Last year, investors woke up to the fact that the biggest ridesharing companies still struggle to make money. But today’s founder, Aparna Srinivasan, thinks she can buck that trend by introducing pets into the equation. But our investors wonder if just being pet friendly is enough to bring in the big bones. And if it is, what’s to stop Uber from offering rides for pets too… putting SpotOn in a tight spot.
Today’s investors are Sarah Downey, Michael Hyatt, Jillian Manus, Phil Nadel and Charles Hudson.
Uber used to be the uber-startup - everybody wanted to build the Uber for something. Uber for sea lions, or uber for zucchini bread. But in the past year or two, investors woke up to the fact that ridesharing on its own, is a pretty unprofitable business to be in.
Today’s founder Aparna Srinivasan is trying to build a business on ridesharing for pets. But our investors wonder if being pet friendly is enough to bring in the big bones. And if it is, what’s to stop Uber from offering rides for pets too… putting her company, SpotOn in a tight spot.
From Gimlet this is The Pitch. I’m Josh Muccio. Our investors today
I’m Charles Hudson
Charles started Precursor Ventures, where he’s invested $45 million in over 100 startups to date.
I’m Sarah Downey
Sarah’s a partner at Accomplice and they’ve invested $600 million in over 200 startups so far, one example, a company called Draftkings.
I’m Michael Hyatt
Michael built and sold two software companies for over $500 million dollars and now he invests for himself.
I’m Jillian Manus
Jillian is an angel investor and a partner at Structure Capital, where they’ve invested $98 million in startups like the aforementioned ride hailing giant, Uber.
I’m Phil Nadel
Phil companies have sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. Now he manages Forefront Venture Partners, one of the largest syndicates on AngelList.
Will The Pitch for SpotOn be spot on? It’s coming up in just a moment.
Aparna steps into the room wearing a light blue polo, you know those polyester golf shirts? It’s that kind. And where a pocket should be ... is her company name, SpotOn. With a cute little paw in the logo!
Aparna: Quick question. Who’s a pet parent?
Sarah: Oh I so am.
Michael: I have a chihuahua who thinks she is my other daughter.
Sarah: I have two cats. Um, and their names are Princess Jigglypuff and Mr Polar Bear.
Phil: That’s just silly.
Aparna: So first of all, um, I am the founder. Our CEO Krishna, my dog, and he’s at home, doing his CEO duties. And I started Spot On for him. One of the hardest things to do is getting around town with your pet without actually driving yourself. And there are Ubers and Lyfts out there and it’s very inconvenient because it’s to the discretion of the driver whether they’re going to take you or not. I had the problem because I had two big dogs. One of the biggest challenges was taking them to the airport. I’d beg my friends for rides, pay my car service $350 to go six miles. I had to, because we had a plane to catch. So step in Spot On. We’re the solution. We’re a ride hailing service for people and their pets.
Aparna says Spot On has groomed its service just for pets. There’s harnesses for dogs, carriers for cats, seat liners to keep accidents in check. And the drivers are happy to have Mr. Polar Bear and Princess Jigglypuff along for the ride. A year in, SpotOn now gives 5,000 rides a month.
Aparna: We’re actually revolutionizing pet mobility.
Aparna: We have unaccompanied pet rides, which we’re piloting. So if you’re a busy pet parent, you simply request a ride, we’ll take your dog, cat, hamster to a destination of your choice without you actually being there.
Michael: Can you just take us through, can you just take us through, how much are you raising and what have you raised to date and what, tell us the valuation, all that.
Aparna: Sure, absolutely, yeah. We're raising $750,000. I've closed about $250,000 of that $750.
Michael: At what valuation?
Aparna: At 3 million valuation.
Sarah: Do you have a version of the app that we could see?
Aparna: Yes. I do.
Sarah: Yeah. That would be amazing.
Aparna: So basically you load it up on your smartphone, like so. And the map comes up, shows you drivers.
The app looks like Uber or Lyft, except you either choose people and dogs, or ...
Sarah: People and cats.
Aparna: People and cats. And then you choose your drop off location, say, let’s go to Central Park Zoo. And then you choose your time.
Phil: So it’s not on-demand?
