Business Clean tech and energy

Something Ventured Part 5: Joro Founder Offers Advice As A First-Time, Solo Female Founder

Photo of Sanchali Pal, Joro

Editor’s note: This profile is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing series by Crunchbase News examining diversity and access to capital in the venture-backed startup ecosystem. As part of this project, we’re following seven seed-stage entrepreneurs over the course of several months as they build their businesses. Read all our profiles of Sanchali Pal and her road as a startup founder with Joro here, here, here and here, and access the full project here.

Sanchali Pal started her company, Joro, as a solo female startup founder in 2018. The startup, which makes a consumer app that tracks your carbon footprint, has now raised a total of $3.5 million across multiple seed funding rounds led by one of the more notable venture firms in Silicon Valley, Sequoia Capital

But it wasn’t always easy. Looking back on raising seed funding, Pal acknowledges that she did not realize “how different it is to be a solo founder, to be a female founder, and to be a first time founder all at the same time, especially in the climate-tech space.”

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Despite the fact Pal had access to powerful networks as an alumna of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, she didn’t realize how difficult it would be to found a startup. 

As a nontechnical founder she got feedback to “call me when you have a CTO.”

“Maybe women are more often likely to undersell themselves, to not speak authoritatively, to have a more conservative market sizing,” she said. 

Pal said her friends in their workplaces have also received feedback that they “sound young.” 

The fundraising journey

Surprisingly, “a lot of investors have had a big impact on my ability to be successful, even if they didn’t give us capital,” she said.

A female entrepreneur gave Pal guidance in those early days, and a  male investor took the time to coach her on her pitch. Angel investors ended up playing an important role too.  

“The investment community can be more aware of their preconceived patterns, because a lot of venture capital funding is reliant on patterns,” she said. 

Funding to sole female founders is the lowest in recent years at just over 2 percent of funding in 2021, per a Crunchbase News report. 

“Because there’s very little data at the early stages, it requires a lot of awareness on the investor side,” Pal said.

Entrepreneurs can also play a pivotal role in supporting other founders. 

Increasing funding to underrepresented founders “requires a lot of support from entrepreneurs for each other, being honest with each other, being helpful to each other, and paying it forward to other founders, especially founders who might not look like you,” she said.

Pal found the steps needed to close a deal can be challenging for first-time founders or founders from different backgrounds. “There’s a lot of persistence and uncomfortable follow-up that you have to do,” she said. “And you should be aggressive and you have to be really confident that you deserve the money.”

Adding new markets

Joro is in the process of planning to launch into its second market, Canada, in mid February. There are various legal and privacy requirements to be met, however,  in order to operate in a new country. 

The company is filing for a trademark in Canada and already meets privacy requirements due to its adoption of GDPR. Plaid, the service that Joro uses to link to user credit/debit cards and banks, operates in Canada as well. Joro has also updated its carbon estimation specific to the Canadian market. The final step is publishing a country-specific application in the app store and play store.  

The U.K. will be next,  which requires setting up an entity in the country in order to handle any financial transaction data.

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What helped in company building

Pal acknowledges it has been a strange three years as almost two of those years have been during a pandemic. Her team, which now counts nine people, is closely involved in strategy and long-term planning. 

“I found the peer support groups to be incredibly powerful from the beginning,” she said. And entrepreneurs who are a couple of steps ahead of the stage Joro is at—the founders of Headspace, Candy Crush and Strava—have been helpful along the way. 

There is also a group of female founders Pal talks with every month. In addition, she has family members in the Bay Area in tech—her mother is CEO of a Series A funded biotechnology company. 

These factors have all contributed to Pal’s understanding of the startup and funding landscape.

She also worked with a business coach during the pandemic, which she found helpful, and thinks investors who offer coaches would be a differentiator for sole founders. 

For now, Pal appreciates the “How I Built This” and food entrepreneurship podcasts as she sees parallels to her journey with those building a restaurant business and trying to succeed as a chef. She also enjoys watching other female founders succeed and follows several on Instagram for a “little dose of what’s possible.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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