Nov. 8, 2017

#15 A Veteran Starts a Startup: Shift

#15 A Veteran Starts a Startup: Shift

When Mike Slagh left the military, he wanted to find a job in tech, but he couldn’t get his foot in the door. And then he found out that he was one of approximately 300,000 service members who every year struggle to make the transition back into the workforce. So Mike decided to do something about it and started Shift. 

Today's investors are Phil Nadel, Jillian Manus, Daniel Gulati and James Altucher.

Our show is produced by Josh Muccio, Kareem Maddox, and Molly Donahue. We are edited by Devon Taylor. Our Theme Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder, with original music composed by The Muse Maker, Bobby Lord and Haley Shaw. We were mixed by Enoch Kim with help from Matt Boll. Lisa Muccio plans our recording events and thanks to Asthaa Chaturvedi for her reporting on this episode.


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



From Gimlet, this is The Pitch. I’m Josh Muccio. 


[scoring start]


On this show, we take you into the room where entrepreneurs pitch investors for funding.

Jillian: Do you know, one of my companies used to be a literary agency. Did you know that?

James: I did know that. You represented Mother Teresa, right?

Jillian: Yes. I did.

Daniel: That's really cool.


Today... a military vet-turned-entrepreneur pitches his plan to tackle a systemic problem in America — one that he knows all too well. 


But first, let’s meet our investors.


Phil Nadel is with Forefront Venture Partners. Look for him to get right down to the cold, hard numbers.

Phil: So on the commercial side, do you have any signed orders? Or is it just verbal commitments at this point?


Jillian Manus is with Structure Capital. She tends to see the best in every entrepreneur — and encourages them to see it, too.

Jillian: Your passion shows through, your commitment shows through. Your smile is fantastic

Daniel Gulati is here with Comcast Ventures. He doesn’t invest often — but when he does, it’s because he sees an opportunity in the billions.

Daniel: It’s probably a huge business if you get to manufacturing scale.

And finally on today’s episode, James Altucher, an angel investor playing with his own money. When he’s looking to invest, he loves getting into the dirty details.

James: There's a lot of moving parts, it feels like, to make this a huge success.


Jillian: I'm thinking in my head, I want to discuss with everyone. Oh, hi, I'm so sorry. 


Mike: How's it going?


Jillian: Hi. What's your name?


Mike: Hi, I'm Mike.


Jillian: Hello, Mike. So…


Standing before the investors is Mike Slaugh. He’s tall and clean cut and, if he’s nervous, he’s not showing it. He wastes no time getting down to business.

Mike: So, I'm Mike, with Shift. I was in the navy for seven years. I was on the bomb squad. I made deployments to Afghanistan and Central America.


James: What does the bomb squad mean, they see a potential bomb and you have to go and...


Jillian: Dismantle.


Mike: That is the bomb squad, yes. 


Jillian: Were you a marine?


Mike: I was in the navy. So…  I was basically a technical expert for some of the world's best military units, I always had this very deep interest in technology. I just didn't know where I would fit or what some of the skills that I learned in the military would translate to the technology industry.


As he was looking ahead to a life outside the military, Mike knew he wanted to be involved in tech, but he didn’t have any idea how to get his foot in the door. It seemed like most people landing jobs at places like Google had a clear path from college to grad school to a career in tech. 


But he was in the military, and he didn’t think his experience dismantling bombs would make him attractive to a tech company. And he realized that if he felt like this, other vets probably did, too. 


So when he got out of the Navy he did something really enterprising — he arranged a field trip with a few other veterans to visit tech companies in Silicon Valley and basically ask — what do we need to do to land a job here?


Mike: And I remember sitting across the table from one of the Vice Presidents at Coinbase. And he was telling me,  he had just gotten out of the Air Force a few years before that. And as he was talking through how he had translated operations management and program management, some of these things that he did on a daily basis in the military, to something that could actually be of high impact and value at a growth stage company, , and I was like, why didn’t I know about this? 


Mike realized not only was he already attractive to tech companies, but in fact they were dying for employees with skills just like his — and other veterans.


