Changing the Game in Venture Capital with Senofer Mendoza and Asya Bradley of Mendoza Ventures
This interview is extra exciting because we’ve never had someone on the show to talk about how to secure VC funding for your business, and my guests today, who are coming to us from Mendoza Ventures, have a very unique company that specifically helps female founders secure funding. They are also super unique and special in that every general partner at Mendoza Ventures is either a minority or female, and I’m so excited to talk about their mission and vision on the show.
Senofer Mendoza is Co-Founder and General Partner of Mendoza Ventures. After having a career in enterprise sales and hospitality design, she started Mendoza Ventures to address the growing funding gap in the pre-seed investment stage. Senofer is a published author, innovator, and thought leader in the technology, startup, and VC space with a passion for equality and diversity. She is an advocate for DEI initiatives across both her professional and her personal life.
Asya Bradley is a Senior Partner at Mendoza Ventures who is spearheading the firm’s expansion to San Francisco. With over 20 years of experience in tech (founding team at Synapse, co-founder, Kinly, Cisco alum) and a track record of supporting underestimated founders, Bradley is an experienced investor, operator, and fintech entrepreneur. A champion of diversity and gender balance in the workplace, Bradley’s interests align perfectly with Mendoza Ventures mission to promote women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other communities. Bradley has lived and worked throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America.
[3:21] – If you don’t have experience with venture capital, it can be very overwhelming and confusing.
[4:20] – Senofer and Asya explain how Mendoza Ventures was started.
[5:28] – You can save a lot of time and money for people by helping them and creating strong alliances.
[6:29] – When experiencing venture capital confusion and discrimination herself, Asya saw the need for Mendoza Ventures.
[8:42] – Don’t underestimate yourself and the value you bring to the table.
[9:45] – Women are not commonly found in this field.
[11:20] – The questions differ based on a lot of biases.
[13:04] – There are key things that women need to prepare for.
[15:10] – We can try to change the system, which is something that Mendoza Ventures does, but it’s important to know how this system is designed.
[16:29] – What is venture capital and do you need this funding?
[18:22] – Venture capital is a great solution for tech.
[20:47] – Think practically. How are you going to organize yourself?
[22:15] – Sometimes you have to pause and try again.
[23:34] – With venture capital you have to run it like a very firm pipe but also not telling anyone that you’re doing that.
[24:51] – Do your own research and find out if they are the right fit for you, too.
[25:35] – A diverse founding team is so important.
[26:54] – It is proven that more diverse companies are more profitable.
[28:15] – Build what you want to see.
[30:10] – In businesses where women are underrepresented, the only way to be successful is to build it yourself.
[32:18] – It is common for women to hide their pregnancies because they are considered a liability in some industries.
[35:07] – When you look at other women and they look all put together, don’t compare yourself.
[36:10] – Reach out to other women and create your board. Find the women who are inspirational to you.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
Welcome to She Sells Radio. I am so excited for today’s interview because we’ve actually never had a guest or guest on the show to talk about how to secure VC funding for your business. And my guests today who are coming to us from Mendo Adventures have a super unique and exciting company and value proposition that specifically helps female founders secure funding. And one of their uniquenesses, which I love is every general partner at Mendoza Ventures is either a minority or a female. And I’m so excited to dive in and talk about their mission and vision, cuz it’s really big and it’s really important. So this is also fun because we have two guests on the show today. I’m gonna give a quick background on each and then we will dive in. So Center for Mendoza is co-founder and general partner of Mendoza Ventures. After having a career in enterprise sales and hospitality design, she started Mendoza Ventures to address the growing funding gap in the Pree Investment Stage Center is a published author, innovator, and thought leader in the technology startup NBC space with a passion for equality and diversity.
Speaker 1 (01:10):
She’s an advocate for DEI initiatives across both her professional and her personal life. Andia Bradley is a senior partner at Mendoza Ventures, who is spearheading the firm’s expansion to San Francisco with over 20 years of experience in tech. Part of the founding team at Synapse, co-founder of Kinley and a Cisco alum and a track record of supporting underestimated founders. Bradley is an experienced investor operator in FinTech entrepreneur, a champion of diversity and gender balance in the workplace. Bradley’s interest aligned perfectly with Mendo Venture’s mission to promote women by lgbtq plus and other communities. Bradley has lived and worked throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North America. Jennifer and Sia, welcome to this show. We’re so excited to have you today. Thank you so much for having us. Yes. Oh my goodness. Yeah, and we were, the, the part that I love about this too, because I think sometimes these topics, especially I’ll speak for myself, I’ve never gotten funding.
