This episode is a re-broadcast of episode 21, my interview with Ting Gootee, the Chief Investment Officer of Elevate Ventures. This is one of my favorite interviews we’ve done on the podcast. In this episode, Ting shares a little bit about her background and the investment work she does. She walks through the Elevate Ventures process for how they make investment choices and breaks down a framework for how she thinks of competition in the market and how they leverage that a little bit in their process of choosing a potential investment.
Topics in this episode:
Process of going through Elevate in order to secure an investment:
Buckets of 10-12 metrics through which Elevate ensures that an EIR fits the framework:
Role as Chief Investment Officer for Elevate
How competition affects and shapes on a potential investment
Determining the real opportunity that is available to a potential investment
Red flags a potential investment may have
Most awkward moment in a pitch
Mike Kelly: Welcome to the podcast. This is your host Mike Kelly, and today we're sitting with Ting Gootee of Elevate Ventures. She's the chief investment officer, Ting, welcome to the podcast.
Ting Gootee: Thank you Mike. Thanks for the opportunity. Glad to be here.
Mike Kelly: Awesome. So maybe let's start with a little bit of background on what Elevate is and what you guys do?
Ting Gootee: Sure, absolutely. Elevate is a impact investing firm, headquarter, Indianapolis. Our investment strategy is focused on pre-seed, seed and early stage opportunities. We have seven different investment funds active across those stages of the opportunities and five of them are direct investment funds and two are sort of funds/sidecar programs.
Ting Gootee: So we're very reactive in terms of our investment volume, if not one of the largest, definitely one of the most active in Indiana. In fact, in 2017 we were listed by PitchBook as one of the top 10 global most active seed and early stage investors and we're the number one in the big lakes region in terms of deal activity.
Mike Kelly: How many deals did you guys do last year or another way to ask about is how many do you anticipate you'll do this year?
Ting Gootee: Yeah, typical volume across all different funds are probably around 50 or 60 in total. A good portion of in pre-seed stage. To give you kind of a sense of scope or activities, Mike, since starting our portfolio in 2010 we invested up to this point, which is early 2018 we put about 75 million total roughly into almost 270 companies. And they have all those company as a result also attracted roughly half a billion in capital from other sources. It's fairly impactful just from that perspective.
Mike Kelly: Awesome. And then in my mind, you've always been with Elevate. Have you been with Elevate since 2010?
Ting Gootee: Yes. Great question. Naturally I was Elevate pre the Elevate days.
Mike Kelly: Okay.
Ting Gootee: I was with the team then kind of a looked at the model around the country, identified the best practices that laid a foundation to the Elevate model, which the core piece of it is this entrepreneur residence and mentoring, the coaching and advising of the startups at the earliest stage beyond just the capital to work. And I think our advising has a sort of different flavor in the sense that compared to a traditional VC fund, the most VC fund tend to spend most of our time on the portfolio development after the investment is made, we tend to spend most of our EIR resource on the front end and deal kind of cultivating and nurturing deal flow by mentoring and coaching.
Mike Kelly: Can you talk about that process a little bit more? So somebody meets an EIR out in the wild, walk through the process from there to the point that they might be cashing a check.
Ting Gootee: Sure. As you can imagine, it's fairly lengthy process but we try to-
Mike Kelly: May or may not have gone through at once.
Ting Gootee: Right, right, absolutely. So as I mentioned earlier, that our entrepreneur residents, they spend most of our time out in the community interacting with entrepreneurs. We don't call it formal engagement but establish a coaching and mentor relationship with entrepreneur that can be ongoing from ones to some instances a couple of years. And that kind of leads to getting entrepreneurial ready for especially receiving outside capital. We kind of evolved our investment process over the years, but now the current one is working pretty well essentially involves through all that coaching and mentoring from the ERS will ultimately led to a investment pitch deck that will get better to our Monday... We don't call it partner meeting, we call it investment team vetting meeting and once that's ago, that's essentially the first opportunity for Elevate to take a look at a particular investment opportunities, say at a high level right fit was are investment pieces, interesting components and again we want to move up, spend more time on getting to know the entrepreneurs.
Mike Kelly: Can I ask a quick question on that meeting?
Ting Gootee: Sure.
