How to Found your First Startup

Now for this next panel we're going to Go a little bit more General we're going To talk about how to become a Founder How to turn that idea into a company and So I'm very happy to present Phaedra From promise Reuben from career comma Rita from zoom and also it's your Moderator Dominic Monroe Davis the Co-host of found [Applause] That was cute I love it you're the only Dude yeah no it's it's good I like this Hello everyone thank you for coming the Founders on the stage have been through The ups and downs of launching and Running a startup so they're going to Talk to us about it today so without Further Ado first question Phaedra Can you talk me through the moment you Decided to turn your idea into a company I wish I was that organized Um but I think what I was clear about is I'd been in a different startup that had Done well became a unicorn and what I Was clear on is sometimes in Tech what You're doing is you're deriving value From two parties and you're ultimately Trying to bring value to yourself and so What I wanted to understand is how could I build a product in a company that Actually brought value to the people That used its services and I was very Much moved by someone that I cared about

He had had a DUI and he also Had an issue with Child support and so he had to make a Decision whether to pay child support or To pay for the classes that he needed For a DUI he chose to pay child support And as a result became lost his driver's License was going to be rearrested and So it just seemed crazy to me that the Choices that so many people who are Working who are low income that the Choices do I pay my child support do I Pay this thing and if I don't the Consequences are so severe and it felt Like technology was scaling and offering Solutions and I just thought it Shouldn't be that technology is about And fundamentally not improving the life Of people who need the most support the Most benefits of scale and and I just Thought I can do better Same question like what got us into a Starting company I mean careercon was a Product that we wish that we had when we Were breaking the tech Um I grew up in Atlanta Georgia San Francisco uh 2014 had no idea how to Break into Tech Um and a lot of the people that we knew Figured out how to break into Different fields and Technology by going Through these rapid reskilling programs Called boot camps and even though I went To college myself I was blown away that

There's these rapid rescaling programs That could train people In the short amount of time without Going into debt and I was so blown away That I recommended my brother to try it Out he became a software engineer in Five months my co-founders became Software engineers in less than a year And then we were like wow we got to Democratize this to the world we're a Big fan of tech crunch we noticed that Tech crunch uh interviews CEOs and VCS But never the people that were like Really building the companies on the Worker level so we actually started a Podcast called breaking the startups Blew up at least millions of people Phaedra was my boss so I actually I was At honor and we we launched that while I Was working there for her and that led To people asking for career advice and It essentially became a movement that is Now helping millions of people get Career advice Yeah my company Zoom is actually Transforming a universal and societal Problem of how do you pick up and drop Off your children safely reliably and Sustainably in 2013-14 I was a tech Executive at eBay while I was seeing Every single industry around me getting Disrupted using technology in my Personal life I was constantly facing This challenge of my pickup and

Drop-offs getting Fallen apart and 30 Years back interestingly my mom in India Who was an educator had left the job for Exact same reason and it was an aha Moment that this problem is universal And I had to do something about it my Curiosity became more than my fear and I Started Zoom at that point early on I Was solving my own problems but as as I Started selling the solution to parents Going to school school started asking me If they could adopt the platform for Their own use and that's when I realized That school transportation is the Largest mass transit system it has not Changed in 80 years it works exactly the Same today as it did you know in our Time or our grandparents time and we Started transforming it using technology And sustainability And now Venture funding is not always The best option for every startup so I'm Really curious to know why all of you Guys like to go the Venture route so Perhaps starting with the ub2 So the problem that we are solving is Very complex it requires technology it Requires a complex Logistics system and In terms of having the full-fledges System around the school buses and the Vehicles and the yards and it requires Partnerships today we are partnering With thousands of schools and school Districts across the country including

Some of the largest districts like La Unified and San Francisco Unified so Given the scale of the problems and Complexity of the problem it was super Clear that this would take a while to be At the stage that the company can be Self-sustained and also it needed the Guidance from the people who had done it Before at the scale so I ended up Partnering with investors like secoa Capital and SoftBank today Zoom is a Post series D startup and that has Helped us led to this way where we are National today and Countrywide Yeah I mean the people in this room have Probably read you know Market recent Software is eating the world Um but we also understood that uh Southwest reorganizing the world this is Also another really good article about That and as we're thinking about Employment and how people get jobs a lot Of companies they only use college Degrees as a filter you know fast Forward to today after the pandemic you Know AI automation employers are Dropping the requirement to have college Degrees and pioneering these skills First movements and what we did we Accommodated in Winter 2019 we actually Started thinking about how 375 million Workers are going to switch careers Between now and 2030 instead of going Back to college they're going to rely on