Speaker 1 (02:10):
I’ve always cash flowed my businesses and I’ve, part of it is I have a service based business, so I haven’t needed a lot of startup capital for the companies I’ve started. And sometimes if you’re not familiar with it, it can feel overwhelming, right? It can feel like, where do I even start? And even just in the pre-chat of us having kind of mom talk and you know, just getting to know each other, it’s like you both are so relatable and down to earth. And I appreciate that because I think whether someone’s listening and they’re experienced in this space or they’re not at all, but I know we have a lot of listeners who are startup founders, they have companies in the tech space, they may be thinking about securing funding or starting to venture there. I know you’re gonna help kind of dial it in and help, help us all feel, you know, like we can be empowered to take the best step for us. So let’s get started with this. I would love if you could share the backstory of Mendo Adventure. So how did this get started and then how did the two of you come together specifically? Let’s hear a little bit of the story there before we go any further.
Speaker 2 (03:12):
Yeah, I mean, I mean I’m always, I love talking about this stuff. I love talking about money and getting it in the right hands. So <laugh> cool. I love it. I’m happy to do this all day. Um, so we started Mendoza Ventures because we had two startups, um, that similarly our first friends and family round was us. Um, we cut our paycheck in half and self funded our business that way. So, um, but in those days we called it a friends and family round. I think, um, what’s true of us and from your intro, an important thing to remember is that it does feel really intimidating to go get venture capital. It’s designed to feel intimidating. You know, it’s not designed to be inclusive. And so luckily we’re stubborn enough that we just went out and did it anyway. And after raising for those companies, um, we were getting them acquired and the board said goes, that gets yourselves busy with something else so that we can sell this.
Speaker 2 (04:01):
And we did. And one of the big things that we wanted to do was fix the experience that we had, which I think every founder can relate to that’s tried to raise venture capital of you’re pitching to people that you don’t really understand how the back end of their business works. And then you get funded and it essentially comes from an ATM machine and you’re held accountable at quarterly board meetings to that capital and you can save a lot of time and money for people by helping them in business and by creating those really strong alliances. And so we set out to do that with Mendoza Ventures. Um, and there’s a lot of really diversity and inclusion that happy accidents that come along with helping people <laugh> fortunately for us. And so, um, I’ll let Oya explain how she and I came together and kick it over to you.
Speaker 3 (04:50):
Thanks then. Um, so I’ve been a founder and operator, um, for the last couple of decades. And actually Mendoza Ventures invested in my partners company. So my partner is also a founder. Um, and I actually met the team through that investment. Uh, and I was also in transition trying to figure out, you know, I was at a company that I had just founded. We had just raised 20 million in VC funds. Felt the challenge. It was really difficult as an older brown woman mom, I mean, think of all of the isms that you could face. Um, right. That was something that I could face when I was talking to VCs. I’d had over 200 calls trying to raise funds for my company and I realized it was just a problem that we needed to solve. Um, you know, less than 2% of the funding goes to female founded companies.
Speaker 3 (05:44):
Um, but we were able to raise 20 million within 11 months of incorporating our company at the time. Amazing. And so what I started doing then was, you know, after having a couple of good exits previous to this last company, I thought I need to make sure that I’m also writing checks in female founded companies and minority led companies. And I needed to put my money where my mouth was. So I started doing angel investing, um, and I found that I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed finally seeing founders that looked like me in the room and I was like, I think I need to do this full time. So I started looking around, I started talking to different VCs. I didn’t say anything to Jennifer, so Senator and I had become friends at the time, but being a dummy, I didn’t even talk to her about it.
Speaker 3 (06:30):
I was just like, Cents got this amazing business going on and do adventures is doing great. Let me go see if I can also do this full time. And one day I was talking to Jennifer and saying, Yeah, you know, I was interviewing here or whatever and she just looked at me, she’s like, Why are you doing that? Like, why didn’t you come talk to me? And I was like, I had no idea you could ever use somebody like me. Like you look like you’ve got it all put together so perfectly. Why would you wanna talk to me about this? It’s like you would actually want to work with me. Um, and so we just started talking and, and honestly we each just got out of each other’s ways and just started working together. We do diligence to deal together, which was awesome because we realized that we had a lot in common in terms of what we were looking for, um, when it comes to founders. And I knew that I didn’t wanna join a firm where I was just going to be their diversity beacon. Um, and, and where I would actually have some impact. And so that’s where, that’s where Mendoza Ventures really shines.
