Interview with co-founder and CEO of Sky’s The Limit ,Bo Ghirardelli. Bo discusses how they built a youth entrepreneurship network that has supported over 40k young people. Learn how Sky’s The Limit leverages corporate partners to help achieve its mission.
[00:00:00] Today on the podcast, we have a great guest who has bravely come on, despite, frankly, Responding out of the blue to a message that we sent him cuz I found the organization very interesting. Bo Garelli, co-founder and CEO of Sky’s The Limit, and that’s sky’s the limit.org if you wanna find them on the interwebs.
[00:00:23] Really quickly on Bo, since I did find him on LinkedIn, which is amazing, but this is quite a track record. After graduating with an
[00:00:32] In nonprofit management from the University of Washington was in the Peace Corps. Love it. And he was a small business development consultant in Morocco. Wow. And then goes on to co-found two other organizations
[00:00:45] in Morocco before, I guess in 2010
[00:00:50] for 12 years now.
[00:00:51] Co-founding Sky’s limit. So Bo thanks for joining us and maybe you can start with that. Why is there a limit at the sky? What is going on there? Can you tell us what the organization does? ?
[00:01:01] Sure, yeah, a little. We work with underrepresented young adult entrepreneurs to help ’em chase their business dreams.
[00:01:09] And we combine business mentoring, advising and support and community with learning and training and access to a startup grant fund that we build. And so those three things that the mentoring, training and funding are really Produces some greater than their parts.
[00:01:25] And we’ve been as you mentioned, doing this for 12 years, but only six as a technology organization. And we can get more into that that journey later on maybe. Interesting. So maybe just to pull back why this cause, why this. Okay. I’d probably start at the beginning in that sense then so I was born and raised in Oakland, California to a family full of small business owners.
[00:01:49] And the conversations at the table were were about how to build businesses, how to solve problems for your customers, how to think about and develop. A business that’s truly valuable to the community and and then, concurrently out, out in society and school, raised on this this myth of the American dream where America was touted as this land of equal opportunity.
[00:02:17] And I, I did not see that playing out in my friend group and my community. As I saw vastly different outcomes for people based on arbitrary things like their skin color and their gender and other other opportunities that were there weren’t Really gave lie, I think, to in, in many ways this this idea of the American dream and equal opportunity for all.
[00:02:40] And that really sparked a desire in me to figure out how I could kinda combine my. Love of entrepreneurship and love of entrepreneurs themselves with with a way of creating a more just and equitable world. So the journey led to being a, a middle school teacher.
[00:02:57] I’m in south central la and when I got the opportunity to teach a, an elective chorus to, in, in middle school, I asked my students what they wanted to learn and they said they wanted to learn about business and money. And that was the first entrepreneurship course I taught and built was was helping sixth graders understand.
[00:03:16] What it’s like to build a business. And students loved it. I loved it. And and I went on in into the the Peace Corps and during the Arab Spring I joined the Peace Corps in order to kinda respond to this this crisis that was brewing in North Africa in particular. It was really rooted in a lack of economic opportunity for young adults of working age.
[00:03:40] So roughly 50% of working age young adults at the time were unemployed. So it’s a massive unemployment rate, completely destabilizing the the countries and societies and. While I was there, I asked the young people in the community, like about what what they needed. And they said, Look, we have business ideas.
[00:04:01] I’ve got a business idea, but I don’t know what to do with it. So we built a business training program really rooted in business planning. And they said, Okay, now I got this plan. What do I do? And so we said, Okay, let’s go to the microfinance organizations and see if they’ll lend any money. So we went to all the, these ostensibly non-profit microfinance organizations.
[00:04:20] None of them would lend money to, to the young entrepreneurs. I was working with and and so we said, Screw it. We’ll build our own fund. So I flew back to the Bay Area, raised some money from some generous folks in the community. And we created our own loan fund and underwrote interest free loans to entrepreneurs.
[00:04:38] They got their businesses up and going, and they said, Okay. Now what, how do I keep this thing alive? How do I grow it? And that’s where we tap the community of business leaders for mentors and advisors, supporters to wrap a community of support around the entrepreneurs. And so that’s the birth kind of our model of combining those three things that mentoring, training and funding.
