Morgan Stanley
  • Access & Opportunity Podcast
  • Feb 5, 2021

Chris Lyons: Where Tech Meets Culture


Chris Lyons: I had to learn the game. I had to sit in the back of the pitch meeting just to listen and learn and take notes and then, through action and through being able to take your services and then help enable other people, your work speaks for itself.


Carla Harris: On this episode of Access & Opportunity, we welcome entrepreneur and investor Chris Lyons. Chris is the head of the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz, a VC fund aimed to connect cultural leaders with tech companies while elevating black creators in the tech industry. Chris began his career as an audio engineer, but found himself catching the startup bug when he started PictureMenu in 2010. He eventually moved to Silicon Valley through the NewME accelerator. Since then, he has been “all-in” on the startup world, eventually taking on the role of investor. In this episode, Chris takes us through his journey in the technology industry and how he continues to advocate for increased African-American and diverse representation in tech. Come on and join me for the ride.

Chris, thank you so much for being here with me today. And it's a pleasure to have you on the show.

Chris Lyons: It's my pleasure. It’s so good to see you, Carla, and definitely looking forward to the conversation today. 

Carla Harris: Thank you. So let's jump right in. I want to first congratulate you on all the success that you've had with Andreessen Horowitz. As chief of staff there, you helped launch the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen in 2018. So tell our listeners, what is the Cultural Leadership Fund?

Chris Lyons: The Cultural Leadership Fund is a strategic investment vehicle that connects the world’s greatest cultural leaders to the best new technology companies. So, by cultural leaders we mean the world’s greatest athletes, entertainers, musicians, senior level executives. This is the first fund in the history of Silicon Valley where 100 percent of our LP’s are African American, and we also donate all of our management fees and carry to a select number of nonprofits that are going to help advance more African Americans into the technology industry.

Carla Harris: Alright. Well, tell us: how did the idea come about and why did you think it was important to have cultural leaders as a part of this fund as you defined it?


Chris Lyons: If you think about just consumer culture and then especially the history of African-American culture, African-Americans have been leaders in the worlds of sports, music, entertainment, the arts, fashion. If you think about any type of consumer culture, it's African-American culture, right? Just really goes hand-in-hand. And, you know, just most recently, probably within arguably the last 10, 15 years, the future of consumer culture has moved onto the Internet. And so when we think about connecting culture, we said, look, the next generation of culture is going to come within the technology industry. We need to make sure that our cultural leaders also are having access and exposure to the future of innovation when it comes to partnering with our technology companies. And so, being out here in Silicon Valley, you know, we all recognize some of the geniuses of the world that have built some of the best platforms that we use on an everyday basis. But at the same time, some of the world's greatest cultural leaders that are African-American are also geniuses within themselves, too. Like, for example, Quincy Jones, who, not only did he create some of the world's best music and really pioneered multiple different industries, but he's a genius. He speaks 22 different languages, right? And so if you're a consumer company and you're trying to understand how to communicate and use communication, there's no better person to speak with than Quincy Jones. And it's not necessarily saying, “Oh, hey, we want to tweet your story or use your social influence.” But it's really about connecting shared genius together to really help empower the next generation of technology, but at the same time really create a new level of innovation within the people that we're working with as well, too. And so that was the origination behind that. And then, you know, also, if you really think about where the future of the world is going, especially with the seat that I'm privileged enough to have an opportunity to be within Silicon Valley and within Andreessen Horowitz is that we have a really big focus on helping advance the next generation of African-Americans into technology. And so that not only goes from connecting and creating shared genius, but also in the world of investing in the world of equity. If you think that the next generation of wealth is going to happen within the technology industry, then more people of color, and specifically more African-Americans, need to have a seat at that table. And so with me being African-American and wanting to be able to open up those doors and create access and exposure, not only are we creating meaningful partnerships, but we're really also helping generate the next create the next generation of wealth into this industry. And so by doing all of that, what the best part is that, you know, traditionally when someone saw Michael Jordan, or when they saw Kevin Durant, they said, “Look, I want to be a basketball player,” -- right? -- “I look up to him. I want to be the next him.” Now, you see, you know, KD investing into the next best technology companies. And people are looking at those companies and saying, “Wow, like, he's also getting into tech. He's also getting into investing. How do I get into that?” What we're also helping bridge is this next generation of talent and really helping facilitate a pipeline that that we know exists that might not be traditionally looked at within the overall Silicon Valley industry. And so, especially for me, like I grew up right outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and wasn't traditionally from the technology industry. And I know that there's hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who are like me that might not have thought that technology was a career. But now with technology and software being at the heart of every single thing that we do, how can we help enable and empower more African-Americans into this industry? And so through the Cultural Leadership Fund, 100 percent of the management fees and the carry -- and so basically, that means all the money that we make -- goes to a select number of nonprofits that help advance more African-American and diverse backgrounds into technology.

