Aug. 23, 2023

#115 Gemist: The Crown Jewel of Venture

When Madeline Fraser tried to design her engagement ring online, she was stunned to find it couldn’t be done. After bringing a cash deposit to a rando in LA, Madeline got her custom ring and, with it, a new business idea. She started Gemist – a vertical SaaS product for jewelers. It's the kind of business VCs love, but that means they'll expect the business to be flawless. Will Gemist pass inspection or will slight imperfections blow the whole deal?

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Go behind-the-scenes with the founders and investors on The Pitch



Josh: Pitch 1, day 1


Vertical SaaS, what is it exactly? A skyscraper that talks back? An upright teenager? No. It’s software made specifically for one market, or vertical. 


It’s companies like Toast, who make software for restaurants, or Mindbody, who you may have used to sign up for a class at the gym… Both are worth billions.


Vertical SaaS is the crown jewel of venture. Investors just can’t get enough of it. You’ll hear why in today’s episode. 


But with so many VCs chasing after the same deals, the prices for vertical SaaS… they’re going up. Which in turn, means investors expect these companies to be flawless… No pressure.


On our show today, a founder building vertical SaaS for jewelers. Will investors find a priceless gemstone … or will slight imperfections blow the whole deal?


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


Paige: Hi I’m Paige Finn Doherty, founding partner Behind Genius Ventures and welcome to San Diego.

Neal: Hey, I’m Neal Bloom, managing partner at Interlock Capital

Elizabeth: Hi, I’m Elizabeth Yin, general partner at Hustle Fund

Mark: I’m Mark Phillips, founder of 11 Tribes Ventures


Charles: Hi I’m Charles Hudson, managing partner, Precursor Ventures


The pitch for Gemist is coming up after this. Let’s get SaaSy. And if you want to watch video of this pitch, go to


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. 

Neal: We should have some like entry music going. Like pump them up.

Paige: Oh yeah. Untz untz untz.

Elizabeth: That'd be good. 

Mark: Here we go.

Madeline: Hey hey


Madeline: Hi guys. Nice to meet you. Can I say hi to all of you. All right guys. This is so much fun. I'm so excited to be here. I'm Madeline Fraser, the founder and CEO of Gemist. Gemist is a B2B vertical SAAS platform that's here to bring the jewelry industry into the digital era. The jewelry industry is one of the largest and most lucrative industries that virtually has no technology innovation. It's very, very traditional. In fact, 75% of the $300 billion global industry is not online. And there are virtually no technology solutions that are catered to the unique pain points of the jewelry industry. Until Gemist. These are tech pieces that we've been building over the last two years, primarily as a D2C brand. They're proven, they're user tested, they work. We officially started selling the tech to the jewelry industry this January. And so with zero dollars in marketing spend, and me as our sales team, we've been able to sign four large jewelry brands just in Q1 of this year, at an annual contract value of over 500k.

Elizabeth: Wow.

Madeline: And we've built a 30 plus brand wait list that has contract value of over 3 million. So we're doing a $3 million round to really enable us to grow our engineering team, primarily, so that we can take that awesome wait list and actually execute this in a really meaningful way. So right now, it's being led by Entrada Ventures. We have 2 million committed and we're kind of looking to fill that last one million in the next few months here as we get this off the ground. 

Paige: I wanna see the product.

Madeline: You wanna see it?

[crosstalk yes]

Madeline: It's such a visual thing. Umm okay. So. The three core solutions are customize, stack and home try on. These are three solutions that essentially can get integrated into online brands' existing websites. So this is customize. It's a design experience that enables consumers to essentially build their own pieces. Stack is visualization on model of multiple pieces, mix, match, style, personalize, see things come to life. And then try on, you can build a try on box, any category of up to 3 products. It's replica pieces that are then sent to your home. You can wear them, feel them, make sure you love them and then check out with confidence. 

Mark: Wow. Does Gemist enable the replica production? 

Madeline: We do. We also do that. 

Neal: Wow. 

Madeline: So we have a manufacturing team in downtown LA, um we've been able to really execute a gorgeous replica. They're made of sterling silver, gold plating and Swarovski crystal, so when you look at them, apples to apples, they look identical and beautiful to the real thing. 

