"When your team takes the vision of the organization upon themselves and they take what they do as a direct representation of their responsibility and their ownership where they have free reins, in a sense that they're able to take their tasks and make them their own, that's one thing that I think is really important."
Jennifer Renda on growing your team
Jennifer Renda returns for the 100th episode to talk about how to build a great team, universal income, post-pandemic changes, open-door policy, innovation, and more.
Jennifer is a serial entrepreneur with extensive knowledge of the Technology and Consumer Electronics industries, where she has more than 15 years of experience. Following a successful exit, she founded her most recent company, which collaborates with OEMs to execute market emergence, growth and support functions within North America.
Jennifer has grown her investment portfolio to include primarily MedTech and early-stage Life Sciences opportunities, where she aims to maintain an active investor role. She is a member of the York Angel Investors network which provides a supportive linkage between investors and entrepreneurs seeking early- and mid-stage capital and was recognized as Angel of the Year in 2019.
Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Toronto and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurial Studies, Finance and Strategy.
The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk
Renda: I’m doing really well Jeffery. How are you doing?
Jeffery: awesome to hear. I’m great too. Thank you. we’re very excited to have you today because not only are you amazing when it’s out there in this entire ecosystem of startups and early stage company investing, but you were also one of our first guests. and today we thought this would be the great way to kick off our next hundred interviews. It was to have you come back and speak again, and interview and give us all the new things that have happened over the last few months. So, we’re excited to have you here today.
Renda: well thanks for the kind words and thanks for having me back. It’s so good to be here. I love it. Well, I think we’ve got a really exciting show ahead. and kind of how we want to dive into all these great things that are going on in the ecosystem around the world, but I think maybe just for the audience, just in case they didn’t catch our first chat, maybe you can give us a little bit about your background, kind of where you came from, obviously jumping into your current venture and maybe a little bit more about where you’re going in the environment. But at the same time one thing about you that nobody would know.
Jeffery: And then the juicy detail.
Renda: So, I am an entrepreneur by heart. I would say I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family, and have a soft spot in my heart for entrepreneurs and founders and the startup ecosystem and the scale of ecosystems overall. I currently have a technology company that is focused in the consumer electronics industry. we’re our approaching our seventh year, so really exciting times not only from an entrepreneurial perspective but also from a founder perspective. I became very engaged in the startup ecosystem here and spent a lot of time with different incubators and accelerators morphing into the angel investment world. So, I’ve come to know some great angel groups, as well as amazing colleagues in space. More recently, I have joined US partners at Canada ventures, and we look at deal flow internationally and collaborate with companies to help them enter the North American market. So, we collaborate with corporate partners and have a fund element as well there. So, I guess overall, I am really excited about the ecosystem and like to partake in different capacities from a mentorship capacity to an advisory standpoint. I love to hear all the pitches, so love to be part of many events and meet great people fulfilling a lot of the curiosity elements and sort of a balance between that entrepreneurial perspective and also the investor perspective as well. So, yeah, an amazing journey so far. more to come.
Renda: awesome. Well, that’s exciting and it’s more amazing is that you take the time to actually give back to the community and focus on helping other founders in their journey which is pretty cool and exciting. probably a fine balance between what you get to do every day and then obviously jumping into pitch events and quarterbacking the efforts of growing early stage companies.
Jeffery: So, kudos to you for that. sounds pretty exciting.
Renda: thanks. and I think at least from my journey there have been a lot of amazing people along the way that have helped and I think that’s part and parcel of the community. So, a lot of founders really should exploit the communities around their industry or around the startup space generally to collaborate with other people. There are so many angels and participants and stakeholders that are really willing to help. So, it’s a great space to leverage.
Jeffery: brilliant. I love it. and one thing about you that nobody would know.
Renda: oh, yes, the interesting point I have. If I could be the next Danica Patrick, I would love to be. So, I enjoy motorsports, and taking things to the track and auto slam and stuff like that. So, I’ve done a formula race as well in a formula car and it was a lot of fun. I think that’s where I like to release all the adrenaline on the track.
Jeffery: amazing. and where did you do that? I can’t remember the spot, but there’s a couple of different tracks that you can do that aren’t too far from the GTHA.
Renda: Yeah, there’s NO sport which is now Canadian Tire MotorWay, and a really exciting place. They have some cool events there as well. One, over the summer where they showcased a lot of vintage and new vehicles. So, it’s a lot of fun.
Jeffery: amazing. Well now I’m going to share a story that I actually went to that track about three years ago, and I also participated in a nice race around the track. and I ended up wiping out. Well, it was a really small wipeout to be honest, but they do tell you that if you wipe out and you go off the track, that you need to disembark or make your way off track. But that’s if you go off the track. So, as I was racing, and I spun around and kept driving, they declared that as going off the track, but I never actually left the track. I spun out on the road while I kept driving. So, they ended up trying to say that they needed to flag me off. But because I was driving quite quickly and catching all around, I kept going and they didn’t really try to stop me. But then they did try to stop me and they were waving but they weren’t following their own protocols which was flag and everything else. So, I ended up doing two or three laps whipping around the track and then eventually they jumped out and they were furious that I was supposed to leave the track. But to my point they said, only if the vehicle left the track which it never left the track. So, I ended up winning the award for the least viable to race or something like that. and I laughed because I was crushing their numbers. But they weren’t too happy with my approach. So, well Jeffery, in my books that’s called stunt driving. and a lot of fast furious watching. So, maybe, I might make it into the movies.