Carla Harris: Yeah. So let me ask you a question, Chris. You made a very good point about these cultural leaders being icons for people in the community, and people say, “I want to be like them. I want to be able to play basketball. Or I want to do this, I want to do that,” that these media and entertainment stars and sports stars are doing. But one of the reasons I would argue that people say, “I want to be like them,” is that they can see them, their prowess or their superpower in basketball, their superpower in media and entertainment, you know, it's pronounced by media. So how are you thinking about elevating KD as an investor? KD as, you know, a technology fanatic? Don't you have to raise that story in public for those kids to say, “Wow, but he's an investor. What is an investor?” And, “I want to be a tech investor,” and, “I want to know more about tech.” So how are you guys thinking about that as a part of the strategy as well, because if folks don't know that part about them, then that's not the part they want to emulate.

Chris Lyons: Absolutely. Well, I think even more than them being, you know, Kevin and the rest of our limited partners, like, not only just investors, but entrepreneurs, right? And entrepreneurship is at the center of African-American culture. And so even if you look at the fastest growing demographic of entrepreneurs in small-medium businesses, it is African-Americans. And so, you know, for us, especially within the technology industry, it's super important that people can look up, like you said, and say, “Wow, this person looks like me and they're doing it. I can do it, too.” And, you know, like if you look at the stats, one percent of African-Americans are in technology; 0.01 percent are in venture capital. And so that means that people who are actually trying to make the decisions in terms of where to actually create the investments, they have to say, “OK, I look like us. I understand the cultural values. I understand the businesses that we're making.” What we want to do is really help enable those skills and provide the opportunity, the access to resources, the information. I mean, that's one of the biggest things that I've learned is that the access to information is extremely important when it comes to really taking your career and taking your success to the next level, right? And so our firm has some of the most incredible thought leaders in the world. But somebody might not be following Marc Andreessen, or following Chris Dixon, or following like...they’re definitely following Ben Horowitz, that's my man. [laughs] So if us being able to translate and share that information and really creating a whole new knowledge share of bringing the insights that we're having in the Silicon Valley and allowing us to remix them and create our own level of a business through this, it's something I'm super excited about. And it's a work that's greater than all of us put together.

Carla Harris: Let's talk a little bit about the fund raise, because that's another area that a lot of young people don't know about, is the process of fundraising for a fund. And it is no easy feat. So when you went out there to do that, can you tell us a little bit about what the process was like for you? And were people receptive to the vision? Now, the good news is you happened to be sitting on a well known name that has made a lot of money for a lot of people. But it would have been easy for people to say, “no” to this because this was something that looked different. I mean, it was the first fund consisting of 100 percent African-American limited partners. So talk to us about what the fundraising process was like.

Chris Lyons: Absolutely, and it reminds me of a pledge process, you know?

Carla Harris: Oh what's that? Could you tell us a little bit about that?

