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The Why Behind Our Businesses
with Vintro’s Noor Sugrue
Noor Sugrue, Founder of Vintro, combines her studies at The University of Chicago, studying Economics and Art History, with her role in leading her first business venture.
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, she was always encouraged to go the extra mile and achieve success in whatever she was doing. It is an ethos that has remained with her throughout her education and, more recently, in the creation of Vintro.
In 2018, while Noor was still at school, she came up with the original concept for Vintro after watching Shark Tank on TV and realizing how much it takes to get a business idea in front of the right people. Noor recognized that even the best business ideas need support to grow, and too many entrepreneurs and creators don’t know the right person or can’t get the right advice. Vintro changes that.
This democratization of access to the influential spurred her to her mission, to let no idea get left behind, and the creation of Vintro for Volunteers within the core Vintro offering. This allows those without the financial resources to access Vintro leaders by using charitable service hours to purchase decision-makers.
There is a way to do business and to do good. In today’s world, it is a must that businesses are built with soul and purpose and with a mission.
For more information about Vintro go to https://beta.myvintro.com/
Read the Interview
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, this is Hugh Ballou. Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. We’re in our seventh year of interviewing lots of people, some from the business community, some from coaching, and many from inside nonprofits, telling their story of how they had a vision and made it happen.
Today, we have a fascinating story. I somehow found this online tool called Vintro. I logged in, and people were contacting me asking how they could help me. I was then introduced to the founder who had a great idea. Noor Sugrue is my guest today. Noor, tell people about who you are and some background on yourself. Then we’ll talk about the platform.
Noor Sugrue: First of all, thank you so much for having me, Hugh. I really appreciate the time you took to talk to me and let me share my story and journey. My name is Noor Sugrue. I am a current second-year at the University of Chicago, so I am 19. I founded Vintro back in January of 2018. It was born out of thinking about the question: How do people with good ideas get access to resources? That is a question that has plagued me ever since and set me down a path of building my own business. I have been doing this for just over three years now. It’s really my baby.
Hugh: Noor, out of every 100 people who have an idea, in my experience, only three of them actually do something about it. Maybe fewer than one of those three actually succeed in making it happen. What was the missing piece that you wanted to put together for people like me?
Noor: I think that for someone who was that young starting a business, a lot of credit has to go to my parents for encouraging me, saying that not only do you have a great idea, but it is something you could execute. Starting something all by yourself is incredibly challenging to do simply because there is no right or wrong way for how to get started or how to do it. Back when I was getting started, it was very simple things. How do you incorporate a business? It’s not something people talk about.
What keeps me going and gets me up in the morning is how do we make people more accessible than they currently are today? What I mentioned earlier, that Vintro was born out of the question about how people with good ideas get access to resources, that led me down a rabbit hole of trying to think about the way the world works today. It’s not about who you know. Some people went to the right school. You have a great social network. You happened to be in the right place at the right time. That’s great, but it’s 100% luck with no logic behind it.
We started reaching out to leaders and decision-makers and asked them some basic questions, “Why is it you don’t read your email or answer cold calls or listen to pitches from people you don’t know?” While it may seem obvious, the answer we kept getting back over and over again is, “I am afraid of having my time wasted.” We all only have 24 hours in a day. Leaders have a very high demand for their time, but it’s a limited commodity like anything else. The way we can change this and incentivize leaders to engage with strangers was to pay them. This was important for two reasons. The leader’s time is being valued. But the more important idea of the marketplace around time is from an entrepreneur, a business, a nonprofit’s perspective, who spends an incredible amount of resources trying to get access to those opportunities and the attention of these people.
I am based in Chicago. A round trip Uber downtown would cost me somewhere around $50. If I am trying to go to a conference and hoping someone will take my business card and pay attention to me, that could be thousands of dollars. It’s about trying to make leaders accessible, not just available. For us, it’s all about trying to level the playing field and open the doors to countless opportunities to people who have otherwise been excluded. That’s what gets me up in the morning.