[00:04:59] And and my Moroccan co-founder took that, that over. And I went back home to Oakland because the same thing the same gap in the ecosystem exists in the United States and existed in my own hometown. And so I, I felt a need to respond to my own community at home. And sure enough we can approved that out, right?
[00:05:18] We launched and quickly got served hundreds of entrepreneurs. We had thousands applying from around the country, and this is for everywhere from, rural Georgia to Detroit to, to the Bronx, like people were applying from across the country. And it just showed that there was this massive gap for earliest stage young entrepreneurs, people of color, women.
[00:05:39] Low income entrepreneurs who had all kinds of business ideas, everything from starting a clothing line to building a gourmet popcorn company to launching a beauty line. So the so I think that was the catalyst for kinda why we. Why we needed to transform what we were doing as a brick and mortar in Oakland to, to figure out how to serve a national and eventually global community to meet this need.
[00:06:06] So that’s a long answer to your question, but but that’s the why and what of our story that’s.
[00:06:13] That’s what I love about podcasts too, because guess what, , We have the time. We have the time to talk about it. And the truth is it matters quite a bit. The motivation and the process of how organizations are formed, how they have listened to the community and how they’ve responded over time, and very impressive that you have.
[00:06:34] Served over 40,000, if I have that right. 40,000 underrepresented young entrepreneurs from 50 states, and also a number of countries. And it seems like when you move from brick and mortar to digital, I’m seeing a sort of app look on your site. It looks like there is in fact an online. Portal that you created.
[00:06:56] I wonder if that isn’t that moment where you went from serving into the hundreds to the thousands. Maybe you can talk me through that shift and what
[00:07:03] led to it. Yeah. So in, in 2015 when we had over 5,000 applicants to our Oakland based program that at best could serve people in the Bay Area we, I went to one of my best friends and who was a tech founder.
[00:07:18] He was at the time working on a small startup called blockchain.com, which is now a very big startup. And he and I, it’s, he and I had spent many late nights in college talking about. What what our purpose was in life and what the what was the meaning of all this and what should we do about it?
[00:07:38] And he was a child entrepreneur in the same way I was different kinds of businesses, all technology based. For him, he to building a web company as a, 14, 15 year old building websites for other businesses. And and I said, Hey, look, I know you’re really busy with this other startup, but what about helping us transform?
[00:07:56] There’s a clear demand here. And I think the only way we can meet that demand is through technology and. The reality is that our customer our, the entrepreneurs we serve are the first generation of digitally native entrepreneurs. So when we think about meeting customer needs, our entrepreneurs want are going online.
[00:08:15] They’re looking online for services and support. We took this this evidence to a few pe We shopped, shopped this around for a while. We were very fortunate to have a tremendous partner in, in Accenture and Accenture’s corporate citizenship group understood this. They understood that that just like how the For profit sector was going had been undergoing decades of digital transformation that the nonprofit sector was also going to do this.
[00:08:42] And and certainly George you understand this well coming from a tech nonprofit that and so they said, Look, yes, we get it. We’ll fund it. And they have for, eight years now. So they’ve really co-created this platform with us. And they did it in a really innovative partnership.
[00:08:58] They staffed a team of engineers, designers. Product manager to the, to sky’s the limit to, to help us, build the platform that would power the services and support and impact. We were looking to achieve with our entrepreneurs. Now there’s a second component to this and this is why, corporate funders are over 90% of our funding.
[00:09:23] Is that the Fortune 500 has some of the best and brightest people working for them and they’ve, the Fortune 500 can afford to pay the high salaries, the good benefits. It’s the fortune in 500 in the Fortune, right to. To really support these incredible people and help them have great jobs and et cetera.
[00:09:43] And and so we recognize that the community element of what we’re building at Sky’s the limit was actually the harder side, right? We had a lot of entrepreneurs signing up. So we need to figure out this other side of the community who was going to support the entrepreneurs. And Not only did we get funding talent from Accenture, we also got to we also got a channel to recruit.
[00:10:06] From there, at the time I think there were 500,000 employees at Accenture, and now it’s. Closer to a million than not. And and just an incredible global workforce that that was, that has come to bear and engaged thousands of their employees as volunteers on the platform in support supporting entrepreneurs.
