Sevetri Wilson’s Tech Company Is Named For Resilience. Here’s How She Handles The Strikes Against Her, On Mogul Watch
This is one in a Moguldom original series that shines the light on founders featured on MogulWatch, a comprehensive list of startups that have received venture capitalist funding. Find out news and data about their company.
Louisiana isn’t known for burgeoning tech companies, despite playing host to one of the largest free tech conferences in the south — NOLA Tech Week.
Better known for Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, and the New Orleans Saints, The Big Easy is also home to rising subscription-based tech company Resilia (formerly ExemptMeNow).
Named for “resilience”, Resilia works to help people save time when they are setting up and scaling companies as nonprofits. The company also has enterprise customers looking to increase their impact faster.
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Founded by serial entrepreneur Sevetri Wilson, Resilia has seen a boost in product and service offerings as well as a brand name update since the company’s $2 million-dollar seed-round infusion of investment funds in May 2018.
Wilson shows no signs of slowing down. Thought to be the first Black woman from New Orleans to raise more than $2 million, she’s preparing to open a sales office in Newark, New Jersey.
Resilia is a SaaS platform helping nonprofits, government organizations, and grantmakers with on-demand tools and education in finance, legal, planning, and operations via a monthly subscription. The target market ranges from startup foundations to large donor groups needing enterprise-level support. Resilia claims to save entities up to 90 percent of the time it would normally take to launch a 501(c)3 and track the true impact and ROI for those supporting causes.
Wilson is no stranger to public policy and the nonprofit world.
Earning a master’s degree in American government and politics from Harvard University, Wilson has an extensive public service and communications background. She was instrumental in helping Baton Rouge
Wilson spoke to Moguldom about building a company in New Orleans,
rebranding, and the conversation we’re not having about the success of Black women entrepreneurs.
Being an African American female is like having two strikes (against you). I don’t have a technical background, so that’s the third strike. And here is our fourth strike we don’t talk about: we’re based in the south … People say, “Why don’t you move to the East Coast or to the Bay?” No. We don’t all have to be in one city. We’re going to be able to build companies in the cities that we want to live in. We’re going to be successful. That’s what we’re going to do.Sevetri Wilson, founder of Resilia, which provides tech solutions to help nonprofits grow and enterprises scale.
Moguldom: Why did you start Resilia (formerly ExemptMeNow)?
Sevetri Wilson: It all began with
Moguldom: What is Resilia’s focus?
Sevetri Wilson: When we launched ExemptMeNow to the public, we were doing something really simple. We were helping people go through the incorporation exemption process for starting their nonprofit. We had a similar document stock subscription-based platform that allowed organizations to access various documents they needed to get their organization up and going. But as the company evolved, we felt there was even a greater opportunity in the B2B enterprise space for existing nonprofit organizations, and enterprise organizations — the ones deploying the capital. Enterprise organizations are those such as cities, private foundations
Moguldom: You have raised capital for your company. Who are your investors?
Sevetri Wilson: Yes. Last year we closed a seed round. We have roughly about 10 investors in our company. We closed the seed round having raised a little bit over $2 million for our company thus far. So far for investments, we had participation from Tim Millikin, The Jump Fund, Next Wave Ventures, New Orleans Startup Up Fund, and Newark Venture Partners.
Moguldom: Did you make updates to your products and services because of your clients or through good advice from your advisors and VCs?
Sevetri Wilson: It was definitely guided by feedback from our customers and what they were asking for, and then just the overall vision of the company. We look at where we are today and where we will eventually go. Also, from our research, learning through our users’ experience and through their feedback. This has allowed the company to expand its vision and mission as we seek to scale.
(New Orleans has) a pretty vibrant startup community. But it’s mostly white men. You do have Black founders as well as women founders. They just haven’t been able to scale to the magnitude of white male-led companies.Sevetri Wilson, founder of Resilia, which provides tech solutions to help nonprofits grow and enterprises scale.
Moguldom: What has been your most memorable challenge since you started down this path of growing a tech company?
