Hi everyone! I’m Spiffy, your favorite interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making a difference for budding entrepreneurs. Today I’m with co-founder and CTO of DealEngine, Vanessa Archambault, to learn how she’s interrupting the field of funding, and making a positive impact on UN SDG #9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Welcome Vanessa! I understand you have a really inspiring story! Can you start by telling me what challenges you are addressing through your company, DealEngine?
Vanessa: I would love to tell you, Spiffy! If you want to start a company, it takes a lot of hard work, connections, investment, and knowledge to get started. For people with non-traditional backgrounds, fewer connections, and limited access to fundraising, it can be incredibly difficult to succeed. DealEngine is building a self-service platform empowering founders to achieve traction and funding, regardless of their background or connections.
Spiffy: So you’re working out a way to level the playing field for founders? What motivated you to do this kind of work?
Vanessa: I am a queer Latina self-taught software engineer and the first person in my family to go to college. I’ve come a long way through grit and determination, and last year I had a great startup idea. The only problem was…I had no idea where to start or how to fundraise—so I put my idea back on the shelf. Then I met my cofounder who had an idea to create a platform that could’ve helped me succeed—and now I’m helping to build it! I hope in the future it will help lots of people, like me, who are first-time founders.
Spiffy: Way to pay it forward, Vanessa! Can you tell me more about how you’re working to make the world a more equitable place?
Vanessa: Well, Spiffy, there’s so much economic inequality and inequity in the world. If you’re someone who isn’t already rich and well connected, it can be so difficult to realize your dreams and have your ideas heard. We believe that empowering everyone who wants to found a company, especially people from backgrounds that aren’t well-represented in today’s economy, will create an equitable world and economy. We also hope to support founders in building diverse, well-functioning, and supportive teams, which could bring many positive opportunities to employees.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about any recent milestone your company has achieved? What kind of impact do you anticipate it having?
Vanessa: I just helped my company launch the first version of our platform/application! We tested the platform on 25 companies and learned a lot from how they used it, like what worked well and what didn’t. Then we did a lot of brainstorming and collaboration to figure out how we could improve things. It was such a great experience and now we’re working on our second version with lots of great changes. We’re building the product that founders will actually find useful—and it’s going to take many exciting cycles of building, learning, and adjusting.
Spiffy: Constant iteration! I’m curious if you’ve ever faced failure. How did you handle it?
Vanessa: I didn’t do well in high school and was rejected by every college I applied to. I ended up going to community college for two and a half years and transferred to the University of California-Berkeley where I studied environmental science. I was introduced to data science through environmental work, which led me to become a software engineer. I learned that even if you’re disappointed and think you’ve really failed, there are other paths to success—ones that may bring you to incredibly exciting opportunities!
Spiffy: What’s something unexpected you’ve learned from someone recently?
Vanessa: I had motion sickness and my co-worker told me that if you put ice on your wrists, it helps. I tried it and I wasn’t dizzy anymore! Your co-workers can become your friends, and if you always maintain a relationship of respect and openness, you never know how your friendship can blossom and what you can learn from each other.
Spiffy: I couldn’t agree with you more, Vanessa. It’s been an honor talking to you, and hearing about your inspiring journey to bring DealEngine to launch! Over and out!
Vanessa Archambault-Morales, co-founder and chief technology officer of DealEngine, is a self-taught software developer with a passion for building technology for good. She has built mapping, voter engagement, and cybersecurity tools, and has mentored and taught in organizations, helping underrepresented communities enter and thrive in tech. This, combined with her perspective as a queer Latina technologist, informs everything she does. (Nominated by StartOut. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 12, 2021.)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.