Get Shameless About Money

#275: Part 1: From Seed to Unicorn - The Esusu Journey with Samir Goel

November 09, 2023 Brunch & Budget
Get Shameless About Money
#275: Part 1: From Seed to Unicorn - The Esusu Journey with Samir Goel
Show Notes Transcript

Join us on a special Brunch and Budget bonus episode as Dyalekt and Pam dive into the remarkable journey of Esusu, the company that evolved from digital sousus to a groundbreaking credit-building platform. In this two-part series, we bring you an exclusive interview with Samir Goel, the co-CEO of Esusu, who shares the story of their pivot and the mission to bridge the racial wealth gap.

Discover how Esusu leverages rental data to empower individuals in building credit, challenging the conventional credit system. Samir unveils the company's innovative approach, focusing on the b2b side to make credit-building accessible to everyone. Learn how landlords and renters alike can benefit from this unique system that encourages on-time payments and provides 0% interest financing in times of financial strain.

In this episode, we explore the journey of Esusu from its early days to achieving a remarkable $1 billion valuation, making it one of the few black-owned unicorns globally. Samir shares insights into their commitment to using data to close the racial wealth divide and create sustainable change in the financial landscape.

Get ready for a thought-provoking discussion on capitalism, financial literacy, and the power of data to transform lives. Congratulations to Samir and Esusu for being named one of Time magazine's 100 Next in 2023. Tune in and be inspired by a conversation that goes beyond finance, touching on the impact of Esusu's mission on individuals and communities.


** SAMIR BIO **


Samir Goel is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Esusu, the leading financial technology company advancing rent reporting and data solutions for credit building. A social entrepreneur committed to bridging the public and private sectors, Samir previously co-founded Transfernation, a nationally recognized 501(c)3 non-profit which uses technology to ensure excess food from events goes toward underserved communities across New York City. He has been recognized as the 2023 Founder of the Year by AFROTECH, named to the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and recognized as a WEF Global Shaper, Global Good Fund Fellow, Dalai Lama Fellow, Resolution Fellow, as well as the recipient of the Jefferson Awards Foundation National Public Service Award. In addition to his work as a social entrepreneur, Samir held various positions at LinkedIn, The United Nations, Venture for America, and various non-profits in the New York City area. | LinkedIn

Unknown:

We're

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

back.

Dyalekt:

It's never too late. It's never too late. It's never too late for brunch and good little dinner

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Hi, everybody. We're back. Sort of

Dyalekt:

it's brunch.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

It's brunch and budget and budget. Oh.

Dyalekt:

Hey, we're still working shopping. It's dialect and Pam here.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yes, yes, it's like and Pam and we're not totally back yet. But we have a brunch and budget bonus for you as

Dyalekt:

soon as we actually reach deep into our own archives of I don't know if y'all remember our dead day job, Army shatta quiche TK in the am bonfire radio interview series, where we are talking to entrepreneurs of color and the funky stuff that they were up to the difficulties and successes and one of them has become

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

pretty big, pretty successful. So we're super excited to share this interview with Samir go al co CEO of E Susu. As we said, he's been on the podcast before and the major is update is in January 2022. E Su Su reached a 1 billion billion billion with the B $1 billion valuation making it easy to see one of the few black owned unicorns in the US and globally.

Dyalekt:

First of all, sorry, the company being a billion dollar dollars, that doesn't mean that he's a billionaire, right? Correct.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yes, he's not a billionaire. The company is worth a billion dollars and hold

Dyalekt:

on on the whole animal planet thing. Wait, what's what's the black unicorn? like unicorns? I don't I actually I'm not even setting up like a joke. I literally no,

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

I'm glad you asked that. So in the tech bro world, company is considered a unicorn. That's the word that they decided to use. If they reach a billion dollar or more valuation,

Dyalekt:

I need to watch the Barbie movie to understand this right?

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yeah. So that's maybe that's what it is? Yes. These franchises know exactly. So when we first talked to Samir e su su was a lending circle slash digital susu platform. And they completely pivoted their company, to help boost people's credit scores by doing something they already do anyway, reporting their rent every month. And this really come back to the kind of ridiculous rules around the credit scoring system where you need a credit score to get access to credit, but you can't get extra credit unless you already have credit. Yeah,

Dyalekt:

it was a really interesting conversation about the ideas and the nature of capitalism. I think at one point even mentioned, he was like, I'm actually a capitalism, like, you know, he's like, you know, I'm owner of a company, I like to play the game. But he wants to do so in a way that benefits people, which is not usually the kind of framework that we're on, but the way that they're going about it under the direct help that they're doing and can't really be denied. Yeah, absolutely.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

And you'll hear more about how this works. And why this is really game changing, especially because one thing they're showing is credit reporting, especially for landlords is usually only done punitively. And they've created a way to incentivize landlords and tenants, to show positive credit reporting, and also to give people who don't have credit or have bad credit, the ability to build their credit based on a true financial data point. Right. Yeah, I mean, like paying your rent is like showing financial responsibility.

