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Phillip

Phillip Daneshyar

The serial entrepreneur joining up with two family friends to help contractors offer payment plans.

Company: Kanda

Role: CEO

What drew you to this particular problem that Kanda is solving?

My co-founder Richard was a contractor and he’d miss out on jobs to larger companies solely because he couldn’t offer a payment plan. When he realized it was pretty much impossible to set up as an independent contractor, he decided to work on this problem, in particular. He then recruited his cousin Rob – who’d just completed his PhD from Cambridge in astrophysics – to help him build the software. I went to school with Rob’s brother and have been in the startup space for a while; so they recruited me to help as an advisor. Right off the bat, I was excited by their idea and the size of the market (construction is the second largest market in almost every economy and is really underserved in terms of software solutions).

Eventually, they said, “Stop advising us and start executing with us” so I joined the team as a co-founder.

How do you feel you've grown personally in building this company?

In my other companies, I was a solo founder so it’s been a much different experience being a co-founder. I’ve had to learn to be a CEO who really manages, supports and motivates a team. I’ve had to learn to trust other people instead of doing all the work myself, as well.

Another thing that’s new in this experience is figuring out how to translate very physical, interpersonal experiences into the virtual realm. Leaving a tip in a jar as a customer or greeting concert goers as a venue manager are very specific experiences. It’s been a huge challenge to figure out how we can communicate that same kind of warmth and intimacy through an online transaction, requiring a ton of trial and error.

What’s the best piece of user feedback you’ve gotten so far?

When we launched an early MVP, a contractor told us “The platform feels like additional work for me.” This led us to really shift and rework the user experience – the point of Kanda is to make life easier for contractors not further complicate things so this was really useful to hear.

What’s been the most exciting milestone you’ve hit as a team?

Hands down, securing the $5M debt line. We went to several banks and this was the last one on our list. We could not have gotten Kanda off the ground – done what we’ve set out to do – had we not secured the deal with the bank. We’ve negotiated the deal such that we determine which contractors have access to the debt line – not the bank.

Is there a specific source of inspiration that keeps you pushing through tougher moments?

I’d say the team. We’re a team with high conviction in what we’re building. We seriously believe this problem needs a solution and that Kanda is the right platform to solve it.

I think in especially tough moments, I pan out and try to trust the decisions we’ve made, the feedback we’ve integrated, the progress we’ve made – that the right decisions (for the right reasons) have landed us where we are.

What was YC like?

It was hard. We applied back in 2019 and didn’t get in. This time around for the Winter 2021 cycle, we had a 40 minute interview which we thought went great. Then, one of the partners called us after and said “Without the debt line, you don’t have a business. Secure the debt line and you’re in.” So we hustled and then, the Friday before Christmas, the debt line was approved. I started screaming on the plane I was on – drew some looks, for sure.

We ended up having one more interview and then Michael Seibel called us at 2am UK time to tell us we got in. We were absolutely amped and then asked him when the program started – he said, “8 hours” haha. Then, it was immediately foot to the gas, 100mph. Even virtually, very intense.

I think the biggest takeaway was the mindset shift. You have access to this incredible network, these amazing mentors, but, for us, joining the ranks of some of the most successful startups out there helped us recognize the magnitude of the value our company could have. The partners saw our company & believed in its potential to have a significant impact. It’s a different mindset we take to work everyday knowing how high the bar is set for us; our focus, our dedication are even more amplified.

What has been your biggest misstep and what did you learn from that moment?

I think we assumed, earlier on in fundraising efforts, that investors give the best, most valuable feedback. While they can and sometimes do have really useful input, sometimes they don’t. We’ve realized that their decisions boil down to a belief in our team mission and that their feedback is not necessarily the end all.

What’s a song or album that’s gotten you through 2020?

I listened to a lot of Daddy Yankee and J Balvin. Basically, I love loud, fun music where I can’t understand what anyone’s saying haha so I can focus on whatever I’m doing.

Favorite emoji or gif?

The peace sign. “Thumbs up”? ✌🏼 “Ok”? ✌🏼 “Thank you”? ✌🏼