Kelsey Moreira – Leaving Corporate America and Starting the Cookie Dough Company, Doughp
Kara Goldin: Hi, everybody. It’s Kara Goldin from Unstoppable. I’m so excited to have Kelsey Moreira here this morning with me to talk a little bit about entrepreneurism, but also about her great company that she founded and is the CEO of called Doughp. You may have seen her in a few different things.
You were definitely on Shark Tank, which is so cool. You’ve got a great product. Even though, as I always emphasize to people, our product is about not drinking sugar, I always tell people that, “Hey, if you’re going to have a little bit of a treat now and then, something like your product, that’s not so bad.” Right?
Kelsey Moreira: Yes. Responsible indulgence.
Kara Goldin: Responsible indulgence.
So Kelsey, just tell us a little bit about your journey. When did you start, why did you start it? Just give us a little bit of an overview.
Kelsey Moreira: So I started the company in April of 2017. It was a 4/20 in San Francisco and I set out to a park in Doris Park, a lot of people listening in SF probably know it, and had 100 pounds of cookie dough and went out to see if anyone was into this edible cookie dough that they could eat. Sure enough on that day lots of people were interested in having some dessert. Some of them we had to remind, it’s not edible in that context, but edible in that it’s safe to eat. So it’s an egg less recipe. I wasn’t always a food company person. I’ve always been a foodie and lover of trying different foods and baking. But I spent 10 years working in tech and had spent a lot of time at Intel. I started 16 years old as an intern. Yeah, had a really intense childhood diving right into corporate America at 16 I didn’t really get a chance to be a normal high school kid.
So the stress of life in corporate America led me to a really unhealthy relationship with alcohol. But when I got sober in 2015 I rediscovered my passions for baking and really passions for everything I love in life. I was totally on coast mode before and when I got sober it was just like what makes Kelsey, Kelsey? A big part of that is desserts. If anyone knows me, I’ve got the biggest sweet tooth in the world. So finding a way to make desserts my life was my new mission and I quit my job and started Doughp and April of ’17 and on we went serving edible and bake able cookie dough to the masses.
Kara Goldin: I love how you just shared that you took it to a local park, Dolores Park in San Francisco. So did you know when you went over to Dolores Park you were going to launch this product? Or were you actually trying to get consumers’ reactions to it?
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, a bit of test the waters. I mean it was February of 17 when I first had this idea that man, I’d been baking vegan for almost two years then. Since I got sober I tried out, “What if I removed everything from my life?” So I tried being a vegan. So when I was baking I was using this substitute for raw eggs but still using butter. I love butter way too much to ditch that. So I had this decadent thing and I was just like, “Maybe people would like this.” Everyone loves cookie dough. There’s all these different recipes of trying to make a cookie dough cake or cookie dough cupcakes. I thought instead of digging for the nuggets in the ice cream, maybe people would want a whole scoop of it. So that day at Dolores was really, “Let’s test the market.”
It was my first day of sabbatical, with Intel you get paid time off for doing a certain amount of years there. So after 10 years I was taking a 10 week vacation. I just thought, “Man, there’s no better time to try a business out and see if it works than with somewhat of the safety net of if it doesn’t work out, I could still go back to Intel.” But yeah, at the end of those 10 weeks it was like, “I can’t come. I have like three events today. I got to put in my two weeks notice. This is going to be it for me.” So yeah, you have no idea when you first start a company how big it will become or what it’s going to be. You’re just like, “I love doing this. I think it tastes great. My mom thinks it’s awesome. Let’s see if other people like it.”
Kara Goldin: Yeah. That’s awesome. You mentioned you were at Intel, did you know that one day you were going to go be an entrepreneur? Or were you just like, I mean in my case I never said to myself I’d always grown up around entrepreneurs, but I never said, “One day I’m going to be an entrepreneur.” I think it’s always such an interesting question because half the people I meet are like, “Oh yes, I always knew I was just going to go do some time in a larger company. Then eventually I was going to launch my own company.” I mean in my case [inaudible 00:05:51], I’m curious on yours?
