The SIP: Episode 6 Transcript

Justin J. Pearson (2013), David Akinin (2008), and Daron K. Roberts (1997)

Learn more about The SIP and its sixth episode, Going All In: Activating Global Dreams with Developer-Entrepreneur David Akinin (2008), here.

[Intro music plays]

Justin J. Pearson

Hi, Coke Scholars family and friends! Welcome to The SIP, the podcast that shares a taste of the Coke Scholars around the world who are igniting positive change. My name is Justin J. Pearson, and I’m a proud 2013 Coca-Cola Scholar originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and now living and working in Boston focused on social and economic justice.

For those who are listening, and may not be a Coca-Cola Scholar, welcome. We’re glad you’re here! To give you a little background, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is the largest achievement-based and corporate-sponsored scholarship program in the country. Each year, it awards $20,000 to 150 high school seniors across the country who share a unique passion for service and leadership. It’s a competitive program to get into, but once you’re a Coke Scholar, the benefits go far beyond the money for college. You become part of this bigger family for life. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website, Coca-ColaScholarsFoundation.org.

I’m really excited about today’s episode. We have 1997 Scholar Daron Roberts talking with 2000 Scholar David Akinin.

Daron is extremely talented and far from ordinary. He went from studying law at Harvard to working his way into the NFL as a defensive coach for teams like the Kansas City Chiefs, the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns. He then became the founder of the Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation at the University of Texas, where he also teaches a course called “The Game Plan to Winning at Life” to all of their incoming athletes. He hosts his own podcast for risk takers and trailblazers named A Tribe Called Yes.

Daron has been recognized by the World Economic Forum, as a young global leader for creating a nonprofit football camp called 4th and 1, Inc. which provides free SAT prep, life skills development, and football training to at-risk youth. And on top of all of that, he is a proud dad with five wonderful kids who he affectionately calls “The Donut Council” because of their Saturday morning trips to their favorite local donut holes.

Now, a little bit about David.

David’s originally from Venezuela and is a developer-entrepreneur and founder of Atenu Developments and is investing a lot of time developing OperFin, which is a start-up to provide a digital mortgages. His company, Atenu, builds privately-funded, affordable housing projects in towns around Africa, providing integral solutions to first-time home buyers.

On the health and education fronts, Atenu builds clinics and classrooms for underserved populations around the nation through partnerships with the Pupkewitz Foundation and Palms for Life Fund.

David’s other organization, the Emanya Capital Group, is the private equity arm of his operations, and has a majority stake in FinTech company OperFin, a digital identities and eMortgage processing platform. David is actively engaged in consulting projects for real estate funds and developers in Namibia, Cameroon, Zambia and Nigeria.

David’s fluent in six languages and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Chicago, where he was a QuestBridge Scholar. He’s currently completing a Masters in Philosophy in Inclusive Innovation at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

As you can tell, we have two fantastic folks on this podcast, and I’m really excited to hear more about David. And now I will turn it over to Daron, who’s going to talk with David all the way from Windhoek, Namibia.

Transitional music

Daron K. Roberts

David! Welcome, welcome brother, how are you?

David Akinin

Good, good! It’s really exciting to be sharing the spot with you, especially after hearing you speak at the Leadership Summit two years ago.

Daron K. Roberts

Well, I’ll tell you what, you’ve got one of the most incredible stories. Your life is one of pivots and transitions and I know that the community will really enjoy hearing all that you have to say. So, thank you for carving out the time for us, man.

David Akinin

No, it is my pleasure, and thanks, Daron.

Daron K. Roberts

So we’ll do this man, this – let’s start at Genesis, like, walk us through your life, you know, give us the high points, the low points, and just give us kind of the cliff notes version of your life up to this point.

