New

Confidence is KEY ...I think?

Jason Yeh
February 2, 2021
59
 MIN
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New
February 2, 2021
59
 MIN

Confidence is KEY ...I think?

Laura Del Beccaro, the Founder of Sora, looks like the most VC-backable, first time founder ever. She went to a top university, was a software engineer at a scaled startup, and even did a stint at a top VC firm. But after pulling together an all-star pre-seed round fairly quickly, Laura found out how difficult fundraising can be when you’re no longer a “hot deal” as she tried to raise her subsequent round. Laura had to dig deep to find the confidence to unlock VC dollars even while her company’s numbers were less than confidence inspiring.

Episode Summary

Laura Del Beccaro, the Founder of Sora, looks like the most VC-backable, first time founder ever. She went to a top university, was a software engineer at a scaled startup, and even did a stint at a top VC firm. But after pulling together an all-star pre-seed round fairly quickly, Laura found out how difficult fundraising can be when you’re no longer a “hot deal” as she tried to raise her subsequent round. Laura had to dig deep to find the confidence to unlock VC dollars even while her company’s numbers were less than confidence inspiring. 

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

Topics Discussed

  • Laura details how her competitive roots started at a young age [2:45]
  • How Laura leveraged optionality to dictate her career path [4:29]
  • Hear how Laura’s first round of capital got started with the help of a legendary angel [10:06]
  • The importance of giving underrepresented investors and founders a voice [14:51]
  • Laura embarks on her second round of raising capital, which happened to be sparked by discovering a spreadsheet error [19:58]
  • How Laura dealt with rejections and what she learned from them [26:57]
  • How creating a sense of urgency can help AND hurt your raise [37:19]
  • Laura’s advice to first-time and underrepresented founders [44:08]
  • Jason breaks down the episode and discussion concepts with show producer, Olivia Reingold [47:20]

Resources Mentioned

Follow Us

Laura Del Beccaro
Sora
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    
  • Grain is an awesome tool if you spend all your time on Zoom calls like we do. It helps take notes and save amazing moments from your calls in easily shareable clips. (https://grain.co/funded)

Episode Transcript

Jason (host): [00:00:00] Okay. So before we start this show, few quick notes. First, the guests you're about to hear from Laura Del Beccaro was one of the lucky ones who escaped COVID city life in San Francisco. She moved into a group house of entrepreneurs in a remote location early in the pandemic, as you might expect, things are always humming over there.

So you might hear some of that activity in the background. Second hour live after show on Clubhouse was a huge success with over 1000 listeners and tons of questions answered. This is definitely something we'll be doing in the future. So keep following @fundedpod on social to hear when we do future after shows, lastly with all the insights that came from that episode and after show,

we decided to create a multimedia insights pack based on the most valuable content about Sam Corcos, Levels and their fundraise. We think you'll love it. And it's totally free. Just grab it at fundedpod.com/levels. Okay. Enjoy the show. How many rejections do you think you experienced? 

Laura: [00:01:05] 40.

Jason (host): [00:01:13] This is Funded a show where founders who raised millions in venture capital show the gritty side of what it actually took to get that money in the bank. I'm Jason Yeh, your host. 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.

Have you ever seen someone's background and think to yourself? Well, of course they were successful. I remember having that feeling when I found out the fabled garage that YouTube was founded out of was actually the garage of a multi-million dollar estate owned by the father-in-law of one of YouTube's co-founders. After years in entrepreneurship,

I now know that my "well, of course" thought was a really naive one that overlooked all the hard work and struggle. I know, went into their success. Laura Del Beccaro founder of HR onboarding platform, Sora, has her resume that might make a lot of people think. Well, of course she raised that money. Laura graduated from UCLA was a software engineer at a startup with hundreds of employees and even worked at a top tier venture capital firm.

But we'll learn, especially in fundraising, nothing comes easy. Even with a pristine resume and an all-star lineup of investors, Laura shares how grueling of a challenge her last round was filled with tons of doubters, but that wasn't near to her. She's been proving people wrong since she was a little kid on the playground.

Laura: [00:02:44] I genuinely remember, starting from first grade on, racing boys at recess, and just like always having to prove that girls could do the things boys could. And I loved the little math competitions we would have in elementary school. Um, because girls weren't supposed to be good at math. And I think genuinely since I was five, I've been building this kind of chip on my shoulder to

prove those things. And I think get continued. Like I studied math in college. I wanted to become a software engineer. I wanted to become a founder. All of these things that quote unquote women aren't supposed to do. 

Jason (host): [00:03:23] I was very curious. What the through line was around your resume, right? So I looked up your LinkedIn, I saw those things and it a really diverse, awesome set of experiences to set yourself up, to find out what you want to do.

Um, but it is interesting to hear this, this chip on your shoulder, I'm in, I've experienced something similar around wanting to prove people wrong. Um, but what I'd love to know is, you know, you, you studied math and econ. Um, and from there you went to, uh, management consulting. That's actually similar to my path, um, econ and consulting.

Um, but from there you jumped to software engineering. And from there you jumped to VC. Was this, um, was this something that you had planned out? Like I need X, Y, and Z before I do. Uh, the ABCs of, of being a founder, which has been, always been your goal, or did you find yourself at UCLA and you were just like, ah, I'll do this.

And then the next thing came up and the next thing came up, you know, I'd love for you to clarify that. 