Mike: And this is an opportunity on a scale that was so breathtaking to me that I was almost angry at myself for not knowing that it existed.  it was at that moment I realized that there was a ton of potential we could unlock  And that’s when I decided to start Shift. 


Mike wants Shift to be this crucial link for what he estimates is 300,000 veterans who — every year — are leaving the military and, like him, are wondering what their next step is. He is asking for 1.5 million dollars so that he can build out a technology that would help land these veterans in positions at tech companies.


Jillian: It's an onramp so that they, to match their skills, correct? With job opportunities, or...? Can you explain that more?


Mike: So what we do today is we facilitate internships largely at high-growth technology companies. So we work with recruiting teams, diversity inclusion teams, people operations, to find relevant fits based on people’s experiences in the military, and that’s the core technology that we’re building.


Phil: These are paid internships?


Mike: These are, so this is the interesting twist. These are active duty service members who are in their final couple months of military service, and they’re actually able to jump into companies before they even ever transition out of the military. And so it’s the onramp that didn’t exist when I left the military.  and it gives service members a very low risk way to just try something out.


Phil: Paid or unpaid internship?


Mike: So the military still pays their salary.


Phil: The military is paying and the startup company is not?


Mike: That’s correct.


Alright, so this technology that Mike wants to build — matching skilled workers with jobs — is not exactly ground-breaking. A lot of companies are designed to solve this problem. LinkedIn for example.


But there’s something that Mike said that got our investors’ attention — what he described as an “interesting twist.” Because these skilled workers are veterans, companies can take advantage of this little known GI benefit: the military will pay the first three months of salary for veterans transitioning to civilian life. This has the potential to set Shift apart from the competition... 


But then, right when it feels like our investors are about to start digging into the business, Jillian throws everyone a curveball.



Jillian: Okay. Okay. First of all, I have to say something. First of all, thank you for your service. First and foremost.


Mike: Thank you.


Jillian: Second of all, you've hit a very big sweet spot with me.  what this country has done or not done for vets is so unacceptable. 30% of the people in shelters, the families, are vet families and vets themselves. The fact that these men and women come back from serving and don't have a roof over their head or a hot meal is so shameful for this country. And it hurts me on such a deep level. The vets in this country should be celebrated. And I think that companies want to do more of this. They want to reach out to vets. They want to employ vets and they don't know how. The fact that you have built this, okay, to me is incredibly important. And if somehow we can get this in front of as many people as possible, then we should. And I'm going to put $100,000 of my money right now. You don't even have to go anywhere. Because what you're doing is something that we all need to be doing.  And I see that you're about to cry and because of that I'm about to cry too.


Whoa! Jillian just went in on a deal five minutes into the pitch. She has barely even heard how the business works! 


I wish you could have seen us freaking out in the control room when all this happened — but this is what it sounded like.


[tape from room]


And we weren’t the only ones shocked. Back in the pitch room, the other three investors are suddenly looking around at each other, their expressions a mix of: confusion and excitement. The question hanging in the air is: did Jillian just throw 100K at Mike because he tugged at her heartstrings — or is she seeing something here that we’re not?


Mike: Well, thank you so much. Um. It would be a very deep honor to be a partner with you in this, and I'm very excited to be working on this together.


Jillian: I am absolutely thrilled about this. I'm thrilled. 


Daniel: So should we get right into revenue model, or what?


Phil: I’d love to know more about the business…




Phil: Now, going back to the initial revenue model, the companies, the tech companies, the startups are paying you to do the search? 


Phil: Regardless of whether you fill the position or not? How much are they paying you to do the search?


Mike: $5,000 per person.


Phil: Per position?


Mike: Per position. And then they pay us an additional 20% of the first-year salary if a conversion takes place.


Daniel: That’s great. And that’s actually higher than what you would pay a standard recruiter, right? A standard recruiter gets paid on just the success. You get paid this premium because…


James: But to be clear you haven't made that money yet? That's the deal you're offering.


Mike: We have made the money for the initial search. So we've signed fifteen positions at $5,000 a piece. But now it's our job to convert on those in the next three to four months.