Jeffery: exactly. next gig.
Renda: Yeah, many funny things. There are many funnies there. But it was, I will say, that it was pretty amazing. I did enjoy every moment of it. So, I’m sure it’s not the same level of what you were driving. But I will say that if I was the least successful as a race car driver, I would have the award there.
Jeffery: awesome. That place doesn’t matter. it all matters but that’s awesome. It’s a great pastime to have. and like you said, it gets the adrenaline running and it gets your mind off everything else because you got to focus on the immediacy which is keeping your car on the track. Yes, now speaking of motivation and keeping yourself moving, there were a few things that I really wanted to touch back on. and this is pretty important to the way this whole ecosystem has kind of been shaping up and growing and man, there’s so many things that are happening not only in Canada, but globally. But we’ll specifically focus on the Canadian side. as you’re building out your teams and you guys are really bunkering down, you’re at six and a half years, almost seven years into business. things are growing really well, taking my investor hat off and going right after the entrepreneurial side. What do you do to motivate your teams to grow and build within your business?
Renda: That’s a really good question. and I think people who know me well know that I don’t take the team portion of things lightly because I think that is where the magic happens. Those are the people who get things done. So, building a great team is essential. If not, I would say the secret sauce to every organization.
Jeffery: That being said, how do you do that? How do you motivate the right individuals? so finding them is one thing, but how do you make sure that they’re invested as much as you are as a founder?
Renda: And I think you know, when your team takes the vision of the organization upon themselves and they take what they do as a direct representation of their responsibility and their ownership where they have free reins, in a sense that they’re able to take their tasks and make them their own, that’s one thing that I think is really important. So, having the ability from a founder perspective sometimes, it’s hard to relinquish a lot of our control of things. Being able to do that is really important. And from an investor point of view, you know, seeing a founding team that has the capacity to understand that you need to relinquish controls from a perspective of not having the bandwidth to do things but also from either a technical or expertise standpoint is really important. So, having people take ownership of their roles is one way to build motivation, also understanding that your team is a collaborative and cohesive element. So, making sure that you’re building an environment where people have the ability to collaborate, to work together in an atmosphere that promotes innovation, promotes discussion, promotes transparency. and I think all of those things are really important to build a common vision because you don’t want any messaging or ideas of where leadership is going in, what direction to disjuncture. I think that cohesion within the team is really important. Another thing that I tend to spend a lot of time doing is building opportunities for people to collaborate and enjoy time together. So, if I can facilitate events now, I mean that’s changed a lot too in our times but how can we utilize the space. We have to make sure that we have some team building happening that’s reflective of, again, community building and sharing of ideas to and sharing of people’s time. So, I always say that your workplace is somewhere where you spend most of your waking time during the week and it should be a place where you want to be. like we work hard, we hustle, but it’s a place where your left foot and right foot are in a direction that you want to be in. So, spending a lot of time making the environment enjoyable is important. and I think the last is transparency from the founding team as well with their employees. So, being able to have a, quote and quote, open door policy, you should have the ability to be able to talk about issues openly with your team. be transparent. be there and willing to address any of their concerns. So, I think those things are ways, beyond obviously the financial compensations and in other ways the traditional methods of compensation and motivation. I think all of those things matter, making it a place where people want to be each day.
Jeffery: And I think those are obviously all super valid points now when you’re diving into the regular forms of compensation, do you have to offset those now today because of the shrinking talent pool? well at least it feels like it’s shrinking because there’s a lot more companies that are coming about. So, a lot of people are changing. Were they working? or how are they working? So do you find that you have to continue to motivate through compensation? or can you really offset it with a lot of the initiatives that you’re talking about? where you’re bringing teams together? you’re collaborating ,you’re running events, what is the fine balance and what are people really looking for and have you been able to explore that in the recent during COVID-19? I guess over the recent months, and has that changed your perspective from the previous years that you were running your company?