Job trainers to find job training Programs to find their next jobs and if You want to help people find Opportunities at companies and the right Training programs and the right people To help them navigate their career you Can't really do it without software and This isn't this isn't just a problem to Solve in the United States it's a global Problem and so we initially said we Wanted to help a billion people Um and and you know fast forward to the Day we got about a million people a Month coming to us looking for career Advice and it's been great For me Venture was about scale and Fundamentally thinking through if you Want to solve a large problem you need a Lot of resources to do it you also There's very few places that say you Don't need to make money right away and So to be able to have this space in Place to say we're just going to be able To solve I also think most investors Don't want failure and Venture is unique And that pivots failure are part of the Process and so for us we wanted to solve A market that was significant we were a New player we wanted to use software and Fundamentally we wanted to figure out How did you scale and what we're really Interested in is how did you use the how Did you use private capital for public Good and we didn't want kind of folks

Who were traditional public good Investors we wanted to actually win in The market which meant that we wanted Investors ABC is one of our investors or Like investors who also pushed us that Were like you need to win in this market And so we thought the best tool that we Had for change was actually to win in The free market And aside from venture did you look at Any grants or like small business Programs family and friend rounds well I Didn't have family and friends that were Going to write a check and so uh we Raised we raised 7 million in our first Kind of pre-seed seed and a seed I don't Even know what you call it anymore the First time we raised we raised seven and Um and and so we did it that way and I Think for for us Um we didn't do grants we didn't do Anything and I think both as a black Woman and as someone raising for good Like I wanted to win in the market so Like I was like I want the best Investors I want Um first round like I was like all of The folks we wanted so so we didn't take Grants we didn't take uh anything that We didn't think meant that we were Fundamentally building the best product And people believe that we would win the Market yeah I mean we we didn't do Grass Either we do have like institutional

Investors like we had initialized Capital you know lead our series there We have Google Venture we have a bunch Of the typical names but what we did do Is not assume that the only people that You could raise money from are the the Standard VCS on the list so we spent a Lot of time looking at Family office is like you know Emerson Collective or Stardust who some people Might know not know about her Forest Bay Partners or imaginable Futures that used To be humidity our Network so we really Wanted to focus on not only people that Could cut big checks but had big hearts Um focus on impact that could also fund Us in in the nine figure level if we Ever needed it from our own cap table And we have several people like that in The cap table That also could give us grants if we Wanted to some of our investors actually Can provide a fiscal sponsorship if we Wanted to if we wanted to do anything Related to nonprofit and accepting Donations and things like that so we Wanted that flexibility so we did a Hybrid of both Our initial Investments actually came From Angels this is 15 16 when the ecosystem for seed and Pre-seed wasn't that robust and Interestingly people who wanted to use The service they would not take no for

An answer and a lot of customers wanted To invest and they were they didn't have Capability to invest so we went through Funders club and helped them get get Into that and and that's also a resource That people can look into if your Customers are your investors that's the Best thing you can do they're using your Service and also helping and at some Point along the journey I found an angel And angel investor who became my larger Institutional early investor before my Series Around yeah and kind of following up on That what is the best way to I guess Approach an angel investor to kind of Strike a conversation and say like hey You know I have this company would you Be interested in writing a check for it It is Lots through introduction from Each other you find Angels usually like To talk about the Investments they are Making and they are investing together For me it was surprising initially I Thought who would want to invest in the Company like this it was a very Different company but moment I would Talk about people would start selling The idea back to me saying that I had This problem I wish I had the solution When my kids were growing up and they Would end up putting the check and once They put the check they would say oh why Don't you talk to these three other