Daniel:  you're going in and you're sort of tapping this pool of candidature that they wouldn't have access to, or that's really hard to tap, right? Is that the value prop to the employers?


Mike: That's exactly right. And also going deep into military backgrounds to give people credit for experiences beyond just their job title alone. So some of the most highly accomplished people in the military, maybe their title is Navy SEAL. But that, by the current transition process, they map Navy SEAL to these few underlying skills, and these skills...


Daniel: So this translation layer for every single title in the navy, and army, and translating that to what it means in sort of the civilian world.


Phil: Are you able to do that? Is that right? Are you breaking down what their experience is and identifying that so that you can translate it for the companies and say to Uber, this guy who just says Navy SEAL on his resume, here's what he really did. Here's what his experience is. Are you able to decipher that?


Daniel: That feels pretty proprietary.


Phil: How do you get that information from the service member, or from his resume? 

Mike: because the military data set is so specific and so sparse, we're able to say if you were in the service for this many years, we can look at all the underlying military source documentation that tells us exactly what that person should be competent in. 


Even as Mike is dropping terms like “underlying military source documentation,” he’s got the investors, well, standing at attention. They want to get this thing. And maybe it’s because, like Jillian, they see this as a big opportunity. Or’s just because Jillian saw a big opportunity — and they don’t want to miss out.


Phil: And the companies you're working with see this as sort of a pool of untapped unaccessible, inaccessible talent. That they don't have access to, they don't understand the skillset.


Daniel: They're just hard to get to.


Phil: They're hard to get to, hard to access.


Jillian: And hard to translate.


Phil: Hard to translate. They don't know what their experience was.


Jillian: So how does this bomb deployment, or how does this, how would that kind of relay...


Phil: Uber's going, well we don't have bombs to dismantle so how do you help us?


Daniel: And they're all motivated to hire these people, right?


Phil: But I think even beyond the sort of like, the good will that comes out of hiring service members, they're selfishly, this helps them access a whole new pool of talent.


Daniel: Well, it's great for business, too, because of that reason.


Jillian: But here's what's really interesting about this pool of talent, which is what I, why I want, one of the reasons I invest. These men and women are highly trained, incredibly disciplined talent. They are high executors. You give them a task and they get it done. And so when you're dealing with the military, you are really, you are investing in people who have invested first and foremost in their country, so they have a high level of honor and ethics. Two, they know how to take orders, they know how to execute on those orders.


Daniel: And they've got grit. Your favorite book. 


Jillian: I was just about to say it!


Daniel: Your favorite book. They've got grit.


Jillian: I was just about to say that! And they have grit. And what is grit? Grit is purpose meets perseverance. And you just layer that with the honor piece, and you've got, for me, a perfect talent pool.


Now that Jillian’s thrown in her $100,000, she almost sounds like a co-founder. And Jillian can be pretty convincing. She’s nearly talked the other investors into agreeing that veterans are the perfect talent pool. But Mike still has to convince them that his technology can actually tap into that pool.


Phil: How built out is the tech though? I'm not clear on where you are in terms of building that tech out


Mike: So the product today, we can automate 50% of the application process.  So we send out a weekly email to both vets, and when vets are really active on the email, and we’re seeing high click through rates, we’ll turn around them and feature them to different employer email lists as well.


James: So you're building email lists of soon-to-be ex-military or ex-military. How many people are on the list right now? 


Mike: 20,000 people on the list today. 


James:  that’s your asset. Not your contracts with the employers. Contracts with the employers are coming because you have this highly valuable asset. So  There are some valuable services that the people on your list will need and will pay for. And so you’re going to be making revenues in both ways in ways that you haven’t conceived of yet. , and you’ll just be, it’ll be a huge company that way.


Jillian: So James it sounds like you’ve done this. That you know this?


James: Yeah, I know this business very well. I know it extremely well.


Jillian: So I think you should come in with me and invest.


James: All right. I will come in for $25k behind her $100k.


Mike: Thank you James. I really, really appreciate that.


Jillian: Only 25? How about 50?