Kelsey Moreira: I feel like I certainly grew up with the models and examples of you just go to school, you get a good job, you work at that job forever and things are great. I had two parents that they lost their jobs in the recession but otherwise had always been, it was like 13 years in residential home building. My mom had been a banker for a long time. So it was just this like yeah you go and get the steady thing. I didn’t have really any entrepreneur role models in my family to look at like, “Oh they went and built their own thing.” Great business people, but my mom was getting her master’s when I was like eight years old or something. So she’s super smart and sharp and I never had the, “Women can’t be in business model.”
I totally thought, “I’m going to kick ass.” But being an entrepreneur wasn’t what I thought I would do. I knew I loved what I was doing at Intel, I loved working and I loved the marketing side of things. I always just felt too fast for Intel. I guess it was just, I felt like I wasn’t going to ever get my full potential out. When I had started as an intern they’d give me some set of tasks and then the afternoon I was like, “Okay here you go. What’s next?” They’re like, “We thought that was going to take you like two weeks. What do you mean you’re done?” Because I just was so hungry for it. But I had sparks of entrepreneurial dreams when I was a little younger, just wanting to go and do my own thing.
I was babysitting when I was like 12 with business cards and a pamphlet. I’d go around door to door telling people why I’d be a great babysitter. So I have a little bit of that. But once I got into the real world it was like, “No, you just get your job. You go and you do it.” Eventually once I had that clarity of sobriety, I was like, “I don’t think this is going to be enough forever. I need a little more action, a little more fun.”
Kara Goldin: So the next step after Dolores Park was what? I mean people always ask me like, “How do I actually … I have this idea. I think people are going to like it. I’ve tested it with friends and family, now what?” How did you get out of the gate at that point?
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah. So I had built this little catering cart. So it was like a wooden cart for 500 bucks at some wood shop in Soma. That was at day one, just I wanted some neat service vehicle. Something people might want to take a picture in front of or something. It would look more attractive than having a table. So I had that and I thought, “Well now that this one day has worked, I can lean into catering.” There’s tons of tech companies in SF and lots of places that would want some dessert treats. So that’s where it first began was doing the catering circuit. Then I reached out, the day after Delores, I wrote Spark Social. It’s a food park in San Francisco. Told them, “I have this cookie dough company, would you guys be interested?” They wrote back in like two hours and were like, “We love cookie dough. This is such a great idea. When can you start?” I’m like, “Oh crap, how do you run a business? What do I need? What licenses would I need to do this? What would it even look like?”
So it all just came really quickly from there of figuring out what final licenses I would need to operate there and what kind of setup I would do. So I stuck with my catering cart, had a backup table for extra dough and got a little pop up tent. I used to take, I just didn’t have a vehicle when I was living in SF, so I’d have an Uber XL pull up outside of my apartment, have hauled all the equipment down to the lobby, loaded it all in that car, go to the event, set up work for four hour, five hour shift at the event and then load back in another Lyft, XL, Uber XL or whatever and go back. So that was seven days a week for the first two months. I was alone, no employees, and I’d make all the dough in Oakland at a commercial kitchen that I had found.
Just going into stuff with the most positive attitude that you’re going to make it happen. People are going to say yes, you’re going to get the help you need. It really worked out in the beginning. Because that commercial kitchen had a three month wait list. But I was so passionate about what I was doing and she wanted to give me a chance and bumped me up to the top to get in. So yeah, I was making all the dough, once a week going over and making 100 pounds or so. Then coming back and doing a few more days at the park and the catering.
But I had one week where I had seven events in a row, just every single day back to back and the next week had no events. I’m like, if I’m running like the service every day, I can’t keep growing the business. So that’s when I finally got a couple of employees and grew it from there to end up getting some physical storefronts and starting to put our toes in the water on e-commerce and what that would look like. So it was shipping, just these, I think I was using deli containers back in the day, the eight ounce deli container filled with dough and people could order online. But early days it was more just like my cousin in Ohio wanting to try it, stuff like that. But e-commerce has been really incredible for us now. So it just all starts with those little inklings of maybe this would work.
So what were you doing at Intel?
