Ep. 008 | How Vivian Chen Secured Funding with No Deck, and the Future of Equitable Representation in the Workforce | Curate Well Co.

Ep. 008 | How Vivian Chen Secured Funding with No Deck, and the Future of Equitable Representation in the Workforce

Jun 28, 2022

Where you won’t find trendy business tactics, but you will find truthful insights and timeless stories from leaders to look up to.

 

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Ep. 008 | Curate Conversations With Pia Beck

“Sometimes you just have to be yourself and be open and transparent about it, because we’re all human. I think it’s important to show people the process, because people want to be involved in building a company, especially a community like the one we’re building.” — Vivian Chen 

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PODCAST SHOW NOTES

In episode 008 of Curate Conversations, I interviewed Vivia Chen, founder of Rise — a professional social network that enables professionals to discover and amplify what makes them extraordinary. With Rise, the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies proactively build relationships with professionals across roles and industries. 

Vivian has been featured in Business Insider, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Bustle, and other media outlets for her work in championing women. Her work has been recognized by Forbes as a Next 1000 company, Cartier as a Top 10 Female Founded Company in North America, JP Morgan as a Woman on the Move, and Barclays as a leader for the Future of Work.

In this episode, we talk about raising funding as a female founder on your own terms, what it takes to allow yourself to invest in your business, and the importance of finding believers and strong advocates.

I hope you enjoy this episode. 

Links mentioned in this episode:

Music created by Queentide.

 

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:00] Today’s episode features Vivian Chen, founder and CEO of Rise, a professional social network that enables professionals to discover and amplify. what makes them extraordinary. Prior to starting rise. Vivian was an operator who built brands and products for high impact businesses, fortune 500 companies and high growth [00:01:00] startups, as well as leading VC’s, pE firms and global institutions. She has advised and worked with companies such as L’Oreal, Greenhouse Software, Glamsquad, Klarna, Bain Capital, the AARP and more. Vivian has been featured in Business Insider, Harper’s Bizarre, Elle, Bustle and other media outlets for her work in championing women. Her work has been recognized by Forbes as a next 1000 company, Cartier as a top 10 female founded company in North America, JP Morgan, as a woman on the Move, and Barclays as a leader of the Future of Work. Wow. Vivian is on the board of Wharton Alumni Founders and Funders Association, a 501c3 nonprofit organization with the mission to accelerate the success of Penn, Wharton female founders, and investors. Rise is a platform that enables professionals to discover and amplify what makes them extraordinary. With Rise, the world’s most innovative and forward thinking companies proactively build relationships with professionals across [00:02:00] roles and industries. Rise is a data driven tech platform that provides access to impactful opportunities to those who want purpose advancement and equity.

 In this episode, we talk about raising funding as a female founder on your own terms, what it takes to allow yourself to invest in your business and the importance of finding believers and strong advocates.

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Vivian, thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to learn about what you’ve created. My first question that we always ask is in your own measure of success, tell us about how you qualify or quantify your growth and the success that you’ve seen so far. So this could be. Uh, dollars raised. It could be number of users on your platform.

It could be a specific opportunity that you made accessible for someone. It could be a relationship that you’ve built or something around how you’re creating equity in the hiring lanscape. 

Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me. I’m so fun to be here. What a great question to start? How do I think about success?

Um, I think it’s changed a lot for me. You know, sometimes when I think about success, I think [00:04:00] about. What would, let’s say a middle school, high school Vivian be proud of. Um, and I know, you know, you named a lot of things, whether it’s, the quantitative metrics, right. Users dollars raise all those things.

But you know, at the end of the day, those things are kind of fleeing. Um, when, you know, it’s like, oh yay. We raised X million dollars. Or, you know, another batch of customers came on board, right? Like for me, those are, those are always things that, you know, are achievable, but the things that are the hardest things to master in what I use as my true measure of success is did I do something, Either, I didn’t know how to do before.

Um, or did I do something that makes me proud. And even, you know, I have a practice where at the end of every year, I do sort of both a reflection as well as resolutions looking into the new year. And I remember, you know, I also take that moment to look back not just the prior year, but maybe even, you know, a couple of years prior to that and see the growth that I have [00:05:00] taken over the course of time.

 And, I don’t know if the people know here, but, um, I come from, I come from a CPG background and I now lead a tech company. There’s so many things that I didn’t know how to do when I left my, uh, traditional corporate nine to five jobs to start this company. Um, and those are the things that I’m most proud of.

It’s opening doors for myself, learning new skillsets and, figuring something out that I didn’t know yesterday. 

