Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 15
Kameale Terry Chargerhelp! July 2020
[00:00:00] Kameale: I am a native to Southcentral Los Angeles.
[00:00:02] The funny thing is my dad was an entrepreneur.
[00:00:05] two years and nine months later when I left, they were at 70 people and I had hired a good amount of those folks
[00:00:12] how do you create win-win situations for economic mobility? Can we do it through technology
[00:00:16] One of the things I’ve leaned into a lot as being a founder is really listening to my gut.
[00:00:21]I approached her and was like, You want to do this thing with me?
[00:00:25] You can build a really cool product. You can make a lot of money and you can also like treat your workers equitably.
[00:00:31] Oh, I want to find the best people for these positions. And it just all just so happened to be black women.
[00:00:34] And that has been The most life-giving experience I’ve literally ever had.
[00:00:39] Dan: [00:00:39] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihany here, your host for Founders Unfound. Thanks so much for listening in that was Kameale Terry co-founder and CEO of ChargerHelp! a company that enables on-demand repair of electric vehicle charging stations. Our episode is sponsored by BLCK VC, a focused community built for and by black investors.
[00:01:00] Check out the link in the show notes for more about their exceptional programs and events. Have you ever thought about getting into venture? You definitely want to connect up with them. Okay. blckvc.com. That’s B-L-C-K- vc.com.
[00:01:14] Well, it’s July 2020. And back in March, we thought we’d have the Coronavirus wrestled and contained by now.
[00:01:20] And we would be on our way up the long road to societal and economic recovery. Well, it appears, we just aren’t there yet here in the US more than ever. We need to embrace the challenge that we are all in this together as a country, please. Wear a mask when you can, not because someone told you to, or because it was mandated, but simply as a gesture of support, empathy, and consideration for our neighbors and fellow citizens.
[00:01:45] As always, you can find founders unfound anywhere you regularly listen to podcasts and you can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound. Feel free to drop us a review on Apple or podchaser.com and please follow like and share to help us grow.
[00:02:00] Now on what the episode stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:13] Hello, and welcome to Founders Unound spotlighting the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode number 15 in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host, Dan Kihanya, let’s get on it. Today, we have Kameale Terry, a co-founder, and CEO of ChargerHelp! a company that enables on-demand repair of electric vehicle charging stations.
[00:02:40] Welcome to the show, Kameale, and thanks for making the time.
[00:02:43]Kameale: [00:02:43] Thanks for having me.
[00:02:44] Dan: [00:02:44] Great. So let’s first start off. I mean, this is just an incredibly powerful, crazy time. How are you doing how’s your family? I mean, obviously in the context of COVID and then what’s been going on in the last three weeks. How are you?
[00:02:58] Kameale: [00:02:58] Having this conversation with a friend the other day. I feel like almost numb to it, because umm.
[00:03:05] It’s like a lot happening and then things are going really well with the business. And so it’s like weird, like somedays, you’re like super numbs and somedays, sad. Some days you’re excited and play. It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions.
[00:03:18] Dan: [00:03:18] Yeah. I would agree with that. I know for me, it’s even in the same day, if you can be up, you can be down and yeah.
[00:03:25] And if you’re trying to do a startup on top of that, it must be just all the more compounded and intense.
[00:03:31] Kameale: [00:03:31] No, no, it really is. Yeah.
[00:03:35] Dan: [00:03:35] You’re in LA. Is that right?
[00:03:37] Kameale: [00:03:37] Yeah. Specifically South central Los Angeles. It’s important. ,
[00:03:40] Dan: [00:03:40] yeah, yeah. Yeah. Southcentral representing,
[00:03:43] Kameale: [00:03:43] you have to,
[00:03:47] Dan: [00:03:47] first of all, let’s start off. Why don’t you help the audience understand what exactly is charger, help? How does it work and what do you, what is it that the company does?
[00:03:54] Kameale: [00:03:54] Sure. So I guess like over the last five years there’s been probably like almost half a million charging stations installed throughout the US and over the next five years, they’re looking at installing about 2 million more, but one of the things that have come about is like the folks that install the charging stations and manage the software and the charging stations they’re called network providers. And one of the issues that have come as having someone go onsite to troubleshoot a software issue.
[00:04:21]In the past, we would send electrical contractors out on site, but when they would get there, it wasn’t an electrical issue at more to do a firmware communication modem. And so they couldn’t fix it and they were expensive. And so what charger helped us is that we partner with network providers. So when a station is experiencing an issue, we receive a dispatch immediately.
[00:04:41] And then we’re training folks from the local community on how to troubleshoot software issues for smart devices. And in this case, electric vehicle charging stations. And then from there, we’re able to get folks paid pretty equitably and then also save money to network providers. And I think the biggest point to all of this is when we were using electrical contractors as an industry, it didn’t take up to like 30 days to have a station get fixed.
[00:05:04] Whereas with our technology that we’re building out, we’re able to get stations fixed within like the hour, which we’re really excited about. Wow. Yeah.
[00:05:13] Dan: [00:05:13] Yeah. That’s a little bit of a difference transformative. So we’ll dig into that in a little bit, but let’s first, let’s hear a little bit more about you. Where are you from? Where did you grow up?
[00:05:22] Kameale: [00:05:22] Yeah, so I’m from Southcentral LA. I actually moved to Philly when I was like 22, 23. So I feel like I grew up in Philly. Like a lot of like my adult developmental years was in Philadelphia. I am a native to Southcentral Los Angeles.
[00:05:38] Dan: [00:05:38] Nice, nice. And so growing up, did you have a sense of what entrepreneurship was?
