Sept. 12, 2018

#45 Whatever Happened to Virtual Reality?

#45 Whatever Happened to Virtual Reality?

Sophia Dominguez is on the show pitching SVRF, an augmented reality/virtual reality startup. But it can be tough to get investors excited about VR, which has attracted tons of hype—without much payoff. Can Sophia convince investors that VR’s time has finally come?


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Howie: Okay, when that started, it was like the Hindenburg. I saw the flames, and I saw it going down


Today … a founder fights through some stagefright to lay out her vision of the future. But nerves aren’t all that she’s fighting against … Sophia Dominguez is raising $1.5 million for her AR/VR startup … virtual and augmented reality has long been the realm of early adopters and hard core gamers … not the general public. 

But Sophia is here to convince our investors that virtual reality is finally, FINALLY ready for prime time.

I’m Josh Muccio and from Gimlet Media, this is The Pitch. 

Today’s investors are: 

Jillian: I’m Jillian Manus


Jillian is a partner at Structure Capital, where they’ve invested $98 million so far in high-profile startups like Uber.

Phil: I’m Phil Nadel.


As a serial entrepreneur Phil built companies that sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Now he manages one of the largest syndicates on AngelList.


Howie: I’m Howie Diamond.


Howie is our rockstar investor. No really, he was in a band. And since changing gigs, Howie’s invested in over 50 startups.


Michael: I’m Michael Hyatt


Michael built and sold two software companies for over $500 million dollars and now he invests for himself.


All right, on with the pitch.


Sophia: Hi. My name is Sophia Dominguez. And I'm the CEO and co-founder of SVRF. Imagine a world where you don't need your phone or a computer. Where visuals just appear in front of your eyes. Information and content flows through you, seamlessly, around you, at all times. The need for screens ends because rectangles are no longer as important. The future of this content is happening already, and everything I just described is not something that I've just made up; it's happening today on our phones already, and it's only going to get better. So that leads me to what we're focusing on today. Okay. I totally messed up.

Jillian: That's okay Not a problem.

Phil: You can start again if you want.

Sophia: Okay.

Phil: Start again. That's fine.

Right off the bat, Sophia’s nerves get the better of her. But she resets… and starts again. 


Sophia: We're no longer confined to a rectangle or to a screen. Holograms appear in front of you. Stories unfold all around you.

Jillian: Slow it down.

Sophia: This is no longer sci-fi. We can do everything I just described on our phones and it's only going to get better. The type of content that works in this new realm we call immersive content. We define it as 360 degree photos and videos, 3D objects and environments, 3D masks, filters and lenses. And the creation of this content is growing exponentially. Search engines evolve out of every new content type. We've seen this in the past with websites, with Google, products and images with Pinterest, videos with YouTube and GIFs with Giphy. Immersive content will be no different 

So it sounds like Sophia wants to build the equivalent of Google for this new type of content: immersive content. And apparently there’s tons of it out there already. But there’s no easy way to find it.

Sophia: And thus we started SVRF.

Phil: So can you explain it a little bit? If we take a step back where is this immersive content now? How are we currently using it? And then how's it going to grow?


Sophia: Yeah. So we index today about 23 different sites. So there's different ways in which they'll be indexed. We look for a very specific type of file, and these file types range from anything from JPEG, PNG, MP4 


Michael: I'm sorry, I'm totally confused. What exactly are we doing? SVRF does what? Let's start again.


Howie: Yeah. Are you a search engine?


Sophia: Yes. 


Howie: Okay. 


Michael: So I go to SVRF dot - you have a URL - and I go to that to do what?


Sophia: Yes. So you can search for all immersive content. But that's actually not what we're focused on today So what we realized is that most media consumption happens on social networks, such as Snapchat and Instagram 


Michael: Stop there. Instagram. We all use Instagram. What do you do?


Sophia: Okay. So I'm sure you've seen that there are face masks and other elements that are immersive content that are layered on top of people.


Michael: Like Snapchat put bunny faces on?


Howie: Yeah, they’re starting to do that on Instagram.


Sophia: Yes. So that is a type of immersive content.


Michael: Okay.


Sophia: So utilizing the camera suddenly you have a bunny face or a dog face. That is one type of immersive content. There’s other types of immersive content which you see which companies like Apple which are doing Animoji stuff. So suddenly you turn yourself into a character 


Jillian: I have. Yes.


