Dee Choubey is the cofounder and CEO of MoneyLion which is a mobile banking platform for borrowing, saving, and investing. The company raised over $250 million prior to going public in 2021 from top tier investors which included Edison Partners, DHVC, or Capital One Ventures to name a few.
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About Dee Choubey:
Dee Choubey is the co-founder and CEO of MoneyLion, a mobile finance platform that helps consumers borrow, save and invest better through proprietary AI-driven tools.
Together with his co-founders, Dee launched MoneyLion in 2013 with the goal of combining AI, machine-learning technology and behavioral science to bring consumer finance into the future. Dee began his career as an investment banker at leading Wall Street firms including Goldman Sachs, Citadel and Barclays Capital, where he advised on M&A and capital raising with a focus on payments and specialty finance companies.
Dee holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics with Honors from the University of Chicago.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really incredible guest. You know we’re talking about his company his journey I find that his journey you know super inspiring. You know, building scaling financing taking the company public I mean really remarkable. You know what? he’s done but they but again you know we don’t want to make you wait any longer so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today dehubi welcome to the show.
Dee Choubey: Um, hey how are you thanks for having me.
Alejandro: So originally born in India but I know that you know your parents eventually came here to tackle the american dream so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, yeah, no the 80 s you know my dad came to be a computer scientist. He you got a masterss from Syracuse and my mom and I I was four years old. We kind of followed in tow with a couple of suitcases a very typical immigrant american story. You know, ah my dad moved to New Jersey worked at Bell Labs as an engineer so had been around the modems and routers as Bell Labs transitioned into at and t and then kind of changed hands into being lucent. Um, so always had the ability to be around computers Tinker Tinker with my my father we live the ah great middle class life. You know a lot of you know what we’re building here today. Moneyline was influenced by that early immigrant story if you will right? We got. I remember my dad and mom they got denied for the Mx account. They got denied for the discover account and you know, ah we we always used to talk about that around the dinner table as you know how you know ah for for a family that was the dinner conversation and the importance of money and kind of ah you know. Using the tools that american financial services ecosystem has to offer. It wasn’t always accessible to us right? So you know the way we grew up certainly had had a big influence in some of the career decisions I made over time and ultimately to the founding of of moneyline.
Alejandro: And how did you develop this same this passion this this love for the intersection of finance and mathematics was that you know bea The you know, kind of like the as you were mentioning like what your parents you know like were you know, really instilling you know in you early on.
Dee Choubey: Ah, yeah.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, look you know I think that I was always I was always interested in how you know goods and services and money and contracts moved throughout our society whether it was micro I had the pleasure of working at the federal reserve. But I was at the University Of Chicago that was my internship making you know 8 to $10 an hour back then in the early two thousand s I did it for beer money of course but along the way you know, um, really was exposed to. You know how the labor markets worked how you know agriculture in the midwest impacts. Ah you know, shipping in the northeast and just kind of you know, ah commerce. Overall. And then you know really parlayed that into korean wall street started an internship of Lehman Brothers right after 9 11 saw kind of you know the country recovering. Um, you know I’m sure later in the conversation. We’ll be talking a lot about you know what? What do you do when you see massive shocks. In the economy right? So of course coming right out of the.com bubble we had nine Eleven right and ah you know then when I joined wall street we had 5 years or so of recovery, right? So oh 3 oh 4 oh 5 we saw we started to see a lot of the capital flow come in.
