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Rising cloud leaders discuss the power of mission-driven organizations

The next generation of tech leaders discuss what keeps them motivated and the power of listening and community

“When you keep your eyes on your mission, you can weather any challenge,” says Danielle Cohen-Shohet, CEO and Co-Founder of GlossGenius. As one of the up-and-coming entrepreneurs defining the next generation of tech, she’s drawn on her values as a source of resilience.

Around the Zoom table, Kelvin Beachum nods his head in agreement—the starting right tackle for the Arizona Cardinals, community organizer, and angel investor knows a thing or two about weathering the storms of startups. Sevetri Wilson—the Founder and CEO of Resilia—adds, “If founders of mission-driven companies do our jobs well, we enable our clients to serve their communities.”

What keeps innovative leaders like Danielle, Kelvin, and Sevetri motivated in unpredictable seasons? How do they remain driven by the mission, whether investing in for-profit endeavors or working with non-profit partners? These three visionary leaders from Cloud 100’s Rising Stars list sat down to discuss the secret to building mission-driven organizations, aligning the values of investors and founders, and cultivating inclusive spaces for scalable growth and impact.

Mission-driven companies accelerate decision-making

Danielle believes anyone should be able to participate in a small business entrepreneurship. The past year has only strengthened that conviction. “I didn’t want to see my clients survive. I wanted to see them thrive,” she recalls of the pandemic year. In response, GlossGenius, an appointment management system for salons and spas, facilitated around $40 million in loan applications. In short order, the vertical SaaS startup centered their work on helping customers as the pandemic increased their need for safer client experiences.

After the upheaval of the pandemic, Danielle took the time to learn and grow as a leader. “This past year has forced me to adapt in profound ways. I don’t know the leader I’ll become. But if this year taught me anything, I’m excited to see who she’ll be.” As Danielle has come to learn, there’s a stark difference between companies that are mission-driven in name only and those that are genuinely committed to their core values.

She separates them into three categories: companies built around a business opportunity, companies with an opportunity and added mission to support it, and truly mission-driven companies that are innovating and evolving as a result of their vision.

“Taking a genuinely mission-driven approach allows you to be intellectually honest. It frees you to ask the hard questions,” she says. “It gives you the freedom to say ‘no’ without regrets.” Danielle’s deeply held convictions allow her company to prioritize and pivot quickly—making better choices, faster.

Listen intently to make sound investments

“Just execute. That’s what I preach to entrepreneurs,” Kelvin says. “We talk about it on the field—if you have great fundamentals, you know what direction you have to sprint.” Life follows a similar pattern for Kelvin—as he works with 50+ companies and acts as a community organizer, he counts on his fundamental values to guide him.

Kelvin has learned that listening is his most valuable skill when it comes to investing. When introduced to new founders, he stays pretty quiet—except to ask them endless questions. “I want to hear your stories and get to know your struggles and failures,” he says. “I need to empathize with you and see your values to determine if there’s a fit.” He suggests all investors listen intently to founders to learn how they motivate their teams, build an inclusive culture, and scale successful businesses.

Listening also helps Kelvin gain valuable insight into the relationship between investor and founder—and how it changes over time. “I’m always asking myself, ‘Do I want to spend the next seven to ten years with this founder? Are we aligned in values? Am I excited enough about this mission that I’m willing to support them through the ups and downs?’”

In successful investments and growing companies, Kelvin sees the fruit of his labor. But he knows it’s not an easy journey for investors or founders. “I want to be there through thick and thin. Being a founder isn’t easy, so every decision I make is informed by the relationship we build and the values we share. If we have that, we can do anything together.”

Find your tribe as soon as possible

Sevetri is seeking to democratize philanthropy and bring more diverse voices to the table. In many ways, she had to build her own table before she could launch Resilia. As a ‘tech for good’ startup based in New Orleans—far from the action of Silicon Valley—she has faced more obstacles than most. “I didn’t always have these networks. I wasn’t always on the radar of Forbes,” she says. “I had to leave New Orleans to find the capital. I had to build those relationships from the ground up.” Without the backing of industry connections at the time, Sevetri relied on her own grit and vision to build Resilia.