Dyalekt:

And that's one of the great things about it. Samir and ECU. Sue's big vision is using the power of data to close the racial wealth divide, to know how it feels to go from getting kicked out of a Denny's to having a company that's valued billion dollars dollars for an app, you know, folks talk all the time about will start a business that people need that like people actually need and like, oh, yeah, we do need plumbers and banks and an artist and all that everything right. But this was a need that folks didn't even know was an option to create.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yeah, exactly. This is a need that like addresses the true systemic oppression in a way that puts people of color in particular, in a much better position. And

Dyalekt:

like what's wild about it, you know, talking about like, the capitalism part of it is that it is a sustainable company. In this system. Yes. You know, that's the tough thing about I think a lot of the companies that are meant to do good is that they're brought up to not be sustainable or not be able to thrive in a capitalist system. So inevitably they don't. Yeah,

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

exactly. So we are so so excited. This is a two parter, y'all. So get ready, buckle in and take a listen this interview we also wanted to congratulate Samir and his co CEO, will MIMO Abby, who are named one of Time magazine's 100 Next this year in 2023. Congrats, you're

Dyalekt:

it's almost 2024. So there's not even next anywhere. There. There. There are them.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

They're here. They have arrived. Yeah. They've arrived. Take a listen, y'all. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you. Awesome. Hi, Samir. Thank you for joining.

Unknown:

Hey, folks, so glad to be here. Good to see you. I

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

know you're back. Oh my gosh, we rarely have guests back. But

Unknown:

I mean, like we ended the last one with encore needed so

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

I love it. I love Well, I'm the ECC update is pretty big. But it's

Dyalekt:

in good against while you're standing in this room with these white strips ahead of you. It's like you're accelerating. I

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

appreciate the podcast audience

Dyalekt:

what it's like it's a cool visual.

Unknown:

For you all, just so you all you know, I thought I thought a good background.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

I love it. I love it. Okay, so a lot has happened since we last talked to you. And ECC was first for me. I think we talked to you in 2018 when it was first forming. And e su su was originally an electronic Susu. Right, it was putting together rotational savings clubs being able to report the activity to the credit bureaus. And I would love to hear what has happened since then, and how you pivoted?

Unknown:

Yeah, great question, Pam. I mean, it's been an amazing journey for us over the past five or six years. And to your point, we did start with sous sous or digital rotational saving clubs. And, you know, we learned a couple of things through that process. The first was going directly to people and getting them to trust you and want to onboard them their lives onto your system is just hard. Right? It's like dialect we just met, you know, what's your social security number? What's your bank account information? What's your phone number, right. And that's, that's information that takes some trust to sort of want to part ways with and so you know, the only way that will be more, and I were really getting customers back in the day was one through amazing organizations like yourselves, but too, we'd like show up at churches, community groups, introduce ourselves share our story. And that really helped kind of people get comfortable with the idea of onboarding onto the platform. The challenge is, it just wasn't that scalable. Right. So that was the first thing that we learned. And that's how we started doing more sort of what I would like to think of as almost like b2b but really like piggybacking on the trust that an existing community based organization had as a distribution channel for our platform. So you know, what we did with you, I was a good example. The second thing that we learned was worth solving the wrong problem. People generally knew they needed to save money, people genuinely wanted to save money. And were really running into two key issues. One was they just weren't getting paid enough. And things were getting more expensive, but they weren't making enough money. And that was something we really couldn't do anything about. And then the second was, like what happens during a financial emergency? Right, as we all know, what and to American adults is less than$500 in their bank account. So when your car breaks down, and you lose a job, when you have a family member with a health emergency, like so many of us during COVID, when you're an immigrant and you're sending money home, all of those sorts of financial shocks really put people behind and kind of blew through their savings and put them in a debt spiral. And so that was the issue that we realized we could do something about by giving people access to build and establish credit at scale. And so we pivoted into really focusing on this idea of using rental data as a way to help people become credit worthy and entrenched in the financial system. I always say that credit treats you like you're guilty until proven innocent, right. And we, we found an alternative way to basically underwrite people that were deemed untrustworthy by the system, because rent is your largest monthly expense, it's your most consistent for a lot of low income families, it's 30 to 50% of income. And guess what, it's super predictive. If you pay your rent, you're gonna pay your mortgage, you're gonna pay your other key expenses. And so it's solved everyone's problems.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

And it's so interesting, because it seems so simple now that you're doing it. And now that it's happening, right, it was like our biggest complaint about the credit system was, why do you have to get credit to be in the credit system? That doesn't make any sense?