Laura: [00:04:29] Yeah, it was, it was always just getting, using as much information as I had and picking the next step. So the most information that I had when I was in school was consulting is an interesting way to get experience in a lot of different industries.

And then I could pick what I wanted. I think that the main thread might actually be just preserving optionality in consulting. I just had a lot of optionality and then I moved into tech and I was pretty sure about tech. I was living in San Francisco and loved the whole loved, the whole thing, um, was like taking Python classes after consulting work and

like only wanted to do that. And it was awesome. Um, so I wanted to move into tech and then I became a sales engineer at first, which is like half technical, half customer facing and half pre-sales and post-sales, which is also just, it gives you a lot of options. I could have moved into sales, I could have moved into engineering.

Um, in hindsight it also was incredibly helpful because I, it's kind of a unique role that gives you a lot of insight into different pieces of a SAAS business in my case. Um, but yeah, then I ended up wanting to pick the technical route. Originally, I wanted to become a software engineer just on route to becoming a PM.

And I thought, okay, PM is like the CEO of the product. All those articles were coming out. And so that was like the next best milestone on my journey. But then I ended up loving being a software engineer. So, continued on that path. And then the VC thing was really interesting. So I was actually a software engineer at First Round.

I wasn't on the investment team or anything. It was purely software engineering, but First Round reached out to me about a role. And I thought, regardless of position, it would just be a really great way to meet investors and founders. But, I thought exposure to a bunch of early stage founders. I was really excited that First Round was early stage in particular.

Um, what helped me see all the kinds of problems they're facing and see if those are the kinds of problems that are interesting to me and that I want to solve it also really, really helped me. Overcome this kind of mini imposter syndrome that I had about being a founder in the first place. Cause I met hundreds of people who are just people who were incredibly smart and personable, but all kinds of varying issues.

And. You know, they're humans. 

Jason (host): [00:07:13] The media can really put the hero founder on a pedestal. And when you do get exposure to what they struggle with on a daily basis and their backgrounds, and you're like, Oh, they're just like me. Um, so that's exciting. That's exciting to hear. 

Laura: [00:07:28] Yeah. You know, I had only had one tech CEO before and I liked him a lot and I thought, Oh, I would do these things differently.

I would do these things the same, but there must be 18 other things, I'm not even realizing that he's doing. And the entire First Round team really is very focused on providing value for their founders. And I was like, okay, actually my experience kind of lines up and I can do this. So more than anything, it was a confidence boost.

And second, most, it was definitely huge for my network. Working at First Round, got me exposure to. An incredible number of awesome investors and founders and just other cool operators. 

Jason (host): [00:08:09] So this is where I'm going to take the conversation. Let, let me, let me make sure that I chime in here and put this into perspective and we'll loop in another segment of your history into this category, which is the, the advantages that you built up over the course of your early years, right?

Um, Some listeners may or may not know that like your background on paper and it certainly you did develop the skills, but on paper is the thing that VCs dream of. And, and you know, what I would say is, you know, having that technical exposure is not that investors need you to be building everything.

Certainly is nice to know that if you wanted to MVP something, if you wanted to build a minimal viable product, or if you wanted to test things, you could be that first engineer to start without taking on any capital. That's amazing right. Layer in, uh, the experience of being a sales engineer, you know, having, um, The reps to know that you could go to market, right?

That you could, uh, have the confidence to go try to land your first customer and land your second customer. Not saying that you would run sales forever, but that you could do that as well is amazing to hear. Right. And then of course, we're going to talk a little bit about your time at First Round, like you said, you were able to build such a substantial network.

Um, and what I want to continue talking about a bit is how that led into, I guess, what you would call your angel round. Um, I read it, I read an article on TechCrunch, uh, really amazing cap table that you have. Tell me a little bit about that, you know, was it easy would be lumped this into kind of your advantage point or would be start talking about the counterpoint.

Um, tell me a little bit about that first round. 

Laura: [00:10:06] So yeah, about a year into First Round. I got an email from one of my friends. Who's now a partner at first round from Elad Gil, asking for an introduction to me. And I felt like the coolest person in the world. I was like, Oh my God. Some investor that I've heard of knows my name.

Jason (host): [00:10:27] Tell me about, tell me about Elad. He's the best. No one else can see your face, but when you mentioned his name yeah. Ear to ear smile, like tell us a little bit about who he is. 

Laura: [00:10:37] So he is the first investor in so many amazing companies like Pinterest, Airbnb, Stripe, Square. Wow. I can't even think of all of them.

Um, But he originally was a founder. He got acquired by Twitter and grew from like 90 to 900 at Twitter or something. Um, and now is up there with Naval as like, I don't even know if that's how you pronounce Ravikant, but with like best angel investors in the world. And working at first round did help me a lot with these are the really good firms and these are really good investors, and these are the people we know about.

And I don't love that that's a thing in the VC world. I think it's weird and messed up and why there's so many of the same white men that are making the same money, but it's still, well, it definitely felt very, very cool that this famous investor who has such a great brand had remotely heard of me.

Jason (host): [00:11:41] Thank you for that side, tangent. Um, I don't think everyone knows these names, but I certainly do. And that is very simple. 

Laura: [00:11:48] Yeah. So he emailed a friend for an introduction to me and I was genuinely so excited. I remember running home to my partner and hugging him and having no idea where it would go. Like I never imagined that he would then lead my round essentially, but.