Mike Kelly: Because I'm fascinated and curious, it has nothing to do with competition necessarily.
Ting Gootee: Yeah.
Mike Kelly: Is the EIR in that meeting championing the startup or do you just have a deck and you guys are looking through it and basically making the call of whether or not to move them forward just on the deck alone?
Ting Gootee: Great question. The answer is both. So we do every team member look at the deck. EIR company's not in the meetings so the EIR definitely has an opportunity, we call it deal sponsor. Deal sponsor will have to be able to answer any questions that might come up. So in a way, it is championing in the sense that they have most of them, especially for the EIR becoming deal sponsor, they have spent quite a bit time made some investment and time and commitment working with entrepreneurs.
Ting Gootee: I think in a way they are emotionally invested in wanting to see the entrepreneur move forward. Yeah. So we try to strike the balance in terms of I know it's tough, especially for the entrepreneur in residence when they have so much emotional involvement. It's a delicate line between advocating and evaluating. That's why we try to come up with a simple 10 or 12 point checkpoints or scoring points. We call it scoring metrics. So at least give everybody on the same framework to say this is not about emotional decisions, simply check, check, check, check, check. Are they fitting the framework. That's been working well so far?
Mike Kelly: Am I allowed to ask what those 10 or 12 points are?
Ting Gootee: Yeah. Well now though, while you can, but I don't remember the-
Mike Kelly: Theme that are good enough.
Ting Gootee: ... Themes, Yes.
Mike Kelly: Yes.
Ting Gootee: Our entire evaluation process, the buckets of factors are pretty consistent with delivery. So essentially a team, market, product, customer and return in a way of specific criteria under each.
Mike Kelly: And the return is the forecasted return for Elevate?
Ting Gootee: Right.
Mike Kelly: Based on that deal.
Ting Gootee: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Kelly: Got it. All right. All right, jump back to the script. So talk to me a little bit about, so as chief investment officer, tell me a little bit about that role in your responsibility and then I'd love to hear a little bit about your background and what got you to that role.
Ting Gootee: Sure. My primary responsibility here is managing the entire investment both on the front end pipeline management. I don't do so much on deal sourcing side directly, but I work with the ERS to make sure the right opportunity gets into funnel into our investment pipeline. I also am really so responsible in terms of setting up all the investment policy and criteria and process and framework. How we measure our performance as a holistic investment team as well as conducting diligence and generating diligence report leading up to the investment committee hopefully of informed decision making.
Ting Gootee: And after a transaction is done, I'm responsible for all the portfolio management activities including placing folks on boards, monitoring portfolio performance as well as all the portfolio reporting and valuation activities. I'm not doing it alone, obviously we have analysts in our team. We have in house to council and in parallel working very closely and was EIRs to develop and manage our pipeline.
Mike Kelly: And how'd you get here?
Ting Gootee: I think I'm accidental entrepreneur or entrepreneur by accident and I'm really lucky in though in that way. I grew up in China, did not grow up thinking I was going to be entrepreneurial. Actually it was a trainee in liberal arts, after grad school at Purdue fell into the hedge fund industry in his hay days. That's a long story how I got there, but spent three years there. I really loved that was really my intro to the finance world. Really loved it.
Mike Kelly: Was that here or was that in Chicago?
Ting Gootee: It's a global hedge fund. It started out by a Purdue guy and kind of as a result of that, the general counsel was also from Purdue and he lives here and he operates his entire operations out of Carmel-
Mike Kelly: Got it.
Ting Gootee: ... Of all places. But they're the main guys in Toronto, back office is in London. It's trading desk in Singapore, it's a very global operation, very successful. And they fit well during the financial crisis. But long story short, they really kind of really opened my eyes. I loved it, loved the people I work with and want to stay in finance, but also now in order for me to do that, coming from a liberal arts background, I got to go brush up on just general business plus number crunching skills. So I went back to Kelly, got my MBA from there.
Ting Gootee: That was right before I believe the great recession. So the job market and the finance started to become all those huffs end up taking again, accidental end up taking a summer internship at the at the time. That was still part of the, well, was still managed in house by a team inside the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.
