Podcast Transcript – Series One, Episode 17
tiffany kelly curastory August 2020
[00:00:00] Tiffany: [00:00:00] my dad was one of the first national black champions at Morehouse.
[00:00:04]There are pockets of the arena that were just like all men. rarely anyone that I came across, looked like me.
[00:00:09]at that time in the NBA, I think there was only a handful of women.
[00:00:13]And presented at MIT, sports analytics conference and ESPN hired me in like a month
[00:00:18] okay. guess I’m just all in entrepreneur right now.
[00:00:22]just imagine a female athlete, that’s a gymnast that ESPN is not going to put you on the air. Like that’s just not a moneymaker for them.
[00:00:30]And so many investors have reached out now because our crowdfunding raise has gone. very well
[00:00:37] I feel like my entire life has been people betting against me.
[00:00:41] Dan: [00:00:41] What’s up Unfound Nation, Dan Kihanya here, your host for Founders Unfound. Thanks so much for listening in that was Tiffany Kelly, founder, and CEO of Curastory, a company that is revolutionizing the content creation influencer space with an initial focus on professional and college athletes. Our episode is sponsored by [00:01:00] VertueLab, a nonprofit fighting climate change by providing funding and holistic entrepreneurial support.
[00:01:05] The cleantech startups, their annual summit FUEL 2020 is going digital this September spanning over two weeks with short events every day at FUEL2020 you’ll connect with future-focused entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, and more. Use the code FOUNDERSFRIEND for 20% off your ticket. Learn more at 2020fuel.org. Or find a link in the show notes.
[00:01:29] Our episode is also sponsored by BLCK VC, a focused community built for and by black investors. Check out the link in the show notes for more about their exceptional programs and events.
[00:01:40]It’s August 2020 and COVID-19 is still very much present with us here in the United States and in many parts of the world. I personally don’t want us to forget all those essential workers, first responders, and medical personnel who are still battling on the front lines of this virus. Some have been at it literally for months. Now let’s [00:02:00] continue to show them support appreciation, and when we can help. The sacrifices they are making are significant and not to be taken for granted.
[00:02:08] As always you can find Founders Unfound, anywhere you regularly listen to podcasts. 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.
[00:02:24] Now on with the episode, stay safe and hope you enjoy.
[00:02:41]Hello, and welcome to Founders Unfound, spotlighting, the best startups you don’t know yet. We bring you stories of exceptional founders from underrepresented backgrounds. This is episode number 17 in our series on founders of African descent. I’m your host Let’s get on it. Today, we have Tiffany Kelly, founder, and CEO of [00:03:00] C Curastory company that allows video creators to upload, edit, find a sponsor and distribute with one click to their social channels.
[00:03:07]All a hundred percent free. Curastory is launching with a target market of professional and NCAA athletes. Welcome to the show, Tiffany, and thanks for making the time.
[00:03:17]Tiffany: [00:03:17] Hello. Thanks for having me.
[00:03:19]Dan: [00:03:19] Great. Um, so let’s start off in this COVID world. Is this era of social unrest and protests. how are you doing?
[00:03:27]Tiffany: [00:03:27] I’m good. I’m good. I am in the Mecca, I feel like of COVID, which is New York, but definitely social distancing. I only go out for food and wine, but no, I’m, totally okay. I feel like it’s actually a good time just cause we’re so focused on product and just building out our MVP, but I’m doing well.
[00:03:49] I check in with my family all the time, my brother, he’s a policeman holding it down in DC. So we’re all doing well. How are you?
[00:03:59]Dan: [00:03:59] I’m good. [00:04:00] As we were talking to before the show, it’s, it’s a day by day thing and managed to build those life-work balance barriers and boundaries, sort of learning how to do that in a shelter in place, stay-at-home world is day to day thing. For sure.
[00:04:14]Tiffany: [00:04:14] Yeah. It’s definitely hard, but then trying to find their positives. And
[00:04:19]Dan: [00:04:19] So you said your brother is a police officer in DC?
[00:04:22]Tiffany: [00:04:22] He is, I think he’s on the gun tactical unit, which is like the most dangerous, but, he picks up the guns off the street.
[00:04:30] Cause it’s illegal to have a firearm and the district of Columbia, even if you have a permit. So that’s literally what he’s doing. And obviously hands on deck when the protests were ramping up. So he was working like to 3:00 AM every night, just making sure people went home after curfew. Which I feel like is super dangerous. He’s even sent me videos of protests. There’s yelling racial slurs. Cause I feel like people don’t actually understand that he gets it on the backend. Right? Like he has told me numerous [00:05:00] times just how many, just uncle Tom slurs he’s got like, it’s, it’s really tough. And I mean, me and him have so many conversations just about the world and what’s going on. And I love him though. He’s great. Shout out to him for putting like his life on the line.
[00:05:14]Dan: [00:05:14] Yeah, absolutely. It’s not an easy, easy role for anybody in law enforcement right now. And to be on those front lines is a challenge. I’m glad he’s doing all right.
[00:05:25], Yeah, he’s good. And he, Tiffany: [00:05:27] he literally texts me every day asking about Curastory and he’s invested on our crowdfunding platforms. So he’s awesome.
[00:05:36]Dan: [00:05:36] wonderful. That’s a good, that’s a good segue. So let’s just tell the folks, you know exactly what is Curastory and what does it do?
[00:05:43]Tiffany: [00:05:43] Yeah. So I feel like I kind of, I always explain it as just the easiest way to get started in video. I arrived at that concept later and its origination, but it last year around April-May, when student-athletes were able.
[00:06:01] They were going to come into the mix of, monetization because of the new law change. I knew that I wanted to build something that would kind of get them acclimated to monetization, but it wasn’t until I started having user interviews with student-athletes, with pro athletes, with YouTube that are very well known, that the concept of monetization, is a game that can only be won if you diversify. So if you kind of do podcasting or do video or what have you, or influence marketing, if you want to. And so the problems that they student-athletes would soon have is problems that honestly still exist today. And I think podcasting has done a phenomenal job at actually kind of distributing to all of your podcast channels and then finding sponsors as long as you have a thousand listens.
