New

Good fundraising for a “good business”

Jason Yeh
July 27, 2021
46
 MIN
Listen to this episode on your favorite platform!

If you enjoy Funded, please rate & review on Apple!

Listen on Apple Podcasts
New
July 27, 2021
46
 MIN

Good fundraising for a “good business”

Kameale Terry never wanted to be an entrepreneur, but eventually a problem she saw first hand in the electric vehicle industry drew her into starting ChargerHelp! From the beginning, she was less concerned with the hype cycle of startup trends and more focused on what she describes as “good business.” This allowed her to weather the storm of confusing and sometimes conflicting startup advice and the struggle to find a lead to eventually find herself in a super oversubscribed seed round.

Episode Summary

Kameale Terry never wanted to be an entrepreneur, but eventually a problem she saw first hand in the electric vehicle industry drew her into starting ChargerHelp! From the beginning, she was less concerned with the hype cycle of startup trends and more focused on what she describes as “good business.” This allowed her to weather the storm of confusing and sometimes conflicting startup advice and the struggle to find a lead to eventually find herself in a super oversubscribed seed round.

Remember to grab the insights pack on this episode at fundedpod.com/chargerhelp.

Topics Discussed

  • Kameale talks about her early views on entrepreneurism [3:36]
  • ChargerHelp!'s accelerator path [8:22]
  • Kameale talks about fundraising as an underrepresented founder [14:22]
  • Kameale's tips for founders [29:05]
  • Jason breaks down the episode and discussion concepts with show producer, Olivia Reingold [31:07]

Resources Mentioned

Follow Us

Kameale Terry
ChargerHelp!
Funded
Jason Yeh (host)
Contact Us
  • Reach out to us on social or email me directly at jason@fundedpod.com if you have any questions or would like to share your story with us!
  • Subscribe to the Funded newsletter at funded.substack.com
  • If you’re fundraising, make sure you send your materials via a document sharing tool. Even if they weren’t our presenting sponsor, we’d still recommend you use DocSend - www.docsend.com    

Episode Transcript

Kameale: [00:00:00] It's not that we want to be put on a pedestal or treated differently. You just want to be just regular. I just want you to look at my company and tell me if you think it's going to be venture-backed. I don't need you to extra highlight me because I am a woman or because I'm Black, like no. We just want to do good business.

Jason: [00:00:28] This is Funded, a show where founders who raised millions in venture capital share the gritty side of what it actually took to get that money in the bank. I'm Jason Yeh. Not too long ago. I was trying to get my ideas funded. And back in the day, I was a VC listening to founders pitch me for money. What does a good startup look like?

Odds are your idea is something like Uber, a company ruthlessly focused on hypergrowth, willing to bend rules to achieve its next milestone. Startups like Uber that burned through capital and the dogged pursuit of growth are the ones that get all the spotlight, but I've been seeing a new trend- companies that pursue profitability and sustainable growth, that are concerned with environmental impact, and that take care of its employees. Meet Kameale Terry, the founder behind ChargerHelp!- a startup riding the growth wave of electric vehicles with on-demand repair for EV charging stations. Kameale has a name for this new trend- "Good business." You'll hear her say that a lot throughout this interview- that a livable wage is just good business.

That hiring people without a high school degree just makes sense. And forgoing the Uber freelance model is more sustainable. In a moment that praises the hype cycle of overnight unicorns, shotgun SPACs, and crypto billionaires, Kameale is carving an alternative path: hype built on goodwill, good value for customers, and good business.

For Kameale. the cornerstone of good business is making sure you're solving a problem for your customer. And she says, that's an impulse that goes back to when she was a kid.

Kameale: [00:02:19] I was a very quiet kid. I didn't necessarily venture out too much, but I was always someone that was into problem-solving. So when I was in middle school, I had a math teacher. He would give us problem sets to teach us different mathematical rules. So to understand the Pythagorean theorem, he would give us this word problem that would eventually lead you to it.

And I always remembered having a lot of joy from going through the process of not really knowing something and then eventually getting into a space where I figured it out. 