Chris Lyons: I don't know anything about that, actually. I just watched School Days and it looked kind of…[laughs]. But, like, to be honest with you, it was a long term process. And I actually had the vision for this and had to implement it before even going out and fundraising. You know, like back in the day, you know, 2014, 2015, people in Silicon Valley were extremely focused on building networks within Silicon Valley. And that was the value add. And for me not coming from the Valley, naturally, I said, “Hey, there's an opportunity to get people outside of the industry and have them working with our portfolio companies for unique partnerships, investment opportunities.” And so, before even starting the fund, we had to kind of validate the idea that cultural leaders could be value adds into the industry. And so, we created the first influencer network within Silicon Valley. But really, I mean, even more importantly, it was people that we just built authentic and close relationships with and really wanted to help make a difference and create access and exposure onto cap tables, into the next generation of innovation. And so once that was able to work, and we were able to prove the thesis right, the next chapter was saying, “OK, you know, how can we take all of these relationships, all the network, all of the influence that we've been able to build on an individual level and actually combine it into one fund?” And even more specifically, having one fund consisting 100 percent of African-American limited partners. And limited partners basically means that the investors that invest into the fund, that from there we have the ability to then go and invest into the next best companies. And so, traditional funds, you can raise from any different individual, I mean, any endowment, you know, the sky's the limit. Anybody that has, you know, a pool of capital to invest. For us, the biggest challenge is that technically we are one of the smallest groups when it comes to having wealth and access and exposure and being able to invest into these companies. And so, the group and the people that I had to go with was such a small number. But to me, that was actually the insight that allowed me to realize why we needed to do this, right?  You know, and it was also really interesting when hearing us tell people, “no,” that wanted to invest because of their race. And it was the other race, you know. And so they're like, “Wait, you're telling me, ‘no?’ -- I'm not used to that.” And so it was a very unique experience. But at the end of the day, I realized how important it was to, one, help create an understanding around venture capital. And it's not just like a fund, it's a network that can work together, that can share information, that can, you know...I kind of call us almost like a VC firm in your pocket, where people are now sending investment opportunities and saying, you know, traditionally used to send to their manager, their friend and say, “Hey, look at this deal.” Now you have a verified source that we can work with and allow you to give you the insights into how we're seeing the trends in different ways, and how the market is moving and giving access and exposure and ultimately with that goal of allowing the people that we work with to then go out and do it themselves. And now they know the game, and now they're helping inspire others and running their own funds, and creating their own VC firms, and doing it in a first in class way. And so to me it was definitely a super challenging process, probably one of the hardest things that I've ever done in my life. But to see it actually come together and to have, you know, not only an incredible group, but people that I also looked up to when I was young and when I was growing up as well, too. So, to me, it never felt like work. It just felt like a purpose that I knew I had to accomplish. And at the end of the day, you just have to get it done. And so you have to take it step by step.

Carla Harris: What again was the rationale for, “No, you cannot invest,” to those who came in to say, “Hey, I'd like to invest.” So what did you tell them that I'm trying to do. I'm trying to create a narrative. I'm trying to prove a point. What did you say to them about why they could not invest?

Chris Lyons: Yeah. Well, I told them just straight up, like, “This fund is for African-Americans. And for the longest time we've actually been on the outside. You know, we've been raising our hand, and we haven't gotten chosen. Or we haven't had the opportunity to have the access and the exposure. Or, when people are thinking about who we want to bring into the room, for years, we have not actually had that phone call, right? And so now that we're in the room, we need to overcorrect.” The Culture Leadership Fund is only as strong as the network and the people that we're supporting. And so we had to make sure for Fund I that it literally was the top of the top. This was the first time something like this ever happened in Silicon Valley. The bar was set super high. And, you know, like what your parents always said, you always got to be twice as good in order to be at the same page. And so when it comes to tech, I felt like it was that times 10, especially within how I think about my reputation and how we got to keep it going. But, you know, at the end of the day, this is something that we've been focusing on as a firm. It's in our DNA. It's who we are, and it's why, like, I know that I couldn't have done this at any other firm. And for us having really an impact and a genuine interest in helping create the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors and executives into technology, it was a partnership with Andreessen Horowitz that I thought was extremely, extremely important. And we continue to see, you know, so much success from this, especially on our nonprofit partnerships, on, you know, the amount of money that we've been able to donate to these organizations, to the pipeline and the opportunities and the partnerships that we've been able to support. You know, I was super intentional in terms of looking at organizations that were outside of traditional Silicon Valley, and even including in my hometown, you know, and we have great leaders that are in that are actually focused in each one of these areas, whether it's in Atlanta or Texas or New York or Dallas or D.C., you know, we wanted to help really connect and create the mindshare and bring it into the rest of the world, and the rest of the United States, so that we can actually be at the head of the curve.