[00:06:48] But video is still very archaic and it’s like, Hey, you want to be a video creator? Cool. Go on YouTube. And split is horrible. I think it’s 45, 55. It’s a game of, [00:07:00] you have to have millions of subscribers for it to even be worth it because 70% of the 2 billion, monthly visits to YouTube skip ads.
[00:07:09] That’s the only way you get paid. So I knew that I wanted to build something innovating video and removing that. So you create, we send you like a rental, like light ring. We have a partnership with GoPro that we’re doing. If you need a camera and backdrop, all of that as a rental and then upload edit video, we find you a sponsor, and then you kind of shoot your sponsored segment.
[00:07:36]Add it into your video and then distribute to YouTube. IETV Facebook watch. So student-athletes and athletes are just super excited because they have video that they want to share, whether it be a day in the life or fitness workout series or whatever they want to do. They want to get into it. And especially with COVID right now, it’s actually pretty crazy, how bored they are and how a lot of them are just [00:08:00] getting more into content creation, which I think at the end of the day is phenomenal and amazing.
[00:08:05]Dan: [00:08:05] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And you know, startups, timing can be, could be a big contributor. So, but before we dive more into the company, let’s hear a little bit about you. So you’re from Louisiana. Is that right?
[00:08:18] Tiffany: [00:08:18] I am,Baton Rouge, go Tigers.
[00:08:22] Dan: [00:08:22] Nice. Nice. And so growing up, tell us about. You know, did you have dreams of becoming an entrepreneur? Did you have dreams of other things? what kind of motivated you to basically try to achieve
[00:08:34] Tiffany: [00:08:34] Great question! so I played sports all my life, growing up, swimming, basketball, volleyball, super athletic family.
[00:08:41] I think my dad was one of the first national black champions at Morehouse. And a swimming, swimming team. Sorry, that tiger shark really talk to me about it to me all the time. I think there’s actually a sports illustrated vault article that is on him, but I love him. He’s great.
[00:08:58] Dan: [00:08:58] Oh my Gosh. That’s so [00:09:00] cool!
[00:09:00] Tiffany: [00:09:00] I know so super athletic family. I knew I wanted…
[00:09:03] Dan: [00:09:03] Does he have like a shrine in the house of like, his success? as a dad, that’s what I would be doing for sure. If I had that.
[00:09:10] Tiffany: [00:09:10] I think we have a family shrine. It’s like, mom, cause my mom played basketball. So it’s like mom, dad swimming, my brother who played college basketball.
[00:09:19] And then like me, I like walked on for a year, and then I was just like, okay, I’m just going to focus on my studies. I’m not going to become a pro volleyball player, but I knew I wanted to go into sports. I just, I didn’t know what capacity I knew entrepreneurship was kind of always, I don’t want to say in the back of my mind, but it was kind of funny before I got my job at ESPN.
[00:09:42]I actually was like really contemplating working with this startup. That was, I think they had a second-round interview with Y comm. So I was really debating. Okay. Do I want to? First job ever to be an entrepreneur founder gig, [00:10:00] or do I want to go the route of ESPN? So I took the route of stability of front and started at, ESPN and, but entrepreneurship got me at the end of the day. I feel like it’s in my blood.
[00:10:13]Dan: [00:10:13] So you knew you wanted to go into sports. And did you have a sense of what that meant specifically in terms of what kind of role obviously you said that you weren’t necessarily gearing up to be a player, but did you have a sense of, was it media? Was it back office, the business? , how did you manifest, like what I want to do in sports?
[00:10:35] Tiffany: [00:10:35] So definitely front office. So player personnel. Is what I wanted to go into, but it wasn’t until like I had an expense with the new Orleans Hornets at the time. That’s just not the pelicans. I definitely want us to go into the NBA just cause he loves basketball and watching it with my family growing up.
[00:10:55]And I mean, as a 17 they’re old kid like I was just [00:11:00] noticing how there were. pockets of the arena that were just like all men. And rarely anyone that I came across, looked like me. I feel like there’s a reoccurring theme, but yeah. So that kind of stuck with me. And I was just like, wait, why is this like this?
[00:11:13] And so it wasn’t until I was kind of with the stats guys that were crunching numbers, every timeout, every quarter, every halftime that then they were kind of just giving it to the president, the coach had coached at all of these breaks that I was just like, wow. Okay. I definitely need to look at what they’re doing because just as it, as a kid, I just immediately noticed, I was like, Oh, people respect them.
[00:11:39] Like, that’s dope. Like, that’s awesome. Why do people respect you? Oh, it’s because you’re crunching numbers and you’re providing them with quantitative analysis that they. Either can’t do themselves or, you know what I mean? So that’s kind of what I really noticed. And I literally changed my entire career towards sports analytics, data science [00:12:00] presented at MIT, the Sloan sports analytics conference, the largest sports conference.
[00:12:06] And ESPN hired me in like a month after that presentation.
[00:12:10]Dan: [00:12:10] Okay, Tiffany that’s that is quite a summary that we had to unpack a little bit. So, first of all, , how did you end up with an opportunity with the Hornets? Like, was this a part of a school project or did you apply for a job?
[00:12:22] Tiffany: [00:12:22] It was, you know, how you have, you have a career day in high school where you have to, so we had career, so we had career day, career day was for juniors and seniors.
[00:12:31] I was a senior that year. So if you’re a senior, you actually have to job shadow for. Like a day, two days. So it was a job shadow that I was doing. So literally just like walking around, just paying attention to what everyone’s doing. And one of my friends in my class, I think her dad worked inside either the marketing department or public relations but got me connected and they were like, sure, come on down.