Jason: [00:03:02] That's super interesting. And it's a decently common thread that I've heard of. It's not everyone that will always have this natural outgoing salesmanship to them. But this curiosity, this wanting to break down the process and figuring it out, is something that I've heard before. What about the other side of things? Interesting that you were fairly quiet. Entrepreneurship- was that something that you knew you would get into and is what has driven you to really go after the company and fundraising?

Kameale: [00:03:36] Well, it's so funny because I've always said I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. My dad owned his own company. My dad started his company when he was about 22. And he was a computer network consultant. And so back when computers were ginormous, my dad would put them together in order for them to speak to one another.

And, you know, being a child of an entrepreneur, you see the really good times, but then there's also tough times where people aren't paying you on time or my dad had to try to run down a check. And so seeing that somewhat bit of instability- I always said that I was going to work for a really big company.

And I wanted to know like John from accounting and a 401(k), and just have things be very stable. I found a lot of joy once again, in the ideal of climbing a corporate ladder because I'm very goal-oriented. And it makes me really happy, so that's really what I wanted to do. I had no desire to create anything that I would be running myself.

Jason: [00:04:53] Maybe you can talk to me a little bit about where that transition actually occurred, because I think it probably plays a big part in your fundraising narrative. You didn't want to be an entrepreneur. You did love the idea of a corporate ladder. And I looked at your profile, you were at some pretty interesting companies.

What was the turning point? What was the thing that made you be like, I kind of have to do this. 

Kameale: [00:05:16] Yeah, I'm a very practical person. And to me at the end of the day, it's like, what is the bottom line? So I'm not a founder that is dreaming these outrageous dreams. I'm saying that businesses have to be profitable.

And so within my industry, when I started, there was an opportunity for profitability. To me that made it a no-brainer. It felt very practical for me to say, "Oh, well, there's this real need. There's this huge opportunity to do business better. And I have the support system and the connections to actually deliver."

So to me, it aligned, it made sense. It wasn't something where I was like, "Oh, I'm going to build a spaceship and I ain't never been on a spaceship." It's like, "I'm going to do this thing that I've been doing that's annoying that I have to do it. So let me create the solution to fix it."

Jason: [00:06:05] I think that sort of itch of an annoying problem- I think there are a lot of different ways that venture-backed companies can start. It can start from this idea of, I want to build a spaceship. But in the sort of B2B space, I find a lot of great opportunities happen when someone is like, "I know this problem exists and it's not being addressed. And I have the expertise to do it." And, and I'd be curious, did you start it knowing that it would be a venture-backed business? 

Kameale: [00:06:38] When I started it, I really didn't understand the venture-backed piece. And the folks who I spoke to most of them were like, "Well, if you don't have to take venture money, don't take venture money."

But then I'm a reader. I read everything. And so I started reading and actually read the book- I think it's called VC. Where he talks about how VCs got started. And then I started thinking about what I wanted the company to look like in five years. And I saw the industry shifting. We had, Governor Newsome come out with everybody has to have an electric vehicle by a certain time period.

You had a car manufacturer stating that they were going to go to all EVs, and that was happening very quickly. And to me, what a venture-backed business enables you to do is to move very quickly. And so I felt as though if I was going to be successful, there really wasn't any other way for me to go about this company without taking venture funding.

Because I had to meet the wave, it was happening. And we started in January of 2020. And we were able to close our round by the end of that year. 

Jason: [00:07:50] Not the easiest year to start, huh? 

Kameale: [00:07:52] I know!

Jason: [00:07:55] You really chose your starting point just perfectly like, first-time founder, let me make sure we make it as difficult as possible. So it feels like you saw the problem and then there was just a realization that there was a market to go after it and venture backing was going to be your path. How did you think about, as a first time fundraiser- How did you even know what to do?

Kameale: [00:08:22] Yeah. In the beginning, we applied to a lot of programs, right? So we got into Techstars. We actually didn't do TechStars. We got in to an incubator called the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. And then we also had got into Elementals Accelerator. They come with advisors and they do a lot of the introductions for you and get you prepped to go out and pitch, which was very helpful in the beginning.

However, throughout the process I just realized I had to trust myself. I think that this VC world is quite interesting for many reasons. 

Jason: [00:09:02] A knowing little giggle. Yeah, totally. 

Kameale: [00:09:07] And as I got more comfortable with understanding my story and understanding what I was building, I think that is what pushed us.

