Why Resilience is Crucial to a Startup's Success: Ksenia Yudina of UNest

Summary of Episode

#37:  Ksenia Yudina joins  Annaka and Ethan to discuss her journey founding UNest, a fintech app designed to help families invest in their kids’ futures. Ksenia walks us through the problem she saw with traditional options for families, and she shares her story innovating the finance industry, an industry that is often reluctant to change.

About the Guest: 

Ksenia Yudina is the CEO and founder of UNest, an investing app that makes it easy for parents to invest in their kids’ futures. During the financial crisis, Ksenia began working as a real estate broker in order to help make ends meet. She later found a passion for finance and while working at Capital Group Companies,  Ksenia became more familiar with tax-advantaged accounts and the tools many wealthy clients used to support their kids. Armed with the knowledge, Ksenia set out to build a platform to help make these options available to every family.

Podcast Episode Notes

Ksenia’s person store with debt and how her work in the finance sector led her to build UNest [1:58]

The power that comes from friends and having self confidence [3:46]

The problem: A 529 account is a tax-free account but is inflexible because it can only be used for education expenses [5:08]

The solution: Moving towards UTMAs, which are more flexible and easier than 529 accounts [7:17]

The challenges that come from innovating the fintech space [8:28]

Building a tech product as a nontechnical founder [14:32]

The importance of networking and asking for introductions [16:34]

Taking direct feedback and implementing that into your product [18:56]

Weighing when to acquire another company and when to build it yourself [22:35]

Ksenia’s approach to fundraising and using venture debt as insurance and a safety net [26:54]

From the mortgage industry to real estate and now to being a CEO [30:31]

The importance of adapting and how to overcome doubts [33:16]

Learning to say no in order to keep focus and establish priorities [36:48]

Ksenia’s advice: In the initial phases when you cannot afford to pay people, use equity as a currency. Don’t be greedy with your equity [40:36]

Full Interview Transcript

Annaka:  Hey, everyone, and welcome to Startup Savants. I'm Annaka.

Ethan: And I'm Ethan.

Annaka: If you're a returning listener, welcome back. And if you're new, this podcast is about the stories behind startups, the founders who run them, and the problems they're solving. Today, we are joined by Ksenia Yudina of UNest. Hey, welcome to the show. How's it going today?

Ksenia Yudina: You guys, good to be here. It's going great.

Annaka: Excellent. We're very excited to talk to you and get to know you and your company a little bit better. Start us off, though, tell us about UNest, the problem it's solving, and how it is solving that problem.

Ksenia Yudina: Sure. UNest is a fintech app that makes it easier than ever before for parents to save and invest for their kids' future and get gifts from friends and family. The problem we are solving is ... So it's a couple things. First, we make it super easy for parents to invest in their kids. And this process, historically, has been very challenging, time consuming. It involved a lot of paperwork and, on average, took parents seven hours to complete. The second is we're trying to make sure that kids that grow up and graduate into adult life 10, 15, 20 years from now, they're not exposed to student debt or any type of debt, any type of financial obligations.

Annaka: Gotcha. And why was this an important problem for you?

Ksenia Yudina: Well, I graduated from UCLA Anderson with $180,000 in student loans. So the problem was near and dear to my heart. A lot of my friends were impacted and I felt like the entire generation was suffering because of the student debt. Right now, it's about $1.8 trillion. It's pretty much a national disaster. That was my largest motivation.

But the second thing, I worked in the financial industry. Before starting UNest, I was at Capital Group, which is the number one provider of 529s and UTMAs and other custodial accounts in the industry. And I was helping a lot of clients, high-net-worth individuals, start saving and investing for their children, but the process was super complex and painful for us, as financial advisors, and for the clients. It involved 16 pages long financial applications. We had to FedEx them for signature, get it back, set up an account on the back end. And it was 2018. I realized that a lot of my classmates and my friends who were millennial parents, they already used financial apps to manage all aspects of their lives. They used apps like Robinhood and Mint and Venmo, but there was nothing that existed to help parents to start saving and investing for their children, although, as a parent, I knew that children is number one financial priority for parents.

Annaka: So, at what point were you like, "All right, enough of this financial advisor stuff. It's me. I'm the one that's got to do this?" How did you get to that point?