Her advice for founders of startups? “Don’t underestimate the power of finding your tribe—wherever you are in your career or geographically. Get good mentors and advisors around you. I would have done so earlier if I had known how valuable their wisdom and connections would be,” Sevetri says.

As a result of her carefully curated network and proven business model, Resilia had no issues raising its Series A funding—corporations are investing in giving more than ever. But for Sevetri, it’s one thing to build a profitable company—it’s another challenge entirely to scale an inclusive company that leads the ‘tech for good’ movement.

She is constantly reminding her team of the value of their mission and the proven success of their process. “We have an inclusive team with their voices at the center of our work,” Sevetri says. “Our goal is to grow and keep that culture as we make the philanthropic space more equitable. We have all the ingredients to make it happen. Now it’s all about execution.”

Danielle Cohen-Shohet, CEO and Co-Founder of GlossGenius

Sevetri Wilson, CEO and Founder of Resilia

Kelvin Beachum, Athlete and Angel Investor

Alex Konrad, Senior Editor of Forbes

Full Transcript

Sevetri Wilson:

Hi. I'm Sevetri Wilson and I'm the founder and CEO of Resilia.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

Hi. I'm Danielle Cohen-Shohet, the CEO and co-founder of GlossGenius.

Kelvin Beachum:

Hello. I'm Kelvin Beachum, starting right tackle for the Arizona Cardinals.

Alex Konrad:

I'm Alex Konrad, a senior editor at Forbes. Welcome to Cloud 100. As one of the most fun things we get to do as part of our Cloud 100 list, we profile rising stars, up and coming entrepreneurs who have raised less than 25 million in venture capital but are showing a lot of promise and have technology that could make a big impact. This year, I'm lucky enough to be joined with two of our rising star CEOs as well as Kelvin Beachum, both a star NFL player, whether he would admit that or not, and also a very active angel investor who works with entrepreneurs every day. Thank you all for joining us.

Alex Konrad:

Now, Kelvin, I have to start with you. I'm curious. How many companies are you usually working with, so that we know kind of what we're about to put these two entrepreneurs through?

Kelvin Beachum:

It's... It's over 50 at this point, so I'm staying pretty busy.

Alex Konrad:

All right. So, we've got an expert investor here with us. Sevetri, could you tell us a little bit about how long you've been working on Resilia and what you would say kind of the overarching mission of your start-up is?

Sevetri Wilson:

Absolutely. So, we launched Resilia to the public at the end of 2016 and our mission is really simple. We're seeking to democratize philanthropy, making it more accessible to all. And, you know, by doing that, we're able to bring more people to the table.

Alex Konrad:

Awesome. And, you're based in New Orleans, right?

Sevetri Wilson:

Based in New Orleans with a second office in New York.

Alex Konrad:

That's great. And, Danielle, can you tell us a bit about GlossGenius and your mission there?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

For sure. So, we believe that anyone should be able to participate in small business entrepreneurship and be able to achieve their economic and personal dreams. So, GlossGenius is building an ecosystem that empowers business owners... You know, helps remove barriers to success, and instead replaces them with very fun, memorable product experiences so any business owner can feel like they're on the journey of a lifetime. The industry we serve today, beauty and wellness industry, is perfect for this and very exciting given a lot of things that are happening. So, yeah. In a nutshell, it's what we're doing.

Alex Konrad:

And, where...? Where in the world are you these days, Danielle?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

I'm in New York City.