Ting Gootee: After the summer internship, the full time opportunity opened up, I liked the opportunity so much. I liked the team that I work with so much I understood and believe in the vision at the vision at time, just to make that pool of resources perhaps better utilized, make a bigger impact. I believe in the mission and vision so much, I decided to stay. So ended up spending two years there and really work with a team that it led to the of Elevate Ventures. Now we were mostly independent entity. Obviously the government's still our biggest client, but or independent entity that's hopefully building our market credibility as a value added investor and needed investor here in this marketplace.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. Awesome. Thank you. When you're evaluating a deal, how do you think of competition and that can be as simple as what are some of the things you're looking for in the competitive landscape or things that you're not like red flags, any sort of heuristics around when either it's when you're looking at that deck for the first time or when a founder is in the room pitching the things that you're looking at to listen for?
Ting Gootee: Yeah, great question. Coming into this podcast I actually swung to try to rewind my memory a little bit. Kind of come through different pitches that we've heard over the years. Probably amounts to thousands now, Mike, this is such an important question yet, so few are prepared to answer.
Ting Gootee: I just remember time after time, most of people will have to look at standard 12 and 15 slide deck. Most of the people might have a one slide on competition. Most companies tend to gloss over it, not spending too much time. So you never to believe during a Q&A session we always ask who is your competition? Essentially the way I like to look at competition is not so much competition in terms of the technology or competing sellers to the same customer base, but it's more around if there is a problem, that's an underlying assumption. What are the solutions are trying to address that problem sometimes could be nothing, right?
Mike Kelly: Yeah.
Ting Gootee: So competition in a sense is also, how big is the problem and how urgent is a problem? Especially in healthcare there's so many problems. How do you get onto the top of the stack that tends to drive a lot of at least in my mind, the competition discussions in my head when we're talking of our competition. And also when we're looking at the market, we also look at is it growing? Is it growing and what are some of the headwinds and tailwinds of someone doing micro market trend analysis, we tend to look at what's going on in the marketplace, who else is there? What are the trends?
Ting Gootee: Another thing we tend to look at it a lot is are there any strategic and active VC investments in this space? That way this kind of in a way help us understand the competitive strategy a particular company is pursuing. Are you first to market? That's fine, but are you ready to do the market education or you were funded to do so? Or if you're a me too second tier solution, how are we positioned to win? So in a way to me the competition is so much in a standalone case, but how does correlate to competitive strategy close in the short term and the long term?
Mike Kelly: So some of those things that you mentioned, particularly at the end, are you first to market, which means you're going to go on an education campaign and that takes time and money experiencing that on one of our companies or what is other funding look like in the space, things like that? How often do you think of the 270 startups you guys have funded, how often if you're saying no to somebody, do you think it's because of that, right? Because of something that has to do with the overall market condition and maybe it is a great idea and maybe it is going to change the world, but you think that either the timing is wrong or the funding is wrong or maybe the strategy is wrong. How often would you say a no decision because of competition or versus all the other things that could be the IP, the teams or whatever the case may be?
Ting Gootee: Yeah, I will say out of our nose, again this is just kind of a back of a napkin kind of analysis. Most of the time when we say no, really the top two reasons where I say no are team, a market, a market mostly it's around the market opportunity weren't competitive, the right timing, is this particular opportunity position... Or this particular business position to win sometimes the opportunities, right, but you are coming on and say, "I'm going to take on be the next eCommerce site, take on Amazon." You got to better make it a really compelling case why you think that's feasible. Right. And a lot of times in my mind this two team and market sort of are correlated in a way that, and I don't pretend to know everything or be intimately familiar with a variety of market opportunities we're looking at. So to me it's more a discovery process in terms of how the entrepreneurs get to the conclusion they did, for me is more understanding of that process, have they gone through some validation?
Ting Gootee: I mean it's more than that. So much the how but more the why. For instance, we see very familiar with this competitive table. The features set, competitive table, write all the checks and this one has on the comparative still.
Mike Kelly: Our column has all of the checks.
Ting Gootee: Yeah, all the checks and the immediate question I have in my mind is, okay, you come to that conclusion that that based on your conversation was it the potential customers or is it just something in your head? Right. Again, I think to me is more the underlying work that leading up to either the X, Y chart or a checks table.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. When you think of the market opportunity you're talking about like let's say we're both holding a coffee cup, right? So let's say I have a new innovation in the coffee cup space. It's going to keep your solar powered coffee cup. It's going to keep your coffee warm longer because you drink so much coffee outside apparently. I don't know.