Ksenia Yudina: So the inspiration definitely came from my friends, first and foremost, because I got a lot of friends who reached out to me, knowing that I work in finance at Capital Group, and just asking for a simple solution to start saving for their kids because they were trying to make a difference and, for decades, to avoid the student debt that they were exposed to. And when I gave 30 friends financial applications from Capital Group, they did nothing. And I realized that I need to find a better way.

And another thing, I just felt that kind of superpower in me at some point because it was right at the point where ... when I just passed the last level of CFA, which is the hardest financial exam in the industry, and I just had my twins. So I was starting, actually, during my maternity leave and when they were one year old and it was done on top of my full-time job. And I just felt that I can do anything, that I had the superpower to change the world.

Ethan: And you do.

Annaka: Yes, absolutely.

Ethan: And you do. And we're seeing it in practice. So UNest began with a 529 solution. And you mentioned 529s and some other things earlier, but before we go any further, could you give us a primer on what a 529 plan is?

Ksenia Yudina: Sure. 529 account is an investment account that's meant to help save for education. It's tax free, which is great, but the limitation is that you cannot use proceeds for anything outside of educational expenses, like college or books or computer equipment. And I can tell you about the pivot, if you ask me, but that's a big limitation for a lot of people because they feel like it's too restrictive, because if you use it for something else, you're getting a penalty of 10% on all the gains and you lose tax advantages.

Ethan: Wow. Okay. So it's an extremely limited plan. And were there people finding that they would put money in this and then have a hard time using it for what it was intended for?

Ksenia Yudina: So the reason we started with 529s was because I was a big fan of 529s, coming from Capital Group. It was a great solution for high-net-worth individuals because of two reasons. First, they had a very high probability of the kids going to college and they really wanted to save for college. And second, they were looking for a tax shelter.

When we started a product for everyone else, for people of all income levels, for all economic backgrounds, we realized, actually, it happened during COVID, when we started growing very quickly, that people have different priorities for their children. Not everyone wants their children to go to college, not everyone wants to save for education. Some people want to save for their first car or for the first house or just for camp. There are so many different things and aspirations that parents have for their kids.

And people did not like the restrictions. Our community reached out and they were, quite honestly, also very confused about the states because 529s are sponsored at the state level while there are other custodial accounts that are sponsored on the federal level.

Ethan: So basically, you had people reaching out to you saying, "Hey, this is confusing. It's not working for us," and you took that advice, which is good on you for taking the advice. What's the solution that you move to outside of that 529 plan?

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah. We moved to a different type of account. It's called a UTMA or UTMA/UGMA, which is also a custodial account. It's also tax advantaged and it's an investment account which is more flexible. So you can actually spend the proceeds for anything that benefits the child, not just education.

Ethan: That's a pretty big advantage. Is that also an easier account to work with? You said that the 529s are state-sponsored. Is the UTMA also a state-sponsored plan?

Ksenia Yudina: It's not. It's much easier. It's federally sponsored. We have a great partner on the back end who's helping us with all taxes, communication, all of that stuff, but it’s a much, much easier platform to manage.

Ethan: So I want to go into something that you mentioned in your company profile and that fintech is a difficult industry to disrupt. Can you tell us more about what you meant by that?

Ksenia Yudina: Yes. Fintech is a regulated industry. First and foremost, when you start a company in fintech, you need to make sure that you meet compliance and regulations. So for example, UNest is an entity that's regulated by the SEC and by FINRA. We are the financial advisor and we are the broker dealer. It's very hard to disrupt, but it also creates a lot of barriers to entry for new entrants. To become a broker dealer, it took us 10 months and over $300,000 to get to that setup. And compared to tech companies, in addition to some of the same challenges that we experience, we also need to know things like KYC and AML. Know your client and the money laundering rules to make sure that users who are on board meet a lot of criteria and we can actually open the investment accounts for them.

Ethan: So it sounds like there's a lot of red tape in the building of the company, in the starting of the company. Were there any other major roadblocks that you ran into when you first got into starting UNest?

Ksenia Yudina: Yes, absolutely. There were so many roadblocks, but I would say the biggest one was, of course, disrupting the industry. When we started with 529s, we met so much resistance from the industry. They were not ready for it. The entire 529 industry collectively said, "We don't want to use APIs, we don't want to deal with startups, we don't want to do things electronically. We prefer faxes and-

Ethan: Oh, my gosh.

