Positive investments – and vibes – only

Positive investments – and vibes – only

By Nastasia Boulos

Positive investments – and vibes – only

By Nastasia Boulos
Alumnus invests in giving back.

He’s played competitive soccer in Jamaica, worked in corporate America, toured with dancehall star Sean Paul, and even persuaded former President Barack Obama to sign a card for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence.

Now David Mullings, B.S. ’00, M.B.A. ’03, is on a new mission: to go public with Blue Mahoe Capital Partners Inc., the investment firm which he founded and runs, and to hopefully make it one of the first Jamaican-owned and one of the few Black-owned companies listed on a major U.S. stock exchange.

To Mullings, this is one more step towards a larger, lifelong mission — to give back, invest in the people and places that shaped him, and to inspire, empower, and serve as a role model for the youth in Jamaica and around the world.

Born in Jamaica, Mullings grew up between Kingston and Miami. His father was doctor and university lecturer who earned his Master of Public Health from the University of Miami, and his mother was a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “My mom and dad raised me to believe that if you think you can help one person, help one person,” Mullings said. “If you think you can help 100 people, help 100. If you can help three million, then you should go after that.”

Though both parents worked in scientific fields and Mullings was interested in the sciences growing up, they always encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit in their two sons. In fact, both Mullings and his brother had to pitch a business idea, complete with five-year projections and more, every summer and Christmas for the chance to earn a $10,000 investment (though it would be years, and many rejected business ideas, before they succeeded). 

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Miami and becoming, at 19, one of the youngest Black legacy students to graduate from the U, Mullings returned to Jamaica to play soccer for a year with Real Mona F.C. He then earned a partial scholarship to the University of Miami Patti and Allan Herbert Business School, where he embarked, along with his brother, Robert Mullings, B.B.A. ’01, M.B.A. ’03, on a journey as an entrepreneur.

It was in a class during their first semester that the brothers pitched the idea that would become their first company, and the one their parents would finally invest in: a website called RealVibez which at one point became the largest online platform for Caribbean music videos and YouTube’s first Caribbean media partner in 2008.

Since then, Mullings has worked in private equity and with a hedge fund, overseen the launch of the online banking platform for a Jamaican financial institution, and worked to improve accessibility to the things that impact long-term success for people across the region.

Mullings serves on the board of fundBLACKfounders.com, which focuses on making it easier for Black-owned businesses to raise capital via rewards-based crowdfunding. He is also the chair of the Development Bank of Jamaica Mentors for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme and serves on the advisory board for the Caribbean School of Data, an entity funded by Google.org that aims to develop digital and data literacy skills and improve career prospects for youth in seven Caribbean countries.

Much of Mullings’s work was inspired by the inequality he witnessed growing up. “I played football with a young man who grew up about a mile down the road from me, but his opportunities were completely different because of the community he was in,” he recalls. “Learning about the challenges he faced through no fault of his own and recognizing how lucky I was reinforced my clarity of purpose: investing in a way that would improve society so that luck wouldn’t be the determining factor in the opportunities you get access to in life.”

His current firm, Blue Mahoe Capital Partners Inc., invests in companies in the emerging but often overlooked Caribbean economies. In going public, the firm would provide an easier, more transparent way for people within and outside the diaspora to invest, create wealth, and ultimately raise the standard of living in Jamaica and other countries in the region.

Blue Mahoe Capital Partners Inc. is also planning to launch an impact fund to support underrepresented founders, including Black founders and women, in the U.S. and the Caribbean. “Less than one percent of venture capital goes to women or to people of color,” Mullings said. “We need to fix that pipeline by investing in them— investing time, money, and resources. It’s not enough to write a check. It's not enough to only mentor. You need to do both.”

Mullings, who proudly wears his U pin whether he’s filming a video for Bloomberg TV, in a Zoom interview, or on the cover of a magazine with Jamaican Canadian billionaire and his longtime mentor Michael Lee-Chin, says the University of Miami gave him the outlook and helped him make the kinds of connections he needs to succeed. 

“I chose the M.B.A. program at the University of Miami in particular because Miami is, in some way, the capital of Latin America,” Mullings said.  “I knew that going to the U would mean that the network I would build would essentially be the Harvard of Latin America and the Caribbean. This is the school you want to go to if you know you want to do business back into the region. The University of Miami was and is integral to my network.” Come January, almost half of the team, which includes Arthur Baker, J.D. ’12, at Blue Mahoe Capital Partners Inc. will be UM alumni.

As Blue Mahoe Capital Partners continues to build its portfolio and take steps towards being listed, Mullings is optimistic about the region’s future. He hopes that the work they do will inspire others in the Caribbean to see stocks and investing as a viable option.

In the meantime, as an author, speaker, and mentor, Mullings will continue to share the mistakes he’s made, the lessons he’s learned, and obstacles he’s faced throughout his career to help and inspire others. The biggest challenges so far for the husband of 13 years and father of three have been overcoming impostor syndrome and making family, not work, the center around which everything revolves.

His advice to recent graduates? “Be intentional about leaving something positive in every single person that you meet. You never know the impact it can have when you make somebody smile or make somebody think. So be intentional about that. Positive vibes only.”