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With Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

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Scott Orn

Scott Orn, CFA

Kati Radziwon, founder and CEO of iFlipd, on the journey of helping college students study, play video games and pay for college

Posted on: 11/25/2019

Kati Radziwon

Kati Radziwon

Founder and CEO - iFlipd

Kati Radziwon of iFlipd - Podcast Summary

Kati Radziwon, founder and CEO of iFlipd, talks to Scott Orn about the journey of growing her startup from a textbook rental company to a video game rental business to a FinTech play helping college students pay for college.

Kati Radziwon of iFlipd - Podcast Transcript

Speaker 1: (singing). It’s Kruze Consulting, Founders and Friends with your host Scotty Orn.
Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. And my very special guest today is Kati Radziwon of iFlipd. Welcome, Kati.
Kati: Hi. Thanks for having me.
Scott: Kati is an awesome entrepreneur. We’re going to get into her story. But first a quick shout out to Rippling, our Payroll sponsor. Rippling is the newest, coolest payroll service on the block. They’re really great at doing regular payroll. They’re integrated in HR, so it makes hiring people and onboarding people really easy. And the other cool thing they do is they have integrated into your IT system, so that you can spin up all the web services a new employee needs, get their laptop setup automatically out of the box, saves a ton of time. At Kruze, we did a little test on this of how much time we were spending and it turned out it was about $420 worth of spending per new employee. That’s just the onboarding, not even the off-boarding. We’re lucky we tend to have people stay around for a long time, so we focus on onboarding. But Rippling will save you a ton of money, a ton of time. It’s a great payroll system and I suggest you check it out. So, that’s Rippling. And now we can talk to Kati about iFlipd. We’ve actually known each other for a really long time.
Kati: Yeah, we have. Back in our camp days.
Scott: Yeah, we camped, we were staffers at the Lair of the Bear, Cal Alumni Camp.
Kati: Yeah. Go, Bears!
Scott: Yeah. And now you are a very successful entrepreneur and I’m excited to have you. Can you just kind of talk about how you got going with iFlipd and like the inspiration?
Kati: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s kind of a funny story. I’ve always been pretty entrepreneurial and had a lot of great ideas. I joke with my husband that I won the invention convention when I was 11 years old in my own town. But I had my own photography business, I was a professional photographer and doing well and had two of our three children. And I was having coffee with a girlfriend and she was looking for a parenting book and had been recommended five different books, needed a chapter from each and said, “You know, they’re each $20, this is ridiculous. I don’t get it where I’m going to get them.” And I said, “Just go rent it somewhere.” She’s like, “You can’t.” So being how I am. I went home and searched high and low and no, there was no place to just rent an e-book of something. You can go to the library, but there’s a wait list and then everything else costs money. So that night I went to Redbox and was standing in front of Redbox and quite literally had like a light bulb moment of, “Oh, we should just do Redbox for books.” So, I started from there and did a lot of due diligence and tried to figure out the publishing world and all that and basically built a $2 a week rental for eBooks. We built it on iOS, grew it. And then you may have heard of a little company called Amazon that was around.
Scott: Yeah, they’re very powerful and have a lot of money.
Kati: Yeah. And they launched their unlimited program a couple of years after that. So luckily, we were nimble enough and kind of trying out a bunch of different things. And I got approached by an Edtech accelerator out of Utah called BoomStartup and they said that they loved what we were doing, but it really felt like the pain point was in textbooks and we should pivot to textbooks. So, I did just that and joined the accelerator, pivoted the whole model, put it on a web-based platform. And from there it just grew. We got approached by McGraw-Hill, who’s one of our main publishers and partners, and added physical books, because students didn’t just want eBooks, they actually really do like print books as well. And just started growing it and growing it. And then, over time, what I think really came out of it, and I think it’s interesting with anybody’s story, is that you kind of start with one idea and it, I don’t like to say pivot, but more evolves as it goes, that you really figure out what the product market fit is. And the biggest thing that everybody kept telling us was the weekly payment model for college students was really powerful. And so, they started asking for other products and we put our heads together as a team and tried to figure out what else would work, and video games was the next easiest thing for us to add. And it really solved the problem of the seasonality of textbooks that we had. And so, we added video games in April of 2019 and it has just skyrocketed. It’s been crazy. And then the bigger story out of all of it is that they want more things. They want clothes, they want hardware, they want all these different products. And so, that’s really where we’re headed as a FinTech play. So, we’re a financing alternative for college students to allow them to pay by the week for all those just regular college expenses, take out less student loans, don’t have to use credit cards and match their cash flow to their expenses.