Aparna: So currently we’re not on demand. We have a 2-hour booking window. And that’s because we have to get enough drivers on our platform in order to be on demand.
Michael: You have a two hour booking window?
Jillian: That’s a problem.
Aparna: It actually hasn’t been a problem. Because a lot of people schedule their animal’s visits, they know when they’re going to work.
Jillian: That’s true. No, that’s true. That's true.
Aparna: But when we do go on-demand we’re still going to have this booking option, because everybody seems to like it. Our drivers like it too.
Jillian: So tell me a little about you, could you please? And your team.
Aparna: Sure. We’re a team of four. Um, I’m the founder and CEO. And ah the last company that I started a boutique marketing firm. Ran that for 12 years. My CTO and co-founder John, when I told him about this, um, idea he was like, you wanna do what? It’s like, like Uber for pets. And then ah three months later he calls me back and he was like, I’ve been an Uber driver for three months. I kinda figured this out, I think we can do it, and we can do it better. So that’s the kind of team I have.
Aparna: We, and actually we did a pilot in LA. And I printed up some flyers, went to the dog park. We started getting calls. Hey, can you come pick us up? Sure! I was driver number one. We took over 500 rides. My friends were driving for me. Um and that's why I knew I had something.
Jillian: I like your moxie.
Aparna: And, and actually to go even further, I stood outside LAX, talked to every dog, cat person that was coming in. Asked them, How did you get here? Do you have any idea if there's a convenient solution? And I put all this together, and now we have Spot On, that's humming here in New York City.
Jillian: First of all, I am so impressed by you.
Aparna: Oh thank you.
Jillian: I just have to say.
Ah, Jillian loves a good founder backstory. On the flipside, ladies and gentlemen, money man Michael Hyatt ...
Michael: Give us an example of a ride and how much money do you get paid.
Michael: Like let's say, let's say it's someone from downtown Manhattan to one of the airports and they did it in an Uber. What would they pay then? What would they pay with you? What's your cut?
Aparna: Yeah, absolutely. So we're actually the most profitable ride hailing company in New York City. Our rides are very similar to your Uber and Lyft but we are a little bit more expensive because we're a premium service.
Aparna: So we, we're more in the Uber Black range as far as what you would pay to be in one of our cars. Average ride is about $35. We take 15% of that fare. And then the remaining 85% is given to the driver. So that's kind of where the breakdown is.
Jillian: You realize that Uber and Lyft are more like 20, 25%?
Aparna: Exactly. We actually give our drivers more of an incentive to take pets. With Uber and Lyft, they're not going to take you. But because we're offering that financial incentive.
Michael: Why do you say they're not gonna take you? I've been in those a ton of times with animals.
Aparna: No, you're right, you're right. There are drivers out there that will. It's just a hit or miss. Ours is a guaranteed service.
Michael: But don't you just get into an Uber and hand the guy $20 or $50 extra and he'll just say, Okay, I'll take it.
Jillian: I, I, I was not aware that they have the right to turn you down if you have a pet.
Aparna: Absolutely. We've actually been getting a lot of reports.
Jillian: If you have an allergy, yes, but.
Aparna: Exactly. That's the exact reason why.
Michael: Doesn't money solve that problem?
Sarah: Some people are.
Jillian: Michael, money doesn’t solve all problems. You can’t just hand 20 bucks to someone.
Michael: For, for Uber drivers with a dog it does.
Phil: Wouldn’t it also be easy for Uber to have a pet option in their app? And just say, you know.
Sarah: Yeah, that's what I'm thinking. Like, can't you just have like a feature in the settings? It’s like, turn it on.
Jillian: Pet friendly.
Aparna: To, to answer that question, Uber has recently added Uber Pets. They relaunched it for the fourth time. It's not available in New York City. Ah, they've ah launched it 2013 in Dallas, 2015 in Turkey, 2017 in Singapore. And now 2019, every two years, ah they've expanded it to Austin, Philly.
Jillian: But seeing your success...
Phil: How is that...
Jillian: ...don't you think Uber would then see this as natural? Because you've already primed the pump, so to speak.