[00:05:43] I know for me, I had had a dad who was, you know, spent 40 years at the same company, but he, you know, he was one of these frustrated entrepreneurs who had an idea every, every other day and never really acted on them, but I’m always curious to ask entrepreneurs, did you have. That in your life, anybody in your family or any experiences around what that meant?
[00:06:03] Kameale: [00:06:03] Yeah. The funny thing is my dad was an entrepreneur. Yeah, both of my parents are from Belize and my dad started his company when he was 22. He started a Computer networking company. He liked to take things apart. So he started out as a mechanic, but he said he didn’t like to get dirty. So then he learned computers.
[00:06:24] Dan: [00:06:24] I like the way he thinks.
[00:06:28] Kameale: [00:06:28] The funny thing about all of that, it’s like I always said, I never wanted to be an entrepreneur because like.
[00:06:33] As like a lot of entrepreneurs probably know, like when times are like, well, they’re great when they’re bad, like, they’re horrible. So I just remember like, you know, struggling a lot because my dad was like trying to run this company. And I always said, I’m just going to work for a big fortune 500 company and be able to like, get a four O one K and like have something safe, and here I am.
[00:06:55] Dan: [00:06:55] Yeah. that happens a lot, you know, you got to see sort of the underbelly of entrepreneurship really, which is it’s risky. It is uncertainty, there’s ups and downs. Like you said, when the times are good, they’re usually pretty good, but when they’re bad, they can be stressful and, and angst-ridden.
[00:07:12] So I guess you got, at least you have, you kind of entered it. Eyes wide open somewhat. And so you, so you grew up thinking that you’re going to take the corporate route. Did that influence, or when you were thinking about going to college, were you thinking along those lines or.
[00:07:27] Kameale: [00:07:29] Yeah, and so much so that when I came out of college, I just started off at a nonprofit. So I was in Camden, New Jersey, and then I transitioned into banking. And so when I started off in banking, I started like as a part-time teller. And then I think it within four years, I was running a group of business bankers. So climbing the ladder, like checking off boxes and.
[00:07:48]You know, just attacking goals was always something. I was really good at it. So that’s why I felt like corporate was really good for me, but there were some, yeah, I think that it does stifle creativity and like all of these other things that I’m now being able to like get being an entrepreneur, but in the beginning, I was like, Oh, this is easy,
[00:08:08]Dan: [00:08:08] That’s funny. And, how did you view the cultural shift from going from West coast to East coast? Cause I kinda did the opposite. I started on the East coast and ended up on the West coast. how was that transition?
[00:08:20] Kameale: [00:08:20] I loved it. I think one of the greatest things about Philadelphia is that there like so many black people.
[00:08:27] And like, even though I grew up in like South Central, my parents sent me to like, to the school, to the school in the Valley for high school. And so I was always around like a lot of different races, but never around a lot of black folks. And I remember hitting Philly and traveling to DC. And, my cousin, he works like on top of, you know, there, Ray works at the Hill or on top of the Hill and, you know, everybody’s like a Greek and it was wild to see black wealth concentrated in such a way.
[00:08:54] And just how folks worked with one another. So like the East coast will forever have my heart. And I’m hoping, you know, as like Limerick park and other areas here in LA, continue to grow, we can have something like that. During that time period. It was amazing to see that.
[00:09:12] Dan: [00:09:12] Yeah. That’s interesting.
[00:09:13] How did that, how did you feel about that? Was it one of those things where you’re like, Oh, I’m not familiar with this, so it’s hard to sort of, I can appreciate it, but it’s hard to get into it. Or you were like, I’m, I’m in, I’m in a hundred percent. I want to be a part of this. How did that sort of strike you when you first sort of came across that realization?
[00:09:30] Kameale: [00:09:30] I think I definitely was like, I’m in, there were definitely like some circles were folks who came from a, you know, there’s black people come from a lot of money and they have a different perspective. Or if you tell somebody you’re from Southcentral, even if they’re black, sometimes they’re like say crazy stuff, you know?
[00:09:45] So there were groups that I was like, Oh, okay. Probably not. But then like, generally I was like, Oh, this is really cool. I want to be a part of this thing. And how can I replicate this like, experience?
[00:09:56] Dan: [00:09:56] Nice. All right. So, so you went to college and what was your major in college? What were you focused on?
[00:10:01] Kameale: [00:10:01] Organizational leadership.
[00:10:03] Dan: [00:10:03] Nice. And so you go the nonprofit route initially, and then you end up in this bank screaming up the ladder. Was there a moment, or a set of epiphanies, I guess, would be the word where you started to say climbing the ladder is not going to be enough for me, where you started to think about, maybe I want to do something more entrepreneurial, creative, or was it more I want to do this other thing, and it seems like the way to do that, other thing is through creative entrepreneurship.
[00:10:34] Kameale: [00:10:34] I think there were not, I think there were a series of moments. So one of my passions has always been like economic mobility. And how do you create win-win situations? And mainly because I watched my parents like work a lot, even my dad who had his own company and my mom was a special education assistant.
[00:10:52] So I saw them come to America for this American dream, but it didn’t matter how hard they worked or how many hours they put in. Like there were still barriers. Right. And that always was confusing to me. And so one of the first things I did was went the nonprofit route to say, okay, well, how do I enact change through working at a nonprofit?
[00:11:10] I found out that there’s also a lot of barriers working in a nonprofit, especially when you have to like ask people for money all the time. And they’re really controlling how you choose to address an issue. So I was like, well, I guess I’ll go where the money’s at. So I was like, I’m going to be a banker, you know, transition to being a banker.
[00:11:27] But then even there, you know, I was a part of the ward and small business development center. So we were working with small businesses in the community. I sat on the board of. A community development, financial institution. So I was still trying to find ways to do this economic mobility thing to like help people, but it still wasn’t enough.