Scott: It’s such a brilliant idea and I feel like it’s the kind of idea you only come up with when you’ve been working on something and like really live the pain points and are trying to figure it out over time. I mean, there’s so much to unpack there. So, let’s go the $2 per week payment idea is like really kind of the kernel of why you have so much momentum right now. But real fast, replay a little bit. So, you’ve thought of the subscription book service before Amazon did and then you thought of the college textbook rentals, I actually invest in a company in that space, and it’s a really amazing space, but also Amazon. And there are some other companies in that space. But like you’ve lived a couple of different models. Like was it scary, was it exciting? Like, how did you feel as you’re going through these pivots?
Kati: Well, it’s all scary and exciting. I think anytime, if you’re not willing to do a, if you’re not willing to be scared and excited, then you shouldn’t start a startup. And yes, all of it has been a challenge. All of it’s been fun. I’ve always gone into it with the mindset that I look at life as one of those things that you want to be a massive adventurer. And I’m just not the type of person that wants to, at the end of the day say, “This is what I did and I do the same thing for years.” And I’ve mad respect for that. It’s just not me. So, I need the kind of crazy adventure part of it and the rush. And so yeah, it’s all been really hard and there’ve been really low moments. I’m the first person to tell you like, startups aren’t easy. Anybody tells you it’s perfect. It isn’t all that kind of stuff. But there’s also been amazing wins along the way. And I always tell people right at the point that I always thought, “Oh gosh, okay, this is it. Or I shouldn’t keep doing this or all that kind of stuff.” Some door opens and I call it serendipitous, call it the universe, whatever you want. There’s just been so many times that it makes me truly believe we’re on the right path. So, but yeah, it’s, it’s been a winding road, I mean, from textbooks to video games. I never thought I wanted to be part of a video game company. I mean my kids play them, but.
Scott: Not you, ha! But the serendipity is so true. And like having that faith, we were talking before I turned the mics on and I was like, “Yeah, I had like nightmares last night for no reason.” Like no rational reason, but it was like all work stuff of like to dos or things like that. But that’s just kind of, you just kind of get used to it. Like that level of stress. But you go into work the next day and it’s really fun and you do a bunch of stuff and you help a bunch of people and it’s like, “Oh, this is amazing.” And then you go back to sleep and have a few more nightmares. I’m joking. Yeah.
Kati: No, I’m kidding. I will say it absolutely is that. For every bad day I have and I’m very lucky. I go home, I have three awesome boys who keep me kind of upbeat and from having those really low moments and a wonderful husband I should say.
Scott: He’s okay.
Kati: He’s very supportive and he makes this whole thing work because he’s a stay-at-home dad. So, I go home to them and it’s great. But there’s plenty of moments where I’m terrified like, “Oh gosh, how is this, you know, or have been, is this going to work?” And then I come into the office and I have an amazing team that all believes in exactly what we’re doing and it’s headed the same direction. And then even better I get on our customer service, I’m a huge believer in the customer service piece of all of it, and our students want immediate kind of gratification and answers and all that kind of stuff, and they’re up at like all hours of the night. So 1:00 AM also. But I get on and I hear somebody say like, “Oh my gosh, I couldn’t get my textbooks without you guys.” Or, “I just need a break from school and I wanted to play some video games but I don’t have all this extra cash on hand.” And that it’s like done. Okay. Like, I’m back, I’m pumped up again, I’m ready to work on it again. And so that’s what it’s all for.
Scott: That’s really beautiful. I like the 1:00 AM college kid customer support request too. Is there a ton of that?
Kati: There are quite a few. Luckily, I’m a night owl so it works well. And my team kind of has a running joke like that I will be … And we don’t, I mean we shut it down technically at like midnight. We’ll kind of say like, we have a message that says nobody’s there, but there have been times and no joke, I’m like crawling into bed and I get it on my phone and I can’t resist. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, this person needs help.” And so also, I answer them. But the problem is then it starts this bad habit like people coming on and thinking that I’m available all the time. But I’ve had people come into the customer service and be like, “Is this really Kati? This is really she.” And I’m like, “Yeah, it really is. I actually answer it, yeah.”
Scott: I love it. I love it. Let’s talk. Let’s talk about the payment stream and what that unlock. Was there a moment when like, can you remember the exact moment where someone wrote in and like, “This $2 a week thing really works for me?” Or like what was the moment that it really kicked off for you?
Kati: Well, there’s been a couple. First of all, textbooks are kind of a graduated scale, so they’re anywhere from $5 to $35 a week. And that’s mostly because textbooks cost a lot more than video games. And that has worked for a long time. So, the first kind of a-ha moment for us was that when students came in and said like, “I don’t have cash on hand, I have 20 bucks, but I need my textbook, because school’s starting.” And one thing people don’t realize a lot is that even if you’re getting money for school or books, a lot of times it doesn’t come until two, three, even a month after two, three weeks or a month after the semester has started.
Scott: This is like financial aid, right?
Kati: Yeah, exactly. Financial aid, grants, scholarships. And they do that because they don’t know if you’re going to drop a class. So, they’re not going to give you the money before they know for sure that you’re keeping the class.
Scott: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Kati: Yeah. And I didn’t actually, to be honest, know that either until it started and students are telling me that. Like, “I don’t get my checks for two weeks.” So, it was almost like we were just helping them get their books on the first day of class, but then they could pay it off later. And so once that kind of clicked and we realized that the weekly payment piece was really the magic kind of secret sauce, whatever you want to call it. That was like the first a-ha. And then the $2 a week for the video games was, I’ll never forget the weekend, it was April 26, 2019 whatever that weekend is right there. We put a $20 ad on Facebook. And I said to Brock, “When we hit a hundred orders,” thinking like it’ll be a week or two out. Like you know, “But when we hit a hundred orders, you’re stopping the ad and we are like pausing this whole thing. That’s all we can do.”
Scott: And look at the numbers and see if it’s a good spend and all that kind of stuff.
Kati: Exactly, like reevaluate, make sure that we can afford to do this. Because I was kind of doing it. I don’t know if you’ve heard the Zappos story, but it’s a great story, but basically, they just put a bunch of shoes online and then said, “If somebody orders, we’ll go to Nordstrom’s and pick them up and send them.” And we were basically doing the same thing. And we launched it with a $20 ad on a Thursday. I woke up Friday morning and we’d gotten a couple orders. By Friday afternoon we were at close to 50 and by Saturday morning I had to text Brock to shut it down.
Scott: 48 hours.
Kati: So, we’d [crosstalk] less than … Yeah, I mean, by the time it gets into the news feeds and all that, yeah, it was 48 hours, but basically from the time that like the first person ordered, it was less than 24 hours. So, then we knew we were on to something and since then it has just gone crazy. I mean people are posting like their own influencer ads for us and viral stuff. And it [crosstalk] spread.
Scott: Really? Oh, like affiliate influencer kind of thing or something? Or they just love it so much, they’re just promoting it?
Kati: No, no, no. They just go on their own. Somebody came in the other day said, “I have 38,000 Instagram followers. Can I make a video?” I’m like, “Sure. Go for it. Yeah.”
Scott: That’s awesome.
Kati: [crosstalk] I mean, “We’re not going to pay you but maybe we’ll send you a T-shirt. But they do it. They love it and people, our latest fun thing is that a lot of our customers are telling us that they’re leaving the other major gaming subscription platform that’s out there, and so we have a campaign kind of soon that’s going to be geared at, you know, why fly when you can flip?