Elizabeth: How did you get into this?

Madeline: I'm actually a three-time founder, so I've been doing this for a very long time. I think like all of my companies, I find a problem and then I get really curious about it and I decide that I have to solve it. And it actually came to me when I was getting engaged in my personal life. I thought I could go online, design what I wanted, try it on. I thought it would take like a week or two, and boy was I wrong. I mean, I couldn't purchase a ring online. And that like literally blew my mind! And I went to downtown LA and met with a random guy in his office and gave him a cash deposit, had no idea what the hell this was gonna look like. And so not having visualization, not having beautiful experiences that support creativity around jewelry is a huge loss to the industry, and it was something that I felt really needed to change. 

Elizabeth: So originally you built the site to allow people to create their own custom jewelry? Is that what I'm hearing? And then you moved into supporting other jewelers?

Madeline: Exactly. Exactly. You know, we launched the direct to consumer site with this base technology like right around Covid. And it was interesting, because I saw that shift in the industry, where all these brands were shuffling to get online. and the problem is that the one size fits all models do not work for jewelry. 

Paige: I would be curious to understand like what your pricing model looks like on the B2B side. 

Madeline: So the one thing to note also, about the jewelry industry, is if you think of like the top big brands in your brain that equal jewelry - De Beers, Tiffany, Cartier - that's only about 12% of the entire industry. And so the industry is actually primarily made up of the SMB market. So with the SMB side, they're not gonna spend cash up front really willingly. What they are super into and willing to do is revenue share. And with them, we do a monthly licensing fee that's around $1000 a month. And then we pair that with a transaction percentage on anything sold through the Gemist experiences. And that usually ranges between 3 and 10%, depending on how big the company is. uh For larger enterprise companies that are doing 20 million plus in annual revenue, it's the opposite. They're super down to throw down cash, right. [laughter] So we start with implementation fees, anywhere between 30 and 75k. And then we do a higher licensing fee based off of SKUs. And right now, we're looking at an average annual contract value around 100k. 

Charles: Does this integrate with their web experience? Does it replace it? How does it fit into their current tech stack?

Madeline: So right now, we're targeting brands who are already online. They've made that shift, they've spent the time, the money, they all have horror stories of working with like you know Shopify and other, you know, dev teams in - in Prague and things like that. And, you know, they're looking for a way to enhance their current site. Right now it takes about one to two months to integrate and get them live, and we're gonna automate that as we grow and scale. And we are gonna be also offering that entire headless experience of a full website, and at that point we'll be building out payment processing. 

Charles: What do you need to do to become the Shopify? Like what level of effort is that to sort of remove the need to have any other platform?

Madeline: Sure. So we're - we're actually already doing that right now with two of our brand partners. The only thing we're relying on is Shopify for like order processing.

Charles: Yep. 

Madeline: However, my CTO and engineering team is already building that out. We're trying to aim to have that live by the end of the year. So it's not a crazy lift. 

Elizabeth: You said it takes one to two months to integrate. What is involved in that?

Madeline: Sure. So it takes that long only because we're just doing our first four partners right this second. Our first partner actually just went live this week. They're called Greenwich Street Jewelers. They're a big jewelry brand based in New York City. Once we have their Shopify app live, it's packaged. So then I can then just rinse and repeat that model for every other brand, right. So my CTO and my cofounder Anup Murarka who comes from 30+ years in engineering from Adobe and Apple, he really feels confident that we can get that down to about three weeks as we scale this. 

Mark: Can you talk about the sales process with Greenwich? Just bring that to life for us. When did you meet them, how did you get introduced, and then how long did it take to close?

Madeline: Ah, it took six weeks to close. I emailed them cold. That's all I'm doing. Literally not kidding. The sales cycles are anywhere between a four and eight weeks. Right now, I'm like, okay. I'm just gonna target the US. And right now there are about 55 to 60,000 retailers just in the United States. So if I take that percentage of ones that are already online. That's about 9000, give or take, brands. So if we can tap into 20% of that, we're already at about 200 million in terms of take home revenue, for Gemist. So it's one of those things where this is something that can really be amazing as a company and very scalable without having crazy market penetration. 

