Episode 51 - Entrepreneur Experience: Kelly Keifer R.S.I.F. Advisors, Principal

EPISODE 51

Entrepreneur Experience: Kelly Kiefer R.S.I.F. Advisors, Principal

On this episode we dive into the importance of integrity in business and how it defines your true success. Kelly Kiefer shares her advice for women struggling to raise capital during a looming recession, the current and possible ripple effects plus lessons to learn from her impactful career like how to keep your entrepreneur intuition clear, you know what to do next! Go Listen now!

If you’re a woman, raising capital, it can be especially TOUGH! On this episode Cynthia speaks with one of her favorite humans, Kelly Kiefer, who is currently engaged, as a strategic advisor, with multiple organizations including Principal at R.S.I.F. Advisors.

Kelly is known for her strategic thinking, with diverse experience holding various C-suite roles in multiple industries including impact investing, risk mitigation and art. On this episode we dive into the importance of integrity in business and how it defines your true success. Kelly shares her advice for women struggling raising capital during a looming recession, the current and possible ripple effects plus lessons to learn from her impactful career like how to keep your entrepreneur intuition clear, you know what to do next!

Check out Kelly Kiefer’s recommended resources:

Blue Ocean Strategy
The E-Myth Revisited
Kelly Kiefer Art

Find and follow Kelly on LinkedIn or check out Kelly Kiefer’s website.

Check out R.I.S.F. Advisors

Be sure to like, share, and subscribe to Precursa: The Startup Journey on your favorite podcasting platform and tune in for the next episode! 

Email us with any questions or comments (startup@precursa.com). Check out our website (https://www.precursa.com) for more information on getting your startup rolling.