Speaker 1 (07:28):
Oh my gosh.
Speaker 2 (07:29):
I love how you said that too cuz I got like she says it all nice. I got really mad at her <laugh>.
Speaker 1 (07:37):
Well, and when you said that Sie, the thing that stood out for me, which I think regardless of the situation someone is in, is like, don’t underestimate yourself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right? Don’t underestimate the value you bring to the table. Don’t underestimate that The very person you think would never be your client would never be your business partner could really use your skillset, Right? Cause center for I would imagine you were like, This is crazy. Of course we wanna bring her in. <laugh>
Speaker 2 (08:04):
Rightie is basically like a goddess of FinTech. You know, she’s being really noce about her background. And I think, you know, the funny thing is that when we were first starting to talk about it, um, I think so, so venture capital of all of startups is the worst in terms of diversity and inclusion statistics. So 1% of all the people that have my job are women at all. Wow. And that’s not an inclusive 1%. They usually went to Stanford or Harvard Business School. They usually come from very wealthy families. And so I stand out, you know, being a state school kid that’s self-made as, um, as the inclusionary person there. And that’s not good. Like we need to change that completely. And so, um, what I found is that women who are in those environments all the time tend to project upon other women that they’re more together somehow or more successful or more supported than we are.
Speaker 2 (08:55):
And Ossie and I fell into that trap and we, you know, really wanted to work together, but both of us thought that the other one was so together in their stuff that they would never wanna work with us. And we were at actually New York City FinTech week and we were sitting in a room just chatting and we realized that because the two of us were sitting in a room chatting, people were trying to peek in. Like everyone was like, Oh, startup’s being born in there, what’s going on? These two executive women are talking, something’s getting cooked up. And um, and it almost took the community reacting to us talking to each other to snap us out of our own, you know, idiocy to work together.
Speaker 1 (09:31):
Well, and you bring up such a great point of that almost that veneer that image that, again, as for those of us who are founders or high profile sales leaders, sometimes we feel like we have to put it on or we do it even subconsciously just to feel like we can get in the room. And Usia you said something before that I think was just, I was like, gosh, like the, the the potential feeling of rejection over and over again. You said 200 calls, right? To try to get funding for your company. What are some of the specific, I I, I wanna talk about solutions here. So obviously that’s what Mendo A Ventures is doing, but I also want to just make this a little bit more relatable for someone who has never been through the process, what are some of the specific challenges that women, people of color, the more diverse audience face when it comes to getting funding for their companies?
Speaker 3 (10:22):
Well, the questions are different. So the questions differ based on your gender. They differ based on your age. They differ based on your skin color. Um, there’s so many biases out there and I think if you, if you’re able to do the research in advance, and so when you know who you’re speaking with, and this is, I’m, I’m a revenue leader, so I’ve always done sales, I’ve always been a CRO or a vice president of sales. Like that’s just been my job to really understand the person that I’m trying to sell to. In this case, as a startup founder, you’re selling your startup and you’re selling yourself as a founder, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you’re trying to convince people that it’s, it’s good business to bet money on you as an individual and the idea that you have in terms of what you wanna build and put out in the world.
Speaker 3 (11:09):
So if you take that time to get to know that person and try and understand their biases, maybe not villainize them, but just really understand what could their potential biases be. And then be prepared to be able to respond to those types of questions. So for example, if I look at a VC and I see that they’ve only invested in men in the past and I they’ve only invested in 20 year olds, then I know that I’m going to have to deal with questions about my age. I know I’m gonna have to deal with questions about my gender in terms of family dynamics. Um, I know I’ll probably have to deal with like, how’s it going to be if I have children, et cetera. So those are the kind of things that you get ready for in addition to all the other hard work that you’ve already done in terms of being able to answer questions about your revenue model, about your go to market strategy, about your business, et cetera. So there’s this added layer when you’re an underestimated founder that you have to prepare for that a 20 year old white male doesn’t have to prepare for. And so that, that’s something key to think about.