Elizabeth: I fully believe that. I have multiple friends who run online jewelry brands that do super well for them, as small businesses. So I believe that the sales cycle's super quick. Actually, this is probably one of the few businesses where I'm not worried about the sales cycle. But the thing I think I'm still hung up about is this integration. Even at scale, three weeks to get a partner onboarded still feels really long to me, and you'll need a big team to start all of a sudden onboarding all these different folks, right. The capital structure on this feels very heavy. Talk about that.

Madeline: I agree. I agree with you. - we'll get it faster and faster, of course. But to me, when I think about how much revenue each partner brings in, and how much revenue these brands are just pulling through their company in general. So I actually think it behooves us to really nurture each partner, make sure that it's a gorgeous experience that's perfect for that brand, and that they feel really like we're a partner. That's the biggest thing. I don't want this to feel transactional. I don't want this to feel too fast, actually. I want it to feel slightly bespoke, slightly hand held, because that's - that's what they want. Right. That's just how jewelry people are. They want trust. They want to talk to you. They wanna, you know, touch you and have a handshake, right. It's a different industry. 

Elizabeth: So actually if we could just talk about pricing more wholistically and kind of break it down.

Madeline: Yeah.

Elizabeth: It sounds like you've got a roughly 1k per month monthly fee, and that has super high margins. 

Madeline: Yeah.

Elizabeth: And then you have this try-on product, which presumably has near zero margins. 

Madeline: No, no. It has margins. It's like a wholesale. So it has at least 50 to 70% margins.

Mark: Wow. 

Elizabeth: Got it. And then you charge 3 to 10% on transaction fees.

Madeline: Yes. And that's like - we track anyone who goes in to the experience. And if they go in there and they check out, we get that percentage. If they go in there, they look around, and they go buy something else, we also get a percentage.

Elizabeth: Ah. Okay.


Mark: So you make money at every turn, 

Madeline: Yup. I was just talking with Carter Cast, who's the founding CMO of Blue Nile, and he was telling me that like conversion rates on diamond center stones are .4%. 

Neal: Wow.

Elizabeth: I believe that. 

Madeline: Bounce rates are abysmal in jewelry. So this isn't just happening to the little fish. It's happening across the board. 

So far this pitch, sounds flawless. Like a diamond, one could say.

But even the finest diamonds have imperfections if you look close enough. The Grading of Gemist, is coming up after this.

Welcome back to the world of vertical SaaS, jewelry edition. Madeline’s business is hitting all the right notes for investors.

Gemist has a whole stack of products. And if a customer so much as breathes near the product, Gemist makes money. 

But Madeline isn’t the first one to try to solve this problem. Here’s Paige.

Paige: You mentioned Blue Nile, earlier. I think that was like one of the things that was top of mind, cos they're - from my understanding - like one of the larger customizable jewelry companies. So I would be curious to understand like where you see them fitting into a competitive landscape. 

Madeline: Yeah. So I think the thing about the current online experiences that are available right now is that their tech isn't wonderful. It's clunky, it's slow, it's overwhelming. So for - great example, you go to Blue Nile, you go to select a diamond. You literally get presented an Excel spreadsheet on a website. [chuckle] Do you know what clarity is? Do you know what fluorescents are? Do you know what ratio means? I barely do and I've been doing this for a while, right. And who wants to see a thousand of anything? Like it just - it makes you like sweaty and nervous. Right. That's what happened to me when I tried to design my ring. I was like, what's happening? This is so bad! 

Paige: Wait, sorry, to go back to my original question - so you don't think they're gonna enter this space? Blue Nile?

Madeline: Well, no, because they're - they already technically have a version, it hasn't changed in 10 years. I think they should hire Gemist [laughs] and I think, to me, what it comes down to, is jewelry people trying to build technology. I don't come from jewelry. That's my biggest asset, in my opinion. That's literally the best thing about me, is I can look at this industry - you know what I mean? Like big picture birds eye view and sort of say, hey, this is what's wrong. And not really have an ego about it but just say, let's look at what consumers are doing. Let's test this, let's see what they think. 