I love that answer. I think it’s one of the things that has really shaped me as a person and as a leader as well is, and something that I, no one really tells you this about business. Um, but when you become an entrepreneur, when you start your own business, literally every single day, there’s like a new problem to solve.

And one of the things that I, that I joke around with with my team is we make a lot of collaborative decisions because at least once a week, someone asks me a question. I don’t know. What do you think? [00:06:00] And so I love that. That’s how you, that’s, how you measure your success. What is, what’s something that, um, that you learned recently what’s a skill set or something that you’ve learned recently that you’re really proud.

 Yeah. First of all, let’s go back to what you said about the transparent, the being transparent part about not knowing everything. I think, especially for an early stage company, it’s so powerful. and to let your team know, because there’s that sense of ownership and we’re in this together. Um, so yeah, definitely.

I’m a big believer in that too. Something I’ve learned recently, So many things. But I think I’ve learned, like, I think I hinted to this before, right? Like I learned how to build a technical product. I learned how to work with engineers, how to work with designers, how to speak in a language that previously, I didn’t know how to do.

Right. Like it was such a black box to me when I, you know, Too. I mean, my first job out of college, I launched shampoos to millions of households around the world and to go from that, that language [00:07:00] and translating it to what I do now. Right. It’s the thought process, the ideas behind it are the same, but who you’re talking with, who you’re working with on a day-to-day basis are totally different.

So, my, uh, you know, my engineers we sort of discuss things we talk about, uh, Uh, the challenges with certain type, uh, technology. So we have that we have, or we’re going to implement and to be able to hold my own and to say, Hey, like I let’s see if there are other ways of going about it and help them problem solve is something that I’m just really, really proud of because.

I think if you asked me when I was 17 or 18 years old, whether or not I could, you know, be in the technical space and sort of function as the chief technology officer of a early stage technology startup, I would have been like, no way. Right. So, yeah, that’s something that. It took a while, but yeah, I love that part of my job though.

Yeah. Kudos to you. I first dropped out of college, was recruiting full stack, senior software engineers. And. [00:08:00] Fully unqualified for this job. I have no idea why they hired me to do this. And it is like learning a whole different language and it really takes something. And not only to learn that language, but to lead those initiatives and to like ask the hard questions and to cue your team up, to think about things differently like that, that really, really takes something.

So. I felt there, which is like, it’s not just, so of course, you know, it is learning a new language and working with new people who work in a different field than you do. Right. But, simultaneously, um, we recently bought a house and we’re renovating a house and I’m learning that the skill sets that I use in my day job, AKA my nine o’clock to. Let’s just say eight o’clock job. As I, as a startup CEO, when I’m talking to engineers, the same skill sets aren’t used when I’m talking to my contractors. Because they’re telling you challenges, um, and you have to come up with solutions and after hours, you know, like go on YouTube and do. All of these research on things that I don’t know [00:09:00] anything about, but that process is so similar to what got me to sort of be able to take up the technical challenges.

So now it’s like a whole new, different sphere, but it’s again, not as daunting anymore because I learned that, Hey, it’s okay. Everything is kind of Google-able. 

Totally, totally. We just got done renovating a house as well, and I can totally relate to everything that you just said. So you’re, you’re a marketer, turned technologists, turned entrepreneur.

So how you, you know, you mentioned, if you think back to too late, teenage you early adult, you, you would never have expected to be the founder of a technology company. So tell us how you discovered tech. And what the key junctures were that had you end up where you are today?

Yeah. so, you know, I, I actually got into MIT, as a, as a high school senior, but I was scared. Um, I, in also, this is something, you know, today’s international women’s day. I think there was a part of me deep down that I didn’t, I didn’t [00:10:00] believe in myself that I could succeed in stem. So I went for something softer. I went for business. And it was so hard imagining myself, hanging out with engineering guys, you know, and even though I probably had the chops to hold my own. Um, but I didn’t have the confidence myself at that early age. But I’ve always been really curious. I’ve always been sort of a builder in a, in a tinker. I call myself a tinker because I like to just figure things out. I think the first time I realized that I was really interested in technology was.

 Back in the day when there was My Space and you were customizing like colors and fonts. Like I used to always, or even on like AOL messenger, AIM. When people have like, you know, the, that the texts that used to be in like different colors or different waves, you know, I always be really curious, like, how do they get that?

Like, how do I get that on my, uh, on my messenger too? So I think those were the first signs that I was interested in technology products. And I was not afraid to sort of roll up my sleeves and, you know, figure things out. And sort [00:11:00] of how I discovered tech again in my adulthood was, I worked about five years in consumer goods at L’Oreal.