Sophia: Yeah. And it’s becoming very consumer and very normal behavior. But the next generation of that is to also allow you to be anywhere at the same time. So you’re a panda, but it’s still kind of weird that you’re in this podcast studio. But I could then search utilizing our API to be like, I want to be in a jungle. And so suddenly you’re a panda that’s literally in a jungle just through the camera. And so we’re enabling that search database. 


You’ve probably used these filters before. You’ve thrown on a dog face or a voice changer with Snapchat … But maybe you haven't been thinking about this the way Sophia is: as augmented reality, virtual reality's less intimidating cousin. And that's a big part of what SVRF is all about ...


Michael: So help us old folks with something here. Why are we doing this? What's going on here?


Phil: For me to be a panda in another dimension?


Jillian: You don't have to be a panda.


Michael: You are always a panda in another dimension.


Sophia: You don't have to be. That was one example.


Jillian: Okay. So you're just walking into other... Realities.


Sophia: There's different levels of immersive content.


Michael: Did you invent that technology that did that? Or what did you do?


Sophia: The content. So we powered the content. So today we've been porting our experiences to Snapchat. So we take some sort of asset and then build it into Snapchat's Lens Studio and then promote it on Snapchat. What we want to do and what we're focused on now is building this API that automatically would just do the conversion process and then be able to power this content very seamlessly into companies like Snapchat, Instagram 


Howie: So Apple, Instagram, Snapchat, they're already doing this. I can turn myself into a panda. I don't think I can turn myself into a panda in the jungle. But are you selling your API to Instagram?


Sophia: Not selling. But we're partnership with all camera-enabled companies. So any sort of social AR and VR company that's looking for more content.


Howie: Give me an example.


Sophia: So for example today we’re partner with this company called Metaverse. And so what they allow is you can very easily build AR experiences. And so we provide them with a database of content that allows their users to like more readily build these types of experiences.


Howie: Is it a licensing type of deal? I mean, you said a partnership. What does a partnership mean?


Sophia: They integrated our API. 


Michael: How are you going to generate revenue? How is it going to be a business? How is it an investable asset?


Sophia: Yeah. So what we’re focused on right... We today power 1.25 million experiences across our applications.


Michael: Per?


Sophia: Per month.


Michael: Okay.


Jillian: And what does that mean in revenue?


Sophia: So we’re currently not generating any revenue. And we want to grow to 50 million experiences per month, mostly through the API partnerships, and then monetizing through the API

Phil: When you get to 50 million experiences a month, how do you monetize?


Sophia: what we want to do is do sponsored posts from within the API. So instead of just focusing around people coming to, utilizing the API as a way to get more eyeballs, and essentially have sponsored posts there. So for example, if I'm Nike, we create some sort of experience, they want to pay for premier placement of anyone who's searching through sports or whatever the experience is about, then they get prime placement 


Phil: So you have to get to, you feel like you have to get to 50 million experiences a month and then you'll have enough scale to be interesting to brands.


Sophia: Yes.


Phil: What kind of revenue can you generate from that?


Sophia: M-hm. I mean, it's really honestly unknown We're still figuring it out But I think for us it's about how do we get to 50 million? And how do we get that scale. And also in the meantime work with the brands 


Howie: Sponsored posts are the only source of monetization? Can't you come up with some kind of licensing fee or something that can... If you're going to really be behind the scenes powering all this stuff, can't you charge for that?

Phil: Like in other words, wouldn't Instagram pay you a licensing fee to use this? 

Sophia: Mm, I don't think that they would. Partly because Giphy has been the only company to kind of break through and be able to partner with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, all these different places. And they have specifically chosen not to charge these companies, because for them it's about scale and distribution. And I think that we'll follow a similar path

Sophia's modeling her business on Giphy, which could be really smart. So let's talk about Giphy for a second..

You might have used GIPHY without even knowing it. If you’ve sent a GIF on Twitter, or via text on an iPhone, then it was likely through their their custom integration or API.

It’s been reported that GIPHY has 300 million active users … every day. So if Sophia can achieve something similar in the AR/VR space, that kind of scale could really turn investors’ heads.


