Nicole Emrani Green's journey from the rambunctious daughter of Persian immigrants to venture-backed CEO had twists and turns. Surprisingly, her first career in psychotherapy gave her some of the tools to help advance herself as a leader and successfully close a $4MM Seed round for her company Givingli. Listen to the story as she describes the way she's learned the startup ropes as an outsider and the feeling of a past rejection she's now grown to be proud of.
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[00:00:00] Jason: Hey, if you're looking for more insights and inspiration around fundraising, check out our weekly newsletter over at funded pod.com/newsletter. It's super helpful. And I think. All right. Enjoy the episode.
[00:00:16] Nicole: It could feel a little intimidating to kind of see just like the list of like, I came from Stanford, Harvard, YCombinator, this, that blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And if you don't have that, If you kind of get into your head, sometimes
[00:00:36] Jason: This is Funded- a show or founders whoraised 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. Think about the power dynamic underscoring, [00:01:00] every fundraising meeting, a founder who needs money is asking investors for money.
[00:01:06] Jason: It's easy to feel like the investors with their massive checkbooks and fancy degrees have all the power, but that'sa common misconception and our guests today, Nicole and Ronnie green, thefounder of giving Lee is going to tell you why that is. She's a first timefounder who set out to make digital gifting means something with giving me astartup, she and her partner slash husband Ben created to revolutionize onlinegifting together.
[00:01:35] Jason: They got accepted into snap's yellow accelerator and raised $3 million seed round. But despite all that success,Nicole started out where a lot of us do with fundraising intimidated andfeeling like she didn't belong. She wondered if there was room for her, aPersian American entree. Whose parents immigrated from Iran.
[00:01:54] Jason: She says she felt insecure about nothaving the expected tech background or even being [00:02:00]seen as too pushy or bossy in a male dominated space. This is about how sheshed those insecurities to get to where she is today. Understanding that she'snot bossy or pushy, she's a leader, something she's always been going back towhen she was a kid.
[00:02:21] Nicole: Oh, man. I feel like you're openingPandora's box. Um, So a lot around that, because from what I hear, and justfrom early childhood memories, I was a very outgoing and outspoken kid. Iapparently receive feedback from teachers about having a very leadershipmentality. To a point where I hate to admit it.
[00:02:47] Nicole: Apparently I was very bossy and, uh,sometimes I think the best story I've heard from my parents is I think oncethey took me to a park and they didn't know where I was and they started [00:03:00] freaking out. And then all of a suddenthey saw this like group of like 10 year old boys, like a huddled. And theyapproach that group of boys.
[00:03:08] Nicole: And there's just like me in the center.I'm like five years old and I'm like, okay, you get the shovel, you do this.And I'm just like telling everyone what to do, kind of keep this like organizedstructure. And yeah, apparently that's kind of just like me at my like raw,like nature entering the world. I will say, as I've grown, I'm also the oldestof four kids.
[00:03:30] Nicole: So that's probably what I felt reallycomfortable with taking on this leadership role. I will say it's reallyinteresting because as I grew older, I actually became. The opposite of that. Idon't know if it has to do with my like middle Eastern background, but I feltlike I may have, or maybe just like picked up on it being a little bitunacceptable as a woman or possibly also like a girl to be a little bit [00:04:00] more, you know, bossy or more of a leader.
[00:04:04] Nicole: And I kind of took that away and stop.Just being that person, if that makes sense.
[00:04:10] Jason: No, I think there's, there's a lot thatgoes into sort of nature versus nurture. Right. Um, and all things, but, uh,characteristics that go into a founder, you know, some things get repressed andsome things need to be like conditioned or re stimulated as you realize thatlike, Um, there are certain things that go into being successful in differentphases of being an entrepreneur.
[00:04:33] Jason: So it's really interesting that you'vegone through that, that rollercoaster. So by the time you were in yourtwenties, it sounds like you had kind of gotten into like a much moreintroverted or cautious way of, of interacting with the world. Is that how youwould describe
[00:04:50] Nicole: yeah. Yeah. More cautious and just tobe transparent.
[00:04:55] Nicole: Wasn't like very successful in school.You know [00:05:00] anymore, I felt, and I usedto think it was me or it had to do with like my intelligence as I'm sure like alot of entrepreneurs question when they're like not, you know, a straight astudent in class. And I noticed, I just wasn't really. Performing as my trueself or my best self.
[00:05:19] Nicole: And it wasn't until I went to gradschool for psychotherapy, uh, particularly for studying, um, you know, MFT,marriage, family therapy, but it really is applied to like all types ofindividual therapy. So working with individuals, couples, children, adolescents,et cetera. And I really started to understand myself better.
[00:05:42] Nicole: I started to get to know myselfbetter. And in the meantime I felt like there was no better time to also do myown work in therapy. And in that process, I got to reconnect with my true self.I kind of like got to open myself up again and started. I mean, before I [00:06:00] knew it, I was like top in my class. I waslike, successful.
[00:06:03] Nicole: Like anything I put my mind to. And itwas almost scary how. Quickly things have flipped. And at that moment Irealized like intelligence or success really has nothing to do with IQ or whatpeople determined as like smart versus not smart, whatever it really just hasto do with, you know, are you in your right element?
[00:06:27] Nicole: And I think if you are. You know,shoot for the stars. It sounds
[00:06:30] Jason: like very naturally in your soil, youwere a outspoken leader, culturally societaly. There are a bunch of differentthings that pushed you in a certain direction. As you were growing up, maybe alack of confidence in sort of formal schooling, at least early on, and then anew.