James: Ah, let’s see. We’ll talk about it. I like the idea of providing value here more than I like the idea of providing money.


Jillian: Yes, okay.


Wow, James is in. 


It feels like this pitch is all about each investor finding their sweet spot: for Jillian, it didn’t take much: just learning the business helped veterans. For James, it was realizing there was an email marketing play. But Daniel and Phil haven’t yet been convinced. 


Phil:  one of the challenges is that every year, you have a new crop of 300,000 people, service members who are transitioning out. And the 300,000 from last year, many of them are already placed into a position or found a job or doing something.


James: Which is why they need additional services, but he still has their email address.


Phil: Right, you need to build, that's what I was going to say, you can't just rely on the services for that transition period. You need to have some ongoing, whether it be training or something that, you know, the idea of accessing the GI Bill or what do you do after that. There has to be some continuum of services so that you can tap into the ongoing value of the email list beyond just that transition.


James: And my guess is Phil, he knows that. There’s ongoing resources for PTSD, there’s additional training, there’s how to manage your savings that you’ve saved while you were over in Afghanistan. There’s a range of services.


Phil: If you do it right, you can build a rich database about these folks and really market to them a whole range of services.


Jillian: See, I think you hit upon the data piece.


Phil: Yeah. That's the key thing.  If you build that data set out, it could be very, very valuable.


Obviously the investors are into the potential of Shift - but they’re so into it that it’s starting to feel like they’re running away with the pitch. James is talking about Mike like he’s not even in the room. And I’m not sure this data-driven business that they’re imagining is the one Mike even came to pitch. 


Jillian: We're going to put James on this. This is, we're going to... I love what he's saying.


James: It’s a great business. It’s a great model and he’s doing it the right way. 


Phil: Right. Right. So you initially raised $1 million, you said, right?


Mike: We have $1 million raised for this round right now. And previously we raised $500,000 from Expa.


Phil: Okay. And who else is in this round?


Mike: Box Group, here in New York. Gelt VC with Jake. The Full Tilt Capital, the managing partner there is Anthony Pompliano, he's an army veteran. Tim Ferriss, Howard Lindzon and a few other angels, as well.


James: So Tim’s in this round at this valuation?


Mike: Indeed, yes.


Daniel: How much is open after your guys’ commits?


Jillian: So it’s, well, it’s 375.


Mike: That’s correct.


Daniel: 375 is open.


Jillian: Is now open.


Daniel: Would you raise, I’m just thinking ownership, would you oversubscribe?


Mike: I would oversubscribe if it would be someone who could be a partner at Series A, basically.


Daniel: Got it. So here’s where I’m at, which is... I think, I’m just looking at this purely as a business, first of all. So just to abstract a level above to Jillian’s -


Jillian: Emotional investment.


Daniel: And right monologue. I just want to add to that. Which is, I’m not, I wasn’t born in the US, as you can probably tell from the accent. But I’ve spent the last eight years of my life here, and I really do feel like this country has given me, I’ve started a business here, I’ve gone to business school here, and now I’m a venture capitalist with the privilege of investing in entrepreneurs like you and others. And I just would have never had that opportunity in my home country, in Australia. And so you know although I’m not, although I didn’t grow up here and I don’t have the decades of living in America, I’ve got eight years and I definitely consider it to be home. And so it’s folks like you that make that possible for foreigners like me to realize my dreams, too. So I appreciate that, as well.


Mike: Thank you, Daniel.


Daniel: On a business level, I think the only thing to make money in VC is to take a non-consensus view that turns out to be right. And I think the consensus view here is that it’s a small market, right, 300,000 people every year, you know, you’re monetizing off of this one-time fee. And it’s a pretty hands-on business. I mean, you’re selling to employers, you’re training all these candidates.  it feels like a pretty high touch model. That said, I don’t think any of those points are actually right. I think it’s actually a huge market, I think that if you play the numbers out, you can easily get to a billion-dollar market opportunity here. I think...


James: Can I address it, Daniel, just to interrupt. Let's say he has a million-person email list, and 10,000 people get placed at an average salary of $50,000. 20% of that is $200 million.