Michael: Just tell us what this is. This is purely a bet that you can scale to have a tremendous amount of usage. And the idea is that you sell this business to someone who wants that line of traffic. Right? That's what this is? I mean, you clearly have no want to really to make revenue. You're on a... Which is maybe sometimes not a - I can't believe I'm saying this - but in this game, this is what you're doing. You just want crazy traffic and then you want to flip the business, right?


Sophia: No. I wouldn't say that at all. I think that we do want crazy traffic. And I think we want to power all this content. But I think focusing too early on that will not allow us to focus on scale. And how do we get as many partnerships as possible and reach. And therefore turning that around and turning it into an actual business.


Jillian: I like this. I really like you 


 Sophia: Thank you


Jillian: What does this look like in three years? What do you want it to be? What does success look like? 


Sophia: So success looks like we are the company... I think like ten years down the line. 


Jillian: Okay. I’ll go ten.


Sophia: What we think about is we are the company that owns the glasses or the contacts that basically power reality distortion. Because that’s what we actually want to do. Because if you say, I want to suddenly be at the beach somewhere, the company that powers that is also the company that actually has the device that does that.


Jillian: That’s interesting.


Phil: So you want to be eventually in the hardware business?


Sophia: Eventually.


Jillian: Would that be being acquired by a hardware? Because that’s really capital intense.


Sophia: Yeah. I mean I think it’s a long way away.


Jillian: But I like the moon shot. I look at companies that have a moon shot and an earth shot. That’s the moon shot. That’s really cool Give me the earth shot. 


Sophia: Within three years, if we’re integrated with every social application and basically powering their entire database of lenses and we’re the known brand for immersive content, period 


Michael: So who is 'we' and what's your secret sauce? 


Sophia: mhm so I've been passionate about augmented reality and virtual reality forever And I'm a product person. So I had one other company before. umm [00:15:23] We sort of turned it into a dating app. But we decided that we didn't want to work on a dating app and so we shut it down. But in during my time there, that's when I started AllThingsVR, which was one of the first virtual reality newsletters, and trying to help people understand what was happening in the virtual reality and augmented reality industries. And generated this idea of SVRF, realizing that there's going to be increasingly amounts of content there needs to be someone to organize it and allow people to surface it in various applications


Michael: What valuation are you raising at now this round again?


Sophia: Seven million.


Jillian: And your last was...?


Sophia: Three 


Phil: The previous round.


Sophia: A little over a year ago. 


Howie: How do you have money?


Sophia: So we’ve raised $730,000 so far. 


Jillian: And what are you doing now?


Sophia: Right now we're raising 1.5 


Phil: If I were going to invest in this space, I would absolutely invest in you.


Sophia: Thank you.


Phil: But this is not a space... It’s not even so much the space that I don’t like. It’s just it’s so early and We don’t know how much revenue you can generate from sponsored posts. You’re a long way from getting to the scale that you need to even approach these brands. And frankly, it also concerns, your long-term vision for the company concerns me when you start talking about getting into the hardware space. I don’t want to invest in a hardware company. I like the search engine business. And the API business. I don’t want to be in the hardware business. And so that long-term vision doesn’t align with what I would look for in an investment. So I’m going to pass. 


Phil is out. But there are 3 investors who’d like to learn more. Including Jillian.


Jillian: What’s the biggest pushback on this from....


Sophia: Market timing.


Jillian: Okay. Keep going.


Sophia: So originally when I started pitching this, ummm we really focused on AR and VR. But got passes within six seconds of somebody looking at the document because it literally only said AR and VR. And what we are really focused on is not necessarily headsets at all People were saying that headsets growth is going to be huge. And we were like, that’s not going to happen. Nobody really wants to wear a headset. But this content is so interesting. How can we make this content interesting for the people of today And that’s where Snapchat and places like Instagram and these sort of lenses and filters really come in handy, because it’s just so natural to see this content and experience this content through the camera. And realizing that early has set us ahead. 


Howie: I think it's interesting that you are shying away from the AR/VR conversation. Because you got some pushback. I know that VR was very heavily hyped a few years ago Then the bottom fell out. AR seems to be more on the path with some market viability.


Sophia: Yeah. It's just, VR is in a nuclear winter and AR is in a very cold times.


