And just like, it's a black thing. But it's just like-- it's just like, oh, gotcha. Like, you know what I mean? I want to like-- you know, there are some people in this world right now that I'm just like, I want to snatch your edges. You know what I mean? Especially in our government right now, oh, I just want to. But I'm like, oh, but the way to do that, to me, the way I believe I am most suited to do that is economically. Like, to me, it's like, you know what, like, I'm not forced. I can't march. I can march. I can't march forever. Like, I can't-- like, I'm not that artistic with the signs. Like, my signs would be a little lame. But what I can do is very quietly figure out how to control the energy systems in the world and be able to figure something out. But in the idea there, there was a-- I don't think I'd want to just do that because it's like, oh, great, now I'm powerful.
Why You Can't Create Change If You're Powerless (28:55)
Now, I don't know. Now, whoever will like me. It's more just like, no, like, I cannot let the next generation come into a world where you are the paradigm. I cannot. It just, there's something in me. And I think, OK, so like, why have I been able to just stay in who I am and not be trapped? And it's true. I always kind of bring things back to my parents. You know, what they knew for sure was that education to them. Education was the way out. And that's why I believe that Nigerians collect degrees. Like, we just collect them. And it was my older sister who was the one that said, yeah, I'm not going to take classes over the summer. I'm going to do an internship. They're like, internship. And she's like, internship. You know what I mean? I don't know where she got the balls to do that. But I didn't have to fight for that. Like, I didn't have to like come up with some magical way to convince them that like, it's not just education. You need experience. You need to understand x, y, and z. And so I came into it with this great opportunity. And that's the reason why I always think it's important for even people who can say, listen, you know, I run a company out of an inner city, or I'm a woman, or I'm a black person, I'm a daughter of immigrants.
A Message to Whiners (30:01)
But I still had the privilege of this. Like, no one is anywhere without somebody helping them. And we're too quick to tell our stories without including those people in it. And I think I'm lucky, because there are a lot of people who have paved the way, who have come before me, who had to learn things and teach them to me with a quickness. And so I think in a weird way, I was able to stay who I am by being open to learning about who I am from those who had been working to figure out themselves as well. And I think it takes a certain sense of humility to be willing to listen to those people.
The Power of a Genuine Thank You (30:45)
But also I think it takes a certain sense of logic, I guess, and just dynamic thinking to realize that what they're telling you is simply part of your full concept of yourself, not the total of it. And that's one thing I do pride myself in being able to do well. And I can hear the advice of a lot of different people and say, OK, thank you, thank you, thank you. This is what I want to do. And I'll stand by it. I will never blame someone for my decisions. I just-- no, it's my life.
Think Out of Bounds and Teach People (31:25)
I love that. I love that. In fact, I got to shake it in. I love that. That's powerful beyond measure. And most people get tripped up. And yeah, so that's being able to take ownership for your mistakes, especially, and say, look, this is my choice. I made it. It keeps you in the driver's seat, which is why I'm so obsessed with it. So you have this concept called thinking out of bounds. How do you teach people how to do that? Yeah, so thinking out of bounds came from this idea when people would ask me, back when we first started out creating energy generating sports products. So now we're creating infrastructure level energy systems that can harness power from motions. So it's like from everything from floor panels to furniture to power lighting systems and Wi-Fi. But where we started was just with the soccer ball. Being Nigerian, pulling from the experiences I had in Nigeria with my cousins. And a lot of people ask me when it first came out, how do you think out of that of box? How did you get this idea? How did you make this thing happen? And it was funny because I would say, well, I didn't even know what the parameters of the box were. I didn't know this was a box. I am not a trained engineer. And the unfortunate thing I think sometimes about the way engineering is taught is that you're kind of pushed to scare yourself away from the bounds of what might be impossible. You are afraid. You are taught to be afraid to be wrong. That I know. And so you will do everything you can to make sure you're right, which is awesome. And you see this amazing work ethic and this amazing precision in the way engineers will build things. But God forbid they say something that's wrong. And I'm happy to be wrong. I'll say something about blah. I'll be like, sky's green. No, it's not. OK. Good to know. I thought it was green. Moving on. But it doesn't case it is green. Hey, sky's green today. Like, look at that. Look who said sky's green. But that ability, that freedom to just kind of fluidly be comfortable with your thoughts, whether they're right or wrong. Because as long as you're coming from a place of logic, hey, what's up? Can you teach people that? Can you give them the confidence to not be afraid? But we're trying to. So we have this really cool curriculum called Think Out of Bounds. And it's actually something we distribute when we're distributing our soccer balls and our jump groups. And it's designed to teach people how to invent with limited resources. And so the idea is how can you build someone's creative confidence? Because ultimately, thinking out of bounds, it's about creatively working outside of the realm of what is known, out of the realm of what's proven, out of the realm of what you believe to be right. And considering things