Elizabeth: How much money have you raised before on this company?

Madeline: Sure. We did a pre-seed and a seed round. So we did a million in our pre-seed, and 3 million on our seed.

Elizabeth: So you've already raised 4?

Madeline: Mhm. 

Paige: What - so what were the valuations that you raised on for the pre-seed and the seed? 

Madeline: We did a convertible note for the pre-seed, I believe 6 million cap. And then seed round was 3 million, 11 and a-half post. And this one is 15 and a-half post. 

You can almost see the gears turning in the investors heads, they’re trying to figure out, if the cap table is this full already, will Madeline still own enough of her company when it comes time to raise the series A. But maybe Gemist won’t need to raise another round, if they get money the old fashioned way. Here’s Mark.

Mark: You had talked about four large brands, contract value 500,000. Can you be specific about where are you at from a revenue perspective? Trailing 12 month and then I guess even the MRR from, call it, May at this point.

Madeline: Yeah. So MRR is about 50k a month, just because we haven't - the brands are going live now, right. So I'm dealing with mainly implementation fees and some licensing. Transaction fees haven't hit yet. So that'll start scaling soon. So we'll at least get to a probably 1 million in ARR by the end of this year. That's a big goal. And then as we scale, before Series A, we'd like to be somewhere between a 5 and 7 million in ARR. 

Mark: You think that's a 2024 goal?

Madeline: Yeah. Probably by the end of 2024 mid into 2025. 

Charles: I got pretty close to this one, but I think I'm out. I was just doing some math on the cap table here, and I just - I worry about what it's - to me there's one simple fix which is to give you and your founder more equity in the A, which will come out of the pockets, as it should, of people who invested previously. And I think for me, I'm most excited about the sort of get Shopify out of the mix piece. And I think I see you getting there, I just don't know that it will all come together in time for the A. But it's a very impressive presentation and it sounds like you really are - I mean, we throw around this term 'domain expert' a lot, but you are a domain expert in this. So, very impressive.

Madeline: Thank you, Charles. Appreciate that. 

Elizabeth: So I think you are very impressive. I think you're on to an interesting problem and I completely agree with you on the sales cycle. I think it's gonna be a really good sales cycle for you. I think, you know, given where the business is, like after this round you'll have raised $7 million and you'll - it seems like you're just sort of at the beginning of the customer acquisition cycle, I'm worried about the capitalization and the cap table. I'm also worried about the valuation, given where the company is as well. And so for that reason, I'm out.

Madeline: Okay.

Elizabeth: But thank you. 

Paige: There are a few things I really like about this business. you are an incredible domain expertise. I think you have a lot of clarity on pricing and what these companies are willing to pay for. The thing that I struggle to get past is the cap table dilution, and that's more for you as a founder and staying incentivized along a long road, which I believe will take more capital to push out Shopify in the market. So for that reason, I'm out. 

Mark: Can you share your perspective on the cap table? Like where is it at, and how do you as a founder feel about it? 

Madeline: Well, I still have over 50%. Listen, I'm not - I don't want to have to raise too much more funding rounds. My goal is to become profitable, execute this and grow quickly get through the A and see how we do. I want to sell this. There's an incredible amount of companies that will buy this, I'm positive about that. Shopify could buy this, Amazon could buy this, right. This could expand beyond jewelry. I think it's really smart to start super focused, but this could become fantastic for luxury accessories, for shoes, for handbags, for watches. But I don't know if this has to be venture company forever and ever and ever. I think we can get to a really good profitable solid place and scale from there. 

Mark: Where do you see profitability on the roadmap? 

Madeline: We'll be cashflow positive on our way to profitability before series A.

Mark: Yeah.

Madeline: Definitely. 

Mark: That's great. I really enjoyed this. and I like it so much that I want to invest 100,000. So I'm in.

Madeline: Amazing.

Mark: Yeah.

Neal: So I'd like to - to join in and participate - at least at 50k.