To be able to close the round because I had a different level of confidence. And then we were closing business. It was more so getting an introduction to it from the incubators and accelerators, but then having a critical point of believing in myself and being like either I'm going to find investors that understand what I'm doing and they get it.

Or I'm gonna have to figure out how to do this without them. And I think in the beginning I was doing so much trying to convince people. And I was doing so much with extra due diligence questions and extra this, or "Tell me what the market is going to be for EVs." Nobody knows! Either you believe that there's going to be electric vehicles, or you don't, I could come up with a number if you really want me to, but this is a new space.

And so I think once I pivoted to that and being like, "Oh no, my industry wants this." We had major customers doing businesses with us before I even really had an app. That pushed me forward to be able to have better conversations and really take ownership over the journey instead of just listening to what other people telling me what I should be doing. 

Jason: [00:10:26] Well, it's interesting. I think you quickly summarized the whole evolution of Kameale as a fundraiser, but, the last thing that you started with and what you just ended on right there, I want to pull apart a little bit.

As you were just getting into deciding to fundraise and learning what it was, I think there is a ton of value and having advisors that have done it before, who have seen it before and can start giving you that advice. But you sort of intimated or referenced a challenge with that, something that was confusing or difficult.

Can you speak a little bit more about that in terms of the early days of what was hard to understand? 

Kameale: [00:11:12] I think the biggest part to me is that sometimes the space feels very inauthentic where people are polite but then behind closed doors. We had a fund that will not be named, that did not get onto the cap table. In the background, they were like, "Oh, well, they didn't turn such as such in on time. So that's why we're not going to talk to them." And it was just like, do you understand? I am building a company, doing the best I can. But when I spoke to them, they were very friendly. And for me, I'm from South Central Los Angeles. And one of the things that I pride myself on and my community is we're very authentic people. And I respect authenticity. If you don't vibe with me, you think I didn't do something correctly? Tell me, right. Don't make it seem as though it was fine and then speak through these back channels. That part was very annoying to me about this industry. And then the other piece to it- it's like every advisor, especially if they've gone out to raise- they have a specific way on how they want you to say stuff. Everybody has comments on what they want your deck to look like. People think that there's a common deck. There's not. Every time you send it to them, they're going to rip it.

They're going to rip you a new one! And so it was just too much noise. And then, because we did three different programs- we did Grid110, we did Elemental, we did LACI- all these different programs who are all teaching you different variations of stuff. And so it was just too much noise.

Jason: [00:12:45]  I totally get it. And actually at the end of the day, everyone is going to have their own perspective on it. And you can find two equally credible people that give you the exact opposite piece of advice. But I love hearing that at some point, you probably just shifted your mindset where founders, when they realize it, it sounds a little bit like this.

"I really want this, I'm selling you. I'm selling you." And then at some point, you're like "I know why ChargerHelp! exists. I know why we're here and I'm just going to execute on this business. If you want to be along for this ride, you can be along for the ride, but if not, let's just not waste each other's time."

Do you remember that shift? Was there a specific event that just changed your mind around it or was it just a gradual evolution? 

Kameale: [00:13:31] It was actually because, I'm a very practical person and we secured three very large contracts. And when we did that, and then even having customer conversations and being on the phone with people, who say "Oh, that's a great idea."

But the people that would do purchase orders- so my thing is "Oh, you think it's a great idea? Sign here and send me a check. We'll see how great you think it is." So when people started signing and sending checks and I secured a really big contract with my previous company that I worked at, and then it was just, I know what I'm talking about and people are going to pay me for it.

So it's either you want to be a part of the ride and we all become profitable from this venture,  or you just don't get it. And that is okay. And that's the biggest thing for people to understand,  just because someone doesn't understand something that you're saying, doesn't mean that you're wrong.

Or that you don't have it understood. It's just that they don't get it. And that's okay. 

Jason: [00:14:25] Yeah. And when you started getting the confidence from just essentially commercial traction, did you kind of feel the shift in how investors were perceiving you? Just like, your tone is different. Was was it noticeable on how your investor meeting started?

Kameale: [00:14:42] I don't know. I think my, my tone did shift when we got our first lead. All throughout this time- so we started in January. I started talking to investors like February, March. So from March, I had tons of follow-on capital. I was like, I soft-circled about about $5 million of follow-on, but nobody wants to lead my little $1 million round.