Carla Harris: OK, so how did you connect with some of these folks? I mean, there are people in your first fund that you didn't have previous relationships with, right? So did you leverage other relationships to get the introduction in? Or what did you do there? Because, again, often people say, “I don't know these folks. How do I get to them?”

Chris Lyons: Yeah, well, I mean, the biggest thing I would say is that you just have to be yourself. I focus on long term relationships. You know, like if you come in transactional, then that's exactly how you're gonna be perceived, right? Like, these are people that I actually look at and say that they're my friends and people I would hang out with and they're doing incredible things, but so are we. And so you have to look at it and say, “Look, we're in our own path and we're doing things our way.” And so being able to have someone say, “Wow, like I've never even seen someone like you in the industry that's doing something like that before.” And, you know, I think the most important thing is that for me, I come from a spirit of service and I want to be able to help and enable. And I don't necessarily need anything. I want to give first and then it will be given back to you and, you know, shaken down and runneth over.

Carla Harris: Pressed down, shaken together, and running over. That's it.

Chris Lyons: Absolutely. So I think it's very much a mentality in how you come across when you're having these conversations and, you know, one of the things that my family told me growing up is, “Your network is your net worth.” And so you need to make sure that it's not who you know, but who knows you. And so how can you actually go out and create, you know, momentum and buzz and insights and share who you are? And I think that that just comes from hard work and dedication. I've been in venture capital for seven years. You know, like this is not something that just came into place. I had to learn the game. I had to sit in the back of the pitch meeting just to listen and learn and take notes and then, you know, through action and through being able to take your services and then you help enable other people, what happens is that your work speaks for itself. And a lot of times, people would reach out to me and say, “Hey, I heard you did this. I heard that this person was able to get into this deal because of you. This, this, this.” And, you know, I think one of my favorite documentaries is “The Black Godfather”, right? And nobody knew all the work he was doing behind the scenes. And to me, I think that sometimes you have to kind of play in the shadows in order to do the work first, before you go out and say, “Oh, look at me, look at me, look at me,” without ever having any results.

Carla Harris: Let's talk a little bit about the makings of Chris Lyons. So, you know, for our listeners, let's talk about the fact that, you know, you graduated from Full Sail University with degrees in Entertainment, Business & Recording Arts. So, were you trying to be a sound engineer? Or you wanted to be a singer?

Chris Lyons: Definitely not a singer.

Carla Harris: Yeah, OK. So let's talk about the sound engineer that then becomes entrepreneur by creating a mobile app that then goes to Silicon Valley. So let's talk about the igniting of each of those appetites, if you will. And then how that landed you into Silicon Valley.

Chris Lyons: Well, I feel like, that's why I said I feel like this is my life's work, is because for me, I was super passionate about really pursuing the music industry. And so, Full Sail was called the Harvard of music schools. And so, I didn't go to Harvard. I went to the Harvard of music schools, so close.


Carla Harris: I got it, I got it.

Chris Lyon: So I got my first degree in recording arts, which basically means that you are a sound engineer, you’re working in the studios, you're behind the scenes really helping make everything sound good. But the biggest thing that I learned from being a music engineer is that it's the word ‘engineer’. An engineer is actually, it's a mindset. It's how you can solve problems, and going from A to B to C in the shortest way possible. And so that's what makes an incredible engineer. And then also always being on the computer, too, like before the music industry was analog, which basically meant that the big boards and using compressors and patching things in, and so I had to learn the old school routes. But, I got the internship and started working with Jermaine Dupri at Southside Studios and that's when I learned, “Wow, this is how the future of the music industry is going to go,” and on top of that, one of the things that I really respected about him was how he was actually one of the first people to really be at the center, at the forefront of technology, too. Before blogging was a thing, he had this show called “Life in 1472”, and was super interested in creating GLOBAL 14, which is his own brand. And this was all technology. And when I was growing up, I always wanted to have the future, you know, the first Sidekick in high school or like the first ringtone before nobody even knew what that was, or the first iPod, or the first ‘this’. So I just always loved technology and always was thinking about how I can be at the head of the curve and really help influence at the same time. And so, you know, one day, you know, I was also serving tables while I was working. It was right when the first iPhone came out and I saw somebody put it on the table and I was like, wow, that's the future. And then I really got inspired by this idea of building apps. And so I said, well, look, I'm a music engineer. I'm always on the computer. Why can't I be a computer engineer, too? And I ended up teaching myself how to code, ended up seeing Angela Benton post this thing about NewME Accelerator in 2011. And I said, well, hey, I might as well try and apply and get into this, and got accepted into the incubator. And, you know, I was only supposed to be at Silicon Valley for three months and ended up never going home. And that was really the journey that really took me to the next level.