Madeline: Okay. Amazing.

Neal: Our style within Interlock is to look and see what domain experts we have that could be relevant and helpful.

Madeline: Okay. Fantastic.

Neal: So would love to follow up from there. 

Madeline: Yay!

Charles: Nice.

Mark: Well done. Thank you so much. 

Madeline: Thank you guys. You are all so fantastic and wonderful and you give me hope as a female founder, been doing this for a long time, you know. Really lovely room of people so thank you for listening. 

Mark: Of course. 

[thank yous etc]

Madeline: Yay! Thank you so much. Great. We'll talk. So nice to meet you guys. 

Elizabeth: Oh, you're whipping out the alcohol.

Josh: I figure it's afternoon now, so. 

Lisa: No. Actually, we're in here because the Pitch fund wants allocation too.

Madeline: Really? Okay.

Charles: There you go.


Lisa: I mean, if they invest, the Pitch fund invests. 

Madeline: Wow. That's amazing.

Lisa: And I've been impressed with you since our first call. Like -

Madeline: So sweet.

Lisa: I'm super excited. 

Madeline: Thank you. That's very exciting.

Charles: Awesome.

Mark: All right. Thanks, Madeline.

[more thank yous]

Charles: She can leave the tequila, that's fine. You can leave that in here. We'll take care of it for you.

Mark: We'll take care of the drink. 

Mark: So what - give us the horror stories that you've seen of overly diluted cap tables at a seed plus round. 

Charles: I got a ton of them. In '21 the problem was all of the new money was like, oh, we'll fix this. We'll just issue a bunch of new pre-money options to the founder and dilute all of the previous investors. And since all that dilution happens before my money goes in, Mr or Miss Founder, how much of a top up would you like? And some cases it was 10, 15%, on top of the option pool.

Elizabeth: Yeah, so now like if we're looking at 12 pre, 15 post, and then if you have another top up - you know, it starts to eke up to 20 plus is your effective entry point. 

Charles: If this was a clean 10, I would've put in 100k. I'm like a clean 10 with like -

Elizabeth: Ten post?

Charles: Clean 10 post with like good founder ownership, I would have been in 100k.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I think I would've too.

Paige: Yeah.

Elizabeth: But the - I felt like there was no negotiation room because this Entrada -

Charles: She has a term sheet already -


Mark: They've got a solid round. I think she says she's got two out of the three committed.

Elizabeth: Yeah. So, you know. 

Paige: I'd be curious to ask, like what is your benchmark for how much equity a founder should have at this stage?

Charles: I would like - I like people to be in the very, very high 30s to low 40s going to the A. It's just hard with seed ext - with everyone doing two seed rounds. I used to - before, I would have said 50% going to the A. It just doesn't - it doesn't happen that often in our - if you do a pre-seed, a seed, and a seed extension, you are not gonna be at 50.

Mark: So she was 5 to 10 percentage points off of where you were, which is why you said the 10 flat would have made sense. Do you… Does what she's saying about, hey, I wanna raise an A and then go profitable change your perspective?

Charles: I think if -

Mark: Do you buy that?

Charles: I do buy it, just cos of the nature of this business - there's no one I think who's gonna be nipping on her heels.

Mark: I agree with that.

Charles: It's not scooters, it's not food - like there's not gonna be anybody that's like nipping at her heels where she's gotta spend irresponsibly.

Mark: It's so niche, yeah.

Charles: We have companies in our portfolio who've done this playbook, that they've taken some venture money, gotten to a place of cashflow break even, and grown, and continued to grow. And I'm happy - I know everyone here has a small fund, dilution is our enemy. 

Mark: 100%

Charles: So if she could really - if she had maybe led with that story, I might have said, oh, if that's the plan, maybe I'm a little bit less concerned about -

Mark: That's interesting.

Charles: But she talked about the A, so I'm like, so we have at least another 20 to 25 points of dilution coming when she does that. 

Mark: I fully agree with you. I mean, if she didn't have to ever raise again, then these issues that we're talking about from a cap table perspective -

Charles: They don't -

Mark: - they go away.

Elizabeth: They go away.

