In this episode of How to Raise A Round, we sat down with the CEO and founder of CogniCor, Dr. Sindhu Joseph. After completing her PhD in AI, first-time founder Sindhu created a digital assistant platform for financial services and raised an unconventional $1M seed round.
Sindhu grew up in India, and completed her PhD in Barcelona. After graduating in 2010, Sindhu chose to reject job offers from giants like Google, instead choosing to start building her company—and when her husband quit his job to help build her startup, she realized she needed to raise money as fast as she could, in order to support her family.
Sindhu’s business philosophy is predicated on trusting her instincts, which is why her family was an integral part of her initial pitch. Despite never pitching before, Sindhu nailed one of the most important components: a compelling story. Her kids created original art for her pitch video, which was a family project.
In doing so, Sindhu conveyed her passion for her project, kept her vision from getting tripped up in details, and made her product personal. Investors were able to connect with her on a deeper level—and naturally, she was their first pick.
Raising the Seed Round
After securing the initial check, Sindhu began her seed round in earnest. To say the very least, she had a difficult time securing funds; she had investor interest in her product, but it was 2013, and most VCs were yet to realize the full potential of AI. Since Sindhu was pioneering a revolutionary product in a new market, she instead turned to angel investors.
After building a robust network of potential investors, Sindhu created a term sheet using an online template. She sent this term sheet to all of her contacts—between 200 and 300 interested parties—betting on the strength of the personal connections she had forged with her contacts. After waiting a little over a week, her optimism paid off. Sindhu’s raise was oversubscribed—in all, she received $2M in offers when she was looking to raise $1M. In the end, her $1M seed was funded by a handful of angel investors, one VC, and one corporate accelerator.
In our episode with Sindhu, we learned:
Trust your intuition! It’s important to have your own back.
Believe in your vision. By not comprising, Sindhu was an early-mover in AI, cornering a market before it was popular.
Storytelling matters. Sindhu’s conviction and pitch helped investors connect with her on a personal level, making them more likely to invest.