Aparna: Right, the issue with how Uber is doing it is that they're basically taking the existing human formula and laying it on top of a pet formula. So what we're seeing coming out of Austin, Philadelphia, and the markets that they're in now, Nashville, is that yeah, they're clicking Uber Pet. Drivers aren't available. Drivers keep canceling. It's not a guaranteed service. They're still not finding that.
Michael: Does it strike anybody that Uber and Lyft struggle?
Jillian: To do this?
Michael: No! To make any money!
Phil: Yes, of course.
Michael: So I, I, I guess what I'm struggling at, if you're 35 bucks a ride, that's what you said, and you get a 15%, I don't know, 5 bucks to you.
Jillian: And what does that represent in revenues?
Aparna: Revenue wise? Close to about $112,000 a month.
Aparna: In gross.
Jillian: In gross.
Michael: So you're 15% of that.
Aparna: We're 15% of that.
Michael: Yeah. Can you move that 15% to 25?
Aparna: We are.
Michael: Can you make more money?
Aparna: Yes. This is our testing phase.
Charles: I was just going to say, like, Uber X is a tough business. Uber Black is not a tough business.
Charles: And so if you're doing Uber Black pricing, you can avoid the bottom-feeding pricing competition…
Michael: That's a good point. That's, that's a good response.
Charles: ... behavior that drags down margins in more price-sensitive.
Aparna: And we also have a specific clientele that we're going after.
Michael: I'm liking it again a bit more now.
Aparna: And we have a specific clientele that we’re going after.
Michael: What's your customer acquisition cost? If you make 5 bucks?
Aparna: So currently our customer acquisition costs are under a dollar.
Aparna: I'll tell you why. It's our B2B strategy. We've partnered up with several partners. They're bringing in over 65% of our rides, which is lowering our cost of customer acquisition.
Michael: Who's that?
Aparna: Google. WeWork. Petco. Many vets in the city. Google and WeWork, we're servicing their pet-friendly office spaces. So you would get a discount on our rides for being an employee at Google.
Charles: My question was going to be what percentage of this is repeat usage? Because like this feels to me the kind of business where if you find, if you tap into those people, it becomes a habit.
Aparna: Right. I mean, right now, our usage, our repeat usage is close to I'd say 45%. Once they use us once, they're hooked, because they know that we have a service that is not just guaranteed but we're safe. Our drivers are amazing.
Jillian: You've built trust.
Alright, the investors are getting passionate here. Which is rarely a bad thing in a pitch. They just want SpotOn to be less like Uber.
The question is, can pets be the magic piece, to make ridesharing profitable.
That’s after the break.
Welcome back. So far investor Michael Hyatt is wavering back and forth, he likes it, he likes it not, he likes it - this is not typical. Typical Michael has a point of view and he stands by it like man’s best friend. What comes next, is more true to form.
Michael: Tell us, how does this become a big business. I'm struggling because I like you, I like the pitch. I love what Charles had to say, which kind of got me off of the Uber X and on to the Uber Blacks. And now I'm thinking, how does it become not a niche-y business, how is this a business business?
Aparna: If you look at the pet landscape, there's nobody that's in pet mobility right now. We can harness the power of a pet market by groomers and daycares. How many day carers are there here in New York City?
Jillian: Oh, a gazillion.
Aparna: So we can essentially become their transportation service.
Jillian: Have you talked to them?
Aparna: We are currently talking to them, and that's why I said our partnership with Petco is actually going to really, um, take this to another level.
Phil: I'm sorry, what is the deal with Petco? What, what are they doing for you?
Aparna: So we're basically going to be servicing their Union Square location. So bringing pets to and from Union Square, with or without their owners, depending on what kind of, if they're going for a grooming, or otherwise.
Charles: Can we reframe that a little bit, though. Like it sounds to me like you have a couple of different services. You have, like Michael said, you have the like, it's you and your dog going across town.
Charles: Maybe Uber can do that easily.
Charles: But then you've got the unaccompanied pet going to the vet.
Charles: There it's like a training.
Aparna: typical ride-share....
Michael: That's a cool service by the way.
Phil: So what, what, what percentage of rides are these unaccompanied?
Jillian: They just started it.
Aparna: So we're just piloting that with our vet partners. Um, so what we've been seeing is probably about, ah, close to about 150 coming in a month. And it's very limited because we want to make sure we perfect it before we, ah, release it to the public.