Charles: They don't apply.

Mark: I'm fully with you. 

Josh: So vertical SAAS …. I have a friend that started a business like this and, funnily enough, very interesting, it's in the shed industry.

Elizabeth: Oh great.

Josh: And he started like a decade ago, building a 3D like configurator.

Charles: Yep. Yep.

Josh: And he built that for a while, realized that was really hard to scale and super custom build outs for every company, and so then he ended up pivoting and building essentially the whole Shopify stack for shed companies and it's just extremely sticky.

Charles: The money in vertical SAAS is full stack.

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Charles: Like that's the playbook. Like, you do it all.

Elizabeth: Yeah. This is gonna be trite, but if you're building a - if you have a consumer company that's kind of meh, if you pivot it into the B2B version of it, there's probably something interesting there.

Paige: Yeah. Especially if you've like already built and like learned a lot through being like essentially your customer.

Elizabeth: Your customer. Yeah. 


Elizabeth: Like she discovered all the problems of that business.


Josh: Right. Right. 

Charles: Cool.

Josh: Awesome. That was fun.

Yesssss! Madeline walked out of the Pitch Room with 150,000 in commitments from Mark and Neal. 

After the show, they went into diligence. And we caught up with Madeline to hear how things were going with Gemist. The first thing I wanted to know was what she thought about the whole cap table conundrum.

Josh: Were you surprised by that, being their reason for passing?

Madeline: Yes, I've never heard that before. 

Josh: really?

Madeline: yeah, no, no one's ever said that to me before. You know I think that that's a little bit short sighted in my mind, right? Not really talking through that or having enough time to sit down with them and sort of say, hey, let's let's think about what this could look like in the future. And I think that, you know, it's one of those things where if it didn't work for them, it didn't work for them. But it was very interesting that they all agreed on that when I had never heard it before from other, other investors. 

Josh: I think my theory is like, these investors, people like Charles and Elizabeth are so prolific and so many deals come across their desks. And so they have the luxury I think of truly being like, you know what, this deal is great, but otherwise, there’s this tiny tiny thing that I’m just gonna basically pass on because their dealflow is truly unparalleled. That’s my only theory. Because like otherwise, why pass for a like hypothetical thing that could happen at the series A based on past experience. 

Madeline: Well exactly, and you know, I would have preferred them to say I'm passing because of something they don't like about the company or the unit economics or whatever, you know, versus, versus, oh, well this, this cap table thing. Right. Because I, I, that's not, there's nothing that I could really do about that, right, other than just continue growing the company and putting one step in front of the other and, and, and, you know, seeing significant growth, which is the plan. 

Josh: right

Regardless of the cap table, we still had two investors who were willing to take the leap for some vertical SaaS.

For Neal with Interlock, he wanted to potentially invest even more money in Gemist. So he brought in some of his LPs - the aforementioned “domain experts” - to dig a little deeper. 

Greg: I think Neil asked both of us to jump on this call and get the lay of the land here. 

Josh: Okay so you guys are the experts on vertical sass jewelry businesses?

Greg:. Well I've, I've started like 10 of them. 

Madeline: you look like someone who wears a lot of diamonds

Greg: that’s what it is yeah. mostly in my teeth, but I took the grill out today. 

Ryan: I will say I did take my tongue ring out, because I thought it would be bad for the audio

Once everyone’s mouth jewelry was safely put away, the questions commenced

Ryan: what percentage of sales of jewelry are custom pieces?

Neal: Greenwich is live now, have you seen your first sale through their platform?

Greg: what is your contract term?

Ryan: Maybe talk through the mobile strategy

Neal: what’s the CAD ingestion aspect?

By the end of the call it seemed like everyone was starting to get it. In their own special way. 

Greg: it's like buying a car, right? Like you can pick the one Yeah, you can like go online and pick your interior and the stereo you want the rims you want on it 

You know that scene in Gladiator when the emperor gives a thumbs up or thumbs down to determine whether the gladiator would live or die. Well, Neal did that at the end of this call, minus the death part.

