To you, what is an Ecosystem Builder?
Ecosystem building isn’t likely the term I used when I set out on this journey over a decade ago. I simply saw needs that had major gaps in resources and set out to “connect dots.” And where we couldn’t penetrate wholly and systemically some needed resources, we decided to create and/or build our own, hence the Verite Investors Network (VIN), a social impact fund, and more broadly, our due diligence platform. As we gained momentum, successes, supporters and resources, “ecosystem building” became a clear descriptor of our mission, passion, and expertise. So, I guess that makes me an Ecosystem Builder.
What motivates you as an ecosystem builder?
By either nature or nurture or both, I am a ‘facilitator.’ The name of my business, Playbook Investors Network (PIN) has strong ties to my love of the game of basketball and the point guard position I played in college and still play. Being the oldest of six siblings born to my parents likely gave me my start and affinity for the role of facilitator, as well. To borrow a phrase from an 80s TV series character, Hannibal from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together!” I’m motivated each day to positively change how diverse-owned businesses gain access to capital needed to grow their businesses, thereby creating jobs that sustain our communities.
What is the most successful/impactful program/event/thing you do/have done in your ecosystem?
To date, our most successful and impactful tool has been our due diligence platform. Through this platform we scrub diverse-owned businesses and prepare/package them as they are introduced to traditional and non-traditional capital resources. Our portal has helped diverse businesses obtain millions of dollars of funding through our financial partners.
What is the biggest challenge you face as an Ecosystem Builder?
The PIN due diligence platform remains one of our biggest challenges as it’s a multi-stakeholder platform that currently includes the management of content, membership, investment, and payment management and it also services as a messaging system. The central challenge of this system is with the fast-changing technology. To roll out a comprehensive and tech-savvy platform requires key and adaptable IT resources as well as training and education resources for each of our stakeholder groups.
What is your biggest frustration as an ecosystem builder?
Whereas resources for funding the different ecosystem projects we have built have exceeded our initial expectations over 10-plus years ago, a frustration that’s persisting in our work is maintaining the proper funding levels to obtain the right resources as we grow. As stewards of this monstrous, yet rewarding endeavor to make a significant and sustainable social and economic impact, we have been challenged to attract and retain key resources to match our growth trajectory.
What ecosystem building skill/knowledge do you want to gain?
I, and my team are always open to learning/implementing best practices in our respective projects and to gaining new and knowledgeable allies and resources of ecosystem building enthusiast- locally, regionally, nationally, and even internationally. I am personally impressed with the mission of the Kaufman Foundation’s to help growth and educate ecosystem builders. Likewise, I am passionate about this endeavor I took on over a decade ago and welcome opportunities to not only gain new skills/knowledge, but to share and educate others on lessons learned and viable educational resources as we do through our PIN Global News program..
What are the most important things that need to happen to advance the field of ecosystem building?
When I began my journey to develop our ecosystem it was challenging due to my lack of knowledge in the technology industry. Annual conferences, educational seminars or other local resources would aid individuals like myself so that we can learn more about ecosystem building and understand what it means.
What others are saying about Rodney
Rodney Woods is an exceptional Ecosystem Builder. Woods’ passion for building an ecosystem of systems, resources, opportunities, and programs for the sole purpose of having a sustainable social impact is unmatched and often unsung.
More than 15 years ago after a distinguished career in law enforcement, Rodney Woods launched Diversity in Promotions (DIP), a unique full-service marketing firm that paired the Fortune 1000 corporations with diverse suppliers, including professional athletes for co-branding opportunities to strategically grow market share and brands. DIP also paired private investors with diverse-owned businesses that needed help raising capital to scale and grow their businesses.
From the huge success of DIP, Woods saw firsthand how the need for access to capital for diverse-owned businesses was immense, so he sought a way to make it easier and more transparent for these businesses to gain access to capital and created Playbook Investors’ Network (PIN). PIN is a web-based portal that serves as an investment information, education and networking resource for Minority/Women-owned Business Enterprises (M/W/SBE), government, Veteran and small businesses. Our network of capital providers allow suppliers to build capacity by receiving direct investments from traditional and non-traditional third parties.
Woods strategically launched PIN in partnership with national and regional corporate membership and support organizations whose missions are to facilitate relationships to integrate and grow diverse-owned businesses into the corporate and public supply chains. Rodney continues to build and sustain this social impact ecosystems and has been strategic in partnering with like-minded Fortune 100 companies to provide opportunities, capital, and business services including Microsoft, Toyota, Volkswagen, etc.
Rodney continues to shore up this ecosystem with the successful launch of Verite Investors Network (VIN) Fund, a $100M private equity social impact fund invest in emerging small to mid-size companies