Hugh: I feel your passion when you’re talking about it. I have been to Chicago many times. It’s a little harder getting around than in my city of 80,000 where I live. If we get five cars at a traffic light, we call that traffic. It’s a very different place, but it’s a very good place to be with lots of resources. It doesn’t mean that you’re able to connect with those people.
You had this idea. This is a big play with technology. That is a big area. You created the software to make it work. How did you take your idea and make it manifest itself in this high-tech way? Are you a programmer? How did you make that happen?
Noor: I have to give credit where credit is due. We have an incredible team. It is definitely not just me anymore. I am not a coder myself, so I don’t have those technical skills to execute this all on my own. Huge shoutout to my entire team who is just incredible at doing the coding of it. My skillset lies more in the ideating and getting the ideas off the ground, not the building out of it.
Hugh: The ideation piece of it is being very clear on what you’re doing, why it’s important, and what it looks like. You were able to do that because it’s a stunning platform. I have joined and looked around. I know enough to be confused right now. I see the people in there. It’s impressive. The kinds of leaders on there, these are people you would see on a Shark Tank show or see in the news, people who have impacted people’s lives. This is one of the things we all suffer with as nonprofit leaders. We create these myths in our minds: “They won’t be interested; I don’t want to bother them.” “They won’t understand.” We talk ourselves out of trying to approach somebody. How did you make that connection? You didn’t have Vintro to do it.
Noor: That’s so funny that you mention that. We often say that a lot within the team internally. We wish we had a Vintro when we were building Vintro. It’s difficult. When you get started, it’s a lot about trying to convince one person to say yes. Don’t psych yourself out. You only need one person to say, “I love what you’re doing. I get your mission, your vision, your passion. I have a friend you should talk to.” What really motivates leaders to be on the platform is they want to be intellectually stimulated, they want to be engaged, they want to hear about new projects and new opportunities and new ways they can give back, but there is no way for them to do that currently that protects their privacy and their time. What we do is we are a happy medium. When I was reaching out to leaders, the worst thing they are going to tell you is no. Why not? Why not cold call or cold email people?
To give people a sense of who is on the platform, for example, Barbara Corcoran from Shark Tank or Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs. People like Brian Grazer, the Oscar-winning producer. We really have put significant efforts into curating not only a deep network but a broad network in lots of industries and fields.
Particularly for our audience today in the nonprofit space, if they are trying to gain access to these people, one thing to keep in mind is how important the mission is and how important the why is. Keeping that at the forefront of everyone’s mind is motivating, especially in that space. Leaders really want to give back. Making it easy for them to do that, making the process to sign up super easy so they just have to click Yes is really important. Trying to make sure that what we’re doing fits what they’re looking for and their needs.
Hugh: Wow. That’s a lot of good stuff. I’m surprised at how many leaders, even leaders in a successful enterprise of any kind, cannot articulate what you are talking about, the why, their vision and mission, in a very specific way.
Let’s back up a minute. You say you’re 19. You started this three years ago; this means you were 16. I started as a conductor when I was 18. I thought I was pushing the envelope. You put me to shame, which doesn’t take a lot. You are really out there and able to clearly identify your vision so that other people can help. I have had the pleasure of working with one of your team members, Claire, who is so helpful. How did you get the skill of being able to understand those dynamics that are so important for leaders to create?
Noor: Talk to people. Ask them questions. I can say from my experience as a young person in the room with adults, sometimes you have questions you don’t want to ask because you think it’s obvious or there is something you’re missing or someone else would have thought of that. Why would someone ignore this obvious answer? For me, internalizing that it might not be obvious and asking those questions anyway because it gives you a better understanding of the bigger picture to try to think about the world differently. That is the biggest piece of advice I have learned: talk to everyone.
Even if you don’t think they are in your field or your sector or have any interest in what you’re doing, people love to give their opinions on things. That is something I learned quickly. That is always valuable. Hearing from lots of different people with lots of different backgrounds and perspectives really helped give me a sense of it’s okay if you don’t know everything. Talking about people like Claire, we have such an amazing team. Surrounding yourself with people who do see the world differently than you and having that other perspective is valuable. The biggest thing for me is ask questions even if they seem completely obvious.