(00:04): Straight to you from Denver, Colorado, this is Precursa: The Startup Journey. We share the ins and outs of building a tech startup from inception, to launch, to revenue and beyond. If you’ve ever wondered what building a startup from scratch really looks like, you’re in the right place. With full transparency and honesty, we reveal it all about Precursa on our ride from idea to exit: the wins, the lessons learned, and the unexpected twists and turns. (00:37): Hello everybody. And welcome back. This is Precursa the startup journey, and we are continuing our entrepreneur experience series today with one of my favorite humans. I’m so excited. So today I’m joined by Kelly Kiefer who is working to see impact and capital collide for great good. She’s known for her strategic thinking, collaborative, tenacious, spirit, passion for authentic connection and her diverse experience, holding C-suite roles in a very eclectic array of industries ranging from art to impact investing to risk mitigation for trustees involved in wealth transfer. Kelly’s currently a strategic advisor with multiple organizations raising and deploying a mix of philanthropic and investment capital across industries with a focus on reducing suffering and increasing flourishing through connection capital collaboration. And co-creation welcome to the show. Kelly, (01:34): Thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here and I have to say, I, I just think the world of you and how you show up. And I was reflecting on this conversation and it’s not lost on me that you’re really helping to create a meaningful future with all you’re doing to support entrepreneurs. And so I just wanna say, thank you. (01:53): Well, thank you for that. And it was funny. I was looking through everything last night. I always prepped for the podcast and I realized like over 75% of all of my guests have been women who are like bad asses in business. And I was like, this is so awesome. I mean, that it’s sort of unintentional, but it’s also sort of like, this is my network and these are the people. And so it’s, it’s a fun job. I love it. And I, I appreciate you saying that. So thank you. All right. So why don’t you just start by telling us a little about yourself and how you became an entrepreneur and kind of what your journey looked like? (02:25): Absolutely happy to. So I feel like sometimes it’s fun for me to start at the very beginning because it gives a little bit of context. Um, yes. I like to share the fact that I started rock climbing when I was two. I grew up jumping off this, oh wow. Backpacking, skiing, ice climbing. And I share that because I love adrenaline. I love adventure. I’m a Colorado native. And I think part of the reason that I loved that upbringing was that, uh, it translates into business because sometimes as you know, you are going right along and you’re working towards a goal and then you get to a point where you’re just viscerally exhausted. And sometimes the answer is right in front of you. And sometimes you have to look around and find another way and find that like deep within you, a way to keep going. (03:07): And that’s really in my core DNA. And so in addition to that, I had a love of art. And growing up in Colorado was always told that being an artist is not a real job. I only heard about starving artist, which quite frankly, wasn’t very appealing to me. And fortunately I love business as much as I love art to the point that when I was five, my kid do not. I wore what I called a business suit. It was red from head to toe. It had a matching vest in bow tie. And, um, so I took classes and everything I could having to do with art study business in college, I couldn’t get my hands on enough business books. I just loved them. I craved them. And, um, so one thing led to the, to another, I ended up doing some commissioned art pieces for friends and family followed my clients around the country, used that experience to build a team and understand all aspects of entrepreneurship and business. And, um, then became involved in some different ventures in the corporate world. And, uh, here I am (04:05): Awesome. So somebody, and I can’t remember who it was once said, starving artists are the ones who don’t go sell <laugh> (04:14): <laugh> sure enough. Well (04:16): <laugh> (04:18): And you are definitely, you are definitely a business woman and you’ve definitely sold. And your art is phenomenal and I’ll make sure to include a, a link to, um, your art site so that people can see that. And, and, uh, it, it is a treat really amazing, especially once you hear more from Kelly about how brilliant she is in business and how wonderfully her mind works. And then you think, oh my gosh, this level of creativity can be combined with this level of like badass business. I mean, it’s, it’s off the charts you guys seriously. (04:51): Well, I really appreciate that. And to your point, I think there’s something about left brain and right brain coming together to do amazing things. And I always talk about that entrepreneurship in and of itself, or even like the attorneys I know, or, um, people in the corporate world, if you leverage that creativity, sometimes you can express, it might not be a tangible piece of art, but it’s still, um, again, it can be meaningful to bring both, both sides of the brain together. (05:16): I love that. So tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now, what you got going. (05:22): I really appreciated the intro that you provided. And it was interesting. I was speaking with someone a couple weeks ago and they said, oh, it sounds like a little bit of professional tapas <laugh>. And I thought that was kinda a fun analogy. And I (05:36): Said, I’m an entrepreneur. That’s what it looks like. (05:38): Exactly. <laugh> exactly little bit of this little bit of that. And I think another good way to look at it is for those people that have a fund and you think about, or, you know, they’re managing their portfolio and there’s a common thread that runs through everything. And, but then there are multiple different organizations that are the portfolio companies, and that’s really how I approach it. And this whole concept of being a strategic advisor with the myriad of organizations that are again, either raising or deploying a mix of philanthropic and investment capital, there’s four different buckets that I’m primarily focused on. Um, one is social impact, which if you think about like this 17 SDGs and what they’re trying to accomplish there, there’s another bucket (06:19): SDGs mean (06:20): Sustainable development goals set by the UN. Okay. Um, so if you think about impact, like clean water, education, women’s rights, things like that. Um, okay. It’s for lack of better words, making the world a better place. Yeah. And the second bucket is the intersection of health and human potential mm-hmm <affirmative>. And if in that bucket, you think about mental health and wellness and neuroscience, meditation, just various healing modalities, people that are studying things like meditation and what happens when we drop into a certain brain wave state. And how does that actually translate into the real world? And can we quantify that and say, you know, this is just woo woo magic. It’s it really has an impact. So, yeah. Um, intersection of health and human potential, the third bucket is alternative assets that are focused on the governance aspect of ESG and, um, ESGs, uh, environmental social governance. (07:18): Then the