female founder

FEMALE FOUNDER SPOTLIGHT: Jen DeAngelis of SuiteSocial

I caught up with Jen last week to learn about her founder story of SuiteSocial, an online influencer marketplace.

SuiteSocial was founded by two female UC Berkeley MBAs, Sandy Liu and Jennifer DeAngelis, a former influencer brand strategist and a current micro-influencer (@jendeangelis). She got her start in social media by posting videos on YouTube when she was doing the Peace Corps in Albania and wanted to connect with friends and family back home. Her first video hit 100K views and she saw that there was a real opportunity to leverage social marketing in business. She later went to Murphy O'Brien, where she started the digital division from scratch and built out their influencer marketing program.

Where did you get the idea for SuiteSocial?

Having worked in influencer marketing in the past, I really felt the pain points of this business - brands didn’t know how much to pay and influencers didn’t know how much to charge. It can  also be difficult to find and work with the right brands or influencers, so my co-founder and I built SuiteSocial to connect influencers with brands at scale and make the whole process more transparent, simple, and fair.

How has your experience as an influencer impacted you?

What is interesting is that a lot of influencers are women. However, they are generally treated as if they are only models, rather than entrepreneurs who have built a brand with thousands, if not millions, of followers.  As a female founder, I am really passionate about helping people monetize their influence. I don’t want women (or men) doing these brand deals for less than they are worth, and I don’t want brands overpaying either. We built a pricing engine and vetting process to help brands and influencers to solve this problem.

3 tips for founders looking to develop their online presence:  

  1. Keep it light, bright, and polite on social media

  2. Always do a gut check before you post to avoid unintended interpretations.  

  3. Be Authentic. You can’t build a following as a blogger without being honest because people respond more to authenticity. Your personal unique story has value and people want you to share it.  

What has been the biggest lesson learned through LAUNCH?

Talking to people - our customers, influencers, brands - in person has provided tremendous value. UC Berkeley and LAUNCH have been so worth it. They have been instrumental in my growth as an entrepreneur. I recommend applying to anyone looking to start a business.

What are your future plans?

Getting funded! …and then getting an IPO... and then helping future female founders  get their businesses off the ground. I want to have a relatable story about starting my business, so that other women will feel like, “if she can do it, why can’t I do it?” We can start changing the ratio of women leaders in tech and closing the income gap between men and women.

Jen is super smart, hard working and ready to make a difference for women in tech! I look forward to seeing her pitch at LAUNCH Demo Day on April 25 and be an influencer in the tech world for years to come.

Medinas Health: A LAUNCH Success Story

We caught up with Medinas Health CEO Chloe Alpert to talk about the progress the company has made since graduating the LAUNCH program last year and her key learnings thus far.

Medinas has big plans to dramatically reduce waste in the US healthcare system by creating a reseller marketplace for hospital and healthcare equipment. They believe this is a 700 billion dollar opportunity and investors are buying in to the Medinas mission as well. Since launching in 2017, they have done 1 million dollars in sales and have already helped hospital clients save millions of dollars. They were one of the one of the winners of the LAUNCH Demo day last Spring and also participated in Y-Combinator’s accelerator program that same year.

Chloe breaks down her lessons learned from LAUNCH and her advice to the upcoming LAUNCH cohort below.  Pay attention, this company just won 1 million dollars in January at WeWork’s Global Creator Awards Finals and has already raised an astonishing 5 million dollars pre-Series A!.

You have founded a few companies already, what motivated you to participate in the LAUNCH program?

I have done LAUNCH twice; first with another company in 2014 and then again in 2018. The first time I did LAUNCH, I had no understanding of what a venture backed company looked like. LAUNCH prepared me. The second time around was humbling for us. We thought we already knew everything that would be in the curriculum, but we got lazy and LAUNCH pounded us again with the fundamentals. For instance, we had done a landscape, but we hadn’t updated it in six months. The LAUNCH program held us to task by reminding us to talk to twice as many users as we normally do and constantly re-address our strategy.

Three key lessons learned?

People need to get down to one sentence about what their company does. Great businesses have focus; if you have too many “ands” in your mission statement, your business isn’t going to get off the ground. LAUNCH helped give us a framework to say “no” to things.

Stack rank the pains of your users to help you make decisions.  

Starting a company has become “very cool” these days, but it is also a lot of hard work. It is very useful to have a group of supportive peers going through similar problems as you are while building your company.

Advice to the upcoming cohort of LAUNCH founders:

Use these accelerators as part of your fundraising strategy. The VC decision making process at early stages is largely based on limited data, signaling effects and some emotional decision making. If you can become a top company at one of these accelerators (e.g. LAUNCH, YC, 500 Startups), you can have some signaling effects with investors who are worried about missing out on the next rocketship.

Use data to help them back up that emotional decision making. Make sure you prepare a diligence package that pattern matches a company much further along which signals that you have it together and that you are a legit company. Show that you have a product roadmap, a well thought-out business model, proper accounting, legitimate sales data, and certificate ledgers.

Go the extra mile and do the work. If you have a Series A level deck as a seed stage company, you are more likely to have investors take notice and take you seriously.