Kelsey Moreira: I was a product manager. Yeah, product marketing engineer for some of the years. It’s a term that they have for being the liaison between what engineering teams are capable of and what the customers on the market wants and trying to drive a product roadmap. So I worked for most of my time at Intel on enterprise stuff, so big business stuff. Then I ended it with the internet of things, did two years in that group, which was really cool about how are we getting the world connected? All the information coming off of sensors and how that could benefit different industries. I had one year, which led a lot of the philanthropic stuff that we do with Doughp, one of my last years was in diversity and inclusion at Intel working on a campaign against online harassment to use machine learning to detect it online.
I know you’re big on Twitter, so I’m sure you see a lot of the chaos that happens on there. Yeah, it was a look at what could we do with technology to drive change in that space and give people an option for a more stress free environment online when they want it. Not necessarily censorship but those options to like, “Hey, if I don’t want to go through this or experience this, you’d have that chance.” We are partnering with a bunch of nonprofits working in this space. So just cool to see how many people out in the world have dedicated their life to trying to just do good and make the world better. Yeah, I was really inspired by that to see, besides just serving you a scoop of cookie dough, how could I make things a little happier for you?
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. So I feel like you’ve just had this journey of just lots of different things splattered into your overall journey. But the eCommerce very much self-taught. I mean you’ve just figured it out, right? I mean, so many people say to me, I mean 40% of our overall business is direct to consumer. So many people say to me, “How did you know how to do it?” I actually had some experience at AOL running a group there. But what do you think is the most important thing for people to do? Where do you start with the eCommerce? Where did you start just did you set up your own store? Did you go through Amazon? What do you think is the best next step for people?
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, I mean I’ve had a big learning experience in the last couple months, we transitioned to Shopify. If I could go way back, I would say to anyone start on Shopify-
Kara Goldin: I agree-
Kelsey Moreira: advanced platform. Shopify has, it’s that first to market stuff where they’ve gotten so big so quickly that all the third party integrations that you want are just seamless through there. They’ve made a lot of stuff easy with even turning on some buttons for the paid advertisements if you’re not at the space to pay for a professional agency to run it. There’s a lot of self-serve stuff on there. When I first got started, I built my website on Weebly, drag and drop. So simple, that’s what you need in the early days is just something that’s going to walk you through it instead of trying to learn how to code or maybe using funds to go and get a web developer in the beginning.
So whatever website works for you. I think finding a tool that’s an easy DIY because you’re going to need to make all the changes yourself in the early times and what’s easy to fulfill orders and contact your customers. You just want to make sure you’re starting yourself off on the right foot with the right tool. The rest of it, I just Googled the hell out of it. Google’s your best friend with some of that. Figuring out how to optimize the packaging and how we should wrap things, like the installation that’s going to be needed. Your product doesn’t have to be cold when it ships, but if I don’t think about that someone’s going to get a pool of butter in their jar. So that was some extra considerations of what are those right ways? Do a little testing, order from similar competitors and see how they’re packaging their product.
That gave me a lot insights on what didn’t work in some cases and what I thought was helpful for others. Both in the information you provide in the package, really think through what that experience is going to be like for your customer opening it. Too many companies just go, “Okay here’s a box, there put the product in. That’s it.” But the little details, think about those packages you’ve gotten where it had the extra wrapper on the top and it’s sealed with the sticker. Or whatever your brand elements are, making sure that comes through. We have a warning label on the outside of our box that looks like a perishable warning label. So it’s like, “Warning ridiculously good cookie dough inside.” So you can play around with it and try and get stuff that screams your brand even from the outside of the box. Because that postman could be my customer. So I want him to look us up.
Kara Goldin: Absolutely. No, I love that. So in addition to trying something, I mean it’s crazy to think that e-commerce is new, but there’s so many food and beverage companies that really haven’t even dipped their toe into it. I’m such a huge believer in really understanding who your customer is and all the benefits of being able to grow your business that way as well as offline as well. But I think it’s really about, there’s benefits to having a little bit of both or a lot of both in order to make up your overall sales. One other thing that you did that I think you became somewhat famous for, at least in my mind, was you went on Shark Tank. So talk to me a little bit about that. How did that happen?
I mean, so many people talk about like, “Oh if I could just get on “Shark Tank.” I mean, how did that happen? How did it go? What was-
What was your overall experience with it and what do you think it ultimately did for you?