[00:10:25] Everything from a digital marketer in New York, helping an entrepreneur launch their first Instagram ad campaign so they don’t waste a ton of money. On the ads that aren’t working everything from their internal legal department coming in and providing pro bono legal services to, to product developers, helping entrepreneurs, hone and enhance the value proposition of their products.
[00:10:45] So there’s a, there’s so much we can do with folks inside the Fortune 500. And then we’ve continued to replicate that model now with PNC Bank, our second largest funder, Goldman Sachs Wells Fargo, hp and some others who’ve come alongside and said, Hey, we give we will fund and we will provide.
[00:11:04] Access to our employee base as volunteers to bring this, the, this community together online so we can go into a little bit more about the platform. But that’s the genesis of that and of the transition to becoming a technology organization now half the team or on our product and engineering.
[00:11:21] It’s so interesting cuz there are a lot of different paths that a nonprofit can take to funding and clearly, If the money isn’t there, it’s very
[00:11:29] hard to support
[00:11:30] Your stakeholders. I’m curious, can you take me into the room of you pitching Accenture? Like how, Cause this has gotta be on a lot of organization’s mind.
[00:11:39] You’re like, Oh yeah, all you do is talk to Accenture, talk to pnc, get Goldman Sachs, throw a sales force in the midst. So you just walk on the door, knock on and say, Hey, money please. Now. Okay. time, talent, treasure. So can you talk to me about how it looks like you landed that anchor partnership
[00:11:58] with Accenture?
[00:12:00] Yeah. I certainly did not get into this work to fundraise, but the reality
[00:12:05] yeah. No one told you that nonprofits actually are obsessed with money because you have to get
[00:12:10] that right. Yeah no. I, It was, sorry. It was like it’s one of those things like, look the mission and the people we serve are the end for me.
[00:12:19] And money is certainly a means to achieving that end. So fundraising has increasingly been more and more part of my day to day. And look, the, some of my favorite days we’re working one on one with our entrepreneurs in the earliest days, understanding, their pain points and what their, the problems they’re trying to solve.
[00:12:37] But to, I think, unlock the kinds of resources we need to make a dent in the size of this issue. It’s gonna take hundreds of millions and billions of dollars and. . And that is what it is, right? I’ve had to learn how to do this. How do you do it? So what the journey looked like for us is we tried a lot of things that didn’t work first and foremost, so failed a lot.
[00:12:58] Okay, so then, so once we figured out all the ways that this didn’t work, like cold messaging,
[00:13:02] sending to HR at Accenture,
[00:13:05] the Sure. Everything, but what we realized was like that we had to find companies that had, So step one, find the, find companies that have a public statement around their corporate citizen.
[00:13:17] That, or corporate social responsibility programs that aligns with your mission. If it doesn’t, then it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be a hard road. There’s so much internal negotiating and so much internal planning that went into stating these public goals for these companies. You gotta align with the, I think you all of this is just my perception or my belief.
[00:13:36] So I think you gotta align with those. Once you do that you can the next step is much harder. It’s figuring out and navigating the decision making process for how a funder can how a, how corporate funder makes decisions around who they. There are 2 million, I think over 2 million non-profits in the United States.
[00:13:57] There are often many non-profits doing similar work. And every nonprofit is, is looking for and hopefully trying to talk about their, comp their advantage, right? Their edge, their why me? , why this organization? And I think. That does matter. But what we realized was that in many corporations, you need to find somebody who cares.
[00:14:19] You need to find a champion. . And that champion needs to be able to influence the decision making process for funding inside of a corporate. And so that’s eventually we found what worked. And so we started to recruit, managing directors who. Who could care about, not only not only cared, cuz it’s easy to care about our work, right?
[00:14:38] It’s a widely appealing mission. And but, Caring going from caring to acting was a journey. And I think ultimately we just find people that we have meaningful relationships with we genuinely care about them and they genuinely care about us. And then we, we also need to then after we have that kind.
[00:14:57] Based relationship, we need to deliver results. And that set and that’s, a third piece here is like, how can you deliver results to the to, to a corporate who has a stated goal of what they’re trying to achieve? And how can you do that? Technology, at least for us, our, our part, big part of our story was like, look, this is a big need.