fourth bucket is metaverse regulated digital currency, and there’s a sustainability component there. And even though these things sound disparate and different, there is a common thread running through all of them. Uh, for me, the common thread is that the people and organizations that I spend time with, I like to say that they ooze integrity. They are about these massive visions and their vision and missions tend to be something that I would say go beyond disruption to transformation. I think it’s one thing where to disrupt. We hear that term all the time. I think it’s really important. And at the same time, if you just disrupt it and you make a big mess, <laugh>, I don’t know how helpful that is. And if we can go further into the transformation and, um, and then the, the last thing I’ll say about this is in addition to that common thread, it’s the organizations have tremendous expertise to actually execute on the visions that they’ve set forth. And I know I’m not talking about any specific projects in that particular, um, what I just shared, but that’s kind of the theme. (08:25): I love that. I love that. So you talked about integrity. Is that how important is that really? I mean, we see, so there’s so many stories out there about people who are taking advantage of others to get ahead and winning and all this. Like, is there any real winning without integrity? What do you think about that? (08:47): I so appreciate that question and I love <laugh>. I love, uh, the mental experiment that one goes through when considering things like that. I feel like in some ways everyone would have their own opinion that they’re entitled to, from what I’ve seen, I care about life being fulfilling. And I’m really focused on personally, I’m focused on things that are what I call Omni beneficial, where everybody involved wins, the people win, the planet wins. It’s just something where it’s a rising tide, raises all ships, raises all boats. However you wanna phrase that. I feel like we’re all in this crazy human experiment together, and we’re more alike than we are different. And there’s something about when things are done with integrity. It’s not just about doing the right thing, but it’s about being thoughtful and paying attention to the nuance of, um, even like unintended consequences. (09:38): I think sometimes integrity is taking a holistic view where you’re looking at everything at once. I think integrity goes into, when we think about diversity, it’s not just about checking a box for the sake of checking a box, but when you really understand that when you have different people with different world views different, um, walks of life, come together around one particular cause or focus or sharing life, um, it just has a richness to it. And I think that without integrity, you can get ahead. I think we’ve seen that in some of the, the recent things that have come online, um, with the, can you help me out here? Do you know what I’m speaking about those differently? Um, uh, we crashed and, and, um, Elizabeth Holmes and all of that, and you can see what happens when you lack that can feel exciting, can feel fun and people on the outside, it seems like you’re moving forward and having great success. Yeah. But I wonder, like, is that true success and how do you, how do they feel inside? And, and, um, (10:41): Yeah. I always wonder about Elizabeth Holmes. We’ve talked about her a couple times because, you know, I, I had, I had somebody ask me a question. This, this was a few months ago and I did a show about it, but somebody was like, well, Elizabeth Holmes doing what she did did that like ruin investment for women. Like you guys have a hard enough time anyway. And you know, we did a whole, we did a whole show about that, but, but the other piece of it, I feel like is how did she feel? Like, was she frantic? Was she like, oh my gosh, I have to make this work. Now I’ve said this thing. And like, did that, was that the build and momentum? Is she literally like a psychopath who does not think about other people at all? I mean, there’s like a, and then there’s like a hundred thousand other things in between both those things. (11:25): Right. Like degrees of, of stuff. And it’s kind of like, did she feel like her integrity was out or was she like any other entrepreneur trying to strive toward a goal that maybe wasn’t possible, but she didn’t know it till she knew it. You know? I mean, it it’s a FA it’s just, it’s a fascinating case study for me even more than like WeWork or, or some of those where I don’t know, it’s just, it’s just different because she, she didn’t have the science. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so it’s like with coworking spaces, that’s, that’s clearly taken off like mad and just the way they ran the business and some of the ways that things got structured and, and kind of the way the CEO sort of, I’m not gonna say bamboozled the investors, but kind of like did some shady underhanded things, right. With Elizabeth Holmes. It’s so hard to tell, like, did she know the science was bad? Did she really believe in it? I mean, I don’t know. It’s a FA it’s just a fascinating case study for me. <laugh> (12:25): Well, I, I fully agree. And I think that that’s a good example of when, when I’m talking about integrity, I think a, an analogy might be the frogs and the boiling pot of water where, yeah. A lot of ti it’s, it’s a slippery slope. I mean, it could be like a tiny little white lie or a tiny little, well, we’ll just do this. They’re not gonna find out right. Right now. Or, you know, they’ll, um, we’ll result it. Everyone knows. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think that the next thing, you know, when hindsight’s 20, 20, right? (12:57): Yeah. Yeah. So how, I mean, you, you, you work with, um, a lot of I investors and funds and things like that, a as anybody, but, but particularly women trying to raise capital and, and trying to, I know you’re laughing, <laugh>, <laugh>, she’s just runaway, but, um, and also, you know, I think I, one of the things I do see in a lot of pitch days, right, is there, is this difference between men and women where women do have this commitment to integrity or commitment to excellence or commitment to transparency that I don’t, I, it’s not true of all men, and it’s not true of all women, but I would say it’s more true. And men than women, that men are willing to talk way more about the positive and the upside and downplay, whatever might be going on that might contribute to risk or downside. (13:58): And should we be changing the way we’re, we’re talking about risk and downside in our transparency, is there a time and a place in the due diligence process for it? Like, because you know, my, my business partners in Precursa and I we’ve been, we tried to raise money for a solid eight months, probably got ghosted by three different investors who were like gungho to be our lead. Um, and, and, you know, one of the things is that we have to be pretty honest about the fact that our model is largely based in a huge AI and machine learning component, but there’s an, an evolution to that. That means there isn’t like Cynthia’s replaced in machine learning day one, right? There’s, there’s all these steps and things that have to take place. And there’s things that aren’t even possible in AI and machine learning right now. (14:49): And so we kind of feel a burden to be honest about that, but maybe we’re wrong. And I, I don’t know. I’m just, I’m, I’m curious, like, you