Morgan Stanley
  • Access & Opportunity Podcast
  • Aug 12, 2020

Opening the Door for a New Set of Angels

Hosted by Carla Harris

Carla speaks with Natalia Oberti Noguera of Pipeline Angels and Melissa Hanna of Mahmee, a maternal health startup, on what brought them together, the unique challenges of social entrepreneurship and more.

On this episode of Access and Opportunity we welcome investor Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels. Pipeline is changing the face of angel investing by lowering the barriers to entry and bringing more non-traditional investors into the angel ecosystem, providing capital for more women, non-binary and femme entrepreneurs.

Also joining us is the co-founder and CEO of the maternal health startup Mahmee, Melissa Hanna. As the daughter of an obstetrics nurse, Melissa grew up knowing the challenges that women, and specifically women of color, face when confronting the healthcare system. Pipeline Angels first invested in Mahmee in 2015—serving as its friends & family round—and additional members participated in Mahmee's 2019 follow-on round.

Episode Transcript

Melissa Hanna: I know that I get asked different questions in pitch meetings, and I know that I'm held to a different standard being in rooms where I may have had an hour long meeting scheduled with a group of venture capitalists, all white men. And they spent the first 20 minutes just grilling me on my pedigree and my background and education before even asking me to explain what the company was. Okay, so that meant that I got 40 minutes to talk about the business and the opportunity to invest, compared with someone else who may have come in just assumed to be competent and capable based on their LinkedIn profile and got a whole 60 minutes to pitch their business idea. That is truly the disparity that founders that look like me are up against.

Carla Harris: On this episode of Access and Opportunity. We welcome investor Natalia Oberti Noguera, the founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels. Natalia and Pipeline are changing the face of angel investing back creating capital for women and non-binary femme entrepreneurs. Also joining us is the co-founder and CEO of the maternal health startup, Mahmee, Melissa Hanna. As the daughter of an obstetrics nurse, Melissa grew up knowing the challenges that women and specifically women of color face when confronting the healthcare system.

Harris: In this episode, Natalia and Melissa outline the struggles that women of color, themselves included, face in today's investing landscape, how they went from acquaintances to business partners and playbook points on how companies can adapt to the markets current unknowns. Come on and join me for the ride. Carla Harris Good afternoon, and welcome to Access and Opportunity. And let me start off ladies by saying thank you for being guests on access and opportunity. Let's just jump right in ladies. Are you ready?

Natalia Oberti Noguera: Yes. Thanks for inviting us.

Hanna: Thank you.

Harris: Alrighty. So Natalia, you've talked a lot about your lived experience and how you came to be a VC. Can you give our listeners who may not be as familiar with you, a little bit of that background?

Oberti Noguera: Yeah. What a way to start off. You're giving me a lot of ground to cover. So I'd say the first piece, just to ground us, we right now are currently in a pandemic, having to connect right now over Zoom. I think it's important for the people who follow this podcast to know that this is what us entrepreneurs do, which is we adapt to the occasion. And right before the pandemic actually occurred and we had the whole hashtag stay home, stay safe. I had an opportunity to keynote at an entrepreneurship conference at Yale, my college Alma mater. And I started off the talk by saying, you know like success to me, to those students in the room was if at least I could give them and, or inspire them to consider that they could be an entrepreneur and or at least LGBTQIA+ by graduation, they would be ahead of the curve. Because I graduated without realizing I could be an entrepreneur and without realizing I was queer.

Oberti Noguera: And let me tell you, I would have had a lot more fun in college if I had known at least one of those. And the reason that I didn't know either one was because when I was growing up predominantly in Latin America, I don't remember someone ever introducing themselves and saying, "Hey, I'm a founder. Hey, I'm the boss. Hey, I'm an entrepreneur." And because I didn't have the language, I didn't realize that that was a possibility. And so kind of like fast forwarding to Pipeline Angels, and one of our taglines is we're changing the face of angel investing. And for us, that very literal language that we're using is how we're helping get more women and femmes. So anyone identifying with womanhood, cis, trans, nonbinary to consider that they can become an angel investor in an age where I don't believe Shark Tank still has had a woman of color or femme of color, Shark. So representation is key and is important.