Um, and one day I woke up and realized all my friends were going out west to San Francisco and joining high growth, disruptive startups. And as a millennial, I had some serious FOMO and I really want it to also transition over to tech. I had a really hard time doing it. I think even with just five years of experience under my belt, people really started to typecast me as a beauty and a fashion girl, even though, you know, I saw myself as so much more than that.

And what happened was I started applying to a bunch of tech jobs. And one of the companies that I was applying to at the time, I think was Uber. And they had this assignment that was like, create like X number of blog posts. And, you know, I like to go above and beyond for everything. And I always think in terms of like, what’s new, better, different.

So I basically went on their blog and I copied the code to their blog and put it on my old [00:12:00] blog that I created. And I swap out the content and the images, and I sent it over as like, you know, one of my assignments. And that was kind of like the rekindling of that, uh, tech passion when it was like, wait a second, like I can do things online.

And I think that was kind of when I was like, lets go a little bit deeper. Let’s see if there’s more here that I want to sort of, discover. Um, so I started taking online courses and just teaching myself how to code.

Hmm. That’s amazing. I think that those unexpected surprise and delight above and beyond moments make a huge difference. Like, I don’t know if you got that job or not. And I have no doubt that the sentiment behind,

I applied to over 150 jobs before I landed a job in tech. This is why I created it rise. It’s really hard.

Kind of like buying a house, right. Put in however many offers until you get the one. I think I, you know, I think those, those moments go such a [00:13:00] long way though, and I’m really curious, to hear kind of how that’s translating into Rise, which we’ll get to in just a second.

So, on that note, you mentioned to me before this episode that you want more people who are overlooked on the hiring landscape. Great example that you just shared yourself to get the recognition and opportunities that they deserve. And so your mission with your company now, Rise, to enable more professionals to go further, faster, and on their own terms.

So tell us a little bit more about the challenges that you faced and or that, you know, your consumers faced, are facing, continue to face that helped you shape how your platform is operating.

Yeah. Um, I think there’s that, you know, the saying it’s like, you can’t get a job without the experience. You can’t get experience without the job.

Right? Like, that’s so true. And for me personally, you know, the story that I shared. I went to an Ivy league school. I had a very successful career in marketing at a leading company. And I applied to over 150 jobs before I could switch careers. People [00:14:00] didn’t want to take a chance on me simply because of a decision that I made when I was 17 years old, right.

The world is changing so quickly. Why should we be stuck in careers when we were barely adults? Right? Like what we had in terms of who we want to be. And what we want to do is so antiquated. And I think there are so many ways in which we could showcase more of our transferable skills and to flex into different roles, industries, opportunities. But it’s easy and frankly lazy sometimes, on the employer and hiring managers part to just say, I just want someone who’s worked at my competitor who checks these boxes because it’s the traditional way of measuring someone’s “fight”, right. And you miss out on so many great talent. So, you know, for me, I ultimately got a job in tech at a company called Greenhouse Software.

Because again I, I used the framework of like new, better, different, and always going above and beyond. [00:15:00] Right. The reason that they took a chance on me was because I submitted a take-home assignment that their head of sales, um, you know, reviewed and was like, who is this? Like, can we please have her in?

And I like before he said this about me, I don’t think my resume made it through the ATSs. Right? Like people, my prior experience, what I listed on my resume was so different than the other candidates that were interviewing. And because someone stalled the work product that I could produce, took a chance on me.

That’s why for Rise, we want people to showcase more of their process, their grit, their motivation, their determination. Because we think this goes a long way beyond just where you went to school. What was the name of your last employer in who do you know, within a company?

I have so many questions that was amazing. We to take something that has so many different layers to it and build a really functional piece of technology that solves a very, very real [00:16:00] problem. I think that.

 In my hiring experience. So I had a career in HR, people, operations and recruiting before I started my own business. And so, from that experience, and now for my experience as an employer, myself, I see so much value in bringing people onto the team who have those transferable skills, who can flex into a different role.

And what I’ve experienced is that the people who are most successful at our company are the people who have that grit, who are willing to ask questions, who aren’t afraid to lean into hard conversations who are really motivated by something that they can articulate. And, uh, contribute towards themselves in addition to asking for you to contribute towards it for them as well.

It actually has nothing to do with their hard skill set, how successful someone is or isn’t at our company. And so I think that what you’re creating is just so, so, so necessary on so many different levels, right? Like the success of the company, the success of the individuals [00:17:00] and their career, and also the importantance of having a variety of backgrounds and perspectives and experiences and on your team. Like I w like one of the things I love about hiring people from different industries is that they bring a totally new idea of how we could do something that in my opinion, just adds so much value.