Renda: Yeah. and a really great point because I think pre and during COVID-19, and now at whatever point we’re at, there have been changes into how you best grow your team. and fortunately for some companies, they’ve been opposite in a position where they’re needing to grow their team. So, how that looked traditionally is not necessarily how it looked. maybe in the past year, so as we’ve been hiring, we’ve run into different challenges. So, I think from a compensation point of view, fair is fair. and those things matter right. But from a talent pool perspective, I would say that we’ve encountered some differences. One, being the smaller talent pool that’s been available to us from a hiring perspective and what that really means for many businesses. So, the challenges of people taking on new roles and taking on new growth basically growth choices in their careers have been offset by some of the subsidies we’ve seen from the government and so on. So, it’s been sort of a competition to get people out of kind of a climatized comfort per se to getting back into the swing of things fostering innovation, working towards the next steps in their careers, updating themselves with some of the changes in technology et cetera. So, there have been challenges that way and also challenges in how we integrate as a team and some of the changes that may seem subtle. But wearing masks in our workplace, like hiring people without actually seeing what they look like, is sort of weird too. So, if I had to see them without a mask, it’d be sort of strange. So, a lot of the things that we could do from a team building perspective has also evolved. and how do we make that happen in our new environment and how do we staggering lunches and our lunch times and how does that look and how does that interfere with how people engage with one another too. So, there have been challenges in that regard as well. Nonetheless, I feel that it’s gotten a lot better and I would say that we’re on a path where finding talent is somewhat less daunting as it was earlier in the year. But still something that a lot of founders are probably struggling with right now and you find that some of the challenges now after months of living in a box, I guess. and being afraid to be close to somebody or have no mask on when you’re trying to hire someone, they just want to stay home and work and do zoom. and you kind of have an in-office presence. So, how do you kind of convince somebody that in order to work for us, you have to be on site? And is that even a thing now or when you hire someone, it’s your choice?
Renda: It’s not your choice as an employer. it’s the choice of the employee on what they want to do. and you kind of have to adhere to it. is that the policy or are you still able to push, ‘hey, we’re a team, we’re a unity, we need to be here. This is how we operate. and does it still work or do you get a lot of pushback from talent, yeah. So, I guess the fortunate thing has been we haven’t needed to close our doors essentially. So, we’ve been here throughout it, probably how I kept my sanity throughout COVID-19, having somewhere to be most of the time. That being said, some of the roles that we hire require the person to be on-site, which is sort of part and parcel of what’s required. So, we can’t really kind of argue that point if it was possible for some of those roles to be remote. Would I be against that? absolutely not, but at the same time, I think there’s sort of a divide. you get the individuals who are very eager to get back into the socialization element of their careers and their workplace. and then there are people who really have that hard stop. and if that’s the case, then I guess, just the match doesn’t work. So, you get a bit of both. But it’s obviously one of the pieces on the checklist where you need to be in accordance with each other and that’s what’s going to happen. So, hiring for in-person work is generally more challenging now than it was before obviously. But it’s still doable. and There are a lot of people who really want to get back into the swing of things. I guess it’s looking for those people that want to be back in the swing of things because they probably got a lot more eager to keep running and gunning. I noticed that in the news, they’ve now and again. I don’t know if this is everywhere but they’ve claimed that there will be no longer snow days because you can log in and actually take school online during a snow day. So, someone wrote thank god I grew up when I did because I still was able to have snow days. So, today, they’re going to turn them into work days. So, it kind of takes that same perception. Now we can work 7 days a week. there’s no issue where you are, as long as you’ve got a laptop. you can plug in and work. I’m guessing that benefits yourself, your business. But is that a motivation for the employees when they come into a business? and I’m going to take it again from that founder’s perspective. I’m trying to build a scaling company. I need to move quickly. I’ve noticed a lot of companies have started to hire people all over the world today. I can’t say how well it’s working because it is a different style of business development. What I’m really more curious about is the people that are coming out of school that you’re hiring? how are they adapting to the non-collaboration of not being in an office? do you feel that there’s a slowdown in their learning because they’re not bouncing into conversations at the water cooler or in meetings and it’s less personable. So, do you feel that there might be less knowledge? transfer and people that are not being as sharp as they should be because they don’t have that same collaboration.
Renda: I would argue that definitely those things are missing the concept of really building that team and collaborative approach doesn’t happen well especially when you don’t know the individuals you’re working with ahead of time. starting somewhere new. Is it possible?
Jeffery: Clearly, it’s possible. It’s happening. Each day ,is it preferable from my perspective? Maybe being more social. I would prefer that to happen in person. Is it something that is enticing from a hiring standpoint? I would say many people would jump at the opportunity to have a role that requires them not having to be in the office each day and working remotely. does it bode well for many companies.
Renda: I would argue, yes. I mean it’s easy for me to get things done wherever I am as long as I’m connected right. and that’s applicable to many organizations.
Jeffery: And totally cool. But I do think that the human piece of the puzzle is really important not only from your team perspective, but even something that I’ve struggled with from a client perspective, or let’s say from an investor to investing perspective. So, it’s not just within your team but also how that translates to your relationship with your clients. Like luck, we have these deep relationships that exist currently. So, it’s easy to move forward. what about business development and looking & approaching new potential clients? especially when a lot of these conferences are virtual. like it’s very different that approaches are not what they used to be. So, how do we reinvent ourselves there? but then when you look at it from an investor perspective, how does that relationship work when you have existing rapport with your portfolio companies? I mean those conversations are quite easy to pick up but if you’re looking for opportunities, how has that changed over time if you’re a founder looking for investment?
