Lisa 

I’m Lisa Calhoun, Founding General Partner at Valor Ventures and Atlanta Venture Capital Firm and your host for the podcast today. We have a really special guest, Founder, and CEO, Jasmine Crowe of Goodr. She is an amazing founder with an incredible story. Jasmine, welcome to the program.

Jasmine Crowe 

Thanks for having me, Lisa.

Lisa 

I am so excited to catch up with you. For people who don’t know about Goodr, please share what you do and why you do it?

Jasmine Crowe 

We are a food management company and we help businesses redistribute their excess food from landfills to people in need. Post-COVID, we’ve been doing a lot of work to get food directly to people. So, I like to say that we’re solving two of the world’s greatest problems and that’s hunger and food waste and we’re using technology to do it. I think why it’s important is these are two really big problems that no one can overlook and they have sadly existed for too long. We really want to be the ones that can solve it.

Lisa 

Well, you’re definitely one of the stars in the Atlanta innovation ecosystem. You’re also working nationally with clients in multiple states. I’d like you to go back, if you would, to the beginning. A lot of our listeners or founders, many of them are working somewhere else, they have a side hustle, or they just launched. COVID is making things really challenging. When you go back to your earliest days of the business, what did you do that you think helped create some of the success at Goodr? What are some things that if you were talking to your younger self, you would say, “Yes! Good, good, do more of that.”?

Jasmine Crowe 

Well, I think what I did is I took a lot of meetings. I would meet with anybody that would be willing to meet with me and I was very aware of the fact that I didn’t know everything. I think that that’s super important. Early on, if I knew nothing else, I knew my business. I knew the problem that I was solving. I knew why it was important. I didn’t know that I had done so much research. I would read reports and journals, Harvard Business Journal, everything I could on hunger and food waste, and I would read about it in other countries. I really educated myself beyond just what I saw. By actually cooking and feeding people on a personal level here in Atlanta, I really spent a lot of time educating myself on what hunger looks like worldwide, and what was being done to solve it all over the country. So, that was the thing that I think is so important is when we are in the startup space, we’re solving a problem. The best thing that you got to be able to do is to know the problem that you’re solving and [do] a lot of research there. I’m again, knowing that I didn’t know everything, I took advantage of all the free resources I could [use]. I went to a Y Combinator Startup School. The little classes and videos that were offered on YouTube, I would study those. In the wee hours of the morning, I would be looking and trying to understand customer discovery and value propositions and really learning the terminology that quite frankly, I had never heard. The same people that I mentioned, like the Jewel Burks and people that had been founders before and operators, I would ask to meet with them. I’m not a morning person, but sometimes they’d be like, “Can you meet with me at 8 am for breakfast?” and I’d be like, “Sure!” because I knew that I needed to work on their time frame. I think those are some of those early things that I did to kind of give myself an edge up, if you will.  I spent a lot of time trying to learn it.

Lisa 

Well, you have a lot of experience in it. How much experience do you have cooking for and feeding people before you decided to build a business around it?

Jasmine Crowe 

I have been cooking for people out of my kitchens since 2013. I’m doing that every week or every other week depending on the donations and the food that I had. I think that was kind of the biggest thing that I really did.

Lisa 

An incredible base of experience and then you made a decision to get financing for your company. I know that one of the decisions you made was to choose Venture Capital. How did you come to that decision? What would you say to founders who were looking for scaling their business? Venture Capital, is it a good path? What would you advise?

Jasmine Crowe 

Well, if I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t go and seek Venture Capital. The truth of the matter for me, I think scaling a software company especially does take a lot of money. I know that’s important but I think you also give up a piece of your company and oftentimes you’re giving up a part of your company to people who don’t really care about you as a founder. I often talk about sending investors updates and I think I have eight investors on my cap table, including one accelerator. I may get one response to my investor updates, so a lot of times just asking for help or asking for connections. It just doesn’t happen that way. That’s unfortunate. If I really would have thought about it before, I would have really tried to get more customers, and really just tried to bootstrap for as long as I could. I think I ultimately ended up needing to get funding because I realized that I couldn’t build the technology without the capital. It was just too expensive. I used pitch competitions for the first year and used all that money to build back that first iteration, that first v1, if you will, of the technology. Then it was like, “Well, how am I going to pay myself? How am I going to hire people to kind of help me build this?” All those questions were the ones that I couldn’t answer and that’s ultimately what I think made me go after fundraising.

Lisa 

Well, I’m glad you brought up your customers. I’m going to ask you for some of your secret recipes to attract a strong enterprise customer. But first, I want you to brag a little bit about your customer growth. I know it’s all out on Twitter, but you have done an amazing job landing some really strong contracts. Could you share with the listeners a little bit about some of your wins and some of your big successes on the customer side?