I, I completely agree. And I think, you know, sometimes we think about diversity. We only think in terms of gender or race or socioeconomic background. Right. But there’s so much more nuance to it. And I think we need to explore more ways that we can inject diversity into our teams and into our thinking, um, the experiences, the background of what they, what their lived, uh, lives have been before joining your company.

I think all of those are such valuable perspective.

Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned that everyone on your team knows what it’s like to be an outsider looking at you. Like had this moment of clarity where you were like, Yes, everyone gets it. And it sounds like you really built a team that’s [00:18:00] enrolled in your mission on like a personal level, in addition to like a professional level.

And so my, my first question is how big is your team? And then I want to know what are some of the pillars of your hiring practice that have helped you get the right people in place? 

Yeah. Um, we have a team of about five people, but we also have a team of contractors. So, you know, depending on how you count it it’s about anywhere between five to 15.

 And, uh, I like to tell the story of how, we hired our head of marketing. Um, and her, you know, we had tons of people apply to this position and of course sometimes when you get so many applications, it’s, you know, you’re, you’re I understand why sometimes, you know, people take the lazy route, and, uh, at that time were sort of going through the resumes and.

Personally requested that I review every single person’s application. And I asked the team to sort of provide who their top candidates were, um, and talk through the rationale behind it. And this wasn’t one of them. So when I [00:19:00] reviewed everyone’s resume, I was like, wait a second. Like, who is this?

And her background, similar to mine. She comes from CPG. She comes from food. and there was a side project that she did, which caught my attention. So I actually took the time went to her website. The website that she was kind of a head of marketing for the side nonprofit project for girls to get a career opportunity.

So you see a lot of the parallels there. Right. And I checked it out and it was completely something that she did it in her spare time during COVID. And I was blown away by the work. And I was like, wait a second, you wrote all the copy. You strategize on all the marketing, hierarchies and you created a whole podcast to go with this? Like, and this was your side project?

Like I was so blown away by that. I was like, even though she comes from food and this is someone who, you know, clearly is passionate about this space, let’s have a conversation with her. And of course it was just. Fell in love on the first conversation. And we, you know, decided to figure out how to, how to make it work.

And I think that’s kind of the, the philosophy that I use is, don’t just [00:20:00] look at people’s education or work experiences. It’s sometimes the things that are not the most prominent on people’s resumes, or even during your interviews, right. Ask people like. What’s something that you do outside of what’s on your resume, right?

Like what are some side projects that you’ve worked on? What do you like to do in your free time? Like, those are the things that I’ll give you nuggets of what it’s like, like the whole self, as opposed to just the self that they were able to boil it down to. Oh eight and half by 11 piece of paper.

Totally. I love that. So, You just raised, uh, around, uh, funding and you did it on your own terms, which is a word that you’ve used both to this particular event and also like what you’re doing for the people who use your platform. So that’s, that’s really important to you. I want to know, like everything about this experience.

So tell us, I need to start wherever you want and tell us what that experience has been like. And then I’ll color in and ask some questions as you’re going to kind of pull out some more details.

For sure. I [00:21:00] feel like fundraising is kind of this mysterious black box and, um, everyone has an opinion and a way of going about it.

And of course, you know, my experience is going to be different than, other people’s experiences too. So, that doesn’t mean that what I did in the process that I ran is going to work for everyone. But, sort of let’s, uh, go back a couple of chapters to February of 2020. This was the first time that I attempted fundraising and, um, I went out to SF and had a bunch of in-person meetings.

If you can imagine what that was like third week of February. And of course the timing couldn’t have been any worse. Um, I came back first week of March and basically the entire world shut down. My conversations went nowhere. And so I sort of, you know, the first time fundraising. I had a terrible experience and yeah, in the middle, literally at the beginning of a global pandemic, when no one was talking about hiring or recruiting and everyone [00:22:00] was talking about downsizing, laying people off, so super bad timing.

So I felt like that process, like. Do gave me a little bit of PTSD, you know, in all honesty. Um, because like you had these great conversations and then boom, everyone just dropped off and

I’m sure you spent a very large amount of resources, time, energy, effort, money, preparing for it. And then to have it be, you know, not go anywhere for reasons that are very much out of your control.

I mean, I would have PTSD from that.

It was so hard. And so , the second time. That sort of, I quote, start a fundraising was by accident. I, you know, like after that experience, I basically was what, like a business is, this is, is an exchange of product or services for someone to, to hand your money, right.

For revenue. Um, let’s go down the revenue path. So I didn’t even intend on fundraising and I decided to focus solely on customer [00:23:00] acquisition and sales. So this was kind of like the end of 2020 beginning of 2021. But at the same time I realized that I didn’t really have a network of entrepreneurs.