David Akinin

Okay that’s always a cool way to start a conversation. I’m one of four brothers; I’m the second one. My mom’s actually Moroccan and my dad’s Spanish, and we, all four of us, were born in Venezuela. I grew up seeing my dad be an entrepreneur and then become an executive, and he was, he was very hands on. He was very, like, he would bring us to work, he would drop us off at one of the stores he worked in and tell us he’ll pick us up if we sold stuff. So, I grew up with the, with the energy of having to get stuff done. And, and I would say my mom was a lot the sentimental type, the one that brought a lot of emotion to the house and the one that was always kind of trying to keep us spiritual and engaged and I think I’m the combination of those two things.

When I was about 11, all four of us were kidnapped at gunpoint in our sleep at home. And it took about a year and a half for my parents to make a big decision on what we would do next, but we ended up leaving the country after that, and we moved to the United States. And that was a big change. I think that was a big pivot. Maybe for my father felt like a big failure, you know, starting over and doing all that. For some of my brothers, it might have been a shock, for me, it was exciting. It was like I was trying to help my parents move to a new country, you know. I remember when we moved to the US, I cried for about three days before and after we arrived. And my mother eventually asked me like, “Why do you cry so much?” and eventually, I broke open and I told her, because now I will never get to be president of Venezuela.

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

I think that broke my mother’s heart more than anything else throughout the move.

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

You know my father bought a furniture business and he went from being an executive selling in the retail space to running his own shop in Miami to kind of like an SME. And that was probably one of the most exciting parts of my life. My high school years, I worked every day at his shop. I helped with the accounting, with assembling furniture. Later, with a friend, I started a nonprofit sending shoes to Africa. And that was really one of the first times I started believing and thinking in a global concept.

That’s what got me later the Coca-Cola scholarship and got me to go to a good school – that along with some good grades I guess, and putting a lot of effort in my education. But, you know, moving to the US – and I think a lot of the people who are probably hearing this podcast are students or people who’ve gone through the US education – coming to the US gave me so much appreciation for what we get in the United States. I mean, the level of education you can get. I went to a public school. My parents started from scratch.

I had a crazy pivot – I mean you mentioned pivots in the beginning.

I got recruited into Google when I was 19 and I started working at Google in a summer internship and I worked part time during the year. The next year, I was super involved on campus.

I started an organization called RISE, which was a Road to Innovative Social Entrepreneurship, right around the time of the floods in Pakistan. I think a third, at least a fourth of the country was underwater, like after those floods, and I teamed up with a few girls from the US that were Pakistani originally. And we created a social entrepreneurship competition for teams all around the world that kind of competed to come to Chicago. And what was amazing is we got money from Coca-Cola, and we got money also from Tetra Pack and a few other companies, so that the winning idea of the social enterprise on how we could help in Pakistan would then get funded. And that was such an amazing thing because we combined, not only like fundraising and being able to deploy capital and use it for something good, but we got students to engage and come ride the social entrepreneurship manifesto. That was probably one of the big highlights of my time in Chicago.

I ran for president of my university maybe two or three times – I lost every time. Um, I think if you asked me what were some of my worst moments in university, it was probably the 10 minutes after I found out I had lost. And what were some of the best was probably the six months that followed where I had to rethink what I wanted to do with all the time I had personally committed that I would put towards running the student government. And then that’s what led me to create some of these great things because I was trying to make up for it, I would say.

From there, you know, I studied abroad in Paris. Actually, thanks to the Coca-Cola scholarship I was able to. You know that my Questbridge Scholarship didn’t cover me studying abroad. So, I was able to use the part of the Coca-Cola scholarship that I received towards that funding and I don’t think I would have been able to afford it otherwise.

And I built two great relationships that I think changed my life forever. One of them was I met a Nigerian governor, and we became so close he started actually flying to the US for my birthday and eventually my first trip to Africa was paid for and invited by him to come see what it was all about. And the other big contact I made – unfortunately, we’re not we’re not in touch anymore – is the person who actually helped me kickstart what I do today in Africa, and it was a guy who came up to me, an alum from my university and maybe 20 years older. And he said, “Listen, if you want to do something big in life,” (at the time I had just sold a start-up for very little money – I had a startup where you could write a postcard, flip it, put a message on something and it would get printed and sent) And he said, “You know, if you want to do big things, you’ve got to leave Google, leave this start-up stuff, and go learn how money works. You’ve got to learn how money works, you’ve got to finance, you’ve got to figure that out.” And, you know, I followed his advice. It was the first time somebody actually told me what to do. You know, if I called my dad I’m like, should I date this girl or that girl, he’d just read me their resume.