Phil: How many vet partners do you have?
Aparna: We have over 20 in New York City.
Sarah: First of all, I am squarely in your target market. Like, I pay a vet to come to my house. I live in Boston. And I have two cats who hate to be in the car. I would pay so much just for the peace of mind, like, if I can’t be there on the unaccompanied visit, that’s a skill. Imagine like a baby carrier installation.
Phil: The unaccompanied visits are different.
Michael: But aren’t you the edge case? Like everything you just said there...
Sarah: Well, that's what I'm struggling with is...
Michael: She's not common. Who has a vet coming to their home?
Sarah: But no, like literally, the vet, that vet is completely booked out forever. She is so, they’re so highly in demand.
Michael: Okay, so what do you think of this business?
Sarah: I really like it.
Jillian: I do too.
Sarah: I think I'm gonna invest.
Jillian: Me too.
Aparna: Thank you guys.
Charles: I really like the business too. Um, I am not gonna invest yet. Something Michael said I think we need to run down and I don’t think we can do it in this room. Which is, let’s assume that the, Hey, I’m just going from Central Park back to my house with my pet after a fun day out, assuming that business gets commoditized, is the remainder of the business interesting? It might turn out that, like, for the accompanied pet visit, you could charge way more.
Aparna: Way more.
Charles: So I’m going to pass for now. But I would like to spend time with you and see if I could get convinced that assuming that that business gets commoditized, or at a minimum gets more competitive, what models could you use on the higher end things that are more difficult to replicate? And does that yield an interesting company? I think, and my hunch is the answer is probably it does.
Aparna: Thank you.
So Charles is out. He might be interested if Aparna can convince him that Spot On is more than just a mashup of Uber + Fido. If Spot On can do a lot of things that Uber can’t do, then he might invest.
Michael: What’s the biggest thing you need to do with this product?
Aparna: The biggest thing we need to do is expand our footprint in New York City and show the scalability.
Michael: How do you do that?
Aparna: In order for us to do that, we need to really pump more money into our marketing. What we’ve been doing right now is relying heavily on our business partners, which is great. But there are a lot of people out there that don’t know about us, and we really need to...
Phil: So you’re not, you’re not focused then 100% on the b2b? You want to expand the b2c marketing channel?
Aparna: Well, we are a b2c business, at the end of the day. Right. It’s just...
Jillian: It’s a b2b2c.
Aparna: Yeah, exactly. It’s just how we acquire our customers. So absolutely we want to expand the b2b. But in order for us to really show the full width and breadth of what we do, we really need to get the customer directly.
Phil: I, I’d be much more interested if you were focused strictly on b2b. I’d love to see you doubling down on that and not the focus on direct b2c. So I think that for now, I’m a pass.
Michael: Why did you call the company Spot On? It sounds like they're a carpet cleaning. Like, why not, Pet Ride?
Phil: That would be Spot Off.
Michael: You know, like Pet Ride. Why wouldn't it be Pet Ride? Like what you do.
Jillian: Okay, no, no, you're spot on. Because that is actually...
Michael: Thank you Jillian.
Jillian: ...what I was thinking too. Spot On, I have zero. It's easy to spell, easy to remember. But what does it have to do with, with the service?
Aparna: So Spot is a common name for a dog, cat. And...
Michael: Not a cat. There's no cats named Spot!
Phil: I don't think anyone names their dog Spot either.
Jillian: But okay, so Spot...
Phil: We digress.
Jillian: Would you be open to rebranding this, so that it has...
Michael: Pet Ride.
Jillian: ...more of, Pet... something that, that people would associate.
Aparna: Yeah. I mean, we're, we're, we're new enough that we can.
Aparna: Because you know we don't, this is our only market right now. So as far as rebranding, it would be very easy for us to actually…
Michael: So let me just wrap up mine and you guys can keep going. But ah, look, ah, I’m gonna pass. Lemme tell you why. 2019, very specifically said one thing to investors which is user economics ah matter. Matter very much. And I think you’re great. I think this is a very cool niche business. But as soon as you start going wider and actually start putting marketing money in, one thing you’re going to find about a b2c, you will drink capital marketing this business. This is going to be horrendously expensive to scale. So for that reason, I’m out.