[00:12:56]Dan: [00:12:56] Wow. That’s a, it sounds like that was a pretty [00:13:00] transformative experience.
[00:13:01] Tiffany: [00:13:01] Yeah I feel like people don’t really notice that though. Like how I feel like some of the most critical years are actually high school, like middle school, high school, because that’s when you’re kind of really trying to figure out and just taking everything in. And there’s so many options and so many different avenues that you can take and life paths. And so I just knew from seeing, from not seeing people that looked like me. Right. Like, I grew up where I went to a predominantly white school.
[00:13:30] My entire life parents have always been like, Hey, don’t be naive to your color, but also don’t just have it in the back of your mind kind of thing. And so, I mean, I grew up with that worldview. Right. And so I just, it’s something that I always notice and I’m like, okay, I’m a female. And I’m also a black female.
[00:13:51]The last thing I want is for people to kind of question me. So I want to go into a quantitative career where I could have numbers, just like the [00:14:00] next white guy over from me, right. To where you can’t dispute my credibility, literally what was happening. Like I didn’t realize as a 17-year-old, that’s what I was doing. But as I got older, I realized that’s what I did.
[00:14:12]Dan: [00:14:12] I was going to say that is tremendously insightful, and mature to have that perspective. And I think you’re right, that that time is very formative. Very, you know, it’s the opportunity for you to, explore and to experiment. And I think you have, would the experience of you found and what you wanted to do and how you wanted to approach it, which is very entrepreneurial.
[00:14:35]Tiffany: [00:14:35] Right,
[00:14:37] Dan: [00:14:37] but I think almost as important, but it’s overlooked is that young people find what they don’t want to do. Right. So you could have gone onto that, through that experience and said, you know, Yeah. There’s not enough people who look like me. I don’t want to do number-crunching. That seems to be the thing that’s celebrated, or I don’t want to do this.
[00:14:54] Right. Which in truth can be beneficial to you. Cause at least you reduce the consideration set, right. What [00:15:00] you want to do, but it’s not celebrated, right. That you say yes, I definitively went through that and I don’t want to do it. Right.
[00:15:06]Tiffany: [00:15:06] No, that’s a really good point. I’m so curious people that do go through that, like whoop. Change change.
[00:15:13]Dan: [00:15:13] Exactly. Well, I have kids and I see that almost every day. So tell me though. So now you’ve got this plan, so obviously academically you pursued the sort of appropriate expertise and domain that would allow you to get into kind of sports analytics?
[00:15:31]Tiffany: [00:15:31] I wanted to have the education of sports management, just because we kind of studied salary cap.
[00:15:39] We studied just all the finances and nitty-gritty of running a team and working marketing, all of that good stuff like ethics or ethics. So that’s what was my, my degree was in, but I knew I wanted to marry it with the technical skills that I needed. So I finished my degree pretty early. Like I [00:16:00] finished it sophomore or junior year.
[00:16:32] So like stats one, two, and three. So that was kind of the end of my career. And then I also ended up my career and in my college education, and then I had an independent study project where it was just one on one with my professor where I was actually doing research as kind of like a thesis. Which was pretty awesome.
[00:16:51] Cause I, only had two, I only had two months of coding experience before I got a job with ESPN where I would have to code. And like I was that [00:17:00] two months was an independent study. Like literally just me figuring out code with my statistics professor.
[00:17:05]Dan: [00:17:06] Yeah, there’s a common theme here of with Tiffany find something she dives into the deep end.
[00:17:12] Tiffany: [00:17:12] Very true
[00:17:13]Dan: [00:17:13] So did ESPN come calling to you on campus. Or how does one end up at ESPN?
[00:17:20] Tiffany: [00:17:20] Oh, no, it was a journey I to where I actually, even second guess if I wanted to do this career anymore. So I was interviewing for a full year. I interviewed with 10 front office teams. Cause I remember at that point, yeah, media ESPN wasn’t even in my mind, it was, I need to work in a front office.
[00:17:39] I want to work with the team. I want to help make decisions on what players to draft who to play. And so that’s where I was putting my attention. And at that time in the NBA, I think there was only a handful of women. So we’re actually within the front office of a team. And so just imagine, right, like when I say front office, I mean, coaches [00:18:00] conditioning, strength and conditioning staff nutritionists, the general manager, right?
[00:18:04] The one who’s steering the ship. That is what a front office is. And. A handful of women and there’s what 30 NBA teams, 32 NFL teams.
[00:18:13]Dan: [00:18:13] The front office, just to be clear, that is kind of different from like business and marketing and ticket sales and those kinds of things.
[00:18:20] Tiffany: [00:18:20] Correct? Yeah. Pretty wild that HR human resources is not a part of the front office. Like it’s a part of the business side. Right. Which is very problematic. And. Obviously , what happened with the Dallas Mavericks and just all of these issues and scandals that have come out have kind of forced that to be different. But just because of that environment, it was impossible. I mean, only a handful of women were actually doing it.
[00:18:46] And I remember I had an interview with an NFL team and the nutritionist was a woman and she’s like, Hey, she’s like, I can already tell like you. Are about your business. Like you’re not going to have an issue she’s like, [00:19:00] but I gotta tell you, there are some women that try to apply for these jobs and it just, it’s going to be hard.
[00:19:06] Cause the showers right were there and they adapt to you. You have to adapt to them. So that’s just, that’s just, it’s just the mentality of the industry. And it was really, really hard and. Yeah. Like I interviewed with 10 teams, I thought I had a gig. I was interviewing with the team for like six months.
[00:19:26]And it was always me and like another guy, like last round that had just more experienced than me, or had a Ph.D. and they were just going to onboard him and he just was in an industry and network. Right. So that was hard. I, but I kept pushing, kept digging, digging deep. And so I built this metric specifically for the NBA and presented it at MIT and ESPN hired me a month after that. So it was a hackathon, right? So like ESPN was hosting this hackathon. It was a third annual, I think that you just have to sit in a room for six [00:20:00] hours and code and then present what you coded in 90 seconds. And they only choose five people.