I took a meeting with him and I had not started building our MVP yet. So I was just doing customer discovery and my manager was so awesome and constantly sought out ways and opportunities for me to speak to partners about it and speak to associates about what they look for in decks and all these kinds of things.

And I spoke to Bill Trenchard a lot whose now our lead investor at First Round. And he told me the number one thing I should do, the first thing I should do before incorporating before literally doing anything is just talk to as many customers as possible. And so many founders skip this, especially if they're product or engineering type founders.

So I spoke with a ton of different companies and Elad had reached out to me way too early. Like I hadn't even had my first interview, I think. And I was really nervous. Like I haven't, I don't have anything to talk to him about. And we continued meeting as I finished up customer discovery, got a co-founder and anyway, one day he was like, do you need any other engineers?

And I was like, sure, I need a lot of engineers yesterday. And he said, okay, let's accelerate things. I think we can get a million dollar round put together. And of course I was extremely excited. I also really wanted First Round to participate because one, I loved them and thought they were incredibly helpful and just loved all the people there

when I worked there. And two, I was pretty terrified of the quote, unquote signal that I would have if I had worked at first round and then they didn't invest in me. So I talked to them and said, look, I know I'm particularly early. I don't even have a prototype. Um, but I happened to be putting this round together.

You know, you can be part of a seed round later. Um, or I can come in and pitch now. And I talked to Bill practiced my pitch with him, which was also an incredibly lucky thing to be able to do and ended up pitching to First Round only, I wasn't really interested in any other institutional money and Elad and first round helped introduce me to a ton of underrepresented

investors, because that was important to me and all of a sudden we had a $2.2 million round and I think it was a week like it was so, so lucky. 

Jason (host): [00:14:51] One thing I did want to talk to you about is the importance of underrepresented investors. I think that's really an interesting topic for us to discuss and also kind of put a pin on this whole thing and say like, we have definitely talked about

a storied run up to raising a million dollars. Like we're, we're definitely going to bucket this in to Laura's advantages, which we can agree on. So very, very cool story. Let's spend just a few seconds talking about why it's been important to you to, to build a diverse, cap table. 

Laura: [00:15:25] It's. So it's such a part of me now that it's hard to remember

when it originated, but when I was young and we've talked about this kind of chip on my shoulder to prove things. And so when I joined Mixpanel as a sales engineer, there was another woman. Um, but eventually I was the only woman on the sales engineering team. And I'm also mostly white so, you know, who knows what experience I would have had if I had less privilege, but anyway, I kind of reveled in this being the only person thing until something snapped. And I don't remember exactly what it was. I think once we had moved to the software engineering team, we were interviewing people and it wasn't just that the people we were hiring were not women. We interviewed 50 people a day.

And none of them were women. It was so many interviews and it was zero. And I was like, okay, this is ridiculous. Like there are, this is not a pipeline thing. This is just, yeah. And Mixpanel has since seriously invested in diversity, equity and inclusion. But at the time I was like, Oh, this is why people are mad and started realizing all of these things about myself.

Like have I been part of the problem and is the only reason that I am able to be the only woman on some of these teams, because I kind of act like a dude sometimes and like will race them and chug beers with them and whatever else, because that is not fair at all, either to other women. And in general, just started learning a lot more about how much bias underrepresented minorities feel in tech, particularly people of color, um, and ever since then, I've just read a million things about it and have learned that the problem goes all the way up to the top of companies, of investment firms, et cetera, et cetera.

And so, yeah, it was, it was just a priority period hard stop from the beginning. 

Jason (host): [00:17:50] I love that. Um, and I've had this conversation before, so, and, and you can, in my opinion, you know, We can't have the conversation too often. And so that's why I did want to spend it with you. Um, the statement that I made actually, um, Talking to a Isharna Walsh in a different episode, was that like, what we've realized is that things need to change on a number of fronts.

Um, and they don't happen overnight, but they do happen when people like you Laura, um, make the effort right to, to affect what you can affect and work hard enough to be like, as I've said before, a pattern that other founders can match against in the future. And so kudos to you. I did want to spend a little bit of time with that.

I'm very supportive of all of that. So I agree. Um, so, um, this was more of the fun conversation, right? Like, man, how did Laura just breeze through that, you know, the, her career up until this point. Um, All-star cap table for your first round. Um, one of the most preeminent angels excited about spending time with you before you even raised money.

Uh, and then you're in with First Round capital, which, um, For people who don't know is one of the best seed investment firms in the game. Um, and so we don't need to spend time on the process to raise the million dollars. It kind of happened, right. There was so much momentum. It, it happened for you. And that set up is, is amazing.

And I, you know, in some ways, I don't want anyone with an advantage to kind of feel bad for that. You, you take advantage of that and you use it and then you help where you can. Right? Um, what I think is now more interesting is to talk a little bit about when you decided to raise your next round, um, let's start there and can you tell me, you know, what the plan was when you realized you wanted to raise more money and why you wanted to raise more money?

Laura: [00:19:58] So originally when we raised that first round a little over $2 million, we wanted to hire three or four people and find product market fit. It took a lot longer than we thought to build what we knew we needed to build. And the whole time we were like, okay, we know what product market fit looks like.

We're kind of faking it till we make it, but it's not there yet. We had some early traction, we had some great revenue. We had closed some awesome logos, but it was not the million dollars in revenue, $2 million in revenue would that people would expect to say, you have quote, unquote, product market fit.