Howie: Right. Which to me is, okay, there’s going to be AR and VR in our life at some point. So this is a great time to invest in this type of sector. can you talk about any of the exciting things of how this content could be practically applied or implemented through AR/VR? Do you have partnerships on that? 


Sophia: Yeah. So I think the thing... The area where I’m most interested is everything that Apple is doing and also Samsung is doing with these characters. And we’ve seen this with companies like Snapchat and Bitmoji and then with Apple with Animoji. And I think another reason why companies [00:31:00] like Apple, they’re focusing on how do we mask how somebody looks? Because the number one reason why people don’t video chat is because they don’t like the way that they look, so if you can change that, that allows more and more people to share video, to talk on video, etc, etc. And I think it’s just it’s a more natural way to communicate than just being on the phone. 


Howie: Not to call you out, but it's funny that you said it's a more natural way to communicate if we turn ourselves into animals.


Jillian: Well, look at what happened with gaming.


Michael: I caught that. I'm like...


Howie: That is the new normal.


Michael: Maybe there is a differential in the age thing. Like I call Phil, hey Phil, I’m a panda. I’m in a forest.


Phil: You’re a panda today. Cool!


Howie: I want to be a dragon.


Michael: Let's talk about that deal. I'm a lion.


Jillian: I want to be a dragon! That's what I want to be.


Michael: But do you know, I laugh, but people do it. They love it. They love it. I mean, I laughed at Snapchat and everybody's a princess and a bunny-eyed thing and I don't know what's going on. But I think you do it once, it's funny. Twice, I couldn't stand it Look, I like you a lot. I think you answered our questions really well. I think you're very smart and I think you're a product person at the core. I think you like what you're doing. I think you're passionate about what you're doing. All those things make you a good entrepreneur. Umm I think for now I’m out. You know, it's funny, I got to tell you, I am a little on the fence here. Because I actually think you do have something. I just don't know how to gauge it 


Michael is out. Here’s Howie


Howie: With this, I don't know how big the upside is I usually like to swim in the post-seed waters; probably the round that would be coming after this. Just to really be able to evaluate more, have more metrics to really understand how people are engaging, are they re-engaging, I like, I really like you, [00:38:00] I like this. And I say to myself, if when I was getting... If I were to get pitched, if Snapchat pitched to me seven years ago, I would have passed, because I didn't get it. And I'd be kicking myself for passing. Right? Because I would have just been like oh, that's just a stupid app. It's a generational thing. I didn't realize what it was going to be and this paradigm shift that was happening. I don't want to miss the boat on this, because I feel like there's something really special here. So I do want to keep in touch. And then if you need to raise more money in your next round as you ramp up to Series A, I'd love to have that conversation.


Sophia: Awesome. Cool. Appreciate that.


Howie: Yeah


With Howie’s pass, that makes Jillian the last investor left.


Jillian: I think you are... You’re sharp. You know every single... You have an answer, a smart answer to every question. You know your stuff. You’re confident. There’s just so much here. I love the fact that you went out and you started this newsletter. So you’re a pioneer. And that’s fantastic. I want to put 50 into this round. I might put in more, to tell you the truth. But I really do want to speak to some of the other investors, if you’re open to that? 


Sophia: Of course.


Jillian: But I’m going to commit 50 now, So I’m in!

Sophia: Awesome. Thank you.


Jillian: I’m in.


Sophia: Thank you.


Sophia: Awesome.


Jillian: Fantastic. Thank you so much.


Howie: Thanks so much.


[thanks and byes]


Jillian is in! And Sophia takes off! With at least 50k … even after her rocky start


Howie: Okay, when that started, it was like the Hindenburg. I saw the flames, and I saw it going down. And then she completely turned it around.


Jillian: Completely turned it around.


Howie: I was so pleasantly surprised.


Michael: I think she was nervous in the beginning. I don't think she knew how to put the pitch together.


Phil: She said she changed her pitch. So I think when she was pitching before she probably knew it well. I agree with what both of you said. There's something about this that is -


Michael: Yeah. I wouldn't dismiss it.


Phil: It could be a very big company. 


Howie: I think she should bring AR back into the pitch. I think it's... VR maybe, it's nuclear winter, or whatever. But leave the AR. Because that's going to be a big, that's a big market.


