Four years ago, a few weeks after I decided I was going to start my own company, I experienced one of those quintessential character-defining moments. You know what I’m talking about, one of those memories you can point to and say “There. That’s when I saw everything differently.” I distinctly remember sitting in a room full of men at my school’s entrepreneurship mixer one evening. We were all there in hopes of being accepted into UC Santa Barbara’s New Venture Competition, a pitch competition for startups. The head of the department stood on stage and asked us all a question—”Who do you look up to? Which founder out there has done what you want to do?” The whispers around me were unsurprising: Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, you know the rest. He then told us to study up on their journeys, because if they can do it on their own then so can we. “It’s the best time to start a company,” he said confidently.
His question reminded me, however, of the unfortunate truth that I realized many years before that moment. It was easy for the guys around me to pick a role model because the path they hoped to travel down had already been carved out for them by their predecessors, the same ones they looked up to. I’m not saying that makes their path any easier to travel, but it does give you a map when you see someone who looks like you achieve the same dreams that you have. At the very least, their path becomes realistic simply because it already exists. But as a then 21 year-old first generation Indian woman at a mid-tier public school on the Central coast, I could not point to a single woman with my background, or one even remotely similar, who had achieved what I had just set out to do—build a billion dollar company from scratch. It felt like I had just signed up to play a game that was very clearly not built to be played by people like me.
In fact, when we sat with the department chair for our application interview, my co-founder and I were told that even if we could pull off this idea, it would never work with just the two of us. We needed more help, he said. Four years, tens of thousands of users, and a $2.27M seed round later, we finally hired the third person in our company yesterday. Along that journey, I discovered how to carve the path that once didn’t exist for people like me. I’m still learning everyday and I’m nowhere near my end goal, but I am a hell of a lot closer than anyone thought I would be. Getting here was tough but absolutely doable, and I would love to share the map with you so that you can do it, too.
Raising a multi-million dollar seed round in the middle of a global pandemic was not something I had prepared for in my startup journey, but it honestly was not nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.
A year ago, when I decided it was finally time to raise capital for my company, I had so many preconceived notions about what my experience would look like. Was it going to be tougher because I was a woman? Statistics said the answer to that was a resounding ‘yes’. Will it matter that I didn’t go to Stanford or UC Berkeley? That was also looking like a ‘yes’. Is anyone even going to take me seriously? There was only one way to find out. Spoiler alert, though, none of the things I feared stopped me from making it happen. Next up, I’ll be sharing with you exactly how I succeeded so that you can hopefully take some helpful tips for your own journey.