The ability to organically bring people together was a key to developing a network of future leaders.
Jacques-Philippe is a very grateful person. We mean it in the most extraordinary way. He started the interview by thanking us for our time and told us he loved our previous articles. We could tell that he meant it.
From the first second until the last word, he stayed true to himself, describing difficult times and opening up like no other. We felt moved by many of his stories and admired his vulnerability throughout the interview. It was truly magical.
Jacques-Philippe is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Ozone X, an early-stage venture capital firm built to propel underrepresented founders with bold missions to deliver global impact. Prior to OzoneX, Jacques-Philippe developed his business acumen in the finance world and also co-created a wide range of enterprises. He holds a bachelor's degree from Georgetown University and an MBA from The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How did your upbringing form you as a person?
I was born in New York, grew up in Miami, and I spent my summers in Haiti, where my family spent most of the last several hundred years. I consider myself to be part of 2 million years of human existence and this is the ethos with which I carry myself in the world. Being a first-generation American is part of my identity. In reality, English is only my third language.
I spent most of my childhood with my father who’s an engineer and philosopher by training. Asking questions, and emphasising the “why” behind everything was always in my mind (laughs).
Going into new places and quickly connecting to forge friendships with others was so important.
Another factor that affected me was the financial aspect of life. When people think about Miami, they think about the glamorous South Beach, but I grew up in Opa-Locka, Dade County Miami. My neighborhood was not safe. It was also low-income. Half of my high school class did not graduate on time. It was a very precarious time in my life. I knew early on that I wanted to create a future that was financially rewarding and that would give me the ability to offer both economic and natural resources to people who came from communities like mine.
Being exposed to things teenagers should not be exposed to taught me a lot. I had many near-death experiences due to the nature of my surrounding environment. Today, I am able to assess risk and identify what’s really important because of this.
What were you dreaming of as a kid?
If I put myself in the shoes of Jacques-Philippe as a child, I was probably dreaming that my parents were together, instead of apart.
My parents separated early on and I used to daydream about them reconciling. . Over time, it definitely affected how I interacted with others and highlighted the importance of relationships.
When and how did your passion for finance and business start?
I have always been into business. My name Jacques-Philippe comes from Jacques and Philippe, two great uncles of mine, who were very successful entrepreneurs.
I took my first finance class when I was 10 years old. The year after, I was running a candy business.
I ended up going to college at Georgetown University for undergrad, worked at a couple of investment banks, built a strategic marketing company, and did an MBA at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
How different was this from anything you had known before?
I felt worlds apart from the people of this new business world, figuratively and literally. We did not speak the same language, we did not come from the same places.
I did many things that I was able to put on my resume, but some of the more significant contributions to where I am today are not on my bio: in New York City, I used to host massive gatherings, with thousands of people at a time.
This was pre-social media, and I naturally ended up developing relationships with some of the most brilliant, innovative and creative minds across industries. Building an extensive network was never my plan, but this ended up being the product of bringing friends and acquaintances together in a curated atmosphere. Friends then started to invite friends and the crowds grew to thousands.
I leveraged this massive network of future leaders to get more involved in politics. I helped many candidates run for Mayor, Congress, Senate, or even President.
Fun fact: Before Barack Obama or his ambitions to run for president was well known, I organized three fundraising events for him- two in NYC and one in DC. We had acquaintances in common while he was a local state senator in Illinois. I had no idea he’d later become President of the United States.
Any advice on how to successfully build a network?
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about networking is to not even think of it as a network. Networks are made up of people. People together create a community.
Think about a community, it’s much more authentic, right?
I can’t speak for everyone else but the network that I have built has been largely organic, it grew over time and it was based on developing real relationships. I always look for ways to be helpful to people I know- whether in business or not. It’s about moving from transactional relationships to transformational relationships.
Creating your own venture fund, what is the vision of Ozone X?