Speaker 2 (12:15):
I can’t emphasize that enough, um, to prepare for the questions that you don’t want to answer because you will get them. Um, and my knee jerk used to be to get really angry and I actually had to, I had to bring in a coach to coach me through, okay, someone’s gonna ask you what your childcare plan is, how do you answer that other than are we seriously having this conversation right now <laugh>? Cause you can’t, that’s not gonna get you the money <laugh>.
Speaker 1 (12:41):
Well it’s so interesting and, and Senator, I wanna turn it back to you in just a second to talk this more, but when you, like, I didn’t anticipate that they would ask those types of questions cause it’s, I think about a normal job interviews now. Like we’re not asked questions like that anymore. At least you’re not supposed to be, but so that’s a standard part of the protocol in the process with VC funding. Huh?
Speaker 2 (13:01):
They don’t know not to ask. I think it’s, you know, Toya’s point, don’t villainize them, you know? Yeah. It’s um, you know, um, my mom was an old school New Englander and she used to say, Well, who would teach them darling? Like if someone wasn’t behaving appropriately, who would teach them? And so really when it comes to diversity and inclusion, venture capital is one of the last reaches of business that it has not had a foothold and so who teach them otherwise. Yeah. And it’s, it comes to us as founders to get funded.
Speaker 3 (13:33):
Exactly. Well, and and a sense said earlier, you know, only 1% of the GPS in this industry are female. And so who’s going to give them that perspective, right? You, you’re essentially seeing this echo chamber of, you know, white males in the VC space and they’ve just been doing business a certain way. No one’s ever called them out on it. No one’s ever brought this to their attention and said, Hey, this is wrong. It’s starting to happen now. And you’re starting to see a lot of pushback against that. And then you have everyone like air quoting, woke culture, et cetera. Um, so there’s definitely a lot of pushback to that even now. So, so my advice has always been just that is what it is. The situation is the way it is. This is the way the system was designed. We can try and change it, which is what Mendo a Ventures does, right?
Speaker 3 (14:18):
That’s our mandate, that’s what our mission is. But in the meantime, we can’t just sit out and not play this game. And so we do need to figure out how are we going to maneuver within this space? How are we going to still, you know, get our money, get funded, be able to build our businesses and improve that diversity is good business. Yeah. So that’s, it’s like twofold, you know, join the mission with Mendoza Ventures at the same time, understand the language that you have to speak in order to maneuver in the system that was not designed for us.
Speaker 1 (14:50):
Mm. I love it. I love it. Yeah. I wanna ask a, a couple questions that may seem basic, but I think are really important, especially because like I mentioned at the beginning, we haven’t really had this conversation on the show before. So if someone is listening, if a founder or a an aspiring founder is listening and is wondering, should I seek VC funding for my company or should I approach it a different way? How do you know, like, I’d love if we could just start there. How do you know if it’s something you should go for?
Speaker 2 (15:21):
I think I’ll, I’ll start Ossie and then you fix what I miss. Um, so, um, venture capital is, I think it’s so cool that it’s out in the public lexicon now. Like with shows like Shark Tank and things like that. I love that we’re doing like this massive review of sort of good business practices and that when you have good business practices, that there is funding out there. Venture capital itself is a unique form of money that comes in when you’re ready to scale something quickly. And so if you have something that you can pile a lot of customers onto very quickly and then be able to extract that money quickly on the other side, that’s a good use for venture capital. Um, but if you just have a good business and are making revenue, that is also exceptional and there are other forms of funding out there for that.
Speaker 2 (16:11):
I think the blessing and the curse of all these Silicon Valley shows and things like that coming out is that everyone knows that venture capital is there now, which is great, but it is not the perfect form of funding for every business. And if you have revenue, it tends to be something that you want to avoid because you’re giving up equity, which is part of the ownership of your business for that venture capital. And why would you do that if you have enough revenue coming in and you can just take a loan from the bank and pay it back and still own a hundred percent, right? So make sure that that is worth it for you before you do it. And that can be worth it for partnerships or it can be worth it for input and advice or it can be worth it for just pants loads of cash to scale your business quickly.
Speaker 1 (16:52):
<laugh> doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me. <laugh>, I don’t have anything to add to that. Send, that was actually a very complete response
Speaker 2 (17:01):
<laugh> piece. Yeah.
