Who did you look to as a mentor?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs; it's in my DNA and it's the reason I wanted to start a business. My grandfather is the patriarch of our family. He came to the U.S. after World War II and became a self-made man. He started off in Bakersfield, California, as an assistant shoe salesman, then a shoe salesman, then an assistant manager, then a manager. … He had an insane worth ethic. He saved enough that he then bought his own store, and he kept working and saving. It was then a second shoe store, and a third shoe store, and a fourth shoe store, then he bought property, and more property, and then started buying property in Los Angeles.
He was a huge influence and it was not until March of 2011, when he passed away, did I start to realize how much of an influence he really was on me. I'm sure he faced a lot of this stuff, in the U.S. launching businesses, and even worse, in Europe in World War II. I thought, what I've got to go through is peanuts compared to what he's gone through. Maybe I've got a higher tolerance for pain because of that. Next to him, I thought whatever rejection or disappointment I was going through was nothing. I do feel like I draw on him a lot, and I don't know if you'd call that a mentor. Only because he wasn't here for me to talk to while we were launching the business. But I draw from his experience and what I observed he built.
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Talk about raising capital from investors. What did you take away from that?
We were pitching for funding relatively early on. Our business needs capital to fund the business and lending capital to fund the loans. The first one was probably early 2012, and it was probably more for perspective than for money. We spoke to a couple hundred investors before we got our first 'yes.' We got so many questions and were able to refine the answers, and refine the model, by the time we got to (venture capitalists) it was really clean. I started speaking to VCs in September 2012, and we ended getting up a couple of term sheets the next month. But it didn't happen over two months; it happened over a full year. It started with applying to the Wharton Business Plan competition and getting rejected, applying to TechStars and getting rejected, DreamIt rejection, [Tiger] and getting rejected, and then talking to 200 individual investors before we got one "yes."