RateMyInvestor Founder Series: Episode 4 with Amanda Greenberg (Balloonr)

1. How did you first get started in the world of entrepreneurship?

Before starting Balloonr, I was a public health researcher and scientist in DC. I developed national behavior change campaigns for the U.S. EPA, DOE, and CDC. I went right into that role from graduate school at UNC-CH Gillings School of Global Public Health, which I entered immediately following undergraduate at Dartmouth College. I was planning to head to medical school and continue working in public health, but as a public health physician my plans changed when I became obsessed with solving a problem, and I made the jump to founding a company.

In my role as a researcher, I noticed a number of trends that were negatively impacting the firm — more louder, senior voices dominating conversations and people’s ideas and feedback being evaluated differently based on who they were. Since I was a researcher, I dug into the research and what I found shocked and surprised me. Our business tools and processes are broken. They don’t address the way our brains actually work in a group setting. They don’t account for things like group dynamics, dozens of different cognitive biases, corporate culture, and a fear of failure. This results in companies not having the right data, which costs companies billions in bad decision-making, stalled innovation, and wasted time. We took a holistic, research-focused approach to developing Balloonr — that largely came from my work as a researcher and in public health education focused on fixing broken systems and translating science into programs and messages that made people change behaviors. I was (and am) obsessed with this problem and solving it. I haven’t once looked back or considered a different path.

2. Tell us about your current company and the inspiration behind it.

Balloonr is a platform based on science and research to address how humans actually share information and make decisions. Balloonr removes the most costly cognitive biases, promotes psychological safety, creates a level playing field and meritocracy, and accelerates time to wisdom. Balloonr is used across industries, and our customers include Fortune 50 companies, hospitals, universities, national sports teams, and startups.

3. How much have you raised to date, and why did you decide to go with a platform like Republic to raise part of your current round?

We’ve raised $765k to date from Wavemaker Partners, 500 Startups, DreamIt Ventures, G2T3V, 37 Angels, and more.

I’m a Forbes Contributor, and a few months ago, I wrote about how equity crowdfunding is changing the landscape for underrepresented founders. The piece was primarily focused on Republic’s incredible work to level the playing field by providing a better avenue to funding for diverse founders and investors. We decided to launch our Republic campaign because our vision and mission aligns with Republic’s — the best ideas (and companies) can come from anywhere and building a more diverse and inclusive investment community to accelerate those companies will drive better outcomes and opportunities for the world. With launching our campaign on Republic, we were also invited to pitch at Jason Calacanis’ LAUNCH event.

4. What are some unique challenges you face as a female founder during fundraising?

I try not to think about it — ignorance is complete and total bliss :) Joking aside, the data and research speaks for itself.

Diverse teams perform better — create higher profitability, higher returns for investors, and deliver overall better business performance.

Despite the indisputable findings, in 2017, all-women founding teams received just 2% of the total pot of venture capital investments, compared to the 79% that went to all-male teams. Research also points to prevalent gender bias, with female founders being asked different questions than male founders. Fundraising is a warm-intro game, so if a VC has funded mostly male-founded teams, it can make finding an entry point more challenging.

I’m intensely driven and competitive, and I won’t stop when I’m trying to push something out into the world or make something happen. We love our investors — they believe in us, our vision, and our traction, and that’s what we focus on. Female founders help out other female founders in incredible ways, and I try to do the same. We know that investors who bet on underrepresented founders will win BIG.

5. What is something you’ve learned while building your startup that you wish someone had told you before you began?

I learn something new every single day of building Balloonr — we learn from our customers, investors, advisors, and really, every single person. I think that you can read and read and read articles and approaches and techniques, but you don’t really learn anything until you experience it. This becomes even more true when growing a company.

Some things that have stuck: It’s impossible to be ready, so you should just start. There will be incredible highs and incredible lows, but the most important thing is that you don’t quit during the lows because the next peak is right around the corner. Trust your intuition and make fast decisions. Build strong, authentic relationships based on trust and loyalty — nothing is worth more of a better business decision.

6. Tell us how you landed your first customer.

Our very first customer reached out to one of our advisors after they heard us pitch — they wanted to bring Balloonr into their organization. This was before we had built product or anything. They piloted, converted, and have been along for the ride sharing invaluable feedback, exploring use cases, and more.

7. What is your favorite blog/newsletter and why?

Hmmm. I read a lot of everything! Our team has a #resources channel on our Slack, and we always drop articles and new research studies in there. Harvard Business Review, Jason Calacanis, First Round Review, Tomasz Tunguz, and others on Medium, etc. One our investors, Howard Tullman writes an incredible Inc. column filled with boatloads of wisdom. It’s a must-read!