Speaker 1 (17:03):
Wow. Can, can you give some examples? Uh, and obviously confidentiality, like you don’t need to disclose anything you can’t disclose, but just examples of sefer you talked about where you’re able to just go in and pile a bunch of customers on the platform quickly, right? Where you know, you can grow and scale quickly. Examples of companies that, or like specific scenarios with companies where it’s been a really, really, Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 2 (17:25):
So this is why venture capital is such a good fit for tech, right? Because you don’t have to scale up like warehousing or manufacturing or this is why VCs tend to be allergic to like physical products sometimes. Although there are some amazing venture capitalists out there that do consumer forward products. Um, and some that fund, um, the more manufacturing side of tech. But the typical, the stereotypical VC is funding software because you can put a lot of people on it and extract money quickly. Um, so a good example, and I don’t have to, I I like not to be confidential about our portfolio companies cause I’m so proud of them.
Speaker 1 (18:00):
Amazing. Yeah. Let’s talk about it. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (18:02):
But to, to O’S point, one of our companies is called Canvas gfx and it’s a company that took the construction process and put it on the cloud so that it, anyone who’s ever done a home project, you know how hard it is to explain anything in 3D through plans and that’s how everything is manufactured. Now imagine if you could just have a 3D model on the cloud and interact with that to tell your designer, your builder what you wanna build. So we’re doing that with very complicated machinery at Canvas gfx like NASA satellites and Boeing engines and things. Oh my gosh. And then there’s all sorts of cool stuff that happens once you start, um, having the ability to capture a piece of equipment on the cloud. Um, and that’s a female founder who’s in her mid sixties named and um, it’s a great company.
Speaker 1 (18:49):
That’s phenomenal. That’s phenomenal. And you and I love you said the internet broke up a tiny bit there, but you said female founder in her mid sixties. Yeah. Who started that company? All She’s
Speaker 2 (18:58):
Patricia Hum. And um, and it’s a, you know, she was able to scale that company quickly and VC is a perfect fit for it because of the experience that she has.
Speaker 1 (19:06):
Yeah. Ah, I want all my ladies listening who I’ve had a number of conversations lately with clients in their forties and they’re like, I’m too old to start this or to do this. And it’s like, no, you are not at all. I’m so glad you shared that example. Yeah. And tell us about, so when you’re going in for your pitch, what are some best practices? So osteo you already spoke to like do your research, right? So know the biases ahead of time that they’ll likely have. I’d love to talk about best practices and I would also love to talk about mistakes to avoid as well. So I’ll let whoever wants to take that first and run with it. Go ahead.
Speaker 3 (19:45):
So I would say make sure you’ve got a good dashboard built out. You know, so think that you know, practically how are you going to organize yourself, set a timeframe for your fundraise. So one of the tips that I always tell founders before they start fundraising is, you are not fundraising until you have a term sheet in your hand. Until then you are just making conversation. You’re getting to know different VCs in your industry. You are asking for advice about your company. Um, but you don’t really wanna have this like open-ended fundraise. And a lot of women and underrepresented and underestimated founders fall into this trap where they might just start having conversations with bcs. They put a slide in their deck at saying how much money they’re trying to raise, what they’re gonna do with that money. They even will put in like evaluation.
Speaker 3 (20:32):
And what that ends up doing is it just basically sets the, the clock. So the clock starts. So let’s say you started doing this in February and now you’re in August and you still have that same slide. You haven’t hit your target of I wanna raise 5 million on a 20 million valuation. At that point then every VC conversation you’re having, they wanna know what happened. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, did nobody get excited about your idea? And VC tends to have this sort of FOMO type of a culture. So when they hear that one hot VC has jumped onto a deal, other VCs wanna jump on as well. So you gotta create that sort of scarcity mindset amongst the VC industry. So if you go out there loud noises, fundraising, fundraising, nobody bites, then you gotta shut it down, pause, let it cool off a bit and try again.
Speaker 3 (21:26):
So what I always advise is pick like a three to four week period of time, used to be two weeks, but now things are taking longer. But pick that three to four week period of time where you’re going to have just back to back meetings with VCs, calls in person meetings, whatever it it is, keep iterating on your deck, have multiple decks based on the type OFC that you’re talking with, and then be able to steer the conversation in the direction where it is more of a conversation and negotiation versus you just telling them, I’m raising this amount of money for this valuation so that you can always keep that conversation open. Once you have that term sheet, that’s when you actually have to close it up really, really fast. Get that term sheet, bring on the other investors and then just shut it down. But that’s like the main thing is get organized, have a mission, have like a goal and a dead, like a deadline in mind. Awesome.