Yeah. Oh, and also my co-founder and I had totally messed up thought we had four months more of runway than we did. 

Jason (host): [00:20:54] After the break. The importance of timing, especially when raising venture capital.

I spend most of my days, one-on-one with founders, helping them understand strategies that make a difference in fundraising. One super important tip. I always stress with founders is to make 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 to 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.

It's a tired cliche in startups that it's easiest to raise money when your company doesn't need to. But what do you do when you need to raise money and your story isn't picture perfect. That's the situation. Laura found herself in after realizing she had been crunching the numbers wrong. She actually needed to raise money.

Like, yesterday.

Laura: [00:22:26] So we were using this spreadsheet template to calculate runway, and we were accidentally using our three month average of burn rather than our last month's burn. But because our burn was moving up so much each month, that was really downplaying how much burn we had. So anyway, we had to raise earlier than we thought, and we hadn't yet met our goals of the next round.

Jason (host): [00:22:51] Wow. Okay. So that's an interesting setup to say people talk about like how to raise money in a position of power, right? In a way to like go out where you set the terms. At some point, it sounds like, and you can correct me if I'm wrong. It sounds like you corrected a mistake in a spreadsheet. And then we're like, we got to go out.

We got to go out. Tell me about that thought process a little bit and how you started developing the narrative that you would use to actually raise money before you actually wanted to. 

Laura: [00:23:26] So, yes, essentially it was like, okay, we have less time than we thought we didn't have to raise immediately, but we only had a few months and it was clear

we weren't going to be in an awesome position for our next round. Like we weren't going to be the hot deal and thought process was basically okay we've had a lot of twists and turns. Let's just talk through that storyline and explain how this latest twist is the one that's going to make us the breakout company of the next year.

And the thing about having advantages is that they just compound. So, because we got so lucky with our first round, we have these amazing investors who'v. Done this with founders a million times, they have seen the best stories. They've seen the best stories be spun well, and we have some amazing advisors who are other founders, who I talked to as well.

And. Got all kinds of advice about kind of putting out feelers and seeing how much we should raise. And there's all these little guessing games. And you don't think about how many things you're guessing on until after the fact, but guessing on what our valuation should be guessing on how much we should raise and what people's appetite for that would be, and just guessing on every single piece of the story, I guess.

Um, and obviously tweaking it as we went and as we talked to more investors, but. We got introductions to every major investor ever because we have all these other existing awesome investors. And. I think I had this sort of false confidence from our first round where I'm just really good at this. Like it only took me one week to raise this amazing round.

And I do think I was pretty good at it, but I, I totally underestimated the fact that there are obviously a million other variables at play and we were not in as strong of a position the second time around. And I talked to a ton of different investors was definitely getting a lot of really helpful feedback, but it just took way longer.

We got way more rejections. And I think part of it was that we weren't really in a strong, strong position. But I think the bigger part was that I was conveying that we weren't in a strong position. I'm pretty sure at this point, the biggest difference by far in our two rounds was my confidence level.

And I knew that was the case halfway through. And I was talking with some of my existing investors and they're like, yeah, we're getting this feedback that you just seemed a little tentative. And I knew that was the case. And so I would pump myself up, but it just wasn't that easy because as soon as you get rejected, it sucks.

Jason (host): [00:26:36] And then it's like, you're questioning yourself. And it's this feedback loop. That's like, well, they didn't like me. My not good. It was a company actually not good. You know, this, this is a little sadistic, but can you talk a little bit about some of those early rejections? You know, what were people saying to you and how did that feel?

Laura: [00:26:57] Um, so at first I think I was taking the rejections a little too literally. Some people said, Oh, we're just not, we're not sure about the HR tech market. And other people said. And I was warned that VCs would say that, but it had not been true in the first time, the first round. 

Jason (host): [00:27:20] The other thing that is, is worth, even as you start saying these things, and I'll kind of chime in from, from my own experiences, is that even with the playbook, And, and you had, you had the most amazing investors and the advantage of having people to ask questions around and problem solve with you.

But I think what you find is everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. That's a famous Mike Tyson quote. And I extend that to like, even with all the background and, you know, having been taught very specific tools and tricks and approaches, you don't know what it's going to feel like until you actually start fundraising.

And like, you know, people tell you, you know, VCs are going to give you rejection reasons and they're not going to make sense, but don't, don't worry about it. But when someone goes, Laura, you know, we don't really think that the HR tech market is ready for this, but come back to us when you have a $100K of monthly revenue or something like that, then you're like, Oh, is, you know, it's so hard to not listen to those things.

Um, so that's, that's really interesting. You know, how many rejections do you think you experienced? 

Laura: [00:28:37] 40 atleast and yeah. I mean, we just went down the list of like the best people, the best firms, and then kept going down. And that's not to say that the people we ended up with weren't amazing. And some, some people along the way did say yes, like I think the second person I pitched to actually said yes, but to fill the round, it took up just a way longer time.

And one of my friends, friends who now works at an early stage company, but used to work at First Round with me. Said this thing to me at a random party, obviously pre COVID. Yeah. And said, I just want to tell you that the way you ran that round was so awesome. And you just came into First Round and basically said, if you want, you can invest in me, but I don't need you.

You can, you can have me, but I don't need you. And that I think is when it clicked for me, that that was the biggest difference because that's totally true. The whole time. I was like, well, Elad's going to fund of this entire round for me, I would really like you to invest, but I will actually be totally fine.