People that you have so the key thing is You're initially just getting them Excited about the idea and not so much The check and that follows through the Once that relationship builds and they Like the idea there is on it whether the Check follows from there I really like That point about angels because we Actually have a lot of angels too that Are investors Um some of them are operators at Companies but some of them are also Partners out of the firms I remember Just one specifically that got us to our Family office he said that his fund Wasn't going to cut a check into us but He was going to personally cut a 25 000 Check to us and then he said on the Condition that we speak at the Conference of his wife and that Conference required me to be on stage With Tony Shea who passed away rest in Peace and that actually got me into a Room with someone that cut a half a Million dollar check that I did not even Know that was another black man which Also really stood out to me because he Controlled a three billion dollar fund And you can never find them on any Website so that that was really Surprising to just follow my gut Um and those angels I could name so many Of them have been super helpful Who's your favorite angel you might

Um one is I think that we probably are All Angel Investors also ourself now and So that's thinking about like for me I Make an angel investment because I Believe in someone like deeply like I do Ruben and you feel excited and I think That's what you're looking for for us as Uh getting Angel Investors we're looking For people that can be helpful to our Growth and so it was we wanted someone Who was an original Um exec at venmo because we were Thinking about payment and so we're Thinking about who makes the process of Running the company easier who moves us More quickly and so we look for very Specific skills and very specific people And so when it came to kind of finding The people who will introduce you to the Right people how did you initially get Yourself into the room like did you join Social Clubs were you on LinkedIn all Day like what did you do to get into the Room to meet these right people Um I feel like Ruben has the best system I've seen so he'll talk to you I'm sure About that I am anti-social and so I try To speak to as few people as possible And so I was trying to find the least Resistant way to get there and Um and so what what we did is I had been At a company that I'm on the board of Now called honor and so I ran Revenue There I'd fundraised there and so I went

To people that I knew I was in music uh I used to represent Prince and so we'd Had a relationship with Roc Nation so we Got Jay-Z to be an investor so we just I Looked for where are people I know how Can I move as quickly as possible and Um and then we stay with the same Investors so we've only taken on one new Investor in three rounds Yeah I mean I think outside of the the I Won't break down the whole fundraising Process but I think that um You can take advantage of things like What combinator like what we did that Definitely helped a lot Um I do think that again not us assuming That there's trillions of dollars of Capital that exists in the world and They don't have to come through the Institutionals or Angels or family Offices and trying to find who they are Is very important so I did raise I've Raised millions of dollars through dming People on Twitter that I've never met Actually Um so just having this like willingness To reach out to the right people Um and be clear on on what you stand for Publicly to her point I'm always talking About what career combo believes in what We stand for what our vision is what our Mission is and one of my investors says That you know inbound is what happens When outbound is your DNA so what I what

I start to do is make sure that the People when I'm not fundraising I'm Building the relationships with the People that I plan to raise from in the Future and every quarter I'm checking With these people before I raise kind of Like looking for a job when I don't need It you kind of you don't want like if You're going when I have somebody going Through a book called in boot camp for Example I don't tell them to start looking for The job after they graduated the boot Camp I get them starting that early on So that when they get the advice on what To do when they graduate they say Remember you told me that I did it and Then they helped them get the job same Thing with raising if I'm talking to People early on and checking in with Them every quarter whenever I'm ready to Raise they're either going to preempt The round or whenever somebody leads Around I could just close it around Super fast so that's that's how I get Down Yeah to add to what Reuben said Accelerate as a demo day work out great That gives you a an opportunity but Pretty much we presented or talked with Anybody who was willing to hear our Story and the reason for that was not Just the money it helps you refine your Story like I would constantly look for

What's resonating and what's not Resonating and continue to refine what Were the questions that we could be Prepared for the next time and finally We landed on Stanford angels and Entrepreneurs there are several groups Like that and there were institutional Investors within it like Hulu Ventures And others and that led us to the whole Angel round being covered but the key Thing is you have to love talking about Your story and not be afraid because People also get excited and inspired by The problem that you're solving and Especially if it's a large problem and You personally resonate with the story Build that story build that narrative it Helps invite people in Um how Central is it for Founders today To look at investing um time and SF in New York and Austin when technically now You can build a company anywhere Foreign With zoom it has become very easy our Series D round completely was raised Mostly on Zoom uh because that was also A time of pandemic but at the same time There is no compensation for personal Relations like once you meet people in Person it gets easier so there is Something about having the same cohort Of people around you like initially we Also worked out of a co-working space And seeing so many Founders at night

