April 5, 2023

#110 HandsDown: The Accelerator Pitch

#110 HandsDown: The Accelerator Pitch
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Jenna Sereni believes the best product recommendations come from family and friends. That’s the genesis of her social shopping app, HandsDown. Her pitch starts out like normal - until the investors flip the script and start pitching back, sending HandsDown on an entirely new path.  

 

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Transcript

Rob Chesnut: The Pitch show, day 2, number 3 [clap]

 

Founders are always in pitch mode. Pitching investors, customers, even randos in the elevator. They’re trying to get someone, anyone, really, to trust their vision.

But in the pitch room, trust goes both ways. And sometimes the investor is the one who needs to pitch the founder.

Today on the show, things start out pretty normal. With founder Jenna Sereni pitching her app where you shop with your friends. Until the investors flip the script and start to pitch her.

I’m Josh Muccio, welcome to The Pitch. Where real entrepreneurs pitch to real investors for real money. And sometimes, the investors pitch back.


Neal Sales Griffin: I’m Neal Sales Griffin, Managing Director here at Techstars Chicago and I’m happy to welcome y'all to my city

Elizabeth Yin: I’m Elizabeth Yin, and I’m a General Partner at Hustle Fund

Charles Hudson: I’m Charles Hudson, Managing Partner, Precursor Ventures

Phil Nadel: I’m Phil Nadel, I’m the Managing Director of Forefront Venture Partners

Jillian Manus: I’m Jillian Manus, Managing Partner of Structure Capital

The Pitch for HandsDown is coming up, after this.

 

[break]

 

The information provided on this show is not intended to be investment advice and should not be relied upon as such. The investors on today’s episode are providing their opinions based on their own assessment of the business presented. Those opinions should not be considered professional investment advice. 

 

Charles: Charles.

Jenna: Charles. Jenna. Nice to meet you.

Elizabeth: Elizabeth. Nice to meet you.

Phil: Hey Jenna. I'm Phil.

Jenna: Phil! My favorite radio voice!

Phil: Oh. Thank you!

Jillian: Jillian. Hi. Nice to meet you.

Neal: Hey Jenna. I'm Neal.

Phil: [in fake voice] Hi Jenna, I'm Phil.

Neal: All right.

Jenna: Okay. Thank you for having me. I'm Jenna Sereni. I am the founder and CEO of HandsDown, the first shopping platform built for communities and friends. So how many of you are in a group text with your friends? Or family? Yep, everybody. Okay. I'm on a group chat with my college friends. Well, a couple of years ago, we came together and decided to share our favorite things with each other that year. We made a spreadsheet, we each got a tab, and we tasked each other with just sharing our ten favorite things of the year. So we didn't really think much of the activity; we went about our days. But we quickly became obsessed with it, and we bought everything. My background is that I help pioneer influencer marketing. And my best friend has been in product at Etsy for over 12 years and she and I looked at each other and said, oh my gosh - we all just bought everything. As we had all of these people in this spreadsheet for a two-year period, we started tracking conversions and we found that our 24 friends over two and a-half years spent almost $34,000, which was about an annual average of $850 - 1000 per person. Well, a lightbulb went off. So HandsDown is a mobile app where you can share your absolute favorite things and favorite things by category. So your skincare routine, your favorite scary movies, the best finds at Trader Joes, the best vegan snacks. And we're also building tools for curators and creators and brands, so that you can share with communities that you relate to. We find that this is a $100 billion market opportunity across social commerce and retail media. Now 92% of consumers trust friends and family over all other sources of advertising or marketing. Word of mouth is by far the most powerful tool in building loyal relationships between consumers and brands and we're productizing that. Now at HandsDown, we are about to raise our seed round of $4 million to help us to scale our technology and our user growth, and help consumers to connect, discover, shop and earn together. 

Jillian: So how much have you raised on the 4 million?