Scott: I love it. I love it. I love it.
Kati: But it really comes down to more than like the games and books or all of that. It is the weekly payment piece is what has resonated and this idea of just not getting into long-term debt, not taking on more loans, not taking on credit cards. This generation doesn’t like credit cards and debt, so that’s what we’re focused on [crosstalk 00:12:20].
Scott: Isn’t it amazing that the student debt problem is so huge that they have to really kind of watch everything? When I was going to school, I had student debt, and my parents helped me quite a bit. So, shout out to them. But like I was a little bit more, I was a little more fluid. I could access money if I needed it through the student loan stuff. Now it feels like tuition is so expensive that everyone’s like tapped out. It’s kind of crazy.
Kati: Yeah. It’s at $1.6 trillion, which is really crazy. Now that includes everything. Government, private. I mean that’s everything. But that said, yeah. I mean, if you take out, let’s say $50,000 over your college time in loans, you’re looking at probably $100,000, which is decades for people to pay. And even if we can carve out like a small chunk of that, if you figure that if you got loans for all your daily expenses of college and you spend about $10,000 over your college on just that part of it. When that multiplies, that would be about 20,000 with interest, you know, over time. So, if we can even just take that portion out of it. I mean, you’re talking saving at least five to 10 years off your loan and so much money.
Scott: And do you save them money because they’re paying it back faster. So, it’s not like a, the interest isn’t compounding over years and years and years, but they’re doing that weekly payment quicker?
Kati: Yeah. Think of it like a friend lending you a hundred bucks and saying, “Hey, just pay me 10 bucks a week until it’s paid off.”
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kati: That’s basically what we’re doing. And so, you’re just not taking the can, you’re not saying like, “Oh yeah, I’ll pay it off in four years.” And at that point I got to figure out how to pay all of it off at once-
Scott: It’s compounded.
Kati: … It’s accrued and compounded. Exactly. And then one of the really cool things that we’re doing, I’m really excited about, we have a reward system in our platform. So, everything you do, if you’re in good standing, every payment you make, every profile information you give, everything has points value and you earn points as you go. And, then you can trade those points in for either iFlipd credit or for a gift card to any of our partners. And so, you can get Chipotle, just for using an iFlipd.
Scott: I love Chipotle.
Kati: Yeah. But one of the very cool things is we found a partner who is willing to actually use our rewards system to apply it to your tuition loan. So, you can take your iFlipd rewards that you had like, I don’t know, a thousand points, which would be $20 in credit on iFlipd. And you can apply that towards the principal of your tuition loan through their program. And it’s unbelievable if you do that, how much it actually reduces your long-term debt. [crosstalk] $20.
Scott: Yeah. Because you’re just making payments now. Like even small stuff. It really adds up. That’s really cool.
Kati: Yeah. Because then you don’t have interests. I mean honestly, it’ll take, even $20 a month will save you probably I think like three years and $6,000 or something like that. I mean don’t quote me on that, but it’s close to that.
Scott: And so, do you find the students are like doing this math and they just intuitively understand it because people are more financially savvy these days? Or is it-
Kati: Yeah. You know, I think it’s twofold. I mean sure, we get plenty of people that just want to play video games. I’m not going to lie. Like that’s just fun. It’s really fun to market and my team loves it, because textbooks are not very sexy to put on social media. Like, “Oh yeah, go get Biology 101.” But the new Mario Kart or Call of Duty. Yeah, that is fun. But really the bigger piece, yes, I think they’re doing the math. I mean, I’ll be totally honest, I don’t know the financial literacy piece of college is not necessarily where I think it should be. And that’s a big piece of our platform as well is as we evolve into this FinTech play, helping students learn what is credit? How does credit work? How do you have financings? Eventually, when I want to get a mortgage, when I’m going to have a car payment, how do all these things work? And so that’s one of the things we’re really trying to help with is to set students up for success long-term so that when the time comes, they’re done with college and they’re ready to take on that credit card, take on that mortgage, they know how to use it responsibly and not dig themselves into an even bigger hole.
