David Drake continues this series on the Top 100 Crowdfunders globally as he keeps track of the developments of this fast-growing industry from the perspectives of the pioneers and innovators. In this edition, he spoke with Tanya Prive, the COO of RockThePost.
How does one transform from a sales executive to a full-fledged entrepreneur? Working as a sales executive and audience development specialist in Fox News and Forbes, Tanya Prive first set foot in the city of New York in 2005 and immediately fell in love with it. She probably took a bite of the Big Apple and decided to be a part of this city that never sleeps.
With her extensive business background in the fields of product development, design, accounting, marketing, promotion, communication, she pretty much embodies the excitingly diverse urban ecosystem of NYC. And in just few years, she co-founded RockThePost (2010) — a leading startup investing marketplace that connects entrepreneurs and small businesses to investors and capital. At present, she is the COO of RockThePost.
Versatile, always embracing change and being ahead of the curve, Tanya still represents the city that she loves. She hails from Montreal Canada and graduated from Parsons School of Design at the top of the Dean’s List.
Drake: Tanya, how did you start in this business, and at which point did you have the epiphany to pursue this business?
Prive: It was September 2010 – I was stuck in traffic, coming back to New York City from Connecticut, with my co-founder Alejandro Cremades. We began, what eventually became, a life changing conversation about how antiquated the fundraising process was for entrepreneurs. My co-founder and I come from successful entrepreneurial families where we have witnessed first hand the difficulties entrepreneurs have to overcome in order to raise funds. This includes what seems to be a never ending investor pony show, months of meetings that take your focus away from your real purpose – to grow your business – and outrageous deal terms being offered that no entrepreneur should accept. A fantastic New York Times article explains that over the past decade, entrepreneurs who took VC money only have a 20% chance of making a dime, which is ludicrous. That day in September 2010, after an incredibly intense discussion, my co-founder and I felt like there had to be a better way to support deserving entrepreneurs and really get behind innovation. At that time, Alejandro was working as an international business lawyer and I was an account executive at Fox News. The idea of creating a company that would modernize the startup investing process and support passionate entrepreneurs who are disrupting the status quo and innovating was a dream come true – a calling, really. Before we even knew it, we were spending all of our waking hours creating what would eventually become RockThePost, a leading startup investment marketplace where capital meets innovation.
Drake: Tanya, do tell me the synergies between you and your founding partner and the challenges you met along the way so we get to know you better?
Prive: Alejandro and I are very different in nature, but our areas of expertise complement each other as our visions have always been aligned, which is the most important.
Alejandro and I came to realize that the biggest challenge in startup life is purely a psychological play. The insanely long hours are something that you get used to, especially if you love what you do. The tight budget and financial sacrifices are not easy, but we endure them because we believe at the core that what we are doing will make a difference. The many events with family and friends that we miss are probably the hardest, but we beg for forgiveness from the ones who care about us the most. The toughest thing is to trust your instincts in the face of what seems to be daily challenges. You must let you passion drive you. Barbara Corcoran, real estate mogul, angel investor on the hit television series Shark Tank, and a member on RockThePost's Board always says, “the one thing great entrepreneurs share is the ability to take a lot of punches, spend little time feeling sorry for themselves, get up and try it again.” The mental strength needed to get a business off the ground is huge. That has been by far our greatest challenge. Funny enough, it seems like the more punches you get, the easier they are to deal with. Focus and persistence are our number one aim.
Drake: Your firm is one of the leading accredited crowdfunding players in the nation and you have seen over $11 million in deals occur through the firms on your platform. Last I looked you had made 1845 capital introductions. How will your firm eventually generate income as today you are not taking a fee?
Prive: Today, we do charge a subscription fee for entrepreneurs featured on the platform. Also, in preparation for the recent general solicitation ban lift, RockThePost developed a proprietary accreditation verification system that employs the safe harbors outlined in the final rules of Title ll of the JOBS Act. This is another revenue stream.
There are so many additional ways we could monetize the platform. But to be honest with you, our main goal is to deliver exceptional value first. Luckily we are in a position that allows us to do that.
Drake: Where do you see your expertise different from the other top contenders in the space like SeedInvest, Crowdfunder and WeFunder?
Prive: RockThePost's philosophy is to deliver the most value for the best price, both for entrepreneurs and investors. While RockThePost might be similar in some aspects, the platform is more than an open directory of startups. We go beyond that by algorithmically matching investors with startup investment opportunities. Building a dynamic marketplace is our highest priority, and we focus on activities that foster this spirit. For instance, our monthly Digital DEMO Day (1 hour webinar format), where the top four trending startups pitch to a carefully curated group of individual investors, angel groups and VC Funds, has been a huge success for RockThePost's community. In September's Digital DEMO Day, we introduced a live rating system so startups receive instant feedback and leads, while investors benefit from the crowd’s insights. Just to give you an idea, our last event had representatives from over 30 different funds and angel groups in attendance, plus a number of accredited investors, which is great exposure for our startups.
Drake: Who should be coming to register on your site today – you have made it very easy to register- so who is the ideal investor?
Prive: Because RockThePost is a marketplace for deserving entrepreneurs and accredited investors, both are welcome. We are also a destination where the startup community can get educated.
In order to protect startup founders featured on RockThePost and build a credible and transparent community, we have a few requirements, or “trust items” as we call them. Investors need to complete these trust items before they are able to access any pertinent deal information, which has proven to be very productive. Some trust items we require are identity authentication checks, third party validation such as social media engagement, and, for entrepreneurs – business verification checks to ensure the entity is in good legal standing.
Drake: Tanya, when time allows, what do you like to do on your spare time?
Prive: Most recently, I took a trapeze class with the RockThePost team, and had a blast. Generally, I love anything that involves high levels of adrenaline, such as taking the commander off roading and sky diving. Yoga does nothing for me. However, high adrenaline activities instantly mellow me out, in much the same way as a nice glass of red wine.
David Drake, an early-stage equity expert, is the founder and chairman of LDJ Capital, a New York City private equity firm, and The Soho Loft, a global event-driven financial media company helping firms and funds advertise to investors and family offices. He writes for Forbes, Thomson Reuters and other sites. You can reach him directly at [email protected].