[INTRO] Hi there. I'm Jen Blandos, the founder of Female Fusion Network. I've been an entrepreneur for over 20 years with experience in building seven figure businesses and working around the world. Originally, I'm from Canada, but I've been living in Dubai for the past 14 years. I've created this podcast to share my insights and expertise as a global entrepreneur and help other women start, build, grow, and scale their businesses. You'll also hear from some of the world's top experts and female entrepreneurs who will inspire and motivate you to achieve your business goals. So join me as we explore all that the world has to offer and build the business of your dreams. Let's get started.
I am here today with Maxine Cunningham, who is the CEO and founder of Pick My Brain. And we are so lucky to have Maxine here. She is on a stop through Dubai, and when I heard that she was coming, I just had to grab her to come into the podcast studio to chat with me all about her business and her entrepreneurial journey. Welcome, Maxine.
Maxine Cunningham 00:01:17
Thank you so much. It's exciting to be here. Yeah.
Jen Blandos 00:01:19
And welcome to Dubai as well, the global city. Yeah. What do you think of Dubai having just arrived?
Maxine Cunningham 00:01:26
Well, it's been 48 hours and so far I'd say every room I've been in, there's just been multiple countries. That's been the first notice is that, yeah, you can go into any room and you are talking to someone from Kenya and London and Saudi, and you're all sitting there having a conversation. And so the perspective is wide here.
Jen Blandos 00:01:49
And this is one of the things that I love, and we can speak about this more, but I'm also from Canada as well, like you, and the one thing that I love about being here is just it's the world, isn't it? You just get exposure to the whole world and it's so enlightening.
Maxine Cunningham 00:02:05
Yes, it is.
Jen Blandos 00:02:07
Yeah. So before we dive into things, maybe if you want to tell everybody a bit about yourself and about Pick My Brain.
Maxine Cunningham 00:02:14
Yeah, of course. So, hi, everyone. My name is Maxine. I am the CEO and founder of a company called Pick My Brain. Pick My Brain is a global knowledge sharing marketplace. The vision is the question that I had was what if I could pick anyone's brain, one on one from around the world? What would that unlock for me? And what if I could list my brain and let the whole world know that I was open and available to sharing my knowledge? Who would come? And that question tantalized me. And as an economist, I love to think about things as what is the value of something? What is the quantifiable value? And I thought, what is the value of a conversation? Conversations have changed my life so many times in so many significant ways. And conversations have given me energy and perspective and ideas and relationships and new paths faster than any other type of medium. And so I said I wonder if I could put a value on conversations and trade them just as we do trade products. How big does that economy become? And that was the vision. And so now what we kind of say is we are on a mission. We want to build a marketplace as big as Amazon only and sit on Pick My Brain, there's no products, there's just conversations and services from people. So can you shop a world of conversations?
Jen Blandos 00:03:41
Wow, that's really interesting. And because the phrase Pick my brain sometimes can have negative connotations as well, and I'm sure you get this too, that I often get messages, especially over WhatsApp because we do everything over WhatsApp in the UAE and people will be like hey Jen, can I come to your office and pick your brain for an hour? Or could we meet for a coffee? I want to pick your brain. And that's basically somebody saying I want an hour of your time for free. Or 2 hours of business advice for free. And I found that has been really hard because you want to come from a place of service and help people, but if you're constantly letting people pick your brain, you can't run your business.
Maxine Cunningham 00:04:27
Totally. That's exactly the lead. And actually, Forbes, right when we launched launched the COVID of their title was no, you can't Pick My Brain. It costs too much to maintain and it's something we're fitting in. And what we're finding is that people just don't have a formal way to ask you for that time. They would pay. So if you sent a link, your Pick My Brain link and be like, absolutely. I opened up my calendar for ten Pick My Brain sessions or ten coffee and conversations every month to sit down with entrepreneurs who would like to speak to someone who's been in business as long as you have, who have traveled the world as much as you have. And they know that in that hour they're going to gain a lot. So you just send them the link and that there would be now a formal process and opportunity for them to pay for that as a service. Pick. My brain is a service. It's just that we haven't framed it as a service.
Jen Blandos 00:05:19
And I guess as well that that makes it easier for so many people who feel uncomfortable with that conversation.
Maxine Cunningham 00:05:26
Yes, exactly. Because you don't know how far you can go. Everyone knows the value of it. And as someone who's asking someone for free time, it is uncomfortable to be on the other side. And this is what Airbnb like. Before Airbnb there was couchsurfing and I was a huge couch surfer and I was like all my friends were really uncomfortable with it because it was free. And I was like someone's got to come through and formalize this so that the people that are uncomfortable staying somewhere for free, can pay and feel more comfortable. And we're finding the same with pick my brain. I feel much more comfortable paying you $250 an hour to sit down because I know I can dig in. Yeah, I can be like, I can really utilize this service because there's been a transfer of payment, and you're there because you've accepted those terms, you made the terms. And I've come into your container, and I know that you're open to receiving that.
Jen Blandos 00:06:21
And I guess as well, it gives people around the world access to you in a way that maybe if you were just in a local market that you wouldn't get to meet those same people. So how does it work exactly that anybody can sign up on the platform?