Jenna: So we have about a million dollars soft circled in the $4 million round. We are still talking to leads. 

Elizabeth: How many, how many users do you have? 

Jenna: Right now, we have about 4500 users. And I do have a demo for you as well, if you'd like.

Jillian: Love to see the demo. 

Jenna: We've got a QR code. 

Jenna walks the investors through the Hands Down app. Where you can see top 10 lists from your friends, your favorite influencers, or communities like the Brooklyn moms or crazy Eagles fans. It’s kind of like, if Pinterest and Wirecutter had a baby. Here’s Phil.

Phil: What is the revenue model?

Jenna: So allowing for brands to create a brand account and attach their back-end experience so that consumers can actually shop their brand in a universal shopping cart without ever leaving the HandsDown app. We earn anywhere from a 12 to 40% commission on those purchases. Where that gets really interesting is when you're in a micro-community like the Brooklyn moms, who, you know, love Bombas socks and it's back to school - Bombas can serve them a special offer in which we would earn a rev share on that. 

Elizabeth: So Jenna, I think, just to be very direct, there have been a number of folks who have tried this type of approach. I'm curious if you have any insights or learnings from either past failings or from talking with other entrepreneurs, or what you think is different here than what others have done.

Jenna: One thing is the biggest challenge for us, it's the indexing of all of this data. It's how do we really present this data in an organized way within search and in a way that makes it truly valuable for people, and that's something that I think some other platforms have struggled with. The other thing is in acquisition. So essentially, if we just go out there with a media model, right, and we're trying to acquire users on Meta platforms and such, we're going to be competing with the brands that we want to be partnering with. So instead, we're going for a community-based acquisition model. We're actually going to be leveraging creators to bring audiences in and experts. We call them really curators. We incentivize them to bring their people in. So they earn when they bring in an acquisition and they earn when that person engages as well. 

Charles: And why do it on HandsDown as opposed to Linktr.ee or some other link in bio? If you already have an audience, like why do it on HandsDown as opposed to on - 

Jenna: So they have so many platforms to engage with. One of the things that the curators have shared with us is that a) the platforms don't always allow for them to use their affiliate links. We want them to still be able to earn when people shop their recommendations. The other thing is we just want to provide the technology that makes it so easy to host a top ten list. Right now, they have to post on Instagram stories, they have to create videos, they have to take photos, they have to, you know code a blog, they have to have a TikTok video, edit it - it's a lot of work. We want to create a really low-lift way for them to share top ten lists that they can earn commissions off of.

Charles: Yeah. I just bring up the link in bio because if the link - especially for people who have decent audience,a lot of them, even within verticals there's a link in bio just designed for beauty, there's ones to - and there is, like, there is certainly like a lot of energy around this, particularly for the people who have audience already. 

Jenna: Yeah, definitely. We see this as like the perfect addition to a Linktr.ee. It's not for every single creator out there. We're not trying to provide a tool for MrBeast. We're not. And I literally - I actually was a part of creating the model that influencer marketing is today, so I always like to say first, I'm sorry. Second of all, we learned a lot, we're going to burn it to the ground and start fresh. 

Neal: So who are we up against? Who's doing this right right now that you're learning from? 

Jenna: So our biggest competition is LTK. LTK stands for Like To Know, they merged with RewardStyle, they recently got a $2 billion valuation. And what they do is they allow for influencers to make their content shoppable. Now, they're known for having really strict terms, and as far as who can be an LTK influencer, you kind of have to be the perfect woman. And we want to really create something for the people, something that shows that everyone matters, you don't have to be perfect and beautiful in the photo and make your life look absolutely perfect in order for your recommendations to matter. We see Wirecutter as being really amazing. And then of course Pinterest, who has been trying for years to make their content shoppable And, you know, I think what we want to create is something that's complimentary to Pinterest. 