Jillian: Yeah. I agree. And there is a lot being used in industry in AR. Not just entertainment. Manufacturing. We're seeing a lot. Love it.


Phil: A lot of ___ companies use AR too.


Howie: What’s the valuation of Giphy? Does anyone know? Today?


Jillian: No. But I’ll get back to you on that.


Phil: It’s big. It’s a wrap.


Coming up, communication totally breaks down. And it could end up costing Sophia a hundred thousand dollars … 


Jillian: Drat drat! I’m killing myself here. Okay, get me her phone number!




Welcome back… so after the pitch 2 things happened that caught us pretty off guard…



  • Around a month went by, and then first thing we hear from Sophia, is that she hadn’t heard back from Jillian since the pitch. Which struck us as just odd. But we’ll get to that in just a moment. 




  • The second thing that happened, is that around the same time ... Howie decided to invest! 25K in SVRF. Now Howie, is well-versed in all things VR and seemed interested in the product, but he couldn’t come to a yes during the pitch.



So I had to find out: what made him change his mind?


Josh: you said that VR/AR was in nuclear winter. What did you mean by that?


Howie: Oh. Urm. Well, I think there’s this, this technology is the future, and I think we’re going to incorporate a lot of VR/AR into our everyday lives practically, but it’s just a question of when. And 5 years ago, it was like over-hyped, and it was like way too early, and then it needed to like correct itself a little bit, and I think we’re in that correction right now. Um. So, maybe nuclear winter’s a little harsh, but I do feel like it is at a low uh point, which is a good thing for investment, because it means that like there’s a lot of deals that are being, um, that are available, where I can get great prices into. 


Josh: This is like the buy low sell high thing in investing in the stock market.


Howie: That’s right. That’s right. So, and I think it’s going to build now in a more uh, sustainable and responsible way, whereas before, again, it was like, just super-hyped, and it was just like, crazy valuations, and ideas were getting funded without anything built. And now it’s corrected, and now it’s like you know, going to be built in a more sustainable manner. And, I think SVRF, SVRF is at the forefront of that 


Josh: I, you know, like I’m so curious about this, this AR/VR thing. Um. Because I know we think of like, oh okay, so 4 or 5 years ago, that must have been early, like it was too early. Investors were going-- Getting over-hyped about this thing. But actually, VR in particular has been around in like, a video game capacity for like, 20 or 30 years. 


Howie: Yeah it’s, um, it’s become more mature. So, you know, I think it’s existed, but it has never existed in the way that it’s existing now, and in how, how it’s been developed and matured, um, in terms of like, 360 photos and videos, and 3D worlds, and animated 3D objects and filters and lenses. I mean this is, this is a whole new world. So I think like with any new technology there is, um, you know, there’s this thing called the, the Carlota Perez hype cycle.


Josh: Huh.


Howie: And it basically, and, you know you see this with the crypto market that’s currently happening right now. So there’s like a, a technological trigger, and then it like, it, like the hype goes up exponentially until it heats, until it hits what’s called the peak of inflated expectations. Um. And then once it hits the peak of inflated expectations, it drastically drops down into what’s called the trough of disillusionment. And once they, the technology hits basically rock bottom or nuclear winter, then it starts to grow um more incrementally and more sustainably in what’s called the slope of enlightenment. Until it hits the, until it hits the plateau of productivity. You can look this stuff up.


Josh: Slope of enlightenment?


Howie: The slope of enlightenment.


Josh: I’m sorry, c’mon Howie, you know who makes this stuff up? Nuclear winters, like, trough of disillusionment?


Howie: This, this, this is all real. And a lot of, a lot of technologies have to go through this cycle. Crypto, I think, is going through it right now. And I--


Josh: I know. These titles, they’re just so sensationalized 


Howie: I know. And I think, and I think AR/VR is, is on the upward slope of enlightenment right now 


Josh: Well and this whole slope is kind of predicated on, like, this whole new world that we’re walking into, this AR/VR world, was built by the smartphone, in the last 10 years. Right?


Howie: Yeah.


Josh: That’s what’s redefined and like, reset the stakes.


Howie: Yep. Yep. Absolutely. It’s a new way for us to consume and, you know, dive into these worlds if you will, I mean, you could do it on Snapchat now. Um. 