Speaker 2 (22:25):
Awesome. Right now we both come from enterprise sales backgrounds and that really helped I think when we both transitioned into this industry is you need to run it like a really firm pipe while very discreetly not telling anyone that you’re doing that <laugh> the ironing. Yeah. Yeah. I think the best pa the two things that I’ve seen all of our successful founders do is the first is don’t hand over the keys to your car. You are the CEO of this company and it is your job to make sure that you have a successful company, that you take care of your employees. That is your job. Do not just hand that over to the funder because they have money. It is your responsibility to steer this through whatever you’re trying to grow. And the second thing is, um, remember that this is a partner for a long term and so it’s not, you know, you’re not pitching the queen of England, you’re pitching another person who’s a business person who especially not this week, sorry, that was bad reference, but you’re pitching another person who, um, who will grow this business with you. And so make sure that you’re also interviewing them to make sure that it’s a fit. Talk to other founders who worked with them to see what their experience has been. You know, we all know in business we can look good for a couple weeks, but once you sign that partnership you really find out who that other person is. So do your own due diligence on the pre-bill that you’re trying to take money from to figure out if they are a good partner or not for your business.
Speaker 1 (23:57):
That’s a great point because it’s probably something that we wouldn’t necessarily immediately think to do when we’re in those conversations because it feels very much like the VC is in the position of power and you’re not. Right. And so kind of leveling the playing field and the table there, what are some of the things that you specifically look for in companies that you’re looking at investing in through Mendoza?
Speaker 2 (24:22):
So we look for diversity actively because we’ve found that in a diverse founding team, and this is my working thesis after talking to thousands of companies and not doing proper research on it in any way, but <laugh>. But I think that if you have a diverse founding team, what we’ve seen is that that founder is able to take someone radically different from themselves and inspire them to join their cause. And usually if it’s founding a startup, a great personal and financial risk. And so that ability to take someone from a different background and rally them to your cause is a great precursor to scale because if you’re suddenly selling into India or China, you need that kind of core flexibility to be able to work cross culturally or into even a bank, which has a different culture than a lot of startup founders have. Um, so that’s one thing that we look for. The other thing that we just look for is, um, proof of product market fit and a solid product that’s already been built. Um, which sounds, you know, every business should have that, but it’s not always true of startups when we meet them. <laugh>.
Speaker 1 (25:28):
I can imagine. Yeah. <laugh>,
Speaker 3 (25:29):
Well I recommend everyone look up the McKinsey report from 2018. I think it’s called Diversity Matters or Diversity Wins or something. Um, and they actually have proven just by looking at the executive teams and the founding teams of different, um, companies and, and, and they’ve actually proven that the diverse teams are a lot more profitable mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, than the non-diverse teams. And they’ve looked at it from their perspective, perspective of gender diversity as well as ethnic diversity too. So it is proven. So in terms of like if you are trying to invest in the more successful companies, then it would just be in your best interest to make sure it’s not a homogenous leadership team. Yeah.
Speaker 2 (26:13):
Yeah. It’s McKenzie March, 2020. I’ll send it to you. At least I remember that one.
Speaker 1 (26:18):
No, that’s perfect. That’s perfect. My team can link in in the show notes, which is great cuz we can all breathe a sigh of relief and say, Okay, people can stop asking the question about the ROI on diversity, which I feel like still gets no doubt you hear that question more than I do, but still gets asked. Right. So I’d love to broaden the conversation just a bit here, um, and talk about entrepreneurship in general for women. And I know that you’re both, both super passionate about there should be more female founders, more women should start their own companies. I know in, you know, in the pre-chat we were both kind of laughing about having to close the doors, so little ones don’t run in and jump in on the interview <laugh>. And so you’re both moms and, you know, running this incredible company. So I just wanna open it up for you both to share like from the heart why you’re so passionate about this, why you feel it’s so important. And I’ll, I’ll let whoever wants to take that question first, run with it.
