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MPLS venture capitalist loses office lease after racially profiling Somali entrepreneurs

A Minneapolis venture capitalist who led the campaign to "Save Lake Calhoun" from reverting its name to Bde Maka Ska has lost his office lease after a viral video of him racially profiling a group of Somali entrepreneurs at an Uptown Minneapolis office building garnered condemnation throughout Minnesota and beyond.

A Minneapolis venture capitalist who led the campaign to “Save Lake Calhoun” from reverting its name to Bde Maka Ska has lost his office lease after a viral video of him racially profiling a group of Somali entrepreneurs at an Uptown Minneapolis office building garnered condemnation throughout Minnesota and beyond.

Tom Austin, the CEO and managing partner of the F2 Group venture capitalist firm, approached a group of Somali entrepreneurs in the Mozaic East building’s fitness centre and accused the young men of trespassing and bringing in unauthorized guests to use the gym. After a brief non-violent confrontation, Austin threatened to call the police on the group.

“I’m Tom Austin,” he says in the video. “I’m a tenant in the building — are you?”

The young entrepreneurs, who were rightfully enjoying the amenities of the office space they’re company Top Figure – a social media and digital branding agency – was entitled to, responded that they were tenants. When Austin demanded to know which office they work in, the young men countered that they didn’t have to say to tell him. The company is a member of the WeWork co-working space in the building.

The incident was filmed by one of the young men and posted to the Top Figure Instagram page where it has over 45,000 likes and was widely shared on other social media platforms.

In the post, the group said that although they do not typically speak on racial discrimination, they felt this specific incident needed to be brought to attention.

“We all pay rent here and this man demanded that we show him our key cards or he will call the cops on us. We are sick and tired of tolerating this type of behavior on a day to day basis and we feel that we had to bring light onto this situation.”

Stuart Ackerberg, CEO of Ackerberg Group, which owns the Mozaic East building, told local media that he was already feeling heavy-hearted upon seeing the video of George Floyd’s life being snuffed out by Minneapolis Police when he was alerted to the confrontation in his building.

“My heart hurts,” he said. “This is not how we do business. … I’m alarmed by what I saw.”

He added that “it appears they had every right to be there and to use that amenity.”

Ackerberg said that he also spoke with Tom Austin on Wednesday to let him know that he did not think Austin handled the situation well.

The gym confrontation between Tom Austin and the young men at Top Figure comes in the middle of a racially charged week in America.

A few days before this incident, Amy Cooper, an affluent and successful white woman in New York City, threatened an African American birdwatcher in Central Park with arrest correctly reminding her to leash her dog. Since the video has gone viral, Cooper has lost both her job and her dog.

It is not lost on many that Tom Austin threatened to call the Minneapolis Police a mere 24hrs after one of them callously killed George Floyd sparking aggressive protests in Minneapolis.

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