Jasmine Crowe 

Some of our largest customers happen to be the Georgia World Congress Center, the third-largest Convention Center in North America, and the Atlanta Airport. Those are kind of some of our early wins. Enterprise customers Goodr has been fortunate to work with including SAP, EY, we’re working in several of their campuses and obviously many of them have closed, but we still have opportunities to work with them when they come back. We also work with WeWork. WeWork is one of our largest customers on our organics recycling services. Since the start of COVID, we’ve been really fortunate enough to work and sell to a lot of governments and counties. We have worked with the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, DeKalb County, Cobb County, Atlanta public schools, Fulton County Schools and many more. Most recently, [we] landed a really great deal with Merck as well as Blue Cross Blue Shield. We’re starting to really get into the healthcare space and those are all amazing customers.

Lisa 

They are! Yes, that is a blue-chip list. When you think about all of the food that you’re diverting from waste, and the waste stream into the actual mouths of hungry people, it’s also such beautiful work. You are amazing! You’re an entrepreneur and an angel, Jasmine. I love following your story and thank you so much for taking a little bit more time. Let’s lean into those customers and that customer mojo you have! A lot of founders tell me and I know they probably tell you, too. I don’t know how to sell to customers like the list you just mentioned. What kind of advice do you have for pursuing some of those really big contracts that you successfully closed?

Jasmine Crowe 

I definitely didn’t know how to pursue those customers either. Make no mistake about it, it doesn’t get easier. I think what we started to do is really have case studies. I think that’s so important. Having a strong case study, for every customer that you get. I think one thing I would really encourage founders to do is not do free pilots. That was kind of one of the saving graces of Goodr is that I always knew I could never do anything for free because I didn’t have the money to do it. I always had to charge something. Even when I was first starting and before I had the technology, I had a price on the service because I knew once I had the technology it was going to cost and I wanted customers to see the value early on and what it was that I was doing. When you’re thinking about it and you’re pitching pilots, it should be a paid pilot because if nothing else and if they don’t pay you for that pilot chances are, even if the pilot goes great, they’re going to try to give you [censored] payment terms. You want to make sure that you’re getting the best deal possible. Those were some of the things that I was focused on. I would also do a case study on every single customer that I got. I had a good graphic designer that I worked with. When I would go out and try and talk to other customers or like even other airports that I’m still trying to sell to now, I have these case studies on the Atlanta Airport or other convention centers. I’m really able to show why working with Goodr is so powerful. Testimonials. I think it’s really cool to the extent that you can get a testimonial from one of your customers and that’s what you really need because that’s when they become your biggest champions. I would definitely speak to customers like the [Atlanta] Airport.  If they would be willing to do any kind of media interviews for me. They would give great testimonials, they would talk to other customers, and they would talk to investors. We’re really making sure that we go above and beyond. I think it’s just important and those things matter. Even if you get one customer, knowing that that one customer can lead you to many more customers, is the thing you gotta never forget.

Lisa 

How do you ask a customer for a testimonial? How do you go about it?

Jasmine Crowe 

I’m very upfront early on that I might ask for a testimonial. I think it’s so that it’s not a surprise to them. I’m very much like, “Hey, I may need a testimonial, we’re fundraising. I’m gonna need you to talk to some investors. That’d be something you’d be willing to do” and most of the time everyone’s like, “Yeah, of course ask with anything you need.” A lot of times, it’s just asking, and then again, when you’re doing those case studies, we have developed a list of questions that we ask every customer. We use it almost the way as a pilot review or a customer review like “Hey, we’re checking in with all of our customers. Can I get 15 to 30 minutes of your time?” and then when I go through those questions, oftentimes I’ll say, “Can I record this? Or would I be able to use that testimonial on a case study?” They’ll often say things like, “Yes, of course.” Just asking those questions and learning as much as you can about your customers is critical.

Lisa 

That is an awesome masterclass. Get it out front. You’re obviously a CEO who’s selling. Customers know that it’s Jasmine. That’s really amazing and that’s great advice. So, a lot of times I like to encourage founders to use this platform because it’s not all founders who are listening. We also have corporate leaders, we have influencers, we have investors and people like that. What are you looking for in the next couple of quarters ahead? What are some of the exciting things around your growth, and maybe even some companies that you’re trying to get into? Put it out there. You never know, a listener might be able to make the right connection.

