Feb. 6, 2019

‘It Was a Disaster’

‘It Was a Disaster’

After a failed pitch on our show back in 2017, Industrial Organic founder Amanda Weeks was ready for redemption. And she found it, to the tune of $4.2 million. Now she’s back — with a lot to say about how much she and her business have grown. 

Today's investors are Jillian Manus, Phil Nadel, Howie Diamond, Jake Chapman and Sheel Mohnot.


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


So back in 2016, there was a founder who pitched our investors at a studio in San Francisco... and let’s just say this pitch did not go as planned. In fact, when we recently got in touch with the founder, she was hesitant to come back on the show, but eventually she said yes after much begging and pleading. And it turned out, she had a lot to say. She wanted to set the record straight on some things. 


So on this week’s episode, we’re going to travel back in time and listen to the pitch for Industrial Organic, a food waste startup, founded by Amanda Weeks. And then we’ll fast forward to today, and visit the facility where Amanda’s germ of an idea has blossomed, into a real business.


Okay, here’s the original: 


Amanda Weeks: I wanted to do like Uber for waste management.

Sheel Mohnot: Ooh smelly?

Amanda: Yeah, it was very smelly. 

Amanda: So we're going to be paying well above union rates essentially for this...

Phil Nadel: Okay. When you're investing your money, do the right thing. When you're investing my money, pay the minimum you can pay

Today we meet a founder who’s on a mission to clean-up the planet by changing how we dispose of organic waste -- we’re talking about our restaurant leftovers, moldy breads, and banana peels. 

But what happens when someone tries to reinvent an industry that’s almost as old as trash itself? 

We’ll find out in a moment, 

First let’s meet our panel of investors.


Phil: I’m Phil Nadel with Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners.

Phil’s investment firm is one of the largest syndicates on AngelList.

Phil: If for some reason the numbers don’t bite, then the thing falls apart.

Phil is a straight shooter looking for companies without a lot of question marks.

Jillian Manus: This is Jillian Manus. My fund is Structure Capital.

Jillian is something of a legend in the world of Venture Capital. In her early twenties, she survived domestic abuse that left her living in shelters in NYC. She was able to pick herself up, start several companies and is now a multi-millionaire. 

Jillian: You can have the most incredible product, but if you don’t know how to talk about it, you’re gonna have a problem accelerating it.

Jillian tends to take center stage and really drive the conversation.

Jake Chapman: My name’s Jake Chapman with Gelt Venture Capital. 

Jake’s investment firm has over a billion dollars in assets under management.

Jake: They're going to shut you down on that name. It's definitely trademark infringement. 

As a former attorney, Jake brings a lawyerly mindset into a pitch -- if a founder can hold up under cross examination, he might just invest. 

Howie Diamond: Hey I’m Howie Diamond

That’s Howie who founded the VC firm, Ranch Ventures.

Howie: There needs to be a moral and ethical code that's aligned. 

Howie is looking for altruistic companies: he’ll only go in on a startup that’s making the world a better place.

Sheel: I’m Sheel - a partner at 500 Startups.

Joining us this week is Sheel Mohnot - he broke into the big leagues of venture capital when he sold his company, FeeFighters, to Groupon.

Sheel: This isn’t going to work. You should do something else, seriously.

You can always count on Sheel to say exactly what he’s thinking -- and he appreciates the same candor in an entrepreneur.

Ok, here we go!

Our investors are waiting on today’s entrepreneur Amanda Weeks -- and they’ve been waiting, for a while. 30 minutes, to be exact. 

 [studio sounds]

When you’re asking people for money, it’s probably best to be on time.

Investor: There are repercussions.

Investor: You gotta pay the price. 

Finally, the door swings open-- 

[Founders and investors say their hellos.]

Amanda: Thanks for waiting for me. I'm from New York and I'm accustomed to everything happening in like the third of the time. Of getting around here. So thank you. 

In a manner familiar to anyone who’s ever been late to something they shouldn’t have been, myself included, Amanda tries her best to pull herself together -- and then she dives into her pitch.

Amanda: So my name's Amanda. I'm the co-founder of Industrial/Organic. What do you think is the single largest component of landfills? Do you think it's plastic? Do you think it's paper? Because it's actually food. Food is the single largest component of landfills. It's about 21%. Uh cities, don't have the infrastructure, don't have the ability to handle an increase in organic waste diversion...