Ksenia Yudina: ... and we prefer paperwork." And it's a very tight industry. They all talk to each other, they all go to the same events. And I've spoken to some founders that attempted to start companies in the same space. The reason they failed was because they just couldn't break through this industry. 

So the first year was very challenging and we had to change our back end two or three times, oh, three or four times, actually, just to find the right partner because the minute you start scaling, the startups are meant to get to thousands or hundreds of thousands of users, that really scares those large financial institutions. We were at the point at sometime, early days, where we had to take two large financial institutions to court to fight.

Ethan: Wow.

Annaka: So, speaking of your back end, three to four times is a lot of changes to make, initially, and you'd mentioned that it was due to scale. How did you navigate those big changes in direction while you were building out the app?

Ksenia Yudina: A lot of help from the board, from advisors' introduction. We were, at some point, facing the decision of, do we just want to pause the app and all the users that were trying to come into the app and maybe redirect people to the waiting list, and reached out to some advisors on board and they said, "Don't pause. Just find another partner and keep growing because it's great when you see so much demand for a solution. You need to satisfy this demand and these things are normal." One great thing that one of our board members and advisors said, "If it was easy, everyone would do it." And it gave me so much motivation to move forward and keep trying. And yeah, it wasn't easy. Definitely, the first year at any startup, I think, is the hardest.

Annaka: Yeah. Well, I feel like, in backend changes, there's the, "We can make the backend this or we can really lean on the momentum of ... We've got all these users coming on. They're really excited about this solution. What can we put out as an MVP that's going to then give us time to get the back end perfect?"

Ksenia Yudina: Right. That exactly was our decision making, like, "Let's start with MVP." The MVP of our app was very slick on the front end. The user experience was just great. It took you a couple minutes to open the account and get into the app. On the back end, we were still sending faxes. You know how Netflix says, "Never give up. We started with DVDs?" So we have our own saying at the company, "Never give up. We started with faxes and look how far we've come from there."

Annaka: So beginning to end, as far as building the app, how long did it take?

Ksenia Yudina: For the MVP, it took us eight months. That's not typical for the fintech, though. I've spoken to other founders and founding teams. It typically takes two to two and a half years to build it if you want to be regulated and you want to do the broker dealer from day one. We started with a shortcut where we became a registered financial advisor. We launched the app, but like I mentioned, on the back end, it wasn't that slick. So to rebuild the back end, it took us another year.

Annaka: It seems like a long time, but in development world, it's not. That's real quick. And as far as just tackling the concept, you're like, "Okay, here's our problem, here's our solution." How did you even map out what steps you needed to take to get from point A to point B? 

Ksenia Yudina: So I started reaching out to network. First of all, I didn't have any technical background. That was another challenge. I knew a lot about finance and about business, having MBA and CFA and working in the industry. I didn't know anything about technology. So I started reaching out to network. I partnered up with Steve. So Steve first became our tech advisor and then he joined as a CTO, once I raised the seed round. And we, together, came up with the first prototype. We found a team that was able to look, do competitive research and understand the problem we're solving and come up with a prototype of the app. And then we found another team to actually build that prototype into the actual app. But for that, we had to streamline everything and get to the real MVP and remove all the nice-to-have features and really just understand what's must-have for this solution to be live.

Ethan: So did you mention, was Steve a part of your network or is this somebody that you found while you were looking specifically for someone to help you with tech stuff?

Ksenia Yudina: That's someone I met while I was looking. I just went to a bunch of events, tech events, and I spoke with a lot of people about the idea because you have to validate the idea, as well. You need to get feedback from market and understand, is there anything else that already exists and how do people react? Everyone was super excited and said, "You're onto something. It sounds so great and it solves real problem." And someone introduced me to Steve because Steve was, at that time, working at a large financial institution and he really wanted to make a switch back to fintech or tech and he wanted to be aligned with a mission-oriented company. So that was a perfect match.

Ethan: So if I'm a person who has an idea and also does not have a technical background, how do I find my Steve?

Ksenia Yudina: Network, talk to as many people as possible, tell them about the idea and ask to make intros. And one intro will lead to another intro, and will lead to another intro and, ultimately, you'll meet someone.