Mike Kelly: So if I'm the entrepreneur, right, I want to pitch drink where as a $50 billion market annually, right? I'm going to go for the biggest top line number that I possibly can, which encompasses all drink where everywhere, not just coffee cups. Right? That's the classic, this is a $50 billion market opportunity.
Ting Gootee: Only 2% of that.
Mike Kelly: Right. I'm sure you see that all the time. How do you then or how do the EIRs, because it probably not you by the time you see it. What is the process of getting to that real number for Elevate? Whether it's coaching the entrepreneur or the questions that you're asking, how do you figure out what's the real opportunity that's in front of this product?
Ting Gootee: Yeah, Mike, you're absolutely right. The easy way, it's easier way as you just described as a top down approach. Well, we always like to see from entrepreneurs the bottomless approach, which is what you're thinking you can sell your coffee cups at versus realistically, how much do you think you can sell? Because not everybody's going to buy one and kind of circle back to thinking about market size or market competition general, and in my mind is perfectly okay to say our initial set of coffee cups can only sell to this particular customer profile and that aggregates to a smaller pie. That that's initial entry point. But as long as we're able to articulate future growth opportunities, that's perfectly acceptable solution. It doesn't have to be a 20 billion market day one. More importantly, how can you carve out a niche, maybe make a beachhead and really take a position in the marketplace and grow from there.
Mike Kelly: I just felt a little tension in me while you said that because they're like this... And maybe this is wrong, so I'll tell you what the tension is. Maybe I'm overthinking it. I feel like as an entrepreneur who's putting together a pitch deck, there's this tension between talking about an iterative go to market strategy, right? But what I mean by that is, let's say I'm selling to this customer today because that's the only features that we can afford to build, right? Then over the next two years, we're going to build these features which will allow us to sell to this customer, and then we're going to build these features that'll allow us to sell to this customer. And then the data's valuable, which allows us to sell to this customer, right? So I'm building this kind of product roadmap that talks about the total kind of vision for the future of this product.
Mike Kelly: Obviously as an entrepreneur, I need to be doing that. And I would think as an investor you would want to see that. But I think there's always this fear as the entrepreneur that, I don't want a signal to Ting or to Elevate that, I don't want to signal to them that I'm going to get distracted, right? That if I put this future roadmap up there that shows all these other potential customers, especially if those customers might be adjacent to your current customer. Not like not a more sophisticated version. So let's say you're selling to real estate people initially. If you're selling to other types of real estate people, I think that's less of a concern. But if down the road you think, well, I'm also going to then sell it to the banks that provide financing for those deals and then I'm going to sell to the actual tenants and the banks and the people who own the building.
Mike Kelly: Right? So I always feel as an entrepreneur it's sometimes scary to do that because the last thing I want to send a signal to the investment team or the person who's thinking of investing is we're going to get distracted. We're going to be focusing on five customers, not one customer. Right? I almost want it to be the other way where it's like, no, no, no, no. This is the one thing we're going to do. We're going to do it really well. This is the strategy. We're not going to get distracted from that. Talk a little bit about that and how you try to balance that and the way that you view it.
Ting Gootee: Sure, yeah. It's interesting you have that perception because while I was listening to you, what you just described to me actually is a fairly focused stepwise approach because what you're saying is you're not going out and try to tackle five markets or five customers all at the same time, you're taking a thoughtful approach in terms of let's try real estate first. None of the bank makes sense. Let's go after that. So to me that's a thoughtful potential growth strategy. Again, I think it continue goes back to the not the how, but the why. Right? As long as you can articulate why there's an opportunity, why it make sense, why this competitive strategy will enable us to win in the long term that's defensible versus to me if he can't articulate the why, to me is you haven't thought it through.
Ting Gootee: I think the perfect example in similar were companies I've got two and came to mind that I serve on the boards of, I mean the first couple of years we made a very deliberate decision either we're going to go very focused on the channel partners. We're not going to go direct and for this and this, this and this and reasons. Even though the initial market opportunity just purely based on channel is fairly small given a resource constraint, the board made a decision and deal it with the management team to say it makes sense because if you have a channel conflict from day one, you've got a direct effort it's going to be really tempered.
