Jeremy Weisz 5:35

I’m gonna guess $12,

Cheryl Contee 5:38

less, less, exactly, half $8.50. And, you know, I look back and I see that as, you know, such a critical crossroads in my life where, you know, I really chose, you know, to invest in myself in the hopes that it would create a better tomorrow for me and for others.

Jeremy Weisz 5:58

So, you let you leave college? What do you do?

Cheryl Contee 6:04

I spent a year in China, with the Yale in China program, because I still didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. So I figured that was a way to buy some time. And that was exciting. I learned a lot about myself, about others. And about China. You know, the joke back then was, you know, go to China for a week, write a book, you know, live in China for a month, write an article, live in China for you know, a year get nothing to say. There, it’s too much to describe, in a lot of ways, but I had a good time.

Jeremy Weisz 6:39

What was your first how’d you get started in entrepreneurship, then?

Cheryl Contee 6:44

Yeah, you know, I kind of stumbled into it, you know, I had been raised, I think as as many people are to find a job. I mean, in some ways, I probably remain a disappointment to my family, and that I did not become a doctor. And I think for a lot of, you know, bright minority kids, you know, there’s, you know, people want you to have a safe yet, you know, well paying job, right. So that’s like, basically doctor or lawyer. And if people know what it is engineer, I did not do any of that. So, I hope they’re still proud of me, though. Yeah, but you know, that, you know, sort of that get a job, right, and try to rise through that job. And so, you know, I was just, you know, working away, you know, doing my best, you know, a time came, I was recruited out here to the Bay Area by, you know, a very large multinational PR firm, to launch their digital practice or relaunch their digital practice, and I wasn’t really being treated well is working very hard. You know, I wasn’t getting the support actually created a plan, in which I was like, Look, if you hire a couple of more people, you know, we do the following things, I can bring in a million dollars in revenue, they thought that was crazy. It turned out that I ended up being passed over for promotion that had been promised, and my offer letter, and basically said, Look, you know, I’m delivering value. If you you know, either you give me the promotion, or I’m out and they really go, Okay, so I left that they were sad, people got fired, because I left ultimately. But I the power of a network, Jeremy, as you say, you know, relationships, I put out a tweet, I put out a tweet and said, Hey, folks, I find myself available. Who wants to work with me, and I actually got a lot of incoming, you know, from that, you know, reputation matters. And one of those was the, you know, from the then boyfriend, now husband of the person who would become my business partner who said, Hey, you know, YouTube should maybe link forces, you know, I think that would be, you know, a magical combination. And it was, you know, weak in a lot of ways completed each other. And, you know, we just started off at this as the two of us $10,000 each in the bank. And I was like, Look, we either have clients by the end of the month, or I need to find, like, an actual job at each job, because I’m not going hungry. And, you know, within a year, we had 10 employees, and we had made that million dollars of revenue, and raisins. Yeah. And in something, you know, before it was a million dollars in revenue, you know, big companies, right, you know, fortune 500 companies. You know, what I’m proud of is that, you know, we did that million dollars in revenue, working for good working with nonprofits and foundations and causes.

Jeremy Weisz 9:41

How did you get your first clients customers and then what was the offering at the time initially?

Cheryl Contee 9:49

Yeah, I think what set us apart and you have to remember this was circa 2008, was that, you know, my business partner and I were very loud in St. Louis. We think social media is going to be a thing, we think social media is going to be a thing. And that, you know, just sticking with email is going to mean that you’re going to miss out on a really big opportunity, we can help you. So if you want to get your social media game together and start to build that community and that audience, you know, and mobilize, you know, for for good, we can help you do that. And that got a lot of people’s attention, for sure. Because no one in our space was really saying that out loud, everyone was still, you know, very focused on email, as a as a, you know, a way to raise money or a way to, you know, get people to take action, you know, on various causes. You know, in our first client actually was someone that my business partner had already been working with, she was kind of there ers at CTO as a consultant, and we just, you know, build upon that relationship that was mom’s rising, which then was, you know, very small. Now, of course, mom’s rising is, you know, enormous, I’m still really good. Most of the

Jeremy Weisz 11:03

social media work you did with them early on. Exactly,

Cheryl Contee 11:05

exactly. Yeah. I mean, we we revolutionize, you know, how they approached their work. You know, in part, we said, Look, everyone at this organization needs to be a digital campaigner. And I still have to say that to people that, you know, you can’t try to funnel this through just a couple of people, anyone who is touching the public has to be someone who is digital savvy, and comfortable community communicating with communities online.