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, so I went the tried and true route, I stood in line on an open casting call in San Francisco for three hours. Showed up at 6:00 AM and sat on the curb next to someone wanting to sell a crazy motorized water boat and another person who had safe sunglasses for kids or something. People just have all these ideas and you’re just like one of the lot sitting there and hoping that your idea and that your pitch is going to stick. Had my bag of cookie dough and little insert cards and photos and stuff I was going to show them. You had 90 seconds to pitch why you’d be the best entrepreneur to go on. When I went in the producer, Mindy, came by the table and she’s been their producer, going through the casting producer for all the seasons. She picks up a tub of the dough and starts eating it and is like, “Oh my gosh, like this is so good.”
90 seconds is already totally passed by. I’m still there answering questions. She’s like, “I tried the one on the East coast and this is so much better and I’m just like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this is happening.'” It’s like minutes in and they don’t tell you yes or no at that moment, but I sure left there being like, “Okay, this seems pretty good.” Got the call back and they ask for, I think it was like four or five more rounds, phone interviews, video submissions, quick video of what your onstage pitch would be for the final filming. Then you get told like, okay, you’re going to be filmed. I think I found out the beginning of August of ’18 and it was September 13th that I would be filmed and September 14th was my sobriety anniversary.
So it was a cool universal things lining up. Man, things are really working out from this choice that I made. So yeah, I got filmed that day and it aired in May of ’19. So went on, I have literally never been so sure I would pee my pants except for the moments before those doors opened. It’s like the nerves are just incredible. I was standing there and I’m alone, I was a solo founder. They countdown from 50 it seems until they open the doors. So you’re just about to pass out. But the door is open and I just thought, “I’ve prepared my whole life for this.”
Kara Goldin: Wait, so where were they? Were they actually filmed?
Kelsey Moreira: It’s in LA.
Kara Goldin: Oh, it’s in LA. Okay.
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, in LA, giant warehouse. You see this living room set in a hallway and it’s 100 foot ceilings or something. But yeah, the doors opened up and I hit that mark. You have to awkwardly stare at the sharks for 30 seconds so they can capture all of your serious thinking faces. So that’s a little nerve wracking. Then the yelled again and yeah, I did my pitch and I was in there for an hour and 15 minutes and you only see like eight minutes on TV so pretty crazy. But it was a really cool experience. I mean I got to share that I was sober on TV and that journey. People reaching out from there was just awesome. We had this woman write in who said she had lost her son to the disease of addiction in February and for some reason the only show she can tolerate is Shark Tank and seeing Kelsey felt like a message from her son.
She’s just so grateful that I was out there sharing my journey. I just felt like, “Man, if nothing else happens this year at least that one person felt a little warmer with what she’s going through.” Yeah, reinvigorated me to keep doing what I’m doing. We touched a lot of people sharing that works. So yeah, my story and what we do with Doughp for hope is worthwhile.
Kara Goldin: So although you didn’t ultimately get the sharks-
Kelsey Moreira: Whomp, whomp.
Kara Goldin: You ended up getting … I mean talk a little bit more about that.
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, I think going on Shark Tank is just great for the exposure of it. In some people’s cases they actively go on there not wanting to get a deal because they can be quite, by the name, Sharkey and take more than a than they really should when you can get capital elsewhere. I had 123 investors write me after it aired, but I had also already gotten investment just a couple of months after filming. So we got the money that we needed to open the store in Vegas. It’s like no matter how many no’s you get, I was totally crushed when I left the show, hysterics thinking, “How did this happen? How did they say no? Of all things, how do they say no over it not being healthy for you?” At the end of the day, just like you and I have spoken about, it’s dessert. Have your kale salad for lunch and have some dessert.
Kelsey Moreira: But yeah, I picked myself back up and kept going on the fundraising trail and got the money that I needed for that store. Here we are quite a bit later and the store’s still kicking. We’ve got Doughp day on March 16th in Las Vegas for that store’s grand opening. So it’s a good time.
Kara Goldin: That’s awesome. Who was the nicest shark?
