The art of pivoting with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Jessica Matthews – ClearTips

The art of pivoting with Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Jessica Matthews – ClearTips

Creating and growing a startup is difficult, but Dhuri said that the startup is something new and then achieving the same growth is even more difficult. But this is not impossible.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Promispay’s founder and CEO, and Jessica Matthews, founder and CEO of Unknown Power, both have experience doing so. In ClearTips Discharge, they shed some light on their respective, yet somewhat similar, paths.

PromisePay, formerly known as Promise, got its start as a bail reform startup aimed at reducing the number of people held behind bars because they cannot afford to pay bail. Now, it focuses on helping people pay for parking and traffic tickets, court fees and child support.

“We really had this huge existential crisis,” Ellis-Lamkins said. “We promise that the focus is on ending mass oppression and reducing the number of people in jails. So we started being very successful and we made very good sales. And what we fundamentally realized when we created efficiency, it made the system more efficient at differentiating people. This did not make them more efficient, which was our misconception, that if the system is more efficient, it would reduce the number of people in the system. And so we made a decision that development was not compatible as a company. So I went back to my investors, which is difficult when you are making money and said, this is not the way because I don’t think it is a long term path. “

He told investors that there are already people who sell their technology to enforce the law, but what Promis wants to do is to free people. It became clear to her that she was selling to the wrong people, when she was talking to a customer who said the difference between them and them is that he cares about people in the criminal justice system and they don’t. Huh. Ellis-Lamkins told investors that she was going to stop selling jails and jails, and offered to give back their money to investors.

Instead, he began to see why people are ending up.

“And luckily, it’s increased, but I’m not just going to be a company that grows on the backs of poor people and black and brown people, because there’s a better way,” she said. “But it was frightening at a time when we are leaving a market in which we are making money.”

Thankfully, he said, none of his investors had any problem with his decision.

Matthews said he had a relatively similar experience with his company, Uncharted Power, which got its start as Uncharted Play. His company’s first product was an energy-tapping football ball that could power a lamp after hours of playing with it. He later integrated that integration intro stroller into a cell phone.

But after extending his Series A round to Uncharged Play, Matthews realized that his company needed to do everything on the infrastructure. He thought about the ultimate goal of his company, which is to get people the necessary infrastructure in their lives. She just didn’t see a way to do it with football balls.

“So we were good at making these things and pushing them and getting them out, but when you have this balance of not only profit and influence but impact because you know you are a member of the group you serve Want. For me, it was sitting down and asking if it was really solving the problem even if it was successful. “

Matthews said he felt it was not. So that means moving away from products that were bringing in millions and had a 64% gross profit margin, Matthews said.

But it was all over. Last year, Uncharted Power raised additional funds from an investor, who validated his thesis for the future of power infrastructure.

“That moment was huge for us,” he said.

Matthews and Ellis-Lamkins also had a few other gems that were worth sharing about Imposter Syndrome and measuring success. Here are some more highlights from the conversation.

On Sensory Syndrome and Representation


Technology seems to have failed so much to invest in people they don’t know and has missed out on growing companies because of it. So I think our obligation is to help ensure that we are not the only ones.


This is not important syndrome, it is representation syndrome because I feel the same way. When we picked up our series A, I thought the immediate thing was, ‘Oh, man. I can’t lose these people money. ‘It’s huge and if we don’t work, it’s not even about us, it’s about every other person who looks like me.

Measuring success


I think part of what we should measure is how technology improves our society in general, a measure of success. I think if we measure success, it shouldn’t just be, I can make a billion dollars or have a company that is worth a billion dollars if the results outweigh the actual profits and that’s why I think it’s Really important.


Let’s get rid of the term “social enterprise”. This is of no use. An enterprise is an enterprise. A problem is a problem. Let’s create a value system based on problems. There are some problems that are more important than others. And knowing that means that we need to support and support founders who get more from others, and then beyond that.

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