[00:15:16] There’s big numbers involved. And and even, we just hit our 50000th sign up. Last month. And so it’s just, Hey, congrats. Gotta update all those numbers now. . Yeah. . And and we and we have to figure out, to me that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
[00:15:29] It is just the tip of the iceberg. And we have to, continuously create value for entrepreneurs, for the volunteers we serve. And then a third customer group, which is the. And so we treat, we treat those partners as a customer group and we. We feel accountable to delivering results against their funding.
[00:15:45] Why they funded us. And it’s for the impact. It’s for the mission. And often it involves a, an element of scale to, to what they’re looking for. And and all of those are important. And understanding each funder is, different, Each corporate is different. All of those corporate, social, respons.
[00:16:02] Goals are off, are all tailored exactly. To to the corporate. And how they measure success is different. It’s one of the vast complexities of the nonprofit sector, right? Is what success looks like and what impact, how do you measure it? On the financial side, all of these companies use Gap, right?
[00:16:19] There’s a very clear set of ways for accounting for the financial performance of a Fortune 500 company. And they all
[00:16:26] use, I’m sorry. GAP is general accounting principles. Is
[00:16:28] that right? Yes. Yes. There you go. Yes. Thanks for spelling that out. So it’s, it is a, it’s a formal process for counting for financials, so you can compare the financials of one Fortune 500 company to another.
[00:16:41] But how do you compare the, impact of one nonprofit to another? Is often very difficult because there is no standardized process. And we’re talking about people’s lives and we’re talking about multifaceted issues on impact. So ultimately to bring this full circle, you have to be able to position your.
[00:17:02] Properly for in the ways in which these corporate funders measure. Impact. And and that’s so that’s a final piece of it. But really finding that, that champion and showing how you’re better better different and and then delivering results and maintaining and valuing the needs of that partner over, over many years is how we’ve, I think retained some of our corporate funders for a long time.
[00:17:29] So to roughly summarize,
[00:17:31] it sounds like you start with this alignment list, this list of potential organizations that you have vetted and checked with regard to their vision, their csr.
[00:17:44] Corporate social responsibility
[00:17:46] programs then take a step back and potentially identify champions and you have an advantage just to reverse engineer this, it seems where you have a backyard full of potential volunteers that may already work at these organizations or can be recruited to become volunteers to see it firsthand, which can be pretty powerful.
[00:18:04] There’s no substitute for putting in the time. Once you have that, you develop them into a champion and then you expand within with this sort of bigger vision. Clearly the name is, Sky’s the limit, but you are bringing numbers, you’re bringing opportunity for impact that is at a scale that frankly companies that deal in the billions understand and it just lets you, it seems level up and align with
[00:18:30] these organizations.
[00:18:33] Yeah, I think an so to speak about specific value propositions for corporate funders. So one is employee engagement, right? One of the top concerns, particularly now in this in this really tight labor market is retention and attracting new hires to, to companies.
[00:18:52] And then with the murder of George Floyd, you had a a social wining that demanded the companies, the employees who worked at these, at big companies are demanding a response. And more than, Lip service to the issues. And I think that the, one of the ways in which we’ve we’ve seen some corporate partners for example, PNC Bank made a massive racial and economic opportunity investment to in, in low income and black communities across the country.
[00:19:24] And they were, and they’ve and as part of that commitment, their people are able to volunteer on sky’s the limit with the entrepreneurs we serve. 61% of the entrepreneurs we serve are black entrepreneurs. Again, most of our entrepreneurs are between the ages of 18 and 30, right?
[00:19:39] The working with young adult first time, earliest stage entrepreneurs, 80% are pre revenue. And this is a part of, part of our pitch to corporates, and part of the reason why we’ve had so many people sign up is because that is a true gap in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, even for nonprofits.
[00:19:57] Many nonprofits in the entrepreneurship ecosystem serve entrepreneurs who are more established. So they, especially if you’re a lender or a C D F I a microfinance organization in the entrepreneurship space, and you’re a nonprofit, you’re still looking for an entrepreneur who’s had one or two years of business operations.