But when I got my first term sheet, that's when things changed and then you start getting people that had told you no, but now they're interested. It was quite interesting.

Jason: [00:15:28] When we come back, it's not all fun and games, even with a term sheet in hand.

I spend most of my days one-on-one with entrepreneurs, helping them understand strategies that make a difference in fundraising. Some things vary from founder to founder because not everyone's story is the same. One thing I'm super consistent about, no matter who the founder, is making sure they send their decks and materials using a document-sharing tool.

And for that, I always recommend DocSend. DocSend lets you know what's happening with your deck after you send it along with real-time analytics and notifications. Did the VCs actually open it? What slides did they spend the most time on? And if you think it got shared with the wrong people, or maybe you made a mistake and sent it too quickly, DocSend lets you control access and make updates the content even after sending. Sign up for a free two-week trial at docsend.com/funded that's D O C S E N D.com/funded. Okay. Back to the show.

A new report from our friends at DocSend says that all-female teams raise 70% less than their male counterparts. Here's what that looked like in 2020: the average all-male team raised about $660,000, according to DocSend, while all-female teams pulled in just $195,000. Kameale has raised $2.75M at ChargerHelp!, but I wanted to know what it was like to achieve that.

What did it take? I asked her about some of her challenges bringing in that haul.

Kameale: [00:17:27] This is like the thing I feel, I was like, yeah, that'd be like a black female founder, or you just don't know. I always say people are like, "Well, tell me the challenges of being a black female founder" and which I'm glad that's not what you said. But I've never been no other type of founder.

So don't know if it was a challenge or not, I've never been a white male founder. 

Jason: [00:17:47] Maybe it's just as challenging. Probably not, but you know.

Kameale: [00:17:50] I think a lot of it is, it's always just a mind thing. And then the other thing- we hire local, we're doing business. We say we do good business. You should pay people well, I think that it's weird that you don't pay your frontline workers equitable wage, because they're the ones that are interacting with your product or your customer. Why wouldn't you want them to be at their best space in order to do that well? And so, because we do these things, having people not try to put us in a non-profit bucket or having people not be like, "Well, you only want black and brown people" or have people to be like, "Oh, well, do you want to work with the re-entry population?"

It's like, "No. We're doing good business, which means that we remove barriers. So everyone is allowed to compete." And so having to be in conversation with folks that as George Floyd, all these things were happening, that they then wanted to make our company fit for that for them. And then putting certain connotations on us.

We even had certain incubators put like, "Oh, a Black-owned ChargerHelp!" I never lead with that because I fix charging stations, not just for Black people. We fix charging stations for everybody. So I think the most frustrating part was people having this huge, like racial uprising and then wanting to force ChargerHelp! to be a part of that.

Jason: [00:19:14] Can you actually like lay it out? What does ChargerHelp! do in terms of its hiring practices? And then maybe we can talk about how that was perceived by venture capitalists. 

Kameale: [00:19:25] It's this ideal that this is just how we should do business.

It's not that we want to be put on a pedestal or treated differently. I just want you to look at my company and tell me if you think it's going to be venture-backed. I don't need you to extra highlight me because, I'm a woman or because I'm Black. We just want to do good business.

And so what we do with hiring, I've been in rooms where I've had people that went to these fancy MBA schools or went to Oxford and this and that. And they don't have people skills, or they can't do simple tasks. or they don't know how to talk to people, and they're not successful at their job because of that.

I've been in other spaces with people that don't even have a high school diploma, but they are resourceful.

Jason: [00:20:24] You're not making a business decision around overly trying to help a certain community. It's like, "Hey, there's talent, right? We're trying to find great talent, and we are trying to find great talent that's locally sourced and sometimes it looks different from what venture capitalists assume is the right way. I'd love to hear how you sort of engaged around that part of your business, because I can see what they might say around, this is not a good idea.

And that can be hard to do when you're asking for the money to actually keep going.

Kameale: [00:21:04] Here's the thing. With technology. It changes every single day. So you go to school for four years, you come out of school,  it's done, right? And we work in the service space.