[00:06:49] Jason: Discovery of both a discipline that youstudied in sounds like you really loved and psychotherapy. And then as sort ofunderstanding of what it took to actually get yourself motivated. So [00:07:00] with that backdrop, we're going to kind offast forward. And what I really love to know is like, as you started buildingthis company, this, um, this really interesting idea of doing digital gifting,Better.
[00:07:15] Jason: At some point, you realize that youneed to raise money. And first of all, ask before you raise money for giving methe very first time, had you ever raised money for a company before then? Nobrand new thing. Yeah. So I always think it's very interesting to kinda hearwhat your mindset was like. Um, when you wanted to go raise money, what didyou, what'd you think you're like, I'm just going to go do it, or was theresomebody helping you along the way or you researching things like, we love tohear that.
[00:07:50] Nicole: I mean giving, like really just cametogether extremely naturally and it almost fell into my lap at the time I was,you know, deep into like [00:08:00] mypsychotherapy career and then my partner in business and in life. Um, Ben was adeep, yeah. His attorney career and giving me just kind of came together as amishmash of both of our interests, as well as, you know, solving a pain point.
[00:08:18] Nicole: That, I mean, I think at this point, everyone is dealing with, and now that everything is going digital and more somobile. Um, and felt like there were no great digital platforms out there thatcould really, um, support, you know, what we were looking for. And once we gotin it, we realized there was just so much more to it.
[00:08:39] Nicole: And we just got excited about. Youknow how much more there was to it. And we kept following that journey and itbrought us to doing giving Lee full time. And with that, we realized like, no,we want to really make this, you know, something a lot bigger. Once we kind ofstarted to see where this could go.
[00:08:57] Nicole: And with that, we realized [00:09:00] we would need more support around capitaland then just in guidance as well. And I think if you fundraise from the rightpeople, you could get the two of those.
[00:09:11] Jason: The first traunch of capital that youwent after, what did you think like did you know venture capital was out there?
[00:09:17] Jason: Did you just try to find friends andfamily? What, what was the path.
[00:09:21] Nicole: Yeah. So once we started, once westarted to realize, okay, like we have something here, we just put our headsdeep into, you know, any literature. We could find anything from like books,articles, uh, asking around and we're like, okay, we want to learn about.
[00:09:40] Nicole: Starting a company we're going tolearn about starting a company. We want to learn about raising money. We'regoing to learn about raising money and, oh man, like I even have a memory of,we were, we went to Italy and this was, you know, early in our travel days,obviously before COVID, uh, shortly after we got married, we did some [00:10:00] traveling and we were driving.
[00:10:02] Nicole: It was my birthday. I think. We'reeither driving to, or from like late, Comos supposed to be like such aromantic, relaxing trip. However, the whole time we were listening to audiobooks on raising money. And I remember, I think I even was like sleeping in theback of the car. The audio book playing in this like random car we rented inItaly and barely like, understood how to like navigate and, you know, theroads, et cetera.
[00:10:31] Nicole: And we still were so committed evenwhen we went on this trip, like we had to take any moment we can to, you know,educate ourselves. So that's kind of what we did when we first started to thinkabout the topic and the idea. And then I would say next steps was asking aroundand learning from people as well.
[00:10:49] Nicole: And then we started to connect withsome great advisors and not, not with giving up equity, but people who actuallyfelt really [00:11:00] passionate and excitedabout what we were building. Cause we're just so early at that point. And therewere just willing to get on a call for about like an hour, hour and a half,once a month.
[00:11:09] Nicole: Um, check in with us, see how thingswere going and how they could help. And those people actually became our, youknow, early investors for our priests. So
[00:11:18] Jason: I, I find that this part of thefundraising journey is, I mean, nothing is super easy, but at least the initialasks for money are always a little bit more comfortable.
[00:11:29] Jason: A lot of times it is friends andfamily. It is people that you have personal relationships with. That's whereyou're starting. We'd love to hear kind of the next phase of fundraisingforgivingly, which I think is when you need to start. Proactively thinkingabout, all right, we're going to raise from professional investors.
[00:11:47] Jason: This is when I think companies startrunning into challenges and things like that are more difficult. Talk methrough, you know, the next phase of capitalizing giving [00:12:00] leave. Like when did you know that youneeded more than that initial angel money that you raised? And then how did youthink about going forward?
[00:12:08] Nicole: When did we know? I will say ouradvisors were really helpful around this because the most that we could do wasour research, studying the market, kind of mapping out where we want to get towhat it takes to get there. But. It's kind of hard to build something that youdon't really know what it looks like until you build it.
[00:12:29] Nicole: Like, for example, some great advicewe got from a mentor is, you know, when they were just horses around, peoplemight say, I want a faster horse, but it's up to you to like invent the car.It's up to you to think of something that's never been done before. And that'swhat we're doing with giving only, or that's what we're doing with our companyor any founders doing with their company.
[00:12:52] Nicole: So. We had to get super creative interms of kind of prioritizing, what do we need to do next? What's really [00:13:00] important. What's going to make or breakthe company. I will say, though, what I've learned is there's never one rightanswer for any company. I kept thinking that there is a number that I need toraise.
[00:13:15] Nicole: I kept thinking of it in like thisblack and white concept of like, okay, when you're at seed, you raise two orthree. When you're a series a, you raise 10 to 12. I mean, what, I'm justputting random numbers out there, but then I realized like, It's actually notlike that at all. And it's up to us to determine like what number we need andthen we also need to back it up and express that to investors.
[00:13:38] Nicole: And I, I just it's. So if I could sayanything in one line about the process of fundraising is there's just so muchout there on it, but it's never one path for anyone, for any company foranything it's.