Dyalekt:

Always the big complaint, but like, the thing of it is, and I know what you're talking about pivoting is you have to get in there and do the wrong thing before you see why it doesn't work to make the pivot.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yeah, I think one thing that's really, really powerful about your pivot too, is you mentioned the b2b side of things, and we'll talk about that. Yeah, because we've seen We've seen FinTech apps try to do rent reporting. But the onus is on the renter to not only find the app, but pay for the rent reporting, and they're probably already in a financially precarious situation. So the idea of having to pay to get your credit up just like also as well, it

Dyalekt:

just feels like the old stuff about credit where you're like, Oh, your credit isn't great. So now you have to pay some sort of deposit or extra fee or penalty. It just felt like another penalty. Another podcast. Yeah.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

So how did you get to the b2b side of things, because I feel like that's what's specifically unique about UCC well,

Dyalekt:

and like in a non thirsty, equitable kind of way, because I've had plenty of businesses that have gone from customer base to b2b just because they're like the bees have all the money. So we're just going to, you know, slide over there and start helping the people.

Unknown:

Well, I love how you framed this diversity. So thank you for that. The, the more importantly, though, you know, ultimately, to your point for us, it was about the mission, right? It was really about, like, are we founded a Seuss do on this core premise that no matter where you come from the color of your skin or your financial identity, it shouldn't determine where you end up in life. And our vision is to unleash the power of data to bridge the racial wealth gap. And so everything we do is really the service of moving towards that. And to your exact point, we realized that if we were to make rent reporting something that was a pay for play, for families, it would basically make it something that higher income more affluent people who might be very aware of credit who might have 10 to 50 bucks a month to throw in discretionary income would be able to benefit from this sort of evolution in the credit system. But the families that we're really trying to give a fighting chance to wouldn't be able to write because that 1020 30 bucks a month is a real impediment. And also it might create just a little bit more friction, right to invest in your future, because when you are paycheck to paycheck, it's about tomorrow, it's not about a year from now, right. And so we realized that we really needed to stay focused on mission, and that we could create a win win for our landlords and for our renters. And so when we think about the Isuzu platform today, we do work predominantly with owners and operators of multifamily real estate. So anyone that owns an apartment building, and the way that we frame our services is really in three key components. The first is when your renters pay rent on time, they get that data reported to all three credit bureaus, they build an established credit. It's great for them, but it's good for you, because it encourages people to pay on time. And so rather than using a stick, you can use a carrot and say, Look, if you pay on time, you're gonna get the benefit, right. Number two is like, it's also a marketable amenity, you can use it as a way to differentiate yourself renters have options, maybe they want to live somewhere where they can build credit. And now you're a more attractive option. We also paired that with a 0% Interest Loan Fund, where when renters fall behind on rent, we pay them with 0% interest financing, it's paid to the landlord. And so once again, it's a win win. Right? Landlords are able to navigate their business, they have expenses, they have mortgage payments, it's not easy. That being said, ultimately, what we want to do is help keep families in their homes avoid financial shock and evictions. And oftentimes evictions lead to homelessness, and how can we kind of stand by and intervene there, and then tie it all together with some financial literacy and credit education. And, you know, the framing that we tried to create for our owners and operators is really, your renters are your most important asset, right? At the end of the day, if you are financially healthy rancher, you have a financially healthy community, and it's gonna continue to grow and appreciate. And that's good for you. And the way that you can do that is by investing in your retrofits rather than, you know, basically focusing more on kind of the punitive measures, how about you support your community, and a lot of people wanted a solution like that it just didn't exist. And so that's really what we did. And today because of that, our partners cover about 4 million rental units at all 50 states. And we'll continue to grow it and see that sort of traction at scale. Yeah,

Dyalekt:

yeah.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

I love that. The thing, the thing that is really interesting about what you described is that you're incentivizing like the literal system itself to want to participate. Right? Yeah, there's, there's this idea of like, oh, you know, landlords, you're gonna get your rent is gonna get paid on time. And I saw I was I was reading on some of the features that you have, but like, you have like, ESG reports. Right? Can you tell us a little bit more about that? Because that's another, especially as people are wanting to invest in socially responsible investments and ESG and things like that. How is that component to a Susu? Been a good incentive for landlords?

