On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Untapped Capital, Alltruists and Kiva founder Jessica Jackley talks about her experience supporting entrepreneurs across the world, and offers advice to founders on what to do when encountering doubt -- from themselves or others.
"The pursuit of an opportunity, a vision, like an imaginary world that you want to make real. You're running after this thing, you're pursuing it without regard to what you have in front of you," she said. "So there's always going to be something wrong."
Jackley's journey as an entrepreneur started when she founded Kiva, a nonprofit that lends money to low-income entrepreneurs. She started the company and moved to East Africa where she heard stories of people starting businesses with just $100.
"I wasn't asked to swoop in and help or save. I was asked strategic questions about where they could access loan capital, where they could access business training," said Jackley. She added that the individuals she met through the service didn't want handouts.
Kiva offered $200, $300 loans at no interest. That model helped build successful small businesses. Every year, they saw a raise on how many loans they could offer. The company has so far facilitated $1.5 billion in loans since the business started in 2005.
More recently, Jackley founded Untapped Capital and Alltruists. Untapped gave her opportunities to invest in unexpected companies and watch them rise, much like Kiva. Alltruists was born out of the pandemic.
"I really wanted to figure out a way, especially as we were on lockdown, like how do we not just have our lives be waiting for the doorbell to ring and another package is dropped off and we just consume it, right? What, what would it look like to reach back out into the world in a way that is helpful," said Jackley.
She created a box subscription service that provides kids with activities that can benefit them and the world. The company's last box focused on making a pollinator hotel for bees.
From her ventures, Jackley recognized when pursuing your dreams, something will always go wrong.
"There's going to be days when you are told, or you're telling yourself, 'well, I'm not old enough', 'I'm too old'. 'I don't have enough experience'. 'I have the wrong experience', whatever," said Jackley. "Just take more steps anyway towards that thing. Cause that's what great entrepreneurs do."
Hear more of the episode, in which Jackley talks about her goal to disrupt the volunteer economy and more.
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Turns out even well-paid lawyers want deferred payment services.
Dylan Ruga, an intellectual property attorney founded Steno Agency, along with two former executives at restaurant reservation platform Reserve, in 2018. Steno Agency gives lawyers the option to pay for the service once the case is settled.
One headache for attorneys is the cost they have to front when hiring court reporters. Attorneys representing the plaintiff don't usually recoup the cost until their cases have been resolved.
"That's where the idea for Steno was born because [Dylan] went looking for a court reporting agency that would defer payment until the case resolves," CEO and co-founder Greg Hong said. He couldn't find one.
The Westwood-based startup prides itself on its deferred payment system, DelayPay, that allows attorneys to hire court reporters and videographers without the worry of upfront costs.
Last week, the company received $20 million in debt financing from Rivonia Road Capital, a global alternative asset manager.
In other ways, Steno Agency isn't very different from most court reporting agencies that offer court reporting, videography, interpreters, remote depositions, litigation support services. But, unlike other court reporting agencies, it has a different payment plan.
Hong boasts that while there are court reporting agencies, litigation finance companies, tech companies within the legal space, "very few companies, if any, are offering all three under one umbrella."
Brad Smiedt, co-founder and managing partner of Rivonia, said strong management plays a role in their decision to finance a startup.
"We wanted to know that there is a reliable, experienced team that is going to be successful," Smiedt said and that's why they were able to finance Steno with $20 million in debt financing. "But because we are getting involved early in the company's lifecycle, we are taking some risk that the company is going to either be successful or not successful."
The agency also offers Steno Connect, a videoconferencing platform built for remote depositions and remote bench trials. Some of the funds will be used to hire more engineers to build and add to their products like Steno Connect.
"It really empowers an attorney to emulate what they would have done if they were there for an in person deposition in terms of the manner in which they would share documents and it just makes the user behavior more natural," Hong said.
In a traditional court setting, exhibit handling can be in the form of an 8x11 poster board that will be shown during a deposition. Attorney's using Steno Connect will be able to share documents seamlessly. Unlike Google Meet, when someone shares their screen, it takes over the whole monitor and prevents you from working.
"So when you would share that document, you'd see the documents side by side with the images and it would allow the participants to more fluidly interact with the exhibits themselves," Hong said.
The company operates in California, Texas, Illinois, and New York and plans on expanding across the country.
Shawn Colo's rise as an investor has tracked the rise of the internet, from the early days when Google began to index websites and radically change how media was created and distributed, to the present day, as ecommerce has surged.
Colo joined the LA Venture podcast to talk about being a founder of Demand Media and 3L Capital, his investments in L.A.-based AvantStay and Relativity Space and what he sees ahead in local delivery and logistics.
Colo started his career as a private equity investor in the late 90s in Silicon Valley. There, saw the media industry changing as radio, cable and satellite-based companies went through a period of consolidation as the telecom industry began to deregulate. At the same time, internet companies were building themselves off the back of Google.
"It sort of dawned on me that there was going to be another opportunity to aggregate media. And this new form of media was basically in the form of websites. So that was really the original idea. And we ended up putting together a couple of assets to start the company," said Colo.
That concept became Demand Media -- now known as Leaf Group -- a company designed to operate online brands.
Now a partner at 3L Capital, Colo uses some of that experience to write checks for $10 to 30 million for raises at around the Series B level. The L.A. and New York-based fund invests in a wide variety of companies, including The RealReal, Relativity Space and AvantStay, among many others.
Right now, Colo says he sees an opportunity in delivery and logistics that's as transformative as what he was seeing in the media space during the Demand Media days. 3L has invested in Goja and goPuff, two startups that he sees redefining the shopping experience and delivery infrastructure.
"We haven't seen this caliber of management matched with the size of this opportunity ever. So, it's probably one of the best times to be investing in technology right now," Colo said.
Hear his thoughts on the future of local retail, as well as his strategy behind investing in L.A. companies including AvantStay and Relativity Space in the rest of the episode.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
Americans are expected to spend a record amount on online shopping this Monday. But inventory shortages caused by global supply chain disruptions could damper the holiday cheer.
Adobe Analytics, which monitors holiday shopping, expects Americans to spend more on the digital holiday than even Black Friday. But they are likely to see many items out of stock. On the top of the list of items expected to be sold out: apparel, electronics, sporting goods and products for young children.
Adobe estimates Americans will spend $11.3 billion over an average of 12 hours accumulated shopping per customer this season.
Hot ticket items to look out for this holiday season are Apple Airpods and Airpods Max, drones, Samsung and LG TVs, air fryers, weighted blankets, instapots, record players, smart mugs and water bottles.
An estimated 62.8 million people plan to shop on Cyber Monday this year, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation.
Malls and other stores started filling early as retailers bumped up their sales ahead of Black Friday. The early shopping has cut into store inventories.
The usual plethora of cheap tech gadgets like laptops, TVs and game consoles has also been harmed by the chip shortages that have reduced supplies.
"Inventory shortages will be very much of a concern, and the bottlenecks and the delays and the high cost will impact the price of products that are in high demand," said Nick Vyas, director of USC's Kendrick Global Supply Chain Management Institute.
He said readily available products will have steep discounts, while items with less inventory are likely to be marked closer to their retail value.
The disruption in the global supply chain will force many Americans who had counted on buying those cheap tech gifts to get creative with their gift-giving. The NRF expects gift card purchases to hit $28.1 billion as shoppers look for more flexible options for presents.
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