[00:20:07] And I was one of those five to present in front of thousands of people. I think like, 5,000 people go to that conference every year. Wow. So yeah, it’s pretty wild. It’s like, general managers, coaches, famous people like Alex Rodriguez, Robert Kraft of the Patriots. Like everybody who’s everybody in sports is there.
[00:20:28] So being top five, I got to present in front of thousands of people. And from that ESPN came callin’. Which is pretty crazy. It sounds like super like, Oh yeah, this is what I just happened to be at ESPN. But no, that year was extremely tough. And I feel like that year of just being unsure and scared and anxious and committing my life to something and not knowing if it was going to come to fruition, I feel like that year literally has prepared me to [00:21:00] wear that right now, honestly.
[00:21:02]Dan: [00:21:02] That always seems to be the case. It’s never fun going through those challenging crisis downtimes, but when you, if you can make it to the other side, that’s where the growth is. And the confidence you have today, I’m sure is it was built as a part of that.
[00:21:17] Tiffany: [00:21:17] Definitely.
[00:21:18]Dan: [00:21:18] We will take a short break to hear from our sponsor and be right back with Tiffany Kelly from Curastory.
[00:21:24] BLCKVC: [00:21:24] 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.
[00:21:46] If you’re an investor, entrepreneur, or aspiring to be either one like BC is working hard to help you find a community and the resources you need to further your journey. Learn more about the events and the programs that we run. Follow us on Twitter [00:22:00] @BLCKVC, or visit us on our website at blackvc.com.
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[00:22:18]Dan: [00:22:18] So we’re back with Tiffany Kelly from Curastory. So Tiffany, so you’re at ESPN through this awesome experience. You end up at ESPN and… tell us about how does, how do you make the jump from being at ESPN to maybe creating the next ESPN and deciding to become an entrepreneur? How did that story unfold?
[00:22:39]Tiffany: [00:22:39] I was at ESPN for two years and it was on our content data sciences, or our content is science team. So building metrics for all the programming, TV, digital, I learned a lot, like I learned how to actually build a metric from scratch, put it into production, which is kind of like building a tech [00:23:00] product from scratch and putting it into production, obviously, way more nuance, actually building a startup. I learned a lot while I was there and it was really interesting the moment, like the point time that I was at ESPN a lot happened.
[00:23:13] So I entered under. John Skipper, who was the president of ESPN that time when I got into ESPN, I think that’s two to three months that I was there. We had this crazy PR scandal where you can literally Google it, so we do something every year where we have a fantasy football auction segment and just fantasy football programming for 24 hours.
[00:23:36]And so it was an auction segment where they were auctioning off football players to the crowd. And I was one of the people in the crowd, mind you, I was the only black person in the crowd. That was the only black woman in my department of 300 people. But what was happening was I honestly think it was around the time that Get Out had come out.
[00:23:54]So we had these like rolling Hills in the background, which is our campus and like this [00:24:00] auction segment of selling off Odell Beckham, like his head on a stick. And what’s crazy being that I’m from Baton Rouge. And, I worked with LSU athletics for a little bit. I was like, Hey, like sell Odell to me.
[00:24:14] Like my face will be familiar. And they were like, well, we actually want to sell it to the guy behind you. He has a purple shirt, so it might work better. And I was like, okay, they sell it to him. That’s literally the clip that goes viral. Like Sean King. Like black lives matter, tweets it, and it was really bad when you actually see optics wise, like on the screen that all that footage only, and it was tough.
[00:24:40] Like John skipper, no, I was in the crowd called me in his office was just like, why were you the only black person in the house? I was just like, Oh, Yeah, I’m the only black woman in the stats and the stats and information group is like, huh. And John skipper. So he was so big about diversity. He is the main [00:25:00] person that spearheaded The Six, which is Sports Center at 6:00 PM was our best performing. Like that’s our prime time, right? Like that is how ESPN the brand was built. He’s the one I was like, I want Jemele Hill and Michael Smith to do it. Right. Like he was the one that actually just really cared about diversity and just made sure, just like blatant in your face.
[00:25:21] Like. Would stand up in meetings and he’d like why are there 10 white guys in here? Right. So he was just always pretty awesome and knew him. Like he knew me by name the first three months of me working. He’s just like, Hey, you have a direct line to me. Just keep me posted. Like, I’m happy that you’re here.
[00:25:37] So that was an amazing experience. And so that happened, then he had to resign, I think a few months later. And then. Jemele quit. Michael quit. The Six had to get booted off because Hey, you have two black anchors. And the majority of our viewership is 60%, white males. Might be a little difficult.
[00:26:00] [00:25:59] And so. All of this kind of happened. And my boss was fired for some stuff that kind of happened in our department. So it was just a lot.
[00:26:09] Dan: [00:26:09] my goodness, this is a, this is a lot to be happening early in your career, particularly in a place that probably felt like I kind of I’ve made it. This is my dream place. Oh my gosh. Wow.
[00:26:21]Tiffany: [00:26:21] I know an article actually came out two days ago. I think. From the New York times saying how ESPN is not diverse at all whatsoever behind the camera. And they actually mentioned the segment that I was in. , but yeah, so that was kind of all happening. And me just, I’m a sponge right in this first two years.
[00:26:39] And so because of this trend with content that was happening, the reason that I’m saying this is because noticing that athletes weren’t actually doing content as much with us anymore, they were kind of doing it on their own. And we would just take an athlete’s video posts, tweet, throw a pre-roll ad on it.
