Ennie Lim has already raised several million dollars in equity, plus a $100M credit facility to help improve financial wellness in the workforce. Her startup has attracted funding from top-tier investors like K50 Ventures, Financial Venture Studio, Resolute ventures, and Community Investment Management.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Pitching investors
- Relocating your startup out of the Bay Area
- Hiring a purpose-built team
- The future of financial wellness in the workplace
- Ennie Lim’s top tips for entrepreneurs
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Ennie Lim:
Lim is the co-founder and CEO of financial solution platform HoneyBee, which offers 0% APR loans of up to a thousand dollars to employees in need as well as personalized financial coaching. But her path to the C-suite was hard-won.
After going through a difficult divorce, Ennie saw how important it is to feel in control of one’s financial life, and it made her want to help others take control of theirs. HoneyBee empowers hundreds of HR leaders to provide their employees with the tools to help cover their bills, expenses, and financial emergencies without relying on high-interest credit cards, payday loans, or raiding their retirement savings. It’s a compassionate solution offered by caring employers who want to see their employees thrive without the distraction of financial distress.
Honeybee is a source of great pride to Ennie, to now be part of a solution that so many have come to rely on to improve their financial health.
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Connect with Ennie Lim:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
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Alejandro: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So I’m very excited about the guests that we have today I mean she’s right now building this rocket ship. So we’re gonna be learning quite a bit about building scaling financing. She’s been around the world too. So I think that that definitely gives a lot of perspective and I’m and I’m sure that many of you are gonna get inspired with her stories I guess without further ado. Let’s welcome our guests today in iim welcome to the show. So originally born in Malaysia.
Ennie Lim: Hi Nice to meet you thanks for having me.
Alejandro: And you went to Montreal early on you know around five years old so give us a walk about a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up. Yeah.
Ennie Lim: Well I grew up in Malaysia and I was only there till the age of 5 until my dad decided to move us on our entire family to North America specifically in Montreal Quebec. Because he wanted better opportunity for us and he also really loved the snow. So I think that’s why he wanted to move our family and I don’t I vaguely remember um, growing up and until the age of 5 when I was in Malaysia but I do remember you know, growing up in. And Montreal. It was a very different environment and had to get adjusted really fast.
Alejandro: So you went to Miguel there the university and you studied a combination of marketing and finance. So why that combination what got you into that combination. So.
Ennie Lim: Um, well to be honest, you know when you’re at that age. You don’t really know what you’re going to do so I try to pick something that was fairly broad and useful hoping that it’d be useful eventually I have to say marketing. Unfortunately. Did not become useful over time because the landscape has changed so much so nothing that I learned is relevant today but of course the basics of like finances and that was I always felt like that was important.
Alejandro: That’s amazing now in your case after graduating I mean you spent a little bit of time there in the corporate world in in Montreal but you decided to also pack the box and and go around Asia a little bit. So. So what triggered that? Why why did you decide to go back and over to Asia
Ennie Lim: Ah, you know I was in a very comfortable job and so when you get sometimes too comfortable I needed to experience something different and moving to Hong Kong it was my decision at that time I didn’t know anyone there I didn’t know what I was gonna do there. But I just decided I just needed a change of pace it of course like freaked out my parents but I always love taking risks growing up and I think my parents knew that at a very young age when I was a very young age. So I just kind of picked up my bags and moved to Asia and that was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Alejandro: And I mean you you travel quite a bit I mean Montreal Hong Kong San Francisco now Los Angeles how do you think that being in so many different places. How do you think that that has opened a bit your perspective.
Ennie Lim: I think I got to see different meet different people different walks of life and it made though it made me feel like you know I’m just kind of this insignificant spec in the world and there’s just so much to discover and see so I just became really addicted to just exploring you know. Um, new culture. People’s backgrounds and and I think that helped me become who I am today.
Alejandro: That’s amazing now packing the backs again and landing in San Francisco in the San Francisco area I mean what trigger that so.
Ennie Lim: Um, ah well that triggered because I had met my now ex-husband in Hong Kong and he thought like why not move to he was in the tech industry. Why not move to San Francisco and and and of course knowing who I was at a time like oh why? not you know, just a new place to discover and so I moved to San Francisco specifically for personal reasons.