So, Amanda explains, the problem with food waste is that after it finds its way to the landfill, it just sits there, slowly rotting away. And as it decomposes, it puts off a steady flow of methane - methane is a greenhouse gas and a major contributor to global warming.

Amanda: So Industrial/Organic has adapted commercial food processing technology to handle food waste in an indoor industrial setting without mesh - methane emissions and much lower odor than other methods. We're raising a million seed round right now. We have about half of that in the bank. 

Amanda says that she just started raising money for Industrial/Organic a few months ago and she's already secured about 600K of her target million dollars, including a large check from a pretty well known investor...

Amanda: Who was Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, if you know him?

Howie: Charlie.

Sheel: How much did he put in?

Amanda: He put in 350.

The mention of Charlie O’Donnell gets everyone’s attention. Though few investors will admit it, they definitely take a closer look at a startup if a well respected investor has already gone in. I can feel Amanda starting to crawl her way out of the hole she dug when she showed up late.

Sheel: What's your background?

Jillian: So Amanda has a great background. I know, I've heard about Industrial/Organic before. She's a very interesting... Go ahead.

Amanda: Well, I don't know if it's that interesting. 

Phil: We’ll be the judge of that!

Sheel: We'll tell you if it's interesting.

Jillian: Yeah, we'll tell you if you're interesting or not.

Amanda: So I grew up in Staten Island near the biggest landfill in the world, that could be seen from space.

Sheel: Ooh smelly?

Amanda: Yeah, it was very smelly. It was a huge part of my childhood, like going to ballet class or going to friends' birthday parties, and like, hold your nose everybody we're going past the landfill. But I thought it was totally normal and like everyone did that.

Eventually Amanda moved on from life near the landfill. She started her career at Marvel Comics in the business operations side. After that, she spent some time in advertising and pharmaceuticals.

Amanda: And so around the same time people started becoming more interested in where their food was coming from. And I was thinking, you know, what's something that everyone's always going to need: food. Then was attracted to the waste aspect of that.

And that’s when inspiration struck: she could apply her background in business to the smelly problem she first encountered in her backyard as a child. Trash.

Amanda: And initially wanted to start a collection service. I wanted to do like Uber for waste management. And then just started networking in the space, and researching, and talking to people. And realized that the bottleneck is really in the processing capacity.

Processing capacity: in other words, what happens to our trash after we throw it away.

A lot of it goes right to the landfill. And it’s been this way for nearly a century. But Amanda thought: great, an industry that hasn’t changed in generations, I’ll disrupt that.

Amanda: So I just started experimenting and researching and reading about different methods that were out there. And stumbled upon an obscure method of fermentation that’s popular with homesteaders and permaculture. You just put food waste in a bucket, sprinkle some stuff on it, and let it sit for two weeks and then you bury it in the ground. And I thought, what if you could scale that up and mechanize it and run it kind of like a brewery. So then I went around New York City and visited every brewery and winery and distillery and --

Jillian: Must have been fun.

Phil: If you could turn this stuff into beer, then you got a business.

Jake: I was thinking that too.

Before investors turn Industrial/Organic into a moonshine operation, Jake gets us back on track.

Jake: What is your process?

Amanda: So food waste comes in, it gets sorted. So any sort of plastic bottles or anything else that got in gets pulled out. It's shredded to about a particle size of about an inch. Sterilized with a UV light. And then it gets inoculated and put in a holding tank for 24 hours. In that time, the food waste starts to release a lot of water. And then we grind that down into a slurry.

Amanda is getting into the weeds on a pretty dull topic: trash processing. But the wonkier she gets, the more investors are leaning in. Because when there’s money on the line, the devil’s in the details.

Amanda: The material is mechanically pressed using technology similar to what you'd see in a cold juice operation. Then pelletized, and then finally heat dried. In the end we make a fertilizer in a pelletized form. 

And this is when Amanda pulls out a clear ziplocked bag filled with tiny brown pellets.

Sheel: Cool!

Phil: She brought us fertilizer. 

Amanda: That’s six months old.