Ethan: I think that is simple, yet eloquent. I think that that is an excellent answer. All right, let's talk about your users. So in order to get the best, the most out of UNest and do it right to save for your child's future, the users that you get would really have to be committed to the platform for a long period of time. I download an app and then delete it the next day. So what are the strategies you're using, whether they be marketing strategies or otherwise, that ensures that you're getting new users that are the right fit and are in it for the long haul?

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah, great question. So first, of course, it starts top of the funnel, the marketing channels, because we tried a variety of things and I would say what brings the best quality of users with the great intention to stay there for a long time, it's like, if you tap into affiliate channels, for example, or influencers or referrals, people learn about you from trusted sources or from their friends or from the celebrity that they follow. Those are the best type of users.

And then there are more low-intent users, like programmatic channels or sometimes Facebook, Instagram can produce low-quality users. And then once you get people interested and in the app, then engagement really matters and additional value that you provide as a product. So that's why, after launching the MVP, which was just like “set up your account in five minutes,” the next thing that we launched was a gifting feature. So now, parents can receive gifts from their friends and family for Christmas and other holidays via electronic gifting. That became very popular during pandemic when people couldn't see each other in-person.

And in order to launch that feature, we actually had to acquire a different company called LittleFund and integrate with them. And we just launched crypto because, again, just listening to the users, "Okay, what is that you want to see next on your next platform?" Overwhelming feedback from our existing user base, "We want to be able to buy individual stocks and crypto. So we were like, "You got it." So we spent six months developing that solution to allow parents to buy and hold crypto for the next 10, 15 years for their kids.

Ethan: So I want to talk a bit about that acquisition because I find that to be really interesting, but there's one more question that I want to go back to. You mentioned that some of your best users are coming in from partnerships like affiliate partnerships and influencer partnerships. How did you go about building your affiliate program and finding the proper affiliates that were going to best suit your needs, bring you the best users, and that were going to not just be a once-and-done solution, but really be long-term partners?

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah. So for the marketing, we used a mix of in-house and agencies. So things like affiliates and influencers, we actually outsource to the agencies that are expert in this. And we have several people in-house that are managing those agencies, but we have weekly check-ins to see who they're targeting, to make sure it's high-quality blogs, that they have a good incentive, it's not just some coupon website that will bring some spam.

Ethan: Cool. All right. So that's interesting. It's just managing-

Ksenia Yudina: Managing.

Ethan: ... managing those partnerships. So yeah, let's move on to the acquisition. Can you just tell us more about that?

Ksenia Yudina: We acquired two companies. One is Kidfund and another one is Littlefund. They both were in this family saving space. So the first acquisition of Littlefund happened in 2020, in the middle of pandemic. So the company couldn't raise funds. It was a very challenging fundraising environment. We just closed our Series A round and I got an email from one of our advisors who said, "Hey, I remember you wanted to launch this gifting feature. Are you still interested? Because I have this company that's looking for an exit and, potentially, I can just connect you two to see if something is in there."

So he connected us, we spoke to co-founders, and we decided to acquire them. The company was pretty small. They raised, at the time, maybe $1.4 million from investors. The team was maybe three or four people and it was a very smooth acquisition. The value of the company was replaced with a convertible note that converted in our next round and we gave the job offers to the team. And it took us three and a half months to integrate the technology. It was actually pretty quick and we launched it right in time for the holidays.

Ethan: So you said it was a pretty smooth acquisition in that the convertible note was the funding that you used to acquire their business. Correct?

Ksenia Yudina: Yes, exactly.

Ethan: Gotcha. So do you recommend that all companies that are the same size, on the same path as what you are, look for acquisition targets when you're ... Obviously, if it's a good opportunity, then it's a good opportunity, but is this something that should be on the radar of all founders or should most people just be out there saying, "We want this feature. I'm going to build it?"

Ksenia Yudina: It really depends on what's the value. And it can be opportunistic and it can be strategic. For us, it was more opportunistic. We were not looking for the company to acquire. It's just the macro environment was that way and someone pinged us and it was something on our roadmap. So for us, it was definitely easier to acquire versus build, but for some other companies, it can be maybe they're acquiring a UM or users or not just a specific piece of technology. I know that some companies at our stage also acquire talent, just to bring new employees. That said, there is one caveat that any acquisition is also destruction and there can be some cultural clash or personality. Any founder needs to be very strategic and really understand the value and all pros and cons of the potential acquisition.