And the second round we had all these bits and pieces of the round coming together, but I didn't have a lead, so it was kind of backwards. So a lot of times in an investment round, You get somebody to lead the round. It's let's say you're raising $10 million. They contribute six, seven, $8 million, and then you fill it in with other people.

Sometimes you have two leads. Sometimes you have 10 leads, but we were getting all of these $500,000 checks and nobody to say, okay, we'll write the $3 million check of your $4 million round. Yep. Yep. And. I was nervous about that signaling. I was nervous about the fact that we'd been getting all these rejections and the amount of things I was nervous about just kept piling up and totally did not help with my confidence levels.

But yeah, in the end, I I'm pretty sure I have a spreadsheet of it still. It was, it was definitely at least 40 rejections. 

Jason (host): [00:30:43] Do you remember the most confidence bruising meeting that you had? Anything particular that was said to you that that was hard. 

Laura: [00:30:53] Nobody was mean, but nobody was mean, which was really nice.

There was one investor who, you know, I gave my plan and showed, we should have a million and a half revenue by this date. And they were like, well, that's like fine, but you know, what's, uh, what's, uh, an optimistic projection and that kind of threw me off because I was like, no, a million and half is very good.

Everybody else says it's good. Um, so that scared me a little bit, cause I was like, Oh God, I don't know if we can make more than that in this timeline. So I'm just going to make up numbers. I guess the other thing that was bruising, was it something that somebody on the other line did, but I had just had like 17 calls that day and all of these were Zoom calls of course.

And. I just was super tired for this one. I really liked the guy I was talking to and I hoped that he would invest, but I just forgot everything. Like, I, I couldn't remember how many customers we had. I couldn't remember our projections. I didn't have my computer with me. That was like in between other, um, meetings for some reason.

And I was talking to him on the phone and, um, Kind of word vomiting, all these things and being like, I should really know this, uh, like just so nervously speaking and that's not very like me and it was awful. 

Jason (host): [00:32:19] I appreciate your willingness to share that because it's a, it's a grind. And, um, I think it's really helpful for people to hear.

I mean, this is exactly what I was hoping would come out of this, like. You do have an elite background. And I think, you know, that just like on paper and we know a lot of the same people and they speak very, very highly of you. So the thing to say is that it's hard for everyone, right? And when you, whether it's on Zoom or IRL, It's such a grind and you're going to have bad meetings and you're going to have bad meetings at the worst possible times.

And it happens to everyone. Everyone has these challenges. And, and I think just to know that fundraising is not an easy thing, it very helpful to hear. So thank you for sharing that. 

Laura: [00:33:06] It was good for me to learn as well because I had this silly idea that it could just be done as long as you know. 

Jason (host): [00:33:12] Yeah. Well, I'll stop dragging you through the hot coals. It, the difficult parts. Can you tell me a bit about who your lead investor ended up being?

Laura: [00:33:23] It ended up being usually just an amalgamation of a bunch of medium-sized checks. So we said First Round led again and they took their pro-rata. And then some, I believe and Elad invested again, we had a bunch of repeat investors, which was really nice.

And then we just had a lot of 500K or a little over 500K checks. Um, and they added up to over 3 million. 

Jason (host): [00:33:53] Okay. And I, I know this strategy and story well, and you know, one of the themes themes that we're going through is actually confidence, right? So confidence that you had, but there also is this confidence that you're trying to inspire in the investment community about whether or not this is the deal to do.

So I actually didn't know this about. The round that you raised. So, but I find these to be fascinating because you know, there is a game you're you probably had to play right. Where you had to project confidence without having the actual committed investors to truthfully and fully say that you had that confidence.

So was there ever, like, when did you, when was the feeling like it's gonna, it's gonna happen now? Like, you know, like what did that feel like?

When we come back a lesson in how investors act, when you tell them what to do.

Sometimes when I'm a huge fan of a product, I go crazy person and network my brains out to try to chat with the founder. I did that with Mike Adams, the founder of this amazing Zoom enhancement tool called Grain to find out who his other users are. And I was a little surprised that one of the really relevant use cases. 

Mike Adams: [00:35:13] We pulled all of our users.

We had, um, three segments that popped to the top where they were like 80% PMS score, meaning like 80% of the people in these buckets were like, I'd be very disappointed if you took Grain away. So one of those was researchers, one of those was marketers. And then one of those was founders. Founders were like, I need this because ended up kind of being everything founders are like, they're 

the researcher, they're the marketer, they're the fundraiser.

And so in the context of fundraising, I use grain to like improve my performance. It's like game film. 

Jason (host): [00:35:51] If you ever take notes on calls or wish you could save magical Zoom moments, you've got to try out Grain to get started for free. Go to grain.co/funded that's grain as in whole grain oats. Okay. Back to the show.

Most entrepreneurs see the investor founder relationship like this. Investors wear the pants. Sure. There's a back and forth, but investors are the ones with the fat wallet put simply they make founders nervous. But Laura had from her time in venture capital, a strategy that worked in her first fundraise.

So why not? One more time to land a hot investor, she would try putting their feet.