Josh: You know, you said in the room that like something, you saw something special in SVRF, but you passed on investing. Which brings us to why we’re even talking right now. You invested. What, what, what happened? What changed your mind?


Howie: I spoke with my uh, co-managing director Jake, and um we did a--


Josh: Jake Chapman.


Howie: --a debrief. Jake Chapman. We had a debrief after the show. And he was like, what deals, you know did you invest in. I told him about the company SVRF. And I was on the fence about investing, And he goes, Howie, he goes, I met with Sophia two years ago when she was raising her first round, and it was too early for me, but I, I had the same sentiments as you, like something--


Josh: No way.


Howie: Yeah. And I was like no, wow, that’s incredible. Like, they’re actually, they’re doing it. And that’s where Jake and I like to invest, we don’t just invest in ideas and speculation, we invest in executions. You know. Um, Google kinda was the search engine for web, YouTube was the search engine for video, Pinterest was the search engine for visuals and products, Giphy was the search engine for GIFs, and we have conviction that SVRF is going to be the search engine for immersives 


Josh: So to sum it all up, this pitch, in the room, this was 2 months ago, Sophia’s pitch started like the Hindenburg, and in the end, it turned out to actually be a happy Goodyear blimp instead.


Howie: That’s right. Disaster avoided 


Josh: Um. It’s actually really weird where we are right now, that you were the one who invested, because um, at least the way things stand right now, Sophia hasn’t heard from Jillian.


Howie: Oh yeah?


Josh: Yeah.


Howie: Well Jillian is a very busy woman, and she’s a renaissance woman, she’s a world traveler, I think she’s difficult to get a hold of.I should uh, I should help Sophia in her quest to lock Jillian down, get her investment in 


Howie reached out to Jillian, but a couple days went by… and we still didn't hear anything.




 I called her up myself. 


Josh: Hi Jillian. Good morning. so what's what happened with SVRF. What's the latest. 


Jillian: So this is the worst situation. I know I was in South Korea. My son was over there actually teaching North Korean refugees English. 


Josh: Oh wow. 


Jillian: Oh yes. And I went over to Seoul to visit him and because we are in different areas the Wi-Fi was not good there. And I was there for a couple weeks. And then I went to Vietnam. And I never heard from again. and I had done a lot of due diligence. And I just loved her. 


Josh: So you did your due diligence before you went on your trip. 


Jillian: Yes. Oh. And then never heard from her and thought OK well obviously she doesn't want me or need me or maybe something happened with the product. And I probably should have followed up. But that was my bad. It's definitely my bad. But once again this summer was quite the crazy and I have you know 70 companies in our portfolio who were very needy and I just absolutely kill myself here. So then I get a little ping from you this morning saying whatever happened. And I thought to myself what happened is I never heard from her and then I went back to my e-mails And sure enough so two or even three e-mails or two or three of her right when I said Oh no. Oh my gosh. I had no idea but I just sent her a little e-mail and said so so sorry because you should always own your bad. This was a big one of mine. I’m so sorry.


Josh: Yes it is. This we know. 


Jillian: Yes. Oh yeah. You know, you know I am deeply deeply flawed. 


Josh: aren’t we all


Jillian: So I. Had I sent her an e-mail saying listen I am totally in. And I absolutely would love to come and her 75 to 100000. I don't know where they are in the raise. And well I hope I'm not now too late. 


Josh: I hope not either.


Jillian: Oh my gosh darn South Korea can you please get in touch with her and I will give her a call if you have her telephone number. We send it to me. 


Josh: Oh totally. 


Jillian: drat drat. I'm killing myself here. Okay Get me her phone number! Okay?


Josh: Oh hold on. Could we record the call? Where you talk to Sophia? 


Jillian: Yeah sure. Sure


Josh: Alright. Let me umm we can actually add her to this... 


Jillian: You wanna call me back ? 


Josh: We can actually add her to this call. We can try to call her right now and see if she picks up. Alright calling Sophia now… 


Sophia: Hello 


Josh: Hey Sophia. 


Sophia: Hey Josh


Josh: So guess who I have on the line. 


Sophia: Who?


Josh: Jillian Manus 


Sophia: Wow she finally responded. 


Josh: Yeah she's here right now. 