Harris: When I first read about Pipeline Angels, I thought to myself, "Was she trying to democratize angel investing? Actually make it accessible to everyone?" But what was happening in society that made you say, "Wow, we are now at a place where there are a lot of women who have disposable income. That's number one, number two, there are lots of women who have an interest in investing in other women. And number three, there's a huge need given the inequity of the distribution of capital to women and multicultural entrepreneurs, which is why we started this podcast. Perfect storm. But now only if I could get women to understand what angel investing is all about." What was the Eureka moment for you that there was a need right now in the marketplace and that you could be the unique owner of this opportunity?

Oberti Noguera: In 2008, I built a network of women and femme social entrepreneurs in New York City from about a group of six individuals to over 1200 within two years. And it was having conversations with these entrepreneurs that I realized how hard it was for them to secure funding. This was 2008 was about a year after Tom's Shoes was in the market. Honest Tea had been out there for a while. Ben and Jerry's as well. So there was an obvious need and interest from the market to support businesses that were doing good and well.

Oberti Noguera: My, "Aha" moment came in those conversations with these women and femme social entrepreneurs who would share with me that people will get really excited about their change-making businesses would offer to donate, would offer to write a check. And as soon as they would clarify that they were aiming to be for-profits social ventures, they would immediately back away and say, "Let me know when you start your sister nonprofit." And that's when I realized that the world and society has a gendered perception on how we change the world. When a woman or a fem says that, "We're going to change the world." The assumption is that we're going to launch a nonprofit. When a guy says that he's going to change the world, people are not assuming that he's going to launch a nonprofit.

Harris: So this podcast is aimed at entrepreneurs, asset allocators, better known as investors, as well as policy makers. So how would someone listening to this podcast who is interested in being a part of Pipeline Angels, how could they get into that ecosystem of great asset allocators or investors that you have assembled and get access to this extraordinary dealflow?

Oberti Noguera: There are two types of profiles for our members, a Pipeline Angels member. There's one who maybe already know about angel investing, know about Shark Tank. They've checked out their local angel group, and what they've realized is that they're predominantly white and or male. And oftentimes these angel groups tend to have, in addition to their annual membership fees, they might have annual minimum investment that are quite high. And so for me, it's interesting they use the word democratize, because to me, a big way for us to get more of us into the room is to lower the barrier to entry. And so we do work with accredit investors. We do work with high net worth individuals. At the same time, if this is the first time that someone is about to make an angel investment, there might be some hesitation.

Oberti Noguera: And so our members end up investing about 5K. And it really is because our members are, I call it our members being the friends and family around for entrepreneurs who might not have the friends and family to begin with. Then the other profile are some women and femmes who they might not have ever considered angel investing, might not know about angel investing. However, what are they, they're actually very active in their communities, volunteering, philanthropically, et cetera. And so what really engages them with Pipeline Angels is the fact that they're going to be supporting other women and femme entrepreneurs and the group learning. That's something that really attracts them. And so the piece for me was, how do we make the pie bigger? And this is by actually getting more people interested that currently aren't already in the ecosystem.

Harris: Okay. So they can pretty much find you online and sort themselves in?

Oberti Noguera: Yes. And you had a question about the entrepreneurs, which I think is so important. Because something that I'm so glad that you've made sure to cover with the other podcast episodes is the myth of the meritocracy. Someone could meet me at a conference, or it could be following on social media. And just the fact that they met me or they met a Pipeline Angels member somewhere else, doesn't make it easier for them to actually be considered by our members. Everyone has to go through the pitch summit application. And so one of the ideas was that this actually is leveling the playing field. So if someone actually can't make it to a conference, can't make it to meet one of our members or portfolio companies, doesn't have that access, that doesn't mean that they don't have the opportunity to actually apply and be considered by our members.

Harris: Okay. So let's talk about Melissa and Mahmee. Tell me what is Mahmee?