Jeremy Weisz 11:34

Sure, what did the so you start off, okay, let us just help you with social media get the word out? What did the evolution of the services of the company look like? Because obviously, you expanded from there.

Cheryl Contee 11:48

But we didn’t know And now, you know, if you read actual business books, they tell you to do this, but we just, you know, instinctively do this, you know, oftentimes, when you offer one service, it turns out people need other things, you know, and that’s, you know, partly how we, you know, ended up acquiring more staff was that people, you know, saw that we were good, you know, at, you know, creating social media presences, you know, engaging communities, you know, graphics, videos, all of that. And they said, you know, we built trust, they said, Hey, you know, you’re doing this, we could you could you help us with, you know, our website, you know, could you help us with, you know, with this or that with our, you know, in some cases, our email list or with digital ads, digital ads, we’re, you know, still very much a new thing. So, you know, it grew from there, you know, where people, you know, in building trust, we were able to ensure that people, you know, that those relationships grew.

Jeremy Weisz 12:46

And how did come about?

Cheryl Contee 12:50

Yeah, similarly, you know, again, they, they write this in books, apparently, that I probably should have read, but was too busy running my business to read any business books. But, you know, it grew out of seeing a gap in the market, you know, in part in the, you know, causes space. And, you know, when people say, Oh, you know, can you really make money, you know, in causes and campaigns, you know, nonprofits consume, like $800 billion in goods and services every year. So it’s, it’s actually a fairly significant segment, you know, a business, we, you know, we saw other other people building software, you know, and, and, you know, we’re inspired by that we’re like, Well, you know, so and so, you know, isn’t smarter than us, you know, when we see something, you know, that’s needed, you know, because we were in tech, you know, and in, you know, the cause of space, you know, again, we were at a crossroads. And, you know, and over in the tech side, and particularly on the corporate side, we could see that people were, you know, really getting into and making good use of influencer engagement, social listening, marketing, automation, all of those were completely unknown concepts in the nonprofit space, and still are, you know, surprisingly, it might surprise people to know that, you know, influencer engagement is still, you know, on the cutting edge, you know, in the nonprofit, even though in the in corporate marketing, it is de rigueur, you know, it is just the way you make things happen. So, you know, attentively grew out of that of seeing, you know, this need that our clients had, you know, and no product that could serve their needs so attentively, was, you know, it wasn’t that original an idea, there were other software products like it, but you know, it was tailored, you know, to the needs of the causes and campaign sector, and we priced it at a point that we thought that they could afford,

Jeremy Weisz 14:46

what are some of the challenges that’s a tough decision to make, because you probably have a lot of staff a lot of moving pieces, and then you’re like, hey, let’s, let’s create a software company within our company. Right. So talk about some of the challenges with And kind of some of the decision making, they went around, because, you know, from outside, Oh, great, they just grew this amazing new company. But the reality is probably in the beginning, it’s you’re dividing resources and time.

Cheryl Contee 15:13

Oh, absolutely, we very much bootstrapped for the first 18 months. And at first it was, again, just part of, you know, artists providing excellent service, you know, that is unique and powerful for clients. But over time, you know, art, we got amazing feedback from our clients who were, you know, using the software, you know, we were using, essentially, excess developer time. So, you know, for our developers, you know, weren’t working on a website redesign or some kind of infrastructure build out, it was a little quiet, you know, we would, we would use that time to, you know, continue to hone attentively. But over time, you know, after, you know, some time, it was clear that look, you know, if this is really going to be a thing, you know, this needs more capital, and it needs a dedicated team. And so that’s when we started to fundraise, which was very much not easy.

Jeremy Weisz 16:05

You know, with at least with, were you thinking originally, were you going to use internally to help manage all the clients? Or were you always going to have it be available, so other companies can purchase a license to use the software?

Cheryl Contee 16:22

You know, we It was very organic, let’s say, No, I think we always intended, you know, that and, you know, because we knew the agency space, so Well, I think we always knew that, you know, there would be, you know, direct clients who would get it and and be able to use it. But, you know, the the agency’s sophistication, particularly on the technical side is sometimes greater. And so 25% of our clients were actually agencies who are then using the software, again, to create more power and impact for their clients.