Jasmine Crowe 

Yeah, I think Goodr really is now trying to look at what it looks like to work with more governments at scale. I think COVID actually opened that up to us. Going back to investors and that they don’t always know everything. Early on, I have had government agencies and large scale state universities as one of the primary customer groups that I wanted to sell to. No investors ever want to know that you’re selling to governments because they take forever to close. You got to go after these enterprise customers, ones that you can close quicker. We started saying, “You can actually close government customers. There are RFPs out there. There are people that are looking for your services.” The thing that I’m really excited about now is selling to more government agencies and we’ve really created some new programs and built some new products that are allowing us to serve people at scale. Of course, we’re still looking forward to getting back into the enterprise swing of things. Post-COVID, when all of this ends, and people go back to work, what does that look like? Are we serving the large scale enterprise customers? Are we getting into hospitals, schools, where’s the food going to go? Because food will always be there. We’re really looking forward to seeing what life looks like after COVID for Goodr? We have some really great customers and we have already signed up some stadiums, some arenas and we have a really great deal with the NBA. We’re working with some really key players. I’m just kind of waiting it out but we definitely think governments are going to be a big, big part of Goodr going forward so we’re really excited about that.

Lisa 

Very exciting. When you say government, are you thinking of State County Hospital? You mentioned hospitals, but there’s a name out there.

Jasmine Crowe 

Yeah, I think we’d love to work with states. We’d love to work with city governments and counties. I’m really looking for one city to say, “We don’t want anybody to go hungry in this city.” This is what we’re putting forth. These are the programs we’re interested in. They’re looking for a company that can bring something to the table and Goodr has those. We have those plans, we’ve done these case studies, we’ve presented a really compelling case study to Atlanta public schools on making sure that students have food while they’re learning virtually. Seeing a lot of this being implemented over the next two weeks is going to be eye-opening for us but it’s also world-changing. It’s something that we could take to other cities and other counties and say, “Look, this worked in Atlanta, let’s do this in Washington, DC, let’s do this in Chicago, let’s do this in Charlotte, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee.” Those are the things that I think are really a key. Also, we’re really looking to work with food distributors. I think that there’s a big opportunity there. The way that hunger has been solved for generations, is one way, and it’s always just through the food man. It’s always through donating to these massive non-profit organizations. What we have is a B Corp, for people, for planet, for profit. We believe that we have another solution and that if given the opportunity to work with food distributors at scale, we can actually help them manage and measure their ways, help them in hunger at scale, and really make sure that nothing ever goes to waste and change the way that hunger has been solved, or should I say pacified for many years?

Lisa 

Pacified is a good word. So Jasmine, real talk. Is it possible for Atlanta to end hunger within Atlanta?

Jasmine Crowe 

Yeah, it’s definitely possible. I think 100% it’s possible to end hunger within Atlanta.

Lisa 

You can go there and what kind of timeframe would that be possible?

Jasmine Crowe 

Seeing what we’ve done now, I think that there are so many touch points. Having the food delivery, I think that’s the biggest thing that’s been the most eye-opening to me. For every Amazon Prime, Instacart shift, there are ten people that can’t afford that and who are unbanked. They don’t have a credit card or a debit card, or they live in a food desert. [Those who are] not technologically savvy, they could be a senior citizen, who would never be able to go on an app or a computer and order food. There’s this huge segment of people that are left out. We think food delivery is going to only grow and that Goodr has a big opportunity to allow food delivery to solve hunger for people who otherwise still can’t get out of their houses, don’t have transportation, and lack access to getting to food banks and food pantries, which again has been the constant solve for years. The food bank delivers food to these nonprofit organizations and churches and people go there and get whatever gets delivered to them. It’s not cohesive of something that can actually make a meal. Where in Goodr with technology and just with people-to-people access, [we have] the ability to actually touch people and ask them, “What are the things that you’re eating and you don’t eat? Are you low sodium? Do you have diabetes? Do you need to watch your sugar?” We can create food packages for them and get them delivered to their doors. I got so many cards literally just coming into the office today, I must have like fifteen cards that were mailed to me from people who are receiving food from us that are just like “This has changed my life. I’ve never not been hungry. I’ve been food insecure all my life. I’ve never received food that was this good.” So, I think that hunger can be solved in Atlanta. It does take a huge buy in of corporations and governments. There’s got to be a merger of just saying not in my city but I think that any city that is truthfully committed to that would be able to do that. If you think of all the changes that have been made like when we wanted to build a stadium in Atlanta, we found the billions of dollars that were necessary to do that. We bought land, we moved churches, we moved mountains to make that happen. Anything that we want to do can be done and it just matters if people ultimately want to solve hunger. I think people like to talk about it and I don’t know who really actually wants to solve it. But if nothing else, I know we can make a really big dent in it.