like that in a very flexible way, the older someone is, usually the harder it is. Because they're more dogmatic. Yeah, they're more just kind of like, well, listen, my life experiences have told me x. But actually, let me rephrase that, because it's usually not their life experiences. It's usually what they've read. So I'll go to an electrical engineer. And I'll say, I know that a diode needs to be here. But entertain me here. What if we don't put one in? They're like, well, you'll see them. It's impossible. You know what I mean? I'm just like, what is it? Have you ever tried it? And I'll say these things that you can tell. They're just like, it's crazy. I see you're fucking crazy. And I'm just like, yeah, well, you took the job. You should have known what you're getting into. But then you'll start to push them. And you'll see. And I'm like, listen, if you can take the knowledge you have and then be willing just to kind of play a little bit outside of the bounds. The key is kind of step by step, though. Because I have experienced this so many times, I'm so with you. How do you approach it when it's you on that end? And somebody comes to you with a crazy idea. What do you do mentally, internally, to be open to that? Or are you open to that? So I think the first thing I tried to do is just the thing I was mentioning earlier, where like, instead of kind of like, what I've been told to be true or what I've read to be true, I first say, OK, well, do I have any personal experiences that I'm just like almost in my gut? It's almost like you have to fight the intangible with the intangible in my gut. Here's why I just don't believe that makes any sense. And then we have a really interesting-- kind of, I don't want to call it, past time. But I guess for the sake of having another word, a passive in my company where I'm always saying, listen, conflict. Fight back. I'm saying this. Put together your thoughts logically and come back at me. I want you to convince me that I'm wrong. Find the holes in my argument. Find the gap in my thinking. And we'll go. I like to go toe to toe. But I think for me, what I personally do in general to be open to these things is like, this is because I'm really weird.
Know How to Distinguish Personal Feelings (36:10)
I'm very wary of knowing too much about any one thing. That is really nice. So I will know enough so that I can execute, if I have to, so that I can manage someone in that space, so I can advise that person in that space. But I am very wary of becoming so obsessed about one specific thing. Because when you know too much, it's hard to distinguish between your personal feelings about something and what you've read.
Accepting Changes And Personal Strength
Be Wary of Becoming An Expert (36:37)
You will take what you've learned, and it will absorb you and become your way of thinking. It was overly encompassed, your way of thinking. And there'll be no space for that weird, could the sky be green question? Because your mind is full of the facts. So I try to leave enough space where I could just fill it with nonsense, and that nonsense is inspiring to me. And that's hard. Again, engineers, they have to take so many classes. They have to do so many hours of studying. So they end up pushing. They really have enough space for that information. They say to at least to have 10% space for nonsense. And so, yeah, it can be hard.
Accept the Nonsense (37:18)
But when you start at a younger age with someone, they're able to figure out how to always leave room for that. And it goes back to the story about the tooth fairy. My parents left a little space for the story, but the tooth fairy. And so, I'm able to learn a lot about a lot of things and still be like, but also the tooth fairy can exist. Like that, I feel so lucky that I have that experience. I really hope people are listening to you right now. Because there's this really cool concept that you're putting wonderful words around, which is an expert is somebody who can tell you exactly how things can't be done. And I have that same fear that you have of becoming that expert, of thinking I know so much that I don't stay open. One of the questions that I wrote down for you that we're already talking about, but your company is so innovative. And how you keep-- Jesus, it speaks for itself. But how you keep an open mind, how you train your staff to keep an open mind. And I love that it's something as playful as the tooth fairy. And look, I get it. And you've really brought it back down to Earth with what's actually going on, which is leaving yourself open, and the wonderment of not knowing. But it's been formalized.
How do you personally handle the radical and necessary changes you make? (38:28)
People will be afraid. Like, uncertainty is scary. New information is scary. Change is scary. And everyone has a different way of handling that. Everyone has a-- How do you manage change? Like, your company's been through some pretty radical-- Yeah, no, we do. Yeah. In the company, I will pivot when necessary. I'm like, oh, no, dead end. Woo! Let you know, dude, you've got to do. And I will-- I can take new information and adjust the plan immediately and have no qualms about it and just move, move, move. And the way to balance that is that outside of work, I really like things to be stable. I like to date nice guys. I've never been attracted to the bad boy. What in the hell do I want to do with the bad boy? What-- why? Is it-- I don't know if I'm going to call you. Bye! I want the dude who's like, here's some flowers. Thank you, honey. Like, let's go to the movies. No problem. Are we too boring? No. We are not too boring. This is wonderful. This is everything. You know, like, I like stability in those ways. Like, that's-- everyone has their thing. And that's what helps me. Because, yeah, you do need to have a balance. You do need to have something that you can count on. You need to have that pole that you can go back to when everything looks crazy that you can reach out to to hold on to. And so, yeah, that's how it works for me. And if I didn't have that, I think I'd be much more afraid of chaos at work. All right.