Speaker 3 (27:10):
I’ll, I’ll jump in first this time. Um, so I think for me, Elise, I I honestly felt that I needed to build what I wanted to see. And so I, I had been, you know, working within existing organizations trying to make my impact felt within the organization. There’s a certain culture that I was looking for, um, and I just didn’t find it. And so I thought if I’m really looking for something, I’m gonna have to create it for myself. I also found that that glass ceiling was really real and if I ever wanted to be a COO or an executive member of any team that I needed to actually create that company for myself. Um, and so I, it sort of just goes along with, you know, Cheryl Sandberg was like, Oh, go ahead and like, lean in and get your seat at the table.
Speaker 3 (27:57):
And I was just like, I’m just tired of trying to shoulder my way through. It’s just not my style. I’m just gonna build my own table. I’m gonna build my own chairs and I’m gonna invite the people that I wanna have dinner with to this table. Um, and so that’s why I think it’s important that we all just sort of find our own way, um, and, and then find other people like the Mendoza team that has actually done the same thing. You know, they’ve built that separate table that is inclusive and, and that’s what we’re seeing now, is this new world being created.
Speaker 1 (28:27):
Mm. Yeah, I can relate a lot to that. It’s really powerful. Jennifer, go ahead.
Speaker 2 (28:32):
I mean, very similarly to what, I mean, I think os just hit the nail on the head, but, um, it was too hard to work and have kids. It was like, it was literally too hard. I was at a firm, um, when I got pregnant the first time and they moved my desk under stairs in the, under the stairs in the basement in 2012. And you cannot thrive in that kind of an environment. And I was, um, in an industry that had a lot more women in it than this one. And there’s just no other way I found to be a really successful executive with kids than to build my own table. And, um, and to start from scratch, you know, there’s, in any underrepresented industry, the only way that women are gonna make it is if we make it a family business. <laugh>. Mm.
Speaker 2 (29:16):
You know, and I started, I co-founded this business with my, my partner in this business is also my husband. And it takes a lot of support and a lot of buy-in for any family to have any working parent. And I think the thing that we did successfully was just have proactively transparent conversations about what that support and buy-in would look like for each of us. Um, and so because we did that very early on, I have found that now that we’re a little bit bigger and we’ve grown, um, it has set an a precedent for culture that, you know, we always talk about my role at the firm, but every dad that works for me also goes to soccer games like every dad coaches baseball, and actually both dads coach baseball, <laugh>. Um, and so that precedent has had a ripple effect. And now that example is there for our startups.
Speaker 2 (30:09):
The first startup I ever funded had a maternity room and their startup office, um, because their check came from me and I was going to make sure that their operations person had a great place to work. Um, and so I learned very quickly that the way to change is to stand in front of the check that if I was always trying to woo someone over as a client, I was not going to be able to dramatically impact change. But it’s amazing how quickly someone can drum up a attorney policy if you’re holding 5 million under their nose.
Speaker 3 (30:41):
Speaker 2 (30:42):
Speaker 3 (30:43):
And you know, I was looking around when I was talking to different VCs and hiding the fact that I was pregnant. Um, and then with the Mendozas it was like, Hey guys, I’m pregnant. And they were like, so like, so what? Like that’s great. Congratulations. You know, I think
Speaker 2 (30:59):
I said, you can still fly, right?
Speaker 3 (31:01):
<laugh>, you’re allowed to get on a plane, right? I’m like, Yes, I can <laugh>. I was like, great. Um, but it was literally like, who, you know, where else would I have found somebody that was willing to hire someone that was, you know, at the time, what was it, five or six months pregnant? Right. Um, you just don’t see that in the VC space ever, let alone any other space even. Um, so that was, that was really impactful. And for me, it, you know, when I talk to a lot of my colleagues and, you know, professional network friends, family, et cetera, all of them have had to hide pregnancies. All of them. Every single one of them has had to hide that they were pregnant. I mean, I had an employer who at one point when I announced my pregnancy, you know, suggested abortion, Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding me. Oh my God. You know, and so this is, this is the world that we live in. And so to be able to just be able to take a deep breath and just si and say, Oh my God. Like, wow, I don’t have to hide this. This is not considered a liability. This is actually a good thing and I’m gonna work with people that actually care about me as a person. I mean, that was really important. Wow. And I just realized we are who we’re waiting for. I
Speaker 2 (32:17):
Have to say we have like 15 portfolio companies now. And during Covid, a lot of the dads had kids too. And I gotta tell you, it hit ’em pretty hard. You know, <laugh>, when you’re a startup founder, it’s in your home and anyone’s having a baby in your house, they’re not okay for a couple months. And that’s all right. We just gotta work through it. <laugh>.