[00:13:53] Jason: You can read a lot of stuff online. AndI think, especially given what you told me, listening to audio books, probablydoing all the [00:14:00] research that youcould.
[00:14:01] Jason: And I think when you see the flip occurwithin a founder of like really knowing fundraising, it's when they proactivelystart, right? Like they start deciding what they need as opposed to being like.Deer in headlights, blog posts. AE has said that, you know, when you're raisingyour pre-seed, you raise one and a half to two at this valuation.
[00:14:24] Jason: One of my first question is, is like,Nicole, what are you going to do with it? $2 million? And they're like, well,um, Head count, uh, marketing. And you said it so like, yeah, it's like weird,but it's really, it's not one size fits all is what you need. So I love thatyou started talking about that. So, um, you may be, I'm going to, you might beone of those servants that kind of gets it really early.
[00:14:51] Jason: I, I, I, I think you, you had sometraining that really helped you get there. I wonder if we could talk about thata little bit, because [00:15:00] when Idiscovered that you had. No formal training as a psychotherapist. And honestly,when I coach founders or when I talk to founders even give small amounts ofadvice, one of my big presentations or one of the things I talk about isinvestor psychology.
[00:15:17] Jason: Yeah. Yeah. And so I wonder if you'veever reflected on it. Could you tell me a little bit about how it's influencedthe way you show up with investors?
[00:15:27] Nicole: Yeah, I would say cracking the code toinvestor psychology has made the process like 80% easier, if that makes sense.
[00:15:38] Jason: Oh, it makes so much
[00:15:39] Nicole: sense to me. And I think you're in thegame, you don't really know.
[00:15:45] Nicole: And there was, you know, a time whereI was out of the. And I was kind of just like running around aimlessly with,you know, a chicken with my head cut off. And I'm like, I'm confused. Like Ihave great numbers. Like I have great traction, et cetera, but how do I take itto the next step? And then once I [00:16:00]learned it just like unlocked everything for me.
[00:16:02] Nicole: So I could start with what kind ofreally changed things up for me was understanding that investor. Really want tofeel the excitement of your product and the best way that they will feel theexcitement is through you. And there's no better way to do that than to speakconfidently about what you're building.
[00:16:27] Nicole: And I was very calm. On a daily basiswith like my team and my partner, but I don't think I was emitting thatconfidence at first with investors, because I wasn't confident about raisingmoney, if that makes sense. Like, I was so confident in my product, but thenwhen I receive feedback, like I did like a mock pitches with some advisors.
[00:16:50] Nicole: And the feedback I got was that Ididn't present as confident. And I was like, oh, I'm super confident. I justlike, first off, don't want to seem like [00:17:00]an asshole. You know, like I don't want to seem like arrogant full of myself.And I think that could also speak to, you know, some cultural and societalthings about, you know, being a woman, also middle Eastern, et cetera, but Iwasn't confident in raising money, but then also the best piece of advice thatsomeone has given me.
[00:17:20] Nicole: Is that you have to think about yourproduct and not about raising money, because there's no one else who knows yourproduct and what you're building better than you do. And you even know betterthan the investor does. And there are going to be some investors that don'tunderstand what you're building, but at the end of the day, like no one knowswhat you're building more than you do.
[00:17:38] Nicole: You put in the most amount of hours,you put the most amount of effort. Some people are coming into a call. Theyspend probably 20 minutes just trying. Understand what you're building and havesome feedback and, and then they go on with their day and onto the next thing.So once I really wrap my head around that concept, just like understanding,like, okay, I literally left an [00:18:00]entire career path to go for this.
[00:18:03] Nicole: I've spent hundreds, if not thousandsof hours. Studying the ins and outs of this entire industry and then the, um,and you know, creating and mapping out and determining and testing and planningand talking and researching, et cetera. And I'm getting on the call with some.One human who's hearing about this for the first time and yeah, I'm going tohave it advantage.
[00:18:29] Nicole: And the upper hand on that call. Andonce I started to lean into that, because it was there that confidence wasthere. I just wasn't letting it out. Um, I noticed investors. Kind of jumpingon board. I notice their eyes lighting up. I noticed their excitement kind ofrolling in and they started, you know, kind of pitching into just like wherethe company could go and almost kind of like pitching ideas to me.
[00:18:56] Jason: We'd love to hear about sort of thedifficult times, right? [00:19:00] Like you brieflyreferenced it, but there, there is a report that DocSend actually releasesa bout the sort of disparity. Um, between different groups. And I think we allknow that there over the last few years have, has been and awareness of adiscrepancy and an equity in where capital goes.
[00:19:21] Jason: And without like, sort of driving theconversation in any direction with just kind of love to hear about youranecdotal experiences and how you dealt with them, how you sortacompartmentalize them, how you use them to actually. Sure drive you forward.
[00:19:34] Nicole: Yeah, so I noticed there was a shiftand I think I was kind of pressed to notice this a lot more because offundraising, but I noticed almost that my company was growing faster than Iwas.
[00:19:48] Nicole: And what I mean by that was we wereonto something. Great. Like we're reaching beyond, you know, our goals, likebeyond what we could ever imagine, but mentally I was still so [00:20:00] scared. I was still so intimidated. And Ithink it had to do with, you know, the industry and feeling like an imposterand like, I didn't belong.
[00:20:08] Nicole: So I came from like psychotherapy andI didn't like work at Google, et cetera, whatever. And especially aroundfunding funding, I was like, how am I going to convince, you know, investorsthat like, I'm incredible for the job. You know, and I started to get reallyinsecure about that and about, you know, vetting for myself.