Amanda: We sell the fertilizer…

Jillian: Sit on the shelf and be like, don't eat the fertilizer, Jillian. But that's actually -- I eat really, really that whole... It's bad, bran, yeah...

Sheel: It's like this.

Jillian: Yeah. It looks like that. It looks like bran cereal.

Amanda: Yeah, that's the end product.

It’s a clear sign that Amanda is hitting her stride -- when Phil -- the one investor who rarely talks unless he’s interested -- chimes in. 

Phil: What's the closest competitor of the technology?

Amanda: Anaerobic digestion. Some of you may know, it's basically large silos of food waste in an anaerobic environment where they are harvesting the methane and using it for energy. It's really expensive. And hard to scale. The yields aren't great. You need 30 days to collect the methane, and then that -- there's a sludge left over that also needs to be composted. Two months. Our process takes five days, I don’t know if I mentioned that. 

Phil: Who’s your first customer?

Amanda: Sure. So we'll be working with the restaurants and food processors in New York City. One of the customers that we have signed up is a company called Dig Inn. They are a pretty popular chain in New York. It's like farm to table fast food. We're going to start our collecting from their commissary, and then collecting from their locations. We've also lined up Momofuku. They're another restaurant group in New York. Don't know if you've familiar with them.

Sheel: What - What's in it for them?

Amanda: So, first of all, they already pay for waste collection. And so we give them a better service. We offer bin swaps, meaning we take their whole bin and we bring them a clean bin every time we collect.

Sheel: Sure.

Amanda: Which is a huge pain point for them.

Jillian: What's your revenue model? 

Amanda: So our revenue model is we earn money from waste processing fees. They leave the waste behind and they pay by weight.

Jillian: What's the average load? How many tons?

Amanda: So our first facility will do one ton per day when we launch in February.

Amanda: And then by September we will have scaled to 18 tons per day.

So Amanda’s plan is to start small -- right now she’s raising money so Industrial/Organic can process up to one ton of food waste a day. Which is not a lot. But eventually she wants to handle up to 18 tons a day.

Amanda: Our price will be $75. The price in the New York area right now is $115. 

Jillian: So you have a better price? You have a better price?

Amanda: We have a better price further down the chain. 

When Amanda says “further down the chain” -- she means eventually, as they scale the business, prices could come down. But, for right now, Industrial/Organic’s price will be the same as everyone else’s.

Jillian: So the incentive here is a do-good incentive. Maybe I'm not getting the total value prop for a customer other than, you know, do well, right?

Phil: They're not saving money.

Amanda: They're not saving money. They're getting a better service, they're getting marketing and PR opportunities from knowing that their waste is going to a farm that they've sourced from

Phil: I just want to go back to the revenue model because I didn’t finish that off. Because you have this fertilizer as the output. I want to find out...

Sheel: You making money from that?

Amanda: Yes, we are. It's pretty small percent at this point of the total revenue.

All right: so Amanda’s plan has a lot of moving parts: they’ll pick up food waste from restaurants, they’ll process it at their facility, and then they’ll sell the fertilizer.

Sheel: I'm actually a little worried about the operations because you have to go around, especially when you're at not at scale by any means. 

This is Sheel. He started a food delivery service called Thistle. And he knows all too well the challenges of running a logistics heavy business. 

Sheel: You're running around. How much is it costing you just to pick up this stuff?

Amanda: So we're not going to use garbage trucks. We're going to get cargo vans. Because we're doing bin swaps, so we're just going to take the whole bin. So that cuts down significantly on the cost of vehicles, the cost of gas, the cost of getting around.

Sheel: So my biggest concern is you have an operations nightmare collecting all this stuff. Is there a way that you can partner with an existing provider and just process this stuff, and Momofuku could pay the existing provider something? 

Amanda: So that's our long-term model. Um we'll switch over to working with other haulers.

Sheel: It's like a proof of concept, basically?

Amanda: Yeah. It's like a beta.

Amanda’s trying to say, we’re not up and running yet. Industrial/Organic is getting ready to launch, but they’re not yet open for business. Which could be fine -- investors take chances on companies at this stage all the time. She just needs to have a rock solid plan. 

Jillian: What do you think your burn is going to be?