Dee Choubey: Um, you know after after I started wall street I started at city and I went to Goldman and I saw the lbo boom um, you know I saw you know $80000000000 lbos happening I worked on a couple of them. You know in the financial institutions group. We saw a lot of the banks. Um, you know, really think think about. Ah consolidation. There was a big boom wave of Bank Consolidation 1 of my clients was capital one so we walked you know we walked them through multiple. Um you know acquisitions they transitioned from a monoline credit card company into a full-fledged bank. Um, and if you look at what we did from ah from a. Parallelism perspective at Moneyline in terms of how we built the full full spectrum suite of products. Um, you know that playbook for surrounding the consumer with no reason to leave your ecosystem. I had I had an ability to see that firsthand advising the ceos of some of the greatest iconic american financial institutions whether it was discover or American Express working on different types of transactions and then we also saw crashes. We saw another crash in Eight zero nine right when um you know the availability of. Cheap debt fueled um the mortgage market it fueled the lbo market we saw that come down the reason why we exist is because of that credit crisis right? The regulations were put in place that you know, kind of really put the banks on the sidelines from innovating for technology.
Alejandro: And we’ll talk about what you guys are doing at money lying in in just a little bit but you know one thing that is very interesting here is obviously during your time in corporate you know you were working as you said you know you did your internship in Lehman you know Goalman then you did citadeale barclays.
Dee Choubey: Are ah.
Dee Choubey: Um, yeah.
Alejandro: I Guess you know more on the investment banking side of things. What were you seeing where you were able to see companies that were doing well from companies that were not doing so well when it came to Pattern Recognition You know what were some of those ingredients that you were seeing on companies that. Ended up doing magical things. Yeah.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, look I think it always goes down to the ones that are customerobsessed over the long run will generate Alpha right? and that was clear from working with iconic companies like American Express with with capital one. Um, and then you know where where we didn’t see that success translate from just you know if if you want to use the stock market or stock price Alpha creation as a barometer you didn’t necessarily see that with the community and regional banks right. Um, because at the end of the day those were just portfolios of assets and liabilities a lot of these commercial and community and and regional banks are the reason why they exist is they they have a portfolio of commercial real estate or commercial loans or construction loans. And then they match that with deposits right? They take advantage of the fact that you know they’ve got branches in a neighborhood and they get deposit funding low-cost deposit funding or access to the sort of sort of the wholesale markets to finance them. That’s where you yeah, that’s where unless you know someone had a very specific underwriting edge We We we saw that those businesses would be the ones that got either got bought out or consolid or went out of business but the ones that really focused on building for the consumer in the long run. The consumer could be an enterprise or a commercial client.
Dee Choubey: Or an enterprise client. Um, you know that that that was one 1 thing that stood out if you look at of course the the tech companies Amazon being the top one that pattern exists there as well in a lot of ways the power lock curve Apple and Amazon they both you know espouse that. And are very few banks and financial services companies that do the same and that created the opportunity for disruption that fintech had.
Alejandro: Now let’s talk about that disruption because back in 2011 you know you now had a very strong network. You know you were alluding to dealing with people like capital one amis you had a good network into into you know that was Dee Choubey:p into technology. But I guess walk us through how things.
Dee Choubey: Um.
Alejandro: Ultimately unfold it towards you finding yourself hey I’m taking action I’m um I’m giving my notice I’m I’m going in and starting money lion. So.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, look at you know I think that you know entrepreneurship doesn’t have an age limit right? You can do it when when you’re 18 or maybe even younger and you can do it all the way till there is no age limit there but there are a um. Confluence of events that need to happen in your in your career trajectory arc like I wasn’t a technologist by training I didn’t go to Stanford I didn’t grow up in the west coast where the entire network pushes you towards um entrepreneurship at a much earlier age. Um, the network on the East Coast wasn’t really built towards that if you if you think of New York city as one um, kind of ah destination New York city at that point in time was. Career arcs were either. You’re either a lawyer or in wall street or you’re in real state right? and they all had their own idiosyncrasies in terms of what you had to do to be successful. It was very uncommon when I did it to leave. Ah, you know at that at that point a cushy kind of ah sort of compensation trajectory to leave wall street to go try to build something. Um, you know when I first started very smart people and very successful and in very high roles.