Renda: how has that changed over time. and we’ve seen, Jeffery yourself, from some of your initiatives that you’ve done, and a lot of the things that I’ve had to actually everything that has had to go virtual, how that’s changed the dynamic. But I think that affects all stakeholders and all relationships within each sub class of stakeholders too. and it’s fascinating to say that because even when you’re working with your team, and maybe when you worked in an environment you had touch points per day where you were seen nodding, shaking hands, waving at people on your team inside of the space. Now maybe you’re having one touch point every two to three days because you don’t have that same interaction. So, does it lose the personal personality of the whole collaboration? and then even with investors and being able to integrate into the companies or talk with their portfolio companies, we’re starting to see companies that are pitching that don’t have an office and they’re purely virtual. So, does it scare you to think, man, if everything’s virtual what am I buying into? and will this company be able to be successful if their team is scattered all over the world? and they’ve got a founder and I can’t track him down or her down because they’re nowhere to be found. they’re on this digital stream somewhere living as a nomad and I need an update on what’s going on with the company or with this line of business because you’re not in that collaborating space as much as you used to be and what we’re used to. and now that that’s all shifted, so does your mind start to go into, I need to wrap this up tighter and closer and bring more controls back. or do you kind of just play out with it and see how the business grows and if you can scale in this same open space that you aren’t really used to anymore. I would say that in light of the recent initiatives that we’ve taken on at Canada Ventures, and looking at global opportunities, I think that in and of itself has been something that has changed perspectives in terms of that arm’s length approach to how we choose companies to engage with. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they need to be in your city or in your country or a reference from someone locally in that particular market. Now dealing with those types of challenges kind of opens the door to being more welcoming of some of the other things that you’ve mentioned. So, the idea that people work virtually or they’re not sort of the traditional setup of an organization or they didn’t come out of a facility or an incubator and accelerator, it’s just the nature of that. So, I think the band-aid’s already been ripped off to be open to these types of situations and that’s okay. And I think it’s becoming something that we need to normalize essentially, especially when you’re looking at international deal flow and international opportunities.
Jeffery: very cool and I do agree that eventually if we’re not already there, you have to start looking at the opportunities regardless of how they come to you. and even if they don’t have an office or they don’t have one location, it’s business or something that we can invest in. and let them manage how they’re managing their distributed team and go from there. I guess in a way, it will always create some sort of tension when you’re looking at your own business. and saying if I can’t distribute everybody on my team. and I have to have an office because it’s how we get things done. how does everybody else manage to get this production to move forward?
Renda: So, you have to jump through your own biases on how you operate in order to ensure that you can be less rigorous against the companies that you potentially might invest in that are running separately and diverse all over the world in hopes that they’re going to be able to hit their initiatives at the same time.
Jeffery: So, it’s a mouthful. But I guess there’s a lot to learn as we keep moving forward now. to take a step back or to kind of layer in this one, you’ve built up these strong teams, you’re getting people motivated and business is moving along nicely. Now you’ve got one more constraint that kind of holds things back a little bit and that is the government band-aid. And what they’ve got well, I don’t know how long it’s going to go for or what it turns out to be, but you have this desire for universal income. How does this affect innovation, company growth in scaling? because at the end of the day, the talent pool, I would think, only keeps shrinking when you start throwing and sprinkling more money out. and this isn’t just in Canada. This is a global phenomenon that’s happening where everybody’s looking at maybe creating this global income that allows everybody to survive. Does this now affect you from a founder perspective? and then of course putting on the investor hat, does this just become another government regulated concern that we all try to work our way around? or again you leave it to the founder to decide and just let them kind of operate in the way they need to?
Renda: Yeah, that’s a really interesting topic and I’m going to answer from, I guess a Jennifer perspective. and one of my greatest passions is innovation, creativity, curiosity and knowledge. and I think when we look at the idea of universal income, I feel challenged in making sure that those things are actually achievable. and so I feel as though there are things that we provide for people in terms of motivation, in terms of ways to propel themselves forward, opportunities for education, obviously financial compensation for things. and I feel that universal income could really stifle a lot of the innovation that we see or have the potential to see in some emerging economies as well. and so just like we had to reinvent ourselves in prior situations and transitions within society, I feel that we have the capacity to do so again. and we are able to make sure that we can evolve certain job opportunities so people can be trained for other things that evolve from the transition of some roles into more automated roles. and there are always peripheral things to support that. not only that, but there are emerging industries that are very attractive to investors. currently that have the potential to generate a lot more opportunities from a career standpoint as well. and so I think from a human level, we need to have the ability to be agile to support innovation. and through that, I feel that more of a competitive landscape would foster those sorts of visions above and beyond a universal income approach.