Jillian: Oh my god Sophia! Did you read my email from this morning? Or no? 


Sophia: I literally just saw it. 


Jillian: Sophia, I was in South Korea! I'm so so sorry I didn't see your e-mail. And I did so much diligence on the company and I.. Then I left for South Korea Yeah. and I thought OK well I’ll you know.. I'm sure she'll circle back with me and tell me how the round is going and all that and then I didn't hear from you. And then I'm slightly senile and so I went in between being slightly senile and having 72 companies in our portfolio. I was just…


Sophia: I’m sure. 


Jillian: immersed. Sophia that’s very not me I don't not respond. And I just killed myself. So I just want you know first of all I sincerely apologize because I don't not respond. You know I'm very good at that. And I felt badly because when I did my due diligence Sophia in all sincerity I realised that I would have liked to have actually even invested more. so I’ll stop talking but please accept my apology I'm so sorry. 


Sophia: I completely understand and thanks for being so apologetic. I appreciate it. Yeah I think you think that and really get in line at one point nine years and then August we’re now at 5.5 million and then on the fundraising side we have 200K left in the round.


Jillian: Okay, right. Well. Oh. I love this.So umm I’d love to make some introductions for you as well. Umm so I'd love 100 of that 200 for sure. I'd love to get another. I would take all 2 but I really actually think there might be another strategic investor to bring on. let me dig in a bit umm but ahh... 


Sophia: Yeah I'll send you an email after this call as well. 


Jillian: That's a great idea.


Jillian: And this time I actually will respond to the email. There we go. What a novel idea! Sophia thank you for being so forgiving. I really appreciate it All right. Let's carry on the conversation and yes, send me an e-mail. Okay


Sophia: Sounds great talk soon. Have a great day.


Jillian: Cheers


Sophia: Bye


Josh: Well. That was awesome! 


Sophia: Yeah. So awesome. Thank you! 


Josh: Yeah How do you feel?


Sophia: Really Good [Yeah That was surprising I did. I definitely didn't expect that. Not this morning. Good morning. 


Josh: Yeah. It is a good morning 


What a wild ride! Sophia came on our show ... had a REALLY rocky start … but then eked out a win in the pitch room, with a commitment of 50K from Jillian. 


Then, after the pitch, Sophia had even more hurdles to overcome. But that 50K investment turned into a 125 thousand… dollar investment in total, from Jillian and Howie. 


But apparently … Sophia wasn’t done! We found out that Charles Hudson … another investor from our show … decided to invest $250 thousand. Bringing Sophia’s investment tally up to 375 thousand. 


Well done Sophia. Well done.


If you’re enjoying the show, please throw up a quick review on Apple Podcasts. Or just do the old fashioned thing and tell your friends about the show. They’ll thank you later.


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

We are mixed by Enoch Kim. Original music composed by The Muse Maker. Additional music by Haley Shaw. Our Theme Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder. 

Lisa Muccio for planned the recording of this pitch.

We discovered SVRF because of introductions from both Bryan Rosenblatt AND Sarah Downey. If you’re a founder looking to raise money for your startup, you can apply to pitch at Our next taping will be this November in Brooklyn, NY.

And as a reminder, no offer to invest is being made to or solicited from the listening audience on today’s show.

All right -- you’ve been listening to The Pitch from Gimlet Media. We’ll be back with a brand new episode, next Wednesday.

Howie Diamond // Pure VenturesProfile Photo

Howie Diamond // Pure Ventures

Investor on The Pitch Seasons 1, 4 & 10

Howie Diamond is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Pure Ventures, and early stage investment firm that also invests in the development of its founders. Also a musician, Howie founded and sold a music management/licensing company in Los Angeles called Lo-Fi Music. After that, he moved to San Francisco and began working closely with dozens of start-ups running business development for a Bay-Area tech agency called Sparkart.

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.

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.

Michael HyattProfile Photo

Michael Hyatt

Investor on The Pitch

Michael Hyatt is a serial entrepreneur and active investor. He is the co-founder of BlueCat, (acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners), and previously co-founded Dyadem (acquired by IHS). He currently serves as a Director of BlueCat and is also a weekly business commentator on CBC, is the Host of “Business Unplanned”, a podcast to help small businesses.

Sophia Dominguez

Cofounder at SVRF