Dee Choubey: Basically would go to to the assumptions and basically try to say look you’re going to have a hard time raising capital financing this credit modeling the technology. Um, there are a lot of there are a lot of reasons to say no right. The confluence of events that led me to say yes was I had I just gotten married. My wife was working in Goldman Sachs um you know I had a very supportive family and it was the right time for me from a mental space perspective I had two co-founders that I relied on for technical and engineering ah from a technical and engineering perspective they had just happened to sell their company so they had they had time they had resources to work on something without having to get paid immediately. So those confluence of events. Ah when I look back at it was actually pretty special right? It was. It was the necessary conditions for the cam brain explosion if you will um, it’s not every day that you get that what what wasn’t there was you know we’re working there wasn’t a clear path. So if if you’re someone who just needs to be told what to do and then you, you’ll do a great job at it. This is probably not for you because you have to really kind of go and create that canvas yourself the roadmap and and 9 times at a 10 you’re going to do things wrong and you just need a lot of luck as well to get you from at least from 0 to point 5.
Dee Choubey: In that in that initial journey if you will.
Alejandro: So then when you guys got going you know with this you know I mean there was like several stages I mean you did lending robot advisory so what ended up being the business model of money lion of the moneyline that we know today are you guys making money you.
Dee Choubey: Yeah I mean I looked a know the the mission and the vision were exactly the same In fact, they did it all hands yesterday and we were you know we were remarking on the fact that the the mission statement was the same when we started the business rewiring the financial system. So every hardworking american. Can live their best money life. We’ve tweaked it a little bit over the years but it’s more or less stayed the same um and you know to do that. The first thing that we we said was like look where do we have a competitive advantage if you think back to 2013 when we started the business and. Um, you know a lot of the things that we take granted for now just didn’t exist this this massive amazing Api economy where you can use other companies’ data for a small transaction fee and you can you can access their identity data their um you know, ah their bank transaction data that that didn’t exist. We had to build our own version of plaid. We had to build our own version of identity management. But what we did say was because we have a technical ability in artificial intelligence. There’s a massive hyper around ai right now, but we’ve been pioneering it and it’s been in our Dna since the first day we started the first day we started. You know our cto built a random forest model around predicting default. So then we did that we we got our hands on a lot of anonymized credit data transaction data we spent months before we even started the business.
Dee Choubey: Back testing that and saying hey do we really have a edge here in predicting when a consumer would have money and when they would run out of money and we got comfortable enough while we were still you know either exiting our previous gigs or still working in my case at a day job. Ah. We. We got comfortable that we had something here and that no one was really kind of looking at it this way and we were using at that point the Facebook api we were looking at um you know utility data we’re looking at cell phone data. No one in financial services was really looking at it that way because because of the regulatory environment but because we were a brand new startup. Um, you know we said look let’s look at everything. Let’s have a paper portfolio and let’s see if we can predict when you know people have money and when they run out of money and and we were. Relatively successful at doing that and then of course um, you know we said look let’s go ah run these in the real world and we started off with lending right? and we we were able to prove with our own money that we were able to you know, return to alpha versus. You know where the historical loss rates were we took that to the vcs and we were off to the races from just our initial capital to go build a cheaper faster more convenient, better. Um, you know online consumer lending business and over time you know we said that hey we the insight was.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, people love our brand but they don’t need to take a loan every day they need to take a loan maybe once or twice a year when they have to smooth their earnings or for whatever shock that they’ve had but they do think about rounding up every day so we created a roboadvisor right in in 2017 after 3 years really ah honing in on the lending side. We started a roboadvisor and then two years later we added the digital bank and so on and so forth, but it was all around this idea that we want to help the american consumer the 90000000 or so of us that self-ident identify struggling with finances really take control on a daily basis. Use Moneyline across inflection points across different needs. You know. In fact, it wasn’t a popular opinion with the venture capital world right? They they always urged us to do one or the other. But we said that the insight we we we went against that advice. And we said that the insight here is that the consumer doesn’t think about their financial lives as 4 different separate apps. They think about it as 1 outcome or 1 objective from a first principles perspective that they want to drive towards um and we also realize that ultimately to make this business model work. You had to have a diversity of revenue streams because the ah the the customer acquisition you know proposition for consumer was getting more and more complicated we had an advantage in 13 because we can go and run algorithms on Facebook to car consumers cheaper than anybody else.
