24/30: Thank You Peter Dal Bianco, Maddie Callander, and Lucas Rocha
Peter Dal Bianco
Peter and Sudbury welcomed me with open arms as a fellow Northern Ontarian. Even better, they put their money where their mouth was.
Peter did an exceptional job of putting me in front of angels who would actually back high tech. Among them, Dr. Saunders was a huge signalling point for other angels to invest. I still remember walking into a meeting with quite a few of us in her tiny office in Sudbury.
I kept reminding myself in advance: “this is a first meeting, lower your expectations, you’re meeting these investors for the first time. Assume this is the start of 3-4 weeks–at least–to get the cheques you need.”
Instead with multiple people’s support, I left that day with over 6 figures. WOW! For a small town girl like me just trying to quit my day job that was amazing.
Dr. Saunders’ and others’ immediate belief in me allows me to tell a story often reserved for well connected, already wealthy Silicon Valley men. Now, I too get to say that I met multiple investors once and walked away with cheques. And I thank Peter for that opportunity. I know he back-channeled and talked me up a ton before that.
Peter also gave me my second hire: Chris Pagnutti who is still with us to this day. Chris is our key senior developer and skritswap simply wouldn’t exist without him. He built all the code in Sudbury – yay for Northern ON built high tech.
Thank you so much Peter for every opportunity. You have been a strong ally and support so early. You are a wise man, seasoned business owner, and best cheerleader I could ever ask for! Thank you one million times over to the moon and back.
The next person to really take a chance on me was Maddie. Upon reflection, the fact that she still spoke to me after our first meeting is shocking. I was overly excited, talkative – dare I say verbal diarrhea – and didn’t really have much to show in May 2017. I had early prototypes I built. Better prototypes that students in Alberta built thanks to Dr. Eleni Stroulia (who I met because of the award from The Queen). And I had a whole lot of vision with some seriously staggering statistics of the problem.
As I started to raise money, closed my first customer, and honed in on my first hires to start building skritswap – she saw that growth. Maddie saw the narrowed focus and my mind materializing. She urged me to apply for Boost VC Tribe 11.
The Confidence Gap
How did I respond to being encouraged to apply for serious funding from a Silicon Valley venture firm? It’s so absurd all you can do is laugh: I told her I didn’t think I qualified based on what I read on the website.
Website: Sci-fi tech.
Website: Never back solo founders.
Me: Welp, I’m a solo founder.
Website: Only back technical teams.
Me: I’d hardly say I’m technical as a self-taught coder just starting to make my first technical hires.
And I didn’t tell her just once. I told her 3x!!!! She kept calling me to apply and I kept saying “no thank you”. (A topic for future discussion, I think the ability to read between the lines and hear what is being said vs what words are being said is a key skill that requires specific development). Thankfully, Maddie finally got through to me in late November when I was at the airport–I almost missed my flight to Sudbury too.
Back to Maddie
Since convincing me to apply and me convincing Adam to invest, Maddie has been a fantastic support because she’s actually pretty tough on me. Her expectations for company growth are clear. And she really holds me to them. More rigidly than most folks. Maddie asks the tough, uncomfortable questions. She is brilliant.
Thank you Maddie for taking a chance on me. Thank you so much for being such a big part of my growth. I am in awe of you and beyond grateful for everything you’ve done.
You’re also extremely impressive at what you do. I am amazed at how much you accomplish and cant wait to watch your story continue to unfold.
Lucas is another powerful person in my story. I was Lucas’ first sourced deal that Unshackled closed.
I still remember Lucas’ reaction to something I said at our first coffee meeting. I was describing my progress to set expectations about where I was at and what it took to get there. Lucas looked at me like I had 10 heads and flipped my hesitant sentiment right around. He told me what I said was literally amazing. While I was worried and qualifying my achievements, he was gob-smacked. And I learned that wow! I actually am pretty resourceful and highly competent. It meant everything to hear that from a Bay Area investor I just met.
Lucas, thank you for instilling confidence in me from that first meeting. Thank you for seeing the skills that sometimes even I couldn’t see. Thank you for encouraging me and helping me blossom. Thank you for spending time with me too. We both know there’s far too much to thank you for than this paragraph could possibly contain.
I’m proud of your new future at HBS, though I will miss working with you. A hearty congratulations to you!
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