Modsy Founder Shanna Tellerman talks Startup Mindset, VCs and Sofas on Spirit of 608 Podcast

If you’re interested in – or in the process of – starting a business, get your note-taking tools ready and take a listen to our very own Founder and CEO, Shanna Tellerman in conversation with Lorraine Sanders on the Spirit of 608 podcast. There are some surprising gold nuggets of truth and insight here you don’t want to miss.

A unique, circular path to Modsy

Modsy isn’t Shanna’s first rodeo. In fact, it’s the result of a 360 degree adventure she’s taken from the company she started right out of college (Sim Ops Studios), to working on the corporate side (at Autodesk, which bought Sim Ops), to learning what goes on in the mind of venture capitalists (as an investor at Google Ventures), to starting another company, Modsy, with a wholly new perspective.

It’s about mindset

Shanna attributes the willingness and confidence to take on the challenges of starting a company partly to personality type and an unflinching optimism and partly to growing up in a family that took career risks. It was the norm for her to watch her parents work through hard business problems, and it instilled a confidence and resilience that has proven great asset.

“It’s really about continuously putting one foot in front of the other that makes a successful company. That’s hard to know if you’re diving into it for the first time. You’re probably second guessing yourself wondering ‘Is it supposed to be this hard?'”

Lessons from the VC side of the table

Stepping out of her comfort zone to work as an investor at Google Ventures gave Shanna some incredibly important insights into the funding game, and she’s eager to share what she’s learned:

VC funding is not right for every company. In fact, it doesn’t make sense for most companies. There’s a tiny bucket of companies, with a very specific profile, that will benefit from venture backing (Is your pencil ready? Listen to the podcast for the profile specifics).

Clear, concise communication is key. Even if your company fits the profile, you have to have everything pitch-perfect to become even a glimmer in the eye of a VC investor. Is the market opportunity timely? Is it over saturated or so new no one’s heard of it? Do you have a prototype or proof point to help the investor understand what you’re doing and how it will work?

Your team is as important as your product. Why you? Why this team? What’s your special sauce?

Make sure you’re up for the pain. Though the media makes the venture-backed startup world seem sexy and fun, the founders and teams building those companies are often under tremendous pressure, including outsized expectations for both speed and scale. While raising capital is often a tremendous area of stress and focus for any new business, Shanna strongly recommends that companies truly evaluate whether their business can, and should, stand that pressure. The alternative – not raising capital – and instead funding your business through customer revenue and a more steady rate of growth may not be such a bad thing.

Learn the art of negotiation. Shanna’s Lesson #1: “If you can understand the driver of the person that you’re negotiating against, what’s important to them, there’s often times a deal that is common ground, that makes everybody happy, that you can reach fairly quickly.”

Getting to Modsy

While her instincts, background and work experience taught Shanna to recognize good ideas and make them happen, it was an event in her personal life that presented the opportunity. Actually, it wasn’t an event, it was a sofa.

“I’ve never cried over anything I’ve ever bought in my life except for furniture. And I have now, multiple times, sat on the floor crying because things really didn’t work!”

While pondering why in the world she would be crying over a sofa, she zeroed in on the idea for her next company. People are emotional about our their homes. It’s is supposed to be a place that feels beautiful and comforting, not frustrating and stressful, and she knew her miserable experience was not uncommon. “I wanted to take a lot of the pain out of the way, and visualization – seeing – is one of the best steps toward that,” Shanna says.

As she barely put a toe in the water of talking about her idea, she was routinely interrupted by people desperate to share their home design nightmares and she thought, “there is something HUGE under the surface and people are very frustrated and they are looking for outlets to talk about it and looking for a solution to solve it.'”

Flash forward to today, and Modsy – a company that gives consumers confidence to purchase home decor by first seeing it within the context of their own homes – is a fact. All the roads Shanna has taken, all the inspirational people she’s met, successes and failures she’s had and skills she’s learned have led her to this point. She says, “This is the company that I was always supposed to start.”


Take a listen. Shanna and Lorraine’s conversation is fun and inspiring. You’ll understand that while what we’re doing at Modsy is a team effort, Shanna’s essence and energy is our compass and fuel, and the heart of our company.

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