Hugh: Even if they seem obvious. That is really good advice. It might be clear to us, talking about my little brain, but have we checked it out? Should we ask it anyway? I’ve heard this many times. It’s trite because it’s true. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.
I want to spring one on you here. Pretend I am a high-level influencer. You wanted to talk to me about being one of those people on Vintro people would make a pitch to. How would you approach me and encourage me to join the platform?
Noor: I would talk about the journey. First, I would recognize the problem, lay it out and talk about why it’s so important. I would talk about the countless people all over the globe today who have amazing ideas. I would talk about the millions of great ideas that are going to die just because the founder was born in a small village in Ethiopia or Colombia. I would talk about how it’s so important to support those great ideas. Now, more than ever, we realize the countless problems that are out there to solve. How many of those problems already have solutions that will never see the light of day? That’s what it’s about. It’s about trying to find and support those people. It’s about the power of one person that is going to change your life and the trajectory of your life for the better forever.
We can all think back to someone in our lives, no matter who you are, who has been a mentor to you or given you a great piece of advice. We can all think about that moment that really set us on a different path. That is a common experience that everyone can relate to. It doesn’t matter who I’m talking to. That is an important path of highlighting what we do.
For our leaders today, there is no downside of them joining. We pay them to review pitches. Most of them are donating all the money to charity. It’s not about the money for them. It’s a filter mechanism where they can be intellectually stimulated, get engaged with things, hear new ideas with zero risk. They absolutely love it. They state the various charities they are donating to on their profiles.
We also have a program called Vintro for Volunteers, which is for people who don’t necessarily have the finances to pay for Vintro right now. We have a group of leaders who have agreed to review pitches free of charge if an entrepreneur is willing to complete a number of charitable service hours. We have done a lot of thinking around how we can make the platform as accessible as possible. Keeping that frame of mind has motivated our leaders.
Hugh: That is awesome. You have created a way for people to help others. You have created equal access for people who are trying to get started with no spendable cash. There is some similarity in SynerVision Leadership. We have created a lot of resources for those people in the social benefit sector doing good in the world without a development budget or planning budget or leadership coaching budget. We provide this online community for leaders to have access. I am resonating with what your passion is.
You have some pretty astounding leaders on your platform. You and Claire have suggested some for me to talk to. I am not looking for capital investment. I am looking for a philanthropist who wants their dollars to go to many organizations. I am an empowerment tool for them to donate to lots of nonprofits who don’t have that resource. It’s a very different kind of pitch. How many of those influencers do you have for people like me to make a pitch to?
Noor: We have over 700 today. I know, it’s grown a lot.
Hugh: You’ve been busy. Whoa. 700.
Noor: We’re about to hit 800 in a few days, which is incredible.
Hugh: My word. One by one, you invited those people?
Noor: It is a process. I could not have done it without the team. It wasn’t me singlehandedly conquering all of those phone calls and getting all of those yeses. It was a big endeavor. In the three years, I spent the majority of that time curating the network, doing the outreach. Now I am spending time on the phone with our customers, listening to their stories and finding out what their needs are and trying to make sure that the two pieces of the equation are aligned and fit together.
The process has gotten easier. The hardest thing you can do is get started. After that, every single phone call gets easier and easier. Your messaging has gotten easier and easier. You don’t even have to think about it at a certain point; it’s like you’re on autopilot talking about your business. That is the point you want to get to. You are comfortable talking to people about it. That’s why I advise to talk to everyone. Even if it’s not fruitful, if it won’t lead to a direct benefit in whatever you’re working on, it makes you that much more comfortable when you are in the moment and talking to a big leader. You’re in your own zone and your own flow, and you feel like you’ve got this. You’ve done it 100 times, so one more time, it’s a piece of cake.
Hugh: It’s rehearsal.
Noor: Absolutely. Practice makes perfect.
Hugh: You get perfect as you keep doing it. We’ll never get perfect, but we get much better. That’s astounding.