Hanna: Mahmee is a maternal and infant telehealth and care coordination platform that partners with health systems and care providers across the country to ensure access to healthcare for every mom and baby. Our ultimate goal is to increase access to comprehensive healthcare for moms and babies across the country. And we know that in order to do that, we actually have to empower the folks on each side of the equation, the patients and the providers, to be able to better connect with each other. And that it's not technology that's going to make healthcare better for all, it's technology that's going to be a vehicle for improving the care by improving the way in which care is provided. So that's really the way that we think about it. And what we've built is a software and a services platform. We not only power those connections by functioning, sort of as well, people will call us like the glue or the plumbing that connects up what's happening in your hospital, to what's happening in your local doctor's office, to what's happening in your local community based clinic or center where you may be receiving free or heavily subsidized healthcare services.

Hanna: What's happening in all these different spaces is that people are committed to, and trying to get care out to the community, but they don't have tools that connect to each other. So Mahmee is that glue or that plumbing that links up all of those providers together and then creates an interface on the other end for parents to be able to access that, to be able to log in, have their own dashboard for managing their care and being advocates for themselves in this process. That's a very important part of this is making sure that the patient is centered as the recipient of care, but also the advocate for what she needs along the way.

Harris: How did you figure out that that was a huge need? Just like I asked Natalia, what was your aha moment that said, "Wow, this is a perfect storm. And nothing like this exists. I have to own this now." What was that for you with Mahmee?

Hanna: I wouldn't say that there wasn’t a single aha moment. It absolutely brewed over months and years of realizing that there was an opportunity to build a new kind of technology company in the women's health space and specifically in the maternal and infant health space. This journey began through overexposure to maternity healthcare through my own mother, who is an obstetric nurse for over 40 years. And in fact, my mom was most well known for having designed some of the most successful mother-baby care programs in the country. And so that was her career. And in fact, growing up, I didn't want to have anything to do with that because my mom was so famous in maternity healthcare. I thought, "I'm going to do anything else with my life. And I'll be more successful for it, then living in my mother's shadow." So I actually went down the path of education policy and education technology.

Hanna: Along the way I found that companies were having these major issues in these highly regulated spaces, where there were valuable solutions for increasing access to education programs. As an example, this was the space I was in and I was thinking, how could we be so limited? We're trying to tackle education challenges with one hand tied behind our backs because we don't have this sort of insight and this understanding of how technology can be a part of the solution. It isn't ever the solution on its own. Technology is not going to save the world in and of itself. It is a tool for activism. It's a tool for creating change. And so along the way, I started to pay closer attention to my mother's career. And I thought to myself, "Okay, at some point she's going to retire and I want to make a side project out of just digitizing all of her papers and her files on all of the programs she designed over the years."

Hanna: And as I read through these things, I realized that there was still work to be done and that as much as she had pushed the bounds on what was possible in providing mother-baby care in hospitals, she also had this desire to take it outside of the building. And so I went to her and I said, "Mom, what if we could take this outside of the building and use technology to be able to connect with families where they're at and get their providers connected to them in these ways?" And she initially laughed and said, "It's not going to happen. It's going to be too tough and do anything else with your life, and you'll be happier." So it wasn't an aha moment. It wasn't like, yes. Okay. Then let's go do this. It was like, Oh gee, I guess you're right. This might be really tough.

Hanna: And so I initially put that aside and didn't think that that was going to be a business worth building, frankly. But then that cynicism really stuck with me. And I thought if my mom could be this passionate about this field and her colleagues could be this passionate and devoted to providing access to healthcare, how could they also be this cynical? Like what's really behind all of this? What are the biases that are blocking us from being able to move forward and ensure better access to healthcare, especially to our least advantaged families in the country? What's in the way, if everyone actually wants to help mothers and babies that aren't otherwise receiving access to quality healthcare? But then we're just kind of giving up and saying, "That's not going to happen." This seemed like such a horrible paradox. Yeah.

Harris: So that brings us to a very important part of this conversation. How did you guys meet?

Oberti Noguera: It's so funny that you say that Melissa I'd love for you to start. I was about to mention Melissa, when we were talking about the pitch summit application process, because Melissa and I knew each other before Mahmee and you still applied.

Hanna: Yes. We really were just exactly the profile of a company, very early stage idea, pitch deck, some early tests of what we could build and screens for what the app would look like for Mahmee and just a big vision for impacting maternal and infant health care for the better. And when we applied, we went through the same process and we were reviewed by the angels and in the cohort, we applied in our city for the opportunity to pitch to the, a Pipeline Angels LA cohort. And we were selected as part of a group of 10 startups to go to the pitch summit and present.