So even if you look at some of the trades. They're five-year programs, but that's because before, the actual hardware didn't change every five years. In the charging space with software, firmware updates happen every single day. How this machine operated today will not be how it's gonna operate tomorrow.

So we cannot rely upon the trade schools or even to some extent the university systems, if we're looking specifically around software, because it changes too quickly. So, what we're saying is that it's not even a matter of the local hire, this or that. It's just for the need, for this business issue specifically around being able to troubleshoot software very quickly, you have to find a type of talent that because of their environment, they're resourceful, that they're inquisitive.

And I don't think that a college degree is a marker for that from my experience. Now we have to figure out what the marker is going to be, right. Because you do have to eventually standardize this process. And so that's why, our recruiting process is crazy.

We hire 20 people, we had 1600 applicants. It's a month and a half process that we put people through. And so we just had the 20 people out here in Long Beach. And so we're doing a lot of really interesting things. One example would be when we do the last portion of our interview process, we do group interviews, but the group interview is not us asking questions and people answering it.

We actually do a similar model to Deloitte. So with Deloitte, you go and you do a case study, and then they put you in a group of people and you have to come up with what you're going to do and present it. And so we took that same type of model and we do it with our technicians. So we come up with a case study.

And then the facilitators go blank. So our screens are off and we allow them to come up with what are the next best five steps to solve this problem. And then they have to come into an agreement. Everyone has to agree. But what we're looking for is not the five steps- we just look at how people interact. Who's cutting people off? Who has a managerial spirit to them? Who's asking questions? Who's a little bit of an introvert? And just because you're introverted, you're not speaking up- that's okay. But for this job, that's not necessarily going to be the best person for this job.

So we're looking for all of those soft skills, we're collecting all that data. So over time, we can make our process tighter, but we're saying we utilize technology to do a lot of the technical stuff, but what's most important are the soft skills and the ability for our technicians to ask questions.

And we don't think you have to have had a college degree or even a high school diploma in order to be that type of person. Because the world is teaching you, your interactions with people teaches you how to do that. 

Jason: [00:24:17] It's fascinating. I think you're blazing a trail a little bit that I hope a lot of people understand and follow because part of business and not even thinking about it from a social impact point of view. I'm purely capitalist about this- finding great talent wherever it is, where there might not be a high demand. It's just a great business decision. And if there are side societal benefits, amazing.

I love your focus on hiring the best where you want to hire from. So transitioning back to what I heard was you probably had a bunch of VCs saying, "Use the Uber model." There must have been somebody saying, "Make them 1099 and then pay them as little as possible so that you improve your margins."

Kameale: [00:25:20] The funny thing is, we didn't have a problem with the people part. People got why we were hiring folks full-time. That was something where my pitch was very tight on that. Where people got hung up is understanding how big the market was going to be.

Jason: [00:25:34] Interesting. And that was where you were like, you either believe that it is or you don't and that's fine.

Kameale: [00:25:41] We soft-circled at the end was $8 million on a $1.25 million round. We kicked a lot of people and we ended up having increasing the round. And so, we kicked a lot of people out of the round. 

Jason: [00:25:56] Okay. So I love asking this question because I know it was a bit of a grind.

Do you remember when you got the message that you would get that lead investment. That first realization that, oh my gosh, we're going to do this. We're going to close that round. Do you remember where you were and who called you?

Kameale: [00:26:14] Yeah, the first one is funny. We didn't take their money- none of it at all.

And I feel so frustrated by my response to it, but I was extremely relieved. But it ended up being the worst deal and I'm so glad we didn't take it. I think it just goes to show just how interesting this process is of like one needing other people's money to do a thing.

But when we got the other term sheets, it kind of was like, at the point we were just pushing people to hurry up and close the round

Jason: [00:26:42] Yeah. What about when you finally decided to kick a bunch of people out, decide exactly who is going to get allocations and then have the money wired? Do you remember fully closing out that process and taking a breath or was it like no celebration, keep working?

Kameale: [00:26:58] Hmm. Well, our close-out was very, random stuff had happened that we can't really talk about. It just felt like it never would end. So there was random problems that came up, not on our side, but on different investors' side.

So I never got that. There's also the other side where it's not this joyous moment. I was telling my advisor- I was like, "Oh, this is like the song that will never end."