Carla Harris: How important was the accelerator? Because, as you know, we have an accelerator at Morgan Stanley. And I want to thank you publicly for speaking to our founders that were in the Multicultural Innovation Lab at Morgan Stanley. So tell us how important the accelerator was for you, and sort of catapulting you into Silicon Valley.

Chris Lyons: Yeah, well, I mean, this was in 2012 when, like....

Carla Harris: They were just getting rolling.

Chris Lyons: Yeah. There's probably one text a month about more black people into technology then. But, the thing that made it so important was the actual network. It was the ability for us to meet people, for me to really, I didn't...I moved to Silicon Valley and I did not know one person, right?

Carla Harris: That's a playbook point for our listeners. You moved from, was it from Georgia at that time?

Chris Lyons: Yep. Yeah.

Carla Harris: To California, to Silicon Valley, because you said, I like this tech game. I am a ‘new frontier’ kind of guy since I want the first iPhone, the first ringtone. And when I heard you say, “I'm a new frontier kind of guy.”

Chris Lyons: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Carla Harris: So I'm going to move out to Silicon Valley because if I love this so much, I want to be in the middle of it. I don't know anybody. There's an application out there for an accelerator. I'm going to join that. Whoop, I got in, right? Go from there.

Chris Lyons: Yeah. I was so excited to go, I accidentally bought a one-way ticket.

Carla Harris: Accidentally?

Chris Lyons: Yeah. I didn't even, I didn't even realize I didn't buy a return ticket. I think that that was one of the saving graces because...

Carla Harris: That's just divine brother, that was divine.

Chris Lyons: All day. You already know. It still is. But you know, because one of the things, when I saw people leave, they never came back. They like, I’ll come back in three months. They never came back. And so for me, it was super important to just learn as much as I could. And being a part of an accelerator, it's almost like a demo day and you know that you only have a finite time. And every day, every second, is valuable in building up that network, getting a chance to understand product market fit, testing your pitch in front of other colleagues. But, you know, I think the most important thing out of the accelerator was really the network that I was able to build, the friendships that I was able to have. I have some of the closest friends that front from that accelerator that I still work with, you know, that all happened there and that so that was the foundation. And then at the same time, you know, access to the information and seeing it happening in real time, you know, watching these companies blow up back in the day, watching, you kno...being one of the first users on AirBnB, or on Pinterest, or on Square.

Carla Harris: So let me ask you a question. How did you get to Andreessen Horowitz is one question I have for you. And the other question is, you know, you continue to hear firms that are your contemporaries talk about the fact that they can't find any, with respect to entrepreneurs of color. You know, how would you advise companies that say, “We can't find any. We don't know where to go get these good investors.” What would you advise them to do?

Chris Lyons: Hire somebody that's black.

Carla Harris: OK.

Chris Lyons: To be honest with you.

Carla Harris: That's been one of the recommendations that we made in our White Paper, that if you don't have the networks, you need to get someone of color at your investment table who has a network that could actually plug you into some of these opportunities. Now, was that Andreessen's strategy with you?

Chris Lyons: Not at all. I met Ben because he came to us.

Carla Harris: Yeah.