Aparna: Thank you.
Jillian: Okay. I’m going to cut to the chase here. Okay. To my chase. I’m just going to put 25,000 in of my own right now.
Jillian: Okay. and I do think there’s a lot to be proven out here. But I actually believe you are going to get big margins. I know that pet owners pay so much. And they really don’t care about costs, they care about trust.
Aparna: Thank you.
Sarah: I also am in for 25k. We sit here and we wait for something to grab us. And I come from a family of crazy pet people. Like my first job at 16 was a dog salesperson. Like, my mom is a full time cat, um, adoptee. She basically facilitates the adoptions between the shelter and the people. I think this could be really big. And I, I still have a lot of questions. But, like, the fact that both you and your CTO went out and drove these cars and waited for people at the airport, like that is what I want to see in a founder. And like you just have it.
Sarah: So I am in.
Aparna: Thank you.
Jillian: Yep. Alright.
Phil: Thank you very much. Very interesting.
Aparna: Thank you. Thank you for your time.
Sarah: Thank you.
Michael: Thank you.
Jillian: Thank you.
Phil: Be in touch.
Jillian: We have to rethink Spot On, just a little.
Michael: Pet Ride.
Jillian: We'll talk about it! We'll talk about it! Okay.
Michael: Pet Ride. We transport your pets.
Charles: Paw Patrol.
Sarah: Pet Ride.
Michael: Paw Patrol.
Charles: Might be, might be already used.
Phil: What was it?
I think they should just call it Yelp. Oh, wait. Well, after Aparna leaves the room, Michael is like a dog with a bone. He just keeps making his case against SpotOn.
Michael: The biggest companies on the planet that are into ride sharing struggle with unit economics. Sure that, you know, it’s niche and everything else and has a premium. But I, I suspect what will happen is that she’s gonna try to launch and she’s going to find it very, very expensive to add clients.
Phil: This is, this is why I’m focused on the b2b opportunity.
Jillian: I agree.
Phil: I think...
Michael: That’s not where she’s gonna go.
Jillian: No. No, No.
Phil: I know. And that’s what threw me. That’s exactly what threw me off.
Jillian: Okay, so I disagree. I think that this woman is coachable. And I think just in the time that she was here, she was starting to rethink this. And I do think that, I mean, this is going to be part of...
Michael: I don’t want to be in the business of teaching entrepreneurs. I want them to run the company.
Jillian: What? How are you? What? You don’t want to be in the business of teaching entrepreneurs?
Michael: No. No.
Jillian: That’s what, one of the things that we do! We evolve, we help...
Michael: No, no, well, I don’t. I, I, I want them to run the company and have vision and I want to support them.
Jillian: But she already does...
Michael: I’m not into the taking them to the school thing. I’m not.
Phil: Right. I mean, coachable is one thing...
Jillian: It’s not taking her to school!
Michael: You don’t have time! You can hardly get on the phone you’re so busy! You don’t have time to do this!
Phil: Coachable is one thing. But the, I wanna, I agree with Michael, I wanna see that the vision is. If she said, our vision is b2b, that’s our differentiator from Uber, we, we’re not going direct to consumer, we’re focused on...
Michael: That’s more attractive.
Phil: I would be, I would be down with that.
Jillian: Well, you know what, I want to see, before I invest, I want to see what percentage of that $750 they’re going to be using for partnerships, for b2b, and what percentage they’re going to use for consumers.
Sarah: Yeah, like this is, is this risky? Hell yeah. But like, I'm willing to take a risk on somebody...
Jillian: I am too.
Sarah: ...who will jump in LA in a car and...
Phil: You're right. You're right. I mean, there's a lot to it.
Jillian: And sit outside at the airport.
Michael: Oh stop. There's no money in this.
Josh: Agree to disagree.
Michael: There's no money in it.
Jillian: Oh I can't wait for you to eat those words.
But will Michael have to eat those words? That’s coming up, after the break.
Welcome back. In the months that followed Aparna’s pitch, a lot went down. Producer Heather Rogers got her to tell the story. And the first thing that happened is, Aparna got on a call with Jillian. And right off the bat, she began fielding more questions about the competition.