Ethan: Did you run into any of those culture clashes or personality problems?

Ksenia Yudina: Yes.

Ethan: How did you manage it?

Ksenia Yudina: So for the first acquisition, we did run into one problem. We had to separate with one of the co-founders. Another co-founder stayed at the company and he's excellent. He's still there. We're super happy and he just, for some reason, he was a great match. And another co-founder, just, it wasn't a fit. So we made the decision to separate. When we acquired Kidfund, already lesson learned that this can happen. So we were hedging our risks. So when we were acquiring Kidfund, I had a conversation with the CEO and they said, "Look, it may work long term, it may not work long term. Let's make a commitment to each other for six months that we will give it our best to transition and integrate the technology and integrate the team, but if it doesn't work, no hard feelings, you'll be thankful and you can move on with the next chapter." So next time, it was much, much easier.

Ethan: Sounds like you came into that with openness and honesty and both of you were on the same page. So I'm glad that it worked out. It sounds like, even if it hadn't worked out, there wouldn't have been any hard feelings. That's really awesome.

Ksenia Yudina: Right. Yeah. I think it's always best to manage expectations and understand that, in 90% of cases, probably, the management team of founders, it's better to keep them for the transition period and then just keep the team, but let them move on to something else.

Ethan: So you mentioned that you had, in the past, closed your round A. How is UNest funded and what's been your experience with that?

Ksenia Yudina: We were funded in a traditional way, by VCs. So we're a VC-backed company. We closed series B last year. So we closed seed, series A, series B. And we're also backed by two large financial institutions. One is Northwestern Mutual and another one is Franklin Templeton. In terms of the largest VCs on the cap table, we have Anthos. They're one of the largest VCs in LA, huge supporter. They led our series A round. We have Artemis. They actually support female entrepreneurs, three amazing women that run that fund. And we have some other venture funds, like Draper Dragon and then Unlock Ventures and several others.

Ethan: What's the total amount that you've raised so far?

Ksenia Yudina: $38 million.

Ethan: All right. 

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah. Well, that said, I would also add that we did take some venture debt, as well, from Silicon Valley Bank, which is also pretty typical for startups to do. So the latest round was $20 million in equity and $6 million in venture debt.

Ethan: What made you choose to do partially debt instead of all equity?

Ksenia Yudina: So that is non-dilutive capital and I treat it as insurance. You don't have to use it, but imagine we were closing our series B in 2021, when the market was so hot and you could pretty much raise any capital in the world. So we decided to raise $20 million in equity. We took $6 million in venture debt, just as insurance, just because, just in case. And look where we are in 2022. So now, this venture debt comes very, very handy. If you want to extend your runway as a founder, it's not so easy to get into the equity market. The capital is not so easy to access anymore. So I think, again, strategically, it's just better to always plan for the worst case scenario and that the wind can blow in a different direction next year and just protect and hedge your risk.

Annaka: Yeah. Take precautions-

Ksenia Yudina: Right.

Annaka: ... thoroughly.

Ethan: But plan to win.

Annaka: But plan to win. Okay. So when we first started chatting, the fintech space was not open to disruption. They were like, "We like our fax machines. Leave them alone," but now, you have backing from two big financial institutions. Have you noticed the attitude changing in the last couple years, from when you started until where you are now?

Ksenia Yudina: So our space was a little unique because the 529 industry didn't want to change and then they were not up for disruption. And I don't think it has changed much since 2018. I think they're still operating on faxes, for the most part, and they still don't want-

Annaka: Carrier pigeons.

Ksenia Yudina: Yes, exactly. And they still don't welcome startups. They still don't want to develop APIs, which is an essential thing for any fintech startup. So if you think about the bigger problem that we're solving, we are not trying to disrupt 529s, as a company. We're helping parents save and invest for their kids' future and help them build brighter future for their children. And the solution can be different. We're always trying to be focused on the problem. So that space is definitely getting much more interest from VCs and large financial institutions, especially as they're trying to get to these younger consumers. Now, everyone's trying to get to millennials and gen-Z and they understand that we start building that relationship at the very early point, when the child is just born, and we're maintaining and building that relationship throughout every single age. So of course, now, everyone recognizes the opportunity, too.

Annaka: Yeah. It's a great opportunity. We keep talking to founders where I'm like, "Why didn't I think of this?" Seriously, this is ... and very timely, too, as millennials are getting to the point where we're like, "Well, I think maybe we should have kids and save some money or something."

Ethan: Or something.

Annaka: Or something. And so this is your first time as a founder. And we got a little bit of the timeline before we got on this call, but walk us through the trajectory from your first job, to financial advisor, to where you are now.

Ksenia Yudina: Trajectory. All right. So my first job was pretty brief. It was a summer job. I actually maybe changed three jobs when I came to the United States during the summer. I definitely wanted to have more of the business, office-oriented job. So my first serious job was at the mortgage industry. I was 18 years old. I got my real estate license as an agent and then I started college. I went to CSUN to get my education in finance because I really like the finance part of the real estate business, or mortgage business, not so much real estate part.

And then I graduated in 2009 and really wanted to get into finance on Wall Street, into investment management. And of course, I was in the middle of financial crisis and it was impossible to find a job with finance. So I had to pivot my career. I got my real estate brokers license and I started my own real estate company, just working with my friends, with my network, with my husband's relatives, who became first clients, and I managed that for four years.

While I was doing that, I still was pursuing my passion for finance and investment management through education. I'm a very big believer in education. I believe it opens a lot of doors. So I started my MBA at UCLA Anderson and I started my CFA in parallel. And then after UCLA, after business school, I joined Capital Group and I got into this financial advisory role, working in private wealth with high-net-worth individuals. And after four years there, I realized that, now, I know how the industry works, I have enough knowledge, I'm probably the right person to solve this problem. And just given the feedback from my friends and family around the time, realizing this opportunity, I decided to start my own company.

Annaka: So looking back, what skills or character traits do you think have helped you reach success?

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah. Never giving up, resilience, I think is the first one, if I could name a few, because life is full of challenges. Startups are full of challenges. You need to be able to adjust and adapt and pivot and bounce back and become stronger from any challenge. And just being outgoing and not being afraid to ask questions and reach out to people, being humble. I think it takes a village to build a company.

Annaka: Yeah. Resilience was the first word that came to mind for me. And you managed to still have a family. I'm impressed. I feel like I know the answer to this, but did you have moments of doubt where you're like, "Am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right path for what I want out of my life?"

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah, a lot, I think like any founder. I think, during the first 18 months, it was very challenging, just because I was self-financing the company. I got some money from angel investors, but it wasn't enough to scale. I really needed institutional money. It was hard to raise the first round of institutional capital. As a solo founder, female founder in fintech, first-time entrepreneur, it's not easy. And stats that says, well, only 2% of venture capital goes to female founders, and I totally felt it.

And at some point, I was like, "Why did I give up my amazing job, great salary, the career benefits, all of that? And I'm subjecting my family to this risk of unknown or failure of maybe I'm not going to raise money," but I just kept moving. That's why I'm thinking being resilient, not giving up is pretty much the first quality that any entrepreneur should have.

Annaka: How do you tell the difference between persisting to achieve your goal and, "Oh, maybe we should change the approach?"

Ksenia Yudina: They're similar, but just being persistent. Sometimes you can be stubborn, like, "It's my way or highway." And being resilient and being able to adapt, it's a little different because then you have plan A, plan B, and plan C. So even during my seed round, I was, on one hand, yes, I was persistent and trying to get to my goal, but my goal was getting price round term sheet from lead VC, and then my plan B was maybe it's not a lead VC, and my plan C was maybe it's not the price round and I just do it on the convertible note, and my plan D was maybe I just share the company with some experienced entrepreneur and they help me raise money. So I had so many different scenarios and I'm glad that one of the top choices worked out, but I was ready for something else, for a different outcome.

Annaka: Yeah. I am a plan A and only plan A. There is no plan B.

Ethan: And if there is a wall in her way, she will just crush right through it.

Annaka: I will buy a bulldozer and down it goes. And so in your company profile, you mentioned that you had to learn to say no. Why was this important and how did you get to the point of being comfortable enough to actually say no?

