Yeah, it was a mix. It’s entrepreneurship related. This is a project, and if you’re in the U.S., D5 Entries, which is the group organizing those events, is presenting 23 prisons. What they do is they organize trips to go to prison for an entire day and help coach people who are incarcerated and want to become entrepreneurs. Those entrepreneurs in formation, in training, they’re called EIT (Entrepreneurs In Training) and they have a desire to start a business.
Usually they’re not trying to start a video compression company to help Comcast, right? They have experience in different businesses… It might be taking care of animals, or gardening, or running a business with associates that sell different types of probably Lego products, and they’re trying to convert this expertise that they have into a job that will let them stay out of prison and really move forward and provide for the family.
I came at the end of the program where were doing the pitch competition, so everybody would pitch their ideas, and there was a series of entrepreneurs and VCs that would give them feedback and pick the best projects, and then they would get funded once they would get out.
It was a very interesting experience. I explained in the blog post – I wrote a blog post about it… After the U.S. elections in November things have been a bit rough for me, being a foreigner myself, being Hispanic, being married to a Latina, having kids here, seeing the racism and seeing how we were not really welcome anymore, and even though we’re Americans, we didn’t feel like we’re Americans anymore.
I was really questioning a lot of things and I was losing hope, and going to prison kind of changed a lot of things for me, because I met people who’ve been in prison for 5, 10, 20 years, who might not get out for 5, 10, 20 years, and those people had more hope… And let’s be honest, they were screwed by the system. There’s a lot research on how come so many brown people end up in jail, and 13th (a documentary on Netflix) is really good at explaining those things.
You see those people that didn’t have the chance to be successful, they didn’t have the chances I had, they are not privileged like I am… They end up in jail and they’re so motivated, they’re so excited about what they’re gonna do, and they’re so happy that I just spend a bit of my time to come see them… I realize it was really unfair for me to give up hope.
[00:44:02.11] When I see people who have been screwed by the system and are still stuck, and they dream to be able to go out and build a donut shop, and a project of cleaning up hospitals – all those different ideas, and they’re so motivated to do it, and they’re so prepared… They’re often more prepared than a lot of other entrepreneurs I work with, and they’re sometimes more prepared than me.
Seeing that they were so kind and compassionate with other inmates, other EITs – that was something I did not expect. You take any engineers, you take any VCs or any entrepreneurs, you put them in a room and you tell “Okay, we’re gonna do a contest, and whoever wins, wins the prize”, I can tell you it’s not gonna go very well. You’re gonna hear a lot of comments, and things that are unfair. These guys were amazing; they were supporting each other. I didn’t see people making comments or faces, and it was like “Wow… If these guys can really believe in what they believe in, and I have everything on my side… There’s no reason I cannot be hopeful, even though I still don’t like the situation we live in, but I can help as much as I can, and I can also look at it from a more positive perspective, so I can help more people by being positive.