20VC Why VCs Are Wrong About Bootstrapped Founders, How Content Can Be Used As A Key Customer Acquisition Tool & How To Use Humour When S Hits The Fan with Jesse Genet, Founder & CEO @ Lumi

Summary Notes


In this episode of 20 Minutes VC, host Harry Stebbings interviews Jesse Genet, the energetic founder and CEO of Lumi, a company revolutionizing the packaging supply chain for e-commerce businesses. Jesse shares her journey from bootstrapping her first company, Inkodye, to scaling Lumi with nearly $10 million in VC funding from top-tier investors like Homebrew and Forerunner. Despite initial skepticism from VCs about the "non-sexy" nature of packaging, Jesse's passion for the industry and vision for democratizing access to high-quality manufacturing shines through. She discusses the importance of content creation for brand building, the challenges of being a female CEO in Silicon Valley, and how her bootstrap mentality shapes Lumi's growth and unit economics. Jesse also emphasizes the need for diversity in VC and how her unique approach to leadership and company culture contributes to Lumi's success.

Summary Notes

Introduction to the 20 Minute VC Podcast

  • Harry Stebbings hosts the 20 Minute VC podcast.
  • The podcast features behind-the-scenes content, primarily gym and studio sessions, shared on Instagram.
  • Harry welcomes Jesse Genet, founder and CEO of Lumi, to the show.

You are listening to the 20 minutes VC with your host Harry Stebings, and I would love to see you on Instagram at H Stebings 90 96 with two b's where you can see all things behind the scenes here at the 20 minutes VC, which currently is mostly gym sessions and studio sessions.

This quote introduces the host Harry Stebbings and his Instagram account where he shares personal content related to the podcast.

Jesse Genet and Lumi

  • Jesse Genet is the founder and CEO of Lumi.
  • Lumi provides ecommerce companies with world-class packaging at unbeatable prices.
  • Jesse has raised close to $10 million in venture capital funding.
  • Investors include Homebrew, Forerunner, Spark Capital, Lowercase, and Ludlow.
  • Jesse previously founded and scaled a bootstrap business called Inkodye.

I'm thrilled to welcome Jesse Jennad, founder and CEO at Lumi, the startup that is used by thousands of ecommerce companies to get world class packaging at unbeatable prices.

The quote introduces Jesse Genet and her company Lumi, highlighting its success and influence in the ecommerce packaging industry.

The Role of Movidium and Wonder Capital

  • Movidium is a platform for brands and agencies to connect with creative talent.
  • Wonder Capital allows investment in large-scale solar energy projects.
  • Both platforms offer innovative solutions in their respective industries.

The movidium platform addresses that directly. It's now simple for brands and agencies to connect with the very best creatives for their projects... Wonder Capital, where impact investing meets capitalism.

This quote explains the services provided by Movidium and Wonder Capital, emphasizing their impact on creative project collaboration and renewable energy investment.

Jesse Genet's Entrepreneurial Journey

  • Jesse Genet started her first company at 16 and has never had a traditional job.
  • She has 14 years of entrepreneurial experience.
  • Jesse launched her first product on Kickstarter with her co-founder Stefan.
  • Her first business taught her about the challenges of physical aspects of e-commerce, leading to the founding of Lumi.

I actually started my first company when I was 16. I've never had a job. I'm 30 now, so that puts me 14 years into my entrepreneurial adventure in some ways.

The quote reflects on Jesse's long history as an entrepreneur and her early start in the business world.

Bootstrapping vs. Venture Capital

  • Jesse bootstrapped her first company to seven figures in revenue.
  • She acknowledges the venture capital community's mixed feelings about bootstrapping.
  • Despite her success, some may consider her a first-time founder with Lumi due to her lack of prior VC-backed ventures.

I think that the VC community kind of understandably has a love hate relationship with bootstrapping... They feel their industry is very necessary, and in fact, it is for most and many business models.

The quote discusses the venture capital community's perspective on bootstrapping and its importance in the industry.

Employability of Entrepreneurs

  • Jesse questions her own employability, having never worked a traditional job.
  • She speculates on whether she would have pursued entrepreneurship if she had experienced a different work-life balance.

I have never had to find out if I am employable, and maybe that's by design, but it's actually, to me, I don't know.

This quote captures Jesse's reflection on her career path and the choices that kept her from traditional employment.

Impact of Bootstrapping on Running Lumi

  • Jesse's bootstrapping experience influences her focus on unit economics and business fundamentals at Lumi.
  • She is aware of the need for a venture-backed business to grow significantly and be impactful.

I think that there's a concern about a bootstrapped entrepreneur, about whether they think too small, they're going to be too overly concerned with profitability and things of that nature.

The quote addresses the potential concerns the VC community may have about entrepreneurs who have previously bootstrapped businesses and how this experience might affect their approach to running a VC-backed company like Lumi.## Bootstrapped Business Fundamentals

  • Understanding the financial fundamentals is critical for bootstrapped companies to survive.
  • Bootstrapped founders are forced to scrutinize every transaction to ensure profitability.
  • The necessity to be profitable or at least sustainable is more immediate due to lack of external funding.