So I decided to join a entrepreneurial program called Day One. I’ll give them a shout out. And it was, uh a group of early stage founders. And I was like, I just want to meet people. Like I’m sitting in my apartment. I’m not really going out there for happy hours. So just a chance to get to know other people and sort of like share the journey will be really, would be really awesome and supportive to me.

 So, and as part of the program, they have. Uh, practice pitches. So the first practice pitch that I go to, um, it was alphabetical by first name. So V, Vivian. I was actually the last person to go, which never happens. Um, so, you know, the first person comes up, they have their deck, they have their narrative and it was three minutes and there were super buttoned up and polished.

Crap. Like I thought this was a practice. Second person comes on and similarly, they do their pitch to, and I was like, ah, shit, like, sorry. I was like, [00:24:00] I don’t have anything prepared. So while the next two people were pitching, I basically just wrote out really quickly, like bullet points of what I wanted to communicate.

And I think because I was so short on time, like it just super clear, like, right. You really get to the point and I crafted my three-minute narrative when it was my turn. I basically just went through them line by line. And by the end, um, the investor that was in the room was like, wow, that was one of the best pitches I’ve ever heard.

And I was like, wow, I literally just wrote it. And surprisingly, one of the other attendees, uh, in that pitch practice, the DM’d afterwards and was like, Hey, I’m an accredited investor. I’d love to invest. No deck, I was not thinking about fundraising at all and that kind of just kicked off the process.

So, because he said that he will put a check-in, I started to have a freak out and I reached out to my other founder friends. This is why it’s helpful to have that network of founders. Right. And I said, oh my God. Someone just offered to write me a check. What do I [00:25:00] do? And another friend was like, congratulations, you deserve this.

This is how it’s supposed to feel. I’m in too, I’m going to write you a check to. And this happened over and over again. And this is kind of how I closed that first traunch of my race. Which is I had no deck. And it was just basically, you know, people wanting to come on because you’re just like, oh my gosh, all these people are writing me checks. I think there was that natural FOMO, that kind of happened. 

What a cool story that just gave me so much hope for like all of the people who want to fundraise. And I think it just speaks volumes to h ow much we can overthink things, right. And how freeing it can be when our back is like very literally against the wall.

And we’re like, oh God, I just have to go do this. And how wonderfully that can work out. Um, congratulations. That’s so exciting. I’m sure it felt like just riding this weight even you’re just like a little bit high. I don’t know what’s happening, but it’s going really well. So I’m just going to let it happen.[00:26:00] 

That’s exactly how it felt. And that’s what a lot of other founders had told me too, like, you know, there’s momentum when you kind of feel that. And I was like, this is totally different than how I felt the first time around. And I think because of that feeling, I realized that, you know, people would either believe you orr they won’t. Yeah. So one thing that, this is what I mean by, I did it on my own sort of terms. Right. Which is the thing that you mentioned that I use a lot too. It’s not just setting the financial terms, but it’s also controlling the process. Because we’re raising a pre-seed round. It became pretty obvious within just one conversation, whether or not someone will be interested in investing in your business.

And again, this was a piece of advice from a founder friend of mine. He basically told me, you know, if someone’s not interested invest after one meeting at the pre-seed stage, they probably will not invest. Even if you have a second or third or fourth meeting. So just being really blunt. And once I realized that I just started running the meeting in a much more tighter [00:27:00] manner.

And within the last five minutes, I would just straight up ask people, Hey, like this conversation is going well, but I only have five minutes left. How are you feeling? Are you ready to like cut me a check? Yeah. And honestly, people will either say yes or no, and it’s easy. 

I love that. I think there’s so much power in just being really direct in our communication like that.

Right. It’s like a mentor once told me the way to win is not to play the game. And I think that what you just said is speaking directly to that, right. When there’s five minutes left, it’s like, yeah, like how are you feeling? Yeah. Is it going well, like, like what are we going to do next? And I think that there’s, that’s how really powerful business relationships and all relationships I think are formed.

Um, so I love your, I love your candor there. 

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 What do you wish you knew before going into fundraising? Either the first time or the second time?

Trust your [00:31:00] gut. Hm. Find believers. 

Yeah.

 You know, there are plenty of investors out there. You just need to find the ones that will believe in you. In total, I had 49 meetings. Which is a very small number, I think, in comparison to how, you know, what, what people sort of recommend. And this is kind of what you’re saying of playing the game or not playing the game.