Hanna: And it was incredibly exciting for us because it was actually our first time pitching to a cohort of investors like that. And so it was really a good match of an early stage company pitching to investors that in some cases were early in their own investing careers as well.

Hanna: Although they might have had long standing careers in philanthropy and in other kinds of asset management or investment, there was a newness in the room for everyone. We ended up not just connecting with the investors in the program, but also making friends with the companies that were in the cohort with us. So that was also a really rewarding experience. And from there, we were put into a finalist group of the top three companies that the cohort had identified as being interested in doing a diligence with. So that was the next step of the experience for us was getting the chance to go through the due diligence process with these investors that were also exploring that and learning how to do that collectively. Yeah. That was like this first official moment for us. And in fact, the Pipeline Angels check that came from that was the first investor check into the company.

Harris: Ah, okay. So it was really, really early. So because the other question that I was going to ask you, Melissa, was that all money is not created equal. And as an entrepreneur, you have to be careful about the money that you take because there are demands associated with any early stage money that you get. But because you were so new at it, had you developed that muscle of being discerning about the money that you're bringing in or where you're like, "I just got to get some money"?

Hanna: Well, we had had the chance to meet with investors previously and there were a couple of events, really just a handful. I think there might've been two or three other times before going to the pitch summit that we had pitched, or that I had even pitched to a group of investors. This felt much more formal and official. And I think that they really did put us through the ringer. I mean, we absolutely went through diligence process. It was quite rigorous and it was an education for us on how things are supposed to go.

Hanna: So I do feel like to some extent, we were really lucky to get that education early on because it also set the standard for our conversations going forward, to model what the experience was with Pipeline to make sure that other folks were treating us that way. And the questions that were being asked were not just about business model that were about the ethics of the company, the vision for growth, the vision for building the team, how will we stand behind a call for diversity and inclusion in our own work every day?

Harris: That was the question from the investors?

Hanna: Yes.

Harris: Wow. And how often had you gotten that kind of question from other VC investors?

Hanna: Well, to be clear, we only had had a few conversations before then. So I would say that at that moment in time, it was exciting to be speaking with anyone about those things that we cared about as a team, that I personally care about as a CEO. Thinking about from that initial conversation to now that does not come up in most investor conversations. You're not necessarily being asked those kinds of questions as a CEO when you're pitching for venture capital. Although I would say that for me now it set a standard. I look for investors that are going to care about those things and ask those kinds of questions.

Harris: That is outstanding. And that is very different than what we hear from a lot of investors. In fact, a lot of multicultural and women investors say that before they received money from a female asset allocator, that the experience was they were asked questions that they were sitting there thinking, "I can't believe that they're asking entrepreneurs that don't look like me, these kinds of questions." So have you found that experience?

Hanna: I know that I get asked different questions in pitch meetings, and I know that I'm held to a different standard. There are stories from the journey for the past five years that I've been on in building Mahmee that are absolutely emblematic of that. Being in rooms where I may have had an hour long meeting scheduled with a group of venture capitalists, all white men. And they spent the first 20 minutes just grilling me on my pedigree and my background in education before even asking me to explain what the company was.

Harris: Wow.

Hanna: And thinking that, "Okay, so that meant that I got 40 minutes to talk about the business and the opportunity to invest compared with someone else who may have come in already known by that group of investors, or maybe just assumed to be competent and capable based on their LinkedIn profile and got a whole 60 minutes to pitch their business idea." That is truly the disparity that founders that look like me or founders that don't look like me, but don't look like what Silicon Valley has traditionally invested in are up against and are facing every day. So I am aware of the different kinds of questions and the different standards that I'm held to in pitching anytime that we're fundraising or engaging with investors on behalf of the company. But I also realized that I have agency in this process and I have the ability to be as selective as the venture capitalists that I'm speaking with. And I want to work with people who are going to in earnest ask me questions about my values and my ethics and the kind of team that I want to build and the kind of business that I want to build. And I want people to be asking those questions of me because they understand that it creates a much more powerful return on investment.