Dee Choubey: But whenever you have an arbitrage like that you know those arbitrages get priced out pretty quickly right? they get taken advantage pretty quickly. So just as just as much as it works for us in 2013 and 14 it stopped being that efficient in 2015 and 2016 and we realized that. Once you get your consumer in the door. The best economic return is to be able to ah really tie them in into your ecosystem. Give them no reason to leave your ecosystem than it is to get a net new customer where you have a lot more risk of churn or default or what have you.
Alejandro: Now for you guys. You obviously went public but before going public How much capital did you guys raise and how was that journey of going from one cycle to the next.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, look I mean I think that um from a macro perspective and if you if you go back and you kind of study what happened over the last fifteen to 20 to 30 years um you know after 119 and after um, you know the the credit crisis I think the whole world. Took on the 0 interest rate policy ineffectively as we look back on it right now it probably shouldn’t have been that but that’s what it was and from an inflows perspective. It created a pretty pretty good environment to to use venture capital you know everyone was looking for alpha the pension funds were looking for alpha the sovereign wealth funds were looking for alpha um and you know that that wave of technology that was making things productive were generating ultimately stock market returns right so the stock market was um getting getting aggressive returns from technology-drive companies and of course that was then flowing the alpha that was generated and the stock market was coming back in by way of venture investments. So let’s go create more supply for similar returns in the stock market. So we we of course you know, kind of benefited from that we raised. Just over two hundred and fifty million dollars of equity capital in the private markets. We were about to do a series d in 2020 right after covid and we saw that the public markets were all of a sudden open with the sp product. Um and we were able to raise over $300,000,000 through that.
Dee Choubey: Ah, through through an ipo. Um, all of it. You know if you if you if you kind of look at our arc our evolution all of that capital has been invested into building what we believe is one of the most dynamic platforms. To to to continue executing that original vision that we had the original mission of rewiring the financial system give the consumer no reason to leave your ecosystem. So. It’s all been towards that ideal and we’ve we’ve got you know we’ve we’ve had a lot of success doing it and we’ve also seen a lot of 2 by 4 s to our face. Um, in terms of just the last couple of years in the public markets. But none of that really changes the fact that in the long run. We believe we’re off to an incredible value off towards building an incredible value proposition for our consumers if you look at at a point of time you can say oh wow, that’s been super successful or. You can look at another point in time. Oh wow, that’s been a disaster but I take a view of of this being you know when you’re when you trying to create an iconic american brand it’s going to take time right? and some what I had to learn over time. Was that sometimes 5 years or 10 years or 11 years is not enough. Maybe you need 15 years for that to happen because you need to see a a high cyclee a low cycle and back to a high cyclee may actually take it takes take significant time and that’s what we’re you know, executing around and executing towards.
Alejandro: So when you guys say went public back in 2021 I mean you you were nearing their three billion valuation I guess say what was that journey like of going public. You know I’m sure that the.
Dee Choubey: This is.
Alejandro: Many things you know, went through your head as well. You know you came here to the Us you know immigrants you know what was going through your head you know what? how how was that journey of going public like.
Dee Choubey: Smoothing.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, look I think that um when when we were going public. You never have an appreciation that somehow to that moment in time is ah pricing in the the highest. The valuation of your sector a subset of the sector or subset of the market could be right? You you always think that it’s going to go. It’s going to continue performing like it did last year or the year before um so you know there was a little bit of just kind of learning. About the iron laws of interest rates right? that you know when you have such a such such a drastic increase in interest rate regimes the segments of the market that are going to get hurt are risk assets right? and and we saw that and that was a lesson by the way that was very easy to forget when you had a 15 year run where you effectively had access to capital very very easy capital through a 0 interest rate policy so it was it was a great um outcome when we when we raised the capital but we looked at it at capital rate. So we were saying when a little bit because you know it wasn’t it wasn’t our exit if you will. Um, it was a great milestone It was great validation that Moneyline was a company that could go public. Um, a lot of things a lot of necessary conditions need to be in place for even that to happen. You’re accounting your team regulatory in compliance getting through an scc process we we just launched a crypto product.