Alex Konrad:

Great. Okay. We've got two East Coasters. We've got someone kind of in between. And then, we've got Kelvin down in Arizona, you know, trying to stay cool, I guess. Great. So... So, this has been a pretty intense past few months, I think, for everybody, but especially for entrepreneurs. You know, maybe starting with you, Sevetri, what... What has it been like for Resilia? I feel like your name is perfect for a company that's going to handle adversity well. But, you know, has this been an exciting time for the business? A... A difficult time? You know, what comes to mind first?

Sevetri Wilson:

So, the first thing that comes to mind really is, yes, it's been an exciting time, both exciting but also very just empathetic to what's happening around us with the pandemic and how we're trying to all come out of this. But as a company, we actually thrive when there's more [inaudible 00:03:30] capital being deployed in the philanthropic space. So, in 2019, there was over $430 billion given by corporations and individual giving, not even including government. In 2020, that number went up 7%. So, when we see that type of capital being deployed to philanthropy, that's where Resilia thrives. We come in, we help, whether that's foundations, whether that's new fund set up and helping deploy that capital, but also support the capacity of those who are receiving it and those who are boots on the ground doing the work. And, we all know there was a lot of much-needed work to be done over the past few months and still is.

Alex Konrad:

Got it. Yeah, that... That's no surprise. And Kelvin, you have a nonprofit, right? And, you're working a lot both on that for profit and sort of nonprofit side. So, is this something that is resonating with you as well?

Kelvin Beachum:

It always has. Me and Sevetri have talked in the past. We've crossed paths already, so great to get to actually share the stage with her again. But I sit in a world where I get to intersect in both. Sports plays a huge role on both the for profit and nonprofit side. So, to see Resilia doing the type of work that they're doing, not only, you know, in some of the Southern states but across the globe is impactful right now.

Alex Konrad:

It's awesome. GlossGenius, a little different, Danielle. I know it's... It's... It is for profit, but your customers have probably been kind of going through some interesting times. Kind of what would be the perspective that you would... You would bring to the table here?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

Yeah. I mean, a very interesting last 18 months. You know, moving into 2020, the shutdowns happened. Very challenging time for customers and even internally at the company. We were, you know, kind of in the trenches and making a lot of internal shifts and thinking about how we could continue to help customers navigate a lot of the shutdowns during that time. In a very short period of time, we were shuffling things on the road map around. We were changing features that we had expected to take months to develop. We deployed them in days. We struck relationships up overnight with lenders. You know, in a matter of six days, we facilitated around $40 million of loan applications.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

And, even kind of moving out of the shutdowns and into the re-openings, we've been, you know, kind of at the center of helping many of our business customers facilitate safer and better client experiences as they're servicing more and more clients. So, contactless payment solutions, getting those out to business owners. And, I think really the last year and a half has been marked by a very firm commitment to double down on helping customers not just when they're doing well, but also in times of need, and making sure we're helping them not only survive, but thrive.

Alex Konrad:

Got it. I'm curious if... If... You know, any of you please feel free to start on this one, but as an entrepreneur or when you're working with entrepreneurs, how do you balance kind of that short term need and sort of, you know, all hands on deck mindset to want to help your customers, help, you know, your stakeholders, with kind of that long term vision and mission that you also want to, you know, stay to and not lose focus on? So, how...? How does one sort of balance that so that you've kind of...? You know, you're excelling both on the short term and the long term at the same time?

Sevetri Wilson:

So, I think 2020 was unlike anything that any of us could have imagined, so our initial reaction was to jump in [inaudible 00:06:58] how we could support the communities around us. We immediately did that in New Orleans, where we're based. Also, in New York. Ironically, both of those cities were the highest per capita of COVID-19 cases, so there was so, so much need, not only here but all over. And so, we knew that organizations, just by nature of how capital was going to be dispersed... Because you have to realize... You know, I kind of lived through a life changing experience overnight with Hurricane Katrina, and so, I knew that when things began to lock down, when the pandemic hit, when government aid began to flow out, it was very... Some of those things are very similar to what we saw after Katrina. And so, being able to really enact some of those historical type of reactions that I did in the past was something that we did as a company at Resilia overall.