Chris Lyons: You know, like it was a complete opposite. Like, they've been about this since Day One. It's in the DNA. If you look at even the founders of Andreessen Horowitz, you know, it's Ben, and Mark, and Laura, and Felicia. So that's in the DNA of Andreessen Horowitz from the very beginning. And so Ben has always been extremely intentional in regards to creating a network and creating a community that was much more than just what, you know, 99 percent of people at Silicon Valley at the time were thinking about. And so to me, it didn't even feel like a VC firm. It felt like an extended family, because I did not have any family in the West Coast. And so the fact that when we met him, I didn't pitch him.


Carla Harris: You met him in the accelerator by the way?

Chris Lyons: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Like, I love Ben because he could cook collard greens and barbecue. It wasn't even about the technology piece, it was about cultivating real relationships, you know?

Carla Harris: There you go.

Chris Lyons: And I think that that's what the firm, you know, the fact that they were doing that in 2012 was just incredible. The fact that, you know, how they were creating networks and events and bringing, you know, people like, introducing people like Ken Coleman to the worlds and…

Carla Harris: Oh, Ken is a gem. Yeah.

Chris Lyons: Incredible. Incredible, right? And that's, and that's who Ben's mentor was, and just for those who don't know, like how Clarence Avant is the godfather to Hollywood, that's what Ken Coleman is for the African-American technology industry, and so I encourage everybody to please look up Ken Coleman. He is a legend, and just a great person as well, too. And so.

Carla Harris: Absolutely, we're all standing on his shoulders when it comes to technology, technology investing and raising the level of visibility. I think he and his wife, Caretha, you know, have, as a couple, done more for advancing folks of color in the tech space and raising the visibility of the narrative than, you know, anybody I can think of offhand. They are terrific.

Chris Lyons: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, you know, it was really just understanding, going into that network made me feel comfortable because I was like, wow, there are people of color in this world. And, ever since I started being in the industry, I never thought that that was a problem. I talk to black people every single day, you know, like. And so I think it's really about understanding that space. And then because of that we've made a number of incredible investments that are led by African-Americans. Seeing the impact that we've been able to have on the inside, but also really allowing founders to also have authentic conversations and realize that, like, we're not trying to do this because, “Oh, we need to have our numbers together.” We're doing this because it's great business and that we're going to win, and we're going to help find companies that other people might not look at, you know, we want to make sure that how can we create an ecosystem inside of Silicon Valley? And that's why I'm super upset about, you know, what's what's happening in this pandemic is because, this year was gonna be an incredible year, not only for Cultural Leadership, but just also Andreessen Horowitz and how we were thinking about bringing all of the the work that we've done since I've been there, for the past seven years, but even from Ben and Andreessen, and getting everybody into the mix -- cultivating an ecosystem where we're not investing in people and bringing people together just because they're black. We're bringing people together because they're the best, and seeing people beyond just a race. But seeing people for who they are, and how they can contribute, and how we can find their genius and connect them into the companies for new job opportunities or, at the same time, help understand who that next generation entrepreneur is going to be. And so it's something I'm extremely passionate about. And I know that, you know, at the end of the day, venture capital is might be a financial business, but to me, I think it's a service business. And I think that you have to always have that top of mind.

Carla Harris: No question. So you guys have made 65 investments or so and the Cultural Leadership Fund. What's next?

Chris Lyons: Well, we've got to keep going. I think one of the things that we really are thinking about is, what else can we do in terms of creating meaningful partnerships, getting more diverse backgrounds into our jobs? We just brought on two partners within the Cultural Leadership Fund: Jessica Patton and Megan Holston-Alexander. They are not only Stanford grads, but also graduated from HBCUs as well, too. And so, to me, I think it's super interesting how we can help really see talent from not just the traditional school systems, but how can we help find what we call ‘mid-level’ talent and people that, you know, somebody that might be working at Verizon in the marketing department and doing great work there. And then now you can still take those same skill sets and now apply them into a marketing company at one of the early stage startups. This is the entire mission of the CLF, is to help enable more African-Americans into the industry and provide more information. We’re just getting started, I think as we continue to build out the Cultural Leadership Fund, and also our team, we’re seeing how can we really take the initiatives we have and really build an entire platform around really cultivating an extremely strong network, access to information, and really continuing to help create more generational wealth through the technology industry. And we just launched a brand new newsletter that we're super excited about. We're providing insights and, you know, we've got to get you on there too, so.