Alejandro: Now being there in San Francisco I think that that was a kind of like life changing for you. Not only because you ended up going through a divorce but then also perhaps because you were exposed to the hypergrowth companies and to the entrepreneur entrepreneurial mindset and all of that stuff. So so tell us a little bit more about. That that journey of of of really becoming a founder.
Ennie Lim: Um, you catch the founder bug when you see everyone around you that has conviction and just try to build something that is going to change the world or something really impactful like being able to solve a problem and build it from scratch I just became. Extremely passionate about that because I think growing up my parents has tried a few entrepreneur you know Journey themselves. Um, they failed in the process. But I think what my parents always told me is you have to try if you don’t try you just never know if you’re gonna make it and. So. There was no question about it like I knew that I wanted to be in the space. Whether I was I don’t think I thought I was gonna be a founder but I was extremely passionate about what people were building and just wanted to be involved in any way that I can.
Alejandro: So I guess the divorce definitely triggered you know and sparkled some ideas so you know what? what? what happened next then.
Ennie Lim: Yes I don’t think I realized it at the time I think it was an emotional trigger I think part of the divorce is we were married like six and a half years. Um. The divorce impacted my credit score negatively and that was another thing I learned about building credit in the us being credit and invisible first and then building credit and then knowing how to keep that credit after the divorce and and that as a result.
Ennie Lim: Um, you know I couldn’t get a proof for an apartment I couldn’t get access to any affordable credit I didn’t know where to go for help. It was very vulnerable time in my life and there’s a lot of information online on how you can help yourself. But I think you know it’s overwhelming at that time and. And being able to speak to someone just like you speak to you know a mental health therapist would have made the world of a difference for me and so that you know because I couldn’t get a proof for an apartment I considered like oh living in a car seemed like a pretty good option right now but I ended up moving into. Everything into storage I of course moved back home to Montreal where my parents lived I stayed in their basement very humbling experienced to say theise. But you know my mom will welcome me with open arms as always. Ah, it was all good. But I think. For me what felt like hitting rock bottom I knew there was nowhere else to go but up and so I couldn’t believe that you know there’s no way I could be going through this I could be alone and going through this problem. How people need access to credit the payday industry is. A massive industry in the us. So we know they take advantage just on the most vulnerable population in the us and so I I met my he’s my co-founder today and he was a friend from college and he he came from. Lending space and specifically in like fintech and what was interesting about him is that his family used to own restaurants and every time an employee was faced with an emergency his dad found himself lending money to the employees and his dad hired a lot of immigrants so they also needed help about. You know their personal finances um recommendations on my places to live how to build credit and so his dad became like everyone’s therapist and also lender and still running and operating a business and my mom used to borrow from her boss. Um, also and I knew that there was a way we could potentially solve this problem through the employer channel because you know we knew a few use cases and then we started talking to different industries and realized that a lot of people led money for their employees. And I think a lot of it is. There’s no structure in place. They do it because out of the goodness of their own heart and you realize that collecting that money back becomes extremely challenging and also having to go to your boss to ask for money.
Ennie Lim: It becomes a bit of a friction. You know you feel embarrassed as an employee I know my mom did and and you just you know, but it it becomes your last resort so we knew that you know we could potentially solve all of this problem and help an employee through beer employee channel.
Alejandro: So then what ended up becoming the business model of honeybee.