Jason: [00:27:40] It just goes on and on, my friend.

Kameale: [00:27:42] Even our investors were like, "Yeah, this is not usual." We had a very bad, last little situation that popped up. But, it's fine. 

Jason: [00:27:58] Well you finally closed it out. I would say this, I think it's great for people to not believe that fundraising is this fairy tale. And the goal isn't to fundraise, right? The goal is to build a great business. So having that dose of reality, I think is great to hear. I would, as a friend, like to just congratulate you.

And let's have this one moment here. You didn't have it before, but let's have this moment. You should be very proud of what you've accomplished. It's a really hard journey and you should take a breath for yourself. I applaud you Kameale. Couple other things that I always like checking in on, I'm sure you made a ton of mistakes.

You saw some of the things that you did early on, and then later on that were successful. What  are some of the things that you look back on? Like tips or pieces of advice that you might give to a younger Kameale earlier on, or potentially to founders that are looking up to you right now?

Like wanting to be venture-backed on how to get this done in the best possible way. 

Kameale: [00:29:05] I think the biggest tip to founders is just understanding that it really is a two-way street. We only ended up taking four new investors on our cap table and all four of those folks, when I spoke to either the associates or whoever, they were very kind to us.

They're actually the funds that got it. Because with the seed round, you either believe in the founder, you don't believe in the founder. You know what I mean? I can try to figure out all the due diligence questions, whatever, but I'm not going to know until I start doing it. And these four funds, when I had spoken to them, they got me, they got what I was trying to do and I feel super happy to have them.

And so, my advice is just understanding that. You do want to find good people. Just because it's a brand name fund, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's going to be the right fit because it isn't marriage. Somebody said "It's worse than a marriage, you can't really get a divorce." So you're really stuck with these folks, you know? And so you really want to have people that go to bat for you. And to us, when we had to let people off, not take their funds. Just really explaining to them that, it was never about the dollars for me.

For me, it was like, can you get me into rooms that I can't get into myself? Can you allow me to navigate around landmines. Right? And so the people that we have on our cap table, those are the investors that even before we were closing rounds, they were introducing us to people that we couldn't get introductions to.

It's a two-way street. Find the right people. It shouldn't be about the dollar because the thing is you could throw money at a whole bunch of stuff and it might not work. Quibi raised so much money, then they shut down in like four months. I guess more than just the amount of money you got to find people that are going to go to bat for you.

Jason: [00:31:07] Speaking of people who will go to bat for you, the last time I saw my awesome producer Olivia was in February of this year. Back when Texas was frozen over, Tom Brady had won a super bowl with a new team, and Olivia and I had different hairstyles.

Okay. So, we just got set up in my recording studio and I'm about to call Olivia. This is going to be our first debrief of season two. We haven't done this debrief in a couple of months now. Feeling a little anxious, but mostly excited. Anyways, let's jump in. I'm going to find our zoom link and get going.

There she is. Hello. All right.

Olivia: [00:32:11] Hi. Hello! Wait, you have a new closet alternative also. 

Jason: [00:32:16] This one's fancy because it is in the place that I'm staying at in Hawaii. 

Olivia: [00:32:21] It looks so nice. It's like a true walk-in.

Jason: [00:32:24] It a true walk-in. I have fashioned it into a recording studio. You would be so proud of me.

I dragged the rug from the room into it. I'm learning and I have random pillows all over the walls.

Olivia: [00:32:44] Let's do it. Season 2. 

Jason: [00:32:49] Were there any things that stood out to you? I know it's been a couple months since you've thought about the wild world of fundraising, so you've got to kind of warm up those muscles again.

Olivia: [00:32:59] I guess, I just want to say like Kameale for president 2024, seriously.

I love her like perspective on hiring and how she sees potential in these people that the quote unquote, traditional job market, doesn't either pay fairly or doesn't see a lot of growth potential in. But the thing that blew my mind was her final task for the final interview, where they ask people to solve some sort of task.

And then it's really just about the dynamic.

Jason: [00:33:34] Yeah. The interpersonal dynamic and how they, I love that. Yeah. When you see a founder, so committed to what she's doing, that she's so into the hiring process. I think that's going to serve her really well. Obviously to build a great company with great employees, but the next time she goes to talk to any partners, any investors, if they hear that part of the podcast, knowing she's taken such care to understand what the best possible process for bringing in talent is, it was really cool to hear. I agree. 