[00:20:27] Nicole: And I mean, I don't know if I've everlike, actually really talked about this other than with people on my team andclose friends and family sometimes not really, but I kind of put a pause on.Everything else in my life. And I went really, really, really, really deep intoworking on myself. I bought a ton of books on pres how, like anything from howto present myself in meetings to how to work through like anxieties and [00:21:00] insecurities and essentially AKA orrational thoughts.
[00:21:04] Nicole: Yes. Irrational thoughts, notrational. That's what anxiety is to meditating. To journaling and yeah, I mean,it got to a point where I think for about eight months now, I wake up two hoursearly before I start my day and just do those things. And that has changed mecompletely. That has helped me so much with kind of understanding myself andwashing out the outside noise that has helped me understand that no one knowswhat they're doing.
[00:21:46] Nicole: Like literally no one knows whatthey're doing and that's just. Biggest mind hack, just like to realize that
[00:21:53] Jason: like double underlined that I thinkwe're dancing around this idea of imposter syndrome. Is that what you wouldcall it [00:22:00] an imposter syndrome, whichI've suffered from myself? I won't pretend like there aren't some advantages tobeing in Google or Facebook, mostly network based ones in terms of what ittakes to actually get a startup from zero to one.
[00:22:15] Jason: That can be honestly a detriment. Andin fact, I would think about myself that I had some big tech, big techexperience and like the way you think about problem solving and the speed thatwhich at which you move and your adherence to perfection, as opposed to likelaunching stuff. Like there are a lot of things actually, that those biggerbackgrounds could hold you back from.
[00:22:37] Jason: And so I do think that is a huge one.Yeah. Moving beyond that, I think unlocks a ton in terms of what you're able todo to confidently communicate to a community of people that want to take a beton you moving beyond that and realizing that you can get it done. Everything.It's everything.
[00:22:59] Nicole: [00:23:00]Yeah. It's all in your head.
[00:23:02] Nicole: It's all in your head. It's crazy.There. There's like no one else out there or nothing else out there in theworld that can make it happen other than you. And once you like, realize that.The world just like opens up so many doors. It's so crazy
[00:23:23] Jason: when we come back, the world opens updoors, but sometimes you first find them shut.
[00:23:39] Jason: I spend most of my days, one-on-onewith entrepreneurs, helping them understand strategies that make a differencein fundraising. Some things vary from founder to founder because not everyone'sstory is the same, one thing I'm super consistent about no matter who the founderis, making sure they send their decks and materials using a document sharingtool.
[00:23:58] Jason: 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 update the content even after sending. Sign up for a free two-week trial at docsend.com/funded.
[00:24:28] Jason: That's docsend.com/funded. Okay. Back to the show.
[00:24:42] Jason: You ever get an invite to a party kindof lame, right? That's what Nicole wanted to change with giving me, which setsout to make digital greetings and gifts feel less disposable and moremeaningful makes sense that she would want to grow her business under snapsaccelerator. If you didn't [00:25:00] know,snap is the parent company of Snapchat, a product that completely changed theway gen Z connects given their focus.
[00:25:08] Jason: It was a perfect match for Nicole andgiving me the only problem was convincing snap of that. At first,
[00:25:20] Jason: you just finished a new but veryprestigious accelerator program through. Can you kind of describe thesituation, you know, we'd love for you to paint the picture. When you startedyour fundraise, what you're trying to get done and where you are.
[00:25:35] Nicole: So, I mean, I could talk a little bitabout how we started with snap and actually, I mean, again, just like the oldme would hate that I'm putting this out there in the world because the old mewould be super insecure about this.
[00:25:51] Nicole: But the new me is excited to kind ofjust be transparent, but we did apply for SAPs accelerator the year prior, andwe [00:26:00] didn't get it. And I was superbombed and so is my partner. But. Again, we didn't let it take us down,obviously, you know, it doesn't feel great. So that was November or December of2019.
[00:26:18] Nicole: And then of course like March 20, 20,COVID happened the world shut down, giving me of course being. A fully digitalcontactless option for gifting started to see like huge, tremendous growth bythe way, were featured by apple at the top of the app store mother's daymorning. And the app was down at like 7:00 AM from like tens of thousands ofdownloads within minutes.
[00:26:43] Nicole: And from like handling that to theincreased growth and interest from brands, et cetera, it was. It was a hugeshift that we weren't expecting from COVID. And all of a [00:27:00] sudden we noticed that snap was launchingthis platform called many is my husband submitted a request to yeah. And Iguess like within a week they reach out to us and they let us know they wantedto explore a potential partnership for an integration and to stop called thegiving Lee mini, which will be a miniature version of giving Lee in the app.
[00:27:21] Nicole: Um, so when we were building the mini,they actually let us know that they were launching a brand new program calledcollab. Which was a part of yellow, which has accelerator program. And if weshould, and if we were open to building our mini through the collapse program,so that's actually how we ended up back on a phone call with them and.
[00:27:47] Nicole: We kind of like acknowledged theelephant in the room. We're like, Hey, we're back. Uh, but this time aspartners and kind of laughed about it too. And through that [00:28:00] program, we got to develop the manyalongside, like other great companies that were doing really cool stuff. Andthen while we're in the clouds program, we're talking to them about fundraisingand then they invited us to.
[00:28:12] Nicole: You know, apply slash join for theaccelerator. So went from a rejection to now being, you know, so entrenched inyellow and that's kinda how things came full circle and the program wasawesome. It was kind of, I mean, Quote that I like to use is that building astartup is like jumping off of a cliff and building the glider on the way down.
[00:28:38] Nicole: And I would say the acceleratorprogram helped us build that glider and package it and fill up any patches.That's how it all came together.