I am going to talk about you and your ideas and how you developed this into this enterprise that you have. I am going to use the word “enterprise” because there is a for-profit business and a for-purpose, tax-exempt business. We’re all in an enterprise that needs to create revenue. In business, it’s a bottom-line profit. In the nonprofit work, it’s the proceeds that fuel, it’s the gas that runs the car. We must learn to treat it seriously and create a business model that works.
Your wisdom is far ahead of your years. Talk about how you curate the process. I have looked at some samples. You and Claire have talked to me about how to make a pitch. I am working on my language about how to present with one of my advisors. I hear this over and over: “I can’t say this in a few minutes. I have to explain everything about it.” I equate it to when I went to a musical with a friend in London. We came out of the theater, and I said to my friend, “How did you like it?” He said, “It was okay. I had a problem with the ending.” I said, “What was the problem?” He said, “It was too far from the beginning.”
We get so wound up in telling people they forget what we are talking about in the process. We are so passionate, and we want to tell everybody everything. Learning how to compress what it is without losing the essence of it. We don’t need to tell them everything. If they are interested, they will go to the next step. Curating the process. There are 700 people I get to present to. I pay for each one. It starts at $25 and goes into the thousands. There are many steps in between. If I am going to present in two minutes, how do I do this?
Noor: You’re correct. The price starts at $25. The majority of the platform is under $200. There is incredible value to be found there. It really works as follows. Someone comes to the platform. They can filter and find people who are interested in their space, their field, who have expressed interest in water sanitation for example. I was talking to a buyer this morning in water sanitation, so that’s on my mind. They pick the leaders they want to pitch to and add them to the cart. They make a two-minute pitch video. It’s who you are, what your background is, what you’re working on, where you are today, and where you want to take it. Intertwine in there the mission in terms of your journey and why it’s so important to you.
Very few people care more about what you do than you do. When you think someone is super interested, keeping it short and sweet, hitting the highlights. The biggest thing I tell people who are a bit nervous is: “Relax. Speak slowly. You’re always speaking quicker than you think you are.” It’s about telling a story. People buy into other people’s journeys and the humanity of it all. When people come to the platform and make animated videos, those work less well. Simple videos shot on your phone, two minutes. Talk about your journey. It’s a story. People see the humanity in other people. That’s what intrigues them and interests them. There is a reason why people love watching documentaries. It’s about real life. It’s authentic. It’s genuine. That’s what shines through.
Very few times will someone remember the exact numbers or statistics from a two-minute video, but they will remember the feeling that you left them with. That authenticity is what needs to shine through. It doesn’t need to be some over-done production. We all have stories. You’re passionate and interested in what you do. Why? Explaining that is the most important piece to fit into that video.
Hugh: Back to the why. Are you familiar with the Simon Sinek TED Talk, “Begin with Why”?
Noor: I am.
Hugh: Was that an inspiration to you in creating this process?
Noor: I have such a funny story about Simon. I was on a Zoom call with a leader a month or two ago. Someone else on the call had brought him up. As I’m talking to this leader, they go, “Oh my god, that’s so funny.” Simon Sinek was literally walking through his kitchen as we were talking about him. It was the craziest moment ever. It was bizarre. He was hanging out in this guy’s house. That’s so crazy. That never happens.
Hugh: He’s a real person.
Noor: I know!
Hugh: That’s a pretty profound paradigm shift. We want to tell people, and especially in this work we do in philanthropy, the word “nonprofit” is a problematic word. We use it to identify the sector, but it’s such a bad word. It puts us in this negative framing, this scarcity mindset. It’s abundance thinking that takes us there.
The why. People don’t care about the what until they understand why you’re doing this. It’s not an elaborate presentation with slides and animations. It’s us talking. Do people use some visuals? What is the best practice? This is probably a good rehearsal for presenting to anybody you want to present to.
Noor: I am very young and still in school. But when I was in elementary school or high school, I had to give presentations. I remember my teachers telling me, “Don’t read off the slides.” People can read if they want to. But talk. It’s true. When I was sitting in the audience, I would rarely read the slides. I am really just listening and am engaged to the person and the human being.
What you’re talking about from the nonprofit perspective is really interesting. I often say that Vintro is incredibly mission-based, but we’re not a charity, and that’s not to be confused. There is nothing to be ashamed about the fact that it is for profit. The world today of doing good and business at the same time is interlinked now more than ever, as it should be. There is a right way to do business while also doing good. Businesses are being more conscious about their impact, whether it be environmental impact, social impact. It’s important. This intersection is becoming more prevalent in people’s minds. It is something I am passionate about. That is how I think about my business. How can we do business while also doing good?
Hugh: How can we do business while also doing good? That should be the question we all ask ourselves, shouldn’t it? I repeat, your wisdom far surpasses your years.
*Sponsored by SynerVision Leadership Foundation’s online community*
Noor, you had this idea and put a team together, and it instantly happened. Right?
Noor: Absolutely not.
Hugh: Talk about the process. I work with lots of start-ups. People have an idea. “I want to do a nonprofit. Because it’s a nonprofit, people will give me money.” Well, it’s a business. You have to have a value exchange. You give value, and people will give you money. How did you make this happen when you had the right idea and the right people?
Noor: It’s really a learning process. We made our URL public on June 1, and since then, we’ve been doing a lot of learning. We’re talking to customers. When you have an idea, you think you have an amazing product. You start talking to people and hearing feedback. You realize what you have to change. Especially with tech businesses, you never have a finished product. You are constantly evolving, listening to what the customers are saying. Does this part work for the leaders? What’s not working? You’re constantly going to be fine-tuning it. There are lots of lessons to learn along the way.
How to find an amazing team. Personally, I mentioned I am not the tech person, not the one doing the coding. Finding the right people who are amazingly talented in their own space. One of the best pieces of advice I was given was to surround yourself with people who are better than you are at what they do. That is how you are going to start seeing growth. If someone is in a different sector and coming to you about what they think you should be doing, that’s not the right dynamic to be having. You should be going to them and saying, “What’s your expertise?” That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be super established in whatever they do. We have a very young team. We have lots of people from different backgrounds. We have young college students, but we also have very established professionals. Those different perspectives are valuable. But that was one of the best pieces of advice I was given: Surround yourself with people who are better at what they do than you are.
Hugh: They don’t have to be better at everything. They just need to be better at the thing you need them to be better at.
Hugh: We get hung up on that. I work with some sophisticated power leaders who really aren’t much better than the start-ups. They just think they are. What I see with you is a very open and willing mind to say, “Come and join me. We can do this together.” In the South—it may not be grammatically correct, but it’s what we say—none of us is as smart as all of us. It’s true. Even though we don’t recognize it often. We want to be the leader, so we impose unfair pressure on ourselves. We always have to be right and have the right answer. No! We have to ask the right questions.
You and I just talked a little bit one-on-one. You are highlighting some of the basic things we teach in SynerVision. Every principle that you have highlighted are things we try to teach people how to do. These don’t come to us naturally. You’ve had some good mentorship and have been a good student of leadership to be able to do this. Leadership means you influence people and make things happen in my work, and you figure out how things happen.
Any challenges that you want to share in launching this enterprise? Many people who try to launch nonprofits don’t get them launched. Half of the ones that are launched will close because they don’t do the proper steps. That’s another reason I started this. I want to support those people who have started. Even if they didn’t put all the pieces in place, they still can. The world needs what we do drastically. Is there something, besides having the right team, besides listening to people, that you did? Are there learning opportunities that you’d like to share that was valuable for you?
Noor: Absolutely. One thing I have learned from doing this is I have no shame in my failures. I have zero problem walking you through them. Even in thinking about the mindset of what is a failure and taking away the negative connotation from that word as well is important. Vintro wasn’t Vintro when we started back in January 2018. We first tried to launch this app called The Crowd. We used to call it a Tinder for ideas, where you would have leaders use the app, and you would put up videos, and they could swipe right or swipe left on these short pitch videos. We realized there was no incentive for the leaders to go on there. They are busy enough without adding one more thing on their day that they didn’t even know if the ideas were going to be in their field or their sector. That was one specific failure I could call on and say, “Why didn’t that work?” There was no incentive for leaders to engage with it. That messed up the dynamic.
We thought about how to put the power back in the hands of an entrepreneur, a business, a nonprofit. How can we tell them, “You don’t have to go out and network to the top anymore?” You don’t have to do that anymore. Who is your dream person? Go through the platform. Dream as big as you want. If we don’t have them, we’ll get them for you. Leave that part to us. The success of your idea in my opinion should be about the quality of your idea and your ability to execute it. It shouldn’t be about your ability to network to the top. That was a big lesson for us in the early days: How do we fundamentally pivot the product? We realized it wasn’t working.
I was on a panel last week with a nonprofit here in Chicago called Female Strong. Their main focus is on female entrepreneurship, especially within the youths of Chicago. I was on an amazing panel with some incredible women. We were talking about this idea of failure. What I took away from that panel is we all have it, and it’s about trying to change the perspective of it. It’s not failure.
Earlier on, when I said when you reach out to a leader, the worst thing they are going to tell you is no. The worst is saying no without explaining why. The second someone tells you why it’s a no, you can go back and actually learn from that. I don’t think there is any shame in being wrong. That’s why you ask obvious questions. If you’re wrong, if the answer was obvious, it doesn’t matter. As long as you are learning and progressing and taking away from that, as long as you’re that much better for the next time that situation comes around, that’s really what matters.
Hugh: When you make a pitch to somebody, and they tell you no, you want to know why.
Noor: Absolutely I want to know why. That is the best part.
Hugh: Let’s do the rest of the process. I have a project, and I want to make a pitch. I create my two-minute video. Then I find a person and pay my money. What happens? How do I send them the video? What happens after that?
Noor: Come to the platform. Pick your people. Make a short video. You upload your video to the platform and check out. That video gets sent directly to the phones of all the leaders you picked. They all have an app on their phone called the Vintro Viewer app. They get a notification letting them know there is an opportunity waiting for them. They open the app and watch the video in completion. The system won’t let them jump ahead or skip around or speed it up. They have to watch the whole video. They have to let it sit with them because they have to respond. They will tell you what they loved about it, their experience, something you should look out for. “When I was building my business, this was a struggle I faced. How did you get around that? Have you considered this? What about this problem?” The most important thing they answer at that point is do they want to continue the conversation further? Have you hooked them? Have you engaged them? Do they want to find out more information? Do they want to sit down and have a longer call with you? Do they want to see more documents and go through things in finer detail? We don’t get paid anything at that point; that’s on everyone’s own time and engagement. How that relationship blossoms and develops is completely yours.
Hugh: Wow. I guess when you get feedback and need to change something, it’s good to change it before you make the next presentation.
Noor: I see customers who pitch six, eight people at the same time because the odds are one person out of that group will love what they are doing. We have also seen people who have taken that feedback and come back and pitched the same leader two, three times, however many times it takes to get the leader to say yes. When the leader says yes, they see the persistence, they see the perseverance. “You’ve really taken my feedback on board. Now it’s a yes.” When you’re left with a no and have nothing, when you’re ghosted, when you send someone an email and they never respond, that is probably the worst-case scenario. You have no idea what you did wrong, and you have no idea how to fix it. But the second you know how to fix it, the possibilities from there are really endless.
Hugh: We have a couple entrepreneurs. One has a business platform with a passion for nonprofit work. One has both. Are you willing to entertain some questions?
Noor: Of course.
Hugh: Blair Collins from Oregon, I think, you have put a question in the chat. Let’s have you ask it personally. Which state are you in?
Blair Collins: Washington. I spent a bunch of time in Portland, Oregon. Anything from the mighty Pacific Northwest, you can align me with, and I will be perfectly happy. Right on.
Hugh: Blair is creating a digital platform that has a lot more going on, but he is listening with great intent to what you have done as a start-up. What is your question, Blair?
Blair: Does Vintro provide templates for producing not just the two-minute video but the one-pagers? I have had people ask me for a one-pager to summarize what I am trying to create, and it’s difficult when I don’t have the funding and/or people at the table who are helping me create the architecture which will lead us to the path that will allow not just me to have an app that I’m excited about, but others to partner with it. I didn’t know if you had resources available in the ecosystem you are creating that allows for that sharing of good ideas of how to present succinctly the ideas in a way that it resonates with your membership. That is my question.