Why did you decide to take up boxing? (39:53)
Well, for somebody who likes stability outside of work, why do you box? Oh. Oh, OK. OK. So, I mean, so there's like the feminist answer, and then there's the nerdy answer. And they're both true. All right, let's hear them both. So from the feminist answer, I like to be strong. Respect. I like to be strong. I like to, I believe, in mental strength, spiritual strength, and physical strength. I think a lot of women don't lift weights, and I don't know why, because it lifts your ass, which is awesome. OK. Do your squats. Do your squats. Do your squats. Right through the camera. I love it. You know? And it's just like, it's dope. You know, when you come in the city, you've got to carry your groceries before all the delivery things. You've got to carry your groceries to your home. That alone made you want to get into the gym. And it's like, what weight? What weight is seven bags from a fester? You know what I mean? Like, you want to make sure you can carry that. And so I like to be functional. I like to have functional strength. Like, it's kind of fun to think about also, when you're in a world where bad things happen to women, to know that it's like, all right, well, like, you know, I don't know what's going to happen. Like, you know, I want to look like if a predator is walking by, I want him to be like, I don't know if I'm going to win this fight. And just walk by. I want him to look at me and be like, you know, this is a toss up. And just keep walking. Exactly. You know what I mean? So that, I think, is fun. From the nerdy side of it, though, there was something, you know, the idea of being like a ninja or like a superhero-- Oh, yes, my friend. --always just seemed really cool. Like, you would watch these movies, you know, and just see people do like these dope things. And you're just like, that's cool. Like, that's exciting. And yeah, it's like, so learning a skill, like, kind of felt fun. And like, developing skills that really, you know, expand my mind and expand the way I can use my body. And I had never done this before. My mom would have never let me. I think that the third thing for me, too, is that I realize that boxing is actually really great analogy for business. Like, boxing is inherently reactive and active. And you have to have your strategy, but constantly be realizing that your strategy will change in the manner of a second. Because once you've done one thing, they've now adjusted and are about to make everything that you've wanted to do. It's almost like chess in a weird way. Where the pieces are the punches. Which I think is better because running a startup is painful. It's painful when you're sleeping on the floor and you're-- you know, it's not chess. It's boxing, right? And so for me, when I think about where we're going into business now, playing in very dynamic industries, very scary, big industries, I can't just have my plan. Be like, here's my plan for 2017. It's like, here's my strategy for 2017. And I am prepared to do what it takes to stay alive. Like, what I tell my investors is, like, all you need to know is that I will be standing at the end of this match. That's it. And like, if I have to, all of a sudden, you know, do an uppercut that I've never done, or like switch to South Paw, I don't know where. Hey, I'll do what I have to do because I'm going to win this. In the end, say whatever you want to say about someone's fighting style, if they won, they won. You know what I mean? And that's what I love about boxing. It's like, it's not only that it requires you to think on your feet. And also be very, very light on your feet, very delicate. Like, if you plant your feet and they come around you, like, it's just like, if you plant yourself in your ideas about your business, you will lose. When you do make that mistake, you feel the pain. You don't just think about the pain. You feel it. And so, yeah, it's cool. It's awesome. It's cool. It's great to answer.
Where to Find Jessica Online (43:53)
All right, I have one more question. But before that, where can these guys find you online? Sure. So you can go to u-play.co, u-pl-a-y.co. And you'll see all the stuff that we've been doing with what we like to call our legacy products. So like, how we're actually working to uplift 1 million kids around the world over the next four years by using our think out of bounds curriculum and our socket ball and our energy generating jump up the pulse to inspire 1 million students from income poor communities to realize that they are the future. They're going to be the next Einstein and backing those ideas. We go to u-more.co. That's m-o-r-e.co. You'll learn about the core technology that's inside of the socket ball and the jump rope and that we're using to bring power to communities across Africa and soon all around the world from everything from flooring to furniture. So that's the two big ones. If you want to find me and just kind of like follow my random life on Instagram, you can find me at gessomat. Gessomat, J-e-s-s-o-m-a-t-t. And I think, yeah, you can find me Instagram, Twitter. I do random stuff on Facebook sometimes. Google me that way. But yeah, no, I mean, we try to keep it real. Or you could just come to Harlem. Probably see this walking around. I'm always walking around. You know, oh, yeah. - Just come to Harlem. That is the best thing in the country. - Come to Harlem, Harlem is not that big. You know, just be like, hey, where's that energy company at? You know, when I'm like, oh, over there. - Yeah. - Nice. - Yeah.
