Ellen Huerta, for­mer Google an­a­lyst and CEO of Mend

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In 2016, I self-funded Mend, and was the sole de­vel­oper for a long time while I tested out dif­fer­ent ver­sions and be­gan to find trac­tion. That boot­strap­ping, lean start-up men­tal­ity took me far, but at a cer­tain point I needed to bring on a team around me, and I knew that would call for in­sti­tu­tional fund­ing.

Our first ma­jor mile­stone was clos­ing our US$1 mil­lion seed round – it was par­tic­u­larly spe­cial be­cause I closed the round along­side Jes­sica Alba, who was my men­tor on Planet of the Apps [Ap­ple’s first orig­i­nal se­ries, in which as­pir­ing app de­vel­op­ers pitch to a panel of celebri­ties].

Our big­gest ob­sta­cle is quite of­ten our­selves, and it was re­ally im­por­tant to get out of my head to raise our first US$1 mil­lion. I was a first-time founder with no con­nec­tions to deep pock­ets, and very lit­tle knowl­edge of the ven­ture cap­i­tal world, so I spent months sim­ply ed­u­cat­ing my­self on how it all worked through books, blogs and videos on YouTube to gain more con­fi­dence to have those con­ver­sa­tions.

I have al­ways stayed very closely con­nected to ‘Men­ders’ [our users], and their feed­back is cru­cial. It al­lowed us to build a prod­uct that peo­ple loved and were will­ing to pay for. That trac­tion im­pressed in­vestors and def­i­nitely helped us to close the round faster.

When I closed the fund­ing round, seven months af­ter launch­ing the beta ver­sion of Mend, I cel­e­brated, but I also felt like it was just the be­gin­ning.

Right now, we’re fo­cused on pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble sup­port to Men­ders who are heart­bro­ken. Our next fund­ing mile­stone is rais­ing our se­ries-A so that we can con­tinue to in­no­vate, make key hires and reach a broader au­di­ence.

It’s not about the path, it’s about the next step. If you’re feel­ing over­whelmed, break it down.

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