Working together and the kind of Camaraderie we would have it inspires People but at the same time yes using Zoom you can build a startup from Anywhere it helps being close to where You are as much as possible like where The sources of funds are there or at Least travel there and try to meet People in person if you're not in the Same area and I I believe the Silicon Valley and San Francisco still helps People in fundraising that way Yeah I mean even though I live in Miami I still think that San Francisco is the MBA of Entrepreneurship I think that if I didn't spend eight years here I would Not have been able to raise our Series Be completely virtually Um I do also believe that you move at the Speed of your relationships and so even Though I told you that I raised a lot Through just dming people on Twitter I Also intentionally make the time to be In person with people like I'm here Today even though I live somewhere else Same thing with Enterprise right you and If you're trying to close big Enterprise Deals you have to You don't have to but ideally you're Meeting in person with people to connect And break bread with them and even the Person that let our Series be Actually ended up being someone that I

Bro Brett with here at the Grove in San Francisco Completely outside of our fundraising Process just to kick it because my Friend from church said that I should Talk to him and then that ended up being A 25 million dollar check which is wild To me but so you never know what's going To happen by spending time with people When you don't need to raise but also to Your point you're you're passionate About what you do you're educating them About what's going on and showing them That you have a Clear Vision by the Future and a solution uh using Technology to help millions and billions Of people I think San Francisco is still the Center and increasingly so it seemed Like there was a moment during covid Where you were seeing these remarkable Things happen in other markets and the Biggest difference I've seen is the Valuation in those other markets is much Lower so you can see and I think Watching what feels like the Resurgence Of San Francisco or I think before it Was like oh San Francisco let's go Miami's a hot Market Austin and the last Company it was at we opened an Austin Office and closed an Austin office Um and so I think it's still there's Still going to be amazing technology but I think as we think about valuations as

You think about where I is going to be AI is going to be centered Um it feels like very much a San Francisco moment in a way I would not Have anticipated six months ago first Right so let's switch gears just a Little bit so you have your idea and you Have some money which roles in terms of Hiring which roles are best to invest in First Sales sales so I uh I I think if if you Can sell your product everything else Which I this may be an unpopular opinion But when you have Revenue coming in you Can fix almost everything else and the Number of people I meet who have the Most miraculous product but they don't Have any Revenue you can almost Guarantee that's going to fail or it's Going to get Aqua hired or something by Someone else but the ability to drive Revenue and so for us I think my number One job even today is now I do more Hiring and thinking about the the Culture and the way that we think about It growth as a company but I still feel Like the the moment that I know we are In sync is when I'm selling the company Is selling because we're making Decisions based on what makes our Customers happy we're making decisions On what the future of the company should Be and so for so for me the investment In a good strategy because you it's hard

To sell a product that's not good it Started to sell something you don't Believe in and so building a team who Feels the past question and and Translates that because we we our Company really grew during covid and so There was a market shift it had been Kind of good old boys who came into your Office and took you to the bar because We sell to government as our largest Client and um the shift of being subject Matter experts who could sell really Rapidly Um was pivotal for us and there's no way We would have grown if it hadn't the Market hadn't shifted but I don't know That there's anything more important for A company than the ability to sell yeah Man I agree with that I think Frederick Wrote that into me when she when I Worked for her she had me doing inbound Sales outbound sales but also Understanding how to create the the Leads for yourself right so what's the Legion I was the marketing strategy how Do you how do you bring the leads for The sales people to feed them Um and if you read even books like zero To one and anything like that you could Have the most amazing products in the World but if you can't sell it to people And get into the hands of people if you Don't understand distribution it doesn't Matter you could have the the most

Advanced thing especially in the Increasingly noisy and Global world Where so many new things are happening If you don't know how to differentiate Yourself and be clear then it's over With for you you're not even over with You it doesn't even start you can't even Get off the ground so yeah I think I Think that's important Um outside of that I do think just People that are not just Builders from An engineering perspective or design Perspective but um People that can do hacky things from a Product perspective where like sometimes It might even feel like technology but It's really a bunch of people doing Things on the back end but it's like a a Front-facing layer Um that's that's also people you need People that are willing to try things And not commit to code always Immediately to make sure that it's Actually what people want Because they're they're three Co-founders for us each rid of us had Almost three four roles in the beginning And we never hired anybody for any role Till we had good idea of what does it Take what does it entail to have that Role so initially me and my co-founder Would go to schools and do the calls Ourselves to find out who is the right Person that we should be hiring for the