Daniel: So it's actually a huge market. And I don't even think it's a one-time fee. I think there's all sorts of subscription recurring opportunities.


Jillian: And partnerships. And partnerships with educational institutions in terms of the training piece of that. I see that as another piece.


Daniel: Totally.  So I would love to invest. Um, the little caveat that may be interesting to you is we're investors in a company called which you probably know.


Mike: We know them very well, yes.


Daniel: I'd like to do a conflict check on whether this is competitive. Because I wouldn't want you to think we're investing in a competing company and vice versa.  So I do want to do that check...  but pending that would love to have the opportunity to invest.


Jillian: And I also wanted to say that that $100,000 right now is coming from me personally. But I always have to per Structure Capital, I always have to run every company by them first. If they want to invest, if the fund wants to invest, that knocks me out. So I can invest personally, but that would be even a happier situation and potentially could be even a bigger investment.


Daniel: Just don’t knock me out.


Jillian: No, I’m not going to knock anyone else here. But that’s...


Phil: I was just saying to Daniel, do you want to split the rest of what’s, there’s like 375 left?


James: All four? Are we doing an all four?


Jillian: Yes. All four in. All four in. So what I think we should do, okay, we’re all in. Okay. Everybody, raise hands.


Daniel: We should hold hands and cry.


Jillian: And we’re all in. Link hands. I want this, I want this. Okay. We’re all in. We’re going to fill this up. Okay.


Mike: Thank you so much. I... It’s....


Jillian: This is, for me, a very proud moment. And I think for all of us. And we thank you so very much, once again. And we're gonna rock this.


Phil: It's a good mission. The company and you have a great mission here, and we're going to do what we can to help you succeed, and fulfill that mission and help our service members. So this is wonderful, what you're doing. So we applaud you.


Mike: Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.


Jillian: They're going to fulfill their missions, their continued missions in life, from one mission to the next.


Mike: Right. Find your next mission.


Jillian: Thank you.


Daniel: Thanks again.


James: Yeah, thanks so much.


Jillian: No, we’re giving a hug. We’re giving a hug.


Mike: Thank you so much, really appreciate it.


Jillian: Absolutely.


Daniel: Thanks for coming in.


And with that, Mike leaves the room and the investors explain why this was a deal they simply couldn’t pass up.


Jillian: Oh my goodness.


Daniel: We were never going to say no to that.


Jillian: You know what, he was starting to cry a couple of times, and I have to say that I was just so choked up. And he wasn't crying, he was, it's such a relief to have people believe in you when in the military you're working and you're pouring out constantly, and you don't have anything pouring back in except your love for this country. And I think that's a very difficult dynamic for military. I actually know this personally. And so this is, I can't be more proud of all of you, not proud, but I love all of you for knowing and understanding this so profoundly. I think that together, I really want to make sure that we're going to stick together on this and make sure that this company succeeds.


James: Well, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of value here that I hope he even realizes how to unlock.


Jillian: Well, you’re going to make sure.


Phil: I think your ideas are spot on. I agree with you and I hope you’ll work with him and help him.


James: Yeah, 


Phil: We need to make sure that he's on the same page with the four of us, because we all see it as a data play, right? Data, email list, but building that data set out. I need to make sure that he is on that. I think he is, but you know we didn't let him do that much talking.


Daniel: He seems pretty open to feedback.


Phil: I think so.


Daniel: He's one of those guys where, although he's a first-time entrepreneur, I just don't worry about him. 


Jillian: It's military. They're used to people saying, do it this way, we need you to do it that way.


Daniel: But he will execute. He will go forward and execute.


Jillian: This kid, this guy, that's it. What he said resonated on such a big level, which you wrapped up Phil at the end, which is, these are mission driven people. Okay. And we, venture capitalists, are mission driven in many ways.


Daniel: And you can't fake that. You cannot fake that. You can't buy it, you can't fake it, you either have it or you don't, and he has it.


Phil: Oh yeah.


Jillian: Because it's who he is. It's not what he does. With military people, it's who they are. It's not a profession. He was saying it's a purpose.


