From the Streets to Venture-Backed to VC – Clarence Bethea

Today, I want to share some insights from a truly inspiring conversation that took place at our 2023 Summit in Boulder. Clarence Bethea, co-founder and former CEO of Upsie, (and currently an investor at True Ventures) was interviewed on stage by John Hill, Evangelist at Techstars.

The Unconventional Path to Entrepreneurship

Clarence’s journey to entrepreneurship is far from traditional. Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Clarence grew up in the streets and didn’t even know what entrepreneurship meant until much later in life. He had an idea to save people money, but he didn’t know the first thing about venture capital or business metrics.

A Life-Changing Moment

A pivotal moment in Clarence’s life came when he met the CEO of Best Buy, who told him he was special and had the potential to be a CEO one day. This encouragement was a game-changer for Clarence, setting him on a trajectory that would eventually lead him to Techstars, the well-known startup accelerator.

The Techstars Experience

Clarence’s entry into Techstars was nothing short of dramatic. On the day of his final interview, his son was born. Despite this, Clarence chose to attend the interview, a decision that impressed everyone in the room and secured his spot in the program. During his time at Techstars, Clarence realized that while he might not have the traditional background or education, he had something that couldn’t be taught: the ability to outwork everyone else.

The Emotional Toll of Entrepreneurship

However, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. Clarence opened up about a particularly low point where he almost took his own life. The pressures of being a Black founder in a predominantly white industry, coupled with the immense responsibilities he felt towards his family, had taken a toll. But a voice inside him urged him to slow down, and he chose to continue fighting.

A Bold Decision: Firing Himself

As Upsie began to gain traction, Clarence made the bold decision to step down as CEO, believing that the company would benefit from a more experienced leader. This move was not only good for Upsie but also led Clarence to his current role at True Ventures, one of the top venture firms in the world.

A Mission to Bridge the Gap

Clarence is now focused on helping Black founders navigate the complex world of venture capital. He believes that the current system, where 77% of VC dollars go to white males, needs to change. Clarence is committed to helping more Black founders and women understand the nuances of raising capital and getting them in front of tier-one VCs.

Wrapping Up

Clarence’s story is a testament to the human aspect of entrepreneurship, which is often overlooked in this highly transactional field. His journey from the streets of Atlanta to becoming a successful entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist is not just inspiring but also a crucial lesson in resilience, hard work, and the transformative power of human connection.

Thank you, Clarence, for sharing your incredible journey with us, and thank you all for being a part of this conversation. Let’s continue to put the ‘conscious’ in ‘conscious entrepreneurship.’

If you missed this enlightening talk, don’t worry. We have many more inspiring conversations lined up for you at the next Conscious Entrepreneur Summit. Stay tuned!


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