Ennie Lim: Yeah, so fast forward to today. We essentially partner with employers the same way that they would pay for any benefit like a 4 1 k and they pay a small ah fee per employee. Per month and employees get 100% free and equal access to no cost rainy day funds that means no interest that’s zero percent interest no tipping like no subscription fee. Absolutely you know you. Borrow $500 you repay by $500 and we also work with the employees if they need to defer a payment. We. Do it at no cost and I guarantee you if you ask anybody that has borrowed money from anyone that is unheard of and so we wanted to make sure that they had access. Regardless of their background as long as they worked for the company and in addition to that? Um I think it would have been helpful for myself for my mom for the employees that worked for my cofounders dad is like making sure they had unlimited access to financial therapy. in english and in spanish that means we look at financial therapy the same way we look at mental therapy because you know you you can look online to see how you can help yourself, get better. But there’s nothing better than being able to talk to somebody. We all go through very different journeys I think 72% of mental health issues are tied to money concerns so we wanted to create that same experience if you have difficulty with finances and you don’t know where to start and you don’t know you know. You have so many problems that are piled up. Um you you should be able to call someone and just be able to talk to them and they should be able to talk you through on taking the right steps to your goals and and also you know unfortunately here in the us actually not in canada either personal finances ever taught in school. Unfortunately, it is 1 of the most important topics that I could have benefited from and it’s always expected that parents are supposed to pass down that information to their kids. But if parents are struggling through their finances. Like mine was I don’t think they have time to teach you about personal finances because they’re just trying to get by. So I think we see about 70% of americans that live paycheck to paycheck and I think there was a.
Ennie Lim: An article that came out recently just a couple of weeks ago I think about 30% of americans have less than $1000 in savings and we’re about to you know there’s an inflation happening and with combined with a potential recession like this could be pretty detrimental for so many people. So. Um, all that to say that we also have a honey academy program where we allow employees to bring their kids to the conversation be able to have a conversation as a family we teach different webinars the last one we did where a lot of employees brought in their kids was about student loans and you know. There’s there’s a lot to learn about student loans. It’s a very big decision because student loan debt is massive in this country and so so yeah, so we we teach a combination. We provide a combination of like programs and access and we have a really holistic view into financial wellness.
Alejandro: Nice and in terms of pricing I Mean how do you guys make money there.
Ennie Lim: To help people you know, better themselves.
Ennie Lim: Um, so the the same way as like any insurance product is that employers pay a premium for to get their employees covered for the program. So So that’s how we that’s how we make money the employers cover for for their employees. They do not. Ah, provide the capital they all they have to think about is you know the price of a coffee cup per employee per month and they get unlimited access and there’s no liability for employers as well.
Alejandro: Now in your case here I mean here you are in the basement in in Montreal working on putting this together. Why did you decide to go to Los Angeles
Ennie Lim: So actually um I went from montreal we fundraised myself and 2 co-founders and then moved to San Francisco so I’ve actually been in San Francisco for about 10 years and the move to la was triggered initially. It was actually before covid. And I was in an office. Our office was next to Pinterest Airbnb dropbox uber Twitter you name it we were just Mac in a center which you think is great. But when you’re trying to retain and attract talent. It is nearly impossible to compete with the budget that. Um, all of these companies had so I think part of the reason why we decided to make them move is that we wanted to hire talent that was out of Southern California we had already started recruiting here and just wanted to build an office out of here. But since covid happened we’ve all been remote. And so actually gave us the opportunity to hire people that were all over the us and in Canada as well. So I think it’s been It’s worked out really well for us.
Alejandro: Nice now in terms of um, you are alluding to fundraising How how did you guys go about capitalizing the business.
Ennie Lim: Ah, so fundraising. So I think how do we go about fundraising you mean? Well I think what I learned about someone coming that was that didn’t grow up in the Bay area that didn’t go to you know.
Alejandro: That’s correct.
Ennie Lim: Stanford specifically and it was really difficult to fundraise because it is very night a tightknit like bro club I feel and and I I partially don’t blame the investors for it because you’re putting a lot of risk.
Alejandro: So yeah.
Ennie Lim: When you’re investing in a company at an early stage. So. The only thing you can go by is founders and and I nobody knew who I was I you know came from montreal. Yes I lived in the bay area. But other than that um I really wasn’t part of any like founders community or anything. I was just I had a problem I wanted to solve and I needed to raise capital to be able to solve it. So I think the very first time must have spoken to about one hundred and thirty investors and just nonstop just from. You know, be able to share my story and like why we’re building this and and eventually you just need one. Yes, and so that’s kind of got that got us the ball rolling.
Alejandro: So so out of a hundred and blast. You know bay conversations. How did you get to that one? Yes, okay.