[00:26:55] Right. So we’re monetizing something that’s not even our original IP. And then, [00:27:00] run that. And when it comes to an athlete or content creators. They honestly can’t do that themselves. So it was percolating in my mind and it wasn’t until I met with the VP of data at Instagram, like my, I was building my network and just kind of meeting so many different mentors and just connecting with the media world outside of Bristol, Connecticut, and the VP of Data Instagram was just like, I know you’re interested in startup worlds. Like if you do decide to go out, build a startup or work for one, and like, it doesn’t work out or fail, he’s just like, we’re literally always hiring entrepreneurs. Like you always have a job here. So like being 22 and having the VP of data Instagram telling me, like, you always have a job and just kind of all of these things.
[00:27:45] And I was like, you know what? Like I’ll be okay at the end of the day, might as well go out on my own. Cause it’s always going to be in the back of my mind if I don’t do it and see, and just honestly build something. Cause I care about athletes and [00:28:00] I care about them owning their own content and traditional media publishers, not really kind of being the main ones, leading everything now.
[00:28:08] So that’s essentially what I did. And I actually, the VP of data said that I literally quit. I think a couple, a couple of weekends.
[00:28:15] Dan: [00:28:15] It’s pretty amazing that yeah. I mean, a lot of times entrepreneurs, essentially, there’s a common theme of the striving to quote-unquote, make it, and then having to walk away from that is, you know, obviously, there’s opportunity costs and sacrifice.
[00:28:30] Right. But that must’ve been like the wind in your sails to here. Okay. Like if, there’s a plan B, if things don’t pan out, I mean, that, that must’ve been really confidence-boosting.
[00:28:43]Tiffany: [00:28:43] And then the book Filter Off, came out, which is the relationship between Facebook and Instagram. And then I think he, so he left Instagram and like so many people left Instagram.
[00:28:54] I highly recommend Filter Off. It’s really good. So when that happened, I was like, Oh, okay, [00:29:00] okay. I guess I’m just all in entrepreneur right now. but yeah, that was kind of funny that that happened.
[00:29:06]Dan: [00:29:06] And was, Curastory kind of, I mean, it sounded like you had been percolating the idea, but in terms of like a company and the actual product, I mean, did you hit the ground running with that or did you have to spend time figuring out what the, what the there is? How did that go about, I mean, you quit your job, so you had full-time attention on it, like ready to go, or what, what did you do then?
[00:29:28] Tiffany: [00:29:28] I definitely spent time. So I tell people, I was doing COVID before COVID even happened. So I moved to New York full time, April of last year, 20, 2019, and from April to August.
[00:29:42] So I incorporated Curastory in August, from April to August, I was just figuring out like, okay, this is what the problem is. Like, let me have some user interviews and just really, really, really try to figure out what the actual problem I’m going to be solving when it comes to monetization of content.
[00:30:00] [00:29:59] Cause it’s not a new problem. So figuring out what’s the app actual company that I need to go to solve this problem. Right. And it wasn’t until a lot of user interviews where a major league soccer player was like, I want to get started in video the video so hard. I mean, I already do podcasting. I use anchor. It’s really easy. We need something for video. Like if that existed would totally do it. And that’s when a light bulb went off and I was like, okay, let’s definitely build something that just streamlines the entire video creation, editing monetization, distribution process. Starting with pro athletes.
[00:30:37] And then we onboard student athletes. One of the really nice things is we were accepted from the NCAA. So having that student athletes, I would want to use us, it brings on way bigger brands that are kind of just like salivating to kind of receive student athletes. And what’s also interesting is I imagine once they’re able to monetize, they’re actually going to be [00:31:00] using us. They’re going to be using Anchor. They’re going to be using Cameo. They’re going to be using all these different platforms where they can just kind of monetize their influence and just do something quick and fun and kind of show a day in the life or through their video or whatever. So it was percolating at ESPN, but yeah, and I spent three, four months just really brainstorming having user interviews and really hit the ground running. When I incorporated in August and then started building what it is today, I think around December, January.
[00:31:31]Dan: [00:31:31] And so you talked about this idea of being exempt with the NCAA. That sounds like it’s a pretty big deal and probably a really good advantage for you. How did that come about?
[00:31:42]Tiffany: [00:31:42] Yeah, so the NCAA came out and said that there has to be no institutional involvement. Right. So you have to understand that when it comes to NCAA is really different than professional sports wear the apparel.
[00:31:56] Like the uniforms are all under one [00:32:00] brand, right? So like Nike has a contract with the NBA for five years. Right. But an individual athlete can wear whatever shoes that they want. So like LeBron wears his own shoes. Right. So that’s kind of , how the NBA and professional sports. I’m just, I’m saying the NBA, but that’s how professional sports works.
[00:32:17] You have one brand one contract. Whereas when you have collegiate athletics, multiple schools have different brand contracts, right? So Florida Gatorade, Louisiana state university power rate. So there’s different brands that are kind of the official sponsors of the schools, which is when it gets really tricky because the brands are paying these schools.
[00:32:39] And then that trickles up because the schools have to pay a fee, a membership fee to even be a division one school. Right. And if you aren’t able to pay that fee, then you’re not able to be a division one school, you have to drop down to D2, D3. and the NCA is being very, very careful. With what they [00:33:00] allow, because they don’t want the ruling that they set to actually hurt them when it comes to making money.
[00:33:05] But they still obviously want to be just because so much legislation and litigation is coming out against them right now. They have this ruling where there has to be no institutional involvement. So if an athlete wants to monetize, literally going to have to monetize separate as a human as a person, not as, as an athlete, you can say that you are an NCAA D1 basketball player. You cannot say the school, you cannot wear the apparel. So because of this, no institutional involvement, the only companies right now that are in the market influencer, open doors, open sponsorship that actually do branded content, influencer marketing for athletes. They are not able to exist with the NCAA ethic in the current model. So platforms like us platforms like anchor platforms, like [00:34:00] cameo are all going to be fair game for student athletes to use.
[00:34:04]And so we just have a big tent. Like we just have a big network where we have Ambasadors that actually traveled to these schools every year, obviously virtual now, but they’re traveling to these schools. They’re getting these student athletes acclimated to, to taxes, to monetization, and then they’re also signing them up for our platform too.
