Founder Lauren Glass Mullins
SULLIVAN COUNTY startup Personality Pool, led by East Tennessee native Lauren Glass Mullins, has been identified as the first business to consummate an equity investment from within InvestTN, the broad financial program that's largely funded with $70MM in funding via the State Small Business Credit Insurance (SSBCI) initiative of the U.S. Treasury Department.
Personality Pool offers technology that enables employers to screen entry-level job candidates based on their personality traits, in the context of specific job requirements.
LaunchTN announced yesterday that via its SSBCI-backed Regional Seed Fund it recently committed $150K to Personality Pool, after, as required, the startup founder documented her receipt of at least $150K in matching investment commitments, bringing the Personality Pool raise to a total $300K.
|Eller Mallchok Kelliher
LaunchTN Chief Investment Officer Eller Mallchok Kelliher told VNC today that Mullins' business became the first completed investment not only because she's managed her startup in a very disciplined manner, but also because Mullins "had all her ducks in a row."
More on the business, its capital and its advisors, later in this story.
Kelliher said other qualified entrants are now gathering match commitments and are likely to achieve their goals.
The equity side of the SSBCI "2.0"-backed program for Tennessee is being executed by nonprofit Tennessee Technology Development Corporation dba Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership overseen by the state's Department of Economic and Community Development. (A separate SSBCI-backed lending program is operated directly by TNECD.)
At least nine other companies are still working to satisfy InvestTN matching requirements before they can qualify to receive Regional Seed Fund, Technology Fund investments, LaunchTN staff confirmed for VNC.
The following numbers are based on LaunchTN guidance earlier today.
At least 431 businesses completed LaunchTN process-intake forms, with 408 of those businesses already Tennessee-based.
The in-state applicants seeking investment via the Regional Seed Fund, Technology Fund or the Multi-Fund represent a total 48 Tennessee Counties.
LaunchTN confirmed that 47 of the state's 95 counties produced no InvestTN applications.
Fully 321 of the 431 Tennessee applications, or nearly 76% of the total, that were submitted from within Tennessee originated in just seven counties: Davidson (152), Shelby (61), Williamson (35), Knox (29), Hamilton (20), Rutherford (12), and Sumner (12). Intake forms submitted from entities currently based elsewhere totaled 23.
See County-level distribution of apps as of Nov. 30 here, as provided by very responsive LaunchTN team today.
In-line with requirements of the Regional Seed Fund program, the initial recommendation for funding Personality Pool came from the team at Sync Space regional entrepreneur center in Kingsport, Tenn.
Sync Space is led by President Heath Guinn.
Founder Mullins, now 32, conceived the original business in 2020 (then focused on helping college students find jobs) and pivoted to its current focus in 2021.
She said the experience helping students find work produced evidence of the power of the personality factor in landing many jobs, particularly at the entry level. Aided by advisors, she incorporated that idea in the startup's redefined mission.
Prior to pursuing InvestTN funding, she had completed a $75K friends and family raise.
With the InvestTN notch in her belt, she confirmed she now has six entries on her cap table, but she still holds majority interest, personally.
She also said that while she's continued bootstrapping, the company's revenue began rising in 2022, and market fit and sales strategy have been "super refined" during the past six months.
She emphasized that when she decided to pursue InvestTN backing she immediately began working to line-up matching investors, rather than waiting until she received an InvestTN commitment that would be contingent on matching investment.
Asked to comment on Mullins' spadework, LaunchTN CIO Kelliher said that Mullins had been wise to incorporate InvestTN as but one part of her broader fund-raising effort, and began early warming-up her contacts with angel investors and others, some of whom were then poised to make a decision when word came of potential InvestTN investment.
Kelliher added that word of an InvestTN commitment probably helped tip the scales in favor of investment in Personality Pool, at the moment that was needed.
In a separate interview, Mullins acknowledged that she's been working "really hard" to meet or surpass investor expectations.
In 2024, Mullins said the company aims to build on its steadily growing customer referrals, and will step-up affordable "grassroots" marketing communications via trade shows and related tactics, with national expansion the longer-term objective.
She said that immediately she will refocus on operations, but, taking into account sales and cashflow, she's likely to be ready by Q2 2024 to discuss the next leg of her capital roadmap.
She said she's eager to advance the company's operations as she contemplates a phase during which she'll be dealing with more "professional money."
Asked about current or potential competitors, the founder noted that Utah-based HireVue bears mention. Asked about strategics, she acknowledged hypothetically that some -- e.g., Workday -- could in future become integration partners.
Mullins' previous career and education are outlined on her LinkedIn profile.
The founder said she has had excellent advisors, prominently including Sync Space Founder Heath Guinn; and, Aaron Sims of Sims Venture Capital.
Mullins said her business-model pivot a year ago was significantly shaped by Bob Cramer of Atlanta-based Chairman Partners.
Her outside advisors also include attorneys with Knoxville-based Egerton McAfee Armistead & Davis; accountant Amanda Bowlin CPA of Kingsport; and, bankers with Bank of Tennessee.
Launch Tennessee's Nov. 30 press release on Personality Pool's landmark funding is here.
Our earlier coverage of SSBCI and related matters is here.
Personality Pool originally did business as RPL University, in which name "RPL" represented "ripple," resonant of waves moving through water, and referrals and personalities rippling weblike through the employment marketplace.
This story will be updated as warranted. VNC
. last edited 1030 2 December 2023