Jeffery: So, in taking that approach, does that put you on the right side or the left side of universal income? I would argue that there are other ways to solve the challenges that universal income looks to solve. I don’t think that’s a solution and I feel that there are many other ways to reinvent ourselves and leverage a lot of the things that are available to us to come out of those challenges in a more innovative and prevalent society. I would say that if we look at it from an innovation standpoint, it would be stifling. So, in taking that, and it just crossed my mind, that if we were to dive into the comment that Chris Prince William stated the other day, that all the space talk and spending money to travel the space is the wrong way to go on an innovation scale, is that we should be focused on the people on earth and the things that are going on here. What is your perspective on that? do you feel that we are always shooting for the biggest dollar in the wrong spots? and that we’re not taking care of our own business? and again to your innovation standpoint on how things are working with this universal income, taking that same kind of stance, and saying hey, this isn’t right, and then you’re right, maybe we shouldn’t be going to Mars. Maybe, we should be figuring out how to solve our own garbage, our own environmental issues and everything else so that we can be sustainable and innovative and focus all the mind power that we currently have on earth and spend those extra dollars that we’re kind of wasting on sending an old dude up in space for minutes. it is probably not as effective as spending those billions on figuring out how to clean up garbage in the ocean. What are your thoughts around that?
Renda: Yeah, interesting. So, I’m generally, and this and that person, I’m not this or that person. So, being with that mentality, I feel that we can do all of these things. I don’t feel we need to choose one of these things and I actually would support the idea that we do all of these things. Clearly, we have many outlying issues in society currently to deal with. no doubt about that. Is there anything wrong with exploring space? Mars is just a one-way ticket as I know currently. So, not sure if I’m signing up for that one. But the point being, I think that we can do all of these things successfully. We have brilliance globally. There are amazing people everywhere with the capacity to do amazing things. So, what we need to do from an investor perspective is to facilitate those who support these individuals to make these things happen, to bring them to fruition, wherever they’re located, whatever foundations they come from. and I think with that mentality, you’re able to support cleaning up the garbage and sending whomever to space. we can do all the things but has there become a priority list? So if you only have so much resources, do you tend to pull back on certain things that, in the case of I’m using space only, because everybody wants to go to space. Everybody thinks it’s amazing. But we’re only going to have to go there if we don’t fix the rest of the problems that we have and don’t be around. The world’s gone through quite a bit of stuff in the last two years.
Jeffery: I think we’ve seen our face in the mirror quite a bit and had to kind of make some changes in general. But if you were to look at what that innovation looks like and how we tackle that innovation; do you prioritize things like hitting? I know we’re getting a little political here, but like hitting the carbon footprint changes that are needed things like that do you try to shift the way innovation is being looked at and say, ‘what we’re going to fund these areas because they’re highly important. we’re going to push the climate accord. we’re going to push these things to get those into the forefront because maybe they haven’t taken enough of a stance over the last years.’ But today, it seems more prevalent that they need to be pushed and the innovation is probably only scratching the surface on how deep we can go to really innovate, and then forcing corporations to start pivoting and innovating quicker and faster as well. So, now, you’re taking that brain power that might have been associated with sending a rocket into space and putting those resources into something that’s going to be a little bit more innovative and effective for global gratification. if you want to call that over the next few years, yeah well clearly, I’m not arguing that we just all pack up and get to space. as fun as that would be and as many people miss pulling luggage around, I’m not sure that’s the case. But what I would say is that for things that matter, generally speaking, I can maybe argue a few industries. I feel like we are doing the right things to encourage growth in those areas. So, for example, in Bio Tech and Health Tech and drug discovery, we look at a lot of the support mechanisms that exist from some of the large pharma players, having labs set up for companies to grow to have lab space available to them to run clinical studies, to get to certain points within the drug discovery platform, to help solve a lot of human disease related issues, which is one example of something that’s really important to me. It is education. and how do we make sure everyone has the ability to access education? and so we have initiatives there. then we look at cleantech and green tech. and so a lot of focus is being put there, not just from a corporate perspective, but also from a startup perspective. So, I would say that things are happening. Do we need to do more? Of course. Do we need to collaborate more? I would argue absolutely and I think if we take that approach, we can maybe fast forward a lot of these things. So, it’s not necessarily that we’re lacking talent. what I think is we’re lacking collaboration. So, do you think then in the next five to ten years that the government takes a stronger stance in where they’re funding dollars in order to drive that collaboration and drive that innovation into cleantech into health tech? Because these are important issues that are being surfaced every day. So, allow the governments to push that innovation side which then will drive more people to want to spend their money which I think would then investor wise, would kind of fall into your line. Here’s where innovation is going and hear some hot sectors from your side.