Olivia: [00:34:10] Yeah, it was interesting. She said- Okay, correct me if I'm wrong- I think she said that she doesn't get a lot of pushback or didn't get a lot of pushback from investors about wanting to pay a livable wage. I think she explained it as like, "Yeah, people got that. People got why I would want to pay a livable wage," which was, I don't know.

You tell me, but seemed like an interesting, shift.

Jason: [00:34:34] Yeah. Some of it might've been because  it's a California-based company, and there have been shifts in what it means to define a 1099 independent contractor versus a W2 employee. Historically I think certainly in the past, before these new measures, everyone wanted to push to a model where you didn't spend money on the employee. You didn't spend money on that head count. There was no training involved. You just kind of spun up a resource when you needed it and then spun it back down Uber-style. So Kameale and ChargerHelp! Can definitely be part of a new wave of thinking about workforce and thinking about human resources within tech companies.

Olivia: [00:35:19] Interesting. Are you seeing in the startup world, people kind of start to talk about these things in their pitches, like starting to include company culture and how they will pay or treat employees. Are people including that in their pitches? 

Jason: [00:35:39] I have seen it. I think there are things that resonate with different investors. You sometimes see nods towards societal benefits. Double bottom line is a phrase sometimes used. Double bottom line would be like, the first bottom line that you hit is profits. The second bottom line is societal benefits.

So we have a double bottom line company. We drive towards two outcomes, profits and societal benefits. Kameale talked about this a little bit and I think there is a growing number of companies that when you think about a startup and a startup's potential to grow and thrive, a big part of that is both attracting talent and retaining talent.

And investors will often evaluate a founder's ability to recruit and to inspire and to retain talent as "Well, yes, smart person. Olivia is a very smart founder. We think she has a great idea. We think she can execute, but does she have the network to find employees? Does she have the charisma to inspire employees and will she manage employees the right way so that they stay with her and continue to drive towards the growth of a giant company." Kameale's point about this and, and something that I am seeing more of is companies thinking about how they treat their employees, how they incentivize employees in a way that both attracts new talent and makes talent inside the company stay longer and perform better.

There's a startup, that my old firm has backed from the beginning called Boxed. CEO is this guy named Chieh Huang where he has a very high minimum wage for his company. And there are a lot of warehouse workers that work for Boxed. It's like a digital price club or Sam's club.

Olivia: [00:37:51] Can I ask how much is the minimum wage? 

Jason: [00:37:54] That I don't know off the top of my head, but we're gonna make sure that you stay with Funded, so don't worry.

Olivia: [00:38:05] Interesting. 

Jason: [00:38:07] I do think there is, there's a growing push towards. Not just software engineers being incredibly, highly compensated, but making sure that there is a fair wage across the board so that you can hire the highest talent at any level and the most motivated talent that you can.

Olivia: [00:38:25] That's cool. It was really interesting to hear her say that she felt like VCs were filing her under their social justice investment for this season or something. Yeah, I think VCs felt like she and ChargerHelp! checked a lot of boxes for them. That was really compelling to hear her say that she felt frustrated that people were boxing her in and trying to make ChargerHelp! a social justice initiative or something.

When the phrase you used a lot was we're just trying to do good business. 

Jason: [00:39:10] Yeah, I know. I hear this perspective a lot, obviously in certain swaths of society. I represent a minority, not so much in the investment community as an Asian male, but certainly know that feeling and have been around a lot of underrepresented founders.

I have a lot of friends who are female investors. These are categories where those demographics aren't represented in those fields and the best and brightest lot of times have a chip on their shoulder wher I don't want to be considered a female founder. I'm a founder, I'm an entrepreneur, or I don't want to be considered a black investor. I'm a great investor. And I totally get that perspective. I have that feeling in certain situations as well. But the other side that I think about a lot is that we're in a transition point right now, I think in a lot of phases of society. And when you hit those transition points, there's not a seamless transition from what was to what it needs to be.