Lisa 

Well, I think a lot of people hear this side of what you do, and they think of you as a charity, but you’re not. You’re for profit and you’re actually helping your customers on a financial level. If you wouldn’t mind giving an overview, I’d love for people to realize why supporting Goodr as a customer is actually great for your bottom line and not just great for your heart because it is but also great financially because you’re solving a huge accounting opportunity.

Jasmine Crowe 

Exactly. Goodr sees ourselves as a food management company, and one of the things we manage is food waste. Businesses are already throwing away a ton of food and they’re paying a waste management company to do that. They’re getting no insights on anything it is that they waste. It’s like they’re paying to throw something good away where there could actually be tax incentives to that. Beyond that, Goodr really focuses by not being a nonprofit and we really focus on economic development in every city that we operate in. We pay people even at the lowest level, no one starts at Goodr making less than $15 an hour. We really like to be a company that feels good for people to work at and people take a lot of pride in doing that. We’re creating jobs, we’re allowing businesses to see tax incentives that they otherwise have been throwing away for years. We also give them a lot of data and analytics on the things that they’re constantly wasting so that they can actually make better ordering decisions. That’s one of the things that has surprisingly been like the big win for a lot of our customers is that they start to see, “Okay. Every single week, we’re wasting carrot and raisin salad like maybe this is something that we were making years ago, that doesn’t matter anymore.” Those are the things that I think are starting to happen with our technology that people are starting to really love.

Lisa 

So for founder’s In Atlanta, what’s your insight on Atlanta as an ecosystem to build a business in? You think Atlanta is great. Why are you building your business in Atlanta? Do you think you’re gonna be staying here?

Jasmine Crowe 

Yeah, I love Atlanta. It was a lot more affordable when I moved here seven years ago. I still think it’s more affordable than like in New York or Boston, Silicon Valley for certain. I think it’s extremely diverse and I think that that’s extremely important to be able to see other founders that look like you as a woman and as a person of color. I don’t have any investors. I have two angel investors in Atlanta but I don’t have any venture investors here. But I do know that there’s some really good funds that are coming up. I’m hopeful that that’ll be a good thing for other founders, that there will be somebody that they’ll be able to raise from locally. I think that’s the main thing that’s missing. I think the encouragement for me is to encourage people to invest in funds in Atlanta so that they can invest in founders in Atlanta. I think that’s important.

Lisa 

I think that’s really important. I want to take the chance to thank you for being a keynote. It’s a while, March 4th.  But at Startup runway, which is all about introducing underrepresented founders who are leading their firms to their first check writing investor, and at our last Startup Runway, we had over 50 first check writing investors who were looking for an underrepresented founder to bat. One in three of our finalists raise a seed round within about six months. Having your voice there and your real lived experience is going to mean a lot. I just wanted to say thank you very much for that.

Jasmine Crowe 

Thank you so much for having me.  

Lisa 

Well, before I let you go, I want to get your wisdom on who in Atlanta do you feel that founders should really connect with? These are people that from your experience, they’ve made a difference in you. They may not be the ones whose everyone knows their name and maybe they are, but you would give a shout out and say “Get to know these people. Connect with these people if you’re building in Atlanta.”

Jasmine Crowe 

Yeah, I definitely would say if you’re building a social impact startup so very similar to what Goodr is, I think Joey Womack is a really good person to know. He’s just a huge champion. He runs Goodie Nation. He also runs the WeWork labs here in Atlanta. I just think he’s a great person. Jewel Burks is another one who was really helpful to me. Early on, he was one of those people that would meet with me and give me the advice that was just really solid. I would take all the advice that she would give to me. She would say, “Jasmine, you should talk to this many customers, you should do this.” and I would literally write those things down, go after them, go on meet these people and go and do the task that she gave me. I think those are just some of the people I would recommend to talk to for sure.

Lisa 

Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing your time. Congratulations on your strong and growing business. I look forward to getting updates and seeing it continue to succeed. You are an amazing visionary founder. I’m so proud to even know you. So thank you so much for your time, Jasmine.

Jasmine Crowe 

Thanks so much. Have a good one. 

Lisa

You too. 

Jasmine Crowe 

All right. Bye.

Lisa

The Atlanta Startup Podcast is produced by Valor Ventures as a service to the startup and investor community. We couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors–Atlanta Tech Park, the global innovation center, and Write2Market, Atlanta’s favorite tech, and healthcare marketing firm. If you’d like to get your information on the Atlanta Startup Podcast, our share a message with our listeners, visit us online and check out our affordable rate card. All advertisements here are tax-deductible donations to the Startup Runway Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is connecting underrepresented founders to their first investor.