know, you, you’ve been involved with entrepreneurs raising capital and you’ve been on the other side of the capital. Like, what are your thoughts about that? Like, this is really hard. How do, how do you do it? Do you do it? I mean, we’ve even talked about walking away and not raising capital and finding a way to bootstrap, you know, which feels really good, which is a whole nother thing. But <laugh>, I mean, like what, what would your advice be to somebody who’s trying to raise capital and struggling with, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns and, you know, so how do you talk about that with investors (15:32): There? I feel like there are so many different threads we can pull on in what you just said, and I appreciate your transparency. I think that’s so important. I think that’s needed more, more and more is that when we’re transparent about what’s really happening and really going on and that, and sharing the difficulties as well as the success. I think that, that, um, I think that’s important because there’s something about this, oh, you’re an entrepreneur and you have this great idea and you it’s fake till you make it, which I do think that there’s something about believing in your own vision where you just know you’re working towards it. And so even if you convince yourself to get outta bed in the morning and, you know, create something that doesn’t exist. But I also think that transparency is really important. And I feel like I, I actually have been verbalizing the last few weeks that I have become more aware of how difficult it is for women to raise money. (16:25): And I’ve always been one that, um, I appreciate that the definition of femini a feminist is actually believing that all genders matter and that we all, you know, all different people from all different walks of life. We have different world views and we have something to contribute. And it’s not about one being better than the other. It’s also about celebrating our differences and that I was reflecting on, um, years ago when I was spending time with some women that were raising. And then these, all these studies that came out that showed that women are actually asked different questions that are men are asked. And that’s also from the women VCs, not just the men, (17:04): It all starts with your idea, scratch that your great idea. So you do your homework in, because you’re a doer. You make a plan, you raise the capital, you find a good developer and boom, your app is born, but even the best plans for these great ideas rarely turn out. So linear testing, bugs, user feedback, and unforeseen setbacks can make an expensive mess of things. Did you know that on average, you’ll spend more than $600,000 over 36 months to realize zero revenue. In fact, in 20 18, 40 6% of startups failed because they lacked the experience and skillset to successfully navigate this challenging entrepreneurial journey, even worse, 42% of these great ideas failed simply because there was no market for the product in the first place. The good news, there’s a better way. Precursa provides qualified, specific, experienced feedback from those who have taken this journey before. And that’s the kind of informed research Google can’t provide. Precurs provides a time tested sequential roadmap, meaning you’ll always know the answer to the ever present question. Now what Anne Precursa has successfully navigated the stressful turbulent, but necessary steps to start up success. So when you’re ready to take the leap, your roadmap to successful launch is more direct with far fewer pitfalls. We believe entrepreneurs like you change the world and we provide you with the best tools to get there. (18:37): And then recently I read an article in fortune, um, by Sally crotch check. And she was talking about how difficult this round of vest. I highly recommend it, um, how difficult this particular round was to raise and how, and what the ripple effect is when it’s difficult for women to raise. And I have in right now, I have several projects where there are women, especially women in tech. And I’m like, man, yeah. Would they have raised if they were, you know, maybe they, if they had a man at the front. And so I’ve kind of done that whole mental exercise, but I think at the end of the day long answer to your short question, assessing the risk, I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to decide when to go that road to understand it’s going to take longer than you think it’s going to be harder than you think. Yeah. And that’s where the concept of plan for the worst and hope for the best and not in a negative, (19:32): Like your kind way. (19:34): Exactly. Thank you. Thank you. The gap, that’s a perfect BRP or, um, I think that just being realistic about it and, and I think that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, so yeah. And if you have other methods, uh, before I think friends and family rounds are fantastic. And I think that, um, having just very, very wise counsel, and I think that could be helpful. So yes, I, I mean, I highly recommend it, but again, it’s, uh, you have to have the right wiring before you in <laugh> (20:13): I think right now, given the economic conditions, we’re definitely seeing, you know, I’m reading about it every day in fortune in pitch book, like just all over the place that there is a pullback in investment, right? Like when things are good, everywhere else, investors are ready to jump in, gung-ho on a high risk. Anything because most of their other money is really safe. I’m putting safe and protected in quotes. Right. But right now everything feels a little bit volatile. We may be heading into a recession. We’ll probably know that within the next two months or so. Um, and is it hard, is it going to be harder? Is it harder to raise money right now? Is it harder to start something right now? And if you are an entrepreneur in this environment trying to do something, like, what do you, what do you do? What’s, you know, do you have advice for, for people on that? (21:08): I think you’re speaking to the million dollar question. I think that the, the short answer is, yes. I do believe it’s more difficult right now. And I don’t know if you asked other people that were in the space, if they would agree with that. Um, I’ve had a few conversations about that recently with different people around the world saying, look at this particular project they were discussing. I don’t understand why I didn’t close weeks ago, months ago. Yeah. What’s going on? Do I want to give them $5? <laugh> yeah. Like, yeah, yeah, yeah. The context when you’re talking about like multi billionaires and like just the vast amount of wealth and even the diligence they’re doing, and I was having a conversation, seeing what is going on. And, and then I think with everything, I know a lot of people that are invested in crypto and I’ve been talking the last few days with all of them and, and they all knew that it was volatile and that they promised to not invest anything they couldn’t afford to lose. (22:04): But now it’s like really did we really know it was gonna dip this low? And so I think that given the world, if we look at the last few years between COVID and then now everything that’s transpiring in Russia. And I feel like we keep having the conversation where we say, did you know that this was gonna happen? Could you believe that that just happened? Oh my God. And so I it’s on one hand, it’s a nice idea to think that all of this