Harris: Yes, outstanding. So now, tell me Natalia, what was it about Mahmee that made you all say, "Yes, we have to invest in Melissa and Mahmee"?

Oberti Noguera: Carla, I'm going to be provocative right now and share that something that Melissa mentioned made me think about a playbook point that is really important. And I will even be cheeky and say, I kind of get a sense of playbook points is Carla's Pearls 2.0.

Harris: All right. You know I want to hear that.

Oberti Noguera: So one of the things that I share with entrepreneurs and especially at pitch summits, as an entrepreneur myself, often we're out there, we're launching these companies because we want to change the culture. We saw something that maybe was not working and we want to create something better, create a solution. And something that I remind them is that it's not just that we're here changing the culture, we have an opportunity to create our own culture. What we at Pipeline Angels can do is we can help get the Mahmee's of the world in front of our members and then we can hope for the best.

Harris: It's not Pipeline Angels that's on her cap table. It's whatever members decide to invest, is that right?

Oberti Noguera: Yes. And so one of the things that I will say that is really important for us is that we're committed to not perpetuating the systems that we're aiming to disrupt. So we want to make sure that we're building a broader, more inclusive investing community that then in turn funds a broader, more inclusive startup ecosystem. And so one of the things that we do during our orientation is we provide an unconscious bias session, a training.

Harris: For your investors?

Oberti Noguera: Yes. Because I'll tell you right now that more white women investing in more white women isn't the answer. And unfortunately, when we talk about more women, and I'm saying that specifically without the femmes part, investing, unfortunately, oftentimes it's still means white women. Dominique Derbigny had a fabulous tweet, it's one of my favorite tweets, which is like, "If you're in the business of doing race and gender equity and you're not bringing up white supremacy and the patriarchy, what are you really doing?"

Oberti Noguera: I love that quotation. I'm like, what are you really doing? And so for us really, it's trying to make Micky ScottBey Jones proud. Micky ScottBey Jones has a fabulous poem called An Invitation to Brave Space, and in it, she talks about how safe space doesn't really exist because each of us have hurt each other. And so the goal really is how do we create a brave space where we can have brave conversations? And so that's what we're doing with our members, really helping them become more aware of, as Melissa said, these biases, becoming more aware of just privilege, having these conversations so that they have that in mind when they're reviewing applications, so that they know what to keep in mind, how genius doesn't just come an extrovert size.

Oberti Noguera: And unfortunately, a lot of times how pitches are created, it does give an advantage to someone who is an extrovert. That's why we do the one-on-one. So like, because, Oh my gosh, I have not quoted Rihanna. So like I have to do it. I was thinking about her lyrics where it's like some entrepreneurs are going to shine bright like a diamond in front of the whole room and some entrepreneurs they're going to shine more brightly in a more intimate setting. And so we want to make sure that we're giving them the same chance.

Harris: Yeah. And I'd say, Natalia, you definitely take a different approach to it, which obviously has created an opportunity for people who have capital to be able to invest it in these great opportunities like Mahmee. Now, let me switch for a second because I actually want to talk to both of you about COVID. We are having this conversation right in the middle of a pandemic. So talk to us about how COVID-19 has changed your business. I would imagine that it is turbo boosted it.

Hanna: Absolutely. It's a dramatic change. We are still catching our breaths around here at the company. This is a very strange experience to be going through when there are so many devastating effects of COVID-19 outbreak across the country and around the world. And yet in this moment, our small team that five years ago, when I started the company, I and my co-founders and our early team members committed to a vision of bringing these kinds of tools to the market widely, to make it possible for people to receive healthcare online, for people to be able to connect virtually with their care providers, get access to education right when they need it, just in time and not to have these delays in access to care that literally cost lives, that costs us mothers and babies lives in this country.

Hanna: People are dying, and this was before COVID-19, people were dying during or shortly after childbirth because they weren't able to access care promptly. So when you think about that, this is a bet we placed a long time ago, that the market was going to have to change in order to solve this problem around maternal and infant mortality in the United States, which is higher than any other developed nation. So it's a very strange feeling to be here where our company is now receiving such demand for our platform. And a great example of this is a health system that just contacted us a couple of weeks ago in the middle of all of this happening. Now, the email started with the line "Urgent. We need help." That was the subject line. And they reached out and said, "How quickly can we get on Mahmee?"

Hanna: That would be exciting in and of itself to get an email like that from a director of a health system. But the thing is that that director wasn't a stranger to me, I've been speaking with that person and their team for the better part of two years. They knew who we were. They knew what we were doing. They understood the vision. They didn't think that they needed this tool. And so in light of COVID-19, what's happening at a fundamental level is that people are quickly realizing across the healthcare industry, "Oh my gosh, we've got to change. We've got to figure out how to connect with each other." Providers in different systems, doctors in different clinics, folks that are working out in the community, visiting families at home, which is a very common component of a program for maternal health cares. Go check on the mom and baby at home once they get home from the hospital. Folks are realizing across the country we need to find better ways to provide this care, to ensure that everyone continues to receive access in light of this crisis.

Harris: So you're one of the many, many companies that we have found that have been founded by multicultural and women entrepreneurs that actually are benefiting not just from the existence of this right now, but frankly benefiting and will benefit from the changes that we all will make on the other side of this. Obviously there's a whole new thinking now about remote education and learning at home, let alone telemedicine. So how are you responding to that? Because I would imagine you need more people, you need to expand your footprint at this time. So how are you thinking about that and bringing on the team to serve the need and the need that's just going to get bigger?

Hanna: We will continue to expand our team during this time and beyond knowing that this has now put us on a different trajectory, a different pace of business development. It's changing our fundraising strategy. We're getting contacted by a number of different kinds of investors that have been watching this market closely and say, "Now's the time to heavily invest in telehealth" and not just telehealth, I think it's very important that we make it clear that being able to video call with your doctor has been around for a long time. It's the prospect of care coordination. It's the idea of preventing patients of all kinds and in our field, particularly mothers and babies, preventing them from falling through the cracks because no one was paying attention or no one dignified their concern when it happened. And this is especially true with black and brown women that have spoken up for years about health concerns and said, "Something doesn't feel right, I need help" and have been turned away or said, "Just hang on a little longer", or "Let's just see where this goes before we take action."

Hanna: And we've lost lives because of this. And so the immediacy of technology and of these tools means that there's no excuse anymore for delaying care and delaying support when it's needed. For our company internally, this means that we are all moving at a faster pace too, and just adjusting as quickly as we can to this. That's difficult to do when everyone is also just a person going through this pandemic together and emotionally dealing with the impact it's having on their family, on their loved ones, their children, their partners, folks cramped together and working from home. These are the realities for our employees and others across the country. So I take this very seriously as not a moment to throw our hands up and victory and say, "Yay, this is what we've been waiting for." But to actually recognize that we do have an opportunity here to come out on the other side with the company we've been trying to build this whole time, but also that we need to be cognizant of how this is impacting everyone broadly.

Harris: And I would argue that you must, must, must invest right now because the mistake that I saw a lot of emerging businesses make during the financial services crisis, and at that point I was chair of the National Women's Business Council appointed by President Obama, I had an opportunity to see a lot of women-owned businesses, and it was interesting how many people had taken the tact not to invest, because we were in a crisis at that point, and then when things turned around, and they will, they always do, not being in a position to take advantage of the opportunity that was there. So, if there's anything that I would give you, and I know that Natalia has been giving you advice, but if there's anything that I would say as a seasoned investment banker, invest and move quickly now. Because when this ends, the last thing you want to do is not be able to take advantage of the business that's going to come your way, especially because of where we're going to be on the other side and what we will have learned. And we will have learned a lot about trusting and leveraging technology in a different way. So Natalia, that brings me to you. What are you saying about how to manage through this time? What advice are you giving?

Oberti Noguera: We are also sharing a lot with our investors during this time. And a big piece of it is because, I'm going to do the reality check, it's a catch 22. There was an article where someone was saying that investors, and read, it was from white guy investors, during this time they don't have the head space to seek deal flow outside of their network. So that is happening right now. And we know this, it's scapegoating 101. They didn't have head space to go out of the network even before the pandemic. Number two, just BCG last summer, came out with a study that said that women founders secure half of the funding of their male peers, even though they have double the revenue.