Charles: On a related note, I'm curious, like the, the original sort of group chat thing you explained, I was like, oh that feels like a product space where there isn't a good solution today, and this one feels like it's just a much more crowded environment. I'm curious, like the - is the hypothesis that by being, just having used the app, by being on the app, I'm going to get inspired by things that other people who are not in my friends circle have discovered or put on the app and that this browse and discover is going to expand? Because the first product you mentioned to me felt much more contained.

Jillian: Yeah.

Phil: I have to say, Charles, I had the exact same feeling. When she first described the experience of interacting with her friends and sharing their favorite things, that really sounded interesting to me and something like I might even do. And then when you talked about the model as you envision it, I thought, wow, there's a lot of competition in that space.

Jenna: Yeah, so you'll still be able to do all of that. They could be micro or they could be macro communities. So macro being like the Brooklyn moms, which has 45,000 Facebook followers and all the recommendations kind of get lost in the ether, But then there's the group chat. That's a micro-community that you could actually host privately. And so that's something that we're creating, is somewhere that you can actually create a circle with your friends, this community, where you can share favorite things privately, just as your small circle of people. 

Elizabeth: I feel like, and being very direct here, I think it's hard to actually be both of those. I think you are either one or the other. So if you're in the small group, it's all about small groups and then you have to somehow figure out how to take somebody in a small group and have them invite other people into a whole new group. Or you're more in the Pinterest category of, you know, let's get everybody and their mother to see my boards and now I'm trying to show everybody my taste. But I feel like trying to message both is going to be very challenging. And actually that - I think that product in this space matters so much and all these little nuances matter so much and I'm not sure I quite see you in one category or the other, so for that reason I'm out. Thank you.

Jenna: Thank you.

Neal: I'm curious to know, is there some form of a long form assessment like the Wirecutter? There's a lot of trust there. So if I need to buy something, I go there and that's my friend. Right. The Wirecutter is my - even better than my friends when it comes to choosing certain things. 

Jenna: Some of the things that we've considered, are, you know, giving creators more of a space to kind of create their environment within the application. You know, almost create their page that houses their whole pop-up shop of recommendations, right. That can kind of help to solve for that.

Neal: Got it.

Jenna: yeah.

Jillian: Does that answer your question?

Neal: Somewhat. I mean, one example would be short form video content as a form of reviewing the products, right? And getting more people to engage there.

Jenna: Definitely.

Neal: Okay.

Jenna: That's a big part of our plan with this native app. We've kind of, you know, we wanted to start slow. We've been sort of bootstrapping. You know, we have a really impressive team considering what we've raised and what we've done in a short period of time. But especially myself as - my expertise is in commerce driving content, so that is like, you know, exactly where I want to go, I just want to do it really smartly. I don't want to throw out all of the product experiences that the other platforms have kind of, for the sake of competing with each other, and really think about what the right content opportunity is for this specific experience.

Neal: Got it. Thank you.

Charles: I think like Elizabeth, I think I'm out too. But for maybe like a slightly - related but different reason. I think this sort of shop with your friends social - this is in that category of things that should work. It should be something that works, and it - it sort of hasn't yet. And I think it - there's some behavioral insight that's missing around like why none of the products that have been built connect the dots on that behavior, and it's sort of in that, like, people should do this! And I think 'should' is a very dangerous word when you're building a product. And I keep coming back to the fact that the product I'm really excited about was the first one you described. And if the company was like laser focused on that, I would be able to go way down the rabbit hole with you. And that's an experiment I think that hasn't been run, and where we don't have as much data. But a good way to lose money as an investor is to fall in love with something that the founder is not as focused on as you are. So for me, personally, I'm out. But if at any point you decide to go deeper on the sort of small group social sharing, I just think about how many links and pointers to products get shared in my group chat, I would love to have that conversation in the future, but only if that's something you decide you want to make the focus of the company.

Jenna: It's great feedback. Thank you. We found that Google Sheets fulfilled that for us. 

Charles: Alright good answer. 