Speaker 3 (32:37):
Speaker 1 (32:39):
It’s just, I mean, hearing it positioned that way though, and I’ve been out of the corporate world for long enough that, you know, my having my baby and becoming a mom was on my own terms as an entrepreneur, but it’s like, it is so true. How I don’t, I don’t, but I don’t know that I even realized how common it was to have to hide the pregnancy or feel like you have to hide your pregnancies. And I see that’s crazy what your employer said to you, but unfortunately it’s probably not the only time it’s ever happened. Yeah. Um, to another woman that’s just, oh my gosh, well I’m so grateful for what you’re doing and so inspired by your mission. Um, and I think everyone listening regardless of whether they are seeking VC funding, an entrepreneur, thinking about being an entrepreneur, it’s like we can all take something from this episode, whether it’s the tactical howtos and how to go out and seek funding or just being more intentional about diversity and inclusion within your leadership team of your company, seeking opinions outside of yours, um, looking at the people around you as whole people and not underestimating or undervaluing yourself and the value that you add.
Speaker 1 (33:46):
So is there anything, I wanna just wrap up here and we’ll tell people where to connect with you because I know you’ve got some great, great platforms online, but is there anything I haven’t asked either of you that you think is really important for a woman to know when it comes to diversity, entrepreneurship or funding?
Speaker 2 (34:06):
I think the biggest thing that this job has taught me, and you know, I don’t fall victim to what OIE and I fall victim to, is that when you look at other women on the internet and they look all together, don’t project it as something that you cannot do. If you have a 401k, if you have a Robin Hood account, if you have a SoFi account, you are already an investor. You have a say over whether or not that money is managed by a traditional system that we all grew up in, or if it’s managed by people that look like you. And so you can ask your HR department, you can ask your 401k, you can ask the CEO of the company that you invested on Robin Hood, who is managing that money? Is it managed by people that look like you don’t hand over your power as a customer to a system that you feel that you have no say in it. You do have say in your finances. And once you start owning that, say you learn so much and it’s so much fun, <laugh>
Speaker 1 (35:04):
Super powerful, I would
Speaker 3 (35:06):
Say create your personal board. You know? So get out there, um, reach out to other women and, you know, do so with a real strong intentional vulnerability, um, not just for socializing in like coffees and, and posturing, but you know, find those women that are inspirational to you that you can learn from as well. And create that personal board of four or five women that you can kind of reach out to, um, in, in any kind of moment of need or any time of moment of learning that you think you need. So, um, I for example, have a lot of women that I work with in terms of, again, managing your money and not leaving it to some male partner to kind of do for you, but these are things that you can do now. Learn how to become an LP in a fund, for example.
Speaker 3 (35:55):
Learn what it means to have a capital call. You don’t need to be a millionaire upfront to be able to become an lp, for example. And a lot of people didn’t know that and I, I had to learn it the hard way. Um, but again, just if you have those women around you that you feel inspired by, you can skip several steps that, for example, Jennifer and I have had to take. And we’re hoping that when we build our own personal boards with other inspirational women, that we’ll be able to skip the steps that they’ve had to take. Um, but you know, just, just do that. Get that board ready for yourself.
Speaker 1 (36:30):
Yeah. So powerful. So powerful. Thank you both. Jennifer oia, this was very illuminating for me. I knew it was going to be, but it was in ways I didn’t expect. Um, and I just really appreciate you coming on and taking the time to educate me, educate our listeners, and also empower us, um, to take those next steps. So thank you again so much.
Speaker 3 (36:51):
Thank you, Elise. This is great. You
Speaker 1 (36:53):
Absolutely. And to you my listener, we will link, uh, we will link the website for Mendo Adventures. We will link the social for center for and Ossio so you can go connect with them as well. I think you both said you’re pretty active on LinkedIn, right? And Ossio, you’re active on Twitter too, so we’ll link that so you can go connect with them. And the biggest thing I’m taking away today is go for it. Right? Don’t be afraid to learn what you need to learn. Put yourself in the rooms that you need to be, that you need to be in or go create your own right. Even better. So thank you as always for being a listener of She Sells Radio and I’ll see you on our next episode. Bye for now.