[00:28:47] Jason: Amazing. So now there's a lot ofmomentum behind you, I guess, coming out of that, that's when you decided thatyou wanted to raise like a fairly large seed round.
[00:28:57] Jason: Right? So, and that's what you're inthe middle of right [00:29:00] now. Let's,let's talk about that. What did you decide that you wanted to go after and howhave you started to execute
[00:29:05] Nicole: I will say how we got to gain a betterunderstanding of what we wanted to go after was talking to other founders andlearning from their experiences.
[00:29:15] Nicole: Yeah. We do have a really great angelinvestor slash advisor mentor friend, who is a founder himself. I mean, I'lljust give him a shout out. His name is Harry Hurst and he's a founder of PI.Yeah. Yeah. It's a
[00:29:32] Jason: fantastic guy to have in your corner.Yeah.
[00:29:35] Nicole: He, again, That kind of just cametogether and expected.
[00:29:39] Nicole: We met via Twitter. It just feltnatural for him to kind of invest in the company. He obviously, you know, wasexcited about what we were building and believed in it. So he was superhelpful, I would say because not only was he a previous founder himself, buthe's also in the midst of growing and building his own company now.
[00:29:58] Nicole: So super [00:30:00]cool to kind of, you know, Simultaneously, almost like having an older sibling,just like in high school and you are, you know, an eighth grade and you'reabout to get into high school. So you're like one step behind.
[00:30:14] Jason: This is what high school is like, hereare the cool here's the frog. This is the crowd that you should watch
[00:30:19] Nicole: out for.
[00:30:19] Nicole: Exactly. Exactly. And it was supercool. Fun to have that he was so helpful in terms of like guiding us. And Iwould say definitely try to get an investor that either has founded a company,or if they're also in the midst of it at the moment. I think that's super cool.Yeah.
[00:30:41] Jason: I think having that older sibling, Italk about this with founders all the time.
[00:30:46] Jason: Even if they're not investors, we'rejust having a community of founders that are like one or two steps ahead of youlike that has that have like just gone through it so they can tell you. Whereare the landmines are, you know, what the bad [00:31:00]crowds in high school to look out for are like, uh, I think that's like sovaluable.
[00:31:04] Nicole: Yeah. Because they want to help you.They like, they want to, you know, kind of, they understand the personal, likefounder struggle. And if they could be helpful to someone else, then that wouldjust kind of like pass on, you know, a chain of founders helping one another,and then something, in terms of, you know, you mentioned this concept of like,Them kind of letting you know, like this is where the landmines are, and thisis what to watch out for.
[00:31:27] Nicole: These are the people to go for and thepeople to look after something that was repeatedly kind of just put out intothe universe. But I got to really internalize through chatting with mentors isbe really picky and choosy with who you raise money from. I do think. Aluxurious statement. You know, some people don't have that luxury, which is sounfortunate.
[00:31:53] Nicole: And there were times, um, early on,you know, in my founder moments where I was like, oh man, [00:32:00] like, how can I be picky and choosy? LikeI'm very early. But once I got to where I am today, I can really see that couldsee the light at the end of the tunnel. And I could really see the benefit aswell. But I think, you know, Understanding, you know, your company best andbeing confident in what you're building and being confident in the processcould help you be picky and choosy.
[00:32:22] Nicole: And that's something that I think wasa very important point that we kept in the back of our minds with everyone wespoke to. Hmm.
[00:32:30] Jason: You know, one thing I'll say is thatthe mentality that you need to have is that whether or not you can be is thatyou deserve. To be able to be picky and choosy in this fundraise that you're inright now.
[00:32:43] Jason: Are you sharing how much you're raisingor you let me
[00:32:45] Nicole: know, so I could share how much youraise or raising right now. And if you want, I could come back sometime toshare, or you can announce exactly or lead leader. But we are raising a $4million [00:33:00] round right now. And youhave security lead. We have secured a lead, which I was super excited about.
[00:33:05] Nicole: Again, don't know if I just likemanifested this, but yeah, we have secured a lead and I will say it ispossible. It is.
[00:33:16] Jason: So it sounds, it sounds like you'renot, we're not going to share who it is right now. Okay. Yet. But I actually,like, we can still talk about, we're like, real-time right now. So you recentlylanded this lead and I love asking because this is kind of your most eminent isyour most significant raise to date.
[00:33:34] Jason: Do you remember where you were when yougot the call or got the no. This fund, this person would be leading
[00:33:41] Nicole: God. I kind of remember the entireprocess, but I also kind of was blacking in and out of it. Cause it was justlike a lot of emotions I can say. I mean, something that's funny is we got afollow up via email [00:34:00] one morning,like shortly after the call and they express interest.
[00:34:06] Nicole: But I wasn't sure if that was a yes ornot. Pardon? It was like, it's a yes, it's a yes. I don't know. I don't know.They're still asking questions. I mean, I'm not really sure. Yeah. And itwasn't a definite yet, but once it was a definite yes, I think they just had afew follow up questions. I just like, wasn't fully like swallowing it in.
[00:34:30] Nicole: And I don't know if that has to dowith like imposter syndrome. Or what, but I was just like, oh, is this, is thislike really happening? Like, is it, are we moving forward? Are we growing ourcompany? And I started questioning myself and it was funny to see my, mypartner who was just like, okay, look, celebrate.
[00:34:50] Nicole: And I was like, no, no, no, can'tcelebrate. We have to work. There was so much to do. We have to get to work.And it was just like, I would say definitely kind of. It. [00:35:00] Wasn't cool. I wasn't cool about it.That's a good way to hide it and it's okay to not be cool
[00:35:04] Jason: about it. Not chill. Nicole, you got tolike, you've been here before.