Oberti Noguera: Why am I bringing up these depressing stats right now? Because the reason that it's a catch 22 is that yes, the Mahmee's of the world right now, they do need to invest further as you were saying. We also need to give them resources so that they are able to do that.

Oberti Noguera: And so, one of the things that we're sharing with our members is that a lot of these, particularly our portfolio companies, we now have 80 plus of them, they need our members to be part of these follow on rounds. They need our members to invest now because they might not have the resources to get through. And if we help them right now, to your point, they might actually be able to scale and make an even bigger impact, which then, I did want to honor you Melissa, as we're talking about this piece, which is you started this conversation by talking about how it was really marginalized communities that people were like, well, they don't know how to use, or they don't want this, and that this really comes from a deep place of bias.

Oberti Noguera: And the other piece of this conversation is by Mahmee succeeding, it also means that the most marginalized communities that you were talking about, including Black [&] brown trans and nonbinary parents, you're going to be there for them. And that's the piece that I want to make sure that doesn't get erased.

Oberti Noguera: And there was a very important milestone that Mahmee and Melissa and the team had, which was they secured a multimillion dollar funding round led by the Serena Williams, Arlan Hamilton's new fund and Mark Cuban. And I've been cheekily saying Mark for diversity. And our members were able to be part of that follow on rounds. And so this is the key piece. I had forgotten, you mentioned you launched five years ago, that's 2015.

Oberti Noguera: So here's the piece. The Mahmee of 2015 is not the same Mahmee of 2019. However, if we don't invest in the Mahmee of 2015, how are we going to get to the Mahmee 2019? And I say that's really at the crux of what our members are doing. They're helping create our runway to give these companies a chance. And I know you'll humor me this time, Carla, I'm going to remix Rihanna and say if we want more of us to shine bright like a diamond, we need to invest in more diamonds in the rough so that we can get there.

Harris: I would agree. Okay, ladies, we are at that point of Access and Opportunity where we like to have a little fun, and make sure that our listeners get an opportunity to know you just a little bit more, because they obviously will learn a lot about you as they listen to this. And you both have been phenomenal.

Harris: So I'm going to ask you a series of questions and you tell me the first thing that comes to your mind, and this is just fun and frivolous. So I'm going to start with you, Natalia. Reading a book or binge watching television?

Oberti Noguera: TV.

Harris: City or the countryside?

Oberti Noguera: I was going to say and Queen Sugar please. Okay? And then city.

Harris: Winter or summer? Natalia Oberti (34:38): Summer.

Harris: Water or wine?

Oberti Noguera: Water. Water for the win.

Harris: Okay. Email or phone call?

Oberti Noguera: Texting or video chat.

Harris: Okay, last question. What is the one word you would like to use to describe your legacy? One word.

Oberti Noguera: Amplifier.

Harris: Okay. Love that. Alrighty Miss Melissa.

Hanna: Can I say that all of my answers are almost exactly same as Natalia's. Except for email, phone call.

Harris: That's okay. I'll give you the questions anyway. Okay. Book are binge watching television?

Hanna: Binge watching television these days.

Harris: City or countryside?

Hanna: City.

Harris: Winter or summer?

Hanna: Summer.

Harris: Water or wine?

Hanna: Water.

Harris: Okay. Email or phone call?

Hanna: Phone call.

Harris: All right. And one word to describe your legacy?

Hanna: Fierce.

Harris: Oh yes. All right, amplifier and fierce. I hear that all day, ladies. Thank you very, very much for spending some time with us to talk about this amazing opportunity and your amazing journeys, and how you came to be. There were lots of playbook points. So I thank you, Natalia. I thank you, Melissa. And you keep safe and well throughout this period.

Hanna: Thank you.

Oberti Noguera: Ditto. Thanks so much for inviting us, Carla.

Harris: All righty. Thank you. Thank you all for joining us for this episode of Access and Opportunity. In our next episode, we'll be joined by investor, founder, and partner of Operator Collective, Mallun Yen, and entrepreneur, Kieran Snyder, co-founder and CEO of Textio. Can’t wait to see you then. And by the way, we'd love to hear from you, so remember to share your thoughts and feedback with us at See you then.

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