[00:20:17] . But there’s a massive gap for earliest stage entrepreneurs who don’t have friends and family with money and who don’t have savings, right? We know over half of America only has $700 in savings. The we call our fund, our grant fund, the Friends and Family Fund, to recognize this gap that exists for founders who don’t have friends and family with money, because that’s how privileged entrepreneurs get their first money.
[00:20:42] They get it from friends and family. And if the business doesn’t work out their friends and family aren’t taking them to court and suing them they’re just saying, Okay, we’re gonna let it go. Yeah. Took a flyer and that’s what happened. Yeah. So all of this ties into the, this kind of the why.
[00:20:59] Why does your work matter? Why is, and why are you filling a need that others aren’t? And what are you doing about it that’s more efficient, better, faster, cheaper? All of those value propositions matter for corporates and particularly we, the employee engagement angle is an aspect, is an important part of why corporates partner with us.
[00:21:17] Gotcha. Now that you
[00:21:20] have passed 50,000, it sounds like signups and entrepreneurs. I have to say that
[00:21:24] the resources are pretty
[00:21:27] broad and impressive. You have on the site accounting, building a team, business planning, legal leadership, funding, operations, Like it just goes on and on for the really, like how we go from zero to one for these entrepreneurs.
[00:21:42] Can you tell me, moving back to the tech you’ve.
[00:21:45] How the app and maybe even the website gets
[00:21:49] that entrepreneur from zero to one. And I think a
[00:21:53] very tricky part, how you create
[00:21:56] the right connections between mentors and these entrepreneurs.
[00:22:02] Yeah. Absolutely. And we are, we’re still, even, five years into building the platform, we’re still we’re still iterating, right?
[00:22:09] Like we have we can always be better, in my opinion. And we’re still trying to solve what is fundamentally a matchmaking problem, right? As you pointed out. The. Entrepreneurs and volunteers create profiles on the platform, right? And we ask a lot of things about you about what you’re looking for.
[00:22:28] And then we use that data. To recommend matches for you, but we also recognize that many people, we take a lot of inspiration from dating apps. The major difference from for us is, of course, these are platonic relationships, professional relationships and on a dating app, you don’t really need to explain what, what dating.
[00:22:50] To people come in with a clear preconception around around dating and finding a partner, et cetera. And maybe people have different preferences except within that ecosystem. But when you talking about mentoring, it is a, you ask 10 people what mentoring means and you’ll get 10 different answers.
[00:23:09] And and really what the kinds of interactions that we’re facilitating between entrepreneurs and supporters more broadly. It’s, it’s between entrepreneurs as peers, Between people who, who may be an accountant really good at accounting, but not interested or able to support in any other area.
[00:23:27] Or you’ve got, small business owners or general entrepreneurs who’ve been on the whole journey and understand this. Then you got people who have an hour and you got people who are looking for. A long term relationship. And some people are looking for, shorter term engagements both on the entrepreneur side and the sporter side.
[00:23:44] So there’s so there’s just really a a ton of nuance and a ton of different types of engagements. Everything from pro bono offering, so that accountant, maybe they’ll help you set up your, their, your QuickBooks for your business. That’s nice, but maybe they also.
[00:24:01] Want to give you some general pointers around around. Accounting and how to think about managing your money, how to track your money, but you’re not formally structuring saying
[00:24:09] Hey, if you talk to this person about accounting, you have to go jump into their, QuickBooks
[00:24:13] and go grind this out, or build their website for them.
[00:24:16] Yeah. One of our principles is that we want to mimic the way humans develop relationships in the real world. Through the platforms. So there isn’t a lot of like constraints or rules or if I, I met you George through LinkedIn. Great. Cool. We hashed out what it was.
[00:24:35] Why are we talking, what is it about this, There are no, no rules about what kind of messages you can and can’t send. Sure. There’s common decency and we certainly have policies around building a healthy community. But beyond that, it’s not to say that, if I’m an accountant that I am or if I’m an entrepreneur looking for accounting support do I even want to set up QuickBooks?
[00:24:55] I, Yeah. What do I want? It’s so matchmaking between the nuance and what happens if you’re as a first time entrepreneur. There’s all these things that you’re constantly learning about what you need, and your priorities are constantly shift, shifting as you figure out what it is.
