By All Means

a podcast by TCB

Clarence Bethea

Clarence Bethea

Clarence Bethea does not fit the typical venture capitalist’s profile of a promising founder. He grew up in a broken home, got into trouble with the law, dropped out of college. But when he started working in a group home with vulnerable adults, something clicked.

By Allison Kaplan
Air Date: Wednesday April 1, 2020

Clarence Bethea does not fit the typical venture capitalist’s profile of a promising founder. He grew up in a broken home, got into trouble with the law, dropped out of college. But when he started working in a group home with vulnerable adults, something clicked.

Through a series of jobs and mentorships, he realized what he was meant to do: start something. “My heart and soul is built to build something big.” In 2015, he launched Upsie, a warranty app designed to make it easier and more affordable for consumers to protect their purchases. Very quickly, Bethea pitched Upsie for the Techstars business incubator program and since then, it has grown 300 percent every year, with customers in all 50 states. Bethea has raised $8.5 million for Upsie, despite odds stacked against him. “People invest in people who look like them," Bethea says. "Venture capitalists are mostly white guys. I definitely don’t look like them.” 

Bethea talks about the challenges of raising money and the vast inequities that exist in the VC space. “if I was a white guy in Silicon Valley, I’d have a lot more money,” he says. “The vision is that big. Warranties are a $47 billion industry that hasn’t been tapped into from a consumer standpoint.” 

His plan now? Focus on growing Upsie, and mentor other minority entrepreneurs. “We’re going to see more entrepreneurs of color creating great businesses. They’re just going to outshine everyone else.” 

After our conversation with Bethea, we go back to the classroom with the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. Katherina Pattit, associate professor of ethics and business law, shares strategies for overcoming bias in business. “We know from research that once someone knows what his or her biases are, they have an opportunity to start counteracting that.”

Host:

Allison Kaplan

Allison Kaplan is the Editor-in-Chief of TCBMag

Guest:

Clarence Bethea

Upsie founder and CEO

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