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

And I’m like, dude, I want to know which one I don’t want to know what their qualities are. And should I take this job or that job and then well this is telling me where to go. This guy for once felt like a real mentor who said, you know, do this and these are the reasons.

So, I did that and I went to I got a great I got into two great programs that are offered in University – one was called SEO, which is Sponsored Educational Opportunities. They hook you up with a summer internship in finance, in law, in sports, and so many things today – they do it for so many programs. I’m an alum member of it, so I follow it closely. And the other one was MLT – Management, Leaders for Tomorrow – and that one is during your junior year of college. They would like actually train you to go out there in the world and apply for jobs and get the jobs. So they teach you, they give you a coach, and I remember these coaches, they would be like, they would call you and they would harass you like if you were late to the call, they were like, how dare you be late to call with me and that teaches you never to be late to a call, and teaches you to raise your hand when you’re in a room with people. It was really an amazing opportunity and teaches you about your 90 second pitch, which obviously you’ve asked me for one and I’ve gone minutes into it.

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

But, then I went to work at Credit Suisse, and I will tell you, Daron, it’s everything I needed. I spent a summer there and then I decided I really don’t want to do this, but this guy told me that if I learn how money works he’ll give me money to start something in Africa – right, that’s what the guy I met in Switzerland. That’s it. So, I hate it I started working debt capital markets. I felt it was very routine. I also had no idea what I was doing. Everything seems very similar. Everyone seems very different to me also, culturally, and I thought, you know what, let me, let me try something different. I had gone to everyone at Credit Suisse to try to get moved around the bank to something that could teach me more about finance. I think sometimes you have to be introspective about the decisions you’re making. Great, I’ll go work in finance, but is this really going to help me get to where I want to go, or where I think I want to go? And, you know, working in debt capital markets wasn’t gonna do it for me. And it wasn’t going to teach me what I needed to learn to maybe go be an entrepreneur or raise capital the way I should be. Nobody was doing that in my department.

So, I went to a place where the CEO of Credit Suisse was 55, 52,000 people working, I went to a place where he was speaking at a conference, I wrote a letter to the guy. I showed up, I got his attention, and I gave him the letter and I didn’t hear back. And a week later I get a phone call from Switzerland. The guy tells me to get a flight and go to New York for an interview. Now bear in mind, Daron, I had been rejected for three years from SEO before I finally got in on my junior year. I had interviewed already with every bank on Wall Street to get a job and change from debt capital markets at Credit Suisse, and everyone kept saying, you’re an entrepreneur, you do things with Africa, you started tech things. You’re not a banker and when they asked me technical questions I didn’t even have the answers.

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

Because I didn’t study finance or accounting so I don’t blame them. I just didn’t deserve the job. Now, when I got it to this letter I literally, I must have had 22 interviews in like a day and a half. And Daron I got not one technical question. Everything was how do you know the CEO, how did you get him a letter, how did you get here, and I got the job!

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

I mean, so I started working at Credit Suisse in investment banking. This was in 2012, now full-time, and graduated uni. I worked in the energy group. I worked til 4 in the morning, 3 in the morning, two in the morning – I worked crazy hours. I made beautiful money for having just graduated, I was able to help my family and myself in ways that I hadn’t before. And it was, it was great, but the work was tough, and I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, the reason I was doing 2 to 3 in the morning is because I was trying to figure out how to do what I was expected to do. We were buying and selling companies. I think investment banking is an amazing career, a lot of people give it a lot of bad word. But I think it’s an amazing place to start – it teaches you a lot. There’s a lot of expectation from you, not only in the technicals, but in how you behave in a corporate world and how you liaise with people and how resourceful you can be.

