Melissa L. Bradley is a co-founder of venture-backed Ureeka, a community where small businesses gain unprecedented access to the expertise needed to grow their business. The Ureeka mission is to democratize economic opportunity by enabling community and reducing the cost and risk associated with growing a small to medium business (SMB). She is also founder and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth. In this role, she created a community of over 10,000 New Majority entrepreneurs in three years. Melissa also serves as an advisor to the New Voices Foundation and New Voices Fund and the Halcyon Fund. Melissa is the former Co-Chair, National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and was recently named one of The Most Entrepreneurial Women Investors in 2018.
Melissa is a professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, where she teaches impact investing, social entrepreneurship, P2P economies, and innovation. She recently received The Ideas Worth Teaching Award, which celebrates exceptional courses preparing future business leaders to tackle society’s largest challenges and create a more inclusive, just, and sustainable version of capitalism. She is also a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Sidecar Social Finance. This social impact agency provides impact investing advisory and capital services to individuals, institutions, and social enterprises.
Melissa currently serves as board chair for My Way to Credit (MWTC) and board member for AEO. She is a Founding Advisor to the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs and a Senator with the Board of Governors at Georgetown University.
Melissa’s educational background includes graduation from Georgetown University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from the School of Business and a Master’s degree in Business Administration in Marketing from American University in 1993.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Melissa says:
Be patient and seek help.
I am where I am today based on the culmination of my experiences – good, bad, and indifferent. I would not change a thing.
I think most early entrepreneurs do not spend enough time on customer discovery and waste money leveraging too many platforms and channels.
Read on to know more about Melissa L. Bradley and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background, and What motivated you to get started with your company?
Melissa L. Bradley: I did not grow up with a lot of resources but went to a private school with wealthy kids. I realized that the only difference between them and me was financial resources. My peers had accrued their capital through family generations; I did not have access to the same. This put me on a quest to find solutions that can help communities of color achieve economic security at the very least and wealth at best.
What is your current main product, and can you share any previous product pivot story to the current product?
Melissa L. Bradley: Ureeka is a platform for small businesses across the globe to help them access coaching and capital to scale their businesses and achieve wealth for themselves and their communities. Ureeka was created based on my work at 1863 Ventures, an accelerator to train entrepreneurs of color. I knew we needed to find a way to scale our training program due to high demand and need.
How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Melissa L. Bradley: Earlier this year, Ureeka closed $8M+ in venture funding.
How have you attracted users, and with what strategy have you grown your company from the start to now?
Melissa L. Bradley: We started by leveraging partnerships with other organizations that were serving entrepreneurs – from accelerators, universities, policy organizations, etc. Now the majority driver of users is other members on the platform.
Which has been the best marketing software tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Melissa L. Bradley: We use Facebook, IG, Twitter, and the like. We have a fantastic team that creates newsletter content and partner messaging.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Melissa L. Bradley: I think most early entrepreneurs do not spend enough time on customer discovery and waste money leveraging too many platforms and channels.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fund-raising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Melissa L. Bradley: We knew early on we would need venture money. However, we knew we needed to validate our ideas first, so we tested the idea, completed customer and market research, and lined up partners. This took about a year. Once we had the data and validation needed, then we talked to less than 10 investors. Our contact with investors was through personal relationships and introductions.
What are the biggest challenges and obstacles that you have faced in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Melissa L. Bradley: The challenges were minimal. The investors were open to the idea and understood the market need. They also knew of the past performance of the founder, which helped a lot.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Melissa L. Bradley: Our goals are to continue to refine the platform, launch our app, and continue customer acquisition.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Melissa L. Bradley: We have already gone global – ahead of schedule. Due to partnerships with large companies who wanted to support small businesses during COVID-19, we were fortunate to reach a global audience by providing coaching and deploying capital across the globe.
What are the most common mistakes companies make with global expansion?
Melissa L. Bradley: Common mistakes are cultural incompetency, lack of market research and understanding, and underinvestment in the market.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your company’s survival in the future?
Melissa L. Bradley: Luckily we have not been impacted. We were already a virtual company with a distributive team across the country and running programs virtually.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company?
Melissa L. Bradley: The common mistakes usually made are not doing enough research on the customers, underestimation of financial needs, and limited long term plans.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Melissa L. Bradley: Be patient and seek help.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
Melissa L. Bradley: The work of W.E.B DuBois (books) and Meet Joe Black (movie)
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Melissa L. Bradley: The entrepreneurs motivate me every day, along with my family.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently to improve your life if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Melissa L. Bradley: I am where I am today based on the culmination of my experiences – good, bad, and indifferent. I would not change a thing.
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