Jeffery: Yeah, I would absolutely argue. I think that obviously we need government support for a lot of these things assuming they make choices that resonate. then obviously those initiatives coming from that perspective really help. I mean it encourages a lot of the players, the bigger stakeholders. It encourages investors to invest in that space. It encourages people to partake in those industries, to study and educate themselves in those spaces. So, definitely, that would be part and parcel of a complete solution. and I think it would be probably necessary to make those things happen at least in many countries. and from that innovation standpoint, can you give us one or two areas that you think will be really hotbeds in the next two to three years or five? I would argue that health tech and biotechnology is, probably because I’m a little biased. and they’re near and dear to me. But this is really where a lot of action happens and something that I think is going to, it’s a lot of subsets of those industries have been validated through COVID-19. But that was not looking at it even from the bigger picture. I think there are industries that are really important and exciting and are relevant. Another one is, like cleantech and green tech, and I think as societies move towards smarter cities, like how do we navigate that, what do the peripherals look like around that? and I think that’s a really interesting place. and a third, I can go on. But maybe a third for this conversation would be fintech as well. So, I think those three larger areas are where innovation is happening. people are partaking from a founder and funder perspective and that are relevant obviously currently. But as we move forward, is there one area that you’ve kind of touched on? or over the years that you felt that just never really gotten any innovation? and it’s kind of prime for that interesting question because I think like it feels like everything’s. It’s kind of like when you go to the movies, you’re like oh, they’ve never come up with anything innovative anymore because every movie’s been done. But then, every year, they come out with a thousand more movies and they’re all just as exciting and innovative and cool. you’re like man, I just thought they ran out of ideas. How is this still possible? so are there any sectors, like construction’s gone under a massive re-haul. So, that whole area has really changed a lot. Is there any other one sector that just pops out and you’re like, this is incredible, what’s going to happen in this space, or hey guys, here’s a hint take a look at this one.
Renda: Well, I would say logistics is really interesting and that’s evolved immensely more recently. But like how do we navigate that moving forward? How do you be creative in that space? So I would say that’s a pretty interesting place where things have shifted a lot and things can continue to shift and be really interesting as we move forward. So, I’ve seen some startups emerge in that space and I find it really exciting. and I know it well, so I’m interested in that. But I feel that there’s way more to come in logistics. So, kind of like taking the oh, what’s that tube, where they’re going to put people in and shoot them across? What’s that tube called? The, oh my god, the Elon Musk tube or whatever that thing was called. Anyways, it’s like taking that type of thing instead of making it about getting people from one city, the other in less than seconds going through a hyperloop. there you go going through a hyperloop that you’ll actually start shipping products that way. So, doing other ways to move products and goods from drones to this that every type of technology out there that it’s going to allow for logistics to work that much more seamless quicker, faster and reduce emissions while doing it.
Jeffery: Yeah, it’s an exciting space for sure. I like it. I agree. It’s pretty cool. Alright, well I think we’ve kind of gone on a nice little journey there. I think I really enjoyed the aspects of what it takes to build a team, how to motivate your staff, the government side and how they kind of have to play a part in order to help move this along. But I think at the end of the day the whole thing comes back to is that as a founder, there are a lot of obstacles you’re going to face in a business. and as you’re kind of working through those and you touch on this, the team becomes heavily important on how you can operate your business, scale your business. How do you empower those people in the team? And I think from all the interviews I’ve done, a majority of people always say that they’ll invest in a team and A B product, because they know that that team is what’s going to help them carry them into the future and scale that business. Are there any last thoughts or comments that you can share not only from an investor standpoint but from a founder’s standpoint on what you think can really round out your opportunity as a business so that investors like yourself would be interested to jump in?
Renda: yeah I guess I think this is a life lesson too is that we’re a reflection of the company we keep, and so making sure that those around us are the right individuals to be around us to support our vision, to fill in the gaps like we’re not the end of everything, understanding where we stand, filling in the gaps accordingly, that your advisors and investors are also the right advisors and investors too that you’re able to share your journey along the way with the people who may not jump in now as part of your journey, but may jump in at an appropriate time as part of your journey so making sure that what you surround your company with are the right things. So, watering your company well, I would say, surrounding yourself with things that add value to what you’re building.
Jeffery: I love it. and I think, to summarize that last part is, you need to challenge yourself and in order to challenge yourself and your business, you need the right people inside it and outside of it to continue to push you forward and help you and your team’s scale and grow and that comes from having the right people surrounding you on inside and outside your business.
Renda: absolutely. we all report to somebody, I guess. and we want to make sure it’s a good person that’s helping us push the needle, right.