Kelsey Moreira: I think Robert, I mean I’m a big fan of his. He just said so many nice things about my skills as an entrepreneur. He’s like, “If this were any other product I would invest because I’d invest in you.” That kind of thing, just really complimentary. I follow him on Instagram and stuff. So big fan of his, if he’s listening, call me. We can do a healthy Doughp line.
Kara Goldin: It’s interesting because you just never know where those … I mean five years from now you have no idea. They’ll show up in your store in Vegas. I feel like it’s all part of the story and it happened for a reason. I mean the number of people who would love to be on Shark Tank and you actually got on there, I mean it’s-
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, the odds are insane. There’s like 42,000 people that apply every season-
Kara Goldin: Is that right?
Kelsey Moreira: 120 people get filmed. So the odds are like 0.002% or something. It was pretty surreal. It was super, super cool. For sure.
Kara Goldin: So you also shared with me that this morning you got an award for one of 40 under 40 in Las Vegas. So you moved your company from San Francisco to Las Vegas, I should mention that as well. Well congratulations, that’s huge.
Kelsey Moreira: Thank you.
Kara Goldin: But man that in addition to one of Forbes 30 under 30s. So you’re just racking them up. People are seeing what you’re doing, which is super, super cool. So what do you think is the key thing that … What is it that you’re doing that people are seeing that they recognize you for? I mean-
Kelsey Moreira: What’s different?
Kara Goldin: Yeah. When people are, they’re starting a business, I mean what do you think is … You talked a little bit about your social aspect, social good aspect I should say. But also your social media aspect. I mean, what do you think are key components today in building and actually being recognized?
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, I think it’s in part just giving a shit. Doing something that you care about. You have a lot of passion around why you’re doing what you’re doing with clean water. With me and Doughp trying to make the world a little sweeter at its core is what we’re all about. So I think the recognition has come from my work around mental health and addiction recovery and trying to make a world in which we can really talk about what’s really going on or has gone on in our lives and not have it as this cloud of shame. The stats behind how many people are going through troubles with mental health or battles with substance abuse are just astronomical. The more we sit around and pretend like everything’s fine and it’s all rosy and all of this. I think I built a brand that started from the decision to be open about what’s really real and being raw both in our dough and our conversation is powerful.
I think people are really craving more authenticity with brands. So you mentioned social media, that’s been a large place for us to just have more of that transparent conversation with customers and be on there like a real human and not talk like a sales engine all the time. Try and be a little more real. I talked to some entrepreneur friends who are afraid to put themselves at the forefront of the brand and it’s like, “But at the end of the day, that’s you. That’s what people want to see. They want to see why this company exists.” Yeah, they want you to have a great product that’s good for the world and tastes good and all those things. But wanting to lead with your story or share why you’re doing it is inspirational and exciting to people.
So I think doughp’s having the biggest impact, the big impact that we are because we’re trying to give back. So I can tell you a little bit about Doughp for Hope. It’s the overarching initiative at Doughp to give back around mental health and addiction recovery. We have fundraising efforts for nonprofits that work in this space. I’m a big believer that you don’t have to go and recreate the wheel. There’s already people going. So I just want the wheel to move faster. So we raise funds and our customers get to come in and vote for which nonprofit they’d like to receive the funds from their purchase of Doughp for Hope. We’ve got mental health policies for our staff. So for any other entrepreneurs and employers out there trying to treat your staff like humans is really powerful. We give all of our staff, working with a retail storefront, we have hourly staff who occasionally just can’t do it, you just can’t come as your full self to work that day.
So we give two mental health days per employee, and that’s per year. So they can call us and have that opportunity to say, “Look, I just I can’t do it today.” Without financial penalty we’ll do what it takes to cover their shift. So that helps open up just a much more realistic dialogue between employer and employee and let them know that we care. We also fund mental health certification and suicide prevention courses for our staff. Then the last thing is our pledge online. So anybody out there, you guys can go to Doughp.com and sign the Doughp for Hope pledge. It just says you’ll agree to be more real in the world and speak up when you need help and be there for a friend when they need you and spread a little bit more awesomeness. So you can sign that and share it online with others. But yeah, I think that stuff’s what makes it a little more than cookie dough. I sell dough, but the real reason I’m out here is to try and make people a little more authentic.