Some people think that they’re more connected and knowledgeable than they tend to be. And the reality is that 80% of people who have gone into the venture world have underperformed relative to public markets. Also, venture capitalists have historically excluded certain groups of entrepreneurs, therefore harming themselves by ignoring untapped talent and opportunities.
We are building a VC platform that can solve these issues. As such, we have incorporated tech and collective expertise (through our internal community member network) in order to source, evaluate and support companies more effectively. Five to 10 years out, I see us changing archetypal statistics and backing tons of underrepresented superstars who weren’t getting access to capital. They will be creating companies that will scale fast to solve some of the biggest challenges of our time. We’re building a venture model that scales much better such that you can have the size of the largest funds on the planet, while still delivering small venture top quartile performance.
If you’re interested, head over to our website and become a community member ! Put a comment saying that you come from Venture Insider and we will waive the fees! We are building more than a venture capital firm, we are building a movement and we need you!
How do you reconcile your busy life with family and other priorities?
That’s a good question! You have to get really smart at understanding your priorities. Do not hesitate to say “no” often.
I did an exercise, some years ago, where I was asked to write my priorities on paper. On one side, I listed priorities such as family and work, and on the other, how I actually spend my time. You immediately see the dissonance between these two lists. So after this exercise, I became a lot more serious about how I spend my time and what is actually important to me.
Time is our biggest asset.
I’m a morning person. Today, I woke up at 4.30 AM. Before, I used to spend morning hours working on school or business, to push my productivity even more.
Once I started thinking about what was the most important to me, I changed my habits. Early morning hours are now dedicated to me and self-improvement: meditation, breathwork, stretching, martial arts, or whatever I’m particularly drawn to. In this way, I’m not only better for myself but for others as well.
Second, are my children, Soleil and Jacques-Maxime. They are at the top of my mind, and central to every decision I make. I’ve had the distinct privilege of helping to create two of my best friends ever.
How did having children change everything for you?
It’s funny because being a father is one of those things that you can never really be prepared for. Whether you planned it or not, you’re likely not ready because you don’t have any experience.
My son just turned 13 yesterday—my daughter’s 16. One of the biggest things that I benefited from in having children is gaining a better appreciation for love—and caring for other people.
Generally, those types of words are thrown around casually in society. I love you. I love this. I love that. As a father, my view of that concept is one that is unconditional and that is the nature of my support for them and their well being. Unearthing this more profound love allows me to bring that version of myself to everything that I do– including my work, colleagues, and various stakeholders.
It seems like you are deep into martial arts. Where does this interest stem from? What roles does it play in your life?
I was first introduced to martial arts when I was three. My father had already been doing martial arts for a long time as he’s also a black belt.
Early on, I did a lot of judo and even competed nationally. I’ve primarily trained with a master named David Herbert for the last decade. He’s 7th or 8th degree in jiu jitsu, Hapkido and Taekwondo.
Yes, my kids are martial artists too (laughs). My daughter is a black belt, as of, a year ago, after nine years of training.
I think of martial arts as being part of my way of life, as a philosophy. It’s about self-defence, through the development of one’s physique, mind, emotional and spiritual well-being.
It’s not about what is seen or the external, it’s about that internal work, and what’s often described as the long path from the mind to the heart.
If you could change one thing in your journey, what would it be?
In some of the challenging places I grew up in, tears and feelings quickly became an obstacle. My view then was they didn’t solve anything.
I probably didn’t cry for 20 years.
After enough inner work, it started to happen again. I was given a new tool to access my heart and emotions.
The fact that I had been shut from my feelings for so long hit hard once I opened back up. If I could change anything, I would have never stopped feeling– despite the pain.
When was the time you felt the most vulnerable?
My children both had surgery when they were very young. And I couldn’t do anything.
I’ve literally had a gun pointed between my eyes. I’ve faced my own mortality more times than a person should, but that’s not as painful, nor does it create as much of a sense of vulnerability to me as the prospect of being unable to help those I love.
Love in the time of cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Inspiring story Jacques-Philippe, thank you very much
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