[00:11:45] And then on top of that, my mom, got rediagnosed with cancer, my mom’s had cancer my entire life, really because of like poor healthcare system and like everything that comes with living in poverty. So she got rediagnosed. So I had to come back to LA and two things happen at that point. The first thing was that. I had climbed so far up and I was really young. So I’m like, I think I was like 25 or so managing 14 people. They’re almost three times my age. And I was, you know, it was burnt out. And so when I came back to LA, I was just like, I don’t want to do much of anything. I just want to help my mom and just figure out something.
[00:12:20] So. and figure out something that has to do with my passion. So I guess like all of that led down to like, I went to nonprofit route, I went this banking route, but I’m still not figuring out how can I like drive impact. And I took a break and started just. Working random jobs. And I ended up at a cleantech company and that was my last company I was at before I started my own company.
[00:12:42] Dan: [00:12:42] Wow. That’s pretty profound. And I think there’s a story there around sort of this, this forcing action that happens with your mom and you having to go and break away. And what I mean, it must be interesting. I know, I remember. Vaguely since I’m an old man now, but what it was like to have people who are older than you kind of reporting to you and the dynamic of, you know, accepting their wisdom, but also being the boss.
[00:13:10] And that is hard. I can see how that would be something where, it can, you know, lead to, like you said, to burnout. When you said you did some odd jobs, what were the odd jobs?
[00:13:21] Kameale: [00:13:21] So I know my background is in organizational leadership. I’m obsessed with data and processes. It’s really funny. I enjoy writing RFPs and studying stuff.
[00:13:31] Like all the things that people usually hate doing, I enjoy doing. So I started picking up projects around helping basically helping organizations see if they’re actually impactful. So the first one we did was actually with the LAPD, their community safety. Their CSP programs. So we were looking at, based off of all of their goals that they have for this program of doing community policing, where are they actually hitting the Mark?
[00:13:59]Because they’re actually going out for funding. So they had to prove all of this stuff. And so I took a look at the report that they’ve made and made some suggestions on how they should move forward. So I did that, and that was a project I was working on. And in my other projects, I was working with Dress for Success and the work, the workforce development center in LA and San Bernardino County to see if their workforce development programs were actually impactful.
[00:14:22] And there, again, just like found. Just people kind of like missing the Mark or just not doing exactly what they were saying they were doing, but they were able to fix numbers to make it seem like they were doing it. But when we started asking better questions, we saw like, Oh yeah, like this isn’t impactful.
[00:14:39] So those are, yeah, those are kind of like the choose two things I worked on.
[00:14:43] Dan: [00:14:43] Yeah. those sound really interesting. And I imagine for a conversation for another time is your perspective on community policing , given what we have going on now. But, so you, end up with, is it called EV Connect?
[00:14:55] Kameale: [00:14:55] Yeah.
[00:14:56] Dan: [00:14:56] So tell us how that came about.
[00:14:58] Kameale: [00:14:58] So I finished those projects and I was like, Oh, like I need healthcare and jobs. So I went on angel list, I was like, I should write this. And I’m just like hanging out with my mom all the time, taking her doctor’s appointments. Like she’s also getting tired of me being at home.
[00:15:15] I was like, I should do something outside the house. Cause I went to angelist.co, and I literally was looking for like customer support jobs. I was like, I don’t want to manage people. I don’t want to have to like tell people what to do. I just want to like, be in like a little closet and just type, like whatever people need me to type.
[00:15:35] And so I ended up at EV Connect. 10, no more than 15 people at that time. I remember my mom showing up in the office and not believe me. It was a real company because there was no one there
[00:15:55] parents, even though my dad owned his own company, like this whole startup tech stuff is just, they’re always like, explain that again. So my mom she didn’t believe it, but when ended up happening to me, it grew like. So quickly, we landed some pretty big projects. You know, I was able to stand up our customer support department, then the customer experience, and then expand our call center, stand at the network operation center.
[00:16:18] And then my last role was managing with director programs. So every major deployment in the US and internationally was sourced and implemented by my team also do an ERP system. And this was like, I always laughed at my founder at the time. I just feel like I just came here to like answer tickets
[00:16:38] like two years and nine months later when I left, they were at 70 people and I had hired a good amount of those folks on the customer experience, support side and helped us some like really cool things there. And. Just learned a lot from that team. And yeah, they’ll always have like a special place in my heart for taking a chance on me.
[00:16:58] Cause I’d never done any of those things before. And like the founder was like, well, show me your plan. And I would, and he’s like, okay, I guess you can do that. And then I did it and I did it again and he’s like, okay. So that was a pretty amazing experience.
[00:17:10] Dan: [00:17:10] Yeah, that, I mean, that speaks to the experience that a lot of, a lot of people can have at a startup, which is there isn’t this direct path.
[00:17:19] And it’s sort of like, if you, if you double and triple down and invest yourself into it, then that’s a signal to the people who are in charge, which we’ll talk about now that you’re in that seat who realize, you know, Today, we’re fine. And then tomorrow we needed this thing two weeks ago. I need somebody to do that.
[00:17:41] Well, Kameale, what do you think about this? You know what the answer is halfway decent. It’s like, why don’t you go look into that? And, so that, that is, I mean, that’s one of the beauties of working in a startup is that you get this opportunity to kind of dig in and get more and more exposure in a very accelerated way.