Jeremy Weisz 16:55

Yeah, I could totally see how you create this just to make everyone’s job easier internally, because you’re probably managing a lot of social media campaigns and helping your clients but there’s a need out there. So there’s maybe a push pull between someone, should we even release this the public because you have a competitive advantage to over everyone else, if you keep it internal, but then you all have another, you know, revenue source, if you don’t, but it sounds like you always were considering what we will release this to the public and have other people use it.

Cheryl Contee 17:27

I don’t know that we were always thinking that but you know, it just, you know, and this is true, I think of a lot of businesses, it took on a life of its own, you know, businesses, you know, whenever you get a group together of any kind, you know, it takes on its own life, you know, its own destiny. And, you know, it was just clear that, you know, this was a thing that we had a tiger by the tail, and that, you know, you know, we had to spin it out, you know, in order to give it, you know, the oxygen and energy it needed to really, you know, deliver.

Jeremy Weisz 17:58

It’s, you know, what software is probably a bit of a different animal, you had to raise money and then acquire talk about some of the lessons learned in the kind of the acquisition phase of

Cheryl Contee 18:10

Well, before we get to acquisition, I mean, let’s talk about fundraising. Because, you know, you know, looking back, you know, we saw friends of ours in the space, you know, launching, you know, software companies, you know, for the causes sector, like, oh, as I said, so and so’s not smarter than us, if they can do it, we can do it. It didn’t occur to us that almost all of those people were white men. Okay. Fortunately, I was blissfully unaware, as was my partner that only three to 4% of venture capital of any kind goes to female startup founders, and of that, of that, the, the amount that goes to black female founders remains statistically zero. So, uh, you know, what I found was that you don’t want to buy that lottery ticket, pretty much. Yeah, I mean, obviously, things are much better. 10 years on, thank goodness, you know, and I hope that I’ve been a part of, you know, encouraging, more, you know, investment in a broader, broader access to capital. But yeah, you know, what I found was that, you know, and I was the lead fundraiser for a first round, it was really difficult. You know, I had, I was used to, at that point, people taking my calls or answering my emails, you know, I was a micro celebrity. I had an A list blog, political blog, you know, that had been written up in the New York Times, friends press, like Al Jazeera, like, you name it, you know, I’d been on CNN, you know, MSNBC, etc. You know, people knew me, you know, I was I was, you know, a little bit of a celebrity and I, we had built a multi million dollar business already, right. So, you know, we thought that we were, you know, bringing pretty good credentials.

Jeremy Weisz 20:00

There’s good street cred there. Yeah,

Cheryl Contee 20:01

you would think you would think, Dr. Weisz and yeah, you know, here I was, you know, crawling on my belly trying to get people to talk to me, you know, people, you know, didn’t respond, you know, when I did get someone, you know, into a meeting, you know, here’s here’s a story. So you know, I’m sitting, you know, in a, you know, in a room, you know, doing a demo of our, you know, we had a product, it wasn’t vaporware. Like we had a product that had customers, I’m doing a demo in front of an investor who theoretically is like, his job was to find people like me and invest in me, like it was a fun that was dedicated to excluded entrepreneurs. By the time after I finished the demo, here’s what he said. He said, You know, this is this is really interesting software, and I can see where, you know, there’s a market for it and a need for it. But I don’t know if you are the person who can actually, you know, bring this to fruition, said that to my face. So, you know, I came up upon some, you know, really, you know, racist headwinds and look, you know, in rate, how racism, you know, and, or, you know, sexism, but let’s talk specifically about racism, you know, how it rears its head in the workplace, today is not necessarily someone calling you the N word. You know, I mean, most people, most good people, you know, want to think of themselves as as anti racist, right? As someone who is open to all, you know, it’s more, you know, how people would say, like, Oh, well, I’m just not comfortable. You know, I’m not, something makes me uncomfortable, the thing that’s making you uncomfortable is racism is bias. Okay. And, and it’s not necessarily intentional bias, you know, but I, you know, I hope that, you know, you, dear listener, you know, really investigate that, you know, in yourself, like, you know, have you turned down, you know, hiring you know, a black or brown person, because, you know, or investing in a black and brown person, because you felt quote, uncomfortable, you know, there’s just something about them? What, you know, what was it really about them? And can you maybe the next time overcome that when you have given someone who looks different, more of the benefit of the doubt?