And right there I finally had money and I started traveling and I went to Nigeria, and I went to Angola, and I went to a bunch of places and I thought, when my friends were going to Cancun, you know, this is a great time for me to go to Africa and explore and I think I was trying to do two things. One was, I was trying to look back and think, you know, I want to go be an entrepreneur in Africa, I want to go do something where I can create, where I can solve problems, but also feel like I’m adding value and helping people. That was kind of the blend and mix of what I wanted. And I had no skills and, in my mind, I thought there is nothing I’ve got to offer, which is a horrible feeling to have and I think a lot of us have that in many stages of our lives. So, I thought if I can travel and see what other people are doing, then maybe I can figure out do I have the skill sets that they have while they do what they do.

Eventually I came back and I told my boss at Credit Suisse – I was about a year on the job, a year and a half full-time now, without counting the previous internship – and I told my boss, I said, “Listen, I’m going to quit in about a week, I just don’t know how to do it, so I wanted to ask you directly.” Like, at SEO and MLT no one teaches you how to quit, they teach you how to get the job.

Daron K. Roberts

laughing

David Akinin

When you know when you want to get out of the job, like, how do you tell them, so I thought the best – you know, I’ve learned in life that when you want something, sometimes “saying it like it is” is the best way. So, I went up to my boss and I said, “I’m looking for something more entrepreneurial, and everyone here is interviewing for private equity jobs and hedge funds, and that’s not what I want.” And I’ve traveled a bit and I’m thinking, you know, I might give you a resignation letter, so just want to make sure we’re in a good space. He said, “Well, give me a week and we’ll figure something out.”

And at that time, he pretty much came back to me and said that they wanted to open an office in Chile. I had no idea, anything about Chile, I’m from South America, but Chile is so far away – everyone thinks we’re in the same spot. I called a friend of mine and asked him a bunch of questions about Chile. I filled up a page he was so good, also a friend from my University. He was so eloquent and I just wrote it all down and the second page was listen I work in the energy field, can you tell me anything you know about energy in Chile and he happened to be a fund manager in energy and I just wrote everything down.

And then I got a phone call from another bank on behalf of my bank, because they wanted to do a friendly interview. You know my boss asked another bank in South America, can you help me interview one of my internal guys to see if we can send them down there. And I just read down and I just read when my friend told me over the phone, I just said like you know page one, here’s what I know about Chile, page two here’s what I know about energy in Chile, and the guy interviewing me on the other side of the phone was like, “Are you from Chile?” and I’m like, no, I’ve done my research. And he said “Wow, you know, let me call your boss, it sounds like you’ve got a good understanding of what’s happening down there.” Now obviously I do have that understanding now, because my friend gave it to me, but I think you know, you have to be resourceful to identify these things.

And I think a week later I moved down to Chile. I gave up my apartment, called my landlord, and said I’m leaving. It was one of the best opportunities anyone’s ever entrusted me with, was to go down and help set up an office, help set up a bank office, it was entrepreneurial. They hired local people afterwards and the team grew. I go into meetings – I actually for once appreciate it. I loved what I was doing. I had to learn how to do it well. So, I could go, you know, and try it. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but surely, those were the things that were guiding me on how to do it better.

So, I called up the guy who told me he was gonna give me some money. And we went back and forth and we negotiated. And I quit, I quit Credit Suisse, I moved to London. Tommy was gonna give me a million bucks. And I was going to build a mortgage platform. I was going to go get mortgages in Namibia. Namibia is about 30 years old, I was actually born five days after Namibia.

To fast forward a bit on my story, and I’ll come back to what’s happened in Africa since I currently live in Namibia, I originally moved to London to start this mortgage platform and I realized, three things that were that were key to anyone who was trying to be entrepreneurial. One is you cannot build a business away from where the business is, so good luck building a mortgage platform in Namibia from London. The second one is you can’t build anything without a team, right? So this was me, I decided I’m gonna go build this, but that was just me. Do I hire people, do I need people? And the third thing was, you can’t get mortgages if there’s no houses being built.