Amanda: Um, in the next year I think it's about $60,000 a month. I mean, we're going to be growing all through this year, and hiring people and adding capacity. So it's hard to pinpoint down one number. 

Jillian: So 60 represents what? It represents drivers? A logistics person, it represents sales, it represents -- what does it represent? Because 60 is very, very low. I mean, is this like slave labor? Are you shipping them in from -- I'm trying to figure this out.

Amanda: No, no. That $60,000 is a number from like the average of the next year of scaling up. 

Sheel: How many people are at the plant? 

Amanda: So over the next year, we'll be hiring about ten to fifteen people. 

Jillian: So it can't be 60. I mean, unless you're paying them in fertilizer pellets.

Amanda: Yeah. No we're not. So a lot of that is… [scoring end]

Jake: That's a great business. We make fertilizer pellets and you take fertilizer pellets home.

Jillian: They look like bran cereal.

So the investors are laughing, but these figures - about 60K, 10...to 15 employees… these aren’t the kind of hard and fast numbers they’re hoping to hear. 

There is, however, one figure Amanda is sure about.

Amanda: We're going to be paying people well above, we're going to be paying -- The lowest wage is $20 an hour. So we're going to be paying well above union rates essentially for this -- 

Phil: Why?

Amanda: Sorry?

Phil: Why?

Amanda: Because we want to be responsible. We want to treat people well.

Jillian: So how many people are we treating well?

Amanda: It's ten to fifteen. 

Jillian: You've got ten to fifteen people at $20 an hour.

Phil: Minimum.

Jillian: Minimum. 

Jillian: And that's just the plant. That's just the facility. We're not even talking about the office. We're not talking about the drivers, the sales.

Howie: And the sales, and customer acquisition.

Sheel: If there were just ten people and they were all making $20 an hour that in and of itself is close to $40,000 a month. 

Amanda: So there are some roles that we won't be hiring until the next raise. So like my co-founder and I are going to handle sales. Basically everyone, myself included, we're all going to get commercial driver’s licenses.

Phil: I don't see how it's $60,000 a month average.

Jillian: Right. Right.

Jillian: So I'm a little bit concerned that your operations cost is not realistic. What am I missing here? I think I'm missing something here.

Amanda: I’m pulling out basically an average of what our costs, our monthly cost is going to be next year. It's going to go up. So obviously, by the end of next year our operating costs will probably be more in the $150,000 range.

Amanda’s been trying to sell investors on how lean her business is. But the thing is: these are venture capitalists. Big numbers don’t scare them. In fact, they’d rather see her be aggressive. 

Jake: Could you skip the middle stage and process a ton very inexpensively? Do that for six months. Parlay that into a contract with the haulers, and then go out and build a $10 million facility that can process -- The operational complexity in your business, like what Sheel was talking about, is all the logistics of getting trash into the business. And that is something that you're planning on scrapping in six months or a year if things go well. So if you can skip that step somehow.

Jillian: Yeah...

Amanda: It's probably what we'll do if I don't raise the whole million,

Jake: Okay.

Jillian: So I guess the question is why not get it to the point, or why not... Because it's proof of concept? That's what you're doing? Okay.

Amanda: Yeah. Because we're scaling it up over time.

Jillian: You're just trying to figure this out. Okay.

It’s decision time. Has Amanda managed to talk investors into her plan for the future of waste processing? 

Sheel’s up first.

Sheel: For me, I like the overall idea, I think that there's promise. I've run a food business, so I would love to be a user. I just think the operational stuff, it's always more complex than you think. And I'm saying that because I've been through it personally. And people that are going to work for you for $20 an hour, driving or whatever, there's going to be days where they don't show up. There's all these nightmares that you'll have to deal with. So I really encourage you to offload that as much as possible.

Sheel Passed. Next is Phil. 

Phil: I'm concerned about the operational complexities. I'm concerned about the fact that you're underestimating the amount of capital that you'll need. So for me, for those reasons, I'll pass.

Here’s Howie- he’s committed to investing in social-good companies, and Industrial/Organic is exactly the kind of business he would be into.

Howie: Yeah, I think if I was a restaurant I would use your service over the incumbents because, you know, the environmental impact. You're clearly passionate about, you know, you've studied this, you have an emotional connection to trying to solve this problem. I think it's a little too early for me and for that reason I'm going to pass.

