Lindsay Van Leer is the Co-Founder & COO of Padlist, an online real estate database platform for renters and landlords, which she started with her husband, Blake Van Leer, in 2018. As COO, she has had a hands-on role in the company’s development, from generating the first sale to designing and developing its robust custom CRM. Prior to Padlist, Lindsay co-founded BLVD, a marketing and technology company. Lindsay’s passion to operate, organize and communicate has been the driving force behind successful roles in both executive leadership and business ownership over the years.
Why was Padlist the right idea—and what made you take the leap with it?
My co-founder, Blake Van Leer, and I have owned and operated real estate companies together for over fifteen years. Given our backgrounds, we were really surprised at how stressful, confusing, and time consuming the rental search experience was when we moved to a new city. With buying, there are real estate agents to make the process easier, whereas with renting, you have to do everything on your own. Immediately, Blake and I saw an opportunity to capitalize on an underserved market by offering renters and landlords a “rental concierge” service to help streamline the process from start to finish. Experiencing this problem first hand motivated Blake and me to find a solution. That’s how Padlist was born.
Building and growing this company has never felt like a “leap,” it’s always been the next logical step. The business model, working every day with renters and landlords, gives us organic insight into the frustrations and demands coming from both sides of the rental marketplace. When you have such overwhelming support from your customers to grow, it gives you the utmost confidence and drive to dream bigger. With this raise, we hope to expand the concierge service into multiple cities, as well as automate the experience through smart technology. We are excited to finally offer a national service that we hope can help solve the pain point for both renters and landlords on one unified platform.
Do you feel like your experience as a female founder has differed to that of a male, for example when pitching? If so, in what ways?
When it comes to pitching, I can think of only once or twice when I haven’t been the only woman in the room, and the lack of VC backing in female founded companies is well known. However, being a female founder in a male-dominated industry is advantageous because female-founded companies bring something different to the meeting, and to the VC’s portfolio. Perspective is crucial to success. Rather than concentrating on the differences or challenges, it’s important to find the positives so that your mindset is focused on the unique value proposition you and your company are offering. It will be obvious to others if you approach a meeting with that attitude, and it will keep you focused on your goals.
What have been your proudest accomplishments at Padlist so far?
On paper, we’ve achieved a lot so far, however, what I’m most proud of are our customer reviews. They validate why Blake and I created this company. Our goal was to offer a solution to a problem in the rental industry, and what we’ve achieved is so much more; we are actually making a difference. Moving has been ranked the third most stressful event behind death and divorce, which goes to show what a positive impact we can make on people’s lives. It’s really motivating to be able to offer this free resource to more people as we grow. I’m also proud of the team and company we’ve built together – they are the driving force behind Padlist and all our great reviews. My favorite moments are sharing feedback with our team members and seeing how much they believe in the company’s mission.
What has been the greatest challenge you have faced around fundraising so far?
The greatest challenge I’ve faced is finding a balance between raising money and running the company, as both are critical to success. When operating a business, there never seems to be enough time in the day, and that feeling only increases as we grow. This entire experience has really tested and enhanced my ability to prioritize and manage my time more efficiently. It’s definitely great preparation for this next stage of our company’s development, while also helping me evolve as an executive.
US venture capital investment in female founders hit an all-time high in 2019, with 11.5% of all VC investment going into female-founded and mixed-gender teams. While this represents only 11.5% of all venture capital investment, it’s an increase from 10.6% last year. Why do you think these numbers are increasing now?
In the past, I believe that the lack of gender equality in the venture capital asset class was in part due to the lack of women-owned VC funds, successful female-founded unicorn companies, and outspoken female entrepreneurs like our partner, Kathy Ireland. Women make up 50% of the world population, so there’s a huge opportunity to invest in them. As the democratization of venture capital continues, and successful female-founded companies gain more recognition, the gender gap will close, and more funding doors will open. Padlist looks forward to contributing to 2020’s female founder investment statistics and being part of the movement that gets more companies such as ours funded.
Why was it important to you to make this investment opportunity in your startup accessible to SeedInvest’s users? Why is democratizing access to VC important more broadly?