chaos and tumultuous environment that we’ve been through is coming to an end, but like, what’s the next thing going to be. And I think that people are aware of that and they’re getting tired. And so I do feel like it’s more difficult to raise funds right now. I also think that we hear all the time about the opportunity. I think we’re at this tremendous point in the world where there’s tremendous opportunity and tremendous adversity simultaneously going hand in hand and investment is still happening. There’s still a massive amount of capital floating around and waiting to be deployed. And so I think that the short answer is, it just depends. (23:12): Okay. Okay. So it’s, it’s, it’s more complex than, yes. It’s hard or gear up or no, it’s easy, you know? No, it’s the same or it’s just it’s complex, right. Because there’s so many moving parts. (23:25): It, there are so many moving parts. And I think that even when it’s not, we’re not in a difficult environment, what’s your expertise do how much market education do you have to do? I find that sometimes people will have a great idea, but in order to get to the sharing, the great idea, they have to educate the market in the first place. Yeah. On some things and create this foundational layer, which makes the whole process a little bit lengthier. What is your network like? Um, how many friends and family do you have that might invest or, I mean, there’s, there’s so many different components to consider. Do you have a track record? What kind of traction can you show? And I think that all of those things are a given regardless of the state of the world. (24:08): Yeah. I love that. So what do you think is the most important lesson that you’ve learned being an entrepreneur? (24:17): Uh, how much time do we have (24:20): All the time in the world? <laugh> (24:22): Sorry, this episode is nine hours long. Yeah. Um, <laugh>, I, I appreciate that question. And I think that it’s either the most important or one of the most is that it doesn’t have to be difficult to be valuable. And just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s valuable. I love that. I think that, I mean, I just, we just got done speaking about how challenging this is and that it’s not for the faint of heart and I don’t think it’s for everyone. I do feel like I’ve said at times I appreciate shark tank and things like that that have come online that have, um, or some of these crowdfunding sites or the different things that are bringing people into starting businesses and raising money and then becoming investors and things like that. I think all of that is really good. I also think that the idea that everybody in the whole entire world should just be their own boss. (25:18): I think that that’s, um, empty. And I think that there is something to be said about really understanding one’s own self in that there are in my mind, there are Sears and there are doers. Actually. I got, I stole that from a friend of mine in full disclosure. Uh, we were talking about how those that can see already know how to do, but those that do can’t necessarily see, and it’s really important to understand where you fit. So again, I think that it can be challenging, but I also don’t think it has to be that challenging. I know that there were times I just pushed myself too far, 18 hour days, six or seven days a week for months on end. I’m not exaggerating to the point where, what am I sacrificing? I sacrificed my health. I didn’t spend time with my kids. I, there were certain things it’s not without trade off. And yes, being aware that it is difficult at times it is challenging, but that challenge can also be exciting and wonderful. And it, you can have this abundance and things can be easy. You can have people say, I love what you’re offering. I think you’re amazing. I’d like to give you money. I’d like to be a client. That’s wonderful. That’s what we’re working towards. And so allowing ourselves to let that in, I think is just as important as gearing up for how difficult it’s going to be. (26:40): I love that. I love that. And I love that. You said not everyone should be an entrepreneur. Not everyone probably wants to be an entrepreneur, which is good. Right. Is it necessarily true or not that if it’s hard, you’re on the wrong path. Like, like if I’m going along and I find myself, I’m slogging, maybe slogging is not the right word, but I’m like, oh my gosh, this is so hard. What I’m getting at is, is there some necessary work that gets done when you are, when you’re in the hard spots that prepares you for what comes after that and who you have to be in order to do the thing that you’re trying to do. So it, so when it’s hard, does that always mean that I’m doing the wrong thing? (27:33): Not at all. I absolutely believe that when it’s hard, there is a growth, sometimes growth happens in certain ways where it can only happen in a certain environment. And you can think of all the different analogies that we’re already familiar with, like a diamond and how that diamond is formed through the pressure and things like that. And I, I think the point for me personally, I, I don’t, I had someone say something about, uh, you know, you, I know that you would climb a mountain with two broken feet and keep going <laugh> and I tend to like gravitate towards, it’s just being aware of, like I said, just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it’s valuable and it doesn’t have to be difficult to be valuable. However, a lot of times when it is difficult, it’s valuable, there are certain things where you can only, you only learn about yourself or other people in the most, you know, in the dark times, how do you handle pressure? There are just so many lessons that I believe are often only learned in the pain and then the difficulty I’m just saying, that’s not the only way. (28:41): Yeah. That totally makes sense. I love that. So then what do you think is like the most important personality trait or the characteristic of someone who wants to be an entrepreneur? Like what do I need to have, like, what’s most important for me to have, if I wanna do that job, (29:00): I feel like when you ask that question, the word tenacious comes to mind. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I had looked up the definition the other day in web, it says tenacious is persistent in maintaining adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired. Oh. And I think it’s really important to be focused on the long term focused on the goal. Uh, I believe delayed gratification is important. I love that marshmallow experiment that Stanford did all those years ago. And you could see, oh, those (29:35): Oh, with the carrots. (29:36): Yeah. Where there <laugh>, (29:37): Don’t don’t eat the marshmallow, (29:39): Don’t eat the marshmallow. And at the same time, you know, so staying to it, sticking to that goal, being there and just doing whatever it takes to make it happen, because, you know, you’re onto something and come hell or high water, you are going to get to the top of that goal. And along the way, really focusing on, you know, the short term pivoting, like frequent reassessment and, you know, adapting your plans along the way, but the tenacity of forming that vision and holding it and working towards it, and it becomes clearer and clearer as you get to it. And sometimes it will shift and change. But I think that there’s something to be said about again, being tenacious and just holding onto it, no matter what. (30:23): So