Sevetri Wilson:

And so, although we definitely don't want to have mission creep and we don't want to get off our goals and our road map, we knew that there were immediate things that we needed to execute for our not only users and our customers, but also for the community that buys into the product that we are ultimately selling. And so, yes, very important to stay mission aligned and mission driven, but I think 2020 was truly just out of... Extraordinary and many of us had to do what we felt we needed to do in order to support our customer base.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

I think for us, we were in a very fortunate position, given, you know, our mission of helping anyone achieve entrepreneurial success and particularly business owners in the beauty and wellness space, was very closely aligned with some of the things that we actually needed to shift towards to help them survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world. And so, I even think some of the things that we did as we made a lot of internal shifts and shuffled things around [inaudible 00:08:52] and got experiences and amenities out to customers were actually, you know, initiatives that in some part informed and even furthered the mission we could be on and gave us even more conviction that the mission we were on was a incredible mission and a worthy mission and something that customers also really supported, given the depth of customer relationships that, you know, we developed over the pandemic and continue to further.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

So, it was interesting to see how we could connect the dots and we were in a fortunate position, given the type of business we have, but certainly a lot of learnings from that. And, I guess the kind of thing underpinning all of this is just stick to what you know and the constants and the values and that really helps you stay true to your mission, regardless of short term or longer term changes.

Kelvin Beachum:

And, just to... To piggyback on both founders, you know, it's one of those things that I preached to the founders and the entrepreneurs that I was involved with, was just executing. You know, us as football players, we talk about this all the time on the football field, and it's execution. And, I think during the pandemic, if you had great fundamentals and just great unit economics, you understood what you needed to do and where you needed to sprint during the pandemic and as... Well, we're still in the pandemic, but as we've come into 2021, execution is still the number one thing that I continue to preach and try to talk to some of the entrepreneurs that I've backed.

Alex Konrad:

One thing that I found interesting is it seems like this generation of entrepreneurs is also trying to find partners and investors, you know, other stakeholders, who share their values or kind of care about the mission as well. I'm curious for our entrepreneurs if that's something that you look for in, you know... You know, bigger partners or in investors in your company today. And, of course, for Kelvin, as you're looking to invest in start-ups like, you know, these, you know, if that's something you're looking for in, you know, up and coming entrepreneurs as well. So... So, maybe... Maybe Kelvin, you could start with maybe that zoomed out look and then Sevetri and Danielle, you could kind of talk about what it's been like fundraising and looking for that on your side, too.

Kelvin Beachum:

Yeah. [inaudible 00:11:01]. It's a combination of both. I think it's a combination of do I want to spend the next seven to 10 years of my life with the founder? That's... That's the number one thing that I think about. And then, from an alignment standpoint, is what they're doing something that I want to align myself with? Whether it's an enterprise company, whether it's a fintech company, what have you. Is this a mission and is this something that I want to back and provide my energy to? And, it's something that has really helped guide me. It's something I've learned from mentors across the country. But really, just finding things that I resonate with and want to continue to back and want to continue to support through the ups and downs, because this is not a... This is not a easy journey for founders. It's not a... It's not just... You know, it's not easy. So, is this something that I want to be in through the thick and the thin? And for me, that's been something that's really guided my decision making.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, I would agree with that. I think that from a founder perspective, I am definitely looking for investors and partners who align with the vision not only that I have for the company, but the overall mission of the company as a whole. Oftentimes, I think when you're early out the gate as a start-up and you're trying to raise those first dollars, you're just happy that anyone is like believing in your company and will give you money, and so, sometimes you can overlook the values of investor that's a two, three, four years down the road when your company is doing great. You're thinking about, wow. Do I really want this person around or not? And so, you want to be able to, very early on, understand and know that you align with investors that you're bringing on from out the gate, because those investors are going to be around, as Kelvin said, for a very long time, and with you on the journey.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, one other thing I think is really important is that now in this day and age, I think even investors are looking to ensure that they are aligned with founders' values and mission, missions as well. And, I see this because of the type of partners that are being promoted, right? At these different funds. And, those who are reaching out and how they reach out and how they've done their research. And so, I do feel that it's also changing from an investor landscape and they're realizing, hey, if we want these founders in our portfolio, we also have to ensure that we're mission aligned from the start.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