Laura: [00:36:42] So. One of our new investors from our new round is Box Group and the're New York based. And this woman Nimmi is our main partner there. And I met her at a coffee shop before all the COVID stuff came down in San Francisco. It's fantastic. Yeah. I love her a lot and she was pretty early. She was one of the first people to accept and

what everybody tells you to do as you're pitching is give investors a bit of urgency, but not too much urgency in our f. It's like a really delicate wine in our first round. We actually just did have urgency. And I was like, I can't fit everyone. And this is happening in a week. Like I'm so sorry. And it was genuine.

And. So people were just like, okay, just put me down for a hundred K we'll be down for this. And it was so awesome. And I was like, what is this world? How are people just giving me money? And so this time I thought about that and I was like, okay, I'll just act like that's, what's happening this time around. And hopefully a bunch of people bite and

we did that with Box Group. And I said, our round is closing relatively quickly. And this was still at the very beginning of our round. We'll probably want to get wrapped up in the next week or so. And they ended up saying yes, and then I kept saying that to people, but sometimes I would say, Oh, we're actually going to wrap up in the next two or three days.

And sometimes I would get feedback that that was too soon and they can't actually make a good investment decision in that amount of time. And something like halfway through our process. I kept saying that, but obviously it had been like three weeks already and I was just kept saying, Oh, we're going to close any day that we're going to close in a week.

And. I was talking with Nimmi about it and saying, how it's this fine line? And I want to portray urgency, but I don't want to get rejections because it's too soon. And we were talking about it and she was like, yeah, I mean, it worked on us, right? And she was like so honest about it and it was really helpful.

Um, and she actually, even though she had just committed, she hadn't actually sent me the money yet because the round hasn't hadn't closed, she was so on my side. And so instrumental in helping me close the rest of the round and I will be forever grateful to her for that. Um, but yeah, there was this constant battle of portraying urgency acting like we're a hot deal.

But at a certain point, I feel like people knew we weren't that hot of a deal anymore. And, but yeah.

Jason (host): [00:39:36] I think talking through the emotions and what you had to do to close the round is exactly what I was hoping to draw out of there. And really like when I talked to other founders and the round and we discuss is the round with

a lead. It's very fun to hear about like what, you know, what happened when you got that call, you know, hearing about that because it is this wave of emotion and, and for you, I think there was probably that conversation with Nimmi where. She was open and honest and still supportive. And it felt like you had, you know, someone in your corner that was going to push you through it.

So, yeah, one, I'll just say to all the investors out there that that is the type of behavior that like will win you more deals are in you, the reputation that gets you deals, you know, There's a pre-seed fund called Ludlow ventures, who does not lead. They do not lead, but before I knew that I was surprised to hear that because it felt like their lead and what they pride themselves on doing is saying we won't lead deals, but it really just means that we're not going to take the board seat or whatever.

But when we commit, we commit and regardless of what the valuation ends up at, and then we go help you close your round. And so very cool to hear. Your experience with Box Group. I love that. 

Laura: [00:40:56] Yeah. Some of our smallest checks are our most involved people. 

Jason (host): [00:41:01] Yeah. Yeah. 

Laura: [00:41:02] It's been incredibly awesome to see all the different things that different types of angels can bring to the table.

Jason (host): [00:41:09] Yeah. The, the other thing that popped in my mind is like a couple ideas, but in so many cases, perception is reality. You know, you talked a little bit about what you did in your first round, which was 100% what was happening. And the second round, which like, you know, you probably next time around, you'll like massage the way you do this, but you did have to put out a, this feeling and, and give the perception of

exactly what happened in that first round of raising. And the thing that I'm very fond of, of sharing with founders is that VCs know everything about the psychology and the game and the game that is being played. And, um, you know, what I tell people is that the top investors in the world call it Excel, Sequoia, Greylock, Benchmark.

They are conviction based investors. So it is true that they don't need to hear what other people think. First Round also conviction based investors. But they're still human. They are still here. You know, psychology still affects them in, which is very important to hear. Anyways, would love to talk a little bit about the biggest mistakes you made and what you learned from those things.

I think it's great to hear people reflect on that. 

Laura: [00:42:36] I think one of them is pushing too hard on that urgency when it's not real. For sure. Yeah. Another one was, um, this is also kind of a guessing game and I don't know how I really would have done it differently, but I would talk to some firms that are just write

$250,000 checks, other firms that really never write checks under $5 million. And so I had to constantly switch what I was saying and say, yeah, we're just raising. And I was just looking for somebody. I was just looking for everybody and I wanted acceptances. So I was bending what I was saying, according to who I was talking to, but I think I should have just held really strong with what we needed and why we needed it.

And again, had more confidence about why, because I wasn't making it up. And then that would have been a little smoother. 

Jason (host): [00:43:31] No. That's great.

Laura: [00:43:32] I think those are the biggest things I can think of. 

Jason (host): [00:43:34] Yeah. Yeah. And I think that second point is really important. Grooving, your pitch and feeling confident about your pitch is so important because it takes time to really get great at the story that you tell.

And because maybe the last one of the last things we talk about, I think a lot of people will listen to this, this episode and people that will be looking up to you and all the successes that you've had thus far. What piece of advice would you, would you give to a younger Laura or other founders trying to try to do what you're doing and follow your path?

Laura: [00:44:08] The first thing is to talk to a bunch of founders because that's what helped me realize I could actually do it for so long. To our earlier points, it was just this thing on a pistol and yeah. It's not always easy to just talk to founders like that's, um, even that is 

easier said than done. Yes. It's work, but anyone, you know, in tech, see if they have some events you can go to or can introduce you to their CEO or are in some mentorship group, there are so many mentored mentorship groups that I'm a part of for underrepresented minorities.