Noor: Thank you, Blair. Yes, we do. If you go to our website today, we have tips from our experience—we have seen hundreds of pitch videos go through—of the ones that have worked the best, why they have worked the best. What are the most important things to include in that video? We have written articles on those topics. For the one-pager, there isn’t anything up on that specifically at the moment. We’d be happy to create that content.
As I mentioned, it’s not just me anymore. Our team is incredibly hands-on with the entrepreneurs that do need help. At any point, feel free to reach out to the team. We’d be happy to help you with any aspect of that, such as making the video or a one-pager, anything the leader wants to see. We’re more than happy to help in any way you can.
Blair: Thank you. I really appreciate what you’re presenting here. Your spirit of what you’re doing is fantastic.
Hugh: Thanks, Blair for being here. He’s doing worthy work. Noor, what does it cost to join Vintro?
Hugh: I knew the answer, but I wanted to hear it from you. We have from sunny southern California where it’s probably disgustingly nice today in San Diego. We have Arion J. Goodwin, who is AJ, who is managing a music project, a for-profit and nonprofit, for a famous composer. AJ, what question do you have for our guest today?
AJ Goodwin: Hi, this is AJ. If I also know somebody who would be a really good leader for your platform, how would they join you?
Noor: Thank you. Any leader recommendations, we love taking those because it makes our job so much easier. The more legwork we do, the more people don’t have to do that after us. They can join automatically from the platform. They can get in contact with our team, and we’d be happy to make concierge invites for them and walk them through the process in a more hands-on matter. Either way, it’s really simple to join. You can just go to the website and make an account.
AJ: Make an account. Okay. I’m meeting with somebody, he’s a philanthropist, investor, owns many companies, tomorrow. I think this would be right up his alley in a way he can give back.
My second question: When you first started, how did you get funded?
Noor: Thank you for spreading the message about Vintro to anyone in your network. I really appreciate it. We started off by reaching out to anyone in our network. Friends, friends of friends, family. We are going through another round of funding ourselves at the moment, where we are going to bigger investors. Most of our personal investors were high-worth individuals. A lot of our leaders, as we started teaching out to them and building the network, loved what we were doing and said, “Hey, are you looking to raise money? We love the project. We love the mission and vision behind it.”
AJ: That’s wonderful. Do you know about Clubhouse?
Noor: I do.
AJ: I have been on the platform for the last couple weeks. From that, I have met some serious players, people who just want to give back and pay it forward in their level of business from social media integrators to multi-millionaires and philanthropists to marketing and distribution licensing. There are so many rooms for different areas. Are you in any of those rooms that we can ever have a discussion with you?
Noor: I am not currently on Clubhouse. We can jump on a call though; I’m always around.
Hugh: I can connect you. Thank you for the question. I have Clubhouse. I haven’t figured it out yet. I am too busy helping social entrepreneurs. I am going to call on somebody who didn’t raise their hand. Jeffrey is an advisor with SynerVision. This connects with a conversation we were having earlier about making presentations and the relevance of how we create our language. Do you have any comments about how this is helpful? Do you have a question for her?
Jeffrey Fulgham: This is tremendous. This is such a fabulous platform. I’m looking at this from the nonprofit side and thinking we could use a sidecar of this for people who specifically invest in nonprofits like foundations. I could see this expanding in a lot of directions. It is so huge now already with all these investors you have. People are going to present to these individuals. That creates something they can use as they are going out and talking to other donors and funders. It gives them a chance to perfect that. This is an environment where they will do that. A lot of people wouldn’t do that in a different environment. I don’t know if they would take the time to do this in the extent they need to go through to do this with you. It just makes them a better organization.