And, to Kelvin's point, approaching it from a different angle, you know, from the kind of entrepreneur's perspective... You know, Kelvin said, "Do I want to spend the next seven, 10 years with this entrepreneur?". And, I think every entrepreneur should be asking, "Do I want to spend the next seven to 10 years with this investor as a partner in my business?". And, for me, something that's very important is to align yourself with investors that understand what a mission-driven company is and, like Sevetri said, is investors that can be behind that, too.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

You know, taking a step back, I always think... And, I... There's... There's a few different types of companies. You know, to kind of define what is a mission-driven company for any entrepreneur out there, I think there's a few types. The first is, you know, a company where a business opportunity exists. The second is a company where there's a business opportunity with an added mission and... And, you know, Toms Shoes, for example, is one of those types of companies where great opportunity to help improve this world but the very fact that a free shoe is being given away doesn't actually inform how the product or the shoe itself is developed.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

And, I would say the third type... And, [inaudible 00:14:32] make sure all investors that, you know, really support what it is you're doing if you're a mission-driven company, align with this view and it's that, you know, a company that is mission-driven is one in which the kind of product and kind of operations and everything has to do inside the company is evolving because of the very mission you guys have and making sure from day one any investors on board with the mission and kind of sees companies in that way is very important.

Alex Konrad:

For sure. I'm curious. You know, when... When you guys are building your business, do you feel like you do anything differently or you have... You make any different decisions than maybe, you know, if I were doing like another work... Work software company for other start-ups or something like is... Do you have to make any choices that... That are proving that, you know, out there, you know, in building the business, as opposed to just sort of at that abstract level? Like, I'm curious.

Alex Konrad:

Like, you know, Sevetri, when you're meeting with nonprofits or something, is there a different approach you have to take than perhaps if you were, you know, a non mission driven company? Because I think for entrepreneurs who might be in our audience, they might be wondering, you know, is there a way to be more intentional here? Is there a way to infuse some of that into what they're doing, too?

Sevetri Wilson:

Absolutely. So, it's interesting because Resilia is a two-sided market. So, yes, we work with nonprofit organizations, but we also have charities like Oxfam America. We have corporations like Goldman Sachs and Citi. And so, we see such a wide spectrum of clientele and customers on our platform that we're working with. And so, for us, because we're seeking to democratize philanthropy and we're essentially trying to undo who generally has had and held all the decision making power in the philanthropic space to make it more equitable...

Sevetri Wilson:

And so, our mission is so aligned when it comes to how do we bring these corporations, these organizations, individuals, to the table and make them buy into what we're doing, right? So, this more equitable world that we are seeking to create, where that is organizations led by people of color, led by women, who have generally not been at the table in an equitable way, and for them to say, yes, we're actually going to change the way we're doing things, right? In order to accomplish this.

Sevetri Wilson:

2020 actually helped us move that mission farther, faster. But it's still a very antiquated way of doing things and philanthropy has very much so been known for moving very slow and in many ways, hoarding wealth, right? And so, we're trying to really undo that. So, our mission and the values that we bring to the table, we bring those to the table every single day and it's interwoven into the makeup of our company.

Kelvin Beachum:

How do y'all think about...? You know, this is two entrepreneurs. How do you all think about decision making? I mean, you're growing, you know, businesses that are mission-driven, you know, driving value for all types of stakeholders. But how do you all think about decision making? Some of the small decisions that you make and some of the major decisions that you make that may unlock a completely different market, you know, for the company.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

I think just taking a very mission-driven approach to decision-making and really, you know, being intellectually honest about whatever decision is in front of you. Is this driving value to customers and stakeholders you're serving? And, is it furthering your mission? I think many times you'll find the answer is no, it doesn't. And, in fact, like being very mission-driven with your decision-making is very effective because it helps you make decisions faster.