Right. Like I was also advised to sort of, you know, run a process, build that FOMO, have all your meetings stacked up in a two week period. So then people feel like you’re a back-to-back meetings. And like, frankly, as a first time, female founder, Even getting the intro to get the meeting it was kind of difficult.

So that just didn’t happen for me. So what I did instead was I purposely went to people that I knew would be strong advocates. and for those people to sort of either refer me or help me build the next connections. Instead of blindly sort of just creating this, um, massive spreadsheet of [00:32:00] cold contacts that I will be reaching out to.

Yeah, so, you know, I never stopped building the company when I w when I raised this round. So it’s a very different process and kind of like the quote best practices out there. But again, you know, I was able to control the narrative, control the terms, the financial terms that we raised on. And again, never give up building the company while I did this.

That’s amazing. What has the fundraising made possible for your business? 

 Oh, this is a big one. Um, and I think I’m still learning, and, uh, trying to get better at it, which is, allowing myself to invest in myself and in my business. For so long I’m so used to being a lean immigrant female founder, right? Like it just holding every penny. So close to my heart. Finally just letting go a little bit, and prioritizing what I should spend my time on. [00:33:00] What are things in which I could hire someone to help me do. Because you know, I, I still work until very late every single night.

And I think about that all the time, right. Are some of the tasks that I’m doing something that I could pass on to another team member, or someone else I can bring on board. So that I can focus on the things that I, uh, that that’s in my zone of genius. Right. Like I truly believe in that.

Um, and if I spend all my time doing these small. Uh, operational things and I don’t have enough bandwidth or brain space to focus on the things that I am uniquely good at, but it’s so hard sometimes to like part with cash. And I definitely, you know, still sort of on a weekly basis check, to make sure the money is truly in the bank account.

I think there’s still that moment. It’s like, wait, hold on. I raced around and there’s money there. So that disbelief. 

Yeah. Yeah, totally. I think that, That’s something that exists, no matter what level you’re operating at. That’s something that I’ve learned in my journey too, is you think like, oh yeah, once I raise and I have [00:34:00] all this cash, then I can not worry about this or not think about this, or, you know, spend this money, however I want to.

And it goes the same way, I think, with anything in business. Where early on there’s this facade or story of, you know, once I have this many people on my team, or once I hit this benchmark, or once I have this type of environment or ecosystem or whatever it is like, then, then it’ll be easier or then I’ll be able to scale it faster, or then I’ll take a break or before 8:00 PM or whatever it is.

And, I think it’s just such a good reminder. Yeah. That’s not really how it works, right. That there’s always going to be the next thing that there is for us to learn about ourselves, about our business, about doing business. There’s always the next goal that we’re striving towards. There’s always another pinch me moment or a moment of disbelief or whatever it is.

Is there anything in hindsight that you do differently?

I wish I brought on people faster.[00:35:00] 

Hmm. Say more about that. 

 I think in that 2020, especially, um, there were a couple of pivotal moments. Like 2020 was tough. I alluded to this earlier, which, you know, in the middle of a global pandemic unprecedented event. And here I am a hiring platform. I, uh, actually had a different team back then. But because of the pandemic, I couldn’t hire a lot of the people full time.

And I had to unfortunately, part ways with, many of the original team members. For, for me then I just buckled down and started just working like three people’s workloads by myself. And I got so burnt out and overwhelmed. Which, you know, led to a lot of revelations. And, uh, there was a moment when I just stopped.

It was a week when I just didn’t do anything. And I took a moment and thought about what can I do? Like to do things totally differently in a different like shift or mindset and do things in a different way. [00:36:00] And I decided. Let’s invest in. Let’s invest, let’s believe in yourself because if you don’t even believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?

So I, you know, started investing. There was like so silly. It was like a sales tool, right. So I decided to invest in a sales tool. Uh, and at that point it was. It was really expensive, right? Like it’s like a one-year annual subscription. And I haven’t even really started selling yet. And here I am invested in this tool, but I said, if you truly want to go after sales and revenue, you need to invest in the right infrastructure.

So I started doing that. And after doing that, I was like, you need to bring on someone who can help you scale the processes very built out. So you can now build something else. That was kind of the beginning of everything hitting in place. And if I could go back, I would do it earlier. I wish I had done that earlier.

Instead of me sitting on my couch and working like three people’s amount of work. For many, many months, which didn’t really go anywhere. 

I love that. And I think you’re [00:37:00] speaking to something that I’ve found to be really powerful too, which is building it as you go, right. Build like one thing at a time, do one thing.