[00:34:25] So we’re going to get the big names. We’re going to get the, get the middle of the bell curve, student athletes that I’m so excited for, because I think this, new legislation is going to be benefit women the most, like, just imagine female athlete, that’s a gymnast that ESPN is not going to put you on the air.
[00:34:42] Like that’s just not a moneymaker for them. So you have to really build your own audience and monetize that. And once you are able to have your own monetization audience, ESPN is going to come knocking, right? So that’s why I’m so excited because just the athletes that are not going to go [00:35:00] pro that can really just set themselves up a little bit and set their families up. Just from monetizing and kind of building their audience, which is, amazing.
[00:35:10] Dan: [00:35:10] Yeah. And you and I talked before about, you know, I’ve got sucked into lacrosse cause kids play lacrosse and their sport. That is not, you know, it’s not on ESPN every day.
[00:35:20] And I, so I follow folks on, Twitter and Instagram and they have sort of notoriety inside the lacrosse community and some of them are in college. And I think I told you the story about the young woman from USC who basically had to quit the team. So he’s like my, my career here is going to be about being a vlogger and yeah video. And I love lacrosse. I paid it, played it my whole life, but. I think at the NCAA basically forced her to choose. And so she had to quit, which I thought was really sad and she’s, tremendously popular in terms of, she was very authentic and transparent, like bringing into the, locker room and here’s what we do, pregame and all that stuff.
[00:35:53]If you’re a kid, right. Or, or you’re into the community, it’s powerful, right? Like you said, it’s not something [00:36:00] that’s gonna attract, you know, Coke and McDonald’s sponsored dollars, but you know, there’s thousands of young, boys and girls who are gonna look at college athletes as their, at least they’re models for how they want to pursue their sporting careers. And so this is all part of this, that what they call the passion economy, right? Which is, can you get those people who are really excited about what I do, what I’m an expert at what I have great insight into and bring those people together in sort of a fair economic balance where I don’t have to be.
[00:36:32] They, and I, as a content creator, don’t have to be a prisoner of a network or a parent or somebody who acts as a gatekeeper. So I think you’re definitely onto something. How did you come up with the name Curastory?
[00:36:45] Tiffany: [00:36:45] Curators. So content curators, just telling their own stories, literally what it is.
[00:36:52]Dan: [00:36:52] There you go. And the URL was available and everything?
[00:36:56] Tiffany: [00:36:56] It was, which makes me really happy because when you Google [00:37:00] Curastory it’s the only thing.
[00:37:01] Dan: [00:37:01] Yeah. Unfortunately, that’s, anytime I think about anything that I want to do, it’s like, okay, let’s go see if there’s any URLs. Yeah, exactly. And the ones that you think of.
[00:37:11] So clever, I figured it out, like there’s, nobody has thought of this potential term and then you go and it’s like, like what?
[00:37:19] So we’re going to take another short break to hear from our sponsor. And we’ll be right back with Tiffany Kelly from Curaestory.
[00:37:26] BLCKVC: [00:37:26] Hi, this is Jean Claude from BLCKVC. We’re a community created to connect, engage, empower, and advance black venture investors.
[00:37:34] And the best part is we’re built for and by black venture investors in these unprecedented times, our mission has become than ever black founders. Underrepresented and under-capitalized in the startup ecosystem. If you’re an investor, an entrepreneur or aspiring to be either one BLCKVC 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.
[00:38:00] [00:37:59] Follow us on Twitter @BLCKVC. That’s B L C K VC. Or visit us on our website at blackvc.com. That’s B L C K vc.com. Yeah. You heard that correctly, no “A.” At BLCKVC, we believe you are the change that we seek. And together we’re stronger. We hope that you’ll join us.
[00:38:20]Dan: [00:38:20] So we’re back again with Tiffany Kelly from Curastory. So, Tiffany, uh, let’s talk a little bit about crowdfunding. I know that you have just embarked on that experience. Tell us a little bit, first of all, about fundraising strategy in general, why did you think about that versus going to angels or institutions?
[00:38:39] Tiffany: [00:38:39] So it’s kind of funny when people ask me this, because in my mind, it’s, it’s simple math being a data scientist, but yeah, so many people are just like, if you’re a first time founder, if you are a female founder to your insert, any other minority demographic, you are going to have the hardest time [00:39:00] raising your first round.
[00:39:02]So I knew that we needed capital to build. I knew that I did not have an extensive wealthy network to raise that capital. I knew that I also did not want to go the route of raising a traditional institutional fundraising round the first round.
[00:39:24] Dan: [00:39:24] what gave you that instinct?
[00:39:25]Tiffany: [00:39:25] well, obviously, well, the barriers with being a first-time founder with being a solo founder with being a female founder with being a black founder like all four of those are I don’t want to say it’s unheard of, but. I mean, statistically on their cap table. It’s just not, or on their portfolios.
[00:39:44] It’s just, it’s just not really done. So those were all, I’m just like, ah, okay. And what’s, even though we have an amazing idea and our product makes sense. And so many investors have reached out now like they have [00:40:00] come to us because our crowdfunding raise has gone. Very very well that people did not think it would go extremely well.
[00:40:07] So every crowdfunding platform told us no, except Wefunder, but what we’re currently on right now, I had other crowdfunding platforms come back and say, Hey, like, we want you to raise your next round with us. And I was like, cool, thanks. . It’s tough. I feel like my entire life has been people betting against me.
[00:40:29] And, but I love when that happens, because it’s just like, cool. I’m very, very strategic. And I think about problems. I’m very data-centric. It’s literally my job. So I’m not just going with the wind when I make decisions, everything that I make a decision on is based on insight and data that I have. So I knew that our crowdfunding and raise and do really well.
