Lighter Capital Profile

Lighter Capital logo.

Lighter Capital is a founder-centric startup funding run by CEO Melissa Widner.

Founder(s): Melissa Widner

Industry: Venture Capital

Founded in: 2010

Location: Seattle and Sydney, Australia

Interview With Melissa Widner

Describe your product or service:

“Revenue-based financing.”

Describe your company values and mission:

“Lighter Capital exists to be the most founder-centric financing option to support entrepreneurs in realizing their dreams on their terms.”

How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.

“Voyager Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, National Australia Bank, and other VCs. Three rounds — ~$30 million.”

How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!

“The original idea for Lighter Capital came out of an unpublished research report by a Harvard Business School professor who said there should be other forms of financing for startups in addition to venture capital.”

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

“Yes. I had a business when I was 10 years old.”

Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?

“Startup companies with recurring revenue.”

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How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

“Referrals and SEO.”

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

“New customers and dollars out the door.”

What’s your favorite startup book and podcast?

“‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ [and] ‘How I Built This.’”

Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?

Salesforce and Slack

What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?

“Entrepreneurs must be comfortable working with ambiguity.”

What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?

“Having a network of other founders.”

Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?

“Keep focused on priorities.”

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

“Waitressing. Stay focused on the customer!”

What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?

I think the two biggest hurdles for us, are in the areas of Finance and Hiring.  Both are a lot like walking a tightrope when you start a company especially as you set up payroll, taxes and HR.  I really missed my extended teams from past lives that made this all look so easy.  I think another challenge that every start up faces is hiring the right people who really believe in what you are doing and understand what it takes to work at a start up.  It’s not for everyone.

Is this your first business? If not, how did your experiences with past businesses influence your decision to start this new business?

AaDya is my first business and I founded it with the premise to simplify cyber security needs for small businesses with smart protection and to save companies from attacks.  After spending nearly 20 years in the IT and cybersecurity industry, he knew there weren’t any solutions in the market that address these needs, yet cyber security remains at the forefront of many leaders’ minds as the need increases to protect their companies.  Most small businesses don’t own security software because of prioritization, cost, internal knowledge, specific expertise or having a dedicated security team.  AaDya’s flexible, comprehensive solution with multiple cloud-based offerings is a unified approach to what small businesses need.  Our Artificial Intelligence and machine learning solution differentiates us from our competition.  

Who is your product or service made for?

Small and mid-sized businesses

What’s your marketing strategy?

AaDya Security communicates with our customers by:

Providing an email newsletter with company news, product information, and security information for small businesses.

Using targeted Google and Facebook advertisements.

Utilizing social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

Providing contact information on the company website.

Host weekly product demos

To grow the company, AaDya Security will do the following:

As business grows, advertise in target markets

Network at start-up, technology and small business conferences

Establish a company website containing engaging content about our services

As the business grows, advertise in publications that reach our target industries

Add channel partners ( boutique security firms and B2B)

How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

All-in-one doesn’t mean one-size-fits-all.  We understand that different businesses have different needs — we offer three levels of service to best meet our customers needs.  When we first began our company, we partnered with several customers across different verticals to really understand their wants and needs.  This was instrumental in designing and building our product.  More than 90% of our initial design partners remain our customers today.  We also have several partners that we work with who recommend our product to their customers.

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

We are partner driven and are always looking at this through two lenses and asking ourselves how do we make a program that enables them to grow as well as how users use our platform. 

How has your approach to managing your business changed from when you started to now?

When we first began we were really focusing on small and medium businesses directly.  We have since realized that working directly with channel partners (boutique security firms and B2B) has worked really well for us

If you could go back in time and change anything about your entrepreneurial journey, would you?

Looking back, I think I would have changed how we hired and when.  I would have taken a more bootstrap approach with a longer timeline.

What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?

Starting a company is not for the faint of heart.  You will be told “no” at least 20 times a day, however you can’t let this get to you and have to remain focused on your goal. 

Who is your support system?

I am very fortunate to have a supportive family, group of friends and past co-workers.

Who or what inspired you to start your business?

My uncle started his own business in 1975, without any help. He was from Italy and his story truly epitomizes the American dream. Today it’s one of the top pizza places in the area and continues to grow each year adding more franchises.   I know his journey was difficult at times, but seeing the rewards he has reaped years later has inspired me to do the same.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by getting things done and making sure our users and team members are enjoying this chapter of our journey.

What’s the #1 resource you rely on for success?

Reading books, Blogs and LinkedIn

Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success?

I had to dust off my project management skills and really learn the finance process.

How do you define success?

To me success is continuing to see partners and customers benefiting from our product and having our team members happy and enjoying what we do.

What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?

Surviving all of the unknowns of starting a new company during a global pandemic.  I still smile thinking that a start up at our stage not only survived but we also raised $2.7M during this time.  

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Starting a company is hard work and you should surround yourself with people who believe in what you are doing. 

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