Jeremy Weisz 22:16

Sure, you know, those moments in time are jarring. And sometimes when they happen, it’s hard to react is that, you know, looking back, I’m curious, how did you react at the time? And then if you were to place yourself now back in that same position, where he’s like, I don’t think you’re the one at the company? How would you, you know, someone’s gonna, who’s listening to this may get that reaction at some point now or in the future? Some curious how you reacted, then? And then how would you instruct going back? The Cheryl, the younger Cheryl to say, here’s what maybe you should have said in the moment?

Cheryl Contee 22:55

That’s a great question. You know, I don’t know, if I would have done anything different. I might have, I might have, you know, actually, you know, ask some questions, basically, along those lines of like, why why do you think I’m not the one? Right? Why, why me? Like, who do you think? What are the attributes of the person you think, would be able to take this amazing software that I have created? That has customers? What What is that secret sauce, you know, that I don’t have, please enlighten me. But, you know, instead, I mean, look, you know, as a black woman in tech, I mean, I, you know, wasn’t my first rodeo in terms of, you know, coming up against, you know, some kind of random, and that’s how it, you know, racism is that it just, it’s like this, you know, distorting impact, you know, it’s illogical, it is irrational. And so when you come up against it, it’s it is it’s very, it can be very disorienting, you know, and my response has always been haters to the left, okay? Like, if you don’t get this, if you don’t get me if you’re not down, you know, I’m not gonna waste time. Okay, like, and, you know, you say, thank

Jeremy Weisz 24:01

you so much. I’ll see you later.

Cheryl Contee 24:03

Thanks. Okay. Bye. You know, like, you know, and just, you know, kind of short and just got out, you know, what I will say is, you know, I’m a senior advisor to an investment fund, you know, that focuses to several investment funds that, you know, focus on, you know, female tech, you know, startup founders, and, you know, one of them told me, look, Cheryl, you know, we have worked really, really hard to weed out as much bias as we could, in our process. Like, you know, we took a very hard look at ourselves, you know, we brought in, you know, consultants, and we feel like we actually did a pretty good job because we really do want to, you know, have more black and brown founders, you know, be successful, you know, with our, you know, with our investors, and what they found the one thing that they had trouble weeding out, was getting people to write checks. It took them on average, Seven introductions to Introduction to seven introductions to investors to get a white female founder funded, it took them on average 55 zero introductions to get a an equivalent black female founder funded. And that sounded when they said that I was like, yeah, that’s probably you know, I would guess I, you know, reached out to at least 40 or 50 people and figure it out at some point, it was a numbers game, and I was just gonna have to knock on a lot of doors, you know, and work pretty hard. You know, instead of, you know, one or two or three people, you know, if I were white male, that I was gonna have to literally do 10 acts in order to get those, you know, in order to get statistically less money.

Jeremy Weisz 25:48

Talk about it. And we could talk about thanks for sharing those stories about the fundraising part I want to talk about the acquisition is second, but let’s talk about Impact Seat because this kind of relates to exactly what you’re referring to talk about impact, see what you do there, and how’d you get involved with with impacts it?

Cheryl Contee 26:04

Well, The Impact Seat, you know, I just feel so blessed, you know, to be working with such an amazing crew. You know, the impact seat is one of the most prolific investors in women-led innovative tech startups, we are invested in over 60 individual companies in our portfolio, including many of them are women of color founders who are amazing, all of the all of them, but were amazing. But we also are invested in 15 different funds, and through those funds have invested in dozens more many, many more, you know, companies. So, you know, and our goal is to ensure that, you know, there is more democratized access to capital, not because we’re nice people, I mean, we are I like to think I’m nice, you know, and, you know, in Silicon Valley, where I live, there’s still very much this, you know, notion of diversity, equity inclusion as, like a moral imperative, right? Like, if you’re a good person who’s living, right, you know, you’re actually, you know, at least trying, you know, to move in that direction. Nah, Jeremy, it’s about making money diverse companies, when, and we want to win. Every study shows that diverse companies are more innovative, they are more productive, and they are more profitable, if you want ROI, you need the Ei motto, culture, firms are just less successful, in part because they just don’t have the best ideas percolate, you know, they don’t have that creative collaboration and friction happening. So, you know, it’s really exciting, you know, to, you know, be part of a team that is working hard to make sure that, you know, the best, you know, the best products, you know, the most amazing apps, you know, the coolest services, you know, get, you know, the the capital they need no matter who is the founder, you know, to be successful, and to change the world

Jeremy Weisz 28:14

Talk about some of the team at Impact Seat and, you know, some of the, I guess, learnings from them.