then the flip side of that, and my, my next question to you would be, is there a point at which you figure out you should let go of something? I mean, does that, is that like a reality? (30:37): It’s the, how would I think the way I would phrase it is you work towards that goal, you hone it. And sometimes it shifts and changes and evolves slightly or a lot, and no matter what work towards it. And then, um, if you get to the point, like if that challenge, if the difficulty continues and if it comes from more than one area on and on and on, and if you have wise counsel, like if you are hearing from everyone that you trust, people that you trust that know what they’re talking about, uh, it’s time to be done. There are some times where it’s time to be done. And I have to say that I think with a lot of things in life, whether it’s business or relationships or things, there’s something to be said about working towards it because you’ve committed and you’re gonna make it happen, and you’re gonna do the work and other people are gonna do the work. Yeah. And there are certain times where when we get to a point of knowing that we’re not going to make it to that end goal, then allowing ourselves to step away and to shift and to hopefully do that well so that you minimize the fallout. Um, if you’re staying on a path that you should no longer be on, then that’s keeping you from what you really should be doing next. (31:59): I love that. I love that Dr. Henry cloud, who wrote boundaries also has a book called necessary endings. And, um, in chapter 12, he talks about actually having like the equivalent of a funeral when you complete something, right. Like grieving it, acknowledging what worked, what didn’t work, like actually letting it go, because that’s the only way you can powerfully move on to whatever’s next. So what you were saying, just kind of made me think of that. Um, I love that book. It’s a great book. So if you could give (32:30): Other (32:31): Question, can I, one more, oh yeah, go ahead please. (32:33): So I, I think I love hearing about that book and I, and I, I like that, um, the idea of that ritual, and I think that there are times that for per, for me personally, when I look back, there are things that I really wanted to happen. I wanted to, I mean, you mentioned at the beginning that I have pivoted from art to the corporate world, and I’m so grateful that there were some aspects of that. I appreciate this success I did have. And at the same time, I’m grateful that it didn’t go where at one point I really wanted it to, because where I’m at right now, I feel like I’m, uh, fully me is the way that I would phrase it. I’m doing what I love doing. And I couldn’t do that in the art world. And, um, so I just, I dunno, I just wanted to share that reflection. (33:25): Yeah. Kind of that gratitude for the shift, but also acknowledging like where you did want it to go and being okay with that. It’s not now. Right. Like letting that go, letting that, that it’s almost like letting the vision go in favor of whatever the new vision is. And sometimes they become so disparate from each other that you’re like, wow, I’m really not working towards the same thing. Let’s let that go and grieve that and like, say goodbye. And thank it for having put me on this path that I’m on now. You know, I feel like sometimes we think we know ourselves so much better than we really do. I mean, I’m, I’m, I’m learning this right now about myself. You know, I’m, I’m doing these various therapy modalities that are helping me heal some trauma for my childhood and things like that. And I mean, amazing results, right. (34:13): But I’m 40 years old and I find myself frequently going, if that’s not me, who am I? You know? And like, just we, we can get so caught up in feeling like we understand ourselves, or we understand our vision or we, or we know a hundred percent without a doubt. This is what I’m supposed to do. And this is the path I’m supposed to be on. And there’s something to be said for having that vision, but being in the moment also, right. And being on the path and being on, being on a journey and being open to what comes that might even get you somewhere that has you feeling the way you wanna feel or doing the things you wanna do that you couldn’t even see before, because you’ve grown and learned. Right. (34:58): I so agree. And I think another good way to look at it might be when we were in, if you think about elementary school or junior high or high school, or any of those times, we knew. So say if you did a particular sport in high school, that was your identity. You knew who you were. Yes. You knew what you were working towards. But now in my forties, that’s not who I am anymore. I’m still me, but I’m not the same. And I think that that is applicable to other, uh, areas of life. (35:29): Yeah. I love that. I love that. So if you could give other entrepreneurs one piece of advice, what would it be? (35:37): I would say to listen, really listen, and then implement. And what I mean by that is listen to wise, people surround yourself with wicked smart people who have your back and at the same time, uh, will tell you the things that you really need to hear and say it like it is. And when I talk about wicked smart people, people that have the, uh, expertise and to give you credible insight. And I think the second part of that is listen to your intuition. And I so appreciate what you just said about some of the work that you’re doing. Uh, I’m a, a big fan of what I call doing the inner work. What I mean by that is deal with your stuff. I’ve I feel like when we deal with our fear, our anxiety, our trauma, our self limiting beliefs, all of that, those are blockages that are in the way. And if you really want your intuition to be guiding you so that you know where you’re supposed to go, where you’re not supposed to go when you should start, when you should stop, if you can’t hear the intuition, because there’s all this other stuff in the way, then that’s, um, a little bit more challenging. Yeah. Listen. That’s. (36:51): Yeah. I love that. Okay. So I’m gonna give you a statistic. Okay. And then I want you to tell me what you think about it. Okay. <laugh> this is the game show part of, part of our episode. <laugh> (37:03): Okay. (37:04): There’s no right answer. (37:06): There’s always the right answer. And I wanna know what to get when I win <laugh> (37:12): Um, a hug. No, <laugh> (37:15): Fine. Just kidding. (37:19): All right. All right. You ready? (37:21): I was hoping for cash, but all (37:23): <laugh>. I think I got 20 bucks. I can give you next time. I see you. (37:28): Just kidding. God. (37:29): All right. You ready? Okay. 42% of startups ultimately fail because no one wants what they’re building, (37:39): Boy. And I’m supposed to say if that’s true, is there (37:44): Never, I wanna know what you think about it. Do you think it is that true? You think that’s true. It’s from it’s from a study that crunch based did a few years ago, um, where they postmortem like 300 startups that failed that year. And that was the largest source of failure. It wasn’t money. Money was a very distant second at 33%. It was, they were building things. Nobody wanted. That doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily true. We’ve had people who are like, really, I would think it was higher than that, or really that doesn’t seem right to me. And, and, you know, kind of talk about, uh, it’s a little bit of a leading question because we do so much product market fit work, where, where we have people talk to customers and really understand, like, what’s the problem you’re solving. It’s an interesting statistic. And I’m just curious what, what you think (38:29): It is an interesting statistic. And I feel like it’s one of those where you can’t, it’s not a yes or no. I, because it’s a complex. When you peel back the layer and you look at really, what is that representing? It might be something where people, I guess in verbally processing here, people might want what is offered, but just because you want something doesn’t mean you buy it. Uh, there’s all sorts of things that I want that I’m not buying and vice versa. And so I feel like, I think that the way that you just phrased it, product market fit, I think that that could be correct. 