Jenna: But thank you. That's very, very valuable.

Phil: For similar - very similar reasons, this isn't a fit for me, either. I was excited by the genesis of the company, and then I started envisioning how you might productize that. But then you veered in a different direction and one that I see as crowded and I don't see enough likelihood of success. and I want to see where that - where that lands as a product before, you know, taking a hard look at it.

Jenna: Thank you.

Neal: So over at Techstars, we help teams and founders like yourself get to the bottom of these types of things. So the feedback I'm hearing in the room, that's exactly kind of where we're at and that's our sweet spot of what we help founders like figure out. That being said, it sounds like given, you know, your round dynamics and where you're at, you might have considered accelerators but are beyond that at this point. I don't want to make that assumption. But if you were interested in that, we should talk. But definitely interested - and I think I could probably get you into some of these programs, if that's something you would be open to.

Jenna: Thank you.

Jillian: I think that a program like this would be invaluable, because I do think you're struggling. Your background is very impressive. Your delivery is very impressive. So clearly if we invest in people you're a person that we would invest in. I think the business model is still going through a pinball machine. So I am out. But I do think you should find an accelerator. 

Jenna: We've considered a number of accelerators.

Neal: Yeah.

Jenna: But, you know, I went back and forth and hesitated to pull the trigger and this is really helpful to me, because it's something I've considered for six months and, you know, for reasons which I can or don't need to share, we didn't. 

Josh: Would you be open to talking more about the Techstars opportunity? Is that something you're interested in?

Neal: I would love to.

Josh: Cos Neal's right here.

Neal: Yeah.

Josh: We got a little time.

Jenna: Sure. Let's do it.

Neal: Okay.

Jenna: Pitch me, Neal.

[laughter]

Phil: Turning the tables on em’!

All the investors have passed on HandsDown. But there’s a new offer on the table. Now it’s Neal’s turn to pitch Jenna - on why she should join Techstars.

When we come back, my how the turns have tabled.

[BREAK]

Welcome back to The Accelerator, where real managing directors pitch real entrepreneurs to join their program.

Today’s managing director wants 6% of their company for… wait for it… $20k.

Which, if you do the math, would value Jenna’s company at a whopping $333k. 

Here’s Neal.

Neal: So you said you considered a retail one before.

Jenna: Yeah.

Neal: Which one was that?

Jenna: It was called XRC labs.

[oh yeahs]

Jillian: It's actually a very good one. 

Neal: Yeah, and you said for reasons that you weren't in a position to disclose, you decided not to. Is that on the business -

Jenna: Would you like for me to disclose them?

[laughter]

Neal: Only to the extent that you're comfortable.

Jenna: So here's the thing, The numbers don't lie, that women don't get funded as often as men do, right. In fact, Pitch Book just released the data yesterday from this past year and it's horrific.

Jillian: Yeah. Worse.

Phil: It's worse.

Jenna: It's very, very, very bad. I just felt like I needed to preserve every bit of ownership that I had knowing that I'm not going to have all the options that everyone gets. And so, you know, going into a program that takes 6% -

Neal: Yep.

Jenna: - for a very small investment compared to, you know, what that percentage is, it's just challenging. 

Neal: Yeah.

Jenna: But that said, we do know that it would be a good option for us and that we would extract hopefully value from it, it's just that percentage - it's a tough pill to swallow when we've been working for almost, you know, two years, and we have all of this - these great supporters within our community. So, you know, so it's just a challenging decision to make. 

Neal: Yeah. Well, let's unpack a piece of what I think I heard you say here. So the 6% - you're spot on there. A few caveats. One, it's common stock. And two, that 20k is not representative of the actual value you're getting from the experience, right.

Jenna: Of course. Of course.

Neal: So remove the 20k, it's not a valuation eventive, any good VC knows that that's not representative of the value. And the value add in the network has like exponentially increased.

Jenna: Oh yeah.