Ting Gootee: It ties back to the competitive strategy situation where we're on rather leveraged channel because the channel is not dominating most of the market opportunity versus going against channel at the moment, so that's the why that makes sense and then enabled the particular focus strategy. Now in both sit cases, the two or three years down the road, all of a sudden the customers are ready to buy direct. Now let's say timing is right and then we have to reinvest from this resources and build the sales and marketing team to tackle the direct to buyer, direct to enterprise opportunities.
Mike Kelly: Do you have any heuristics around when you look at the competitive landscape for a product or an opportunity that when you see X, you know you don't want to invest, right? So you see maybe it's something like one we're looking at in eCommerce play and it is something that Amazon does have but maybe they don't do well. So like dental supply is one that comes to mind, right? So Amazon does not sell much of that meaning products to dentists themselves. And so there are a couple of eCommerce sites that are emerging in that space that are trying to do a better job of that. If you were looking at that deal for example, with just the fact that it's something that Amazon could pivot into, therefore we're not interested. Do you have any heuristics that you can think of that are kind of, I don't want to say deal-breakers because I'm sure nothing in and of itself is a deal breaker but are big red flags?
Ting Gootee: Yeah, I've seen that, call it the center of Universe where any particular opportunity in the center of all the universe, everything else connected to them and you're the best thing in the calm that connect everybody else. They are opportunities like that. We want to be the Salesforce system of record for everything. But in the technology space in particular, it's pretty hard to accomplish. And also that may make sense from a long-term strategy standpoint, but doesn't really explain how do you enter in the market to begin with. So that's one kind of a reflect to me is an indication of the entrepreneur's mindset in terms of how they see the world with everybody else is revolving around them.
Mike Kelly: Right. Interesting.
Ting Gootee: Yeah, I think it's tough to build a team and a business from that mindset perspective. And the second thing, it's not so much a chart, but whenever people say because of a better technology, you know they need to do a little more customer discovery. I remember Tim Cook said this before even though I mean he comes from a very successful technology background in the marketing and sales role, you can have the best technology but essentially people don't buy technology. People buy from people.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. History is littered with better technology that never made it.
Ting Gootee: Right. So, those are the two glowing ones that I can think of.
Mike Kelly: Maybe some quicker questions or more fun questions. When you reflect back on pitches that you hear, give me the maybe the most awkward moment in a pitch in the last eight years.
Ting Gootee: Yeah, the most awful and for me at least I feel awkward. I'm not sure how the momtrepreneurs feel actually. They're the ones that since we get entrepreneurs start talking, spent so much time on the problem as well as the technology at the beginning literally went on it's more than probably half an hour, or 45 minutes, one case probably or one an hour. The monologue was jumping and interacting. I'm sure we all read blogs and I believe it because I was on receiving end of it. The first five minutes is so critical to capture people's attention. When you are pitching in the room and you're not seeing the reaction from the audience, question should be popping up in your mind, are they engaged, are they interested? Right. When you went on and on for 35, even to an hour, 35 minutes to an hour without any engagement from the audience, it's not a good sign.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. How have you seen entrepreneurs capture attention very quickly in the first five minutes? Do you have some examples of where you've seen that particularly well done where it's like, "No, no. I'm sitting up straight or I'm super engaged." What were they doing that that made you sit up straight or and really lean in?
Ting Gootee: Yeah. The ones that really it got our attention are the ones the entrepreneurs bring their team and we always started was around the table and directions. So when they're bringing their senior team. And then in a way I understand there's a different sense of style in when you're engaging in conversations or communications, but you can hear people's passion and excitement in their own voice. Things that naturally get people into more leaning in says, hey, they're all really excited people versus this monologue going on, the technology. So your voice and your tone, you bring your team, everybody's excited and the passion, first thing you want to see is this team passionate about the problem they're solving? You can hear the passion in the voice that really kind of sets the tone and two, once you're down selling your team, make sure you do sell your team because that is the most important thing we look at our stage.