42% that the product market fit is off. (39:08): Yeah. Do you think people, you, your, your advice was listen, is that also listen to your customer? Do you think people don’t listen to their customer enough? Maybe they don’t even, maybe they don’t even ever talk to their customer. (39:21): Oh, I think it’s tremendously important to listen to the customer. And yes, I would agree. I think that a lot of times they’ve seen people create something that they want to have. And again, just because you want it, doesn’t, it’s, it’s one thing. Do other people want it, but are other people willing to pay for it that I think is what matters are they willing to write the check? Are they willing to invest? It doesn’t even just have to be money, but are, if it requires time, attention, energy, things like that. Yeah. And if you are working in a vacuum, it’s a fine place to start. But I think having real world feedback is important. And that’s where the whole, uh, what I was referencing earlier about the, having the long game being committed to the long game, but also in the short term, you listen and you make decisions and you pivot according accordingly. And the listening is again, as I said, it’s listen and then implement. (40:19): Yeah. Yeah. I love that. What you’re pointing to with people may want it, but will they write the check? Will they buy, will they invest time, money, whatever it is. We talk about that as intent versus behavior. And a lot of times people will start doing product market fit and customer validation work and talking to potential customers. And what they find is people really, they really want to solve the problem. At least they think they do. But when it comes down to taking action or changing their behavior, the problem isn’t painful enough, or they don’t believe that any solution can actually solve it enough that they take that next step. That’s a very, very difficult company to get off the ground. You know, whether, whether it’s that people don’t believe that problem can actually be solved or whether, whether they aren’t willing, you know, be not because they don’t want to, but because they just, what, for whatever reason. (41:12): Right. And so that intent versus behavior is sort of what you’re pointing to. We talked about that a ton around here, because there’s, uh, we do this, there was a there’s company that I’m working with right now. And when we first started working with them, uh, they provide an app to help parents engage more with their children, right. Particularly like school aged children, every parent you talk to is like, I wish I had more time with my kids. I wish I had more meaningful conversations. I don’t know how to do that. Like, I feel like a fish outta water sometimes. Like I’m a 40 year old trying to talk to a six year old, like, you know, like what the heck. Right. And, but what we found is from a behavior standpoint, they didn’t do anything different. They really, really wanna solve the problem, but they have no idea how, and nothing seems to work. (41:58): And so they don’t. And so that was the thing that we had to overcome and how this company, you know, ultimately overcame it is they, we said, how can we meet them? Where they are like the time they already have that they’re not utilizing and giving them those reminders, like picking up on those behavior patterns and giving them those reminders in the moment, way more effective, the five or 10 minutes that you’re in your car, driving to school are picking them up after school. Use that opportunity, not just to say, how was school today? What did you learn? But like having a conversation about values that matter to you as a parent, right? And so, but it’s leveraging the time you already have that you don’t realize you already have. That’s not asking you to stop something, spend a half hour, an hour in the middle of what is otherwise crazy schedule only to have to like pick up and make up for that hour with something else later, right? It’s like meet, meet yourself where you are. And they’ve had so much more success since we took that model. (42:56): I love that. And I love that you are having those conversations, which again, is when I was referencing earlier about the meaningful way you’re helping to shape and create the future is recognizing, I’ve been, I’ve been speaking a lot lately about human psychology. And there are certain areas where I’ve been frustrated, especially in regards to philanthropy where we’re like, oh, well, let’s talk on people’s heartstrings. We hope this happens. And you know, we’re telling this great story. Why aren’t they writing a check? And I think that’s true in the, for profit and the non-profit world. And at the same time, I think there’s something meaningful about how many times if I use that word on this podcast, um, (43:33): <laugh>, I’ll count ’em if you want me to (43:34): <laugh> thank you. Surely it’s like the word of the day meaningful, but we could give them prizes every time we could hide that word throughout Bing binging. (43:44): <laugh>. (43:47): I think that I’ve been speaking about recog rather than being frustrated by the human psychology actually recognize it. And then to your point, meet them where they’re at. I think it’s the whole people make decisions emotionally and justify them logically. And instead of being frustrated about that, lean into it, and then also how much work are we asking them to do? I find that I’ve given that to a few different organizations I’m working with right now that are in the middle of a raise and they’re telling the story and they’re like, well, we just need the donor or the investor to spend an hour with us and then they’ll understand it. And I’m like, yeah. And, but they’re going after people have a really full schedule. And I, yeah. Think that there’s something to be said about how much work are we requiring the people to do, to understand what we’re offering and to U to use our product. Because if it’s too much, there’s a reason that people I talk about sitting around and watching reality TV and eating Cheetos when there’s not enough clean water in the world for people to be living. And when there are, there’s so many other pressing issues, but when we look at the humans and their actions, there’s a reason that the world is the way that it is in a lot of different ways. (45:08): Yeah. Yeah. I get that. I get that. It, it is an interesting conversation. What you just brought up, like we all know, is there a, is there a balance there though, of like, okay, I can spend however much time I can spend working on these, these big problems, right. In making stuff happen. Is there a place for rejuvenating recouping and, and people do