Madeline: They decided that they were going to open it up to their syndicate and get their LPs involved in in investing and he thinks you know with the interlock check plus the syndicate He hopes to get their full involvement up to about 300k.

Josh: Wow, so from 50k to 300 000

Madeline: Yeah, that's what he said 

Josh: that's a It's a big increase ehhh math on that, is that 300%? no that's not right. 500% No, no 600% it’s 600% this just in.

Madeline: I'll take it, sounds good to me. 

Josh: Uh, that's amazing. Okay. So let's, um, switch to 11 tribes. What happened with them?

Madeline: So they did a lot of diligence work, um, not just on understanding the company, but they actually talked to a lot of our jewelry brand partners. They spoke with past investors and they spoke with some of my past co founders at other companies. 

Josh: So trying to dig up dirt 

Madeline: I guess so. Yeah. Good thing is I'm a pretty dirtless person, so. 

Josh: Wait. Wait. Don't you live on a farm? 

Madeline: Damn, I live on a farm. 

Josh: So there's dirt. Just the good kind. 

Madeline: There is dirt. 

Josh: How does it feel having somebody poke around with like past co workers and stuff, trying to see if they find any red flags?

Madeline: I'm used to it. I actually, I kind of respect it. I would do it if I was them. I try to dig up dirt on investors too. I want to know if they're the right investors. 

Josh: So then what was the end result with Mark at 11 tribes? 

Madeline: So they are increasing their original 100k allocation to 250k.

Josh: What? Them too? 

Madeline: Yeah. 

Josh: Oh my goodness. I mean it’s not a 600% increase, but you know, 150%? That's pretty good. 

Madeline: Which is great.

Why is everyone doubling down on this investment? I’ll give you a hint. Two words. It rhymes with cervical bass.

Mark: I saw this as a really nice vertical SaaS solution. Right? Like, hey, she's got customers. This is, it's checking all the boxes for us. Valuation was competitive. Founding team is really compelling. But as we had conversations with customers and as we had conversations with co investors, I think the opportunity and the size of the opportunity became more and more apparent to us. Gemist has a very clear path to a 10x exit on this type of business, but that's just the baseline. We think, you know, even Entrada will say they think the opportunity is probably closer to 100x here. And that has really increased our level of conviction to the point where we wanted to increase our target ownership percentage within the business. 

Josh: So essentially you want it to be a bigger part of your fund portfolio. 

Mark: That's exactly right. This is getting into fund economics, right? But as we looked at our portfolio construction, we've been looking for more businesses that have sort of that upward potential that I think Gemist really does to be the Toast of the jewelry industry. 

I’ll toast to that! 

Josh: So we got 300, 000 from Neil. That's 250k from Mark, puts you at 550, 000. You've got 100,000 coming from the Pitch Fund. That puts you at 650, 000, which is, I think, the biggest investment we've ever had on the show. 

Madeline: Wow, that's amazing.

Josh: Out of over a hundred pitches. 

Madeline: Oh my god, really? [dog barking] Wow. I'm shocked. I did not know that. 

Josh: Even your puppy's happy.

Madeline: That's exciting. And my dog is barking. She hears, yay. [laughs] Wow, that's amazing. 

Josh: does that fill out your round?

Madeline: uh yeah, we’re close, we’re gonna get papering by the end of September, that’s the goal. 

Josh: Are you, are you ready for the fundraise to be done, or do you enjoy this? 

Madeline: No, I'm ready for it to be done. I don't, I do not enjoy this. Like, I enjoy running my company, and you know. The rest of my job is what I really love to do. This is a necessity, I'm the only one who can do this. this is something where I really am, you know, on my own in terms of the world of fundraising. I've got to, I've got to pull that courage, pull that confidence out, you know, and it's, it can be exhausting.

Josh: Yeah, I know. I do know.