[00:40:54] I was scared that it wouldn’t, no entrepreneur doesn’t have [00:41:00] their doubts and them being scared, but. , I just had kind of a good feeling, but that’s why I did decide to go with crowdfunding and what we’ve raised so far. I think we’ll have about six to eight-month runway. So the next round, most likely am going to do another reg CF crowdfunding raise and then going to do revenue-based financing. With both of them, those, I think the max that we can get is 4 million, which is like, A really good seed, but I’m not saying that we’re going to do the max, but yeah, that’s the limit of what we could and we just have to hit 15k MRR. Like monthly recurring revenue, but 15 K a monthly recurring revenue with what we’ve raised so far, which I actually don’t print will be super, super difficult.
[00:41:49]Dan: [00:41:49] Excellent. So first of all, Unfound Nation, Reg CF is essentially the regulatory statute that allows for crowdfunding to happen with, private companies [00:42:00] for the everyday person. Yeah, you don’t have to be a credited or rich or affluent or have a special secret handshake.
[00:42:09] And so these crowdfunding platforms have emerged and I’m, kind of surprised that it was so hard to even get on those. That’s an interesting aspect of this.
[00:42:18] Tiffany: [00:42:18] They take a fee, so they want to make sure that the work that they’re putting in for your raise, they actually are getting a well enough cut.
[00:42:27] And we’ve actually the crowdfunding platforms that told us no, we’ve actually surpassed many platforms are many companies that they’ve said yes to, which is so interesting. Again, I just like when people bet against me and that’s what, like, I love meeting minority founders because I feel like we just, we make lemonade out of lemons, but, we honestly are just so used to scraps where I’m just like, awesome. This is great. This is so much money. Or this is like, thank you so much for this opportunity. Like I’m going to [00:43:00] hit it out of the park. Right. And when you kind of obviously compare it to.
[00:43:04]What other gotten, or just the network other people have been blessed with. I think as people would probably call it, like, wow, like that is like scraps that you’ve literally just made an amazing company.
[00:43:16] Dan: [00:43:16] I love that. it’s so true. And I hear it almost with every interview. There’s a tenacity and, an ability to use what you’ve been given and, use it really with a lot more efficiency in return than like you said, some others who are given more resources. I share that, you know, when somebody says, no, it’s like, I want them to be seeing that no, probably was not the right decision at some point. Yeah. So I gotta, I gotta ask you though, so. Crowdfunding to me feels like it’s almost like launching our product.
[00:43:47] So you’re kind of watching to see who’s in there and your refresh and see how many people are doing things. Was there a moment when you, cause you said obviously you are, you’re a little nervous about it, but was there a moment when you were like, Oh, man, [00:44:00] this has got, this is going to happen. Is there like one big investor or one time, like somebody did a tweet and all of a sudden you had like 50 new investors or was there a time during that process when you’re like, Oh yeah, this is, this is happening.
[00:44:11]Tiffany: [00:44:11] So the beginning, I think we only had about like $10, $15K, and what was it? The title that I put was Curastory allows anyone to read what I put, but it was something about video monetizing your content. Oh no. I said we connected content creators to brand sponsors, right? Like super basic. Like that’s what it was the title of just explaining what Curastory was.
[00:44:37] It wasn’t until the NCAA actually approved us. And we talked to Stan Wilcox and just the top, top executives of NCAA. When they approved us, I was like, Oh, this is big. And, it is really hard. It is like launching a product. We had a consultant who was amazing. Travis Brody, anyone, if you want to cross on check them out MVP [00:45:00] Institute, but he was helping us with our crowdfunding raise.
[00:45:04] And he was just like, tipping. This is big. I don’t want you to bypass this news. Like, I want you to put a press banner on your website. I want you to change, all of these, the title on your crowdfunding raise. I want you to post an update. Like he gave me a list of things that I need to do.
[00:45:20] And he’s like, cause this is a game that you really have to play accordingly and really push out for people to start coming and investing on the campaign. And that’s literally when I think we got $50K in like a week when I was just like, Oh my God, this is actually people. I understand this. Right. So that happened because honestly the NCAA, it was just like, yeah, student-athletes can use you. And then we have the network too. So kind of a win, win.
[00:45:50]Dan: [00:45:50] Yeah, that’s awesome. that’s a great story actually about momentum and what can trigger that? I think, no matter how you raise money, it’s kind of [00:46:00] like you’re pushing a rock up a Hill and you’re pushing it and it’s going nowhere.
[00:46:04] And then all of a sudden. While you knowing it you’re at the top of the Hill or at least you’re on level ground. And you’re like, Oh, wait a minute. I don’t have to push so hard. Oh, wait a minute. It’s actually starting to roll on its own. Oh my gosh. Yeah, the problem is you don’t know how long you have to push the rock up the Hill that happens.
[00:46:21] Congratulations. I mean, that’s a, that’s a great story about just the whole, crowdfunding experience.
[00:46:26] Tiffany: [00:46:26] I would highly recommend for any founder that. Feels like they’re underrepresented or scared to raise institutional money in the beginning, or they want to give back to their community. I think for me, it’s being able to give back someone that invested at least a hundred dollars, which was our minimum, where it might seem so small to other people, but like for that person, that family, that generation like that.
[00:46:52]You know like it’s at least putting some foundation. And so that even made me more excited [00:47:00] to actually do crowdfunding. So we’re always looking at just making sure that we’re not diluting ourselves. Like I don’t want to dilute the team and I also don’t want to dilute the crowdfunding investors too much. Right? So it’s just something I’ve always am thinking about having the back of my mind. So it was just, it was just a win all around when I was figuring out options.
[00:47:19] Dan: [00:47:19] Wow. For somebody doing their first startup, you seem to know a lot did you get a secret playbook at some point from somebody?
[00:47:26] Tiffany: [00:47:26] Everyone tells me this, but what’s so crazy is I literally think it was because that time. Where I was just like locked in my apartment in New York and just figuring life out and figuring if I was going to go back into corporate at Instagram, or if I was going to build my own startup and not have stability for a while.