The Impact Jessica Wants to Have on the World (45:23)
- All right, last question. What's the impact that you want to have on the world? - Um, for me, the impact I want to have on the world. I know I, you know, for me when I all started this whole thing and what really kind of originally drove me, it was really about self-actualization and creating systems and products that streamlined the way people could self-actualize in their lives. You know, kind of making the journey as valuable as the end result. And that's something that's still really huge for me. Like, how can we make sure people have just like really happy, fulfilling lives? But I think more specifically now, given a lot of the things that have happened in this world over the last few years, or rather a lot of the things that have been brought to light. They might have always been happening. Um, you know, I hate feeling. It's, there are some things no matter how much you believe in yourself that just suck, especially when you're a black woman. They just really, like, there's, like, for example, it sucks feeling like no matter who you hire, you know, because you're a young black woman, they're going to ask you things that they would never ask an older white guy for. There's, there's no respect. I feel like Rodney Dagefield. I can't get no respect. You know what I mean? Hey, that's an 80. I'm born in 88. I can still be a reference, you know? You know? But it's, and then when you think, OK, well, let me hire people then who look like me. We as black women, we as women are not awesome to each other. I mean, girl, Hillary knows. Hillary knows. People just, I, hey, you know, but like, I mean, black women came to vote for you, though. We came out. We came out. And it's, it sucks. It's hard. And it's one of those things where it's like, we live in a world that's so complicated that it's not enough to just say, oh, well, one of us succeeded or there's one example. Like, it's going to take so many different things happening to really shift the way we not only learn how to love each other, but learn how to love ourselves. You know what I mean? Like, as women, as women of color, as black women, and I want to make a significant step forward in that direction. Like, I want my daughter to enter a world where she doesn't even have to explain, oh, well, I know I'm different, but here's my competitive advantage. Like, if there's a pattern matching that people are looking for in the tech space, they're looking for either a Mark Zuckerberg or Jessica Matthews. And then she can just come out and be like, yep, duh. Obviously, you know what I mean? Like, that would be awesome. Like, I want it to be that, like, when I'm flying through-- if I'm flying first class, people aren't assuming I'm Venus or Serena. That's it. It's just like, oh, like, literally, they'll be like, I thought you were Venus, but I now know you're not. So what is it that you do? And it's like-- and when you tell them the energy come through, they're just like, whoop, you know what I mean? And it's like, I want to be like, ah, indeed. Like, Jessica Matthews, of course, of course. OK, there's more than we can do than that. You know, I just-- I want to expand the way we think about black women. And I mean, that's all like, you know, and what we think young women can do, what we think people on the East Coast can do. Because it sucks. It's exhausting. And it adds this unsaid level of weight, you know, unspoken level of weight on my shoulders and the shoulders of a lot of my peers that it does slow us down. And it is exhausting. And it is heavy. And no matter how many weights I lift to make sure I can carry that in addition to my bags, you know, from the grocery store, I still prefer not to. So if I can make a step forward in that, if I can really just, again, building how it's already been done from the people ahead of me to do that, that would be so dope. It would just be the dopest, honestly.
Why Jessica is Incredible (49:48)
Jessica, thank you so much for being incredible. Guys, this woman is going to take you places that you can't even imagine. You're going to want to look her up and the places that she told you about. She is doing something on an infrastructure level that I want you guys to really understand. This is not somebody that dove into the obvious business. This is somebody who looked at the world and said, I can do the infrastructure better, the things that are invisible. Those are the things that I can and will do better. And to have that gumption at her age is miraculous. To have it at any age is spectacular. But to be able to do it so young and to have defied so many definitions that the world has tried to put on her and to see her shuck that off, I think she's going to be taking steps to expand a lot more worlds than maybe she's even aiming at right now because that is the incredible power that I see in her and her willingness to center herself in who she is and not only who she is today, but who she wants to become. And to let her companies reflect that, to be as nimble as she is, to be able to go into the center of Harlem and say, we're going to build the first billion dollar tech company here is absolutely incredible. I hope to one day be as brave as this woman. It has been an absolute honor to have her on the show. Guys, as you know, it is a weekly show. So if you have not yet already, be sure to subscribe. And until next time, my friends, be legendary. Hey, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us for another episode of Impact Theory. If this content is adding value to your life, our one ask is that you go to iTunes and Stitcher and rate and review. Not only does that help us build this community, which at the end of the day is all we care about, but it also helps us get even more amazing guests on here to show their knowledge with all of us. Thank you guys so much for being a part of this community. And until next time, be legendary, my friends.