[00:25:10] It’s a very messy process, building a business, right? And there’s a in 98, 9% of our founders are solo. So what are you doing when you’re on your own, you have to do it all. You’re all your. So again, the community aspect becomes really important, but the matchmaking problem is a really difficult one to solve, and that’s what we’ve been really working on, is helping people meet each other where they’re at and supporting them in in building meaningful relationships, whatever that means for an entrepreneur supporter at any given time in there.
[00:25:42] Is it all one to one or is it one to. Yeah it’s primarily one to one. Wow. So entre each re each relationship is treated on an individual basis. So if I’m an entrepreneur platform, I can have I can reach out and build an entire advisory board. I can have, 10 different people.
[00:25:59] Doing that. So in that sense, it’s one to many. And a volunteer can match with multiple entrepreneurs across many different areas. Now, am I actually
[00:26:07] swiping right and swiping left on people, or have you dialed
[00:26:09] back the dating to that point? Not yet. That’s certainly on our minds.
[00:26:14] Oh guys. But yeah, the question is like how do we help you find what you’re looking for in the community? At any given moment because it’s changing rapidly, particularly for the entrepreneur about what their needs are. And how do we help you do that in a way that’s engaging, gamified et cetera.
[00:26:31] What we’ve done is. We’ve built a gamification system into the platform so that the entrepreneurs and supporters who are creating the most value in the community as measured by, spending time together, achieving measurable results for co, for the entrepreneurs in their businesses.
[00:26:46] Which we call milestones. So cheating a business milestone. Everything from naming your business to getting your first business bank account up, all the way to getting your first customer, raising money, hiring employees, All of these are common business milestones. So we track those in the platform and the community members who are.
[00:27:04] Who are creating the most value are getting the most points. And those points aren’t just for show. They actually govern our grant program. Entrepreneurs can create pitches on the platform and then the community votes on who wins those pitches. So your points are your votes. And so that’s a way for us to, Oh,
[00:27:24] so there that the interaction, but the points aren’t just there for smiles and dials, like it’s there
[00:27:28] for actual.
[00:27:29] Cache in the community. That’s right. Yeah. And you vote for yourself or only for other people? Sure. You can vote for your, your points go to your vote, your votes if you have a funding pitch. But you can also use ’em on other people if you’d like. If you’re a volunteer, you don’t have a funding pitch, so you’re you’re voting.
[00:27:44] If you’re an entrepreneur, maybe you aren’t ready for funding yet or you haven’t created the pitch. So sure, you can use yours however you like. The. But the point is that, this governs hundreds of thousands of dollars that we’ve given away through community voting.
[00:27:56] It’s real money on the line and and we’re always working to increase the size of that fund. And we’ve got a couple of, and I assume you don’t
[00:28:03] take any, so it’s not like a Y Combinator where you’re like, All right, we get 10 points of your company going forward.
[00:28:09] It’s just no equity. It’s a pure grant.
[00:28:11] It is not repayable. It is as free money as it gets. Yep. And we’re working on a couple experiments around this. The, blockchain technology is a really interesting potential use case here. Cuz essentially what we’re building is a Dow a decentralized, autonomous organization that is governed by a, a token.
[00:28:32] And in, in this case it’s on our platform. But we’re we. In the process of building a pilot dow that will, potentially transform our community to be able to be governed by a, an actual blockchain based token that is immutable and and will have real control over the disbursement of these funds.
[00:28:51] And it’ll all be on chain and and auditable and verifi. And really empower the community to feel a sense of deep ownership over, over sky’s limit. And eventually we have plans in the future to turn over the entire sky’s the limit organization. To the Dow. Everything from governing, what features get built to who the staff, the everything, and certainly the governance of the fund itself and where those funds go.
[00:29:21] But I think that’s a long ways off still, but it’s certainly yeah sky coin to the. Yeah, certainly something that we’re we’ve been thinking about and already testing without blockchain technology right now. But but yeah, that’s the community is at the hardest.
[00:29:34] Sky’s the limit. And we believe that the people closest to the problems that they’re trying to solve are. Suited to solve those problems. And we really do want our community to, can take an ever greater voice in in what we do and how we serve two-sided
[00:29:51] are absolutely the scariest,
[00:29:53] the hardest, the most difficult to get going as a flywheel.