Role interestingly our first hire Director about level was also sales Because the motion was working so well We wanted to get get the person in in The door but for me the key thing is do Not Outsource too early because sales is A place where you get to know what your Customers want your customers don't want Is the product working not working what Should you build and if you Outsource That too early that DNA goes away of the Product so for us like once the motion Was working that's when we hired the Sales people around it and I also agree On the hacky thing around our initial First seven to 10 people were Builders Themselves they could have easily been The founder of a company they would do Anything to get the cards get the motion Up and running for we didn't even have An app and they would find a way to get The PDF to the driver to the parent all The information in a way that the entire Flow could be executed so instead of Waiting for the perfect product or Spending a whole time a whole lot of Time building the product find out how You can do a minimum viable product and Start selling to the customers because That motion tells a whole lot about are You in the right direction to pair do Our customers actually want your product Yeah that was actually going to be my Next question of who don't you want to

Hire really really early on because I Think Ruben oh my goodness yeah you Don't want to hire someone who asks you Who's going to build their desk Like you know that someone's gonna fail When they started a startup and they're Like well what's my phone do I have an Assistant who's going to build my desk Um all of the things that imply that You're used to some infrastructure People who ask for a clear job Description I feel like I'm always like Oh hot mess you shouldn't come work with Us because we just don't have those Skills we need you to do everything so I Think it is like we're like are you do You run to the fire or run away from the Fire and so I think at the beginning it Is really about the I think the point About Builders is right because when I'm Looking to bring someone on for the team I want someone who wants to run their Own company and ultimately thinks they Should replace me because really I want To be replaced right I want to build a Company that's capable of moving me into A different role or putting me in in a Different space and so you're looking For people who have that deep ambition That hustle like I always think there's A certain time for NBA players and There's a certain time for Streetball Players and in the beginning I want People who taught themselves I want

People who are going to figure out how The client experience is beautiful I Want people obsessed with Excellence Obsessed with winning and and those are The folks we look for in the beginning Is hustle smart and folks who really can Do almost anything when people are like Here what's my title I'm always like um This is probably not going to be the Right gig for you Um we stopped interviewing people from a Certain MBA program because they would Come and they would be like okay I went To a fancy School a and fancy School a And so like I want to know who does this And who does this and we're like so so You do all that and so we realize we're Like that that isn't the right space and Place for where we were as a company in The beginning for both the company I Came from the company I'm at now and so That's what we're looking for is hunger Hunger and skill and where those meet Yeah I mean I don't have much to add to That other than I think um Yeah if if you fit into a job Description especially early on it Doesn't work because I feel like the Entire world right now is going through A whole reset because of what's going on There or trying to figure out how to Take advantage of these new technologies And if you're someone that only does What's inside of a job description and

You're asked to do something else it Rocks your world and you're you're not Able to adjust fast enough and to and And put the heart and the passion that's Necessary when she talks about obsession Obsession doesn't just mean being a Workaholic even though you do have to Work very hard sorry that's very Important but beyond that you have to Like really care about the space we talk A lot about product Market fit and Founder market fit but beyond that you Actually have to have an opinion about Where the world is going if you have no Opinion about where the world is going How are you going to bring change in to The Future to the the future to the Present right and so the the way to do That is not just by Founders giving the Vision uh Founders might set the purpose Mission and division Um but you could work with the team to Help you come up with the how and the What of what you're doing in order to to Manifest that and make it a reality Yeah to add to it Federal Ruben said Like there is a time and place for People who were who are great at scaling When you've figured it out and you just Have to repeat this motion over and over Again but in the initial stages you're Still finding product Market fit and in The life of a company you may do it Multiple times you may pivot and you may

Find the product market for it so the I Would not hire initially the people who Are very specialist and just like to Scale as you said with large teams Journalists who are willing to do Anything but they are particularly good In one area like sales or Finance or Something is a right way to go initially And they'll they have to be actually Super excited about your mission like They feel the same way every day getting Up in the morning like Founders do in Terms of how can I iterate on it what's The feedback that I'm getting from the Customer how can I make the process Better and that actually really helps Your startup along the way and then Relational state of hiring And I should note that we will be doing Q a close to the end of this so there's Like a mic to stand up at Um but how can a Founder kind of assess Themselves to see if they are even good Leaders or maybe I need to bring on a Co-founder or maybe I need to hire like A CEO to run this company I think Um I guess there's a couple ways to think About this one is I think this is a Lonely Journey so I give incredible Credit to people who can be found a Company by themselves but having a Co-founder for me has not just been a