And in that in-between point, there are these rocky patches where certain founders will get boxed in and will have to speak for a category of people and may need to sort of hold the flag for black founders or female founders or women VCs. And I hear her frustration. I think we're going to be living in those times for a little bit longer, but I'm excited to see more people like Kameale really succeed in this world.

Olivia: [00:40:51] So one thing that I wanted to talk about was there was like this litany of inside baseball that I kind of understood. It was a list of incubators. And did that make sense to you? Like the shortcomings that she found with incubators? Are those frustrations that you've had or have heard before?

Jason: [00:41:13]  I think advice and support is really necessary within the journey of an early-stage founder, whether that's incubators or advisers, those are all things that kind of help short-circuit learning processes. At the same time, she kind of hinted at a bit of a frustration or a realization that she had, which also is not surprising to me.

She essentially was saying these support structures, these advisors kind of like exposed her and gave her the ideas of like how to do the fundraising. But at some point it was like almost, I think it was almost overwhelming, there were so many different thoughts on what you should do. And her realization was that at some point, she just needed to figure out how she was going to run her fundraise and what her story was going to be and how she leans into it. And that actually isn't contradictory to me at all. These programs and advisors are really good at giving like sort of the general direction of what somebody should do.

But at the end of the day they're not so close to the founder or the business to know the real nuance of what needs to be told. And at some point,  you need to leave the nest. You need to spread your wings on your own and really believe the direction of the company yourself and start doing that.

So yeah, that whole progress or the sort of progression wasn't that surprising to me. And it's exciting to kind of have her connect the dots and describe "We started here, we kind of learned. Got overwhelmed and then just realized this is what we had to do." And I think when that light bulb went off for her, a lot of ways is when the momentum of her fundraise really shifted.

Olivia: [00:42:59] Well, Jason, we did it. I'm feeling a little rusty, but it's been good to see you. It was good to hear you have this amazing conversation with Kameale and it's good to be back at it. 

Jason: [00:43:13] Yeah, I don't feel like any of your progress around becoming the next secret investor / fundraising expert really took any steps off or took any steps back in our little break between seasons.

So that was super fun. I'm excited for our next one. This is going to be a great season. 

Olivia: [00:43:33] This is going to be good.

Jason: [00:43:40] When I was a VC, I quickly learned other VCs give the worst leads for deals. When they would recommend a company to me, I'd always wonder "If it's so good, well then why aren't you investing? The best leads, it turns out, come from founders.

Would love to hear. Are there any names or companies that you're like,

"You know what? They deserve to be funded. I know they're early on, but we should look out for them. We should hear those names. People should talk to them." Anyone you want to give a little glow-up to? 

Kameale: [00:44:08] My all-time favorite company right now is called Rent-A-Romper. So they take baby clothes. Kids grow, I don't have the kids, but this makes sense to me.

Kids grow every single day. And so you basically get a capsule of baby clothes and I think it's like 30 bucks a month. And she sends you a capsule and when you're done with it, you send it back and then she sends you a new capsule. I do it for my little cousin, but the clothes- she has partnerships with Gerber baby and all these really cool, high-end. cute, clothes.

And you get to say, what type of clothes your kid likes, whether there's like gender-neutral or whatever, I use it. And she just got in to LACI's incubator. She's amazing. We love Rent-A-Romper.

Jason: [00:44:51] I love it. Rent-A-Romper. We're going to look it up. Baby listeners, you heard it here first.

Rent-A-Romper.

Thanks a bunch for listening. There are tons of insights that each founder we cover on Funded has around startups, fundraising, and life. And we don't have time to cover it all. So if you'd like to get a free insights pack based on Kameale Terry from ChargerHelp!, go to fundedpod.com/chargerhelp. If you have any questions about today's show, or maybe you're raising money yourself and want some help problem-solving, find me on social. I'm @jayyeh that's J A Y Y E H, or shoot me an email at jason@fundedpod.com. I'd love to hear from you.

This episode was produced by Olivia Rheingold. "That's me. Hello." Thanks. Also to Jordan Pascasio from Adamant Ventures. "Hey guys." and thanks to Kameale for being a fantastic first guest for season two. As always, one last thanks to our fantastic sponsor who has come back to support us in this second season.

DocSend- the most trusted document sharing platform.


If you enjoy Funded, please rate & review on Apple!

Listen on Apple Podcasts