[00:35:09] Jason: Oh man.
[00:35:10] Nicole: It is not. Yeah. I mean, I, I felt aneed to put this out there, honestly, because it's not, it's not a very easyprocess. And people who make it sound like it is either they're like magicalunicorns or they're just kind of not exposing the reality.
[00:35:30] Jason: The way the media likes to presentthings is he's incredibly flashy, amazing experiences.
[00:35:36] Jason: But yeah, I mean, yeah. What youdescribed is, is an extreme, but like what I do here, what I do here a lot, andI remember is like this quick moment of like, oh my God, like amazing. And thenlike a relief that washes over you that very quickly gets filled back up with.Oh shit. What do we do now? Like what do we have to do with it?
[00:35:57] Jason: And
[00:35:57] Nicole: by the way, that was my exact responsewhen my [00:36:00] husband proposed to me. So Ilike didn't know what was happening, like AC proposing. This is, do I say yes,like what's going on? So I think this is just something about me as a person. Iwill say though, what I really remember. And I think something that, you know,you may enjoy hearing is, uh, when I shared the news with my dad, Who has beenlike, uh, he's kind of immigrant entrepreneur that I've looked up to toothrough this whole journey, uh, for his advisor through this process.
[00:36:33] Nicole: And, um, I would say like our biggestsupporter with giving only, um, when I told him that was like, Oh really a bigmoment for me. And I think that's when I kind of really started to internalizeit. He just responded in a way that like, I've never, he's just like, he'salways been trying to be really strong, um, his entire life and to kind of seehim be super [00:37:00] vulnerable with likereaching this milestone or watch me, which reaches milestone was like kind ofemotional for me to see, um, I'm like scared to say it as well.
[00:37:14] Nicole: Like I think he got emotional.
[00:37:19] Nicole: Um, which one, like, I mean, I thinkit just, and mind you, I, I think he's, you know, built a lot of his ownsuccess very well, but this was different. I think watching his daughter kindof reach a milestone was like, you know, something that he can do himself andcool to see. So that was a big thing.
[00:37:41] Jason: Nicole, I, uh, that's actually themoment I was trying to draw it's it's, um, it, it speaks to, I mean, I have avery similar kind of immigrant background of wanting to live up to parentalexpectations and make people proud.
[00:37:56] Jason: And so like, what, what that tells meis like, [00:38:00] you know, that feeling ofgetting the yes from a lead investor was like, kind of cool for yourself, butwhat, what the magical moment was like sharing that success with your dad. Toseeing you on camera, like pause for a second. Kind of remember theconversation is such a fun thing to see in founders.
[00:38:16] Jason: So I appreciate you sharing that.
[00:38:19] Nicole: I, I can add to that really quick. Iremember where I was, I was in my room and he said, if I just, if someone justgave me a billion dollars right now, I would not be happier than it. About thisnews and that kind of just like, you're like, oh shit. I felt that, oh
[00:38:37] Jason: God, that's so good.
[00:38:41] Jason: But, uh, if you were to go back and beable to give a younger Nicole some advice, or maybe the piece of advice thatyou try to give to every founder that you get to get a chance to talk to, orwho's even considering this path, what would the thing that you tell. B thatyou think would really, really push people in a [00:39:00]different direction or like be more successful.
[00:39:03] Nicole: It's going to, sorry, I just laugh.Cause it's, it's going to sound cheesy. It's going to sound so cheesy, butlike, just like, I mean, like obviously it would have to like see my futureself, come back and tell me this to really believe it, but it's that I can.Just like, believe in that, just believe that I can do it.
[00:39:30] Nicole: And if you believe it, like you will,and if you don't get exactly what it is that you want, you'll get somethingelse that may even be better. Um, because timing is also everything. As Imentioned with the yellow accelerator, um, we've even got to talk about thislater with Mike and Alex, that I think the fact that we came into the class atthis time, The best move ever.
[00:39:59] Nicole: And it was, [00:40:00]I mean, I don't know who it was or something in the universe, but it was almostlike the universe or whatever, his way of just kind of bringing us back towhere we needed to be at a time that was best for us. Versus if we joined ayear ago, What a blessing in disguise. It was such a blessing in disguise andlike, just trust the process, like things fall into place when they need to,how they need to naturally.
[00:40:23] Nicole: But just so you can do it like youcan. And if anyone tells you, you can't like, that's their own thing.
[00:40:32] Jason: By the way, Nicole couldn't name herseed investor during our interview, but that's the beauty of time. Now, thenews is out and the lead behind her $4 million seed round is none other thanAlexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit and his new fund 7 76. So if Alexisgot behind this idea, why wouldn't snap have acquired giving late when it gotthe chance?
[00:40:54] Jason: That's one of the things my producer,Olivia wanted to know.[00:41:00]
[00:41:06] Jason: Early on at my last company, we had thechance to sell into a large public company, but ran into a wall. They wouldn'twork with us unless we were SOC two certified. We really tried for weeks to getsomething done. We were Googling how to get SOC two certified and interviewingexpensive consultants. But in the end we abandoned the deal because it was toodistant.
[00:41:26] Jason: So, when I learned about Vanta, a company, that was just backed by Sequoia used by hundreds of SaaS startups that get SOC two certified. I was so annoyed. I, man, I really wish they had been around back then. Vanta makes it super easy to get a variety of certifications like ISO 27 0 1, SOC two, the certification we needed to get andHIPAA, they integrate with your cloud provider and other tools you already useto automate the super complex and time-consuming process of preparing for an.
