Add another layer to your #Business literacy. We at Serebral360° would love to know if the Forbes – Entrepreneurs article was helpful, leave a comment, like and share. Let’s dive in and discuss the information and put it to use to grow your business. #BusinessStrategy #ContentMarketing #WebDevelopment #BrandStrategy
Info@serebral360.com 762.333.1807 www.serebral360.com
Grap a copy of our NEW Business Stratgety Books #FFSS VOL1 and #FFSS VOL2
Back in November of 2016, I did a piece on Upsolve here. One of the first legal tech non-profits on my radar, I have stayed in touch with the co-founders, Rohan Pavuluri & Jonathan Petts, and was excited when they announced their acceptance into Y Combinator.
Brief recap: Upsolve is a nonprofit that helps families in crippling debt file for bankruptcy for free. You can think of us as TurboTax for bankruptcy. In the last six months, they’ve relieved $30,000,000+ in debt for over 500 families. Millions of families fall into debt from medical bills, layoffs, and predatory loans every year. These families are on the verge of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. Bankruptcy is a lifeline to help these families get back on their feet before things get worse. Upsolve makes this lifeline accessible with technology.
Mary Juetten: What is Y Combinator and why did You Participate?
Rohan Pavuluri & Jonathan Petts: Y Combinator (YC) is considered the world’s best startup accelerator and has incubated tech unicorns like AirBnB, Dropbox, and Reddit. Twice a year, they invest $150,000 in a group of startups. For nonprofits, YC makes a $100,000 grant.
For the 12 weeks of Y Combinator, we moved from Brooklyn to Silicon Valley and lived and worked on our startup out of a three bedroom apartment in Mountain View.
We had three YC partners coaching us, Michael Seibel, the co-founder of Twitch, Tim Brady, Yahoo’s first employee, and Kevin Hale, the founder of Wufoo. There were also boot camps on growth, hiring, and fundraising. Every Tuesday night, there was a dinner at YC, where a different tech leader gave an off-the-record talk. Then, at the end of YC, we did a two-minute pitch at Demo Day to investors and donors.
Doing YC was a dream come true for us for the (1) coaching we received from world-class entrepreneurs; (2) the friendships we formed with our batchmates; and (3) the progress we made in a short amount of time.
Juetten: When did you decide to go? Were you worried about the impact on the existing business?
Pavuluri & Petts: We moved to Mountain View on January 2nd. We were a bit worried that Upsolve would be hard to manage when half of our team was in Mountain View and half of our team was back on the East Coast. But we were able to manage our team remotely well enough through video conference meetings every morning.
Juetten: Was the experience positive? Stressful?
Pavuluri & Petts: Going through YC was a life highlight for our team. Our group partners really pushed us to scale our impact and to generate revenue to become less reliant on philanthropy. Their advice had a huge effect. We now cover half of our costs through revenue. Within the next 12 months, we aim to be the first legal services nonprofit in the country to cover all operating costs with revenue. We’ll invest any additional philanthropic capital into growth.
Juetten: Was it as expected? What specifically was different?
Pavuluri & Petts: We were amazed by how the partners were able to push us to accomplish things we didn’t think we could accomplish at the start. For example, Michael Seibel encouraged us to find a way to generate revenue to become self-sustainable, so we could focus on our mission rather than fundraising. At first, we didn’t think we could find a way to do this. But we did.
Our business model is to ask non-low-income people who end up at our site whether they’re interested in seeing a paid attorney for a free consultation. If they say yes, we connect them with an attorney who pays us a marketing fee. This allows us to focus our time and energy on the families who need us rather than on fundraising.
Juetten: Top lessons learned?
Pavuluri & Petts: Here are our top five:
- Whatever your ambitions are for yourself, add a zero. Or two.
- The CEO should write a weekly update email to the team with progress on all key metrics, and a monthly update email to all funders. When you don’t hit your goals, you need to feel the pain of sharing where you came up short.
- “Follow your growth.” This means if a growth channel is working well for you, double down.
- Don’t hire someone to solve a problem you don’t know how to solve. For example, don’t hire a salesperson until you have figured out how to sell.
- Pick one or two key metrics to track everyday. Don’t deviate.
Juetten: Tips for entrepreneurs applying to Y Combinator?
Pavuluri & Petts: There’s lots of great advice online on how to craft a good YC application and prepare for a YC interview. In our experience, YC is looking for for-profits that have three characteristics: (1) a big market that could turn into a billion dollar company; (2) a formidable team with a technical co-founder; and (3) an ability to get a lot done in a little bit of time.
For nonprofits, YC is really looking at nonprofits that have the potential to generate earned revenue and scale like for-profit tech companies.
Juetten: Any company who should not go a Y Combinator or other accelerators?
Pavuluri & Petts: We think YC is a great experience for everyone, particularly companies that are pre-product market fit. As long as you have a unique thesis for how the world should be different in 10 years, and a rough sketch for how you’re going to be the one to create that future, YC is for you.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Pavuluri & Petts: Yes, we’re excited to announce our newest round of funders: Vinod Khosla, Chris and Crystal Sacca, Jim Breyer, Kevin Hale, Breyer Labs, the Nasiri Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation.
We feel lucky to be working with some of the top investors in Silicon Valley. For example, Jim Breyer led the Facebook Series A and sat on its board. Chris Sacca was an early investor in Twitter, Uber, and Instagram. We also feel lucky to be funded by people who are leaders in their field like Larry Kramer, the Hewlett Foundation President and former Dean of Stanford Law School.
And we’re grateful for continued financial and in-kind support from the Robin Hood Foundation, the Legal Services Corporation, and Janine Sickmeyer of NextChapter.
Juetten: Congratulations! What’s next?
Pavuluri & Petts: Back to Brooklyn! We’re excited to use what we’ve learned at YC to relieve over $100,000,000 in debt over the next year. We’re also laser-focused on becoming the first legal aid nonprofit in the country that covers all of its own operating costs.
Great story! Anyone else with lessons learned from time in an incubator or accelerator, please reach out on Twitter @maryjuetten. #onwards.
April 11, 2019 at 09:27AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs