Joy Randels, co-founder of Citizinvestor, is a prolific serial entrepreneur, with key roles in launching more than 89 companies, raising more than $375 million in venture capital, leading 17 acquisitions and two successful IPOs.
"I started selling as a 9-year-old and started my first real business at 18," she said. "I have launched businesses outside of tech but my true passion is in technology. One of my earliest positions was at Apple Computer working for Guy Kawasaki."
In addition to her leadership in several other ventures and in Florida's entrepreneur ecosystem, Randels is the CEO of Citizinvestor, a civic engagement and crowdfunding platform.
"We fund projects that are for the civic good, and require a government entity to be involved," she explained. "We allow public private partnerships to participate as well. We don’t transfer money to private individuals. We can do matching projects and phased projects. It can be a project or an ongoing program. Funds transfer directly to the bank account of the government entity, and our fee is 5 percent. We provide tools for funders to help them be successful which are completely free."
Citizinvestor also licenses the platform to give government entities the ability to create their own crowdfunding platform. The license is based on the size of the municipality or organization. While other crowdfunding platforms see a 40 percent success rate of projects getting funded, Citizinvestor's success rate is double that, with 80 percent of its projects receiving full funding. Additionally, while its competitor's average project size is $700, Citizinvestor's average project size is $10,000 with projects having been completed up to $1 million.
Randels' advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to conduct product/market-fit research early on by engaging with customers and potential customers.
"Know who your customer is, who you want to target and talk to that person," she said. "First go interview 25-50 of those people, and see if what you're bringing to market is what they want. If you just ask questions and listen, you'll find out. It will help you refine your product and improve how you market it. People don’t listen to their customers often enough."