Neal: So back in the day it was like 100 companies. We've got over 3000. So from a network standpoint, the value add from our founders has very little to do with demo day. Let me just be clear, the network you get access to, the support, the training you get as a founder to like really develop the systems, to scale up your business effectively, that's all the value add. 

Elizabeth: I'll throw in some two cents on accelerators, I previously ran the 500 Startups Accelerator for almost three years. I now run a VC fund, so I have no - I have no horse in this race. But I can tell you from that experience, a few thoughts. So one, not every accelerator's the same. One thing that I noticed at 500 is that the cohorts actually get to bond pretty strongly. It is actually amazing how much progress people make through an accelerator program but then once they leave that progress slows. And there's a lot of data on this actually. Like actually founders should be in an accelerator program all the time, but But the interesting thing is, In general, investors prefer companies that can make a lot of money right out the gates, and that tends to favor more B2B. So I think for you, the bar is going to be higher, which means that you're going to have to get your user number up. The expectation when you go out and raise that seed, is in the hundreds of thousands of users at a minimum. And so you're talking about increasing basically 100x from where you are now. So then working backwards, can an accelerator program kind of help you get there? I would not get so fixated then on the equity part, and focus on the - can I achieve the goals I need to achieve with the accelerator? Because I think in all honesty right now if you spend the next four months on your current trajectory, I don't know if you'll hit the numbers you need to hit to really have a strong successful raise. So that's my direct two cents on this.

Jenna: Thank you. 

Neal: I'll say one final thing, because this is just something I don't hear enough out there, and it's - some people think it's controversial, but have you heard of the equity buy back guarantee from Techstars?

Jenna: Oh. No.

Neal: Okay. So this is an interesting thing. I don't know of any other accelerator that offers this.

Elizabeth: I think you're the only one.

Neal: If we don't do our job, after those 13 weeks, you can buy back your equity. So like that's the ultimate fail safe. So I have had precisely zero EBGs throughout my time as managing director, zero. So there's no founder that leaves our program and goes, that wasn't worth it. But even if they felt that way, they could get their equity back and move on.

Jenna: I like it.

[laughter]

Jillian: Okay.

Jenna: Well, I guess we're gonna apply to some -

Neal: We'll talk.

Jenna: Okay.

[laughter] 

Jillian: Thank you so much.

[thank yous etc]

Jenna: Thank you all so much I hope you have a great rest of your event.

Jillian: I'm so glad she prompted that question because - 

Phil: Josh did. Josh - I'm so glad Josh mentioned it.

Elizabeth: Well, it is on the top of everybody's mind, but nobody brings it up.

Jillian: I know. And I think there are a lot of people listening who are grappling with that. The main concern that founders have is, for us, is it's not just the equity it's the time. And so I think that - and Elizabeth, I mean, is really one of the pioneers in this area as one of the founders.

Elizabeth: No. It is actually, being an accelerator manager is one of the hardest sales jobs. Because everyone is like, oh, I'm giving up all this equity, why? Like, and that's like, that's, you have to sell that.

Jillian: Yeah. You have to get them over.

Phil: Well, you gave her a nice tutorial on that. So that was good.

Josh: Well?

Phil: Well. Josh. 

Josh: The only thing I've noticed is just there's a lot of questionable accelerators out there.

Elizabeth: Oh there are.

Charles: By questionable, you mean bad.

Elizabeth: For sure.

Phil: And unethical.

Just say bad!

Charles: Questionable is too kind.

Elizabeth: Wow. When does Charles Hudson come out with stuff like that? You barely hear him say anything bad about anybody.

Neal: Charles has been low key, he's like -

Charles: No, I just have seen like a lot of accelerators that don't - they prey on founders who don't know better. They hear 'accelerator' and they think it's going to be of the quality of what Neal and others do and like it's better to just call them 'bad' than 'questionable'. 

Neal: There's even one program out there that charged - I don't even know what it's called - there's a program that charged founders to go through it.

