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Despite being a manager to pop stars like Lady Gaga, Meghan Trainor, and John Legend, Troy Carter has shied away from the spotlight.
So when the producers of the popular ABC show “Shark Tank” called and asked him to join the newest season as a guest judge, Carter turned them down. His job was always to be behind the camera and he didn’t want to be the person in front of it, Carter told Business Insider.
Carter laughs now about being afraid of the camera, but it took a powerful conversation with his wife to change his mind.
“Originally I passed on doing it and I went home and I talked to my wife about it, and I ended up coming back around,” Carter said.
“What we thought about is that you can’t be it if you can’t see it. There’s not a lot of black entrepreneurs and I can’t sit there and bitch about diversity in tech and all of those things about access and pipeline if I’m not out there doing something about that.”
Now that Carter has filmed a couple episodes, Business Insider got the full story on why the investor behind Uber, Spotify, and Dropbox changed his mind and what he learned about being a Shark.
Business Insider: What was that conversation?
Troy Carter: You know, we’re big fans of the show. It’s one of those shows that my entire family watches and loves and it’s probably one of my favorite shows. What we thought about is that you can’t be it if you can’t see it. There’s not a lot of black entrepreneurs and I can’t sit there and bitch about diversity in tech and all of those things about access and pipeline if I’m not out there doing something about that. I didn’t know what a VC was until five years ago. I didn’t know the term “venture capitalist.” It’s so far from my world.
I didn’t know what a VC was until five years ago. I didn’t know the term ‘venture capitalist.’ It’s so far from my world.
To be able to inspire kids, coming up from where I come from, you want to be an entertainer or a basketball player. For young black kids, that’s mostly what you see in terms of public personalities. The reality is there’s only 300 jobs in the NBA if you want to look at becoming a basketball player.
But if you’re looking at becoming an entrepreneur, that’s something you can start in real time, whether it’s mowing lawns or doing newspaper deliveries. Whatever that is shoveling snow or opening up a lemonade stand, whether it’s selling sneakers, it can become very tangible and setting you up for those next steps. I’m just hoping to be a voice and a conduit, and if I could just be the doorstop.
BC: So that was the conversation we had that changed your mind on it?
TC: It was nuggets of it. There’s so much conversation around diversity. I’m watching the riots in Baltimore, I’m watching Ferguson, I’m watching Blacklivesmatter, I’m watching Jesse Jackson berate Silicon Valley. There’s just all these conversations around race, diversity, and tech. That’s what kind of gave me this shift where I said “It’s time that I do something and lend my voice.”
BC: What was your hesitation to begin with?
TC: Um, being in front of the camera. [Laughs] It was being in front of the camera was a different experience than being behind the camera. It’s one thing to get on stage with people who I consider my peer group. I’m used to those sort of talks. Even when I do a magazine interview, it still feels like it’s a conversation with peers. It’s not me on a cover of People magazine, it’s a Wired or a Fast Company, still my peers. This is a totally different experience and so I was a bit nervous going in but once I realized I’m spending my own money, my instinct kicked in and it was game on.
BC: So what’s it like?
TC: I taped a few and it was a lot of fun working alongside Mark and Daymond and Lori and Kevin. They were very welcoming. It was definitely competitive for sure, and you get into some really deep negotiations. Luckily once I realized, “Ok, this is what I do every day” I got into my comfort zone.
BC: Any surprises on the show?
TC: The biggest surprise for me was the length of the negotiations. The producers and editors do a really good job of what can sometimes be an hour and a half-negotiation and edit it down to a seven-minute segment. I think the lengthiness of the negotiation or the amount of due diligence that needs to happen post-recording is a pretty deep dive at due diligence.
BC: It sounds like you’ve made some investments from the show…
TC: I can’t say. [laughs] I’m sworn to secrecy. We’ve looked at some things.
BC: So is this going to be a new era of your life?
TC: You know what, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for the sharks. I don’t know how they do their day jobs and do what they do on Shark Tank. I had a great time being a guest but I’m not sure if I would quit my day job for it.