I find a way to make it sustainable and then do the next thing. Right? Like, and to speak in, in tech terms, it’s that agile development, right? It’s instead of, you know, waiting until everything is built out to pass it off to someone else or to seek funding or to whatever it is just do one thing. Get it in working condition, consumable condition, and then move on to building the next thing and stack each of these actions on top of each other. And that never really ends. 

No, for sure. I like to, you know, for our north star metric, we just have one. Like a lot of people, you know, they have lots of KPIs that are tracking for us. We just have one. Uh, number of customers.

Cool. I love that. And where are you at right now? And where do you hope to be as it relates to that north star in six months?

For me, for the next few [00:38:00] months it’s definitely thinking about product and thinking about how we can better serve our customers.

I think when we first started creating the company and the platform, very much to what you said about, you know, put something out there, give feedback. And we did, we actually developed our product in two months. And we got it into people’s hands and people immediately loved it.

We also realized that there were a lot of just things foundationally that we needed to almost rebuild from the ground up. Like after we built the product, we realized it wasn’t integrated with our email system. And if we want it to, um, uh, have automated messaging in the product where people actually get notifications, right?

Like all of these things, like when you launch a product, you just realize all these other things that are tied to it. So we’re actually taking a moment and thinking about what is the minimum lovable product that we can deliver to the customers, in tackling it one step at a time.

If you say. Minimum lovable product. I [00:39:00] absolutely love that. I have always had so much resistance to the MVP term because I’m like, oh, like minimally viable. Like that doesn’t sound fun. That doesn’t sound like something that you want early adopters to like participate in. So you’re creating. MLPs. I love that. I am totally going to borrow that from you.

I didn’t invent it. You should check out a Super Human, they talk a lot about a minimum lovable product.

Okay. Very cool. Well, we’ll put that in the show notes. So you said when we were exchanging information before we did this interview that on your team, you like to have fun and be playful and not worry too much about what competitors are doing, but instead, really focus on delivering value to the people that you serve.

And this is so massively important, in my opinion, I think that ignoring what everyone else in your landscape is doing, is like the thing that makes companies great. Right? It’s the thing that allows companies to create something that’s really resonant. [00:40:00] So tell us about a time when you were facing this really directly and you just had to almost hold yourself accountable to this promise that you’ve made to ignore what else is happening in this space and really focus on your customer.

Yeah, I actually was that just pitch event is kind of like a, it was called, it was called stonks, STONKS. But it’s basically like, like a shark tank where you get to live pitch investors and people are live committing dollars as you go. And one of the questions asked to me was, um, hey, amy was about webs three, uh, and the metaverse.

 I got this question and, it was probably because one of the ways that I was talking about the product was I want people to represent themselves in a more 3d way. Right. And there’s many different definitions of what 3d means, right? Like it could physically be 3d online or can be like, multi-dimensional.

Right. so, so then I got asked this question about the metaverse. Um, and my answer to that was like, Look, if that’s what people want, then sure we’ll do that. But if the users [00:41:00] don’t find that to be something that they want to, they see Rise creating, then we’re not right. Like I can’t tell you whether or not we’re going to be like a metaverse company, but that’s why we talked to the customers, right?

Like what, what did they want? What did they need and how can we provide value there? So yeah, that was like, and it was , this question was asked of me in front of, I think an audience of a few thousand investors. It was live. And I I think it would have been easy to say, yeah, you know, we’re web three and metaverse, and hit all the key words.

But at the end of the day, it’s about what my users and what my, uh, what the people on my platform want. 

Yeah, absolutely. 

So switching gears just a little bit as a founder, you mentioned that one of the things that got you to where you are was giving yourself permission, you mentioned permission to invest into higher and to think bigger.

And so I think the thinking bigger piece is really interesting and something that a lot of people can relate to. So what did it take or what does it [00:42:00] continue to take for you to give yourself permission? To think bigger? 

Yeah. I think as entrepreneurs we’re naturally optimistic but there is also that realism.

Um, and when you’re seeing the landscape of people that look like you, that have successfully created companies who are ahead of you, right? Like you do sort of sometimes have this moment of can I really do it right? Will someone like me be able to do it? And I think that’s when that moment of like self doubt sort of sets in. And recently we’ve been talking a lot about, what do we want to achieve next?

And what kind of company do we want to be? We fundamentally believe that a product like LinkedIn is it’s 20 years old. You know, there, there are definitely room for improvement. And from time to time, I’ll find myself saying like, well, you know, we have to play nice with LinkedIn. And then it took me a moment and said, wait a second.

Why can’t Rise, be the future where professionals use us as the gold standard [00:43:00] to, uh, showcase their careers. Right? Like why can’t we think a little bit bigger on what it’s like to create that new future of work? Why does LinkedIn have to be the default? So I think just the changing that narrative there, even in allowing myself the space to imagine that has been really critical. Because before, you know, and I was like, wow they’re this huge giant, it’s the industry leader.