And these three things all together gave me fever, stomach aches. It felt like a massive failure. I mean, I just left a nice job on a recent promotion. My parents thought I was nuts. They were like, what are you doing, you know, you just left your job to go start what, where? And I just told them, like, I’m gonna trust the process. So, I actually quit what I was doing in London, I moved in, that was in 2014. I moved in January 2015 to Namibia, and I told everyone, I’m gonna be, you know, I can’t give mortgages if there’s no houses – I’m going to try to become a developer.

So, this, I use this guy’s money to become a developer. I started a company at the time called Namibia Property Group. And for about two and a half years, I just took off my suit, put on some jeans and construction boots, and I learned how to hire people, fire people, buy materials, source materials. It was an adventure. I mean, I became a builder from scratch from building little, little houses in the middle of nowhere. I mean where you couldn’t – you know, in America we can buy concrete. In these places, I was trying to find out where the hell can I buy cement so I can make concrete. And, and it was an amazing, amazing trajectory.

Unfortunately, this guy and I had very different visions of where the business should go. He wanted to merge it with an Angolan business he had, I wanted to continue growing it organically. So, we walked our different ways and I re-started from scratch, everything I was doing.

I built a company called Atenu Developments that builds affordable housing around the Namibia. We now got a contract to build also in Zambia with the government, some housing. We build schools. Probably built about 10 schools in Namibia. It is an amazing opportunity to go into these schools and do more than just build. I mean you engage with some of these communities. We started science fairs, and some of these schools. We’ve built a clinic for a Himba tribe. We were busy right now building today. Like, I’m speaking from my car outside of a clinic in the capital. We’re building the one clinic that is going to be used for coronavirus testing.

And then in the last couple of weeks, I mean if we would have done this podcast a few weeks ago, this wouldn’t even come up. In the last couple of weeks with the pandemic, we realized a lot of the shops in the informal settlements, and these are shops made out of like aluminum sheets, right? They’re not proper shops, the shops. And there’s one every 50 steps or 100 steps so a lot of these jobs, they cater food and nonperishable items – toothpaste, toothbrushes, cooking oil, anything you can imagine in the low income sectors of Namibia, Zambia, of every country I would say in the emerging world. In the capital, in Nabibia, in Windhoek, I would say more than 50% of people buy their food in these informal shops.

Now, because of the lockdown that we experienced, people are not allowed to really travel around the Capitol. And we realized that these shop owners were actually taking taxis, which are quite expensive, to go all the way to the center of the Capitol to a supermarket so they can buy supplies and then come back to their shop so they can resell them. Now this does two things for you. One is the price surmountable for them to go do this therefore the end consumer pays much more, and this is the end consumer who cannot afford to pay much more. And the second thing that is also happening is that you now have, what my older brother calls a food desert. And that means that all the nutritious items are also not get sold right like all the perishable goods vegetables or the meats or the different things that people need in their diet.

So, we started something called Jabu, and we’ve now registered, I think, over 140 merchants in the past week, that we geo localized in the informal settlements, we have profiles for them, we build an app where we can identify where they are, we take orders from them of what they need, and with our own transport we sell and distribute the food that they that they want for their shop at a lower cost than it costs them to go pick it up every time they need it. And we’re hoping that if this kicks off, it’s something we’ll raise capital for and try to also deploy into other informal sectors of nearby cities, you know.

Daron K. Roberts

So, you know what? Your narrative is incredible on several dimensions. Right? I mean, you’ve lived an incredible life, and the question – you know, there’s so many takeaways – just show up, you know? Once you show up, be willing to keep playing. And let me ask you something.

There are some people who are listening who are wondering, you know, how do I muster the courage to explore and activate so many of the dreams and goals that I have. What advice would you give to them?

David Akinin

You know, I looked up before I knew we were gonna talk, and I heard you talk once as a speaker at a graduation ceremony. And you said something that stuck with me, which was, “We’re all gonna die, right?” and you try to defend it quickly by saying, “Hey, I mean it, you know, we’re all gonna die. Not tomorrow, not today, maybe but,” and what you drove the point to be was – and this is something that I’m guided by – it’s we live in a finite time. And you can do what you want with that time. And there are people who unfortunately leave much earlier than others and there’s people who live very long lives, but that has nothing to do with how you feel and what you can do with the time you have.