Howie’s out. Here’s Jake.

Jake: I think it's a great idea. I love the social good angle. But I think honestly, the stage your company is really idea stage. It's not just pre-revenue, it's really idea stage. Because you haven't built out any of the logistics part of the business yet. It's a whole realm you haven't even touched on, right? It's just chalk on a chalkboard right now. We'd want to see some progress on making these things work operationally. And for that reason I'm going to pass.

Four of the five investors have passed on Industrial/Organic. 

Phil: So now you have Jillian left. One to go.

Jillian: I think what you're doing is so important. I also believe that you are going to make this work. The first person I would like you to hire would be a logistics person, alright. I do think that you are not realistic about your burn, at all. Okay? But I think you're going to get there really fast and you’re gonna say, okay. There is no doubt in my mind that you're going to do this. I really feel that. I am not going to invest right now. But you have my contact information already, Amanda. I want to stay with you and I want to keep the conversation open. Because I do want to see you hit some of these milestones. 

Amanda: Thank you.

Jillian: And for future reference, I know that this is a difficult city to get around, believe me. And I am late more times than I'd like. But when something's really important to me, and I'm asking for money from people, I make sure I'm ten minutes early. And if I have to make sure I'm half an hour early and sit and wait, I do. Because it creates a little like, it’s disrespectful. I know you didn't mean to be. I'm positive. Okay? And we really, really appreciate what you're doing.

Phil: I think it's a noble cause. And I encourage you to continue.

Sheel: I'm excited. And for the sake of the world, I think it should exist.

Phil: Can we keep the fertilizer pellets?

Amanda: Sure.

Phil: All right.

Sheel: All yours, Phil. All yours, Phil.

Jake: It's Jillian's lunch.

Jillian: Thanks a lot, Amanda.

Amanda didn’t get the money she was seeking and she walked out of the room. She told us a few months later that she felt like it had been a little too early to pitch the VC’s on our show -- they expected her to be farther along than she was . 

But two years later ... we caught up with Amanda. She told us about how she just raised FOUR POINT TWO MILLION DOLLARS. And why she totally regrets coming on our show. That's after the break




Welcome back. In the months that followed Amanda’s original pitch, she took our investors’ advice... and simplified her logistics. By partnering with outside haulers so that she could focus on processing the food waste.

But her big accomplishment? In 2017, Industrial Organic opened the test facility Amanda had always imagined. It's in Newark, New Jersey, not far from New York City. Producer Heather Rogers recently visited Amanda there to check it out.

Here’s Heather:

Heather: You want to show me around?


Amanda: Yeah! We are looking at machinery, conveyor belts, tools. 


Heather: We’re in like a warehouse. 


Amanda: Yeah. So we're in a former meat packing plant that is very old. But we tried to make it more cheerful, we painted some parts of the walls green. 


Amanda says Industrial Organic just closed a round of investment and got $4.2 million. They’re planning on using that cash to expand into New York City. Amanda says she couldn’t have done any of this without her first investor, a guy named Charlie O’Donnell. who, she says, is pretty unconventional.


Amanda: He's open to seeing opportunities in industries that he doesn't know about. He's bald and he invested in like hair extensions startup. He makes himself very available to people and he does an event where you can go in and sort of pitch to him. And so we were lucky that that the one VC who kind of bucks tradition and makes himself open to people who he's not being introduced to was someone that we were able to get into our corner. And then make all the introductions for us that we needed to raise.


Heather: When you sat down with him did you feel that kind of connection where he like got it.


Amanda: No not initially. He thought I was weird.


Heather: How do you know he thought you were weird?


Amanda: He told me.


Heather: What did he think was weird? 


Amanda: He just said that I wasn't the typical entrepreneur and he was, and which is true. I mean I wasn't an entrepreneur and he was my very first meeting ever with an investor and it was really early. It was just an idea. It was actually a very different idea [00:42:08] And he said he was more used to startup CEOs who were coming in and like this is the greatest thing ever! And I just was very honest with him and very transparent. And I think he thought that was off-putting because I didn't have the usual sort of veneer of startup CEOs. But then you know he ended up being our biggest champion. So I think that ultimately that won him over. 