[00:29:56] Right now I’m curious, do you need more entrepreneurs or do
[00:30:00] you need more volunteers? I need you, George, on the, I’m somebody who gets that, that problem. It absolutely is a big one. We have we manage a bit of the kind of the two-sided demand dynamics here. We often, we have many more entrepreneurs signing up than we do volunteers, but we do offer peer matching and.
[00:30:20] That is a one way in which we think about balancing out the Demand from the community for meetings, for support. We’re also working on other ways to engage beyond just just meeting. We’re buildings, we’re thinking about and cons and designing right now, some asynchronous.
[00:30:38] Opportunities for supporting an entrepreneur. Everything. Think about get, getting feedback on your business plan from the community would, could be really helpful and valuable. And get in writings. You don’t have to, wait and book a meeting. But using that as a one of, one of the problems we’ve noticed is that.
[00:30:56] Maybe if you’re joining a dating app, you’re looking for dates, you’re ready to go on the date when you joined. So it’s not gonna hold you back from messaging people. But we found that so many people need to understand what the, they need to go on their own journey to, to saying, Okay, I’m ready to talk about something.
[00:31:13] The vetting and the prepping.
[00:31:15] You don’t wanna put somebody who’s I don’t know what a, what is a business? And you’re like maybe you’re not ready for a mentor.
[00:31:20] Maybe, or maybe you are. And maybe the question, this comes back to the matchmaking problem. How do you get, how do you get the right person at the right time in your journey as an entrepreneur?
[00:31:31] And same thing on the volunteer side, right? Because it’s, it, there’s a lot of imposter syndrome from volunteers. It’s never, I still, I
[00:31:39] wanna be very clear. I don’t know what I am. I have no
[00:31:42] idea. It’s one problem at time. And that’s the thing, right? And that if only more people just were like, okay with that, that we’re all kind of making this up as we go along.
[00:31:51] And if that was a more broadly met that was more broadly known message. We’d have, I think a much more open and ready to jump in kind of mentality between with communities. So doing this digital community piece is a tough problem to solve, but the.
[00:32:08] Reward when we crack the crack. The code on this is tremendous. It’s imagine unlocking the social capital, the talents of the Fortune 500 and beyond. And really and unlocking the talents of all these entrepreneurs. Who are starting businesses across the country across the world who aren’t getting the support they ha they need from their own community or from or online.
[00:32:32] And we can truly I think create a valuable experience for both entrepreneurs and supporters that could change the world. Spinning up a bunch of
[00:32:41] economic engines from the people. Potentially needed the most are in the communities that are, have the greatest opportunity, I’d say to benefit from creating actual companies.
[00:32:52] It’s not, the idea of a handout. It’s this idea of training as a great opportunity. And the exciting part about this type of model, and I’m wondering if this is actually bearing to be true, is that after, I imagine over a decade of. Do you find that there are people that came in as entrepreneurs coming back as mentors?
[00:33:12] Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. We see that all the time. And part of the peer matching is, Hey, I’m an entrepreneur with the same kind of problems you’re trying to solve, and neither of us have a solution, but let’s figure it out together. That’s a, an absolutely can be an absolutely powerful relationship.
[00:33:30] It, or it could be an entrepreneur who’s Hey, I joined Sky’s Limit with just an idea, and now I’ve got, a couple hundred grand in revenue and a team and working on product market fit and found it to some degree. And now I can come back and or not come back.
[00:33:45] I never left. I’m just can I help unshare some ideas along the way? Absolutely. So that’s the. The reality is that our our system is broken right now. And so I think it’s a tough thing to try to build a new system because what we’re doing is too incremental.
[00:34:04] Like we have the same problems and some of the problems are getting worse in our society from a socioeconomic equity lens. And. We need something that is that is going to transform the reality around where opportunity exists because the talent is certainly everywhere.
[00:34:23] And I think the. The way in which we do that is by reducing the friction from people who care to and from reducing the friction for entrepreneurs to get support to get community, to get to have a thought partner. And it doesn’t have to be a, a Fortune 500 volunteer. It doesn’t have to be a, another small business owner who’s, been there, done that.