[00:41:56] Jason: Anyway, if you'd like to drop a months long process down to weeks, like I would have back [00:42:00]then and actually signed those major contracts you should check out. Vanta also, I'm really happy to share that listeners have funded, get hooked up. You all can get $1,000 off your service by going to vantaa.com/funded.
[00:42:13] Jason: That's vanta.com/funded. Okay. Back to the show.
[00:42:26] Jason: So, man, I really liked Nicole by the way. She's just, she's a very warm person. Nicole is awesome. Yeah. What'd you think about it?
[00:42:33] Olivia: Nicole is so cool and I love herbackground, how she was in the mental health space and just has clearly done somuch reflection on herself. And that really, I think has benefited her.
[00:42:52] Olivia: As a
[00:42:52] Jason: founder, a hundred percent. And I thinkanother thing worth noting is that I think there's a, um, a very [00:43:00] detrimental feeling or assumption thatfounders have where they need to be this founder hero that does everything isalready great at things. And people who have this inability to see that inthemselves, that people that you need help.
[00:43:15] Jason: You need to ask for help and you needto be vulnerable so that, um, other will look at and be there to help you arethings that hold a lot of entrepreneurs back. So to have someone like Nicole,who is clearly very talented on her own, have the background withinpsychotherapy that, I mean, I guess allows her to.
[00:43:32] Jason: Constantly acknowledge and reflect onwhat she needs to do herself, I think has probably put her in a great place totake advantage of her own talents. And then also be very open to asking forhelp and having other support her along the journey. So I thought it was a veryinteresting conversation and made me think a lot.
[00:43:50] Olivia: When I was listening back to theinterview, it made me realize, oh, whoa, the power dynamic in these pitchmeetings does seem really tough to [00:44:00]navigate, especially as a woman. I think it's always hard when you're coming atsomething from a position of need and. Your biggest Trump card is you can walkaway.
[00:44:13] Jason: No one wants to do that. Yeah. Yeah,exactly.
[00:44:15] Olivia: That kind of hurt it's yourselfsometimes. So that is just a really hard position to be in, to be asking, butthen not be seen as greedy. It just seems like a really tricky. Space tonavigate, especially considering all of the gender stereotypes.
[00:44:36] Jason: Yeah. I think there are two layers tothat related to talk about.
[00:44:38] Jason: One is just independent of gender. So,um, this idea that there is a power. Imbalance on one hand is true, but I thinkit is actually kind of inaccurate or at least a detrimental way to think aboutit for founders, because certainly you are looking for millions of dollars andyou need that [00:45:00] money to actuallyoperate.
[00:45:01] Jason: So it's important. Right? And you don'twant to walk away from that. On the other hand, I think the really importantway to think about it for founders is that you are. A unicorn thousand Xinvestment opportunity, and really investors are clamoring to get into the bestdeals. And can we talk a lot about this?
[00:45:26] Jason: This idea that, uh, you need to presentyourself with confidence in a way that makes investors want to invest, makesinvestors excited that you might be the opportunity. And so, um, really it's a,it's a perception problem. It's a mindset problem for founders and. It's kindof a self fulfilling prophecy in certain ways, you talk about this idea thatinvestors aren't investing against numbers or a lot of data, especially in theearly stages.
[00:45:55] Jason: And so all they can do is evaluate theopportunity as they perceive it. [00:46:00] Andthe perception of a founder who's like. Please give me one eight. We just needanyone to give us money. Um, please. Uh, uh, but uh, the perception is that,oh, wow. This is not a great company. They don't have a lot of options. Peopledon't want to invest in them.
[00:46:17] Jason: There's no way they could be a unicornversus someone that comes in very competently and speaks, like, not like, oh,please, will you give me money? But oh, maybe we'll give you the opportunity toinvest. It's just a very. Mindset and approach so much easier said than done.And I think that lends itself to the, um, the second layer of this discussion,which is it's already difficult, no matter what founder you are to, you know,flip the script and be like, no, like, obviously I do mean this money really wantthis money, but I need to show up in a way that I'm super confident about whatI'm doing, why I'm doing it.
[00:46:55] Jason: And the fact that I know a ton ofpeople aren't going to want to invest now. [00:47:00]It's hard for me to say from my own shoes, but as a woman, when you walk intothese rooms and the dynamic is even more imbalanced and you do know that somuch. So few of the dollars invested in this world go to women and that youlook different, you sound different, your backgrounds, different from most ofthe people that are getting funded.
[00:47:21] Jason: It can be very hard to show up withthat confident persona. Um, so I absolutely think that's something that. A lotof female entrepreneurs, including Nicole ha have to deal with and have toovercome like Nicole did. Yeah.
[00:47:35] Olivia: Um, one more thing I wanted to talkabout. This takes some vulnerability to admit. I don't think I knew thatSnapchat just went by snap now, so you can imagine my epiphany.
[00:47:50] Olivia: I learned that they have a full blownaccelerator now.
[00:47:55] Jason: Massive. And then just as a quick sidenote, I'd say Snapchat, [00:48:00] a reallyrevolutionary company when it comes to consumer, um, digital experiences andcommunication. But yeah, it was, it was kind of left for dead a few years agoin terms of in the public markets.
[00:48:10] Jason: And they've just been really, reallycrushing it over the last couple of years. And. Not surprising to see that theylaunched really higher level thinking around how to run their business, likelaunching their own accelerator programs. So, yeah. Kudos to Snapchat,
[00:48:26] Olivia: really common. Like who else has anaccelerator program?
[00:48:29] Olivia: Should I just assume Twitter has oneFacebook or whatever? Alphabet does everyone have an accelerator? Yeah.