Alex Konrad:

Danielle, does that mean saying no to opportunities, though, that might seem lucrative or like an easy, easy thing to do but it just doesn't fit that criteria?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

Totally. Yep.

Kelvin Beachum:

And, from a [inaudible 00:18:31], like [inaudible 00:18:32]. I mean, you know, we've hit 2021. It's the middle of 2021. You know, what do you all see as kind of the challenges moving forward with the mission, with growing those businesses? You know, both of you have raised quite a bit of money. But what do you all see as the challenges moving forward?

Sevetri Wilson:

Kelvin said something earlier that just really sticks with me to answer that question, and that's execution, right? So, I am constantly telling all of my team members and my department and my managers, you know, we have the plan. Like, we have it, right? We have that thing that's going to help us take it to the next level and scale. It's all about execution and what we do with what we know and how we begin to ensure that this message is filtered throughout the company, right? And so, for us, this year, we began to hire our first sales team, and so now the weight of revenue doesn't solely rest on me.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, my VP of revenue, Ash, came in and he's been killing it across the company and really just not only mission aligned... Because sometimes when you bring in sales side of things, you have some conflicting things that can happen with product and other departments. But at this point, as a company, we are really jelling, so it's like, how can we continue to do that and grow and scale and do the things that are mission driven but also do the things that help scale the company, right? Because that's what we are here to do. We're here to grow a SaaS tech company at scale. And so, a lot of things that we think about really a lie in the foundation of can we execute, right? And, how do we do that?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

Yep. And, even on the topic of execution, taking it down, [inaudible 00:20:17]... You know, I think something that is always embedded in very successful execution is prioritization. And so, you know, Kelvin, to your question of what are some of the challenges, I think whether we're in this kind of operating environment or not, a challenge with execution always is prioritizations. I mean, we spend a great deal of time on thinking about and, you know, for us specifically, helping customers and achieving our mission. There's a number of ways we could be doing it and there's a number of ways that are extremely, like, worthy of pursuing our efforts towards.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

And so, we... You know, I think focus is important. We think prioritization is important. And, ultimately, we look at that and we say, "Well, that is the best way possible we could ever achieve our mission and execute." Because making sure we're prioritizing the right things helps us do them faster, and so, in theory, we could be doing much more at the end of the day once we've put one foot in front of the other, you know, in the right way and taking the right steps. And so, you know, I think that's like an accelerant to achieving your mission in many ways.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

And so, you know, challenges tactically for us... Like, do we spend more time on product and these features or more of the thought leadership that we could be doing in this kind of world? And, all of them, you know, have their merits. But it's... It's an exercise in prioritization.

Kelvin Beachum:

Yeah. How do you all think about culture? Culture with how you're hiring, as you're starting to scale and starting to grow. And then, the culture that you have also internally, being mission driven. Could you all kind of, you know, touch on that briefly before I kick it back over to my friend Alex?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

[inaudible 00:21:57]. I'll address one area specifically around how we're hiring as we're scaling so quickly right now. Very important that we hire everyone, you know, not only on the basis of merit but also can they align with the mission? Can they get excited about it? And, do we think they're going to contribute to the mission in a very unique way? We have a whole entire kind of interview panel and many of the interview slots are dedicated to fleshing out is someone values driven. Are they mission driven? And, you know, aside from any type of skill they would need to bring to the company for the role they're interviewing, it's really understanding, you know, kind of their values and whether or not they're a good cultural fit for the specific mission we're pursuing. So, yeah. We put a great deal of thought into that.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, likewise at Resilia. Culture is really the foundation of the company and building Resilia with individuals who are passionate about the work that they do every day and come in with this idea that, yeah, we can actually change the world with our product. Like, literally, we can change the world. And, for us, you know, we just ended a three series DE&I workshop on social justice with the amazing Shanelle Matthews. We have all of these workshops and bringing people in from various backgrounds and ensuring that everyone's voice is heard and equitable throughout the company, even if they don't physically want to say a word.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, we have just experienced such great feedback and overwhelming response from our team because we're always thinking about how we build a... The most inclusive culture that we can with our team members at the center of our work. So, we are huge on culture and constantly thinking about it and constantly putting people in place to ensure that we continue to grow, because sometimes as you grow, it can be hard to keep that culture that you had imagined when you first started your company in place.