Heather: So right now we're sitting in Newark you're going to open a facility in New York City. You've got some employees who I've seen walking around. 

Amanda: We have eight people right now and by the end of the year we could be at 20. 

Heather: So yeah you're very much a business.

Amanda: Yeah it's real. My employees have health insurance and everything. 

Heather: Oh my god that's great.

A few of her workers are on the shop floor, tinkering with some equipment. There’s all these shiny steel tanks... they’re huge, like the size of minivans. Amanda tells me they fill these with food scraps and it all digests into the stuff they use to make the fertilizer pellets and other things.

Amanda: So this is basically all torn apart. So we're just trying to streamline the process and experiment with a couple of things.

And that process, it includes literal experiments… real science… happening right under their roof.

Amanda: So this is the lab We can go walk over.

Heather: So it's this kind of glassed in room almost like it greenhouse.

Amanda: Here's an experiment we have going on. So this is a, a plant that we are growing that can be used to make a bunch of different things…[silence]

I'm getting into a place where I'm like not comfortable talking about this anymore.

Heather: Okay.

Amanda: Sorry.

Heather: It’s okay. It’s okay if you don’t. But it would be cool if you did. 

Amanda: Because it's something that's no one else is doing. And I don't want anyone else doing it before we do it. 

Amanda started out... thinking that her company was a waste management service … 

But now... it’s all about the products they can make with the waste -- she says Industrial Organic is basically becoming a chemicals company... revolutionizing what you can do with food scraps. They’re on the cutting edge... and it’s made Amanda cagey.

Heather: Can you talk about that a little bit? Like why you don't want to talk about what you guys are doing. 


Amanda: Yeah, it's hard to talk about this part of part of it because we're still kind of in stealth mode. That's why we're here. It's to be under the radar. Because what we’ve learned is that there's so much that we can do with the components of food waste after we process them. And that's really where, where the long tail of opportunity is. Like where a lot of the growth is going to occur and what's going to make us a huge company in that IPOs or exits is going to be the the business units on the back end.


Heather: Top Secret. 


Amanda: Yes. That's one of the things that I am very aware of, if I say something in an article or in this interview that in any way makes us lose a competitive edge like I will never forgive myself.


Heather: The stakes are high.


Amanda: Yeah, yeah we raised over 4 million dollars! And you know I've been doing this for five years and I've made a lot of personal sacrifices for it. And if it doesn't work out because we're wrong about an assumption, we're wrong about a market opportunity, like that's fine. But if it fails because I screw up, or because I make a mistake, I mean that's what keeps me up at night.


That kind of stress is pretty much a constant for a founder. They don’t want to mess up things they can control… And among those things... making pitches. Like the one she made to our investors back in 2016. 


Heather: When you pitched on the show you weren't able to secure funding from those investors. They said that you did not have a sense of your burn rate. Why do you think they felt that way?


Amanda: Well I think that at that point we were bootstrapping. So we didn’t really have a burn. I had what my projections were. And they thought they were too low. But what our projections were ended up being true. That is what our burn was the following year when we started building the team. They thought it was too low and decided I didn’t know what I was talking about.


Heather: Do you think that it was too early for you to be pitching?


Amanda: Well not to be pitching in general because I had just raised money. We had just closed half of our pre-seed round. So it wasn't too early for us to be pitching but it may have been too early for us to be pitching those particular investors.] I think I was too early to be pitching in a way that is now public and people will be able to listen to until the end of time. But I don’t think it was too early for me to be pitching it's just that you know the circumstances.


Heather: How did you feel about the show being on the show?


Amanda: Oh I regretted it. Yeah.


Heather: Can you tell me why?


Amanda: Well it was a disaster. I mean we're here talking about how not how it was a disaster but the fact that no one invested and they thought that I didn't know what I was talking about or doing. So I would say that it was a disaster. And I also just feel like I've grown a lot as an entrepreneur and I've gotten much better at pitching. But now it's like what the impression of me that exists on the Internet is when I was very raw and very early. And now that's out there and it's as time goes by that only gets older and I only continue growing but that's still going to be out there and that's still going to be something when people look me up what they find and then what they think of me as an entrepreneur. and that's why I wish it wasn't out there because it was because it's like I was learning.