Elizabeth: There's so many of them. Like once, somebody invited me to be a keynote for an accelerator conference. I was like, what kind of conference is this? And they said, well, it's for accelerator managers. And it was like 3000 Canadian accelerator managers.

Josh: Get out.

Elizabeth: I was like, are you serious?

Josh: Who are these guys?

Elizabeth: I didn't know there was so many accelerator managers in Canada.

Phil: In Canada.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Josh: Well, the pitch is an accelerator now too, so.

Elizabeth: There you go. 

After the break, we find out if Jenna accepts Neal’s offer to accelerate.

[break]

Welcome back. After her pitch, Jenna spoke with a couple close friends who had gone through Techstars. And both of them were like, Jenna you should definitely do it, but find a managing director that you trust. 

So Jenna hopped on the Techstars website, researched all their accelerators and added three to the cart. Techstars Boston, Atlanta and New York. But when she called up Neal, he had somewhere else in mind. 

Neal: Oh, you didn't mention Boulder, but someone reached out to me about you yesterday.

Jenna: Oh, really? 

Neal: About the Boulder program. So I don't know if you considered that. So, so you're, you're starting to bubble up a little bit in our, in our circles, just so you know 

Jenna: I would be really interested in Boulder, and Atlanta as a follow up to this. I would really love to meet with them

Neal made some intros, and then Jenna jumped on a call with the managing director of Techstars Boulder, Elle Bruno. The question was, is this the accelerator Jenna was willing to give up 6% of her company for? 

Jenna: I met with her, we clicked, totally hit it off and from the first 20 minutes together, were dying to work together. Um, her experience is exactly applicable to what we're building, and she is super passionate about elevating and supporting female founders. We got really open. I told her things that I've never told any other investors about myself, about our business. And we just had an amazing working session that ended in her officially offering us Techstars Boulder. 

Josh & Lisa: Congratulations

Jenna: and we were so excited that we accepted it on the spot.

Lisa: That's awesome 

Jenna: I called my dad last night, I texted him. I was like, I have really good news. I'm gonna call you and, you know, tell you what's going on. And so I called him and I told him, and he was. Oh, I thought you were pregnant. He was like, but that, techstars is cool too. 

Lisa: Oh my gosh. [laughter] 

Jenna: One and done dad, one and done. 

After that conversation with Elle, I wanted to hear why Jenna didn’t seem concerned about giving up too much equity anymore.

Jenna: it, it was not even a question to me. The 6%, you know, is what you could potentially allocate to a really meaningful advisor or board member or someone who takes part in your company in a really large way. And when I met Elle, I wanted her to be a part of our story. I wanted her to feel invested in what we're building and to be a part of it. And the 6% didn't even cross my mind again.

Techstars Boulder started in January. And here we are in April. So we called Jenna up to find out how the program went.

Josh: First of all, how are you? 

Jenna: I'm great. I'm very, very good. I'm in Boulder, Colorado. I brought my whole family out here and everything is just going great. 

Josh: I love to hear it. So what happened at Techstars?

Jenna: we got to Techstars and week two is called Mentor Madness. And at Mentor Madness you meet with 60 mentors in five days. 

Josh: Oh wow.

Jenna: It was so intense. I mean, I talk about Mentor Madness and I start sweating. So for hands down, our biggest problem is that everyone we speak to thinks our app is for them. Oh, I'm a golfer and we're always sharing different types of clubs. Like, this is perfect for the golf community, or I'm an artist and we all like different types of artists that we, this is perfect for us. Or, I'm a mom and or everyone. And, and that was our big red flag, right? If you're, if you're everything to everyone, then you're no one to anyone. And the mentors really reflected that back to us. So in our 60 meetings, I'd say 55 of them all said the exact same thing, which was, you need to verticalize. You need to focus on a specific type of customer and verticalize towards that customer. Listen to them solve their problems.