Alex Konrad:

Can I just say it is unfair that Kelvin is a starting player in the NFL, long career, community organizer, investor, and he's now a better interviewer than me? I... I wish he would have given me one thing, you know? But, that said, I am curious. You know, seeing Kelvin and talking to you guys, I am curious if Kelvin... Is this something you ask potential investments, you know, about their culture and about their mission? And, if you were, you know, to... Let's say you were meeting, you know, Sevetri and Danielle for the first time, trying to understand their businesses. What would be the top question you would ask them about how they operate as an entrepreneur? Because I think it might be really interesting for our audience to kind of see... See what matters to someone like you.

Kelvin Beachum:

You know, for me, the first thing is I have to get to know you and it's been cool getting to know Sevetri over the years. It's about getting to know you and getting to know the founder, getting to hear their story, because in asking questions... And, I ask very poignant questions because I want to get to know about their... About where they came from, the struggles that they had, the successes, the failures. And, these are the types of questions that I ask in an everyday fashion because it helps me at least be able to relate and empathize on a personal level. I've never been a founder. I'm a football player. I love playing football. I haven't been in that seat, so I need to understand their journey and what they've been through before I can make a decision on whether this is something that I need to spend time with.

Kelvin Beachum:

But for me, that is the most important thing, is really taking the time to spend time and hear the story of the entrepreneur because every single entrepreneur or founder and CEO has a different way in which they get it done, a different way in which they believe culture should be interwoven throughout... You know, throughout their... You know, throughout their company. I've had founders that, you know, they have a selective shoe that they use every time an employee gets to, you know, a year in the company. You know, you have parties for certain companies. You have, you know, fireside chats where they bring in different high end speakers.

Kelvin Beachum:

So, it's different things that the different entrepreneurs and founders use to motivate and bring that inclusive culture together internally, and I just like to know about it. I'm inquisitive, you know? I'm an avid learner, so these types of questions are things that I want to find out about.

Alex Konrad:

That's awesome. Well, Sevetri and Danielle, you've both had success fundraising. For entrepreneurs who are in our audience, maybe starting with Sevetri, what has been the sort of single most important thing to really break through and find that success fundraising? And, what advice would you give from your journey there so far?

Sevetri Wilson:

To be honest, as a black founder, traction. That has been... It has been the defining point between the difficulty of raising our seed round and the ease of raising a Series A and investors who reach out every single day, interested to know if you're going to raise more capital. But outside of that, relationships and network. I think that being in the South, you know, when I first went out to raise capital, New Orleans is in a big tech ecosystem and so, I had to leave New Orleans to go try to find capital and then bring it back, and I realized very early on how difficult it was because I had not built those relationships early enough and no one knew who I was, right? So, I wasn't a popular founder.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, people may say, "Well, Sevetri, you're kind of popular now. You know, you've been in Forbes and Cloud 100 and these other places." But when I first started out, I... No one knew who I was and I had to build those relationships and network. And so, I... When I went out to raise capital, I had to really lean on the traction of the company in saying, "You know, look what we have already done and this is where we're going. We need you along for the ride." And, I used a lot of what... My past performance, right? Of building a previous company. Although, [inaudible 00:27:49], you know, profitable companies, eh. You know? You build a profitable company. Great for you. But really showing the drive of how we're going to scale this tech company and how we're going to grow and bring Resilia to the forefront of tech for good.