And I think it’s something that guides me very much and we all come from different perspectives and different life experiences, right? There’s people who when they get thrown down in the floor, they get hurt, and they stay in the floor, and there’s people who see that as a challenge and they try to get up. And it’s very difficult for everyone to feel like they can follow the same advice, but I would say very much along the lines of what you’re saying is, we only live once, and why do it any other way?

When we muster the courage to pursue something, to do something, that’s when we find what’s next, and that’s when we find what to do with what’s next, and that’s what life is about, is pursuing next and next and being able to add up a lot of these things, you know? And you have low moments and it’s okay. And in those low moments you might doubt yourself, but when you get those high moments and you feel like you should pursue something, then go all in. That’s the moment you go all in.

Daron K. Roberts

I love it! Go all in. I want you to rewind the clock and go back to your Scholars Weekend and think about you as a Scholar. What advice would you give that kid?

David Akinin

I would say, definitely network. Network, and I mean it from the genuine touch, everything that I’ve ever done in my life could have been very different. I could have stayed in tech in California, I could have stayed in finance. I could have never gone to university in state, helping my dad in his shop. But every decision you make is guided by the people that are around you and the network that you have. Every job you pursue is guided by the opportunities that are put in front of you, or that you are able to pursue thanks to the people that are around you.

My parents don’t know anyone in Africa or in Wall Street or at Google. They then gave me what I needed to go to some of those places and fight hard. But what you have to then do when you get to those places is up to you and I think one of those biggest things is called networking.

I think the Coke Scholars gave me a lot of lessons to learn how to network. You know, I was put in a room with a bunch of people who also didn’t know who they were and we’re trying to learn about each other. And then when you go to university, you’ve got an advantage already because you just spent a weekend with a bunch of people who, in a similar setting right like most universities you’re put into a room with a bunch of people from all over the states who you don’t know well, who have different dreams and different backgrounds and are going to different places, that was the Coke Scholars Weekend. So, I mean to those who are at the weekend, make the best of it, have fun in the process is what’s best. But networking – creating, building, relationships genuinely and learning what each of us brings to the table, both on a personal level on a spiritual level and a professional level, is really what ends up making things happen for us in the world.

Today I’m friends with many people from my Coke Scholars Weekend. And when I went to the Leadership Summit, I met people I had never even heard of that were from my year and I wonder, you know, how would the last 10 years have been for me if those people were in my life, and I think bringing people into your life is a big thing.

Daron K. Roberts  

You know, on this question of networking, I think it’s such a great topic. Let’s flip this. What are the wrong ways to network?

David Akinin

You can really tell when somebody is approaching you looking to make something. Necessarily money but you can tell when somebody is coming to meet you because they need something out of you or they think they can profit out of this relationship very quickly. Most times networking happens at networking sessions. And in a networking session, people will ask you questions that are that are so typical, that it sounds like they’re just trying to ask them to make it seem like they’re there to network. And I would say that if you can find a way to connect to somebody about who they are, where they come from, to be genuine – genuinely interested in how they like their job what they’re up to, you know what got them there, how are they doing it. That person will remember you because it is a normal, natural conversation.

Daron K. Roberts  

I love it, I love it. Well, David, man, we’re gonna hit to the Fast Five, brother. Okay, there’s gonna be rapid fire, you’re gonna crush it.

David Akinin

laughing

Sounds like a Nintendo game!

Daron K. Roberts  

laughing

We’re just gonna hit the “Go” button, man. It’s gonna be downhill. It’s gonna be awesome. I love it. So here’s the first one. Okay, you ready?

David Akinin

Sure, yeah. Let’s go!

laughing

Daron K. Roberts  

laughing

What are two apps or websites that you cannot live without?

David Akinin

Definitely email and Whatsapp.

Daron K. Roberts  

All right! If I looked at the music on your iPhone, iPad, whatever you have, look at your playlist. What would most surprise me?