After the break… we hear how this all turned out for Mike after our investors went four 4 four.


[ad break]


Welcome back. Just moments after Mike walked out of the pitch room, I ambushed him and stuck a mic in his face.


Josh: Mike! You fighting back tears? What are you feeling right now man?


Mike: i feel so optimistic about the future, we haven’t accomplished much but with their support we can actually accomplish what we set out to solve. It’s just such a relief. With the support of the 4 people in there we can actually accomplish what we’re setting out to solve. It just feels awesome


Josh: You raised $500K dollars…


Mike: Yes that’s what happened just now


Josh: and they want to give you more


Mike: yea I got here 30 minutes ago, and it feels like I’ve been preparing a whole lot longer than that. I guess for my whole life it’s always been what’s next and really for the first time in my life, and it’s been this way for several months right now, I really feel like this is my path. and we’ve helped other people find their path.


Josh: Why was that like an emotional moment for you. I know you were fighting back tears in that moment and so was she. Why?


Mike: I think that its coming into a moment like this. um, you know, how do I justify to my team when we’re trying to -- everybody is working 14 hour days, and we’re just at the very end of preparing for this fellowship program. how do I justify to them that I’m gonna go to take three days off, fly to new york, and for something that could be a very very binary thing. 


Josh: meaning totally useless


Mike: and I don’t think it would be then totally useless. But I just felt like there was so much riding on this, and there was so much potential, um, it's a really complimentary group of people in that room . there's not a whole lot of overlap in the value that they can provide and I would have loved to have an investment from just one of them.


Okay, so fast forward a couple of months. As you know, after the pitch starts the grueling due diligence process — basically the investors making sure they’ve dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s — and if you’re Phil, you’re dotting them and crossing them a few extra times for good measure. The reality is that a lot of deals fall apart in this period. 


So I had to talk to Mike to find out what happened with Shift. The first thing he told me is, yes, sadly, his deal with Daniel fell through. That potential conflict Daniel had mentioned? Turned out to be a problem. And he’s had to put James’ 25 thousand dollar investment on hold for the time being, giving preference to bigger investors in the round.




His investments from Phil and Jillian have gone a big way.

Phil made his investment through his syndicate, Forefront Venture Partners, which means his $250,000 investment is split among dozens of investors. 


Here’s Mike.


Mike: With, with Phil, uh, I'm, uh, he's been an incredible ally thus far, we are, we're actually live right now in the AngelList syndicate that, uh-  and so I've already started to meet, uh, many of the investors in their community, um, so far, we've added between 30 and 40, uh, s-additional smaller investors through his syndicate  so, we're seeing checks of $2,500 or $5,000 or $10,000, and it's really really interesting to me to see the types of people who are getting involved.

Josh: Alright, so, Phil's investment came through, which is great, uh, what happened with Jillian?

Mike: Uh, this is the one that, really surprised me, um. We ended up meeting with the other, um, with-with the other, uh general partners in Structure VC, um- and, um, after going through a lot of the technology that we're working on, they started to get very very excited about-

Josh: So you finally got to talk about the technology? (Both laugh)

Mike: Yup. Yeah, exactly. Um, and, they ended up coming in with a, with a much bigger investment than they originally committed to on the show.

Josh: Yeah how much?

Mike: Uh, so much so that they came up to $350,000.

Josh: Oh wow. So Jillian's original $100K no matter what turned into $350K from Structure.

Mike: Yup. 

Josh: what's it been like since then to work with them after?

Mike: So, Phil's level of  Of deep due diligence uh, is as advertised. many of the, of the questions and follow-ups and, requests for information that, that I provided to Phil, um, really actually helped me think very very deeply about the business I think Phil has fast-forwarded my thinking about "how do we get to Series A, what are the metrics that we're focusing on, and how do we get a little bit better at accomplishing those metrics every single day?"

Josh: And so with Jillian, what’s Jillian been like to work with?

Mike: Uh, it's been really exciting to work with Jillian. She i-has a network like nobody else I've ever worked with, and she has started already making very impactful introductions, and some of the conversations that we're having now, um, are, you know, have me thinking, ca-h-how, how fast can we actually scale this, how fast can we accomplish this?