Josh: like choose a market, choose a certain type of person. 

Jenna: Choose a market. 

Josh: Okay, so by the end of it Who did you pick? 

Jenna: in order to determine how to verticalize, we identified 20 or 30 cohorts. So we had artists, golfers, outdoor enthusiasts, pregnant women, moms of kids who go to Montessori schools. And we scored them in different categories. Do they value trust? Do they value efficiency? Are they obsessed with their product categories? How many purchases do they make a month? 

Josh: Hmm. 

Jenna: And we went through a scoring exercise. The top three highest performing cohorts were pregnant women, moms of babies up to one year old, and parents of children in Montessori schools. And the other cohorts were like 10 points behind them so

Josh: Oh, wow. 

Jenna: This was our first clue. The second was pulling data through our app and seeing who the most active cohorts are, and guess who they were. 

Josh: moms. 

Jenna: The moms have spoken, we are now here to serve the moms.

Josh: Once you landed on moms as the market that you were gonna go deep on, were you nervous or hesitant about making the switch?

Jenna: Yeah, I was. 

Josh: Tell me about that. 

Jenna: I had advisors, investors ask me about verticalizing before, and it had always been in the context of why don't you just build this, you know, in skincare, why don't you just build this in beauty? Why don't you just build this for moms? 

Josh: Mm-hmm. 

Jenna: Where I got nervous was in completely rebranding, re-skinning, refocusing everything to anything as specific as moms, because that was completely reinventing my business, the business that I had this vision for this, you know, I could see it in the back of my head, and originally I thought, does my vision feel smaller if it's just for moms. 

Josh: Hmm. 

Jenna: And then over the week that we spent deciding, the vision got bigger and bigger and I could see it more and more clearly every day. And the ideas were flowing and I got really excited about it. And. It was, there was no going back. I mean, we, we talked to almost a hundred moms and in hour long interviews, and some of the moms were reading our pitch deck verbatim. They were saying actual sentences that were written in our pitch deck.

Josh: Any of those calls stick out to you?

Jenna: There was one mom that we just love. She by trade is a private investigator and when she had her first baby, she approached finding the right baby products with her private investigation skills. and literally put on her PI hat and still couldn't find everything that she needed. And so we said if even a private investigator can't find the right bottle in SleepSack, and travel stroller and diaper bag. Then nobody can. And so we can help her with, you know, we can help these moms, we can build this for them. 

Josh: How do you actually make the change? Like how is the change going. 

Jenna: We made the decision to pivot to moms and within two weeks we redesigned, built, tested, and launched a new app on test flight. 

Josh: Oh, it's already live. 

Jenna: Well, it was live on test flight, now it's live on the app store. So hands down is you know, for these moms who are overwhelmed with the amount of time it takes to find all of the trusted products they need for new motherhood, hands down is the shopping app where they can source, save, share, and shop trusted product recommendations with other moms and their mom friends. 

Josh: Well, that's really cool. This feels like a really exciting new direction for the company because I don't know of very many groups, more passionate than moms. If you can actually serve them, it could really solve some big problems for them. 

Jenna: You know, it was just like, you know, it's been a long two years, and it just felt like the absolute right thing at the right time with the right person. Thank you guys and the show, and Neal and the other, you know, investors on the show for encouraging us in this direction. It, nothing's ever felt so right for our business.

Jenna’s demo day pitch is literally tomorrow, and then on Friday it’ll go live for the world to see. We’ll link to it in this week’s edition of The Pitch Insider. Which if you aren’t subscribed yet, what are you waiting for? Hands Down, best newsletter I’ve ever read. Lisa is absolutely crushing it. Go to pitch.show/insider and subscribe right now.

Next week on The Pitch… 

Ariana: Spanx already existed, because there were control-top pantyhose. Those existed. People are doing it. I promise you, and this is my opinion I'm gonna challenge, no one is making what we're making. They're making -

Jillian: That's not true. I'm gonna say that's not true. I'm gonna push back on you. And I hate to be like that, but I've seen a hundred of these. Everybody has these. 