Scott: I love that you guys are doing that because it makes such a huge difference and just not messing things up when you’re in college is so valuable. Like you and I have common friends who, in college, did crazy credit card debt or things like that.
Kati: That we will not name.
Scott: We’ll not name them on this, but they know who they are. But like it really messed them up for like the first five years of their adult life. It’s crazy.
Kati: Yeah. And I was really, you can call it spoiled or whatever. Well, I mean, I shouldn’t say spoiled. I worked my tail off. I’ve got a scholarship for volleyball when I went to college. So, I was naive to how much it all cost, and what it takes to do that. And I’m really, really humbled by the students that come in and share with us how much they’re putting out to do this. So, props to everybody going to college right now. My nephew is in college and he got a ton of scholarship luckily. But even so a lot of his expenses aren’t covered and it’s hard. It costs a lot more than it used to. And navigating all of it is, I feel like, way harder than it used to be. So, it takes a lot to stick with it.
Scott: Yeah. Well, one of the other things I like about what you’re doing is it feels like they can help improve their credit by using iFlipd. Like is that something, is that like a feature of the service?
Kati: Yes, through one of our partners, we are working to apply that. So right now, like we don’t report to the credit bureaus, we don’t do anything. And a huge point for me, and I’m very firm on this, is I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt a student. So, I don’t want to report anything bad, that kind of thing. We do have a couple partners that we are working with who are able to take your weekly payments as well as you’re able to connect to them and do your rent payment or your utilities or your gym membership or your cell phone bill. Anything that’s like a recurring model that’s not traditional type stuff you can hook into their system and they will report it to the credit bureaus and it’s what it’s called alternative credit. So, they’re using it as an alternative credit score. And these credit bureaus will basically report it with your regular credit when you go to get a bigger loan or any of that and show it side by side. So, it doesn’t overtake your regular credit score. But it kind of helps. It shows the full picture.
Scott: Supplements.
Kati: [crosstalk] a lot of people that just, especially when you’re in college, you don’t have credit cards, you don’t have a lot of these, you don’t have a history. So, it gives that history [inaudible] and kind of full story to it. For anybody that’s a lender.
Scott: I don’t think you’ve been operating long enough on this to maybe see this. But have you been able to look, do studies for like students who are a year out of college, and this actually helped them get a better credit card or better rent, like they got their first apartment because the landlord could see they had credit history through you guys?
Kati: Yeah, that part we don’t unfortunately have yet. I’m anticipating we will for sure. And I definitely have gotten feedback from students that have finished college and are very thankful. We have amazing reviews from customers and things that have, it’s been life changing for them. So that’s awesome. But no, I mean, we don’t yet have the point where like the actual credit piece of it has really been profound enough. But I think we will absolutely get there. For sure.
Scott: It’s really powerful. And then, you’re doing the video games right now, you’re doing the textbooks, but there’s got to be other things that students want to finance in this way. I’m sure you have some pretty grand plans down the road.
Kati: We do. We do.
Scott: Maybe you can’t share everything with us. You don’t want to spoil. We need to subscribe to your Twitter feed.
Kati: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it’s all coming and it’s really exciting. So, textbooks is kind of where it started. Obviously video games is where it’s growing, but we already have requests for computers. Like I said, clothes, food, I mean anything. One of the really big things is they just want cash. And so, we are working on a solution right now is kind of a card solution and I won’t reveal all the details, but basically you could borrow cash and walk into any store and get what you need. If I need dorm room stuff, if I need groceries, whatever, and then pay us back by the week for that. So that is a much bigger vision, is this all-encompassing solution that has both a marketplace where you can get actual physical items and more of a financing play with a card solution. And that’s the direction that we’re headed. It will not stay at just games or books. But yeah. [crosstalk 00:20:25].
Scott: I love it. How’d you have the idea for the points and applying that on things like student loans? Like is it essentially like a membership program and then that’s how they rack up points or how does it work?