Right. But just to say, Hey, why not?

I love that. How do you help yourself after a particularly rough day?

I started taking a lot more baths.

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. 

Take a bath, relax the muscles. Relax yourself. 

Totally. Yeah, I think. Learning how to relax at the end of the day, despite what didn’t get finished, despite, you know, the things I’m still in the [00:44:00] middle of handling, despite whatever it was that day is, is something I’ve had to get really practiced at, right.

Like that compartmentalization of, okay, this is going on the shelf until tomorrow morning and we’ll, we’ll reapproach it then. Yeah. How do you show up as the face of your company? Whether it’s in the pitching arena or in whatever other contexts you’re in, on a regular or not so regular basis. How do you show up as the face of your company when you’re dealing with challenging things on the backend?

 Um, even now, being on this podcast, and I mentioned earlier that when I got on like I’m incredibly exhausted. Something I didn’t share is our engineering team is entirely based in Ukraine. So for the past two weeks it’s just been a nightmare yeah. To, to ensure that people are safe that we’re doing whatever we can to help them get to safety. And it really puts things in perspective. Like [00:45:00] two weeks ago we were talking about silly things like, oh, where do we put this emoji in the app? Right. And then a few days later I was checking to ask people if essentially if they are alive.

I think you know, your question about, how do you show up when there are all these challenges sort of happening? Sometimes you just have to be yourself and be open and transparent about it because we are all human. I think it’s important to show people sort of the process because people want to be involved in building a company, especially a community like the one that we’re building.

We actually do our stand-ups live every day now on Tik TOK and on Instagram. So yes, if anyone wants to watch our daily stand-ups. But you also have to realize that, people are looking to you for guidance, for energy, for the direction of the company. So, as much as you, you just have to be human.

Like sometimes you have to be brave. Other times you have to say, look, today’s a really tough day and I’m having a really hard time and people can relate to [00:46:00] that. So that’s that’s all I’ve got just.

 Yeah, it really is that simple. If you were to give one piece of advice to business owners looking to create a tech platform, what would it be?

 Talk to people, talk to your potential customers. Uh, and don’t just talk to people within your network. Talk to cold contacts and see what they will say because it’s better to know earlier than later. 

Yeah. I love that. Okay. So I love to leave our listeners with a mic drop moment. So no pressure. I’m handing you the microphone.

It’s going to be great. You’re going to do a wonderful job. I’m handing you the microphone and a free range to say. The thing that you think need saying.

 There are a lot of things that we could be doing with our time, energy and effort. Think about what you want to do with your time, energy, and effort that will make you proud. Not only in one year, five years, 10 years, but in 20 years. Don’t live with regret.[00:47:00] The world and your kind is to precious, to let it go to waste.

So invest your time and energy, the right way for you.

 Love that. Great job. Thank you.

That was totally off the cuff, but I felt it in the moment. 

That’s I mean, we’ve learned that that’s how you thrive, right? So well done. Vivian, thank you so much. This was a really wonderful conversation. I appreciate you.

And congratulations on what you’ve built, what you’re continuing to build, what you will build in the future. You are creating something really meaningful, really grounded in what people need and what they want, and perhaps what they don’t even know they need and they want yet. And you’re doing it with humanness.

You’re doing it with transparency. You’re doing it with such fierce dedication to what you know could be. And I acknowledge you for that. Congratulations. It’s really incredible to watch. 

Thank you so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. I love how thoughtful the questions were. You know, it’s not just what are your metrics?

[00:48:00] What was your go to market strategy? It really is just, I’m so thankful. I got a chance to just share a little bit more about myself and the story of how we’re creating the company. 

Yeah, it’s a good story. So y’all, you can follow along and watch daily live stand-ups. How cool is that? On instagram@joinrisedotcoistheinstagramhandleandyoucansignupforriseandjointhefutureofworkatwwwdotjoinrise.co.

Thank you so much, Vivian. 

Thank you.

One of my favorite bits from this episode was a term Vivian used minimum lovable product. That statement really raises the bar of what we put out into the world and how we take pride in our work. I really admire how Vivian broadcast her daily stand-ups live, what an incredible act of leadership and how she stands for people being represented in a 3D way.

Did I do something I didn’t know how to do before. This is how Vivian measure success. And I think it’s a sentiment we can all take into our business. You can sign up for Rise and join the future of work at www.Joinrise.co. [00:49:00] And you can follow Rise on Instagram and Tik Tok at joinrise.co.

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