Unknown:

Yeah, Pam, I appreciate that. You did your homework. And that's a great, great question. So on the ESG side, that's definitely been a core part of our value proposition as well. What's happened to there? It's, it's really interesting because real estate has been adopting ESG over the past decade, but it's all been focused on the E are environmental part of the environmental, social and governance framework. And part of the reason was not because real estate owners didn't care about social it's actually that there was just nothing measurable or meaningful Right. So social five years ago used to be like, Hey, we threw a pizza party for your residents, right? And it's like, great, I love pizza as much as the next guy, but you can't really tie that into any meaningful social outcomes. And what we were able to do is really create a data driven framework where owners and operators could be like, we're not just gonna, like, talk about social and these fluffy terms, but there's meaningful impact and economic mobility being created. So that's things like, hey, how many renters established your credit score for the first time? What's the average credit score improvement that your residents are seeing? How many people are moving from subprime to prime? What sort of financial opportunities are being unlocked? Are people becoming homeowners? Are they getting car loans? Which is step one economic mobility? Are they getting education? And how am I a part of that story of economic mobility? And, you know, I think to your earlier point, like we often love to create win lose narratives, right? We love David and Goliath, right? It's like, bad landlord, good renter or bad renters scheming the system and good landlord just trying to operate a business and both those are false. Like, how do we create a win win, where the retro benefits the landlord benefits, the lender benefits and society at large benefits, because we're not creating homelessness and penalizing people and sending them to predatory lenders, and all these sorts of things. Right? And so that's always how we're thinking about it. How do we align the structures and systems to all do what's right for people?

Dyalekt:

Yeah, I love the aligning your business with your values and making sure that other businesses align with your values. And have you seen a change? I mean, I think that we've all noticed, like the game has changed in terms of how credit is being done. There's a lot more competition in this space. And I think the credit bureaus themselves are becoming aware, what what have you seen in the changes?

Unknown:

Absolutely dialect. So we've definitely seen a tremendous amount of change. And I think, once again, I'm gonna go back to my way to construct, right, but having a credit system in which 45 million people are credit, invisible, and 70 million people are credit then actually benefits nobody, right? Because you have people that are marginalized, which sucks. You have business entities that want to kind of work with these people, but don't have the infrastructure, the data to do so. And then the credit bureaus aren't even making money on those 70 million people because they don't have a credit score, or they have a really poor credit score for them, right. And so that existing construct didn't really serve anyone. And so as a result, we're definitely seeing a sea change in the industry where credit bureaus want alternative data, they want to be able to create new scoring models, they want to be less racist and bias, they want to incorporate more consumers in the system, because it's once again, Win win, right? It increases their addressable market, but it also helps them do the right thing. And when it suits you started, I used I always like to say that we had to sort of defend our right to exist, right? So a lot of the questions, were very existential, who are you guys to people with a funny day and trying to build something impacting the world? Like, what are you doing, right? Why are you doing this? Why should I care? Why should we do things differently? That doesn't happen anymore? Right? Most often, we have conversations with people like I kind of, either I've heard of you guys, or I've heard of the concept, I really understand what you're trying to do. And like, let's get into the brass tacks, like, what is the implementation look like? What's the cost? What's the what are the other alternatives where we but it's not so much defending the premise of whether or not this needs to exist universally, that's sort of been accepted. And that's a really, really powerful thing to be able to say, that doesn't mean that it's ubiquitous in the market where everyone is doing it. But it does mean that there's sort of a general consensus, like, this is the right thing to do. We should do it. I mean, figure out ways to do it. And what needs to be figured out? Sometimes it's logistics, but that's okay. Generally, everyone wants to make it happen.