Sevetri Wilson: The most memorable definitely has been raising capital and also building my team. Raising capital because it’s definitely a journey. I’m a networker by trade and heart but fundraising in the venture capital space is a whole different world to me. I definitely learned a lot from that experience. And the other challenge was in building my team. Looking around and seeing all of these competent and capable people wanted to come work for me and seeing our team continuously expand and grow has definitely been rewarding.
Moguldom: How do you feel being a woman of color raising money in a space that is pretty vast and lacking resources?
Sevetri Wilson: I feel the pressure and the weight of what that means as far as to be an African American female, and the challenges that come along with that but also the challenges of being a CEO. You have to show up for your team and ensure they have the resources they need to be successful in their job or you don’t have a company. As an African American female, you definitely feel the weight from both angles. Knowing that when you go out and raise capital or you go after contracts on a daily basis you are at a disadvantage and knowing you are down a few advantage points. You always have to climb out of the hole to get to a base and then from there you have to overachieve to get to something where someone who doesn’t look like you would be able to achieve much easier.
I don’t think we have talked enough about the challenges around closing deals. Unfortunately, for people like you and I, we can’t just walk into a room and get a deal without someone vouching for us.Sevetri Wilson, founder of Resilia, which provides tech solutions to help nonprofits grow and enterprises scale.
Moguldom: You don’t have a tech background and you’re a Black woman entrepreneur not in a hair, food or entertainment space, but
Sevetri Wilson: You’re right. Being an African American female is like having two strikes right there. I don’t have a technical background, so that’s the third strike. And here is our fourth strike we don’t talk about. We’re based in the south. I am always running against these strikes when I go out and raise capital or get people to lock in our contracts. We’re selling across the country, in fact, most of our customers actually come from the east coast. And that brings in another layer of challenges. We always talk about the challenges black women face raising capital, that’s always in the headlines, but we need to talk more about the other issue of closing deals. The same challenges you face in raising capital, because of who you are, are very similar to the challenges you face when you go to close deals. The people who are generally overseeing those deals you go to make look very similar to the people you go and try and raise capital from. I don’t think we have talked enough about the challenges around closing deals. You can raise money but when you can’t bring in revenue because you can’t close a contract then your company isn’t going to be successful. I’m very mindful of those challenges and who I need to have as an ally or who I can get to vouch for me. Unfortunately, for people like you and I, we can’t just walk into a room and get a deal without someone vouching for us.
Moguldom: What is the startup scene like in New Orleans for Black tech entrepreneurs like yourself?
Sevetri Wilson: We are known for being a city focused on tourism and hospitality, but we have a pretty vibrant startup community. But here’s the thing. It’s mostly white men. But you do have black founders as well as women founders here in general, they just haven’t been able to scale to the magnitude of white male-led companies. I’m very mindful of that when people say, “why don’t you move to the east coast or to the Bay?” I respond, “no.” I feel that we have talented people everywhere. When I travel to a city for business, I’m always connecting with people who are there doing their thing and on their grind. We don’t all have to be in one city. That’s not how this is going to work. (laughter) We’re going to be able to build companies in the cities that we want to live in. We’re going to be successful. That’s what we’re going to do.
Moguldom: Can you share a couple of notable wins you’ve had thus far?
Sevetri Wilson: Definitely closing the seed round for one. Also, we brought on five team members to our executive team. Additionally, we were able to close the Kellogg Foundation which was a substantial opportunity for us. We are successfully going through a rebrand and we have finally come to an agreement to open a sales office in Newark, New Jersey. We are currently hiring for that office.
Moguldom: Where do you foresee Resilia going in the next five years?
Sevetri Wilson: We definitely want to build technology that becomes the glue that brings together a fragmented space between grantees and grantors — those who receive the money and are doing the work on the ground and those who provide the capital. We want to be known as thought leaders in that space and connecting the space. We want to drive the latest and greatest technology around the space. And so, we see ourselves doing that over the next five years as well as expanding into more cities. For us, it is about creating a network effect where we have a substantial amount of grantees nonprofit utilizing our products but also cities, corporations and enterprise organizations all across the country.