that differently, right? Like this is the new definition of extrovert versus introvert, which is that, which is, you know, what I’ve been hearing so much the last six months, which is a extroverts re-energize with people where introverts re-energize alone. And, and is there, is there room for that? Like, are we, are we all, I mean, I would have no problem believing that morning, noon night. And when you’re sleeping, you’re solving the world’s biggest problems. <laugh> do you ever watch Netflix <laugh> for some reason I can’t picture it. (46:10): Me personally, or just a, (46:12): Yeah, (46:15): I (46:16): Know. I know you don’t eat Titos (46:21): Buts. I do watch Netflix in seven minute incre <laugh> actually, I’ve had that. I’ll watch a show and then if I have seven minutes left and I know tomorrow’s a busy day, which it always is a busy day, I will turn it off and finish the episode the next day. <laugh> for another, (46:41): Wow. You, you have so much willpower. Oh my gosh. I’m in awe of you right now. <laugh> (46:47): It’s ridiculous. I know. I’m crazy. (46:51): Okay. So one last tough question. What does it take to fix some of these huge problems, social, social impact, like, like these areas that you’re trying to tackle? What does that really take (47:07): A lot? I think it, I, I think that amazing how too little words can have so much, um, context. Uh, I really go <affirmative> I really believe that it’s continuing to have conversation that it’s. I think that what COVID and some, these other things have done is they’ve hopefully in theory helped us recognize that. As I mentioned before, we’re all in this crazy human experiment together and talking about things, looking for solutions and just continuing to talk and act on what we know is working and then identify what’s not working and no longer use that anymore. And, um, I am a, a firm believer that capital, um, can affect a lot of change. I’m spending a lot of time, the way that I phrase it is trying to ascertain where’s their philanthropic capital that’s hiding in plain sight. And then also, how are we utilizing for profit capital to invest in these solutions, which again are not just disrupting, but transforming, transforming, and people with the expertise to execute on these big visions are involved. And I think it’s just, I think that there are multiple parts of the multiple pieces to the puzzle, and we’re still in the process of gathering them. And I think it’s just a matter of just continuing it’s just you press on. (48:40): Yeah. Okay. So are, do you have any books, podcasts, or any other kinds of resources that you’d recommend to the audience who might be interested in continuing any part of our conversation or who are wanting to become entrepreneurs or who are repeat entrepreneurs, anything that’s been really useful to you that you would recommend for others? I know you said you love business books. I’m like, what’s she gonna throw out? <laugh> (49:07): I do. Uh, I feel like my favorite one. I feel like my favorite books to recommend are ones that I haven’t read in quite some time, but have consistently been helpful over the years, the emo visited is one of my all type favorites. Yeah. I think that’s really, uh, important for entrepreneurs, especially people that think that they should do everything on their own all the time. And I think if you’re wanting to build a team and actually delegate tasks and things like that, uh, it’s really important. Blue ocean strategy is another of my favorites. It’s something that comes up on a regular basis. (49:51): The most recent book that I, uh, the atomic habits book by Jane. Oh yeah. So I haven’t in full disclosure. I haven’t finished it, but it’s one of those where it will be 1130 at night and I’m supposed to be sleeping instead. I’m like, oh, I get to read this book. I love this book. Yeah. I’m just devouring it because I feel like if I had read that book 20 years ago, it would have been instrumental on many different levels. And I actually purchased it for all of my kids and a couple extra coffees for other people. And I sent that to them. They’re like, what’s this? I said, we’re gonna read this together and see how it changes our life in a positive way. (50:30): Oh, I love that. Okay. Awesome. Awesome, Kelly, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being vulnerable and thank you for all of the work that you do. And for the example that you are in the world for women can take, take on anything. Um, I think having those kind of role models and mentors is so critical to continuing to grow up young women and girls to believing that they can be in a boardroom as much as they can be creating art and getting paid wonderfully for building beautiful things. Right. And you are such an example of all of that, and I’m just so grateful for you. And I, I really, really enjoyed our conversation today and I appreciate you being here. (51:14): Likewise, I mirror all of that back to you. I’m tremendously grateful for you and, uh, really enjoyed being here. Thanks for the great conversation. Thank (51:21): You. Yeah. And if listeners have questions or they wanna get in touch with you, or maybe they wanna follow what you’re doing, like what’s the best way for them to do that. (51:34): <laugh> um, LinkedIn is great. Uh, my, you know, my website is in the process of being updated. It’s just Kelly keeper.com. (51:43): Okay, perfect. That’s awesome. All right, great. I’ll make sure to include all of that in the show notes so that you have a very easy time getting a, getting a hold of Kelly. So again, Kelly, thank you so much for joining us today. (51:54): Thanks Cynthia. (51:56): All right. Thanks everybody for joining us for this episode as always happy entrepreneur and I will see all next time. Thank you for listening to this episode of Precursa: The Startup Journey. If you have an idea for a startup and you want to explore the proven process of turning your idea into a viable business, check us out at precursa.com. Make sure to subscribe to this podcast wherever you listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode. Until next time… (52:35): Inspiration has struck. You’ve stumbled upon a great idea that you just know will change the world. So now what at Precursa, we provide the best tools to help founders and entrepreneurs. Just like you turn their great ideas into great companies that solve real problems for real people. We believe you are the change makers, the innovators, and the force that moves technology forward. All you need is an experienced guide to keep you on track and help you navigate the turbulent waters of starting up Precursa is that guide. And with us, your roadmap to successful launch is more direct with far fewer pitfalls, ready to change the world.

Cynthia Del'Aria

Cynthia Del'Aria is a serial entrepreneur and tech startup ninja, specializing in product-market fit and idea validation and helping new entrepreneurs reserve their time and money for the idea with the best shot at success. With two successful exits before 30, an active high-profit-margin SaaS in the commercial airline space, and two additional startups in the works, she knows what it takes to traverse the entrepreneur journey, the highs, and the challenges of turning a vision into a successful, viable business.

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Copyright © 2021 Precursa  |  All Rights Reserved  |  Site Created by Natalie Jark

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