[00:17:59] Like you said, it was just a couple of years and I know the company, I remember researching it. It’s raised a bunch of money and it’s a pretty profound leader in the industry and so forth. So you were their kind of to see that. So was there, is there anything that you took away and we’re going to talk about, um, the other side of the break, your startup, were there things that you took away from that experience that you cataloged in the back of your mind? Like, Hmm. If I ever do this myself, this is the way I think I’m going to do it, or this is the way I’m not going to do it.
[00:18:29] Kameale: [00:18:29] I think for me, the biggest thing I took away is like really like listening and paying attention. And then mainly like from our founder, um, Jordan at EME connects like. He made sure that every day he left office to have lunch and anybody in that entire company if they ever want to go have lunch with him like he would.
[00:18:49] And he took a lot of just like listening to people and he was very genuine. And I think that’s one thing that I am like, Really trying to have at my company is just be like, no matter how large we, we get, you know, somebody from the customer support side wants to go have lunch with me.
[00:19:04] I didn’t like not only to have lunch with them but like, want to have lunch with them and like listen to them. And even until we, when we left, , like 70 people, I remember there was a customer, the customer support ladies. And she was like, yeah, Jordan, we went out to lunch and I was like, yeah, I told you, and we were always taken aback by it.
[00:19:21] But I think having a leader like that is so important, especially with times like now. And so, yeah, that’s something that I want to continue to implement as I, you know, as we continue to grow.
[00:19:32] Dan: [00:19:32] That’s a great point. Listening is, is a underrated underappreciated, underused, and the good leaders really do a lot of listening for sure.
[00:19:42] So we will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Kameale Terry of ChargerHelp!
[00:19:49] BLCKVC: [00:19:49] Hi, this is Jean-Claude from BLCK VC. We’re a community created to connect, engage, empower, and advance black venture investors. And the best part is. We’re built for and by black venture investors in these unprecedented times, our mission has become clearer than ever black founders and investors are underrepresented and under-capitalized in the startup ecosystem.
[00:20:11] If you’re an investor, an entrepreneur, or aspiring to be either one BLCK VC is working hard to help you find the community and the resources that you need to further your journey to learn more about the events and the programs that we run. Follow us on Twitter BLCKVC It’s B-L-C-K VC. Or visit us on our website at blackvc.com That’s B-L-C-K vc.com. Yep. You heard that correctly? No A. At BLCK VC, we believe that we are the change that we see and together we’re stronger. We hope that you’ll join us.
[00:20:52] Dan: [00:20:52] So we’re back with Kameale Terry from ChargerHelp! So Kameale now maybe take us through where did ChargerHelp! come from? You’re at this startup in the space. You’ve learned a lot, obviously about the industry and about sort of the needs. How did the idea come about for charger help?
[00:21:10] Kameale: [00:21:10] Well, I think the funny thing is most of my decisions has been based off, around my mom’s health.
[00:21:14] And so I came into LA with her, you know, her health had got a little crazy and it has subsided. That’s why I went back to work. And then when I had to make the decision to leave EV Connect, it was once again, because my mom’s cancer came back even worse. And it was a lot of stuff that, you know, I’m the eldest of the family side take care of her as being a primary caregiver.
[00:21:32] And so, because I knew I had to leave. I really started to think about you know, what else could I be doing? Right. Cause I, I really enjoyed the cleantech space and I really enjoyed it. Where clean tech was going. I think they’re one of the only industries that I’ve seen so far that talks about equity a lot, and that’s been really cool to be a part of.
[00:21:53] And so when I started to think about like, what were the holes within our industry? One of the thing that popped up to me was, was the maintenance piece was the idea that there really isn’t a workforce that can maintenance smart technology, whether that’s your ring doorbell, whether that’s, you know, , the charging station, all these things that we’re making smart either have someone that’s IT, or you have someone that is just like, you know, they can go out and like fix the physical thing.
[00:22:21] Dan: [00:22:21] Right. Yeah. They have soldering irons and wrenches and,
[00:22:26] Kameale: [00:22:26] but it’s like, and then even if you have an IT person out in the field, you’re going to overpay for that service because sometimes the problems aren’t that complicated.
[00:22:35] Right. And so, yeah. And so that’s when I, you know, started working with, with LACI and talking to the LA Cleantech Incubator and just say like, Hey, like, you know, can I like run a program here with folks from the community to teach them how to maintenance these charging stations? Because number one, I know I can save the industry money because we don’t have to pay a crazy amount for our it person to go out or electrical contractor person, especially because that, isn’t what we’re trying to fix.
[00:23:02] Right. And. I knew that we can pay more than some of these folks in the community were getting paid. I like entry-level customer support jobs. So in my mind, it was like this really happy medium. And so LACI being the amazing organization that they are allowed me to run a pilot. So I created a curriculum on how to fix charging stations, and it included environmental justice and everything about the EV industry in six modules.
[00:23:27] And I launched it with 30 participants and really had the industry show up for me. Like we had folks from all different companies come in and speak to them. We had some manufacturers that allowed us to go on-site to show them around. And these are like just folks in like Southcentral LA from like, like, just, most of them were like, Oh yeah, I heard about this EV thing, but I didn’t really know too much about it.
[00:23:48] And the way that they soaked up the information and was able to solve these problems, like quickly was. Was very validating. But one of these that we found was that it was still hard for them to get a job, right. Like to be an independent contractor. Like it was still hard for them to, do their invoicing and all this stuff that comes with being an independent contractor.
[00:24:08] And so from there, we were like, okay, if we create an app, we secure the contracts with network providers, and then we facilitate how they’re getting paid and, you know, making sure that they have the right information to troubleshoot and that we’re making sure that the network providers know when they’re on site.
[00:24:21] And we facilitate all these things that were hard for both parties in a phone. We thought as though like, Oh, that is a solve like that is a win, win situation. And that’s basically how we came up with the idea.