Aparna: Uber is so huge looming over us that it might just be too big for us to overcome. It's always a question. It's always something that looms heavy. I've put it in many different ways, yes, Uber is out there and I know you're concerned. But guess what? This is how we're going to be able to fix that.
After the call, Aparna wasn’t sure which way Jillian was leaning. But soon enough, one unread message popped up from Jillian Manus. Here’s Heather.
Heather: What did that email say?
Aparna: The email basically said, Hey, I've thought about this. And I think Uber is just too too big of a hurdle to get over. And I'm going to pass.
A few days later, Aparna gets another email. This time from Sarah. And she passes too, for the same reason as Jillian, Uber.
Heather: These two people from the pitch room were so excited about spot on. Yeah, like in the room. They were super excited about it. Like can you describe what it was like to read those emails?
Aparna: Yeah, honestly, it was a blow because I just thought that these two amazing women are going to be supporting another woman. And I was like, oh, my God, I'm going to close out this year with like two major investors that are gonna jump on board. Awesome! To, Oh, no. Both of them are out umm.
Heather: And then what? What did you do next? Did you email them back?
Aparna: Yeah, I emailed them back. And I thanked them for their time. But then I did want to, you know, add that, yes, you're worried about Uber. But if we think about it, Chewy.com is in the world of Amazon. They're doing amazing. Rover is in the world of Airbnb. So if those guys can do it, then. Spot On has a space in Uber and Lyft world as well. So that's that's basically the way I ended it. And then I went on a holiday.
Heather: And then...
Aparna: Ah about three weeks go by and Jillian sends me a message and said, Can we talk? I said, Sure. And then the next thing you know, my phone rings and it's a call from California. And I'm like, OK. And she's like, Hi, it's Jillian. And she's like, look, I can't stop thinking about you. I can't stop thinking about what you have and how much you've done. I mean, she was just like, it's, it's searing in my mind. And I have to help you.
Jillian: I kept thinking, OK. Let me see how I can make it work. Let me see what companies I can get partnered with her. Let me see about investors. Let me see because I could not let go of it.
Heather: What was exactly the thing that you couldn't let go of?
Heather: Mm hmm.
Jillian: I think she has everything a founder needs.
Aparna: And she was like, I'm going to have a look again at the investment. But I also want to help you in other ways. And this basically how she worded it, I think you need a behemoth to go up against a behemoth. And I was like, OK. I mean, I'm, you know, like we're ready for it. Let's go. I mean, this is what I need.
Jillian: I thought that if I could get the best partners for her like Wag and some other ones actually had in my head then I could create some pilots for her.
Heather: Mm hmm.
Jillian: That would definitely show some validation.
Aparna: She was like, the first thing I'm gonna do is email Garrett, the CEO of Wag, and tell him to get on a call with you.
Aparna: So I mean, that's. And she did. She did. Because the very next day I get an email from Garrett. And literally a day after that email I get on a call with Garrett.
So Garrett Smallwood is the CEO of Wag, which, funny enough people often describe Wag as the Uber for dogs. If you need a dogwalker or dogsitter, you pull up Wag, and get you one! Stat. And as an investor in the company, Jillian saw obvious partnership potential between SpotOn and Wag. Hence the introduction to Garrett.
Now, to put that in perspective, that’s like introducing an aspiring singer to Beyonce. To Aparna, Garrett is a total celebrity.
Heather: Can you tell me a little bit more about the call?
Aparna: So the call happened in my cousin's Tesla cause I was charging it. So I was actually sitting at the mall charging the car while I was talking to Garrett. And he found that very funny. I mean, I'm bold. I get right to the point. I'm like, Dude, I'd like to partner with you. And he asked me, How do you think that would look? And I was like, Hey, look, you guys have cats and dogs that you have to send to their boarding places. Why not have a quote, unquote delivery system where we can pick up the pet, take it to the border’s house and then, once the stay is over, we bring the pet back. Or excursions. Now you can offer Wag excursions. You know, a walker can take 10 dogs from New York City to the beach or hiking in the mountains or something like that in a SpotOn. I mean...