Dyalekt:

Oh, that that's huge. That's huge. That's really huge. Yeah, I, you know, I think businesses, we used to operate under the idea that businesses are going to do bad things, because the bad things are always the most profitable, and always the easiest. And just changing the idea that no doing things that are beneficial for everybody might actually be the easier and more profitable solution is so revolutionary. Yeah, it's just

Unknown:

a long term mindset. I mean, we like to say the Susu, where justice capitalists, right, we're not throwing out capitalism, there's value to being market driven. But like, what if we're a little more intentional? And what if we take a longer term lens and I know publicly traded companies think of everything on a quarterly basis, but generally speaking, most businesses that stand the test of time actually add value for people. Right? That's like that's, that's why they're around for 100 and 150 years, 22 years, etc. It's not because they're taking the shortcut screwing over the person and then continue to grow on the basis of

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yeah, no, I think, you know, thinking of the credit bureaus as businesses in and of themselves, it's like kind of how you describe them right? They're not these like, I think that we all thought these were these they were these big, like umbrella overarching entities, but the reality is, the government as well as the governmental but they are businesses who need people to patronize them and so it If their credit scoring system becomes obsolete or doesn't become relevant anymore, it's not good for them either. And so I really love that like this is adding rent to a credit reporting system is more indicative of someone's financial health and financial wellness in so many ways than just like, Oh, do you have a credit card?

Dyalekt:

Well, and it's, you know, it kind of already answered a question that I had about, well, as the things are changing, how would these credit bureaus find another way to penalize people? And it seems like what you're saying is that you're showing them that penalizing people who don't have enough money isn't going to benefit them in the long run. And even if you're trying to be greedy, just be greedy in the long run, and that will help out other people too. Yeah,

Unknown:

I mean, I genuinely believe that right? Like not everyone might not, I think, like, I believe in this concept of that's like in the business world, it's called as stakeholder capitalism, right? Where it's sort of like, you're, you're a part of society. And so if every one of your stakeholders, whether that's your employees, whether that's your consumers, whether that's your shareholders, right, whether it's government, if everyone's benefiting, that's your best way of evolving and growing and being relevant in 50 years, or even 10 years, versus kind of like, how do I make an extra buck and this quarter, and then shifts next quarter, and I think more businesses are thinking in that way, because they have to write and the the old way of doing things is just not gonna work with the customer base of today with the regulatory environment of today, etc. And so, you know, I think it's a good thing, like, and also like, you know, one of the things that I think about is, like, nobody wakes up every day thinking they're like a bad person, right? That's like a very hard thing conceptually, right, like, no, no one, the richest person in the world is not going to wake up and be like, I'm a horrible human. And I love that about myself, right? They all everyone thinks they're the hero in their own story. And everyone wants people to be a good person and talk about something they're doing that's positive in the world, that we give them an opportunity. Like, how many real estate owners get to go, now talk to their significant other or a friend and be like, Oh, we're doing this really cool thing to help renters have a fighting chance? Like, that's something you want to talk about, right? Like, how many times do you want to be like, Hey, we just like made a ton of money. Like, you know, like, generally speaking, right? Like, people want to be the good person. That's how they see themselves. Very few people, I think, genuinely can look at themselves and be like, I'm a terrible person. And I feel great about myself. Right? Yeah.

Dyalekt:

Well, because I think the the shift that you're talking about is before it was good to be greedy, because you were taught to be the winner. Stakeholder capitalism meant I'm holding the steak and you're holding the top ramen, so I'm the better person. Yeah. And when we change that to a more collaborative vibe, then we do change the parameters of what being a good, not just a good person, but a good business person means

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yeah, word. Absolutely. Well, and I think speaking of that, I'm the susu seems to be a lasting seems to be in the space of being elastic ms as well, thinking through all this, the big news is that you're valued at a billion dollars last year, right? Can you take us through that journey of you know, you mentioned earlier that you before you had to walk in and just explain yourself and who you were to now you're like, Oh, we know who you are. Let's just get down to business. Can you explain that journey and how you became one of the few unicorns and one of the few unicorns? Oh, my people of colors is huge.

Unknown:

