Today, DepositLink CFO and co-founder Darrell West is building a real estate tech company. And what he does now is greatly informed by his experience over 25 years ago.
DepositLink is a safe, secure, and easy way for real estate companies, their agents, and title companies to request earnest money deposits and commissions electronically through the ACH network.
After kicking off his career on Wall Street, West seized on an opportunity. “I took a business trip to South Africa and my world opened up,” he shared. It was 1995 and Nelson Mandela had just become President. “The apartheid system was recently abolished and investment dollars were pouring in.”
But the country had to correct the atrocities of apartheid. President Mandela’s administration put Black Economic Empowerment programs in place to create equity ownership in businesses, encourage companies to hire and train black South Africans and incentivize companies to partner with black-owned businesses.
“As a private equity investor, I was part of that and witnessed it for fifteen years,” West recalled of the transformative and exciting time. And he’s taken everything he saw and learned there into the experience of co-founding DepositLink.
Foster diverse relationships to build diverse companies
DepositLink is 50% black-owned, and inclusion and access are core tenets of the company’s culture. For West and his co-founder Jay Rooney, that means tapping into talent networks that reflect a more diverse base of candidates.
“Very few candidates walk in the front door at startups,” West noted. “It’s all about who you know and who you have relationships with.” That means a company that recruits from a network that has little to no diversity will result in a team that reflects that same deficit.
“The power of networking is so important. And that’s especially true in real estate. I know the issue isn’t a shortage of candidates with the credentials, it’s a lack of access for those candidates of color.”
The remedy, West says, is in relationships. It’s a mindful effort on behalf of every leader to establish dialogues that can open doors to more diverse talent. “It starts with a conversation,” he said. “If you’re looking to effect change, you need to get outside your comfort zone. You have to have the will to do it.”
Inclusivity and input from customers
DepositLink’s culture of equity and excellence doesn’t end at its commitment to a diverse team. The company maintains open paths of communication with customers, taking input to better the product, and enhance the overall experience.
“We are driven by customer satisfaction. We want to ensure that the broker, the agent, and the consumer have a great experience when they use our product. Our focus is always to be the best in the market and to that end, we are very receptive to suggestions made to us by our constituents on how to improve our product offering.”
The market has spoken
As a private equity investor for the past 25 years, West has witnessed explosive growth in businesses and industries. Quite often this growth can be attributed to a new product or service that satisfies a basic market need. He believes that this is the case for DepositLink.
“The demand for our product over the past six months has been breathtaking. The real estate market has come to the realization that electronic payment platforms are the future and will permanently replace paper checks and wire transfers. The forward-thinking brokers and agents recognize this and are acting now.”