Sevetri Wilson:

And so, yeah. It definitely has been experience raising capital, but I would [inaudible 00:28:07] those things in mind.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

I mean, as a company that, you know, was largely revenue financed for some time before going and raising a lot of capital, I will absolutely agree that traction is a very powerful, you know, kind of card in hand to have when you're going and raising. And, the traction for companies can mean a lot of different things. Generally, I think it means customer count and revenue, but for very early stage companies, you could think about traction in terms of things you've learned, you know, things that have worked, things that haven't worked, and knowledge generally that's been amassed, you know, in the early part of your journey here.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

So, I encourage everyone... You know, traction's very important, but there's a lot of different types of traction you could have and it's really how you think about it and how you value that and communicate and share it with investors that's important. And then, the other thing I would say that's really important... There's this... You know, there's this idea that what you aim at determines what you see and I think, you know, in many ways, when you think really big and you, you know, kind of come to the table with a very ambitious picture of what a business could become, you know, I think you see things very differently and investors definitely, you know, kind of can catch on to that and they're very excited by someone who's able to see things in a very big way and I would encourage anyone, you know, to think very big about, you know, how they're spending time and the business opportunity in front of them when they're engaging with investors to raise a lot of capital.

Alex Konrad:

Now, we're almost out of time and this has been so fun. For the founders, I have a question, which is, do you have a question for each other? Because you both have been successful fundraising. You do have traction. You do have a mission that I think, you know, we all understand now. And yet, Kelvin and I are not entrepreneurs, and so, we will never quite know what it feels like to be doing that, so... So, what is on each of your minds, you know, as a way to end this? What would you ask each other if Kelvin and I weren't here?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

I... I mean, I have something because I think it's always great learning from other entrepreneurs and kind of exchanging notes. But, to you Sevetri, I'd ask you what's maybe one thing you wish you had known, you know, kind of before starting out and creating your company?

Sevetri Wilson:

So, I think it kind of goes back to the idea of relationships. I think one thing that we see now is that investors are like, "Oh, you can build from anywhere. You don't have to build from Silicon Valley." And, so much of the universe was trying to push me to Silicon Valley. And, I stayed pretty diligent staying where I was. But had I known a little bit about the ecosystem itself, I would have done things a little bit differently as it relates to when I started raising capital, how I structured my company, right? So, structuring my company... You know, I just went out and I started an LLC and converted it a Delaware corporation upon raising my first capital. But so, there's so much I did not know, right? Early on as a tech founder that I learned along the way. And so, the power of finding... You know, finding your tribe where you are and the importance of understanding and putting mentors and advisors around you very early in the process would be critical and I would do that a lot faster than what I did when I first started my company.

Sevetri Wilson:

And, the question that I would ask you would be, what are you looking forward to? Like, what next are you looking forward to?

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

Many things. I would say one of the things that I'm most looking forward to is seeing very different leadership capabilities being stretched and developed even in my own self. You know, I think looking back on the past set of experiences and the journey behind me has obviously shown that there's a lot of different requirements needed and a lot of adaptations you need to make as a leader. I didn't necessarily know any of those required when I was starting out, and so, where I am right now, I think there is a lot about the leader I'll become that, you know, I don't know right now and I'm excited to see that and continually push and, you know, kind of challenge myself to... To succeed in that area.

Alex Konrad:

I mean, any final advice or words of encouragement for our entrepreneurs? Kelvin?

Kelvin Beachum:

Keep doing what you're doing. [inaudible 00:32:40] see you all continue to grow.

Danielle Cohen-Shohet:

Thank you.

Sevetri Wilson:

Thank you.

Alex Konrad:

Awesome. Well, you know, we're honored to have you all as part of the Cloud 100 community. Thank you so much for the insights and we can't wait to see what you all do moving forward.