Thanks so much, Pam, I appreciate the kind words and you know, it's been a journey is what I would say. I mean, when people and I are really proud to be, you know, one of the few black and brown owned unicorns in the in the market. But getting there was not easy. You know, the first time we tried to raise capital was probably around the time that we first interacted, and it took us about 18 months to raise $1.6 million. And we had over 300 people say no to us took on over $100,000 of personal credit card debt each, you know, did whatever we had to do to sort of make it and we were even kicked out of a Denny's because we didn't have money for a hotel. And we would try to loiter at Denny's and other places to kind of do stuff, right. And so, you know, those sort of experiences keep you grounded. Right, you're never as good as they say you're never as bad as they say. But it's certainly been an evolution for us. And I think on the capital raising side, one of the things I realized is our story was one of the best cases for diversity and 13. And I don't think that we weren't getting supported because we're, you know, founders of color. Obviously, there aren't that many of us in the venture capital and technology industry. But I think what I realized is people just didn't have proximity to the issues we were solving. It's great. We, we get asked questions like, Hey, do people really care about 40 points on a credit score? You know how many people are credit invisible, how many people are paycheck to paycheck? And it's almost like, you know, what baffled me was, it's like we're not solving a company for the minority, like, there's actually more Americans that are paycheck to paycheck than those who aren't like this is a business serving the majority. And because your ecosystem is higher net worth individuals, lawyers, bankers, accountants, millionaires, billionaires, you don't see that. And it's like, almost not even like, you're racist. It's like you don't know what you don't know. And, and that was really eye opening for me where I'm like, wow, like you. You just don't have the perspective on what it is we're trying to build communities, we're certainly but it's that's not your experiences. And to me, that was like a missed opportunity for a lot of VCs. And a lot of the funds that took a bet on us early were, you know, led by minority folks were female led ones, folks like concrete, Rose capital, Serena ventures, Acumen Fund, global good fund, right zeal, capital, all those things had a few things in common, which were female principals, or black or brown principals. And I think part of the story there is just that they had more life experience that kind of allowed them to see the potential and what we were doing and why it was important. And they gave us a fighting chance, we built a business that had more demonstratable data points, and were able to really scale up with more institutional capital, because we did have that sort of revenue profile and margin profile, and all the stuff that a VC might look at. But we needed someone to, like see us and see potential rather than nothing, right. And so that's where I think that case for diversity really comes into play. And, you know, like, we were able to build a market, you know, we were able to build a market that had a sustainable revenue model. And, you know, right now our owners and operators Pay us $2 per rental unit per month, we started having year on year growth around 600%, we started having really strong margins, we started hiring great people and VCs could look at those data points and make a really clear case, but early stage investing is not necessarily investing on data, right, you're looking at opportunities in terms of markets, and you're looking at teams that you believe in and, and that's where the kind of diversity piece is powerful. The last thing I'd say is one of the things that really accelerated our growth and allowed us to kind of be a unicorn company is we found new vision channels. So we started working with the government sponsored entities like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, they made this part of their equity and multifamily housing plan and started subsidizing the cost of a susu for real estate owners and operators. So now, it's not only like, Hey, you should pay for the service to benefit your renters and your own bottom line. But it's like, hey, if your budget constrained because the economy is in a bad place, we can potentially have one of the GSEs help cover your costs. So you can try it see the value firsthand. And as soon as he gets paid directly by them. And so that was also a game changer for us, because it controls so much of the real estate market.

Dyalekt:

I really love how you illustrated the issues with the whole privilege discourse of maybe a decade ago where the thing that you bring up, you know, there was pushback amongst the idea of like, well, we have privileges and the privileges that they were able to build successful companies without having these relational connections. And what you've been able to bring to them is very clearly in the math on it of, Hey, y'all are missing out on being a part of this economy by not having these connections, you

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

have to ask, what told you to keep going because you, each of you are at $100,000 of credit card debt, which is also kind of ironic, because you're trying to build a credit. A business that was reporting positive credit, and you kept that you had 300 nose, right, so what told you like, this is gonna work? And I just need to keep going.

Unknown:

So really thoughtful question. Um, you know, what I'll say is, I think, a couple of things. One is it was personal. There was personal for me mo and I write for myself, I grew up in an immigrant family, as you know, from New Delhi, India. And you know, we thought America was a land of opportunity. And that was just not the truth. You know, obviously, America is a great nation with a lot of opportunity. But that wasn't our experience. My dad was McDonald's, first day in the country, we really had much by way of shelter. And a lot of my upbringing was watching some of those friction points for my family and my parents around access to credit, basic financial services, all those sort of building blocks that we were solving for. So while it was personal, you know, when we know also, his mom moved here from Lagos, Nigeria, and ended up taking out a 400% payday loan. Right? And so those sort of things make you understand that like, Hey, this is a real problem we've experienced this needs to be solved. And so that's one piece of it, too. We saw it working, you know, our renters our communities, were telling us this is important. This needs to exist. You got to keep doing this because we need it. Right. And then finally, I always like to say nothing worth doing is worth doing alone. And so I'm very fortunate to have a great business partner but also like work hard. has been the best friend. And when we know that we could go through this together, because no matter how crappy any given day was, you knew that there was at least one other person who knew what you were going through. And you could commiserate together, you could lean on each other together, and you could persevere together. And I really think that was foundational, right? Because you could kind of go through these painful moments and experiences together. And, you know, that's, that's really what's made us susu successful. And that sense of being able to persevere through those, you know, those knows those tough personal experiences, and everything is we, it was personal, we knew that it needed to exist, that we had each other.