[00:34:45] It can be. 24 year old who’s, in the same place as you and you can work with them in, in building your business together. Yeah. To
[00:34:54] even find co-founders. It sounds like there’s a lot of opportunity once you get everybody in the room. Absolutely. But I’m gonna pin you down tomorrow. If 10 new volunteers or entrepreneurs showed up, which would be the
[00:35:06] one you would say you needed more?
[00:35:08] 10 new volunteers. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. All right. Maybe this
[00:35:12] is a good transition into our rapid firearm pinning you down. Please keep your responses to about 30 seconds, respond as needed. And if you’re ready, here we go. What is one tech tool or website that you or your organization has started using in the
[00:35:28] last year?
[00:35:29] We just started using Century for error log monitoring on the platform. What are some tech issues you’re
[00:35:35] currently battling with?
[00:35:38] We are currently battling with wrapping up our web app and deploying it to the iOS and Android store. What is coming
[00:35:47] in the next year that has you the
[00:35:48] most excited?
[00:35:51] I think a big overhaul of our user experience design is is what I’m most excited for. And then the and having that be the impetus for the launch of our iOS and Android app in 2023. Can you talk about a mistake that
[00:36:06] you made earlier in your career that shapes the way you do things?
[00:36:09] Ooh, there’s too many to choose from Doing too much, right? Startups often die from indigestion instead of starvation. That’s not always true financially, but it can be from like an op standpoint. Like where do you spend your time as an entrepreneur in the earliest days? And how do you how do you balance it all?
[00:36:27] Because it’s too much. And brutally prioritizing is is a skill that is That I’ve learned the hard way of how important it is. You believe that
[00:36:38] can successfully go out of business. Yeah, and I think they should aspire to. I wish that we had more going out of business though.
[00:36:46] Cuz I, we don’t see a lot of non-profits, fully achieving these kind of persistent societal. Problems that they’re what we’re working to solve.
[00:36:57] Fair to put you in the hot tub Time machine. Send you back to the founding of Styles Limit. What advice
[00:37:03] would you give yourself?
[00:37:04] Just focus on people of finding people who, who care about the mission and care about the work and and don’t let the people who don’t get you down.
[00:37:14] What is something that you think your organization should stop doing?
[00:37:19] Lot of things. This is back to my earlier point around indigestion killing startups. I think we have got to stay focused on the matchmaking problem that we’re trying to solve between community members and I think that anything that isn’t trying to solve that needs to be deprioritized or to give you a magic wand to wave
[00:37:41] across the social impact
[00:37:42] sector, what would it.
[00:37:44] Oh man. I think that I would I, I would. Just find a way to, to build trust more between between the entire sector. If I could wave a magic wand trust building is difficult and it’s hard. And we face it in tr in our community, right? Trying to build trust between members of our community.
[00:38:07] But when there is that trust, it’s tremendous things can happen. And and I think that I would certainly wave my wand over the kind of philanthropic funder place and say, examine what you’re doing as a funder to encourage or not trust in the nonprofit sector. What advice
[00:38:28] would you give college grads currently looking to enter the social
[00:38:32] Focus on creating value for who you’re serving. I think Richard Branson has a quote that it’s like he, something along the lines of the. The only mission worth pursuing in business is creating value for people in people’s lives. I don’t think that’s any different of the mission for the social sector, right?
[00:38:52] Like it is ultimately rooted in creating value for the people you’re serving. And I would make sure that. Staying anchored to that and measuring that. And and listening to the people you’re serving,
[00:39:05] what advice did your parents give you that you either followed or
[00:39:08] didn’t follow?
[00:39:09] One of the big business lessons at the table is don’t spend more than you have. And it’s, and it, I know it sounds so simple, but man how many businesses have gone out spending more than they have? And same thing for, non-profits. That’s all right. Final hardball here.
[00:39:26] do people find you?
[00:39:27] How do people.
[00:39:29] If you’re an entrepreneur we’re here for you. You can sign up on skys limit.org. Everything’s free. If you are a professional or a business owner and And you care about this work. And then you can either both and sign up as a volunteer on skys.org. And you can fund us and you can, and do both of those from our website at skys limit.org.
[00:39:55] Both. Thank you for your work.
[00:39:57] I love what you’re building. I love that you have a bigger vision of what’s possible and we appreciate
[00:40:02] it. Thanks so much, George.