"Because you dig into the fundamentals on a bootstrap company very, very early because you have to. Because you have to survive."

This quote emphasizes the importance of financial diligence for bootstrapped companies, as their survival depends on a clear understanding of their financial health and sustainability.

Sustainable Growth Mindset

  • Advocates for sustainable growth prioritize profitability and maintain a path to financial independence.
  • VC reliance should be minimized, with profitability envisioned within a foreseeable timeframe.
  • The approach to growth is situational, depending on the business model and industry.

"I think that there is some hubris as well in trying to shove any business into a certain direction, but it is all about the founder having a true, true understanding of how much money it will take to get them from point a to point b and being able to communicate that."

The quote suggests that while sustainable growth is ideal, it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. Founders must have a deep understanding of their financial needs and clearly communicate them, especially in businesses where significant upfront investment is required.

Transitioning from Bootstrapped to VC-Backed

  • Transitioning from bootstrapped to VC-backed involves a mindset shift regarding spending and time management.
  • A bootstrapped background can influence decision-making, sometimes leading to missed opportunities in a VC context.
  • VC-backed founders may need to adapt to new strategies, such as using recruiters to expedite hiring processes.

"The concept that if you get that hire in two months instead of eight months, you've fundamentally shifted your roadmap forward, that is a type of thinking that is not very common in bootstrap company."

This quote highlights the strategic shift in thinking required when transitioning from bootstrapped to VC-backed companies, where spending money can be a tool for accelerating growth rather than something to be minimized.

Content Creation Strategy

  • Content is a powerful tool for most businesses, regardless of their industry or business model.
  • B2B businesses and those in niche industries can also benefit from content creation.
  • The effectiveness of content strategy is not limited to consumer-facing or visually oriented products.

"We live in a world that is, yes, saturated by content, but also it's how most of us relate to a lot of the brands that we're using."

The quote underscores the importance of content in today's business environment, where it plays a significant role in how consumers engage with and perceive brands.

Core Pillars of Successful Content

  • Enjoyment and passion in content creation can be a driving force behind its success.
  • Integrating personal interests and skills into the business can enhance content quality and engagement.

"Finding ways to smash into our little entity, things that we truly enjoy doing, is kind of a secret power of our content strategy."

This quote reveals that personal enjoyment and passion are integral to creating content that resonates with audiences, suggesting that content should not be seen as a separate task but as an extension of the founders' interests.

Common Mistakes in Content Strategy

  • Guessing what the audience wants and outsourcing creativity can lead to inauthentic and ineffective content.
  • Brand building cannot be outsourced; it requires the brand's own creative input and soul.
  • Authenticity in content creation is more valuable and cost-effective than hiring external agencies.

"You can hire out video production, but you can't hire out brand building."

This quote highlights the distinction between technical production and the creative essence of brand building, emphasizing that the latter cannot be effectively purchased but must come from within the company.

Content Strategy and Conversion

  • Patience and a realistic timeline are essential for content strategies to yield conversions.
  • Content strategies can show returns within months if executed effectively.

"By early summer, like June, we could point to specific customers who discovered us via that content, had onboarded and were buying from us."

The quote provides evidence of the potential for a well-executed content strategy to drive customer acquisition and sales within a relatively short timeframe.## Content Marketing ROI

  • Lumi leveraged content marketing effectively, where even a single customer acquisition covered the initial investment.
  • Direct ROI can be traced through customer relationship management (CRM) systems, linking customer acquisition to content marketing efforts.
  • The greater value in content marketing for Lumi comes from establishing a dominant voice in an industry lacking clear leadership.
  • Being a smaller company, Lumi sees the opportunity to become the authoritative voice amidst larger competitors.

"So essentially it paid for itself the first time we got a customer from it."

This quote highlights the immediate financial return on investment that Lumi experienced from their content marketing efforts.

"The larger element is that when you're entering a space that doesn't have a crystal clear voice... to actually be the louder, more authoritative voice is fascinating."

Jesse Genet explains the strategic importance of content marketing, beyond direct ROI, in positioning Lumi as a leading voice in the packaging industry.

Fundraising Challenges and Strategies

  • Jesse Genet faced unique challenges when raising funds for Lumi due to both her stature as a 5ft tall female CEO and the perceived mundane nature of the packaging industry.
  • Engaging venture capitalists, who are accustomed to high-tech pitches, required clarity and passion to filter out uninterested parties.
  • Signs of disinterest during fundraising were evident, such as lack of engagement or misunderstanding the core business as something more high-tech than packaging.
  • Despite these challenges, the passion for the project was always well communicated, which is critical for gaining investor trust.

"There's raising money for packing tape in boxes in Silicon Valley."

Jesse Genet acknowledges the unconventional nature of Lumi's product in the tech-centric venture capital environment.