Carla Harris: I was about to say, put us on the distribution list. Come on now.

Chris Lyons: Carla we need you to drop some gems, you know.

Carla Harris: Absolutely. Put me on the list. And I'm certainly happy to add some pearls.

Chris Lyons: You already got some rocking right now.

Carla Harris: Absolutely. Well, Chris, we always like to make sure that our listeners get a chance to know the man a little bit better. So I'd like to do some rapid fire lightning round questions, as we like to call them, as our condition on Access and Opportunity. So, you ready?

Chris Lyons: Oh, I've been ready. Let's go.

Carla Harris: OK. How do you like your eggs? Scrambled or sunny side up?

Chris Lyons: I like them scrambled. I like a nice scrambled eggs, but with a little Himalayan sea salt and sometimes, you know, sprinkle a little Italian oregano or garlic, everything. Garlic cloves. Garlic makes the world go round, so.

Carla Harris: I hear that. City or countryside?

Chris Lyons: I think countryside, you know, at the end of the day you got to...I love the city, but I mean, you know, I guess now we need space. You know, we got to be able to get that fresh air.

Carla Harris: I hear you. Winter or summer?

Chris Lyons: Summertime. Always.

Carla Harris: OK. Coffee or tea?

Chris Lyons: Oh, I love a nice Cuban coffee, to be honest with you.

Carla Harris: OK. iPhone or Android?

Chris Lyons: Is that a question? What's Android? I was just messing with you.

Carla Harris: In office or working from home?

Chris Lyons: Working from anywhere.

Carla Harris: OK. If you had a talk show, who would you want to be your first guest? 

Chris Lyons: Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Carla Harris: OK. I'm with you on that one. He's gotten me through the pandemic, let me tell you. I've been watching him on Youtube.

Chris Lyons: I need to give him the super mic. Let him go.

Carla Harris: I'm telling you, T.D. Jakes and my Peloton, my treadmill. T.D. Jakes on the treadmill. You can't beat it.

Chris Lyons: That's it, that's it.

Carla Harris: One word to describe your legacy?

Chris Lyons: It's a good question. One word. Service. I mean, that's the word, service.

Carla Harris: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Well, Chris, it has been an incredible conversation. I promise you I will keep us within the time, but I can talk to you for another hour easily, my friend. Well done. Well done. And thank you for the privilege.

Chris Lyons: Now, this is my pleasure. You've always been a huge supporter, and a great friend. And, you know, I know you got flowers behind you, but I want to keep giving you yours, you know, because what you're doing within the community is extremely special. This conversation, the team that you brought on -- shout out to Latoya in the back -- and really kind of bringing all of Morgan Stanley's finest, and doing it in a first in class way. And so I always continue to look up to what you're doing and hope that we can continue to mirror those effects and take over the world together.

Carla Harris: Well, thank you very much, sir. I look forward to it.

Carla Harris: Thank you all for joining us on this episode of Access and Opportunity. Be sure to stay tuned this season as we speak to more influencers in the sports, media and entertainment fields who committed to reframing the narrative for women and people of color. You won't want to miss it.

What did you learn today from Chris Lyons? Send us your thoughts at a pod at We would love to hear from you. Subscribe to Access and Opportunity on Apple podcast or wherever you listen. Thanks for coming along.

Carla speaks with investor Chris Lyons, head of the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz, connecting Black leaders to new tech companies.

Chris Lyons is the head of the Cultural Leadership Fund at Andreessen Horowitz, a fund created to connect Black cultural leaders with tech companies while elevating African American creators in the tech industry. Chris began his career as an audio engineer, but found himself catching the startup bug when he started PictureMenu in 2010. He eventually moved to Silicon Valley through the NewMe accelerator. Since then, he has been all-in on the startup world, eventually taking on the role of investor. In this episode, Chris takes us through his journey in the technology industry and how he continues to advocate for increased African American and diverse representation in tech. Come on and join us for the ride.

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