And, in general. I think there's a lot more support out there than there used to be in tech because there are so many people focused on fixing a lot of these gaps. So the first one is just talk to people, but don't put them on a pedestal when you've talked to them either, you know, Ask them about the shitty part and you'll see that.

Yeah. Like I was just a very normal tech employee before this, and I'll probably be a normal tech employee after this and you can also be those things. Um, so that's the first thing. The second thing specifically, well, fundraising is just be so competent and I have friends who are about to raise a round this week, actually.

And I wrote to them in an email to literally go to the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror and like tell yourself all these great things about you and pretend you're a white dude and talk louder. And it, the confidence kind of flows from there. And that is honestly what I did in the first round.

And it really made all the difference. And I don't think that had I done that in the second round, it would have been exactly the same, but I do truly think that was the biggest difference and that lesson has helped me in a lot of other ways, as well, every time we're in recruiting, being confident about the fact that Sora is going to be a rocket ship and you should join this rocket ship.

And every time I'm talking to investors, of course, every time I'm talking to friends and I'm like, yeah, I'm doing this thing. Um, when I take a step back I've I have actually accomplished a lot. And I should remember that, you know, even though in the day-to-day, it's totally rough. So. Yeah, there's occasional mirror pump-up talks.

That would be my, my biggest piece of advice. 

Jason (host): [00:46:45] I really enjoy hearing that. I really love that. I think as I do more of this, as I have more conversations with founders and we talk about the things that will help them in fundraising, we. Often say like, yeah, that's the advice I'm going to bring to the rest of my life.

And so now working on your self-confidence is, is definitely one of them. Well, Laura founder and CEO of Sora, thanks so much for spending so much time with me. I really, really enjoyed the conversation. 

Laura: [00:47:14] Thank you. Very nice to meet you.

Jason (host): [00:47:20] That was my conversation with Laura Del Beccaro founder of Sora. An HR onboarding platform with over $5 million in venture capital funding. Speaking of HR, here's my producer, Olivia, who I almost sent to HR for her disgusting comment about liking salt flavored toothpaste in the episode on Lindsay McCormick.

So you were listening in on that super curious, were there any quick things that stood out to you about Laura or that conversation? 

Olivia: [00:47:52] Yeah. Well, she has an experience that maybe this is just the pool of people that we've spoken to, but it seems to be pretty common that some people who are on the VC side, ultimately do try and start their own thing.

And so I found that super interesting that she had worked in VC before. And I'm just wondering, I know that that is an experience that overlaps with yours. And so like, what are some broad advantages? Are there even disadvantages though, to being seeped in that world? 

Jason (host): [00:48:30] Yeah. I mean, I think there's a lot to say about the experience of sitting in a venture capitalist's seat.

One. I think the reason we see happen a lot is that it can be very intoxicating to see a bunch of founders that you've invested in build these world changing companies and pour their heart and soul into a company. And so it can be something that's very attractive. As you sit on one side of the table to say, you know, I should take my own shot.

I should also do that. And in terms of advantages that there's a lot to say about seeing a bunch of companies at arms length, both make mistakes and be successful. Certainly that gives you a body of knowledge, too quote, unquote, pattern match against or mold yourself against as you're executing. But for Laura, you know, I think the one thing that is important to point out is that advantage of your network.

So by being in venture capital, you obviously know the partners at your firm. But venture capital is a, is a very network driven business as is. So in the course of doing your business, you're meeting other venture capitalists, you're meeting other founders. And so when you then go into operating and founding your own company, you have that built-in network to start from, which a lot of people don't have.

If I were to say a few words about disadvantages, the. The idea that you see a lot is that since I've been a venture capitalist, I just have no interest in raising venture capital. So less of a disadvantage and more of like something that pushes people away because the path to running a business that is venture backed is very difficult.

And when you're on the inside of venture capitalists, um, day to day, you know, that very, very well. 

Olivia: [00:50:11] Uh, one thing that I thought was interesting was that she was super eager to get the backing of the VC that she used to work for. And she said that that would have sent a really bad sign to other potential investors.

If she didn't, I'm just. I guess in my head, I heard that, first of all, the way that you guys talk about this industry, it's like, how does everyone are people keenly aware of who has invested and who hasn't invested in something? Because there is no, like, I guess there is TechCrunch or whatever, but there doesn't seem to be, you don't have to register this in a national database or anything.

So can you tell me a little bit about like signaling and how, how does signaling even work? Is it just through word of mouth? 

Jason (host): [00:51:00] Yeah. I mean, they're all kind of related to the same thing. I know you, you touched on a few things, but at a high level, I think we've talked about this a lot investing at this stage and an early stage company where the numbers are not definitive and can't be extrapolated out to infinity means that it's very much an art.

It's a feel, it's a gut based business. So you are trying to figure out why these founders are worth investing in why these businesses are worth investing in. And so, so signaling is actually not done explicitly. You're not like trying to signal to the market, but as a VC, you're looking for signals. So a very specifically touch on what Laura was talking about in terms of her being at

First Round Capital and knowing that if she weren't able to get investment from First Round Capital, that it would be a bad signal. So one of the things that we had talked about in a previous episode was whether or not a, I think we did, if not, I'll just rehash this, but it's similar to an idea of having an investor invest in one round.