Ennie Lim: Ah, resilience like never giving up I think there are times where you feel maybe this idea is stupid and so but you just have to I think a part of a founder’s characteristic is having conviction. And being able to be convinced that your problem can solve a massive you know demographic and we had a massive target market. It was I was convinced that we can change the way people looked at financial wellness and all that to be said when I started this. Um, in 2 16 no employers was talking about financial wellness I remember getting on cold calls with them and like I don’t know what that even means and so now fast forward to 2022 employers are all looking to bulk up their benefits. With what they call financial wellness. So I think I had a conviction that you know there was a problem that we can solve and I think it will no longer be a nice to have but a must have as we. as you know as we go back, you know into the workplace and employers are trying to bulkal their benefits and you’re starting to see that trend already. Um last year alone I think Amazon Home Depot has spent a lot of money on making sure that they had financial wellness benefits for their employees.
Alejandro: Now in your case, How much capital have you guys raised today.
Ennie Lim: Ah, so we raised about like you know, nearly six million inequity and I think you know we do we do generate revenue so we are a sustainable business and I think like we don’t need a whole lot of capital to. Keep our business running.
Alejandro: So what about on the debt because ah for a company like yours you have the equity side and then also the deb side so on the depth side. How much did you guys say raise for.
Ennie Lim: Ah, yeah, So we raise a lot of money on a debt side but we actually have not tapped into that credit line so we actually have $100,000,000 from a credit facility from a social impact fund but because we you know we make like an 82% margin on our Business. We don’t really need that as of yet, but we have that in place in case, um, you know we start to scale very rapidly and we need to tap into that but otherwise like our business model was um, was created the way it was because we knew that this was the best way to yes, you could generate Revenue. You can provide no cost loans to employees plus all the additional services as long as the employers were willing to pay for it.
Alejandro: And how how tough and complex is to deal with all the regulatory like Frameworks and all of that stuff that perhaps you know would apply to a company like this stuff.
Ennie Lim: Ah, yeah, this industry fintech unfortunately is always highly regulated. But I think at the end of the day when you provide no cost loans. You know it’s it’s really tough to regulate that because we it is a benefit that is play I mean paid for by employers right. So I know they are which they should be a lot of lending companies should be regulated to be honest, it is they are charging an obscene amount of interest and I think that becomes really detrimental for the individual. That’s just trying to benefit themselves. but but yes it is highly regulated. We are we follow you know, um, all of the regulations very closely of course were extremely compliant and but it’s 1 thing. It’s an additional thing to always be on top of.
Alejandro: And typically for a company like Honeybee I mean how did you guys go about building the team I mean what? what were some of the very important key hires that you needed to make at the beginning.
Ennie Lim: I Think some of the important hires. There’s no question about it was I needed to find people. We are willing to coach um individuals that come into a company like this and what’s great about. And I feel hopeful about the next generation is a lot of kids are coming out of college and they want to do something impactful so they’re actively seeking companies that create social impact but also innovation and and so I Think. What I’m seeing a lot is a lot of students coming out of school and looking for to workforce startup with social impact. So I’m very hopeful because a lot of people that we hired. Um, you know, big question I will ask them is like have you ever you know had any financial setbacks. Because I think a big part of what we do especially in sales is understanding our customers and understanding why this product is so important and so a lot of the employees that we hired had struggled through their own financial setbacks either themselves or their families. So they know and they’re convinced that this is a product that will change the workforce so we look for that and of course in addition to that? Um, depending what role it is experience is really important and and so those are all the criteria we look for but the number one Criteria I look for in. And employees and I feel like we’ve hired every single individual that has this characteristic is empathy.
Alejandro: And as a female founder you know, Obviously you know you are alluding to it. You know the the Bros a club that you have on the on the fundraising side. What? what?? What have you learned because I’m I’m sure that there’s a lot of female founders that are that are listening to us right now and. And that are wondering like how they should go about building their network or leveraging their network to be able to gain access to more capital or to understand the journey ahead I mean what kind of advice would you share with them as to how perhaps you know like they can use or or rely on other female founders that you know are. Ah, really inclined to help one another to really thrive.