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah. I think, when you run a company, focus is extremely important and keeping your priorities right because you're going to get pulled in so many different directions. And the time and energy ... Time is precious. Time is the only big asset that you have as a founder and how you allocate it may determine whether your company is successful or not. When you are the early-stage startup, you have to wear so many different hats. You're not just the CEO, but you're CTO and CCO and chief growth officer and whatnot. And if you don't manage your time correctly, there is a high risk that you're just going to burn out and run out of energy.

So what I meant by you need to learn how to say no, there are people that reach out, want your advice on things, and there are people that reach out that just want to catch up and talk, and it's important, always be nice, but also understand whether this conversation will result in some great outcome for you or it's just going to be a waste of time. I had to turn down a few advisory roles, for example, because I understand that, now, I'm at my capacity. I reached my limit. As much as I would like to help early-stage founders, I just can't take any more assignments.

Annaka: Yeah. Cool.

Ethan: So tell us what's new at UNest.

Ksenia Yudina: So the biggest news is that we just launched a crypto solution for families and officially became the first crypto for families. It just happened last week and it's been driven by a lot of demand from existing users. We've been building this feature for the past six months. We're super excited, have a lot of demand, a lot of interest. The early metrics look amazing. So yeah, that's the biggest one.

Ethan: So why did you choose now to launch a crypto feature? Obviously, we had a huge crypto bull run, pretty much all of 2021, and we've seen 2022 be a little bit less good, maybe in a pretty major way. So what was the drive to get this feature up?

Ksenia Yudina: Yeah. So the beauty of UNest platform is that we encourage long-term investing and long-term thinking. We are not here for day trading. We're trying to stay away from the short-term noise. And people that generally join the platform, they're here for the next 10, 15 years. They don't think about last year versus this year. And a lot of people perceive this as a good buying opportunity. So any downturn, what does it mean for investing that I'm buying at the dip? So I think it's an exciting time to launch it.

Ethan: Always buy the dip. Buy the dip now. Buy the dip.

Annaka: Don't tell me that. Okay. What is your number one piece of advice for early stage entrepreneurs?

Ksenia Yudina: My number-one piece of advice, if you launch the company, get the right advisors on board, especially if it's your first company. Don't be greedy about your equity. I use my equity as a currency. Early days, I didn't have much cash to motivate people and incentivize them to help the company, so I used equity. And then people really buy in and they want you to succeed and then they believe in the potential.

I just met a lot of early-stage founders that were like, "Oh, my gosh, but it's 1% of my company or half percent of my company," and this company is still zero if you're at an early stage and you need those people to make it a unicorn. So don't be afraid to give up equity, early days. Plus, you can always hedge your risks. I'm always a big believer in risk hedging by putting some vesting around this equity. So if you onboard someone as advisor and they don't perform, you can always cut that equity.

Ethan: Great advice. This is awesome. Where can people find you online and how can our listeners support UNest?

Ksenia Yudina: So the biggest way to support UNest is download the app, start using crypto product, let us know how we do, give us some feedback. How to find us, very simple, you can look up in the App Store or Google Play. Just do search, U-N-E-S-T, UNest, or go to our website. It's Unest.co, C-O.

Ethan: All right, or you could come to our show notes page at Startupsavants.com/podcast and we will have all of those links right there on the show notes. Ksenia, thank you for coming in and sharing your stories and your insights. This has been a lot of fun.

Ksenia Yudina: Perfect. Thank you so much, guys, for having me.

Ethan: Thank you. All right. That's going to be all for this episode of the Startup Savants Podcast. We know you have a choice in your podcast entertainment and we appreciate you choosing Startup Savants. All right, people, I'm going to keep it short and sweet today. Head over to Apple Podcast or Spotify and leave us the best review you can muster, five stars, if you think we deserve it. And as an incentive to you, I'm going to try to get a hold of Oprah's people and get you a car, and you a car, and you a car, but no guarantees. So no matter what happens on that phone call, just know that I tried hard and I really appreciate all of you. Thanks for being the best group of listeners on the planet. For tools, guides, videos, startup stories, and so much more, head over to Truic.com. That's Truic.com, T-R-U-I-C.com. Bye, everybody.

Annaka: Peace.

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