[00:24:33] Dan: [00:24:33] That makes a lot of sense. And it, you know, the thing that I love about what you’re doing is this sort of dual mission.
[00:24:39] When people hear about it in the name, obviously it’s about, Oh, this is cleantech, this is electric vehicles, but you really are talking about kind of the evolution or the future of work. And this idea of, you know, we had somebody else on who was in the water space. Right. And so turning, turning, and they use sensors and.
[00:24:58] AI to monitor water levels in other countries, that’s more of an issue. And so it’s basically turning your local plumber into a technician. And so I see a lot of parallels here where you’re taking the ability that people have in sort of the work rhythm of, I go to a site I need to diagnose, I need to fix and kind of bring it into the 21st century.
[00:25:21]It’s really cool.
[00:25:22] Kameale: [00:25:27] Thank you. Yeah, and I think the one thing I would say we are most proud of is with technology. Like you don’t have to go to school for four years to maintenance as charging stations. You know what I mean? It’s like, we’re, we’re doing all these troubleshooting things like using the technology to predict, okay, this is, this issue. Do these things. Instead of it just be like a troubleshooting document light.
[00:25:41] And so I’m like so excited as technology kind of like being. Well leveling the playing field of some aspects and like really looking at, okay, is this person a hard worker? Are they going to show up on time? Are they going to, you know, be kind like the things that I know that people from my community are like really great at and highlighting that and allowing them to be more successful and full circle, right?
[00:26:03] Like this is economic mobility. Like that is what I’m testing out is like, How do you create win-win situations for economic mobility? Can we do it through technology that we’re testing with this company?
[00:26:15] Dan: [00:26:15] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I really love that term actually economic mobility. So you have an interesting business where you have sort of this chicken and egg, right?
[00:26:24] So you have to build up one side, I guess, the supply side, so to speak of the folks that are going to do the work, and then you have the demand side, which is obviously is the, is the networks and the, I guess you call them hosts of charging stations or owners of charging stations. So how did you think about that when you were starting the business, did you think about, I need to do them at the same time or I need to validate one first or how did you think about that?
[00:26:49] Kameale: [00:26:49] Yeah, we think of doing them at the same time, because just as like our network providers are very important because they’re our customers. We also see the technicians as our customers. And even when we build models, we look at how many stations in a contract do we need in order to make sure that it technician is making at least $40,000.
[00:27:07] Right. And how do we align them? You know, like what areas can we do that in? Like, is it a full-time job or are we working with a partner like AAA, where we’re subsidizing work? So we really saw it as we have to do them both because they’re both equally as important. And we really see ourselves as a bridge because like these two groups need each other like network providers need folks that are gonna be able to be on the ground. That knows what they’re doing. That’s affordable and technicians. These folks that were treating these new technicians and need work, that’s actually going to allow them to, you know, if they don’t want to be a maintenance tech, maybe they want to sell EV charging.
[00:27:41] Maybe they want to get into solar, but they still need this experience in order to go through that pathway. Right. And because they need each other, we’re just facilitating that relationship.
[00:27:50] Dan: [00:27:50] That makes a lot of sense. And so, so basically the need was glaring, which is another great sign of opportunity for a startup that it’s got to happen one way or another.
[00:28:00] And it happens really inefficiently and expensively. And there’s a big disconnect with basically the skill sets. So it’s a cool thing. So. As you were thinking about starting the company or as you were starting the company, did you also have to think about sort of regionality? And how are the people on the demand side, are they more like municipalities? And so it’s like a physical constraint space, or you’re working with companies who have locations around the country, or, how does that work?
[00:28:28] Kameale: [00:28:28] So we’re working directly with network providers. So when we think about network providers, those are the folks who are actually supplying the software for the stations.
[00:28:36] And so that way we don’t have to go to a municipality. We will go to network, right, because they’ve already secured on their site hosts because it’s in their best interest for their stations to be online and operating at all times. And with new contracts that are coming out from a lot of the utility funding they’re requiring sort of SLAs.
[00:28:54] I know New York has SLAs right now that stations can be down longer than six hours. And we’re starting to see it inside more contracts where there’s having line items for maintenance. So our customer is the network provider that is installing the stations all over. So the way we see our growth is alongside.
[00:29:10] We see ourselves as partners with our providers. So they need us, you know, in New York or if they need us, in Florida, that’s where we’re going to be moving along with this year, we’re working on pilots and establishing those relationships with some of the larger network providers. And then also some mid-level network providers as well.
[00:29:26] So our growth plan and our strategies in the making, we just started in January. So a lot of stuff we’re still hammering out, but that’s kind of like our overall ideal, how we want to move forward with where we’ll end up at geographically.
[00:29:38] Dan: [00:29:38] Very interesting. One question. Well, one clarification for those who don’t know, an SLA is a service level agreement, and it’s basically what you commit to when you have a service and usually involves uptime or consistency and so forth.
[00:29:53] So that’s what Kameale is talking about. So Kameale, tell us is there a big regulatory impact on your business specifically? I know cleantech obviously has a lot of regulatory aspects to it, but what about your business specifically?
[00:30:08] Kameale: [00:30:08] As of yet, we haven’t seen any regulatory items come out. That’s impacting the maintenance side of, of BV charging. I think the only thing that we’ve been watching is this year there was supposed to be, I think it was almost like two or $3 billion of infrastructure funds that were coming up with because of COVID. We’re just more so paying attention to, you know, are those plans still going to be allocated this year? Are they being reallocated? Like what does that look like? But yeah, that’s about it.
[00:30:36] Dan: [00:30:36] Yeah, well, that’s good. I just, you know, sometimes that’s extra friction to growth and development when you’re in the startup world. So can you give us a sense of the sort of scale of like, kind of where you are and where you’re trying to get to?
