The dearth of available tech talent in the U.S. is a problem almost nobody seems able to solve, but that hasn't deterred Shark Tank host Daymond John.
The Fubu founder recently spoke to a packed audience at New York City continuing education company General Assembly about bridging the skills gap--which costs the U.S. economy $1.3 trillion every year--by increasing access to digital skills education. During the event, which was hosted by Capital One, General Assembly, and video training company Grovo, 10 individuals from underserved areas of the U.S. were presented with digital skills fellowships as a part of Capital One's Opportunity Fund.
In an exclusive interview with Inc. at the event, John explained why all entrepreneurs--even himself--need mentors to educate them on everything from fashion trends to acquiring digital skills.
"Technology is moving so fast, and it's so vast, that having a mentor and someone who's teaching you the fundamentals--where things are going and how to move accurately and spend your time--is essential," he says. "That's where you have to start depending on some of the younger individuals who are really educated on where this space is going."
While John acts as a mentor and strategic partner to the business owners he backs on Shark Tank, he says they in turn provide him with valuable insights about digital trends.
"I'm noticing how they're doing business and I'm applying it to my businesses," he says. "You can't move to the next series of your life or your company without [knowing] where we're going digitally."
A good example of how young people are using digital skills to launch fast-growing businesses comes from the most recent episode of Shark Tank, when John and co-host Lori Greiner invested in scholarship app Scholly. Founded by college student Christopher Gray, the company helps teenagers find and apply for scholarships they might not otherwise know about.
So what made John and Greiner invest in the company, aside from the fact that the app had gotten 100,000 downloads prior to Gray's appearance on the show?
"All it was about was this kid being literate in the digital space to be able to aggregate all of these scholarships and put it on one platform," John says. "The information is out there. [He smartly figured out how to] go out and acquire it."