Cheryl Contee 28:23

Oh, gosh, well, you know, we have, you know, a number of people, we’re actually a pretty small crew. But you know, Barbara Clarke, our founder, is incredible. She is a polyglot. So she speaks nine languages. I wish I I wish I could, I’m barely literate in English, alone any other languages. But yet, Barbara Clarke is amazing. She has a strong finance background and has been very successful. You know, in a world where it’s challenging, you know, for women, I mean, tech can be challenging for women, as folks know, finance, in many ways, has an even tougher reputation. And, you know, so she is, you know, person who’s seen it all, you know, and wants to, you know, reach a hand down, you know, to help others, you know, coming up and, you know, to use her capital, you know, again, to solve the world’s biggest problems, you know, and so we you know, when we invest, we’re really looking for, you know, does this solve that is this startup solve a really big problem in an innovative way that’s going to move humanity forward in some way. And then are my co founder, co founder, by colleague, Terence Craig is an engineer by training. He too, is, you know, a rare black tech founder, startup founder who has had a successful exit and had it earlier, you know, than most, and he has written a book very successfully with O’Reilly Media. So you know, it’s just, you know, amazing You know, an amazing team and you know, we balance each other out, you know, we each bring something very different to the table, you know, and together, that creates a lot of magic,

Jeremy Weisz 30:09

what I’m showing you look at some of the portfolio companies at Impact Seat, which one? What are a few that stick out is, you know, interesting that people should check out, I was looking at your page and I see like Lessonbee, SoapBox Labs BoardOnTrack, what are some of the ones that stick out to you is like, you know, I would never thought of that or attacking a problem in a unique way.

Cheryl Contee 30:34

Well, we actually have, you know, it’s public. Now, you know, one of our companies, Alinea has created a medical device that stops postpartum bleeding. And it’s the kind of device that you can have in a fancy Hospital in New York City, you know, or in a field hospital in Rwanda. And, you know, postpartum bleeding, as you can imagine, is a big problem, you know, for, you know, new mothers. And, you know, unfortunately, you know, again, you know, surprisingly, you know, only 4% of medical research dollars and similar, you know, venture capital dollars, though, into women’s health and solutions for women’s health, which is stupid, because women are more than 50% of the people. Right, so there’s, you know, again, like, you know, separating out the moral, you know, question about that, you know, it’s also, you know, a greatly missed the financial opportunity to sell and look, women by 85% of everything, okay, look it up. So, you know, it just doesn’t make any sense to not find female founders, you know, it just doesn’t make any sense to not have, you know, a woman, you know, on your team who is senior, and can tell you what women were are going to buy, I mean, it’s just 8/18 century, old timey thinking that just doesn’t belong, you know, in a modern world, if you actually want to make money, okay? Like, if all you want to do is make money, I promise you that investing in excluded entrepreneurs, is going to yield some surprising benefits for you. So that’s one that, you know, has been a big success it is, it’s been acquired, you know, by, you know, really big company, you know, and, you know, we’re really proud, you know, to, you know, help help them early on, we tend to do early stage, and seed funding.

Jeremy Weisz 32:38

I remember, the first time we left the hospital with our first child in the hand you like a big, there was like, carry the nervous that you’re going to need these and there was a big bag, it was like, this long, thick pad, I’m like, What is this for? They’re like, just give it to your wife, she’s gonna need, you know, so I totally, totally not experienced and nor would I ever want to experience thank God for women actually having children. Because I think if the male populated the earth, there would be like, not many people on this earth. We’re not tough enough for that. But

Cheryl Contee 33:11

people have different bodies. And look, you know, that’s for normal. Yeah, I mean, I’ve been pregnant and you know, managed to successfully eject, you know, that human. I mean, you know, that’s for just like normal bleeding, you know, when you’re bleeding out, right? It’s a bad scene, right? for everybody. And, you know, the fact that this device now exists, you know, and it’s gonna, you know, now, you know, has a big company behind it, who can manufacture it on mass is, you know, exactly the kind of revolutionary innovation that that we get excited about being a part of, and fostering?