Kati: Yeah, so we just launched actually our turbo membership and that, it’s a site-wide membership but a huge part of it was out of demand for, we limit right now for the games, two per household. And that’s mostly just because of inventory and that kind of thing. So, we had a lot of students asking to rent more than two games and to get exclusive access to things. And then as we launched these other products that will allow, our turbo members will be able to get kind of the first offers of those-
Scott: Very smart.
Kati: … For any of our beta products. And that just launched last week and we already have a massive wait list for it because we’ve dated it. So anyways, that’s $5 a month. But the rest of the platform like anybody can go on. And interestingly, you don’t actually have to be a student to use us. We do incentivize edus and all that. But you don’t, anybody can go on and rent a video game from us.
Scott: What if you’re a 42-year-old man who wants to buy the new AirPods? Can they?
Kati: You can’t get the AirPods yet. But you could get a game, yeah, you could get those kinds of things. So, there will be some of those things down the road. But yeah, anybody can go use it. And then, so there’s no subscription fee, there’s no membership, any of that. It pays as you go, everything is pay as you go. Other than this turbo membership that was just released. And then as far as kind of the rewards and points side of it, I’m a points person, and I kind of think you are, are you a points person?
Scott: I’m a total points person. I love it. Yeah.
Kati: Yeah. Okay. So, I’m a points junkie and a perfect example is like Qdoba, and I love Chipotle, but Qdoba had a better points program. [crosstalk 00:22:05].
Scott: Well, I don’t know. What’s Qdoba? Is that another burrito place?
Kati: Yeah, basically. It’s like a competitor to … Maybe they don’t have it down there. They don’t in California, or down at least in the Bay area. But up here they do. And they had a great points program and so I used to go to Qdoba instead. And now Chipotle has a points program. So, I’m kind of a big rewards type person and I like that stuff. So, I always knew I wanted to incentivize it somehow. Plus, this demographic, especially with video games and all that, really likes points. So, I actually studied gamification a little bit as I was getting the company started and really actually studied, funny enough, even though we weren’t going into games, game points systems. And so, one of the things that’s happened, not to totally get sidetracked, but it’s basically a lot of games used to be a subscription model where you paid like World of Warcraft and these things where you paid like a big membership and you join and you did it. Now if you notice a lot of the games are microtransaction within the actual game and you buy things as you go and you get rewarded and it’s like, you know. And so, this whole microtransaction, microfinance, micropayment model is really what stuck with me. And this idea of like more of the impulse purchase or the small amount of money that the whole point of iFlipd or any of that kind of model is when I look at my credit card statement or I see my bank statement. It’s not I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what is that $300 thing?” It’s like, “No it was $2 and I can do $2 a week.” [crosstalk] a cup of coffee.
Scott: Yeah. And you used it too. Like it wasn’t something you didn’t use. Yes.
Kati: Yeah. And pay as you go, because that’s the other frustrating thing. Like how many things have you bought or rented and you don’t use it and it’s just sitting there. And so, we really, that’s a big part of it is the paying as you go only for what you use.
Scott: It’s really powerful and it’s like a very affordable. I do love the idea that they’re kind of paying it down quickly so that way it ends up saving them money over like compound, just because compound interest is one of those things that people don’t intuitively understand that well, but this does save them quite a bit of money.
Kati: Yeah. And I think the goal of iFlipd is really, the weekly payments is super powerful. But it’s also that the intention is for it to be paid off. I mean no disrespect to any of the credit card companies and what they’re doing. Because, I’ve relied on them too, but that’s not their goal. They don’t want you to pay it off because they want to make the interest. And student loans, same thing. But for what we’re doing is, I mean you’re done. Like within 10 weeks you could be done paying for whatever it is you borrowed and you can literally walk away and there’s no debt, there’s no anything, you’re not stuck with us. So that’s a big part of it is I think that’s a lot of freedom for people to just know that they’re done and it has an end date and it’s very clear.
Scott: I totally agree with the intention to pay it off, because it is like a mindset flip, but when people enter into the transaction or using the service that way, it’s way healthier and that’s the way people should enter into debt if they’re going to enter debt.