Ting Gootee: And two, once you got some traction, whether it's customer interviews or pre-sold prospective customers, or you have a growth track and your traction beats everything else. Right. Even though I can tell you that so many times I've gone through pitches, the entrepreneurs have actually done customer interviews, but they don't bring it up in the entire conversation. And I had asked the question, "So have you done customer interviews?" And, "Oh yeah, yeah, we'd done 100." "That's great. Tell us about the customer interviews. What did you learn?"
Mike Kelly: Right. What did they say?
Ting Gootee: Exactly. Again, team and customer is what had got out us the most excited.
Mike Kelly: Team and customer.
Ting Gootee: Yeah.
Mike Kelly: What are some compelling ways that you've seen entrepreneurs package that customer story, whether it's personas profiles, interview data, analysis data, are there any particularly innovative ways where you've seen somebody present that data and you're like, "Whoa, okay, these guys have spent 10,000 hours doing this. That's amazing." Or is it the opposite? Is it more a story is like the anecdotal, I'm going to tell you a story about my customer, which is reflective of the real customer, but it's going to maybe tie into the emotion and the pain they feel. Is it more like is a story a better way to go?
Ting Gootee: Great question. That's it. That's a really great question because most of the times especially in the sales process is not repeatable yet and customer traction's limited. Because there's a stage of a company where you equate customer that's the stage of company that we deal with the most. Most of time as I reflect on those, entrepreneurs like to tell stories, got referenceable customers making the emotional connection what people are buying. That makes all the sons that kind of gets or at least gets me halfway there. I don't remember the last time somebody pre-packaged a really nice customer metrics or the customer information. I mean they might show the pipeline, they might show the CAG. They might show the LTV.
Mike Kelly: It's interesting because while you're talking about this, I'm thinking about ways I could've done that better. I'm thinking about what is it like-
Ting Gootee: Yeah. Now I'm kind of amazed how-
Mike Kelly: Little attention there is to that.
Ting Gootee: ... How little attention that has been paid to the tag. Maybe entrepreneur are thinking those will come out through the diligence process, but evening in the presentation stage, I mean some really ask those questions even they're not presenting it but in the actual I can't remember one, well it kind of presented to us but there was more getting ready to pitch for series B and then really kind of show the chart on CAG and LTV ratio and different channel performance and turn all that kind of good stuff you expect to see that a stage. But at the early revenue stage most folks are Kind of, they want to show the best they could have done with showing the pipeline. Trying to tell a pipeline story was some anecdotes.
Mike Kelly: Yeah. I'm thinking of one of our startups, Waterly, sells to small municipalities. It's for EPA reporting for water treatment. Super exciting space. Let me tell you, and one of the awesome things about that business is every single utility manager for every city is listed on a website with their phone number, email, like you said. So every single potential buyer for this product, you can scrape off the web putting a spreadsheet or putting sales force or whatever you want and track it. And so what's interesting about that business is we of course have that data and then we segmented it based on the population size of the city, which gives you an idea of complexity into our small, medium, large customers. And so we have all of this data. And of course this is probably the only product that I've worked on where I've seen that kind of upfront definition of this is the total universe of people who can sell to.
Mike Kelly: There are not more. It's not like if you go on LinkedIn and you look for this job title, it's like well that's probably two thirds or maybe a third of the people. You know what I mean? But no, it's like this is it. And if you strike out on these 700 for the state of Illinois, there's not more like that's it, right? So, then we went to the next level. So some of the folks on the team of have started pole like demographic data because you can start to correlate because I have the person's name. Maybe you can go to LinkedIn and you'd start to see which ones are older or younger, who's been in their job longer lest they might feel the pain more but not too long because then they're established in their ways and they don't want to change.
Mike Kelly: Start to pull that kind of profile information. So in the sales cycle we can decide, all right, where's the best target of opportunity, where we're going to get the shorter shelf life. Not that we won't tell that the other folks, but we need quick wins. Right. Because we need revenue. That's kind of interesting how we've not done that for almost any other product.
Ting Gootee: Right. Most of the stuff go to market, so we're going to go to the trade shows. Okay. And everybody's gone to the trade show and do we have a differentiated marketing strategy? Yeah, it's interesting.
Mike Kelly: All right. Favorite investment that you've made maybe in the last couple of years that you're really excited about and you can name them explicitly or not? Once you've got that in your head, I'd love to know why. What about that made it exciting or is keeping it exciting as you continue to reflect on it?