"I could tell if I was boring someone to death... this person sitting across a table from me will never be sitting around a boardroom table fascinated about these challenges."

Jesse Genet interprets disinterest as a clear indicator that a potential investor is not a good fit for the company.

"They at least walk out going, but they definitely care a lot about it."

Despite the potential mismatch in interests, the passion of the Lumi team is conveyed effectively to investors, which is a key aspect of their fundraising strategy.

Hiring Philosophy and Team Dynamics

  • Lumi's modest team size of 30 employees is strategic and contrasts with the large teams of their competitors.
  • The company focuses on attracting top talent from diverse backgrounds who wouldn't typically consider working in the packaging industry.
  • This selective hiring results in a team that is unique and possesses forward-thinking skills that competitors may lack.
  • Lumi's approach to hiring is seen as an advantage despite the smaller team size.

"Every single person at Lumi... would not have guessed they would end up working in a packaging company."

Jesse Genet discusses the unexpected career paths of Lumi's employees, emphasizing the diversity and quality of the team.

"The 30 people I have are 30 incredible future thinking people that my competitors do not have and might not have had access to."

Jesse Genet values the unique skill set and perspective of Lumi's employees, which she believes gives the company a competitive edge.

Leadership and Managing Expectations

  • Jesse Genet's personal energy and dedication set a high bar for performance at Lumi.
  • As a CEO, she aims to inspire and empower employees without creating unrealistic expectations based on her personal work ethic.
  • It's important for her leadership style to motivate and increase commitment to Lumi's mission without making employees feel inadequate.

"It's more that I want them to feel more bought into Lumi and our mission because they can look at me and go, wow, the person at the helm is so invested."

Jesse Genet's goal is to lead by example, inspiring employees through her commitment without making them feel pressured to match her intensity.## Cultivating Inspirational Energy

  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of maintaining an inspirational atmosphere rather than a demoralizing one.
  • Cultivating a positive energy is crucial in how you treat people and approach challenges.

"I hope that it is always, that it is always framed as inspirational and not framed as demoralizing in any way, shape or form."

The quote reflects the speaker's desire for their efforts and attitude to be seen as motivating and uplifting, rather than discouraging.

Favorite Book and Its Impact

  • "Gone with the Wind" is the speaker's favorite book, read multiple times due to its calming effect and intense character study.
  • The book's theme of change and the transient nature of life resonates with the speaker, drawing parallels to the startup industry where change is constant.
  • The title's origin from a poem adds a chilling effect, emphasizing the impermanence of ways of life and being.

"Gone with the wind... a change can occur and a whole way of life, whole way of being can just be gone with the wind."

The quote illustrates the speaker's fascination with the book's theme of change and how it metaphorically applies to the volatility in startups and life in general.

Desired Change in Silicon Valley and VC

  • The speaker wishes for increased diversity in Silicon Valley and VC, particularly at the general partnership level.
  • The lack of diversity is noticeable and affects the types of companies that get built, emphasizing the need for a broader set of perspectives.

"I would love to see there be more women involved, more diversity in general... It's not just seeing it, it's feeling it."

The quote expresses the speaker's desire for more inclusive representation in the venture capital industry, which would lead to a richer variety of companies and products.

Motto for Inspiration and Innovation

  • The speaker reveres the quote, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it," which is displayed in their office.
  • The ambiguity of the quote's attribution is seen as a reflection of humanity's collective wisdom.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

This quote serves as a daily reminder for the speaker to actively shape the future rather than passively predict it.

Handling Crisis Moments

  • The speaker deals with crises with grace, utilizing humor and physical comedy to lighten the mood and maintain morale.
  • Experience has taught the speaker the importance of not reacting rashly but instead consulting with others and approaching situations with a level head.

"Hopefully with grace... The worst thing to do is to react and have your reaction be the wrong one or the rash one."

The quote captures the speaker's approach to managing crises with composure and a sense of humor, which helps to reassure and calm their team.

Future of Lumi

  • Lumi aims to democratize access to the world's best manufacturing for entrepreneurs, making the packaging supply chain easier to manage.
  • The speaker envisions a future where great products can succeed due to easier access to manufacturing, drawing a parallel to how Shopify simplified launching online businesses.
  • The goal is to create a more competitive marketplace where product quality leads to success.

"We're continuing to democratize access to the world's best manufacturing... It becomes easier for fantastic products to get out there."

The quote outlines the speaker's vision for Lumi's impact on the manufacturing industry, aiming to level the playing field for new and established entrepreneurs alike.

Conclusion and Gratitude

  • The speaker expresses enjoyment of the conversation and gratitude for the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences.
  • A mutual appreciation for the discussion is evident, with a focus on the positive energy brought to the conversation.

"Well, Jesse, if you haven't guessed, I've so enjoyed this episode. So thank you so much for joining me today."

The quote concludes the conversation on a high note, with the host expressing enjoyment and appreciation for the guest's participation.

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