Heather: That's amazing...
Aparna: Right. How amazing would that be? And he was, he was really liking that. I mean, he liked the direction he liked. Umm. And he was really excited about our numbers and, you know, the general direction that we're going in. One downside was that, you know, we are only in New York City. But he was like, Yeah, you know, we'd love to partner with you, but you're only in New York. And I was like, yeah, but New York's really big, so.
Heather: So exactly how did you leave it with him?
Aparna: Yeah. I mean, he actually said, You know, let's talk about this further along. Let's get through your Petco pilot. Let's see how that goes. And then let's really sit down and develop what we need to see a partnership come out of SpotOn and Wag.
Aparna: Yeah. Let’s just see where everything goes.
Heather: OK. So you talked to Garrett two days before Christmas.
Heather: And then you hear you hear back, then. Then tell me what, what's the next thing that happens with Jillian?
Aparna: So it was a couple of days after. I think was just after the new year. She said, I'm going to invest. I want to put in twenty five thousand. So everything was all set. I was just waiting for her to sign the documents. She said she was sending it to her legal team so they could review it really quick. We were all thinking, Yay! It's a green light. Let's go. A couple of days before we were supposed to close, she came back to me and said, I just heard from legal and there seems to be a conflict of interest. So I was like, Oh. Wow. That sucks.
Heather: That totally sucks.
Aparna: Yeah. It was a real big blow. I was like, shoot, man. Wow gaah. But I did respond to her back. And I basically, you know, said that that's. If legal says it legal, says it right.
Heather: It's like she said, like, I really want to go out with you, but my parents just won't let me do it.
Aparna: Exactly! It wasn't that she didn't believe in this. It wasn't that she didn't think that we had what it took. It was just unfortunately, there are certain things that, you know, lawyers say and do that is in the best interest of their client. And I understand that. It wasn't me. It wasn't spot on. It wasn't our team. So, it really makes me happy to know that we're doing something right. And we're doing something that people want to be a part of. And that's what's gonna keep us going through everything. I mean, of course, we're not going to be as big as Uber. That’s not our market. Our market is much smaller, but that smaller market works well for us because we can dominate that market and we can show that we are the best we are, the best at taking you, your pet, just your pet. However, it is around town in a safe, convenient and reliable way.
Obviously everything you just heard is where things stood for Aparna in January, before the coronavirus took over our lives.
As you can imagine the virus is hitting her business particularly hard. People in New York City aren’t traveling with their pets right now. But Aparna moved quickly to make a change in the business to keep drivers busy. Now, people can use SpotOn without their furry friends. Yes. SpotOn has become even more like Uber because of the pandemic.
But one thing they’re doing that Uber is most definitely not, is Aparna is giving 100% of the fare to the drivers.
And when I asked her how she can possibly afford to do that, Aparna said, and I quote “This is a time for leaders to step up and do what we can to help! A few weeks of 0 revenue will not put us out of business. Yet a few weeks of 0 pay for drivers will hurt them tremendously.”
Investor on The Pitch
Phil Nadel is the Founder and Managing Director 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. Phil was the co-founder and Managing Director of Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners and is the founder and Managing Director of Forefront Venture Partners.
Investor on The Pitch
Jillian Manus is Managing Partner of an early-stage Silicon Valley venture fund, Structure Capital. Branded “Architects of the Zero Waste Economy," they invest in underutilized assets and excess capacity. She was named one of the top 25 early-stage Female Investors by Business Insider in 2021. Jillian serves on numerous corporate and non-profit boards, these include: Stanford University School of Medicine Board of Fellows, NASDAQ Entrepreneurial Center Board of Directors, Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
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.
Investor on The Pitch
Charles Hudson is the Managing Partner and Founder of Precursor Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on investing in the first institutional round of investment for the most promising software and hardware companies.
Prior to founding Precursor Ventures, Charles was a Partner at SoftTech VC. In this role, he focused on identifying investment opportunities in mobile infrastructure.
Investor on The Pitch
Sarah Downey is Operating Partner at Accomplice VC, and a Co-Founder of Yubari Angel Fund. She likes to invest in things that feel like they’re out of sci-fi and video games, like augmented/virtual reality and AI.