Shine co-founders, Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey are just two of a small few women of color who have received VC funding — let alone raise over $10 million in venture capital. Embracing their power as unicorns at the intersection of venture capital, wellness, and technology, the dynamic duo is committed to cultivating relatable self-care experiences for a diverse group of people.

With a community of four million across 189 countries and an award-winning iOS and Android app, the Shine app provides support around your mental and emotional health. From accessing a community for support and searching a library of audio meditations to listening to a pep talk — the Shine app is your all-in-one self-care companion.

While people of color are severely underrepresented in the wellness space, Shine is committed to letting users connect with other Shine members to share tips, motivation, and support from others who are working on being their most authentic selves.

Recognized as 2018 Women’s Health Game Changers, co-founder and co-CEO of Shine, Lidey, shares lessons learned and tips for other early-stage startups.

As co-founders, you’re part of the 0.2 percent of women of color who receive VC funding. When it comes to raising capital, what advice would you give another founder of color facing challenges as it relates to raising VC funding?

When we first started Shine and entered the world of venture capital, my co-founder Naomi and I had a lot of questions. What is an angel investor? Where could we get the friends and family needed for a “friends and family round?” What did people mean when they talked about our cap table?

Not only had we not attended business school, but we didn’t even know anyone else who’d started a venture-backed company.

Three and a half years later, we’ve now raised over $10 million in venture capital and naturally have learned a lot along the way.

We made plenty of mistakes. We got rejected [a lot]. We figured out the lingo and we cold outreached our way to a network of investors.

If you’re coming from a background like ours, know it is 100 percent normal to struggle with the logistics. But you can and you will figure it out. The best advice we could give to other first-time founders has nothing to do with the process of fundraising, and everything to do with the people behind it.

It is this: Know your power.

When you’re starting something new it is exhilarating and terrifying. But odds are, you’re creating something because of a problem you’ve experienced.

And yes, while it’s an investor’s full-time job to evaluate, and often reject companies — with the goal of finding the needle in the haystack, none of it would work without the entrepreneurs they invest in.

This is especially true of founders from marginalized communities.

As two women-of-color who supported ourselves financially from young ages, my co-founder and I were tired of the preachy, pricey and privileged world of wellness. We knew there was a better, more accessible way — and it’s why we’ve been able to build the company we’ve created.

As you think about what you want to create in the world, consider what you’re uniquely positioned to do, and know there’s no investor out there [that] can make it happen without you and people like you taking the risk to put it out there.

Audio Library Shine APP

From voice to SMS messaging, you’ve created experiences that resonate specifically with people of color. However, considering there are plenty of apps, which provide wellness, meditation, etc., What do you believe was the deciding factor for investors to fund your venture?

At Shine, we’re building the self-care community for all of us. Our approach is rooted in research (Acceptance Commitment Therapy). It evolved by the real-world experiences of our diverse community of over four million members to make it easy for everyday people to invest in and manage their emotional health.

With over 20,000 five-star reviews in the App Store and every one in three reviews describing our product as “life-changing,” we’ve attracted investors — including Comcast Ventures, Betaworks, the New York Times, Harlem Capital and more — who believe communities are fundamentally changing how we approach every aspect of our lives. Ultimately, Shine’s accessible and representative approach to emotional health is going to fundamentally change the game.

What do you believe are the top experiences; habits or values that helped you grow a community of four million people across 189 countries?

Our values fuel everything we do at Shine. A few of them stand out to me when I think about how we’ve been able to scale our business and our culture.

  • We’re fueled by our frustration — with the preachy, pricey, privileged world of wellness. But also, it describes how we work. Problems don’t daunt us, they excite us. Having a solution-oriented mindset is crucial in the people we hire. Getting frustrated with what’s not working in the world is important, but having the mindset that can turn frustration into action is why we’ll win as a team.
  • We’re all partners. Everyone at Shine owns a piece of the company, and that’s key. We look to hire first-principle thinkers — who are here to do what’s best for our community and not obsessed with following any particular process or tied to a particular idea of how we’ll do it. That level of trust, autonomy, and flexibility helps us move quickly, adapt to changes in the market and constantly innovate.
  • We believe to build a big business, we have to go big and dream big — optimizing for the riskier route, and operationalize around projects we believe will lead to exponential, over incremental, growth. But the company doesn’t work if we don’t work.
  • We have to have fun, get rest and take care of ourselves before we can give back to our community. There are a few things we don’t play with at Shine. Getting enough sleep. Being on time to meetings. Karaoke. Snacks. Just to name a few.