David Akinin

I listen to corny Spanish music, like “[singing in Spanish]”

Daron K. Roberts  

laughing

Yeah! I love it!

David Akinin

And anyone who gets into my car goes, “Really?!”

laughing

Daron K. Roberts  

laughing

David Akinin

laughing

Sorry, man, it’s either that or some French classical. So yeah, let’s go.

Daron K. Roberts  

laughing

Alright, number three. What’s the favorite book or piece of music that has helped or inspired you in your life?

David Akinin

Yeah, it’s a book. It’s interesting, it’s book my dad gave me when I was maybe 11 or 12, right around that time that we after we had been kidnapped called, Otto. And I think in English, the book is translated called Riding the Golden Tiger, and it was a guy who, who came into the world of gold and became a miner and a supplier. And he travelled around the world and, you know, there was romance in that book I can tell you I was also excited as an 11-year-old reading it. It was about global business and exploration and romance and for once I came out of a bubble in which I was living in Venezuela with that and I think that was my first interaction with the world at a big scale. Yeah, and it’s stayed with me forever.

Daron K. Roberts  

Love it, love it. Okay, what quote or motto do you live your life by?

David Akinin

Oy, that’s a tough one.

I would say, “Never forget.” You know, a lot of people use this phrase from the Holocaust, and my family’s Jewish, and a lot of bad stuff happened in Eastern Europe to the Jewish community in the ‘30s and ‘40s. And I don’t like the way we use the phrase, “never forget,” but I live by it in many ways, and “never forget” is only – people think it’s just about saying never forget that that happened and so that it never happens again. But I like to think of “never forget,” as never forget anything or anyone around you.

Daron K. Roberts  

I love it, I love it. Last question – number five. What makes the Coke Scholars program unique?

David Akinin

Wow. Daron, How can I say –

Daron K. Roberts  

It’s tough!

David Akinin

It’s tough to put into enough words, I would say. You know, like we didn’t know. When you get it, you have no idea what you just got. And if you know anyone was younger than the age requirement for going into the Coke Scholars program, I would say start coaching them so they can become someone that can apply. That’s how unique I think the program is. What’s so amazing about it – and this is why I love the entire Coke Scholars team – that it’s still the same from when I got my scholarship 10 years ago, by the way, this is also very unique – is the passion for what they do and the network they built. And you know I told you I thought it was very important to network. This program does it for you. They remind you who you are. You know, you don’t just get some money and go. They built a bunch of values around this program, they tell you about them, and they stand by them. So yeah, I think I’m so, I’m so fortunate to be part of it, I think you would agree, and I think everyone who gets to interact with the Foundation in so many ways is also very fortunate.

Daron K. Roberts  

I love it, man. Thank you so much for your candor, your insights. This has been incredible fire, brother. Man, you’re gonna find people on fire, they’re gonna be ear candy just saying, you know, they’re gonna be ready to go out and do big things and I just appreciate all that you’ve done for this community and the world, man, and I look forward to seeing you soon, brother.

David Akinin

Same, same with you and if and if anyone wants to reach out like you said like they’re wondering how they can do something or if they should do their own thing, I’m always yours, I’m always happy to add value, even if I’m on the other side of the world. So, you know, feel free to reach out to me and hopefully I can give back as much as Coca-Cola and some of these programs and you have given to us, you know.

Daron K. Roberts  

Thank you so much, man. We appreciate it!

Transitional music

Justin J. Pearson

We hope you enjoyed this episode between Daron and David. For links to Atenu Developments and other things they discussed, check out our show notes or coca-colascholarsfoundation.org.

Well friends, this concludes our first series of podcasts! It’s been an honor and a blast being a part of The SIP, and hope it has been inspiring, motivating, energizing, and fun for you, too! Season 2 will feature even more Coke Scholars later this fall.

And in the meantime, over the summer, we’re excited to bring you a bottler bonus series, where we’ll get to know 3 Coca-Cola bottlers. Stay tuned for details!

And until then, we look forward to seeing you next time on The SIP.