[00:30:49] I mean, how many charging stations are there in the country and where are you on that journey?
[00:30:54] Kameale: [00:30:54] Cause we only service the public charging station, so we’re not doing residential, but we do apartment building. So it was what he called multi-unit dwellings. So when we look at those numbers, they’re probably a little, a little less delight.
[00:31:06] I want to say half a million charging stations probably out there from private and public. And when we say private, sometimes like workplaces don’t have charging stations, but it’s not mapped.
[00:31:16] And what I said earlier was that in the next five years, they’re looking at adding about. I think it’s like 2.5 million more charging stations.
[00:31:24] And so for us, we like we want it all. We’re being strategic and where we go, just because at the mindful, like the workforce and we are this year, mainly testing pilots. So we’re looking at launching a pilot here in Southern California looking at how do we create models around really dense areas.
[00:31:42] And then we are going to be looking at launching a pilot. Maybe in New York or another state where we can look at how do we support stations that are a little bit more spread out because where the industry is like easier for network providers to support stations, if they’re all clustered together, but like really Los Angeles in New York and probably San Francisco are only areas that they are closer together.
[00:32:03] And if we really want to do AB adoption, we have to look at, you know, try to stations that are along the corridors of like the I-5. And how do you support a charging station that, you know, It is like in a very small town? Like, do you go and train one person there so they can go out and be dispatched, right?
[00:32:20] And we want to test those things this year as our first year. And then next year we’ll be able to go after some larger contracts. I guess the last thing I’ll add there for us and in regards to growth is that this year we are applying to like different RFPs going alongside some of our partner networks in order to win some, some of the new infrastructure deals to expand into next year.
[00:32:40] Once they get installed.
[00:32:41] Dan: [00:32:41] Great. A lot of momentum, which is, awesome. So what’s, the big vision, like, where do you see ChargerHelp! going? I mean, you mentioned earlier this idea about IoT and some other things that are sort of that have intelligence now that there isn’t really a precedent for how you service and maintain them. Do you see yourself going beyond clean tech or is that a big enough opportunity for you to spend all of your, your focus on that for a while?
[00:33:09] Kameale: [00:33:09] Yeah, I think right now we’re just really focused on supporting the industry. EV adoption is really important to me, environmental justice, and really transitioning into a more green economy is really important.
[00:33:20] And so most of our, yeah, most of my thoughts and brain power’s about. How do I support this entire industry on the maintenance side, there may be other opportunities in the future, but one of the things that I’ve learned is just focus is key. And so we’re just really focusing on solving this problem right now.
[00:33:37] Dan: [00:33:37] Makes total sense. it seems like it’s a massive opportunity and probably as you start to think about the globe and you can actually, you could spend your whole life and the company’s whole life just focused on EV. So that’s great.
[00:33:50] We will take another short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Kameale Terry from ChargerHelp!
[00:33:58] BLCKVC: [00:33:58] Hi, this is Jean-Claude from black VC. We’re a community created to connect, engage, empower, and advance black venture investors. And the best part is we’re built for and by black venture investors in these unprecedented times, our mission has become clearer than ever black founders and investors. First are underrepresented and under-capitalized in the startup ecosystem.
[00:34:19] If you’re an investor, an entrepreneur or aspiring to be either one black VC is working hard to help you find the community and the resources that you need to further your journey to learn more about the events and the programs that we run. Follow us on Twitter at black VC. It’s B L C K VC. Or visit us on our website.
[00:34:36] At black vc.com. That’s B L C K vc.com. Yup. You heard that correctly? No egg at black VC. We believe that you are the change that we see and together we’re stronger. We hope that you’ll join us.
[00:34:59] Dan: [00:34:59] So we’re back with Kameale, Terry from ChargerHelp! So Kameale let’s shift gears a little bit. one of the things that we didn’t talk about is, uh, your co-founder. How did, how did you come about connecting with your cofounder and deciding to take the plunge together in this.
[00:35:15] Kameale: [00:35:15] Yeah. So my co-founder, I actually met her through LACI, and quick, like a shoutout to there.
[00:35:19] If you’re not familiar with the Los Angeles Cleantech incubator, it literally, has been like the greatest thing for our company, just because of the people that are there and there. Yeah. It’s been amazing. So, my co-founder, she worked for the department of labor. And then she also does contract to work out for workforce development and worked force implementation.
[00:35:39] And so she worked alongside Lacy, hired her to work alongside the team to do the first cohort and. One of the things I’ve leaned into a lot as being a founder is really listening to my gut. And so when I saw the way, the questions that I had asked and the way that she worked with the technicians and the participants, and also just like how quick she was able to pick up things, I approached her and was like, You want to do this thing with me?
[00:36:15] In a funny thing up until this point, there was a lot of, because, so we had also, we had won startup grind LA and people were starting to learn more about it. So there was a lot of folks who were approaching me about being a cofounder. So was funny that when I asked Evette she was like, she doesn’t, she’s not familiar with tech really, you know, she’s a workforce element person implementation person.
[00:36:36] So she was like, I don’t know. And, and it was funny cause everybody wanted to be my co-founder. And then that’s like, I don’t know. And I’m like, Oh, this is the one.
[00:36:50] Dan: [00:36:50] I don’t want to join a club that would have me as a member of the opposite of like, I want the person that I have to chase.
[00:36:57] Kameale: [00:36:57] I have to think about it. And she’s like, I got to ask my husband and she’s like, I gotta pray about it. And I said, okay, girl, let me know. And then she came back.
[00:37:07] I think almost like a week.