Dyalekt:

Ooh, that is the combination for making those things really work. We were mentioning earlier about, you know, the same listing and all that. And I think this kind of plays into that. Yeah, there are a number of people who maybe they're trying to start their own business in a similar fashion to you. Maybe they're just trying to get through life. But the shame of these failures, ends up putting a stop to them. I know plenty of folks. And I've certainly and maybe you've been in a spot where if I got kicked out of a Denny's my next move would be to give an application to the Denny's it'd be like, well, maybe I need to start over how I mean, shame play into this into people even being afraid to work with YSU. Yeah.

Unknown:

So that's, that's a good question. So I'll tackle the first part of that first job shame. And, you know, I think there's multiple forms of shame, right. One is generally around finance and money. And that's something I know you've investigated quite a bit. And, you know, I think it's just like things that people don't like to talk about, because they associate their worth with money. Right. And I think when people when I had someone who's had the benefit of not coming from money, where it's like, this isn't something we're accustomed to, that's not how we value ourselves, we've, there's nothing we're going to experience that's worse than what we've been through. So that sort of is a powerful Foundation, to like, my mindset generally is like, I think about things very much from like, minimizing regrets, right. Like, ultimately, I want to look back and be like, we did everything we could to give people a fighting chance to keep families in their homes to bridge the racial wealth gap, not I didn't try. And if I fail, and I tried, that's okay, like, I can live with that. Right? I'm happy to kind of have that conversation versus like, I never even gave it a shot now, like, I'm on my deathbed, right. And so I really, really, you know, I think when people and I met at this conference, it's called the Clinton Global Initiative University. And one of the things that President Clinton said at the time was, you know, be caught trying. And that is something that I fundamentally believe in, like, be called try, right? Leave it on the court, you might be wrong, you might be right, it doesn't matter. Like, I don't want to be caught trying and giving my best shot. And so that's just like more of a life motto. But I think like money is hard, because there's scar tissue, right? So many people grow up with the experience of watching money to find their lives, it's the thing that stops them from doing the thing they want to do. It's the thing that their parents worry about every day. It's the reason why their life is the way that it is. And so it's very hard to overcome that. And, you know, I'm fortunate that, you know, we were able to kind of reframe it and re take control that narrative. But sometimes I just think like, what have you got to lose, you know, like, give it a shot, you never know. And what I will say is, I don't buy into this, like rubbish that Silicon Valley likes to perpetuate rubbish is a strong word, but you're getting me a little, a little under the weather, but is like, you should just like drop out of college, or you should drop out of your job and do whatever. Like, that's just like very unrealistic for most people. Like, well, even when I started building a Susu, while still in our corporate jobs, we put every paycheck we got for two years into a Susu. And so we were just like working 18 hours a day. And so like we literally fall asleep on the phone talking to each other, but we'd be building a susu because we didn't have the safety net to just like quit and go try. And so we had to see enough traction to quit our jobs and go build the business. When I was getting into that credit card debt. I personally found a friend who would cosign a lease with me and I got a two bedroom apartment one of those bedrooms is literally like the Harry Potter closet right there's like tiny little closet and then the other bedroom was huge. And I would Airbnb that bigger bedroom. And that would actually cover my rent and my utilities and my health insurance for like over a year. And like so like if there are ways to do it if you want it and so the narrative is not like hey, go like take this crazy risk even if you're from a low income or underprivileged background, the point is like don't give up on your dreams or don't let money talk you out of the things that you want to do.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Thank you so much just for sharing that part of you worked a corporate job for two years. You You know you Airbnb part of your apartment to like, get through this part, you know, and I think that that's the part of the story that's often not told.

Dyalekt:

Well, even when it is told it's told as like a glamour type of thing. Yeah, this was you paying your dues? And it wasn't you paying your dues. This is just you maintaining. Yeah. And like, I appreciate you saying about the risk and like, you know, some people Airbnb their apartment and do all this stuff, and then the business doesn't work out. And like you were saying before, this doesn't make you a worse person for not having overcome. I also, by the way, just really I've been sitting with the hilarity of a politician telling you how the best way to get caught.