[00:47:49] Like it’s a scary place to be. It is a place where you are, you’re worried about your bills, where you’re trying to figure out, , should I even do this? Like, During that [00:48:00] time is when I just immersed myself into everything I needed to learn and I didn’t Google stuff. Like I talked to people like I talked to investors, I talked to other founders that had already raised, I talked to like people within marketing and, and executives at corporate companies.
[00:48:20] And so I just immersed myself and I literally just was a sponge because startup life is so. New to me it’s very different than building your own company. It’s very different than just working in a corporation. You have proactive mind and not a reactive mind. And so I just, I learned a lot and I’m still learning.
[00:48:43] So I definitely did not read a playbook. It was just my swivel was on and I was just looking back and forth and talking to so many people that had already gone through it.
[00:48:54] Dan: [00:48:54] Shout out sports reference there
[00:48:56] Tiffany: [00:48:56] I will make a [00:49:00] playbook though. You have given me ideas, maybe.
[00:49:03]Dan: [00:49:03] I love it. So as we’re getting ready to wrap up here, I could talk to you for a lot longer. This is good. And one of the things you’d like to ask again for aspiring entrepreneurs, is there been specific mentors programs, organizations that have really been helpful instrumental in moving you forward in your journey as an entrepreneur?
[00:49:24]Tiffany: [00:49:24] during those pivotal three to four months where I was locked in my room, I did Y Combinator startup school. I literally typed notes on every single lesson, the metrics that investors look at at your business model, how literally ignore everything and only build product, talk to users that was a fabulous and it’s free.
[00:49:48] And there’s actually credits for AWS and Stripe and all of these tech platforms that almost every single tech company uses. So Y Combinator Startup School check it out. I [00:50:00] don’t know if it’s a program, but one of my best friends is also a founder who is at the same stage as me.
[00:50:05] And so I kind of, I don’t want to say I saw my friend group change, but I definitely, I still hang out with my friends, but, but like, I have added more Founder friends to my network. And I met one of my really good friends as a founder through a community called Indiehackers. So it’s called indie hackers and it’s literally a community of founders that have not raised institutional funding. They’re just bootstrapping or doing crowdfunding or just they’ve scraped everything together. So that was awesome. And it’s all kind of creased pre-seed, seed. So anytime I need a mental check and are just, what do you think about this?
[00:50:47] Or, Oh my God, I’m so scared. she’s one of my really good friends and she’s, she went to the black women talk tech conference and she sent me a picture of one of the sides where it was 70% of female founders and black founders get stuck [00:51:00] at the earliest stage.
[00:51:01]And like, she’s just like, this scares me so much. And I’m like, yeah, man, like it’s hard and you have to have a network and you have to have people that you can talk to and just really understand your process and understand that you’re going to stay apartment for a week. Cause you really do need to get stuff done and, or you’re going to go out and have a good time, but you’re going to be extremely frugal. Right. And they won’t look at you weird. Like just things like that, where you just, you start to realize it. Like when you’re actually just, have your friends that are founders now they get it right. Like surviving off of bread and eggs.
[00:51:38] Like good. That’s just our life for a little bit until. You become revenue and profitable. So yeah, that’s what I would say. Just advice for founders out there.
[00:51:48]Dan: [00:51:48] That’s great, a great shout out, and I think you have the perfect healthy balance, right? Which is you have a tribe and this is what to me, the secret sauce of accelerated programs is, is sort of that [00:52:00] collaborative, learning environment where you’re with people who are on the same journey with you, who you can say, Hey, where did you find a, developer or, Hey, how did your investor pitch go? Oh, wow. That’s really interesting. I’ll use that. But I think the other angle, which you glossed over, which I think is also important is maintaining balance and having friends, who are not going to ask you what your CAC is and are not going to ask you how much burn rate you have and, and which investors are you talking to? They’re going to say, you know, they’ll ask you five minutes about what you’re doing and then get into gossip or whatever it is you want to talk about, right?
[00:52:33]Tiffany: [00:52:33] I’m in the Hamptons right now with three of my girlfriends and they’re not founders at all. And it’s, I mean, it’s nice to just unplug and not have to talk about startup life for a little bit.
[00:52:45]Dan: [00:52:45] Nice. So, uh, as we wrap up here, Tiffany, why don’t you tell the folks either about the crowdfunding program or how they can get ahold of you or find out more about Curastory?
[00:52:53] Tiffany: [00:52:53] Totally. So Curastory, if you’re interested in video or we’re eventually going to go to all video [00:53:00] creators outside of athletes, if you’re interested at all to check out the company it’s curastory.co. On all social media platforms, @curastory as the handle. I think it’s @curastoryUS on Twitter, as far as for me, if you guys want to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, we can totally find time in the day, hop on a call. Our crowdfunding platform or a crowdfunding campaign. Excuse me. It’s Wefunder. So it’s wefunder.com/fundcurastory. I think those are all of our socials and website site links that are super important, but my emails are open. My DMS are open and like find me will always respond.
[00:53:41]Dan: [00:53:41] Awesome. Well, this has been great, Tiffany. I thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your stories and your insights and your great journey.
[00:53:48] Tiffany: [00:53:48] Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me and good luck to any founders out there. Listening.
[00:53:54]Dan: [00:53:54] We’d like to thank our guests, Tiffany Kelly, and our sponsors VertueLab and BLCKVC.
[00:53:59] Don’t [00:54:00] forget to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts or simply go to foundersunfound.com/listenedto, that’s listen T-O. And it was on Twitter and Instagram @foundersunfound.
[00:54:11] This podcast was produced by Dan Kihanya.
[00:54:13] Editing and production by Internet Radio Corporation.
[00:54:16] Social media, and other promotion by Omama Marzuq.
[00:54:20]Our music was produced and arranged by Michael Kihanya.
[00:54:23] I am Dan Kihanya and you’ve been listening to Founders Unfound.
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