[00:37:09] And I remember like seeing her every day and I didn’t want it to be like the weirdo that’s like, you got a decision, I also didn’t want to seem like I was being thirsty. I’m just going to wait. And then finally she came back and she was like, okay, I think you can do that. And I was like, Oh, okay, great. So a lot of the work that she has been doing is really helping with the products, right.
[00:37:28] Because. One of the things that I know when you create technology, if you’re not aware of everyone that needs to use technology, especially where, you know, we may have folks that maybe they haven’t a, of Siri. Maybe they don’t, maybe they’re a veteran, maybe they’re not right. And because she’s aware of workforce implementation and how people receive information, we really utilize her with our product team.
[00:37:49] To ask the right questions, right. To make sure that we’re not off the Mark. And even when we talk about how we’re going to pay people, like, what does that look like? And what’s the training. Like, she’s one of the trainers there. This teaches a lot of the soft skills. And so she’s been so integral to make sure that charger help.
[00:38:06] Yeah, we are a technology company, but we’re also saying that you can be both, right. You can build a really cool product. You can make a lot of money and you can also like treat your workers equitably. And she’s making sure that we are held accountable to that. So it’s literally the best decision that I’ve made and I’m very happy.
[00:38:22] She said, yes. I would have been devastating. It really cool to work with, you know, so,
[00:38:31] Dan: [00:38:31] yeah. That’s great. You know, it’s probably the best of all situations. Like you said, if she had said yes right away, then maybe six months later, you’re like, I gotta go. That’s great. So tell me, have you raised any money for Charger Help! Or have you gone through a fundraise experience or how will you sort of funded it to so far?
[00:38:53] Kameale: [00:38:53] So it’s, funny when we, we basically launch like launch when COVID started happening and one of the things that everyone kept telling me, it was like VCs weren’t giving money. And so I was like, Oh, okay, well, that’s fine. So we went the route of like, we apply to like, 20 or 30 pitch competitions grants.
[00:39:13] And so like so far we like most like we raised them. I don’t even know if it’s a raise, but we’ve won a lot of money just from like pitching it from grants and that’s been able to like carry us forward. And then we went teaching our curriculum, so we charged to teach the curriculum. So it’s kind of like a bootstrap situation so far, but I think that.
[00:39:33] We’re definitely open to talking to investors from me. I always say like, you know, like all money, isn’t good money. And like, we want strategic investors. We want people that can help us scale. Like we do have a really good advisory team because we’re a part of LACI’s incubator, but I guess the short answers, yeah, the short answer is like we’ve bootstrapped basically so far, we’ve been able to.
[00:39:53] Take on a pretty good amount of money to get us where we’re at and kind of carry us through the year, but we will be interested in conversations probably soon in order for us to get what we need to hit our milestones for 2021.
[00:40:06] Dan: [00:40:06] That makes a lot of sense. And you know, a lot of times there’s so many pitch competitions and challenges and so forth.
[00:40:13] And I think sometimes people view those as just a distraction. It’s not reality, but I mean, you’re a great example. I mean, grants are great and Hey, Unfound Nation out there, there’s a little nugget, right. Grants don’t dilute your equity. And so it’s equivalent to revenue in some senses, right?
[00:40:29] Basically it’s cash that comes in that can fuel your cash and your cash needs, but you’re not giving up any of your company for it. So it’s a, especially when you’re early on, it could be really great.
[00:40:39] Kameale: [00:40:39] Yeah. And we were lucky enough to win MIT, did a program with ServiceNow. Um, is there a reason?
[00:40:45] I was like a really big way workflow, a software company. And so we got, we won a hundred thousand dollars through them and also like a lot of support services. And then we won LA black investors club pitch competition. And then we came in as a runner up. The innovative city pitch competition, where we pitched to Arlan Hamilton.
[00:41:03] And she was so intrigued of what we had to do. She offered us office hours. And so it’s like, we, it was really cool. Like I think. Because we care about what we’re doing and like, it makes sense to me and I know what I’m doing so well, it’s like, it’s very exciting to like share, you know, share the industry with folks and share the opportunity with people.
[00:41:24] I mean, she was really cool. She didn’t tell me, she gave a very interesting voice. Like you should do voice-overs. And I was like, okay.
[00:41:30] Okay, Arlan, whatever you say, like yes,
[00:41:48] but yeah. So yeah, all together, we’re almost at a rate like just from pitches and grants, is that we’re almost at like two 50. And so that covers like our MVP, like literally everything and we, haven’t had to give up any equity. Yeah.
[00:42:02] Dan: [00:42:02] That’s awesome. And so have there been other organizations or folks you mentioned Arlan, you’ve mentioned LACI, other organizations that have been sort of helpful and help to catalyze, your momentum.
[00:42:15] Kameale: [00:42:15] Absolutely. Grid 110. So we were a part of Grid 110’s idea to the prototype program. So that’s an organization supported by the Los Angeles mayor’s office. And like I say, we pitched that. Startup Grind South LA, which was at the end. This was the first, how did he did South LA? That may be a lie.
[00:42:33] I’m not sure if that was really cool. Cause I got, got us like really, really connected to folks. And then just like the industry in general, I’ve been so proud to be a part of the cleantech industry because of the ways in which we support one another. If I need to call and talk to anybody about an idea, like literally everyone’s open to hearing the idea and everyone’s really excited about what we’re building, because like it’s not the coolest, sexy thing, like maintenance, isn’t like fun, you know what I mean?
[00:42:58] Like two people do it. So it’s like those organizations and just like my industry, I am like, yeah, I think I’ve just been so taken aback by just the ways in which I can reach out to literally anyone. And they’ll pick up my call and helped me figure something out.