Dee Choubey: In the summer of going through the scc process right? So getting all of that. Um, you know in a place where um, you know you could be public was the biggest milestone not off us saw it as a exit because. Ah, you know from from a monetization perspective. It wasn’t that it was just more capital to continue executing on the vision so it did it. It did provide a little bit of a backdrop to be sanguine about it. But of course, um, you know human nature is to is to forget. Um, you know the downside that lies ahead of you as well.
Alejandro: And they obviously you know now operating um a public company is a little bit different. You know in the in the talent side of things because you know before you had the options. You know you were able to ah promise them hey you know whenever we go. Public or you know a liquidity event Happens. You know you’re going to make it Happen. You know for yourself or your family and you’re able to get people to sacrifice a data and to get that incentive. How do you?? How do you deal? you know, like with having that on the private you know side of things and now on the public side of things being able to retain and then also you know how how do you go about? you know. That talent talent side of things.
Dee Choubey: No, it’s it’s a great question right? and it’s probably 1 of my biggest challenges and our team’s biggest challenge is you know when when you have the ability to take the company public when you’re valued a certain way. You’re also able to retain you’re also able to attract some of the best talent in the world. And and that best talent has an expectation of um, you know, ah being able to think about their stock-based comp as as ah, as really you know, kind of banking on that being recurring every year. Um, and of course when you have you know the drawdown in your in your stock price as we did um, you know, looking someone in the eye and saying that hey our mission and our vision and the values that our business has are worth fighting for this is a moment in time. You know we always borrow Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett’s in the short term. It’s a voting machine in the long run. It’s a weighing machine idiom all the time right? But there’s only so many times you can say it these ultimately there are market factors. The best talent have bids away. Um, you know we we are known for. Ah, you know, being one of the best technology breeding grounds especially around Data Science Artificial Intelligence our r and d team is one of the best in the world right? So you know even that that’s just ah, you know objectively if you look at the number of products that we’ve been able to launch and scale.
Dee Choubey: Um, you know, very few platforms are this built of a super app. Um, so whenever you’re able to do that from an outcomes perspective your team becomes ah pretty valuable for everybody else, right? Um, and. You know we’ve we’ve done a good job of saying look the the vision and the values of the firm are are there 1 year does not change the trajectory. The secular taillowinds that are behind us from a consumer adoption perspective nor. A ability for us to create a really large business with a really high margin profile none of that has changed just just a year later right? Um, than it was then it was when we went public and oftentimes more more times than not, we’re able to retain that talent. Um, but again, yeah.
Dee Choubey: What’s happened in Tech also creates opportunities as a mitigant to be able to um to to get the next wave right? So I think that’s what we’re going through right now is that we’re realizing that from the outside in it’s still a very dynamic place to grow your career and. You know we always have to continue investing in our recruiting and and and retention platform.
Alejandro: Now Let’s talk about vision because obviously vision you know is something you know that you’ve shared you know with investors you know, private you know on the private side on the public site now and then also with Employees. So if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision. Of the companies fully realized what does that world look like.
Dee Choubey: You know like that vision always needs to get tweaked right? So you know if you asked me and when we were in 2020 the the vision was to be a daily destination for money conversations and. Every transaction that you could think of should be happening on the moneyline platform and we we met that vision so when you meet that vision. You have to say okay, what’s the vision for the next two years or 5 years we acquired a company called even financial. We renamed that engine by Moneyline. Um. Engine is a piece of technology that now powers some of the largest suppliers that you see on the internet and it powers them to match that supply with the exact with exactly the right financial product that’s. Personalized contextualized for that consumer at that moment in time whether it’s a credit card a personal loan a helock a mortgage an auto loan. You know we’re able to bind that through a seamless integration. We also bought a media company so we can tell stories. And we can we can we we can have content whether it’s you know podcasts like this short form videos influencer led creator led we can now use a fourthathird dimensional ah view outside of just you know, silly blog posts or se or sem.
Dee Choubey: To actually talk about financial products Five Twenty Nine a plans four and a four zero one k how does a personal loan differ from from 1 provider to the next with all of that coming together the vision for moneyline in the next five years is to be an insights business right? because we’re generating billions of insights. From the transactions that we see happening on our bank account or our invest management investment management product on our trading product on our membership product at our lending product on our network where billions of dollars of loans and credit cards are being matched every year so those um, you know what? what consumers do and importantly, what they don’t do create insights and we believe that across our enterprise client base over a thousand clients. We can deliver better brand outcomes better roi better revenue. If you think of us just as a neobank and and we we do get lumped in and people ask us. You know your your peer group is a b and c oftentimes I’m saying no no, no, you’re you’re thinking of us in the wrong way. Um, you know I know we told you that the vision was to be the most built out digital bank when we went public but what we have seen is that that is just one part that powers the the data business that that that’s incumbent here at Moneyline right the insights business and now we can use those insights that are being built by the that are that are being generated by the most built out digital bank to power a lot of our enterprise clients.
Dee Choubey: And that’s been the one big ah C change step function change in why we still think this is a massive business is because we’re able to use that flywheel put the pieces together and actually build really powerful B Two B to c. Ah, products that we can you know generate new revenue line items with over time. Um.
Alejandro: So we’re talking about the future here. So I want to talk about the past but doing it with a len of reflection. So let’s say I was to put you into a timeish indie and I bring you back in time I bring you back in time to the days of Barclays where you were like wondering what? what do I want to do next and imagine. You were able to sit down. You know that younger self and given that 1 younger self one piece of advice before launching a company. What would that be and why give me what you know now.
Dee Choubey: Yeah, look I take that um the the advice is to is to jump in right? You have to know yourself a little bit. You have to have the confluence of. Necessary conditions. You know I had a wife who was working in Goldman I had ah a supportive family I been in ah, a decent career for 10 years so you know I could afford to not get paid for a couple years right? So those are of course necessary conditions. Um. And you know the advice would be is just like look you know if you have the right team none of that you’re going to figure it out right? and you know continue betting on yourself right? So you know as as long as entrepreneurs set up that right confluence of events that. That they don’t have to you know they start a company and then they’re worrying about paying rent or they start a company and then you know their spouse is unhappy about it. Those things are the sand in the gears that sometimes lead to over agitation. The other advice I’ve give to myself is you know don’t take everything so seriously. Not everything is a fire drill. That’s a more tactical advice and I’ve learned that probably over the last couple years to actually let go sometimes and trust the team if you if you get chat gp to summarize all of Bezos leadership learnings. You know the top 3 things. It’ll always say is you know.
Dee Choubey: Hire the best talent and number 2 make sure that that best talent work well with each other so I’d give myself that advice is that you know we always looked at the resume of people when we were hiring them and we made sure this this guy went to this school or this guy knows how to do code in this language and this guy’s worked at Google or Facebook or wherever. More important than any of that is is this person going to be in the trenches with you when things go wrong which they will and will they be a multiply multiplier effect for us on the people that they work with. Are they going to be sort of an asshole that no one wants to work with. They actually didn’t but demotivate people thinking about that second derivative now that I’m just kind of rambling I realize that that would probably be the number one advice is make sure that the people that you’re hiring spend the time affront create the right channels. The right context the right first principle thinking that they all work well together. Um.
Alejandro: That’s very profound the so for the people that are that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so okay.
Dee Choubey: Ah, look you get all, um, always email me [email protected] yeah I’ll do my best first? Um, yeah.
Alejandro: Amazing! Well hey is he is he enough d well hey, thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Dee Choubey: Thank you very much I appreciate it.
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