As Founder and CEO of Future Capital, Marlon Thompson is working towards the transformation of the North American startup environment. Drawing from his personal experience as a startup founder, Thompson also steps in as an angel investor, providing the vital early seed money for groundbreaking innovation, with a key focus on funding the ideas of underrepresented leaders in the startup ecosystem.
An advocate for diversification in business, Marlon has collaborated with high-profile companies like Hootsuite Media and Highline Beta, developing and guiding diversity initiatives designed specifically for investors and founders alike. This work has also earned him a spot on the Advisory Council for Diversity at lululemon, just one of several examples of his work making a real, tangible difference.
When the shoe fits
Thompson’s route to tech was particularly both unique and unexpected. After studying literature and political science, but post-graduation found work in fashion retail. In 2013, after six years with Abercrombie & Fitch, Marlon moved to Vancouver from his home base in Toronto at the urging of a friend who’d also made a career change from retail to tech. “It was super eye-opening seeing how these startups and tech companies operate and how creative every role really gets to be because you’re building something,” he says. “The rapid fire learning that happened in that experience was so addictive to me and just worked really well with my personality, and I never looked back.” The leap paid off and he landed where he belongs.
Driven by curiosity
While self-defining as “tech-illiterate,” Marlon stands as proof of the breadth of positions available in the tech sector. Working initially in operations, he leveraged his retail experience into the world of tech, able to use his skills in both product management and people management in a whole new light. This paired experience took him into the orbit of lululemon founder Chip Wilson and his partner Shannon Wilson with a position at Kit and Ace where he worked on developing their retail platform approach. A subsequent move to consulting with local startups saw further rise within the Vancouver tech ecosystem.
Coming out professionally
For many of us, the process of coming out happens in several stages, with one of the biggest steps being to do so professionally (and the numbers don’t lie with 53% of LGBTQ+ Canadians remaining in the closet at work). Marllon waited until the move to independent consulting work to embrace his queer identity within his work, admitting the wait for doing so was directly “tied to my level of comfort and security in the roles that I had.” His growing success, however, led to growing confidence, and the sense of freedom necessary to live openly. “I belong here. I know I have the skills. I have the experience,” he says. “Now it doesn’t matter if someone has a different point of view on how I live life.”
Opportunities in Diversity
As Thompson’s success grew, involvement in D&I initiatives gradually took on a larger presence in his career, and his past experience also helped form a unique approach to operationalizing diversity and inclusivity within the organizations he’s worked. Realizing the majority of foundational decisions in any company were taken at the venture capital level, he realized that making a true difference in the sector required a move into the field and led to the founding of Future Capital. With a focus on pulling together a diverse cohort of investors, Future Capital aims at a growth in opportunity for startups leading to nothing less than systemic change. And that’s an idea all of us in tech can get behind.
Watch the full conversation with Marlon below!