Ennie Lim: Ah, well there’s no question about it like you said there’s a massive gender gap in like venture capital and female founders only secured about like 2% of Vc money in last year and 2021 so that that is that number is very small. So. Think there are ways to go in like funding female founders. But I think a big part of it is what helped me a lot is there’s a lot of things we don’t know right? So I was so curious about. Why you know how strategies that my friends used they were all male founders that had raised massive amounts of capital and so they gave me a lot of advice. They became you know my friends. My mentor and I would. I would practice pitch with them and they would give me feedback because some of the struggle that I went through at the very beginning is what a lot of people told me is like I wasn’t dreaming I wasn’t dreaming big enough like dream big I think I was dreaming like big but also realistic like what can I actually get to. In about a year or 2 but what they would always tell me is like I dream big, you know and and I had female investors tell me that as well. So I learned a lot from other people. So the one advice I would give is um, look at founder communities. You can be. Part of like whether it’s female founders or male founders. Um I think I got to where I am today because of a lot of male founders that got they gave me a lot of advice used them as your allies. And you know obviously they’re successful at what they do and then through that you’ll be able to meet other successful female founders that will give you tip on like what helped them? Um, and so it’s always inspiring for me to see female founders that was able to raise massive rounds of capital while raising three kids. That is you know and being like pregnant and giving birth like that is something male founders will never have to go through and in that process. So I think I was so inspired by the resilience tenacity of so many female founders that you know that’s why you know I I am where I am today. So the advice I would give is um, you know like find founders and people are willing to help people are always willing to help especially founders because they’ve all been through this a very tough journey.
Alejandro: Yeah, no kidding definitely tough. Not what you read on the press. It’s not that they not that glamorous I would say so I guess say you know 1 question here that comes to mind is imagine. You got to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of honeybee is fully realized.
Ennie Lim: Yes.
Alejandro: What does that world look like.
Ennie Lim: Ah, that world essentially looks like every working american would have access to financial wellness programs. So what that means for me is that you know there’s there’s a lot of fintech companies. There are like lending companies. I mean lending money to employees but the 1 thing I keep in mind and I tell every employer to keep in mind is that you know if it’s um, free for you as the employer somebody’s making money. And they have to generate revenue they generate revenue from the employees that actually are really struggling and sometimes it can go up to 200% apr and then still looks social impactful and I think it is we have to be very careful with that and so what I only hope for is that every working american. Can get access to no-cos rate a day funds and as well as like the help they need to better themselves. We already see tremendous impact out of our own clients 89% of our users are people of color and mostly women. So we did a study with Washington University in St Louis to collect data from our users and it didn’t surprise me at all that the majority of them came from low middle income communities and and I think that’s where we have to start to you know better this country and especially as we’re. You know, dealing with inflation right now a lot of people are panicking and a recession that’s coming or already here.
Alejandro: Yeah, no kidding no kidding yep now imagine I put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time you know maybe to that moment that that you were thinking about doing something. You know you were contagious there in San Francisco ideas left and right.
Ennie Lim: Oh.
Alejandro: Imagine you were able to have a sit down with your younger self without a younger any and they share with your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why even what you know now.
Ennie Lim: Oh I know so much more than I did when I started honeybee I think I I understand partially I empathize with vcs and investors that always look for second third time founders because. We as first time founders you make a lot of mistakes and I think I could have fast forward through all of that and build it faster and with with probably less money and I think there’s. Ah so many lessons I could have learned about hiring about building culture about the b two b sales process about um product market fit target market like ah all of the above like building a better business model with great margins. Yeah I think like all of the above. Everything I know today is because it was a very you know, ah like the learning process for me and expensive learning process. Unfortunately.
Alejandro: So I hear you now for the people that are listening for for those that want to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for doing so.
Ennie Lim: Yeah, so I have a Twitter handle at any limb and that’s e n n I e l I m or if you want to visit our website. It’s meet http://honeybee.com that’s NEETHoneybeeDotCom
Alejandro: Amazing! Well hey, any thank you so much for being on the deal maker show. It has been an honor to have you with us today. Thanks.
Ennie Lim: Thanks for having me.
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