Jeffery: absolutely. I love it. Alright. we’re going to transition now into one big question, and to me, this is kind of the way that I love to find that entrepreneurial story. What does it take to be an entrepreneur? and this question just totally always floats to the top for me because every time I’m sharing stories, I love sharing stories about how a founder did this and she came from this, and made it, crushed it and did this in the space, or it was innovative, crazy and everybody loved it. Is there a story that kind of resonates with you that just really shows and pops what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
Renda: okay. I’ll give you an insight into something that happened to me a few moons ago when I first started. Essentially, there was a lot of thirst around building this great portfolio of clients and there was sort of a need to have some sort of invoicing to happen to cover all the overhead costs. and so I would say, maybe a bit of desperation to have clients down the pipeline, and I remember hosting a few meetings with a potential client and they were really pushy in that they understood that we were starting. they understood our position but they were really low balling on a lot of things. and as much as it was exciting to think, you can have a checklist in front of you and say, add this person to the portfolio. and awesome checklist, this is a new client, it’s not just about that. It’s about checking off the right boxes. sometimes in the right order for the right reasons. and when I thought about it, I was perplexed because it was very enticing but at the same time, it didn’t make business sense. and it wouldn’t do my small team that I had at the time any justice. It was like undermining all of the principles and values of the business and the vision. and it didn’t really make sense. we would not be putting the company in the right position. So, I guess, from an entrepreneurial perspective, knowing when to make the right decisions and say what this deal is not for me and to not sign on the dotted lines, and to walk away from an opportunity, takes a lot more work than to say, yeah, I’ll sign up. and having the foresight and vision and capacity to say what does this deal mean for the company in three years and five years, what does it mean for my team, how much do I value, that’s visionary capacity. that sets an entrepreneur apart. and walking away from that chance or it wasn’t really a chance when you reflect back, but knowing when to walk away is an interesting skill to learn. and understanding that, at the end of the day, all the fingers point at you. so making sure that they’re pointing at you in a positive way, rather than making decisions that don’t foster the support of the longevity of the greater vision of what you’re trying to build.
Jeffery: I love it. and it really comes down to understanding yourself and supporting the mandate of where you want to bring the business. and that not all client work or all contracts are worth taking if it’s going to jeopardize the culture or the growth and opportunity or business.
Renda: yeah, definitely. but those are hard decisions to make at the moment, especially when you’re in the beginning stages and you’re thirsty and you want that traction. difficult decisions for sure. so never lose sight of the grander vision.
Jeffery: I love it. and like what you said, that can be tough when you’re in the thick of things, and you need some dollars to cover off x or y. and sometimes you might gravitate to it, but just stick to your guns and know your value. I always look at it as if you draw a line in the sand and say, I don’t want to cross this line because as soon as I cross it, then I can end up doing things that I’m not going to be happy with. so try to stick to your values and drive forward. but that’s some great advice, know your value. It is huge sometimes, like step out of the chaos of things and really understand not just your value today but what you perceive your value to be moving forward because those decisions may pigeonhole you in a certain sector or a certain capacity within your space because of the value that you or perceived even value that you’ve now placed on your company. I love it. Nope, that’s some great advice actually. That’s amazing advice. I’m just going to cut that out and post it everywhere because I think every early founder goes through this exact same scenario. It’s almost like your badge of being a startup founder. you have to go through this and it is the toughest decision you’re going to have to make. and I think that’s well put on how you have to kind of hold your own and make sure that you don’t accept anything less than the value that you feel you own and have. Brilliant. Alright. we’re going to transition now into our rapid fire questions.
Renda: alright let’s do it.
Jeffery: Alright, here we go. it’s one or the other. we’re going to start off with a business, founder or co-founder?
Jeffery: unicorn or four year exit?
Jeffery: tech or cpg?
Jeffery: Tech Ai or Blockchain Ai?
Renda: Tech Ai.
Jeffery: first time founder or second or third time founder?
Renda: That’s a tough one. I’m going to. This is really a tough one. I’ll go for the first time as a founder just because I think it’s encouraging because we all start somewhere.
Jeffery: agreed. first money in or series A?
Renda: first money in.
Jeffery: angel or VC?
Jeffery: board seat or observer?
Renda: Can I give commentary on that? or I just have to pick one.
Jeffery: rapid fire.
Renda: yeah, okay save for a convertible note.
Jeffery: safe lead or follow?
Renda: yeah okay, this is rapid fire.
Jeffery: lead equity or interest payments?
Jeffery: favorite part of investing?
Renda: the ability to satisfy the need for curiosity and being part of an innovative journey with amazing people.
Jeffery: I love it. number of companies invested per year?
Jeffery: preferred terms?
Renda: it varies. depends on the deal.
Jeffery: Okay, verticals of focus?
Renda: mostly health related opportunities. Mostly. but there are left and right there.
Jeffery: okay. What are two things that need to stand out on a startup to have you want to invest in them?
Renda: team scalability.
Jeffery: perfect. Alright. Now we’re going to go into the personal side. these will be more rapid then. book or movie?
Jeffery: Superman or batman? pizza pop or ice cream bar?
Renda: ice cream.
Jeffery: five minutes with Bezos or Oprah?
Jeffery: Arsenal or Manchester United Juventus? you have to accept that one, I’m trying to find Arsenal fans. But, I will accept it. Okay, bike or rollerblades? like Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets?
Renda: Big Mac.
Jeffery: trophy or money? Beer or wine?
Renda: wine forever.
Jeffery: alarm clock or mobile phone?
Renda: mobile phone.
Jeffery: hotel or hostel?
Jeffery: king or rich?
Jeffery: concert or amusement park?
Jeffery: fortune cookie or birthday cake?
Renda: fortune cookie.
Jeffery: Ted Talk or a book reading?
Renda: Ted Talk.
Jeffery: Is life boring without Trump?
