Why is it that only in times of marriage or childbirth are people given permission to curate a registry? Only in celebration, it seems, can individuals ask for what they need. But what about in times of loss, pain, and tragedy?
South Sound native Laura Malcolm and her husband, James Kocsis, recognized this gap after experiencing a tragedy of their own. When Laura was eight months pregnant, the couple’s first child’s heart inexplicably stopped beating.
The grieving parents were surrounded by people who wanted to help, but many of them didn’t know how. Questions from loved ones arose. How can I help? Should I send flowers? Are they up for visitors? Can I cook them a meal? Do they want to talk about it? What do they need?
“We started thinking, ‘Why isn’t this all together in one place where people can find what to send, what to say, what to do?’” Malcolm said.
She and her husband, who worked in tech startups for most of their careers, formulated the concept for a startup of their own — Give InKind, a platform designed to divert some of the work that’s created for both care-givers and recipients when life delivers an unexpected turn. A Give InKind page contains features such as a care calendar, a wish list, and the ability to link crowd-funding and other resources. For example, say your friend was recently diagnosed with cancer. During treatment, they may need transportation to doctor appointments, help walking their dog, and require meal assistance.
The beta version launched in 2016. Now, three years and two healthy children later, Malcolm is the founder and CEO of a virally growing, revenue-creating company, and a participant in the Female Founders Alliance’s second annual “Ready Set Raise” accelerator program in Seattle, designed to create access to venture capital for female-led companies.
Malcolm decided to apply for the development program after her company underwent a redesign in January and began to see a 25 percent growth each month.
“There’s a startup term known as the Goldilocks zone — you’re not so hot that you’re out there getting money thrown at you, but you are warm enough that raising makes sense,” Malcolm said. “The time was absolutely right. I needed to capitalize on our growth.”
The Gig Harbor resident applied to enter the Ready Set Raise accelerator program, and was one of eight (out of 400) applicants chosen to participate. Her membership can be traced back to when the organization first existed as a Facebook group of about 60 businesswomen from the Pacific Northwest. Today, the Social Purpose Corporation Facebook group counts hundreds of companies from more than 30 states in its professional network.
The goal of the accelerator program is to spur the next wave of investor capital toward female and non-binary-led businesses. Malcolm and her fellow participants are undergoing six weeks of intensive training on pitch coaching, financial modeling, brand messaging, storytelling, and more.
“They’ve created a program that is democratizing access,” Malcolm said. “Female founders raise just under 3 percent of venture capital, despite drawing something like 68 percent better returns on investment. So, there’s a huge discrepancy, and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is access.”
The program started Sept. 9 with an immersion week of workshops and gatherings, followed by four weeks of remote work — making it easy for individuals with families and responsibilities to participate — during which time participants meet via satellite to continue to refine their investor pitches.
Throughout, Malcolm and her peers have access to one-on-one time with high-caliber mentors and coaches. Rudy Gadre, an early employee of Facebook and former vice president at Amazon, will be Malcolm’s coach for the duration of the course. His experience with growing social platforms made him a perfect match for coaching Give InKind.
During the final week onsite in Seattle, Malcolm and the others have the opportunity to present their perfected pitches to more than 100 active investors recruited by the Female Founders Alliance, potentially securing capital for their startups. Ready Set Raise will culminate in a massive celebration of the founders in which they will perform their pitches for the public on Oct. 17 at the PACCAR Theater inside the Pacific Science Center in Seattle.
Malcolm hopes to follow this investment phase with another priced round in the spring, and continue to raise the community impact and scope of her business, while returning on investments.
“It’s really inspirational to be surrounded by people validating that you do have something huge, and it’s okay to stand up every once in a while and look at how big it is and where it could go,” Malcolm said. “People I talk to believe in Give InKind’s ability to change the world, but that’s a different question from, ‘How can it make an investor 10 times their investment?’ So that’s what we’ll work on conveying in the program. Because I believe we can do both.”