Happy International Women’s Day! As Women’s History Month unfolds, we’re delighted to highlight some of the remarkable female founders at Pear. We’re dedicated to supporting diverse entrepreneurs and are proud that 41% (and growing!) of our investments are in companies with at least one female founder. This is a truly remarkable statistic in our industry, and we take immense pride in it.
Throughout March, we’ll be featuring Q&As with some of these inspiring entrepreneurs. In this series, you’ll hear from them about their experiences in founding burgeoning startups and how they’re collaborating with Pear to turn their visions into reality.
First up, we’re thrilled to present this Q&A between Danielle and Conduit Tech Co-founders Marisa Reddy and Shelby Breger on their journey to date.
We’ve known Shelby since 2018 when she joined our Pear Fellows program. When Shelby and Marisa reached out to us to share what they were working on last year, we were blown away by their hustle. From meeting HVAC contractors at local hardware stores to joining technician trainings, it was a no-brainer for us to partner with the team. I’m excited to share more about them in this first installment of our Women’s History Month series!
Tell us a little bit about Conduit and what problem you’re tackling!
Conduit Tech is focused on enabling the critical trades that form the backbone of the built world. We are starting by developing innovative system sizing and sales enablement tools to support HVAC Professionals in designing, selling, and installing high-efficiency HVAC systems. Conduit Tech’s tooling will be integrated into the workflows of residential HVAC Pros, enabling them to do what they do best – provide comfort, health, and energy savings to their clients.
What inspired you to start your own company, and what were some of the initial challenges you faced?
We are incredibly motivated by the potential to make the lives of the contractors we work with easier. The HVAC industry is facing over a 100,000 person labor shortage, affecting every single role in the industry. We know that anything that can streamline workflows, decrease time spent on manual tasks, and enhance sales conversion can be incredibly powerful for the day-to-day of an owner or team member.
How did you go about fundraising for Conduit and how did you evaluate potential VC partners? What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs (especially other womxn) looking to raise capital?
We were fortunate to meet Pear early in our days in grad school, and we have known the Mar & Pejman since 2018. When we were offered a spot in PearX, it was a no brainer – an opportunity to pursue our dream of building tools for contractors, while knowing we would be supported and pushed throughout the journey.
We’ve looked for mentors and coaches as our investors – people with whom we can be our full selves around, and are willing to ask us tough questions.
When it comes to advice to founders, it’d be to invest in building relationships with VCs long before you need capital. Ultimately your investor is a partner you’ll have on board for years – and you’ll want to be able to evaluate whether they will offer the support that matches with your needs.
What role has mentorship and community played in your personal and professional development, and how have you sought out mentorship throughout your journey?
Our mentors have been vital to our company journey. Not only do we each have personal mentors, who have continuously been resources throughout our career, but in more recent years our community at Stanford has been incredible. We took a phenomenal course at Stanford, Stanford Climate Ventures (SCV). Through SCV, we met not only some of the most incredible human beings working in climate, but mentors who have provided the support that has so significantly altered the course of our company’s journey.
We’ve also been fortunate to surround ourselves in a few communities of entrepreneurs (Breakthrough Energy Fellows, PearX) – who are incredible resources on everything from managing difficult conversations, to thinking about how to recruit the best talent.
Now that you are building your team, what qualities are you looking for in potential hires?
We have an incredible team (actively seeking to add folks) of low-ego, mission & growth-oriented and adaptable team members. We actively seek diversity of thought and backgrounds.
Looking back on your journey so far, what lessons have you learned that you wish someone had told you when starting out?
This is true in all of life, but is certainly very true when it comes to working hours as a founder: your most valuable resource is time. Working hard is critical, but it comes down to whether you spent your time in the most effective way possible. This is so hard to figure out, but mentors and incredible partners can help you strategize on where to spend your limited effort.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs (especially womxn!) who are just starting out on their own journeys?
Don’t let self doubt get in your way!
Finally, what’s next for Conduit and why are you excited about your space and your team?
We are so proud of our team – our team is kind, low-ego and brilliant, and very committed to building the best product for our industry. We are humbled to be working with contractors across the country as we build the right solution for them, and are grateful for their support. Conduit Tech is growing 🙂 (we’re looking to bring on a Senior Full Stack Engineer and Senior Product Designer). And finally, we’re launching our product in market this summer!
Thank you, Shelby and Marisa. We’re so thrilled to be on this journey with you. As Women’s History Month continues, we look forward to sharing more stories from our incredible female founders and celebrating their achievements in entrepreneurship.