Kati: And it’s creating good habits. Back to kind of we were talking about is that one of the hardest things I think that people don’t realize with credit cards or all those things is, it’s very easy to just say, “Oh, I’ll do it later. I’ll pay a little bit and I’ll do it later.” But with us, you’re committing to basically paying it off every week, and we’re not talking a lot, $2 or you know, maybe 10 or at most, you know, 20, 30. But breaking it up like that and knowing that like, “Okay, I’m just going to whittle away at it little by little and then at some point it stops.
Scott: And you’re done and then you can go get the newest, coolest video game again if you’re interested. Well. Hey, you’ve mentioned this a little bit early in the podcast, but you talked about being a mom of three and I notice Vanessa, my wife, she’s a mom of one plus me. I guess I’m like a half a baby.
Kati: I always tell people I have four boys, because you know, I mean, my husband too. But yeah.
Scott: But like I’ve noticed with Vanessa, she’s doing a ton of like mom, CEO and mom, founder networking, the women group she’s in are really fascinating and have like a lot of high-powered women. Have you been doing that stuff and are you finding kind of the same results?
Kati: Yeah, well, and there’s been a couple of things. Even back at BoomStartup, there was a couple of amazing women that I became very, very close with. One is to this day, one of my closest friends, and I talk to her all times, she’s a CEO out of Utah. And [inaudible] like support system. She’s the person that I call on my way to work when I’m like, “Oh gosh, how am I going to tackle this? And what about this? And what about?” [inaudible] my mind, and she just gets it and she’s a mom too. And so, all that stress and things. And then I also joined something called Founder Gym about, gosh, a year, about a year and a half ago I guess. And that was great too. And a whole network of minority founders is really what it’s focused on and it’s fantastic. And so, I recommend that too. I think the biggest thing I would say, whether you’re a mom or not, or female or minority, whatever it is, it’s really creating a network of CEOs and founders that you can be real with. Because I’m not going to lie. Being a CEO of a startup is hard and it can be really lonely. And I say, there’s actually, Amy Nelson of The Riveter just gave an interview recently and one of the things she said was, “Being a CEO of a startup is like walking into a room and locking the door and knowing you can never leave.” Which sounds kind of depressing, but the truth is everybody else can leave the room but you, everybody else can kind of walk away. And if you’ve raised money, and we have, we’ve raised, you know, a $3.5 million and I have a lot of people including my family that have put money in. So, there is that loneliness factor of like, this is on me and it can be overwhelming. And so, you just need to have that support network of people that also get what that pressure is like and can help you think through it and stuff. I won’t go too much into it, but I’m also a big believer in like the mental health aspect of all of it and making sure that there’s too many CEOs that are, sadly, that are taking their lives or doing whatever, because they’re just overwhelmed with all of it. So, I really built up that awesome support network and I think that’s important. And lastly, I’ll just say, as a mom, yes, you absolutely need that network as well. The mom part of it is … I mean, I raised a bunch of money pregnant and I know a lot of other people have and with newborns and all that, so it’s totally doable. You just need to find the right investors and the right community to support that.
Scott: Yeah, I think the mom part of it, it’s really hard. I mean like last night our baby, the first time she woke up I went in there, but then the second time at 4:00 in the morning was like, she was screaming for mom like she wanted mom. And like there is a little bit of that inherent in being a mom. And so, Vanessa went in there and calmed her down, you know, but like Vanessa, I’m sure did not sleep as well as I did last night, you know? And that’s just part of it. Also, the other part is like, Vanessa sometimes says like the struggle is real. Like there’s times where like I would read her email and someone the way people would like write to her versus writing to me was different. And that shocked me actually. I was totally naive. So, it is hard being a woman entrepreneur and having a baby and being responsible for a lot of stuff. I’m very sympathetic.