[00:43:15] Dan: [00:43:15] That’s great. I mean, that’s you want an industry like that, right?
[00:43:19] That is collaborative and supportive. So here’s a question. So as a black woman, founder, can you think of examples when you’ve been reminded of that fact in a positive way, and then on the other side, in a challenging way?
[00:43:33] Kameale: [00:43:33] Huh? Well, I guess like in the side of the challenge where I’m like positive ways, challenging way.
[00:43:38] I think that there’s a lot of times where you may have an interaction and you don’t know if like so much treating us type of way. Like a lot of, it’s just kind of like a mind state and messes with your head, right? Because like, you don’t really know. It’s like, They’re doing this because you’re a black woman or maybe that’s just how they are.
[00:43:55] And that’s usually where I find myself a lot of times where like, I want to believe the good in people, but then I’m just like, Oh, like, are you treated me like this because of this and rain now with all of this, like focus on like black founders in general, I had a company reach out to us that like wanted to do.
[00:44:14] To interview us. And you know, the first thing I asked is like, well, why like, what did you hear? And they’re like, Oh, well we want to do something on black founders. And like, have you tell us, like, how can we support black founders? I’m like, no, like we have a good company. Like we have a good ideal, you know what I mean?
[00:44:26] And so like, I get why like, People are starting to like focus on black founders, but it also is like, just as frustrating because like at the end of the day, like, I want you to judge me by like the idea that I have. Like, I just want an equal opportunity. Like, I don’t need an extra hand. Like, I just want you to treat me the same way you treat everyone else.
[00:44:43] And so it’s been interesting right now to have to kind of like manage that because like, you do want to take advantage of like the times, but then. But then, but then it’s just like, I just want you to know that I have a cool company and like we’re doing really cool stuff. And like, my team was really diverse and amazing.
[00:44:58] And that’s what I want you to pay attention to.
[00:45:00] Dan: [00:45:00] Yeah, you’re right. I feel that every day, myself, this idea that first you’re ignored because potentially because of it, and then now you’re being paid attention to because of it. Right. As opposed to what I’m doing and getting excited about my business, that makes that make sense.
[00:45:18] Well, hopefully when somebody asks you that question again, founders and founder will be one on the positive.
[00:45:28] Kameale: [00:45:28] I will say one thing that is positive. So like my, like, you know, if X black, our future CFO is this black woman and we spent a lot of. Time together. And I think the positive thing there has been being in a community of them. And it’s funny when I went to build the company, I wasn’t like, Oh, I want to find like black women to be on my team.
[00:45:47] I was like, Oh, I want to find the best people for these positions. And it just all just so happened to be black women. And it’s like, that’s really cool to like share in this journey and experience with just like our consultant. Like she used to work for the Department of Defence, like she did cost estimation for the department of defense, like the last like 10 years.
[00:46:06] And it was like upbeat, you know, and we have calls until 11 o’clock at night working on stuff together. And I think there’s a certain type of like sisterhood and just like respect because like, we all have high, very senior-level positions. So we’ve all been through like really just like crazy stuff, but we’re here and now we’re like collaborating to like build this amazing company and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
[00:46:26] And that has been like the most life-giving experience I’ve literally ever had. so yeah, so that is a positive thing. Finding other amazing dope black women that are just willing to roll up their sleeves and like do the work.
[00:46:40] Dan: [00:46:40] That’s great. I personally think like in 500 years, they’re going to look back and say black women had superhuman capabilities that were not appreciated at the time.
[00:46:53]so the last question I’ll ask is one, we ask everybody the retrospective. So if you could go back in time to the Kameale of say, when you were still at the bank, and so this Kameale today’s 2020 Kameale could go back to that Kameale and say, you’re going to want to do all these things.
[00:47:10]What advice would you give her?
[00:47:13] Kameale: [00:47:13] Just tell her to hold on. I think just hold on and keep and keep doing it. It was, you know, like it was hard, like, right. And you were in a predominantly white financial institution with a lot of white folks who report to you. Like that was probably one of my most like challenging times.
[00:47:28] And I think I always like doubted myself. So I think I would just be like, hold on and steadfast, like you’re about to build something really cool. And, but all of these lessons and how I matured during that time period, I wouldn’t change it for literally anything. Even the people I met too. So, yeah, I would tell her to hold on. It’s going to be all right.
[00:47:50] Dan: [00:47:50] Yeah. It’s a long race. Yeah, that’s great. Well, this has been so much fun. Kameale, why don’t you tell the audience? Is there ways that they could find out more about ChargerHelp!, or get in touch with you? You have social media handles or want to share
[00:48:03] Kameale: [00:48:03] I’m on the Twitter now. I wasn’t on Twitter before, but you can find me @KamealeC and also a @chargerhelp.
[00:48:08] Hope on Twitter and LinkedIn. I. Really enjoy using that platform. So just see if I’m Kameale Terry at LinkedIn and you can find all charge up news on LinkedIn as well.
[00:48:19] Great. Well, I could talk to you for another hour, but we’re coming to the end of our time. So thank you so much, Kameale, for making the time it’s been a great conversation.
[00:48:27] Thank you so much. I really appreciate this opportunity.
Dan: We’d like to thank our guest Kameale Terry and our sponsor BLCKVC. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listento, that’s listen T-O and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.
[00:48:44] This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya.
[00:49:03] Editing and production by Internet Radio Corporation.
[00:49:25] Social media and other promotion by Omama Marzuq.
[00:49:50] Our music was composed by Daniel Bordovsky, Bobby Cole, Neil Cross James Grant, Alex Khaskin, and Will Van De Crommert.
[00:50:24] I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to founders unfound.
Return to previous