Critical part of building a company but Of just sustaining myself as a human and I think it is important to protect your Mental health and to think about deep Friendships and deep relationships and It feels like every failure is not your Own and so I just think I get why people say it's really hard to Be a single founder and I think the Thing that you have to assess is is the Outcome for you worth the hits And so like is it worth feeling like You're losing is it are you gonna freak Out if you if doesn't work and so for me It's really about is it something that You so deeply care about that you're so Deeply committed to that whatever the Consequences you'll feel at the end of The day it's worth it and I have to say I tell people all the time do not found A company if you went to college have Debt you're responsible for your family And you want to go make money like we Should be I'm like great you got a job At meta seems like a good strategy it's Like it really is Is this the right Journey for you and is The the loss worth the gain and so um And that's what I think and I think I Learned I feel really lucky to get to be Around people where you're just like Okay that was the right decision and Sometimes it's the right decision and Sometimes it's not

Yeah Um I think that You have to have something that's Driving you that's deeper than money I know what we were talking about Different ecosystems like in Miami or New York or uh Austin and so on and so Forth you can absolutely build large Companies from there but one of the Biggest differences from the people that I meet here is not just the ambition and Technology and the intelligence but they A lot often you meet more people that Want to really change the world And when you ask the question the first Thing that jumped into my head was uh Coach prom that we see everywhere right And he gets he gets in these interviews And he's like do you believe right do You believe you believe now because There's going to be moments where you Dot yourself and if you're on your own You that that those those mental demons Is going to come in there and try to Stop you from going on that Journey To having someone else that also Believes in this thing that that doesn't Exist that's why faith is really Important right being a Founder is a Spiritual journey you have to believe That this needs to exist it's going to Exist somebody's going to build it why Not you and you have to have people that

Are going to encourage you along the way And the money is a result of what you Did Um and if it's not working just continue To adjust to figure out how to solve That Um and so out if I'm talking to someone About uh starting a company Obviously I'm going to bring up the Whole thing around the right co-founder Um whether they're technical or not but I'm also going to ask you what's driving You that's deeper than money Um why did you choose to solve this Product it is something that you've Personally face is it pain that you Personally have faced because that's Gonna cause you to run through walls Whenever you face any obstacles because You felt it before you don't want other People to feel that either Yeah for me as a Founder you have to Always remember you you were the one who Came up with that problem and found the Early people around you to solve that Problem that in itself makes you a Leader but on your journey as the people Other people come along and you hire a Team with the Team Dynamics you can find New things about you as a leader like in Terms of people relationship personal Relationships can I manage this or can I Manage that and that evolution of the Leader itself keeps on changing from C

To series a to BCD as you evolve and go Closer to maybe going a public one day So for that skill to me is very Learnable people never should found a Thing they're not a good leader it's Founders can constantly continue to Learn and build a ecosystem around it I've always relied on coaches and great Other peer founder who can advise you on A certain stage different stage and Kinds of problems that you are facing The group of Founders that you can talk To at any given time and I totally take It very sincerely that the company's Progress depends on my growth as a Leader so that that in itself as you Describe is a spiritual and personal Journey that as a Founder you have to be Willing to take constantly What was the hustle of getting your First Customer because I know you said That you work with um like governments And States what is the hustle of getting Them to work with you I don't think of it as a hustle I think Of it as selling a dream that wasn't Quite realized yet and maybe it was a Hustle Um because I think you're trying to get For us we so our first product was Thinking through bail reform we now do Two things uh promise is really focused On how to deal with the consequences of Government debt and so we offer