Jeremy Weisz 33:46

Yeah, no, totally, thanks for sharing that. And I encourage anyone to go to And check out what they’re doing there. Um, so now it comes to acquisition. So you have to make you know, 50 calls for every one of someone else. So you get that going on? What was the acquisition process? Like?

Cheryl Contee 34:06

Oh, boy, well, the acquisition process was interesting. You know, we were at a stage and I think a lot of companies, you know, reached the stage where they say, you know, we could raise another round, or we could start to look to exit, you know, it’s going to take about the same amount of energy and time, you know, it’s usually about, you know, conventionalism, six to 12 months. So we said, you know, looking at all of the global factors, you know, he said, You know, this might be a good time to start to exit, you know, companies, you know, social media companies, were really starting to tighten down their API’s, and, you know, their privacy permissions, which, you know, in keeping up with that was getting increasingly challenging, you know, we sense that this needed, you know, the software really needed to be within a CRM, where it would have, you know, the access to permissions, you know, that were starting to close down, I mean, that was definitely a part of it. So, we started the process of interviewing, you know, m&a bankers. And, you know, it was just such an interesting process, you know, again, you know, it’s not necessarily if venture capital is not very diverse, you can imagine that, you know, the m&a field is even less diverse. We were, you know, very keen, you know, not only to find a, you know, a, you know, a talented person, but we knew, you know, that we were very visible even though, you know, we were not huge, you know, because of who we were, we were very visible in the space and we wanted to be able to, you know, tell, you know, a good story, you know, about, you know, what we had achieved. And so, you know, we talked to a, you know, a wide variety, and at this point, I was like eight months pregnant, okay, when we were doing these interviews, so that was also in some ways a big test. I mean, we had one guy, you know, I looked at, you know, it had been, this was a person who had been recommended by one of our, one of our investors, you know, we talked to him, you know, and I just asked him straight up was like, Look, sir, you know, I’m looking at your website, and, you know, you have zero women and zero people of color working for you, you have one Asian American male on your board. What makes you think that you can represent someone like us, and have you ever represented someone like us? And he was silent. And then he started laughing? And it was a weird laugh, Jeremy. And, you know, he just answered the question basically was like, Oh, I never actually thought about it. I never thought about it. So he was disqualified. He disqualified himself. Okay, like,

Jeremy Weisz 36:47

a bad answer.

Cheryl Contee 36:49

It was a bad answer. It was like a really like a like an almost cartoonishly inappropriate response to, you know, can you represent someone like me in these rooms, because that’s the thing like, and, you know, a mergers and acquisition banker, you know, is going to have conversations about you, representing you, in rooms you’re not in, so they’ve got to really get you they’ve got to vibe with you, you know, you’ve got to be at least somewhat compatible, right. So that they can, you know, really, you know, defend your defend, Your Honor, you know, in these rooms, and, you know, us, you know, voice your, your opinion. So, you know, eventually we found someone I actually saw her adventure Atlanta, she was on a panel and she was so smart. Tricia Salinero Woodside capital. Um, so we teamed up with her, and she was great, you know, such a pro, you know, got us through the process. You know, I will say that, you know, talking to companies, even though the m&a process was very weird, at times, awkward, you know, we didn’t really get that kind of, we didn’t have that issue with the companies that we talked to, you know, every all the companies that we talked to actually treated us very respectfully. And, you know, it turns out again, relationships are so important. You know, it turns out that one of we were a marketing partner of Blackbaud, you know, and they had been watching us for a long time. And they, I wouldn’t say that they were, that it was the strongest, you know, strategic partner that we had, you know, it was one of them, you know, but what they noticed was that they were their roadmap, you know, had a sort of an attentively sized hole in it, you know, and that’s what most companies are looking to do. Right? You know, they’re looking to, you know, do we need to build this, is it cheaper to build it, or, you know, easier to buy it? Right. And, you know, it’s hard for big companies to innovate not because they don’t have super smart people working there, you know, just the all of the layers of approval, and just everything is just so, so slow. So that’s why startups, you know, get acquired. So, yeah, yeah, what they noticed was that, you know, 30% of our client base were Blackbaud customers as well. So there was just a clear market sign there that also there that look, you know, this is, this seems to be something that our customers want. And, you know, they had a much more robust, you know, sales engine than we do is 40,000, you know, clients. So, you know, just ended up being, you know, a happy marriage and, and that’s something that I do counsel startups a lot about, you know, have your exit strategy in mind before, before you launch your startup. We knew we were fairly confident, even as we were launching attentively, that we would ultimately get acquired, and that actually very much informed you know, how we went about our strategic partnerships, what API’s we integrated with, you know, the relationships we build, and it ended up and it’s true for, I would probably say most startups that you know, it’s through an existing relationship with a Larger partner that you’ll end up getting acquired?