[00:48:37] Jason: So not everyone. There certainly are anumber of corporate accelerator incubator programs out there. One of the morefamous ones is, is Disney actually has an accelerator program and incubatoraccelerator program.
[00:48:49] Jason: I think Citibank or one of the largebanks has a sort of an incubator. So, no, you can't assume that everyone doesthat. And I'd say just like any [00:49:00]accelerator program, even if it's not tied to a big company, some are good,some are bad. Um, I've heard really, really good things. Yellow, um, snapsaccelerator program.
[00:49:09] Jason: Yeah. So I was, it was cool to hearNicole speaks so highly of her experience there as well. Yeah.
[00:49:16] Olivia: Yeah. Cool. Okay. Break down for me.Snaps, incentive. And also like Disney's incentive or city bank's incentive.Why do you think they got into this game?
[00:49:27] Jason: Yeah, I th I think there are a numberof reasons why any corporate would want to do this.
[00:49:31] Jason: There's a simple one, which would justbe like learning. So like once you get to be a really big company, ThatSnapchat started as a really scrappy startup. And, you know, like in a, insomebody's garage and the innovation DNA might start getting watered down. Andso a lot of these bigger companies love just like kind of having it around.
[00:49:55] Jason: To excite their companies, excite theiremployees, start learning about [00:50:00]different approaches and different technologies. Some of these programs they'reexcited about just being closer and supporting new technology projects that arestrategic. So Snapchat might want to. Be doing things in gifting and they knowthat they, they don't have the resources or they don't want to devote ordistract themselves by doing it.
[00:50:20] Jason: But it would be really cool if somebodybuilt a really great digital card greeting card and gifting platform and had agreat integration with Snapchat to get us part of the way there. So investingin innovative strategic technologies is a reasonable. Financial returns. Sothey're going to be investing in getting some equity and if these companiesbecome gigantic and of course they'll get a return there.
[00:50:41] Olivia: Yeah, it is part of it. Also, arethey, are these companies looking for startups to acquire?
[00:50:48] Jason: I would say that's not the primaryobjective of any accelerator program. There's always something in the back oftheir head that. They have a closer [00:51:00]look. Now they have a better relationship with the executive team.
[00:51:04] Jason: They've looked inside the covers. Sothat later on, should it become a strategic advantage to acquire a company?They'll have just an advantage, just a better understanding what theopportunity in front of it is. I would say. The idea that the accelerator isjust a tuck-in program just to quickly gobble up startups as they're comingout.
[00:51:24] Jason: Probably isn't the case for a couple ofreasons. One when you're that large of a company and you're investing in thesesuper early stage companies. You know, they come out of their program. They'reworth on paper in five to $10 million. That's like a really, really, reallysmall acquisition for a public company.
[00:51:41] Jason: And one that would, in a sense, be toosmall to even waste most of their time. And then the second thing is if theexpectation is that these are going to be venture backed companies, gettinginvestment from other people, um, besides the accelerator, uh, the firms thatare investing. [00:52:00] Aren't investing fora quick acquisition.
[00:52:03] Jason: Um, they're investing in the chancethat it might be a gigantic IPO. And so if the narrative was that you werejoining any of the accelerator programs to be acquired by them immediately,then it would, it would scare away other capital. It would scare away otherinvestors. So that, that in general, Isn't what's put out there as a reason forboth starting the accelerator and joining the accelerator.
[00:52:28] Jason: It just, it just wouldn't create avirtuous cycle. I'm
[00:52:31] Nicole: so sorry, Jason, you started talkingabout IPO's and I kind of thought
[00:52:42] Jason: what's the coolest gift you've evergiven yourself for Nicole, the coolest gift she's ever given a given right. Itwas also a gift to everyone sitting in LA traffic.
[00:52:53] Nicole: Long story short, we had a connection [00:53:00] to put something up on an unused billboardand in LA in wanting to move. Greetings and gifts acceptable for ourgeneration.
[00:53:11] Nicole: And now the talk is shifting a lotmore towards like gen Z, but there was a lot of talk the last few years aboutmillennials now. They're all very chunni okay. yes, yes. To know all aboutthat. I think this thing I'm going to tell you about is chewy. Honestly, Idon't even know what chewy is anymore.
[00:53:29] Jason: I'm just using a, I really wanted to drop it and feel cool.
[00:53:32] Jason: Cause I read it in the New York times.Oh, it is not, which is not as cheesy
[00:53:39] Jason: anyways,
[00:53:41] Nicole: but, um, well we just had this likereally rare opportunity and my partner decided to buy the domain name formillennials have feelings. Yeah. Yeah. And if right now you go on millennials,have feelings.com. It'll be direct to you to [00:54:00]giving you. And we had access yes. To one of these unused billboards in PlayaVista, right across from like where Facebook was and all these like techiecompanies.
[00:54:13] Nicole: And we put up a bright pink billboard that said millennialshavefeelings.com.
[00:54:20] Jason: I love that.
[00:54:26] Jason: Thanks a bunch of eliciting. There are tons of insights that each founder recover on funded has around startups,fundraising, and life. We don't have to cover it all. So if you'd like to get afree insights pack based on Nicole and Ronnie green from giving only go to fundedpod.com/givingli. That's G I V I N G L I.
[00:54:46] Jason: If you have any questions about today'sshow, 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 mean email at Jason at funded pod dot. [00:55:00]I'd love to hear from you. This episode was produced by Olivia Reingold. "Hi from New York City!"
[00:55:06] Jason: Thanks also to Jordan Pacasio from Adamant Ventures. "Hey guys," and thanks to Nicole for her vulnerability. As always, one last thanks to our fantastic sponsor, DocSend- the most trusted document sharing platform.