Name: Chike Ukaegbu
Profession: Tech Executive
One Word That Describes You: Outlier
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
It is an indication that hard work does pay off, but also a reminder that there’s still a lot of work to be done. Nevertheless, I am very grateful and honored to be one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
All of my endeavors, from Re:LIFE Inc to Startup52 and the Black Wealth Collective, etc., are vision driven and focused on empowering people like me through tech, entrepreneurship, education, finance, and media. My goal is to create better access to opportunities, resources, capital, and exposure that power legacy and wealth building.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
I think the most profound one is recognizing that by moving from Nigeria to the U.S. at 19, there was suddenly a new identity I had to own, and not by choice. An identity that no one prepared me for—becoming a black man in America. Reconciling my Nigerian identity (as a young man who no longer had the immediate cover and family support system that I had growing up), with becoming labeled as a black man was probably the biggest challenge I have had to deal with, and honestly helped shape the man that I am today. I had to define this new identity for me in a way that embodies my beliefs versus small minded ideologies that erroneously try to define us.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
Faith and resolve. Once I set my mind to do something that I believe in, nothing can stop me. I have learned that faith gives you the will-power to go on in spite of challenges and resolve keeps the daily hustle and grind alive. The both require patience, encouragement, diligence, and of course the grit, hustle, and hard work that goes into knocking down hurdles.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Empathy is the bedrock on which effective inclusivity happens. Inclusion means that you leverage and support the strengths and uniqueness of others in building stronger and more meaningful relationships and/or communities. It also means that you understand and respect the things that make us different without creating a hostile environment for those who are different from you in any way.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
Startup52, which is NYC’s first and award-winning diversity focused tech accelerator. Check us out at www.startup52.com. The Black Wealth Collective, a network of passionate black people pulling resources together to collectively invest in real estate and tech, with the goal of building wealth and legacy. Re:LIFE Inc, a nonprofit I co-founded to empower youth, especially disconnected and at-risk youth through tech, education, and entrepreneurship. There are a few other endeavors too.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Someone told me once they stopped nonprofit work because it burned them out. At the time I didn’t see how you could burn out from doing what you love and care about until it almost happened to me. This is what I learned: Charity work without capital will wear you out. There’s just so much good you can do without help until you burn out, which ends up affecting your work adversely. On the other hand, charitable work without heart and genuine passion is very detrimental to the cause as well. I learned the hard way that it is important to balance the two. So for me, everything I am committed to doing revolves around investing positively into others but now also about building significant wealth. My vision board on my wall reflects that and daily I remind myself that that’s the legacy I will leave.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
First, love thyself! Then, ask yourself the following questions: 1. What is your vision? Be clear about your big picture. 2. What is your mission? How do you actualize your vision? 3. Plan and strategize on your course of action. 4. Who is important to helping you achieve it? 5. “Just do it,” like Nike would say. Set your mind to something and go at it. Build a solid network of awesome people around you who will inspire, challenge, encourage, admonish, and build you. That support is important. People don’t understand the importance of loving one’s self and how it impacts success. Self love helps you determine who you have a round you, the role they play in your life and the impact they have on you and your success. Love yourself!
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
It is important to understand what you want from every meeting. If you don’t get your initial ask, what else can you get out of it and/or what will you settle for? This requires focus and being intentional. Never let NO be the final response if there’s an ask. What else can you get—an intro, feedback on how to do better to get a YES next time, insights on what else could be done to achieve more, etc. Always know that everyone knows someone that could be useful to you either in the present or future. Make sure that every meeting leaves you with the opportunity of meeting someone else.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
I’m not sure I ever fully unwind. I don’t know how to. There is always work to be done, so vacations are embedded in my everyday routine. I have never done a 9-5 so I’m not exactly sure how others do it. For me, going away does not mean I stop working, and staying home does not mean I forget about self-care. My best vacation times are interacting with family, whether on Whatsapp, via calls, going to visit them, and then of course, my daily naps. I need those to stay balanced while grinding. I also love great meaningful times with close friends. And then my Sunday walks from church. It’s my weekly routine, come rain, snow, or sunshine. That one hour walk is very important to me because I talk to myself, evaluate my previous week, plan for the next, and have some quiet me-time.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I strongly believe in buying black and supporting Afrocentrism so I am a Motherland child who is yet to see the entire continent. Until that is done, Africa remains top on my bucket list of things to do. Now don’t get me wrong: I have been to several countries and of course love me some Nigeria. But of all the places that I’ve visited Marrakech, Morocco is top on my list, then Copenhagen and Stockholm. Loved the people, the places and the experiences. This list would definitely change as I travel more.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I wrote a piece titled “Black Fear – Embracing the Uncommon Path” on my LinkedIn page. It was actually my speech at the last Black Entrepreneurs Summit here in NYC. In it, I described the five types of black people – Outliers, High Achievers, Settlers, Hustlers, and Indifferent. I think that it is important for us to have that knowledge, but more importantly, to possess the Outlier mentality and strive to become more like Outliers. We need more outliers in our midst. So the question is – what are you doing to become an Outlier and what are you doing to support others?
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