Unknown:

Yeah, well, you know,

Dyalekt:

that they'd be experts in Yeah. But no, I mean, but thank you for getting real about this part of it. And because that is the thing that matters the most, I think,

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

yeah, like,

Unknown:

on the topic of shame, I had literally no shame. Like, I would be the person that would take my Starbucks cup, and use it like five days in a row, because when you bring back the same cup for a refill, it's like 50 cents. Like, yeah, like, you got to do what you got to do, right. And there's like, parts of that struggle that may be kind of under valued, but like, I'd get home and be like, 1am, and I clean the toilet for my guests, right? Like, you do what you need to do. And so I think it's like, very easy to, like, people don't talk about the alternative paths, and sometimes like what it takes to get there. And there's also more than one way to do a business. It doesn't have to be a Silicon Valley back like venture business. Maybe it's your you have a hobby around cooking or you have a hobby, right XYZ and you're doing it on the side, right? Like what you all do with brunch and budget and dead day job army, which I think you might have rebranded and all these sorts of things, right. Like that took time, like you did other things, while kind of doing that you coach, you did financial coaching, you did all these other things and kind of built it into something that now is like a thing. That is all you do. Right? So that's

Dyalekt:

real. Hey, can I ask you a very personal question? On this tip, when you're getting through this and struggling and doing all of the like hustle parts? What did you do for yourself, to maintain your sanity and humanity?

Unknown:

It's easier said than done. You know, it's funny, like, we didn't have an office, I'd work at a Starbucks or a coffee shop every day. And the only people that are out of Starbucks, the same Starbucks every day are literally people that are transient, right? Folks that are experiencing homelessness or don't really have other places to go, that's like a very odd experience to be like, you know, especially in cities like New York or San Francisco. It's a mental health. And then also when, you know, before I did the Airbnb, I was couchsurfing. And it's like, wonderful. And I'm very grateful that I have people that would put me up for a week or two. But it's also like crazy to be in someone else's space all the time, where you're always a guest, we're always in someone else's space, where they're always doing you a favor, where you know, it's not, it's not somewhere where you're like always cognizant of that. And so those things do take a toll. And I think for me, it was kind of like making little steps to adjust the status quo. So in some ways, like, the Airbnb was phenomenal for me, because it gave me a sense of like, ownership again, right? In the sense of like, hey, like, this is a space that I don't have to like, apologize to be in this apartment that however I'm paying for it, I'm still paying for it. And it's like, you know, a place that I can call home. And yes, this like little room is small, but it's still like my bed, and not someone else's couch where I'm like, Am I too loud? Am I getting home too late? Am I getting on early? Am I eating too much of the food? What do you need me to do? And it's not even like, damn thing. It's like a youth thing, right? Like you as a human being don't want to feel like you're not contributing. And so, you know, I think there's things like that. But the biggest the two biggest things that I did one, it's like all about your community and your people. Right? Like I said it earlier, like nothing worth doing is worth doing alone. Like have those people in your life, it doesn't have to be a business partner. It might be a significant other. It might be a friend, it might be a parent, it might be a former coworker might just be the person at the coffee store that you can chat with. But have that ecosystem of people that are there for you that believe in you. I think that goes a long way. The other thing that I did that was kind of I guess clever in hindsight was I worked at LinkedIn before I quit to go work at a zoo full time and they had this program to basically help employees cover health related expenses. Health and Fitness, right so it's called perked up you got like a budget to go spend on workout classes and gym memberships and all that while at LinkedIn because I plan this for a while I would just use all the corporate facilities so I go to LinkedIn gym use it etc. So I had an entire budget open. And so before I left I maxed that out and used it to buy a year worth of gym memberships, a bunch of fitness classes, all those sorts of things and so I had my like fitness routine pre paid for by the corporate budget and so I could still that was the thing I did for me one it's like being able to like have a place to take care of my body my health go work out I could shower all those sorts of things, right? It was like pretty useful in that sense. And I could buy some nice stuff too, right like get some boxes. I suppose in some cycling classes, and that was the thing I did for me. Oh,

Dyalekt:

thank you. Thank you to do that. No, that's a really good way to share and express that. Yeah, because like I think a lot of times when we get into those spaces, what ends up happening is we're faced with having to compromise our values. And then we start wondering, is it worth it? So I just wanted to get like your anchor points that allowed you to hold on to your values. Thank you for sharing that.

Pamela Capalad, CFP, AFC:

Yeah. And I think the common narrative is I just grit my teeth and I got through it right. And to hear that like, No, you planned, even the mental health aspect of it and the physical health aspect of it in a way that you knew you're going to need because it was going to it was going to get hard right