Josh: (over): Oh!

MS (over): It's an incredibly exciting feeling, I'm really excited to be working with her because, the types of conversations that she can put you in the room with, are, just at a different level, so…


Before I let Mike go, I had a few lingering questions about his actual pitch.


Josh: After you left the room, the investors had a conversation where they said, "you know, I am so excited about this. But we need to make sure that Mike is on board with all these things we talked about." They admitted, they said "you know we kinda took over the conversation, and we didn't hear much from him." [00:27:04] And so they sensed it too, and there was some question in their mind of like, "is this guy really building what we think he's building, or does he have other ideas that he just didn't say?" 

Mike: Sure. Yeah, I-I think that, for me in the moment, I was just, I was so happy that they were laying out a few of the visions that we have, and, a few of the really exciting pathways we can pursue, um, but certainly, yeah, I had quite a few conversations with the investors afterwards, to, to make sure that we were on the same page, you know, we were looking at the problem in the same way, and, and we were gonna go out and execute against that mission.


When Mike says “mission,” it reminds me how much that word came up both in the pitch and after — and I haaave to ask him one more thing.


Josh: Yeah. know, so, the one thing that was like weird about it, that was almost, um, seemed strange, and I'm curious what you think of it was like, do you think you were tokenized a little bit? 

MS (over): Yeah I think that, I, so I think that there's a lot of common stereotypes that surround military service, uh, like, you know, sh-always shows up on time and uh, has a good haircut and has great personal grooming standards-

Josh: (Laughs)

Mike: And things like that, and, and from that perspective-

Josh: (over): I didn't even think of those (laughs).

Mike: I-I-I certainly don't feel like tha-that was the vibe in the room at all, um,

Mike: I'm not, I'm not sensing it here, um, I, I do sense it, on some of the-so I have conversations with um, a lot of hiring professionals, a lot of um, diversity and inclusion-

Josh: (over): Naturally, yeah, 'cause that's who you're selling to, yeah.

Mike: And that's who I'm learning from, the uh, the diversity and inclusion professionals um, and I-I think that, um, sometimes, that people will fall back on some of those axioms or they'll fall back on some of those stereotypes, um, because they haven't had enough opportunities to sit and have a-a one-on-one normal conversation with a military veteran


This is one of these pitches that makes me so happy to be doing The Pitch. Shift is a great cause...but it’s also a really great business. When those two can go hand-in-hand — and we can help a founder like Mike get the funding he deserves… well, what’s not to love? 

But actually, we can’t take any credit. This was all Mike… well, and a little Jillian.

Our show is produced by me, Josh Muccio, Molly Donahue, and Kareem Maddox. We are edited by Devon Taylor.

Our Theme Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder, with original music composed by The Muse Maker. Additional music credits can be found in the show description. We were mixed by Enoch Kim with help from Matt Boll.

Thanks to Lisa Muccio for planning our recording events and to Asthaa Chaturvedi for her reporting on this episode.

And a special thanks to Jake Chapman for introducing us to Mike.

All right -- you’ve been listening to The Pitch from Gimlet Media. See you next week.

Phil NadelProfile Photo

Phil Nadel

Investor on The Pitch

Phil Nadel is the Founder and Managing Director of Forefront Venture Fund and of Forefront Venture Partners, one of the largest syndicates on AngelList. He has started and sold several companies and has invested in more than 200 startups with several exits.

Jillian Manus // Structure CapitalProfile Photo

Jillian Manus // Structure Capital

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 1–10

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.

Daniel GulatiProfile Photo

Daniel Gulati

Investor on The Pitch

Daniel Gulati is the Founder and Managing Partner at Treble Capital, an early stage investment firm that invests in consumer internet companies ranging from marketplaces, to gaming, to digital health. Before starting his own firm, Daniel was a serial entrepreneur, and then a managing director at Comcast Ventures. There, he he led investments in consumer startups that have since grown a combined enterprise value of $4 billion.

Mike Slagh

Founder at Shift