Um, who could actually, yeah. Who could actually invest in the next round; is big enough and actually wants to invest in the next bigger round. And if that investor does not invest, it's a bad signal because as an investor, you know, a lot about the company, you should be in the best position to say, well, this company is great.

So when that company doesn't invest in the next bigger round, it's a really bad signal. So similarly, very different, but very similarly. Laura was working at First Round Capital. So the people at first round capital knew her really, really well and knew her personality. They knew her work ethic. They were obviously helping her work on her business.

And so if that firm doesn't invest in Laura, like what do you think that says to the market? It's not good. Yeah. It's like, well, they know everything and they're still not investing. And I I'd say one caveat. And one thing for all founders to take away from this is there are tricky situations in fundraising all the time.

There are things that don't look great on the surface, but there is, there's always a way to create a narrative or create a story that answers why that happens. But, you know, I won't sugar coat it. If she weren't able to get First Round, you know, that would have been a difficult thing. 

Olivia: [00:53:29] Okay. Gotcha. That makes a lot of sense.

It sounds like she felt like she cracked the code when she was able to walk into meetings with confidence. Um, I'm just wondering, is that something that you've experienced when you were pitching and stuff, if you knew you were on a roll and you were feeling confident, can that have a ripple effect on investors?

Jason (host): [00:53:55] Yeah, it, it absolutely can. Um, And I think my support of that statement and that idea is even more powerful because I'm not naturally like this, um, you know, touchy, feely guy that talks about mindset and whatever, but it is just so powerful when it comes to pitching. There is this difference of whether or not someone is selling you is like a sales person, or if they like truly believe it, And that comes out and how passionate, how confident you are.

I think the other thing to really note is that investors are trying to like, again, pattern match. They are looking to see if you sound like companies that are really, really hot. Yeah. And if a company knows that they're growing and knows that they're going to hit their marks and knows that the next thing is company.

They sound a certain way, like when you actually have that confidence, but in some ways, perception is reality in a lot of these things, it's like, what comes first? Chicken or egg? Are you actually killing it? And then the perception of you is that you're killing it or are you giving off this perception?

And then all of a sudden it leads into, uh, the momentum of actually doing well, fundraising. I think it's super real and you know, when she talks about her advice of pumping yourself up and making sure that you had this confident, demeanor, I think, um, it is well taken by me and certainly something that all founders are listened to.

You're one of the one note that I had. Yeah, it came down. Uh, I wrote it down as we were talking was I wanted to make sure you had a chance to ask about the guessing games and the urgency that she was trying to create. Was that perfectly clear to you around what she was trying to do? 

Olivia: [00:55:43] No, not really. I didn't really understand that the timeline there. 

Jason (host): [00:55:47] I felt like It might be difficult.

I mean, it, again, it is about how you create this perception, but Laura was essentially mentioning that it's really hard unless you run a process like Sam Corcos from Levels, but most of the time founders don't have all the flexibility in the world to run this extensive nine month process.

And so you go out to the market trying to get investors to invest in you, and you don't really know what a good valuation is. You don't know what people are willing to pay. You don't even know how many investors are really going to be interested in you. And so you're like playing this guessing game, trying to see how long it's going to take.

And so that was really interesting, but she, she also talked about. Like creating this urgency. Like, could she tell people that, you know, the round is moving quickly and we want to close in two weeks, because that's what she did in the first round. Like. She just said, Hey, we're going to close up really soon if you want in, come in.

And then people came in, it turns out that was true. And that's, and, and it did play out that fast. But if you think about it on the other side of the table, you're guessing whether or not people are going to react to that, but investors don't know. Whether or not it's actually happening or not. And so it's a bit of this perception versus reality.

It's also, you know, it's also kind of like Schrodinger's cat, where did the cat die because you opened the box or not. And it's like, you created urgency by saying there is urgency. So yeah. Was there urgency because you said it or was there urgency because, or was there urgency because there was urgency anyways, so I thought that was worth it.

Olivia: [00:57:41] Yeah. You make your own reality. Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Jason (host): [00:57:48] Before we ended our call, I asked Laura if she still finds herself, battling the boys and it was funny to hear a familiar name. 

Laura: [00:57:56] People like to pit Jordan and I against each other all the time, because we're the competitive people. Um, and we love it. 

Jason (host): [00:58:04] Yep. That's Jordan from Adamant Ventures. He's one of the entrepreneurs in Laura's group house.

Thanks a bunch for listening. We know that each episode of Funded has its own set of insights based on the story of the founder. If you'd like to get our free insights pack based on this episode on Laura Del Beccaro from Sora, go to fundedpod.com/sora,  spelled S O R A. If you have any questions about today's show, or maybe you're raising money yourself and want to get some help problem-solving. If so, shoot me an email@jasonatfundedpod.com.

I'd love to hear from you. Find us on social, where we share amazing content and share our schedule about future after shows on Clubhouse. The show is @fundedpod and I'm @jayyeh that's J A Y Y E H. This episode was produced by Olivia Rheingold. What's up. Thanks also to Jordan Pascasio from Adamant Ventures.

Hey guys. And thanks to Laura Del Beccaro for consistently beating Jordan and keeping that ego in check. It makes him much more pleasant to work with. Plus one last thanks to our awesome sponsor DocSend, the most trusted document sharing plan.