Ting Gootee: Yeah. Wow. First of all, disclaimer, we love our kids equally.
Mike Kelly: Yes. Of course.
Ting Gootee: So it's not Taylor. Well, I'm a little biased because I'm personally involved in this or some emotional investment in this particular one, but I love underdog story. This one is it is the one I'm talking about. is a underdog story in the sense that the two co-founders, they did not come from, in India, we call it the premier technology pedigree, is it that comes from interact intelligence or ENFs list? Well Phil Daniels has a little bit because that target interactions but not in a high level operating sense. So, but they identified a pain point and marketplace, they continue to... I still remember the early days when they started selling reports and then that led to the software idea and that they persisted and they were working on go to market.
Ting Gootee: They were working on recruiting the talent, given the fact that neither room had the exact target halo effect around their own credibility. But they were focused and they're not afraid to knock on doors and try different things and they're not afraid to push back when some investors maybe fleeing us at a time question, don't go to market strategy channel versus not channel why it makes sense and who we're competing with. And they did it. There were some early tough days in terms of cash flow, all the startup do, but they persisted. And the gap, the Lewis and Clark from St. Louis investment in a round lap end of last fall, last summer, they started, they give them credit. Phil Rob both ask the question, "Why can't we be like the West Coast firms and go on raise 15 to 20 million series B?"
Ting Gootee: Remember this is on the heels, barely 12 months after the four million series A we closed and then a revenue is getting there. Really we're just starting out. Just recruited sales team. They're performing, but still whole and the Midwest conservative we're thinking and there's still some kinks that need to be worked out before we go out and shop to the coastal VCs. I remember my first reaction was, I don't think this is doable, and they did it and then they went out and did their work and they persisted. Again. I remember also when we were reviewing the deck, one of the things the board had a talk through, kind of talk through in terms of be ready to help thinks who the specific, how do we respond to that question? As you look at the founding team, you'd look at the top level team, none of them have exited the companies, I mean technology companies in the past will be easy for somebody like Scott Dorsey and Tim Cook to raise 20 million, right?
Ting Gootee: On easier. I wouldn't say it's easy, but for Rob and Phil and the team that we had back then, it was a little bit tough for a story to tell, but it did a really nice job and the persistent. I could not believe they got the job done, so that was my favorite.
Mike Kelly: That's awesome.
Ting Gootee: Underdog story. But they're not underdog anymore. They're on the race to become the next analytics farm that's going to solve hopefully a big pain point in the marketplace.
Mike Kelly: That's awesome. All right, last question and then I'll let you go. What are some of the trends that you're seeing that have you excited, whether they're technology trends or business model trends? What are some of the deals that when they pop up on your radar you're kind of like, "Oh yeah, I'm looking forward to hearing this pitch or see more of this."
Ting Gootee: Our investment activity has been so local. Even though we try to look at a national trends, we'll make our investment decisions. But I think that just for the community standpoint, I think that what it started getting me really excited is the fact that we have so much software expertise that can be very parable to take on the data analytics opportunities. Data on AI was a fad for a while and everybody's waiting to see how that's actually going to impact our lives. But it is so much opportunities in the marketplace and-
Mike Kelly: Are you telling me you're not wowed by the chat box that you interact with online? Because-
Ting Gootee: Well, actually, I was wowed when my 11 year old said, "Alexa, you are amazing to Alexa." And Alexa responded to say by saying, "Really? You really think so. Thank you."
Mike Kelly: That's cute.
Ting Gootee: Yeah, that was, and I think that the difference to me and this time around, it's not so much, there's so much out data analytics opportunities out there, but we as a community fully have a good foundation or a talent base to capture that. And we're seeing more and more. It's no longer just workflow software. Is how are we going to leverage the data that's generated from the world full of software, to make a bigger impact on the business productivity. And then we see that evolution even though some of our portfolio companies, if that's not their initial kind of business thesis.
Mike Kelly: Got it. Thank you so much for taking the time.
Ting Gootee: Thank you Kelly Mike.
Mike Kelly: I really enjoyed it.
Ting Gootee: This is great. Thanks for the opportunity.