Renda: somewhat missing the tweets, the action has died down. the noise as well.
Jeffery: I love that question because it is entertaining for me. Anyways alright, I think we already have the answer to this question, oh, I was supposed to change the sequence of questions. Anyhow, favorite sports team?
Jeffery: favorite movie and what character would you play in the movie?
Renda: Okay, I’m really bad because I watch movies and then I just move on with my life. so, I’m not really good at this love the movie thing. Can it be a Disney movie?
Jeffery: it could be anything that you really like, the something that pops in your head. you’re like that movie and I want to play this character, cool.
Renda: The character represents me. I would love to be Moana in Moana, because she is such a free spirit. She travels the ocean for that exploratory nature to her very curious loves, her heritage as well. adventurous and yeah, so I am Moana.
Jeffery: I like it. I thought that was great as well. did they not have us, they haven’t had a sequel for that yet. or did they hurry up on that one because I want to know where my adventure takes me. I love it. Alright. favorite book?
Renda: My favorite book I think, “It’s a Good Life” lesson book and it’s the Mark Manson book, The Subtle Art of not Giving a Fudge. a lot of things that you can take away from that book that are really interesting in life and one of the things that I like most about it is, and it I reference it sometimes when I think about what I’m doing like to have a purpose behind the things that I choose to do and it’s understanding what you’re willing to struggle for. So struggle is awesome and struggle kind of weeds out what you should spend your time doing and what you shouldn’t .So what is it in life that you’re worth struggling for and those are the things you should choose to do and the things that are peripheral. you shouldn’t give a fudge about I like it. Alright. next question?
Jeffery: most famous person that pops into your mind right now.
Renda: yep, Leonardo da Vinci.
Jeffery: I like it. the first brand that pops into your mind?
Jeffery: nice. Alright. This is the very last question. Alright, make it count. What is your superpower?
Renda: my desired superpower is to have many clones because I want to dabble into so many things and I feel my list of to do’s never gets crossed off fast enough but my real superpower is the ability to be a chameleon and that means that I can alter myself to navigate any environment that I come across. and that really bodes well when you’re traveling and when you’re dealing with different companies and when you’re dealing with different life events. and so I’m a human chameleon.
Jeffery: I love it. I will say that of all of the scenarios that people have provided, that’s my favorite. because as far as I can remember, I always say, I’m a chameleon. I adapt to everything and everybody. so it’s quite interesting. I do see that as well in you. so I think that’s pretty amazing. but adapting in the environment that you’re in not just from an entrepreneurial standpoint but as an investor, I think it’s a very strong skill to have and because you see a lot of companies and bounce in and out of a lot of those companies, it’s amazing that you kind of have to bounce around but adjust to all the personalities of everybody pitching, all the other investors and everything else. so it’s a pretty amazing skill set to have. so awesome. I love that.
Renda: No, cheers to the chameleons. And then people will now know what a chameleon does and how they operate.
Jeffery: Awesome. Yeah, brilliant. Well Jennifer, I want to say thank you very much for joining us today. I had a lot of fun, learned a lot. I will show my book because I took a lot of notes, double paged like crazy. so again, thank you very much for coming back to be not only our first, but to be our hundredth. and we should put another footnote in there. I don’t want to say a thousandth because that is a lot of interviews. so that might be a long time from now if we go to that one, but maybe we can find another pinnacle milestone for where you are and where we end up landing and maybe we can have a regroup around that, whatever that number is. but we’d obviously love to have you back and maybe it doesn’t have to be in a hundred shows. it could be something more often if you will.
Renda: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Jeffery. Always great speaking with you, it’s a lot of fun. and thanks so much.
Jeffery: awesome. Well, the way we like to end our show is we want to give you the last word. so anything that you want to say to investors, to startups, to anybody out there, I turn it over to you. but again thank you very much for sharing everything. you’re awesome. and again thank you.
Renda: thanks Jeffery. we’re all a reflection of the company we keep. So from a personal and professional level, make sure you surround yourself with the things that bode well for your greater vision. and when you can be a chameleon, have a great one.
Jeffery: Okay, that was awesome. Jennifer came back for our episode. So it was kind of cool that we got to interview her way back in the day and then we got to interview, well first and now, we get to chat with her again. so taking a different perspective and hopefully we’ll get to do more of those, but I think from the conversations around motivating team building a fantastic team. Does this universal income offset the way you build out your team? Are people getting too relaxed? How is that going to work and how does that affect the startup from an investor and from obviously a founding standpoint and team? I love the fact that once you’ve got into, you have to have a common vision, transparency, and open door policy. everything comes back to innovation. how can you continue to innovate your business to improve and always be better and make sure you have the right people supporting you inside and out. all great stuff. Thank you very much again Jennifer for coming back and helping us celebrate our 100th. and looking forward to chatting with you many more times. So thank you everybody for joining us today. If you enjoyed the conversation, please subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcast and or Stitcher. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or for startup events, visit opn.ninja . Thank you and have a great week.
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