Our team spent considerable time researching the different approaches to fundraising. We ultimately chose to raise with SeedInvest as it enabled us to work with accredited investors, while at the same time sharing this opportunity with our loyal customers, friends and colleagues. A huge benefit of crowdfunding is being able to raise money while also gaining global brand ambassadors who help to grow your brand and provide important user feedback. We believe in the power of the crowd and are excited to work together to take Padlist to the next level.
SeedInvest also gives us the opportunity to achieve greater visibility via a global investor network. In the past, obtaining funding was gated by a network of a few venture capitalists, which isn’t a very easy group for just anyone to access, especially when you factor in the venture capital gender, race, and socio-economic gap. Today’s entrepreneur definitely has more options and resources available to them when it comes to fundraising. However, we still have a long way to go. The more opportunities we can make available to founders the better, and it is incredibly important to creating a healthy and vibrant ecosystem. Imagine the impact a more equal playing field will have on our advancing society!
Tell us about a time when you dealt with imposter syndrome, either yours or your friends’, your team’s, mentees’ etc. What advice do you have to overcome this?
I never really felt the challenges of being a woman in business–until I had children. I’ll admit that I’ve experienced a lot of stress and shame during my pregnancies, as I was concerned with what our team and investors would think if they knew I was having a baby. Would they lose faith in the company, or me? Anyone who knew me before becoming a mother will tell you that I was available literally at any time. I would work around the clock, pulling 18-20 hour days, seven days a week. My phone was always on. I thought that was what made a successful entrepreneur. However, as soon as I became pregnant, and more so after giving birth, I was even more motivated to succeed–but the way I worked changed. I could no longer allocate 140 hours a week to the business, but what I could offer was a more productive, efficient, creative, and focused leadership style. This change in my personal life had a profoundly beneficial effect on my work life and, as a result, on our business.
I’ll never forget the advice I received when I first met Kathy Ireland, now our partner in Padlist, when I was four weeks postpartum with my first child. She’s a successful entrepreneur and a mother of three. I asked, “How do you do it all?” She replied, “There is so much pressure on women to do it all and have it all, and my answer to that question is, yes, I think we can have it all–but not all at once.” Kathy shared that being a mother was the greatest training she’s ever had for running a successful global business. She stressed the importance of boundaries, delegating and prioritizing, while always staying true to your core values. Kathy definitely practices what she preaches. If someone in business doesn’t respect familial obligations, then they are not the right person with whom to do business. I remind myself and other women of her powerful advice whenever there’s doubt as to whether women can be both a successful business owner and mother. Yes, we can.
What are your top tips for a successful pitch? What advice do you have for someone, particularly women, trying to start their own company?
Blake and I spent a significant amount of time preparing our Padlist pitch, researching successful pitches and potential questions as well as objections. We attended local angel and VC groups, watched shows like Shark Tank and The Profit, read books and articles, and engaged in online forums. We rehearsed countless times until it became second nature, and responded to questions in front of friends, family, and colleagues. With every piece of feedback, we evolved and improved. Our first pitch was intimidating, but as with anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable and confident you become. My tip for a successful pitch is to create a personal connection with your audience, whether that’s one-on-one, or a large crowd, and make your company’s story relatable. People respond emotionally first, then logically.
My advice for starting your own company, for anyone, regardless of gender, is to find great mentors. I’m fortunate to have found a few tremendous individuals who support and motivate me to consistently improve and aim higher for the company and myself. As one such mentor once told me, “I’ll never give you a challenge that I think you can handle.” Since then, I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone and, in turn, developed skills, resources and a network I never could have imagined. Having a trusted resource to ask questions, get advice and discuss important decisions has been instrumental throughout my journey as a co-founder. Ask yourself, what’s truly important to you?
Padlist is offering securities under Regulation CF and Rule 506(c) of Regulation D through SI Securities, LLC (“SI Securities”). The Company has filed a Form C with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with its offering, a copy of which may be obtained at: Padlist: /padlist."
This post was written by Alice Hankin on March 6, 2020
Female Founder Series: Lindsay Van Leer of Padlist