Noor: Thank you. The process is something we are constantly trying to fine-tune to make it simpler and easier for you. Blair’s question around content about how to make it easier for people- Some people are natural presenters. I was on the phone with a member of our advisory board, and he was saying one of the amazing things for him about Vintro is the ability to record it as many times as you want. It’s not like you have one shot, and there is high pressure in that moment to get it perfect. He said, “I’m not a great presenter. I have great ideas, but I get nervous. I stumble over my words. But I can film my video as many times as I need to to make it perfect and make that first impression great.”
Jeffrey: Yeah, it’s cool. I was thinking about all the people who say they have wanted to do a TED Talk, and they didn’t make the cut because the window is just so tight of what you have to have to present, how they present it, and what you have to hone. It’s great that people can really work on it, adjust it, replace it, and even over time. things change so fast. Hopefully the organization is changing and growing and can modify that. It’s tremendous platform.
Hugh: Jeffrey, thank you for being here. Jeffrey is one of the advisors for SynerVision Leadership Foundation. He is in Richmond and is a retired certified professional fundraiser. He has been doing this stuff for years. He comes in at a pretty high competency level, and I’m grateful to have him on the team. You were talking about having people on your team better than you. Well, I model that. It’s not hard for me at all. This is good stuff.
The types of leaders that we can present to from our perspective. Are there certain industries or types of leaders? What do we expect when we go there? How should we try to find the right person who would be a good fit for us?
Noor: We have leaders who call out and say, “I’m looking for a philanthropic opportunity.” We have leaders who openly say that. That’s a good place to start. Otherwise, leaders who say, “I’m donating money to this charity,” the reason why they are on Vintro in the first place is to be able to give back to industries. Coming from that perspective as a starting point, the majority of our leaders would be interested in philanthropic opportunities; it just depends on the right one for them. I guess it depends on what space the nonprofit is working in, what specific problem they are trying to help, and what industry would be relevant for their opportunity. The majority of our leaders are always open to hearing about new philanthropic opportunities for them to get involved with. We have countless people on the platform who would be interested in that.
Hugh: Love it. That’s encouraging. Are there some common mistakes that people make—besides reading off the slides, we don’t do that. That’s one of my pet peeves. Seth Godin has an e-book he gave away called The Really Bad PowerPoint. His rule is no more than six words on a slide. If you are going to read what’s on the slide, there is no reason for you to be there. Just send the slides. I have seen many presentations like that, and I wonder, “Why are you here? Let me read the slides myself. I’m competent.” Are there typical problems that people face that you see over and over that you’d like to advise on?
Noor: The biggest piece of advice is talk about your story. Just don’t stress about it. Be authentic. Be genuine. Talk as if the person is in the room with you. Don’t make this a high-pressure moment. People can pick up on nervousness. As long as you feel like you are expressing your why, you’re on a great path. That is the biggest piece of advice.
I quickly wanted to address a question Blair put in the chat. Blair’s question was, “Do leaders function under an NDA? What are the structures in place to protect IP?” Because we have leaders from all over the world, the laws aren’t necessarily the same, for example, in Thailand or in the UK as they are in the US. It’s hard to put them under distinct regulations.
What I tell people if they are concerned about IP is the following: Don’t pitch your solution. Don’t pitch your magic sauce. Don’t pitch the problem. “I think that lightbulbs consume too much energy, and I have a solution for a lightbulb that can light up using this amount of watts. If you’re interested, let’s put an NDA in place. Reach out, and we can talk further.” At that point, that would be the way to phrase it. Talk about the problem after we get NDAs in place. We’re not encouraging anyone to expose their secret sauce. That is not the business we’re in. But it is hard for us to manage that. That is the way I would approach the issue.
Hugh: Perfect. You’ve done this many times. I’m so pumped by this. I’m going to open up my Vintro and start creating my pitch.
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Noor, do you have a thought or challenge you’d like to leave with people?
Noor: The one thing that’s been on my mind continuously that I started this business and what I’d like to leave everyone with is to really think about what are people’s responsibilities in the business world or nonprofit sphere? How can we find the match? How can we make that Venn diagram as overlapping as possible in terms of doing business and doing good?
Hugh: Noor Sugrue, thank you so much. I’m Southern. We make up our own stuff. Thank you for sharing such great wisdom with the nonprofit community.