Interest-free payment plans for Government debt so you don't lose your Driver's license and think of it as a Firm for government we're like hey you Can get interest free to buy a Peloton But if you're poor and you can't pay Your ticket you can't pay your water Bill or something else you don't have a Choice you have to go in the office you Have to prove you're poor and so we Structurally make it easier for people To pay off debt and it's all interest Free and now we started running Aid Programs and so we get to use that data Like we know you're on food stamps to Fill out an application for you so the First product we had we had to go get Counties to trust us to run programs and We didn't have product yet because we Couldn't build products because we Didn't have enough input from our users And so we went to a group and we a County that shall remain nameless Because we're sitting in it and uh And said hey we have this amazing Product we want to work with you we want To learn and we were lucky that I guess In San Francisco county was our first Client is that San Francisco was facing Unique issues Um was used to Innovation we're used to Startups and so it was a good place to Find our uh first client and then once We had San Francisco as a client within

California we could use San Francisco Outside of California people hate San Francisco I don't know if you know that But uh clients came from the south and So it'd be like we have clients in California uh but that's what happened Once we got one it generated the ball Rolling and we could use that as a proof Point Yeah I mean our one-liner when we did um What I see was we helped job training Programs find Qualified applicants and When we get enrollments they pay us 10 Of their tuition so like how do we get Job training programs as customers and The first customer that we got that was Paying us 60 000 a year uh was through The podcast actually so TechCrunch Actually helped launch our podcast so uh We actually started interviewing people On the podcast that made a transition Into technology and then we started Interviewing the founders of these job Training programs and then after the Interview they would actually say Hey How do we work together to get people to Enroll into our training programs and That's how we actually got our our first One in fast forward to today now that We're providing career navigation as a Benefit to our employers our our first Um our first customer was actually Google but that came inbound right that Actually came to them giving me a DM on

Instagram and then having a conversation At afrotech after they saw that we Helped a bunch of people get jobs and Turning into a program now where we're Training 5 000 people together and not Just training people with boot camps but Also Um Certificates provided directly by the Corporation and full full Employer-funded education now to take Things to another level so Um That doesn't mean that Enterprise is all Inbound it's mostly outbound Um so this whole thing around going in Person is a hustle and the the Journey Of Enterprise that these two have have Both cracked in government is something That I'm still learning Um but I'm going to be applying a lot of The methodologies that I learned working With training programs in the beginning And we're almost out of time so I just Want to get to this last question what Is an early failure that you all had and How did it make you a better leader And early I feel like I have daily Failures Um so it's like the early let's think Um the the earliest failure problem we Had is we built a product that we didn't Like our clients and our clients were Sheriffs and I remember being in the

South and it was like the client was Like literally some of you may not be Old enough for you've ever seen Dukes of Hazzard but it was like this guy and he Leaned over and he was bragging about Keeping someone incarcerated for seven Years who hadn't been arrested for Marijuana in a pre-trial arrest and so He was in jail longer than he would have Been if he'd actually been convicted and I just thought these can't be our Clients And um and so I don't think I think we Thought through we wanted to solve the Problem but we didn't think through the Steps of what it would take to get there So our first pivot came from realizing I Mean I just walked out of the meeting And just realized this can't be who we Serve I know we only got a minute and a half So I want to save her the only thing That I'll say is I know we talk a lot About pivots and things like that my Friend arnoff says that a company is Never its first product right I think That's important I did some technology Like think about any company whether It's Nintendo Toyota all these things They all had a different product in the Beginning Coca-Cola whatever So for us you know we tried audio rooms We've tried you know Reddit discussion Boards we tried so many different things

To try to build community and bring People together and we're we're still Constantly iterating on these things Leveraging technology so I'll just say Yeah do we still have audio rooms no we Do not um and there's a lot of things Like that what we no longer do so I just Say that's okay if you're adjusting over Time Very small failure early on I was acting As a driver essentially picking somebody Else's child from a school and I I had My I had my two kids but didn't realize How picking other children can be so Difficult so all these challenges around Identifying them where they are Communicating with them and their parent Is not there with them and as a child I Identified the child as they were Sitting in the car in the back I was very afraid whether I should be Talking with them not talking with them And in the process miss the red light And at that point the child started Giving me directions like turn you go Here go there and in the whole process I Realized like what the job the actual Drivers who are a brand ambassador Entails and it also taught me to be at Ease when you were in a moment in new Situations with new customers And unfortunately that's all we have Time for today but the panelists will be In the TC plus lounge if you want to

Connect talk talk with them some more Um and thank you all for coming so thank You all Foreign


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