Kati: Yeah. No, I think you’re totally right. And I think there is, unfortunately, I think it’s getting better, but I think there’s still a stigma of when you go pitch somebody you would never ask, a man usually like, “Oh well you know, but wait, you have kids and how’s that all going to work and all that stuff.” But I know that they, usually don’t ask it, I know they think it when they hear that I have three kids, and I’m super, super lucky that I have a super awesome supportive husband that really truthfully is probably a better stay-at-home parent than I would be. So, I think another thing too, and this is just a culture thing in startups everybody’s different, but I’m a big believer in everybody has different things that make them tick. And for me, being able to go to my kid’s sporting events and seeing them and tucking them into bed at night and getting them off to school, my schedule doesn’t look like a normal CEO. Maybe I don’t come into the office at 8:00 AM and leave it 10:00 PM, but I’m working in all the cracks and crevices of my life and my phone is my, sadly one of my closest friends. So, I think there’s that part of it.
Scott: You’re totally right. And Vanessa loves taking Zahra to school, you know, and that’s a big, she runs her over to school and that’s like a huge part of her day. So yeah, it’s really
Kati: [crosstalk] every morning I kiss my kids goodbye. I mean, like that’s a huge, huge piece of it for me when I can’t do that, my day isn’t [crosstalk 00:30:06].
Scott: Yeah. Yeah. And you also talked about like the pressure of fundraising and having the money and making sure you spend it wisely and you’re totally right. It’s a big burden and also like it’s good sometimes because it makes you more resourceful and you’re not going to give up or things like that. But, it’s a real pressure. It’s not easy to do.
Kati: It isn’t. And I am one of those people, I’d love to say envy the people that don’t feel that pressure because there’s also something that’s kind of exhilarating about it, I think, and makes you actually be a better entrepreneur when you have to watch every dime and kind of, you can get very lazy or kind of complacent if you don’t have to do that. And we’ve made plenty of mistakes, oh my gosh, I mean to say … I would love to say we’ve never wasted money, but no, that just would be a flat out lie. But yes, and I take it very seriously, all of my investors, whether they’re friends, family, total strangers, any of it is you believed in me. And really that’s what an investor is doing, is believing in you as a person, and in your team and your vision. And so, I’m not going to give up on them and hopefully they don’t give up on me.
Scott: And it’s a journey. Like, I liked how you said you believe in like where life takes you and it’s not a grid or it’s a little bit of a winding road and I feel that same way. And I’m an entrepreneur too and it’s been, that’s actually one of the best parts. You just kind of, you learn to make it up as you go. And as long as you don’t panic, you’re in pretty good shape. As long as-
Kati: So, I won’t say I haven’t ever panicked. But yeah.
Scott: Yeah. I panic too. But like you also are an example of like how creative people can solve things and recognize an opportunity. Now all of a sudden you have like a killer financing application for college students. It’s like, it’s really amazing. It’s a long way from where you started, but it’s super exciting.
Kati: Yeah. And I think it’s also following it and not being so stuck in your original idea that you can’t see where it’s actually supposed to go, and where the real problem is and what you’re really trying to solve. Because it’s easy to do that to get like really, “I’m doing this and this is all we’re going to do.” So, you kind of got to be willing to adapt and be flexible and luckily, we’ve had a lot of success with that.
Scott: That is great advice. Kati, thank you for coming by. You did an amazing job. Can you tell everyone where they can see and find iFlipd and how they can sign up for the service?
Kati: Absolutely. It is iFlipd, I-F-L-I-P-D.com, and you can go on and you can just sign up. You can browse all you want without signing up and then just sign up and you just pay by the week. It’s super simple and we have so many exciting things coming, all sorts of products, all sorts of other solutions for students. So much content. It’s awesome. My team is amazing and they’re doing a great job. So definitely check us out if you need any help with alternative financing for your college journey.
Scott: Will do. Thank you for coming on Founders and Friends, shout to Rippling, our sponsor and check out iFlipd. It’s a really cool service. I love it, and I’m glad you came on the podcast.
Kati: Thank you so much for having me.
Scott: Bye Kati. Bye bye.
Kati: Bye.
Speaker 1: (singing). It’s Kruze Consulting’s Founders and Friends with your host Scotty Orn.

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