Madeline: It is. It's a lot, you know, but I think if there's anything that I've learned just doing this time and time again is the people who say no are not the people that you need, right? It's like the, something about the universe like works itself out and you end up finding the right investors that are the ones that end up being the most helpful And I say this to a lot of founders who are just starting out, I'm like, they need you as much as you need them. This is a partnership, right? Think about what you want, what type of people you want in your corner and build from there and don't lead with fear. You know, if you, if you're, if you're leading with fear, you're going to take the wrong type of money. Uh, and I've been there before, you know, and it's, it's, that's not a good feeling. You know, you, you want the right people behind you. And I have to say that this whole experience and Josh, with you and Lisa and everything you've built and with the investors that you've curated, it feels really good. It feels positive. It feels like the right people, people with integrity. With, you know, respect, with compassion. and I think that that's so so wonderful and and sets you guys apart. And it makes me very happy to be a founder to have had the opportunity to participate. So thank you so much. 

Josh: Yeah, it's been a pleasure having you, you certainly took advantage of the opportunity. That's for sure.

Madeline: There you go. Exactly 

Josh: If you want to do a syndicate, uh, we'd love to open it up to listeners who want to also invest. 

Madeline: Wow, that's great. I love that idea. I mean, I can't think of Uh, a better, a better group of people to hear this story and get excited about Gemist and, and I think at this point, probably get to know me really well. 

Josh: yeah yeah

Madeline: [laughs] 

Josh: Maybe let's Shoot for 200k in the syndicate. See if we can raise that much. 

Madeline: Great. I will allocate that for you guys. 

Thanks for the allocation Madeline.

You know, investors are so predictable. I’m not surprised at all that the Vertical SaaS company raised more money on our show than any other pitch.

But then again, you can’t blame the investors, if they see a good investment, of course they write the check. Wouldn’t you? And in this case, you can!

If you're interested in investing in Gemist, go to


Next week on The Pitch… a founder has to convince investors that Africa, is a good investment.

Jillian: Are you looking at markets outside of Africa?

Mariam: Africa has 54 markets. We're looking at Africa only. 

Jillian: This is when you drop the mic.


Erica: She knows her stuff. 

That’s next week in The Pitch Room. And if you want to watch the show, check out our Youtube channel @ the pitch show. See you next Wednesday!

Applications are open for the next season of the show! We’re gonna be in Miami y’all. More details coming. 18 startups. A ton of really great investors. Pre seed, seed, that’s our jam. You need to apply at And if you’ve applied before, apply again. January. Season 11. Miami.


This episode was made by me, Josh Muccio, Lisa Muccio, Kerrianne Thomas, Anna Ladd, and Enoch Kim.

Music in today’s show is from Boxwood Orchestra, Imagined Nostalgia, Shaky Faces, The Brow, Breakmaster Cylinder, and The Muse Maker.

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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.

Charles Hudson // Precursor VenturesProfile Photo

Charles Hudson // Precursor Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 2–10

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.

Elizabeth Yin // Hustle FundProfile Photo

Elizabeth Yin // Hustle Fund

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 6–10

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.

Mark Phillips // 11 Tribes VenturesProfile Photo

Mark Phillips // 11 Tribes Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 9 & 10

Mark Phillips is the founder and managing partner of 11 Tribes Ventures. Prior to that, Mark was a strategy consultant focused on M&A between corporations and growth stage startups. He actively supported clients throughout the due-diligence and post-merger integration processes on deals totaling more than $750M.

Madeline FraserProfile Photo

Madeline Fraser

Founder of Gemist

I’m a 3x founder who has been creating and growing technology startups since my junior year of college. I’m proud to be the Founder & CEO of Gemist. We are the vertical SaaS solution for the jewelry industry providing technology solutions to online jewelry brands. We’re growing quickly and backed by some of the world's top investors and jewelry experts.

Neal Bloom // Interlock CapitalProfile Photo

Neal Bloom // Interlock Capital

Investor on The Pitch Season 10

Neal Bloom is cofunder and Managing Partner of Interlock Capital, an early stage investment fund and community of experienced business operators. Neal previously cofounded edtech startup, scaled talent tech marketplaces and worked on the space shuttle program.

Paige Doherty // Behind Genius VenturesProfile Photo

Paige Doherty // Behind Genius Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Season 10

Paige Finn Doherty is a founding partner at Behind Genius Ventures and the author of Seed to Harvest, an illustrated book about venture.