Kara Goldin: Well I think so much of your personality comes through on, not just interviewing you but also just in your brand. I mean everything from the titles of your cookies, the ride or die is one of our favorite ones. Monsta, Cookie Monsta and stuff, it’s super, super great.
Kelsey Moreira: [crosstalk 00:27:37] hiring a marketing person is going to be the hardest task that I have because the brand is Kelsey. The voice is so me. Any entrepreneur that’s really into building their brand, it’s very hard to hire someone that can emulate that voice. Shout out to Connor, she’s doing my social media lately. She’s doing a great job.
Kara Goldin: Yeah. No, that’s great. I think at every stage you start to get to a point where … We actually just, we’ve had heads of marketing, VPs of marketing, but we just recently hired our first CMO into the company 14 years later because that was a hat that I wore and still wear. I mean, it’s still very much my vision. It’s a huge hat. But we want it to get bigger and grow the brand and really be able to-
Kelsey Moreira: Yeah, it’s so important.
Kara Goldin: Yeah and also allow me to do different innovation in the company to actually bring the brand into more categories and more places.
Kelsey Moreira: That’s awesome.
Kara Goldin: Yeah, no, it’s great. So how about you?
Kelsey Moreira: I have a few more years until 14 years in. You’re telling me get a CMO in 11 years.
Kara Goldin: So how about you? It in, what, 12 years from now? Or less than that, 11 years, right? Because you started in 2017, so 11 years from now what’s Kelsey going to be doing? What is Doughp going to be all about?
Kelsey Moreira: If I’m running at the same pace I’m running right now, I hope that I’m on a beach somewhere relaxing.
Kara Goldin: And eating Doughp, right?
Kelsey Moreira: Eating some Doughp, for sure. Yeah. I think the evolution of Doughp over the next even few years is going to be really interesting to see how else we can get this product out. I think when I first started it was this concept of, “Oh you can eat cookie dough raw.” Really new, no one else was really doing this. Now there are a lot of competitors in the space. So just the constant evolution of what’s going to make Doughp different beyond our give back initiatives and the brand itself. How else can we package it? What other audiences could we be serving? There’s some really cool stuff in the works on that end.
Kara Goldin: I love it. That’s so great. So where can people find you as well as Doughp? Can you give a shout out for your address and all that kind of stuff?
Kelsey Moreira: Totally. For one, if anyone’s coming through Las Vegas, we got the best party on the strip. Come buy the Doughp cookie dough bar. We’re inside Miracle Mile shops and in Planet Hollywood. So right across from the Cosmopolitan. A lot of people that like Doughp end up staying there so it’s a good placement. We’ve got a vending machine in the front, so 24/7 access to cookie dough if you come after hours from the store. But you can also order online. We ship nationwide, coast to coast. It’s doughp.com that’s D-O-U-G-H-P.com. We’re @eatdoughp on everything. So you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, eatdoughp. I’m @Kelsmoreira or moreira. Kelsmoreira6 on Instagram. I think I’m Kelsey_Moreira on Twitter.
Who knew this last name was so popular? It’s taken on everything. I’ve had to do different variations.
Kara Goldin: I love it. I love it. So great. Well hopefully we’ll get to see you. Will you be going to expo down in March?
Kelsey Moreira: I just got a request to speak at actually on a mental health panel around taking care of yourself in entrepreneurship and whatnot. So yeah, I’m following up with some of the folks from New Hope on that, but hopefully I’m there. Are you guys going to be out there?
Kara Goldin: We have a booth there every year, so yeah. So if you don’t have a booth, you should definitely walk the show and come see what’s going on. Yeah, for sure. You can come hang out at the Hint booth if you’d like.
Kelsey Moreira: 100%. I’ll have a little bag of Doughp jars. We’ll just hand them out in the corner.
Kara Goldin: So fun. That’s so great. Okay, cool. Well, thank you so much for your time this morning. Everybody go on and order Doughp.
Kelsey Moreira: Dig in.
Kara Goldin: yeah and dig in, and your Hint water to just wash it down. It’s so good together.
Kelsey Moreira: That’s awesome.
Kara Goldin: Thanks so much.
Kelsey Moreira: Thanks everybody have a dope day.
Kara Goldin: Yay. Okay.
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