Jeremy Weisz 40:03

Sure. Why do you think Blackbaud? One out when you say wasn’t the strongest strategic partnership obviously was a still a strong strategic partnership. But why do you think that company went on, I love what you said by the way of, they could build it or buy it. And that like, I remember when I had the founding engineer at Mobileye on, and he said, the exact same thing, when they were, Intel was looking at acquiring their technology. And they ended up paying $15.2 billion. And they figured that to be cheaper than it would to build it themselves and to go to market because like you said, you already had traction, you had customers, there is a lot that goes in is not just the software itself, but it’s the the brand and the name, and everything else. So why did Blackbaud went out?

Cheryl Contee 40:55

Oh, well, and by strongest, I mean, you know, we weren’t necessarily as often in contact with with that team, you know, like, we liked them, and they liked us. But, you know, there were other, you know, companies and brands with which, you know, we were just, you know, more frequently, you know, collaborating are talking, you know, I think they went out, you know, they they really, you know, we had complementary values, you know, and that was really important to us. And I’m really proud that we were an impact startup that got acquired by an impact Corporation. You know, Blackbaud is one of the leading purveyors of nonprofit software in the world. And so that was really meaningful to us, you know, to make sure that, you know, attentively in our team, you know, it’s not just about the product product is important. You know, I think we wanted to make sure that our team, you know, was going into an environment, you know, where they would be valued, you know, and respected and understood, you know, for what they were bringing to the table.

Jeremy Weisz 41:57

You know, first of all, Cheryl, I want to thank you. And I have one last question. Before I ask it, we’re sure we point people online to check out all the stuff that you’re doing all the companies that you’re working on, where the all the places we should point people towards, obviously, you mentioned Where else

Cheryl Contee 42:17

where else we point? Yeah, absolutely. check it out, you know, especially if you are a VC, you know, we love to do syndicate, co investing. So you know, come check us out, we have amazing deal flow, you can imagine, we have the coolest companies you can imagine. So come on down. You know, I’m also the chairman, founder of Do Big Things, Do Big Things as a digital agency, one of the leading in the country that works with nonprofits, foundations, corporations with mission driven initiatives and political campaigns to provide the new narrative and new tech for the new era that we live in today. So we’re really proud of that team, you know, full services from, you know, campaign design, to implementation, including digital ads, you know, and we have a tech team in house, which is very rare. So you can check that out at

Jeremy Weisz 43:20

Love it.

Cheryl Contee 43:20

And there’s also I think we mentioned that I have an Amazon best selling book called Mechanical Bull: How You Can Achieve Startup Success? I’ll tell you, Jeremy, you know, I wrote that book, because after the acquisition of attentively, you know, a friend of mine sat me down and said, Look, Cheryl, more people have been to the moon than have done what you have done. Like literally, like 17 people have been to the moon, only one person has done has been you, and you have an obligation to help others come behind you. So, you know, this is, you know, I wrote the book I wish I’d had. And it’s not just my voice, you know, it’s the voice of a lot of founders, you know, of all different backgrounds. A lot of investors, you know, similarly have all different backgrounds. So, it’s got a lot of dumb jokes in there. So look for that. Yeah, it’s but it’s also I used to say in the before times, it was a good airplane book, people are starting to get on plane. So you know, grab it for the airplane, but it’s also got a lot of very practical information. If you’re, you know, just starting out and thinking, Oh, you know, what would it be like to start a business, you know, can I do this and how do I do that? Or if you’re midway, you know, what do I need to do to manage my burn to gain traction and to maybe have a successful exit?

Jeremy Weisz 44:41

I love it. Yeah. And then you have an audio version of it.

Cheryl Contee 44:46

Working on the audio, I thought so. Yeah. Working. Yes, people. You know, especially now that you know, I’m working with the impact seat. Definitely. I’ve heard a lot of feedback that people want the audio version, so Check me out in the fall.

