I recently wrote a post for The Case Foundation's Faces of Founders initiative, which labels itself “A Discussion of Entrepreneurship, Race, Place and Gender.”
I've reposted the content below for easy access. I hope my own story gives you a better sense of where we came from and for some of the motivation behind what we do, everyday, to make Landed a success.
I encourage you to check out Faces of Founders for more rich content!
The following post was originally published here.
My entrepreneurial journey started long before I ever know the concept of a business plan. In fact, I didn’t realize it at the time, but even my earliest experiences in childhood gave me the background and understanding of a problem — and ultimately how to solve it — that would lead me down the entrepreneurial path.
A proud product of Seattle-area public schools, I grew up amongst extremely hard-working people who received and seized the opportunity to give my siblings and me more than they had growing up. Despite being a public school educator, 4:30 a.m. meant the front door clicked shut as my mom scurried off to the paper route she took on as a second job to pay the bills. Before eventually becoming a social worker, my dad would shimmy into the bright yellow Chevy Caprice taxi cab parked outside our apartment, and then hoist his casted broken foot onto the passenger seat to make sure not a day was lost.
Despite the hustle, there was always time made for quality family fun.
During good times and hard ones, my numerous aunts and uncles (biological or not) pitched in to help raise my siblings, cousins and me. Often out of necessity, the sharing of transport, meals and space meant my community — collectively — got to experience a richer life than had it been all on our own. From this I learned from childhood that collective effort — not believing you do it all by yourself — makes the world tick.
Despite our relative fortune in family, love and physical security, many years were spent living on the financial edge, bringing along with it debilitating stress and strain. It wasn’t until I was older, when my parents came into the security of owning the roof over our heads after the passing of Granny, that my family could leverage homeownership as a tool for more freedom. It helped send me to college, support extended family members through rough times, and even made tangible the concept of a rare vacation.
My parents and me on my college graduation day from Northwestern University.
Historically, my family’s story seemed accessible. Today, without access to significant intergenerational transfers of wealth, it sounds like a luxury, especially where costs are up and the means to get ahead are down. Tools of opportunity to build financial security are increasingly out of sync with the lived realities of folks in expensive places. Without surer pathways to gaining a sense of stability and control over their sense of place, many see no choice but to move far away from their home. It was this background that led me to create Landed, a platform that helps essential professionals build financial security near the communities they serve.
Despite their role in making our local societies thrive, our essential professionals — like educators, nurses, first responders and others — are experiencing this crunch acutely. They’re experiencing it so much so, many are choosing to either commute hours each way to serve our communities, or leave their professions all together. When it’s educators who leave, our kids bear the brunt, because the most significant factor to a good education is a good classroom educator — and one who will stay in that community.
That’s why Landed is on a mission to help educators choose to stay near the communities they serve, so the lifestyle tradeoff isn’t so stark for the people choosing to help raise the next generation. Borrowing lessons from home purchasing assistance tools for retaining professors at our alma mater Stanford University, we started Landed to expand this type of support to others — right now with a focus on educators — so that you don’t have to work at a large, wealthy, private institution to buy a home.
A home purchased with Landed support in San Francisco by two Bay Area educators.
From day one, our co-founding team has never been shy to ask for guidance and support, knowing we have strategy, passion and energy, but always benefit from wisdom, financing and validation at every turn to be anything more than dry-erase marker ink on a whiteboard. Just asking people to be a part of our work — even in small ways — has led us to the incredible team of staff, advisors and partners we have today.
Asking for help as we built Landed realized a dynamite team of trailblazers.
Early on, I don’t think I personally appreciated how important it is to put the right person in front of the right audience to present our startup idea. We quickly learned that it was my co-founder Jonathan, not me, who was the best situated to lead many of the early conversations we were having with bankers, regulators, and investors. And that’s how the division of labor was decided: whoever has the vocabulary to give us the best shot at being taken seriously — given who we were presenting to and on what we were presenting — is the one who pitches.
This recognition of where the strengths lie on our team goes beyond just pitching. I speak a lot about the importance of lots and lots of different inputs so we can better approximate the truth. No one person or one like-minded group knows it all. This is why diversity is so important to us at Landed. Whether it’s the team we’re continuing to build or the customers we get to serve, at Landed, we place a lot of operational priority on finding more avenues for us to get diverse inputs so we can get the fuller picture of the truth about our product, our company and the world we operate in.
Having a diverse set of entrepreneurial leaders on our team is also crucial to helping to change the perception of who can be creators and owners in our world. From the kids looking around for role models, to the grown-up kids looking for new inspiration. We’re committed to building up leaders in our world who fully reflect the true make-up of our world.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that attending a well-resourced and connected institution like Stanford — and leveraging our status as recent graduates of the MBA program there as we got started — has given us a huge leg up when finding others to work with. Other phenomenally helpful communities include former staffers of the Obama campaigns and administration, the SF Bay Area black and Latino founder community and organizations like Nationswell, EdSurge, the New Leaders Council, the Truman National Security Project, TechEquity Collaborative, SF Housing Action Coalition, SPUR, the Urban Land Institute and many others.
As a startup, as long as you’re building (meaning: you have outcomes for which you target, and key results you measure against along the way), you’re succeeding. Sometimes this is constructing the product, and sometimes this is getting more and more people to buy what you’re selling. We’re proudly building every day, so I can also proudly say we’re succeeding.
Faith, Benny and family: a couple of our Bay Area homebuyers.
These educators who have been able to purchase a home and continue living in and contributing to their community are the reason we keep pushing ahead at Landed. Our hope is that by starting with this deserving pool of professionals — educators — we’ll build our own capacity to eventually serve anyone who sees themselves in a similar predicament, not only teachers. One day, we hope we can make it just a little bit easier for all of us to navigate the path to more financial security and more freedom in the places we choose to call home.
As always, find us at landed.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!