And she has learned. She’s more confident and she’s figured out how to find the right investors, ones who get what she’s doing. 


Amanda: Our lead investor and the round that we just closed their family owns a big chemicals manufacturing company in India. And when we first met and he said, Oh, so this is just manufacturing. I get that. It was that that kind of lightbulb going off for him where he said, Oh I know what this is. 


Heather: And how did you feel when he said that?


Amanda: I said, Yes it is! You're absolutely right! 


Heather: You have a big smile on your face right now.


Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. You know it's like really, it's like oh good! Somebody, somebody gets it. And also, he helped me too. And then those experiences help me talk about it. And that's how I got better at pitching because I had those experiences where investors had those aha moments. And then I learned how to get to those moments faster. 


And it worked. Amanda got $4.2 million. But she’s pretty sober about it all.


Amanda: The victory subsides very quickly and the looking at that number in the bank account is very exciting because I have never seen seven figures in a bank account before. So it's a huge accomplishment doing what we're doing. And you know what is viewed as a capital intensive business that's asset heavy that's just like not VC friendly at all. And we have raised four point two million in venture funding and we're still around and we're still growing and and there's the future is very very exciting but we're still in a place where all of my decisions are very consequential and we really need to be careful that we're making the right moves because it's not a huge amount of money. So we don't have a lot of margin for error.


Heather: Were there times that you thought this isn't going to work out? 


Amanda: Oh yeah. All the time. I still think that. 


Heather: Really?


Amanda: Mostly just because I like to think of all the potential outcomes and be prepared for them. I actually want to write a Choose Your Own Adventure book for entrepreneurs as a way for people who are thinking about entrepreneurship to kind of like learn about what it's like. Because I kind of view it like that. It's like I think, I look, whenever I have a decision or whenever we're in a situation, I look down at all the potential ways that it can go and what I would do and how I would respond in each of those scenarios. So I always think about it failing because I want to be prepared for that. Do I think it will, right now? No. But I still, I still think that I have to be cognizant of that. And I always have to be working through that in my mind because I want to not be surprised.


Amanda didn’t pull any punches when asked whether she regretted being on the show! Nine out of ten times if a founder had regrets about coming on the show, they’d mask those regrets behind “it was a learning experience” or “I’m very grateful for the feedback I received” and maybe those founders really feel that way! But it was pretty refreshing to hear Amanda say it exactly how she sees it. 


And that’s what I like about her. I actually wonder if this kind of quirky, unconventional approach... is something we all could use a little more of.




Our show is hosted by me, Josh Muccio, Produced by Heather Rogers, Molly Donahue and Kareem Maddox, thanks to Asthaa Chathurvedi and Rob Szypko for producing the original Industrial Organic episode.


We are edited by Blythe Terrell and Emanuele Berry. With additional editing help from Devon Taylor, Annie-Rose Strasser and Alex Blumberg.


The Theme Music in this episode is by Breakmaster Cylinder, with original music composed by The Muse Maker, and Bobby Lord. We were mixed by Enoch Kim with help from Matthew Boll.


Lisa Muccio planned the recording of this pitch.


Quick disclaimer, no offer to invest is being made to or solicited from the listening audience on today’s show.


You can find more episodes of our show, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen. 


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

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.

Jake Chapman

Investor on The Pitch

Jake Chapman is a Managing Director at Army Venture Capital Corporation and focuses on companies working on technology that enhances the national security of the United States of America. The sectors I focus on are AI, Robotics, Aerospace, Autonomy, Quantum Computing, Semiconductors, Manufacturing, Security, Biotech, Defense, Energy and related industries.

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.

Sheel MohnotProfile Photo

Sheel Mohnot

Investor / original co-host on The Pitch

Sheel is a co-founder of Better Tomorrow, a seed-stage venture capital fund investing in Fintech companies globally. His own startup experience includes 2 successful FinTech exits – a payments company and a high-stakes auction company, and he is GP of the 500 Fintech fund. He formerly worked as a financial services consultant at BCG and started his FinTech career at the non-profit p2p lender Kiva.

Amanda Weeks

Founder of Industrial Organic