Jeremy Weisz 45:01

Yeah, so by the time this goes live, maybe it’s not quite out yet, but check it out on Amazon checkout on Audible, when it goes out comes out or preorder it, whatever it is, I’ll be ordering it for sure. shucks, I listen to everything on audio. Last question is about mentors. I want one, you know, Wonder a few of your mentors throughout your career, and maybe a couple of lessons that you learn from them.

Cheryl Contee 45:27

Oh, boy, you know, there are, you know, great mentors, you know, who, you know, encourage, you know, who have encouraged me, like, you know, amazing bosses, you know, who, you know, helped me, you know, to learn and to grow. And I’m really grateful, you know, to them, you know, but I actually learned a lot from like, the terrible bosses that I had, you know, where it’s like, oh, this person sucks. And this is like, not a great way to motivate or lead a team. You know, I want to be the opposite of this, like, if I were in charge, you know, how would I be doing that? You know, and I would say, you know, in every company that I’ve started, I’ve always tried to create a, an, you know, an atmosphere of collegiality, you know, we’re supporting each other, you know, we, you know, are bringing excellence, you know, to our clients, you know, and we, every day.

Jeremy Weisz 46:24

You know, I want to ask one last question, I always say, last question, but that makes me think of something else. But the, you know, it makes me think when you are look, researching the firms to represent you, or even when you’re getting investment in, you’re seeing just a page of all white males, right? And let’s say instead of that person saying, You’re not the person to lead this company, Cheryl, if if that person said, How can we do better? What should we do as a starting place? to, you know, like you said, when you want ROI, you need DEI, what advice do you have for a company that does want to start that path? And they’re, you know, they’re looking around the room, and they’re seeing all the same type of people?

Cheryl Contee 47:10

Right? No, that’s a really great question. And, you know, after the George Floyd, you know, protests, you know, you’d be surprised how many, you know, white male, you know, colleagues and friends that I’ve known, you know, some that I knew well, and some that I didn’t know, well, you know, who asked me that same question like, Hey, I get it that like, maybe, you know, I’m not, I’m not living, right, Cheryl? You know, what can I do? You know, to course, correct here. And, you know, what I say is, you know, invest in someone who doesn’t look like you, like, like, make it a priority to, you know, find people that don’t look like you. And, you know, I know, that’s daunting. You know, for a lot of people I read a study once that, you know, something like 75% of white people actually don’t know, a person of color, personally, which is insane. Like, I don’t even know how that works. Like those people don’t live in cities, I would probably not. account does that work. But you know, it is a network issue, in part, you know, part of how these monocultures, you know, have been involved is because, you know, people just hire people that they know, or that someone recommends, and, you know, those people look kind of the same. So, you know, you’re gonna have to do things a different way, right, the way that you build your current team is not going to work. Right, you have to assume that you’re going to have to do things a little differently, and talk to some different people, you know, reach out, don’t, don’t be afraid, I think, you know, a lot of white people, you know, they’re, they’re so worried about making a mistake, you know, that they don’t reach out, they don’t ask, you know, they don’t do things differently, you know, reach out, you know, even if you have one person of color in your network, you know, or, you know, they’re not even in your network, but you’ve heard of them, they would love to hear from you. And they would, you know, love to say, you know, ask them yeah, who do you know, you know, or, you know, can you you know, pass this around? Can you share this job announcement on your LinkedIn? You know, chances are, you’re going to start to get some really interesting candidates, you know, and again, look, you know, having people you know, any, you know, financial advisor is going to tell you to diversify your portfolio. Right? That just makes sense. Similarly, any investor is going to look for a team that is diverse, at least in specialties, right? You’ve always got to have your visionary your tech lead your product and marketing person, right. You know, you’re if you’re building something, you’re manufacturing lead, right? You can’t have all of the same people if everyone is an engineer, and companies probably not going to be very successful. Similarly, you know, if you have a monoculture, you are really missing out. Look, America is diversifying. Okay? Whether Do you like it or not? No matter how you feel about that, okay, America is going to look different over the next 20 years very different. And if you want to take advantage of that phenomenon, you know, and you know, make some money, you know, that requires, you know, making sure you’ve got the perspectives and understand these communities so that you can, you know, create, you know, culturally appropriate, you know, messaging.

Jeremy Weisz 50:31

Cheryl, I wanna be the first one to thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for what you are doing for everyone. Everyone, check out The Impact Seat, Do Big Things, Mechanical Bull, and so much more. Cheryl. Thanks again.

Cheryl Contee 50:44

Thank you.