Equitably Investing in Cannabis with Seke Ballard

Brian chats with Seke Ballard, the founder and CEO of Good Tree Capital, a financial services firm that uses a proprietary algorithm to balance available economic opportunities for people invested in cannabis companies. On the episode, Seke shares how removing biased data from the lending equation can make the playing field more equal. He also discusses his motivations for starting his firm, the company’s future plans, and why his ultimate dream is to create a banking model that works so well it puts the big, bad banks out of business.


Episode Highlights

Mission-driven businesses create wealth with purpose.

All businesses are profit-seeking entities, but Seke said mission-driven businesses build on that by creating wealth for a purpose. Seke’s firm, Good Tree Capital, is no exception. The company uses a proprietary algorithm to create economic opportunities for people invested in the cannabis industry.

“We want to build wealth with purpose,” he said. “And that purpose is very much around providing fair access to capital to capital to entrepreneurs who are trying to thrive in this emerging industry.”


When faced with inequities, get creative.

One of Seke’s motivations for starting Good Tree Capital was a conversation he had with his father. When he was younger, his father owned a successful logging company. He wanted to get a loan to expand to other states, but he was denied from every bank he applied to.

“All things being equal — if our balance sheet looks the exact same, if our credit risk profile is the exact same — I have a harder time getting loans,” Seke said. “And if I succeed in getting them, they’re going to be more expensive for me.”

His father’s experience helped motivate Seke to rally a team of data scientists and developers to create a lending algorithm that assesses credit risk without using factors that typically bias credit decisioning factors. The resulting algorithm can assess the risk of defaulting on a loan with 98.2% accuracy.

But despite the algorithm’s success, Seke has also run into his own problems raising capital.

“I’ve always thought to myself, I’ve got to be clear eyed about this,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of venture capital — the kind of capital that we’re seeking — goes to white men. And so if I want to thrive, given that reality, then I have to figure out creative ways to remove that as a barrier for our ability to deploy the lending model.”


Dream big. Even if it’s taking on Wells Fargo.

One way Seke is getting creative and dreaming big is by building a bank around Good Tree Capital’s lending technology. His vision? To take on Wells Fargo, a company he described as the “archetype for everything that’s wrong with banking.”

“It is a personal mission to create a better model,” Seke said. “And to use that model to drive them out of business.”

Seke also encouraged other entrepreneurs to dream big. He advocated for finding your big idea and narrowing in on what really motivates you.

“Once you find that, if you’re a hard working person with a lot of tenacity, then you’ll forge your way there,” he said. “It starts with having that vision that really motivates you.”


Resources + Links


About Brian and the Mission Driven Business Podcast 

Brian Thompson, JD/CFP, is a tax attorney and certified financial planner who specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning to LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs who run mission-driven businesses. The Mission Driven Business podcast was born out of his passion for helping social entrepreneurs create businesses with purpose and profit.

On the podcast, Brian talks with diverse entrepreneurs and the people who support them. Listeners hear stories of experiences, strength, and hope and get practical advice to help them build businesses that might just change the world, too.