That’s next week in The Pitch Room. See you on Wednesday.

We’re casting founders for the next season of our show, to be recorded this June in San Diego CA. Go topitch.show/applyand simply upload your pitch deck. We’re looking for companies raising pre-seed or seed. 

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The Pitch is me, Josh Muccio, Lisa Muccio, Kerrianne Thomas, Anna Ladd, and Enoch Kim.

Music in today’s show is from The Muse Maker, Breakmaster Cylinder, The Brow, Memory Palace and Onders.

The Pitch is made in partnership with the Vox Media Podcast Network. 

The Pitch, Inc. and their respective employees and affiliates do not provide investment advice or make investment recommendations. The information provided on this show should not be used as the basis for making investment decisions. Listeners should conduct their own research and consult with their own investment advisors before making any investment decisions.

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Mac Conwell

Investor on The Pitch

McKeever "Mac" Conwell II is managing partner at RareBreed Ventures. Mac is a former software engineer and was a former DOD contractor with top-secret clearance. He was a two-time founder with an exit and a failure. Next Mac moved on to venture capital via the Maryland Technology Development Corporation as part of their seed investment team. Mac went on to found RareBreed Ventures, a pre-seed to seed venture fund that invests in exceptional founders outside of large tech ecosystems.

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Neal Sáles-Griffin

Investor on The Pitch

Neal Sáles-Griffin is an entrepreneur, teacher, and nonprofit leader. He co-founded the first beginner-focused in-person coding bootcamp, and ran for mayor of Chicago in 2019. He's currently the Managing Director of the Techstars Chicago accelerator as well as the Techstars Rising Stars fund, and is an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering where he teaches entrepreneurship.

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Jenna Sereni

Founder & CEO of HandsDown

An Influencer Marketing innovator and pioneer, Jenna Sereni is known as the original creative inventor for the first ever influencer marketing company, WHOSAY (co-founded with CAA and acquired by ViacomCBS now Paramount). Today, Jenna continues to pave the way into the future of influence and how trusted voices drive commerce as the Founder of HandsDown–the first shopping platform built for communities. HandsDown invites users to share what they “hands down” can’t live without and discover what they’ve been missing, from people they trust the most--their community.

Jenna is also a member of Comcast Ventures Mastermind Network, is Advisor to Emmy’s Organics, and the US Launch Advisor of Digital Currency Group’s Luno. Jenna resides in Vermont, which has recently become a stomping ground for budding tech companies and brands.

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Elizabeth Yin

Investor on The Pitch

Elizabeth Yin is the Co-Founder and General Partner at Hustle Fund, a pre-seed fund for software startups. Before founding Hustle Fund, Elizabeth was a partner at 500 Startups, where she invested in seed stage companies and ran the Mountain View accelerator. She’s also an entrepreneur who co-founded the ad-tech company LaunchBit, which was acquired in 2014. Her book is called Democratizing Knowledge: How to Build a Startup, Raise Money, Run a VC Firm, and Everything in Between.

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Charles Hudson

Investor on The Pitch

Charles Hudson is the Managing Partner and Founder of Precursor Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on investing in the first institutional round of investment for the most promising software and hardware companies.

Prior to founding Precursor Ventures, Charles was a Partner at SoftTech VC. In this role, he focused on identifying investment opportunities in mobile infrastructure.

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Jillian Manus

Investor on The Pitch

Jillian Manus is Managing Partner of an early-stage Silicon Valley venture fund, Structure Capital. Branded “Architects of the Zero Waste Economy," they invest in underutilized assets and excess capacity. She was named one of the top 25 early-stage Female Investors by Business Insider in 2021. Jillian serves on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, these include: Stanford University School of Medicine Board of Fellows, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center Board of Directors, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.