Maxine Cunningham 00:06:38
Sure. Yeah. So anybody can go to Pickmybrain World, start a profile. That profile is very similar to filling out a LinkedIn profile, only we go above and beyond in that we think people are more than their resumes. These days. You are a collection of your experiences, your values, and how you want to be of service to the world. So when you fill out a Pick My Brain profile, you kind of answer these prompts, and then you submit a profile for review, and our team looks it over, validates what you say. If it looks good, we push your profile live. And then our team actually books a one on one call with you. We book your first Pick my brain session. And if you pass our interview, if you are a very good communicator and in alignment with what you're saying you're doing, you're good to go. And then you can invite the world to pick your brain. Like this evening, I have three Pick My Brain calls, one from Austria, one from New Zealand, and one from Pakistan, and all from the comfort of my home. And I've done a thousand so far. I just passed my thousand Picked My Brain call after four years. And it really is it's the world. The value that I gain from it is also because I'm getting that perspective as well. So it is an exchange a lot of the time, but because someone's choosing to sit down with me when they want to, then that monetary component comes in.
Jen Blandos 00:07:59
So I'm really curious. So for you, when you're doing these Pick My Brain sessions, what kind of things do people want to pick your brain about?
Maxine Cunningham 00:08:06
Yeah, so primarily how I most want to help people is I'm really good at packaging and pricing knowledge. I love creating new revenue streams for people. So within half an hour to an hour, I can usually uncover a revenue stream that you could unlock, and I can have it live in 24 hours because of how Pick My Brain allows you to package and price your knowledge. So Pick My Brain calls are just one form of revenue, but the platform also allows you to package and price coffee and conversations or one month of service or ten sessions or three months of mentorship. You can really get really creative with how you want to support those around you. So mostly people come, and people really need an outside perspective as to what makes them valuable, especially women. I think we forget so often what value we hold because it's so comfortable to us. We're like, oh, this is so easy for me, and that we think, well, why would anyone pay for this? But you need someone outside to be like, charge, I would pay you to do this for me. And so it's actually a really collaborative economy because we need one another to validate one another's offers. And so, yeah, people often come to help them see themselves, understand what value they have, and then understand and validate what they can package and how much to charge for it.
Jen Blandos 00:09:30
Interesting. And what sort of people do you have? Because I can imagine. So I'm thinking about our professional network, so everybody in Female Fusion Network and thinking, okay, so I know some of our members would be all over saying, how do I list myself on there? That sounds really cool. What sort of people do you see listing themselves for services? Is it anything and everything, or is there a particular demand for certain areas?
Maxine Cunningham 00:09:58
Yeah, so it is everything and anything right now. And we do want to be the most diverse marketplace in the world. We want 196 countries represented. We want every industry, culture, and background. We think that when knowledge becomes open, available, and accessible, we crave the diversity that exists within the knowledge that is out there. So to give you an example of some of the people on the profile that we've seen receive a number of bookings and how much they span with the diversity that that spans. So I always reference our Holocaust survivor, Yoka, because she's our oldest brain. And Yoka is at a stage in her life. She's 84, and she's like, Maxine, I don't have much time left here. All I want to do is pass down my knowledge of how to deal with grief, how to transform, how to go through life, how to live and age beautifully. She has a number of interesting she has a life of experience. Right? Wow. And so she is booked regularly for conversations about transition and transformation all the way up to the former CEO of Upwork applied to become a brain because he felt on glg, he was bored. He didn't want to just do financial analysis. He's like, I want to help entrepreneurs think out loud. And I said, cool. Pick my brain will allow you to do that. Avaldes is one of our most book brains. Recently, avaldez does work in he's a startup founder and talks about mental health and the mental health journey that comes with starting a company. And so once a week on LinkedIn, Avaldes posts dear community, every week, I open up my calendar to support anyone who wants to talk about startups, mental health, LinkedIn, branding. My calendar is open and he sends us Pick My Brain link. And within four months, of eldest has done 300 bookings.
Jen Blandos 00:11:53
Maxine Cunningham 00:11:54
Yeah. And so he's one of our most booked brains. Perry, you'll love this one. He's a nonlinear thinker. He's a multi potentialite, and he is building a global movement of multi potentialites, these individuals who don't subscribe to being one thing, to being specialists who have a wide variety of interests and can't quite navigate the linear system that the world is. And he's done over 500 bookings on My Brain.
Jen Blandos 00:12:21
He sounds like so many entrepreneurs, right? So many entrepreneurs just want to do everything.
Maxine Cunningham 00:12:28
From spiritual healers. There's a lot of individuals who do quantum time leap healing, akashic records, to accounting, to law, to astrophysicists to space scientists. Pick My Brain has the most wide diversity pool of interest and intentionally so.
Jen Blandos 00:12:49
Maxine Cunningham 00:12:50
Yeah, it's pretty cool.
Jen Blandos 00:12:55
Do they decide what they set as a fee or is there a standard fee on the platform?
Maxine Cunningham 00:13:00
Yeah, good question. So on our free plan, you can as a brain list using our template services that Pick My Brain has curated. So we've gone in and prepackaged pre priced offers that we've seen be successful on the market. The stack that we ask our brains to opt into on the free plan is we ask all brains to give 10 hours a minimum a year in the form of these meetmes. So we say, open your calendar and let the world at least schedule some meetmes. And what we've seen is that 30% of them will convert to a higher ticket offer. So we have a 30 minutes meet me. We have a 30 minutes paid Pick My Brain call, a 60 minutes paid Pick My Brain call. If you want to call it a virtual coffee and conversation. We have mentorship. The Pick My Brain call is $75. Mentorship is $75. We have a $250.60 minutes private working session that you can list. And then we have a three pack and a ten pack. And then we also have three months, six months and twelve months. So you can opt into those template offers. As a brain on the free plan, you get access to two of them. If you want to set your own rates and customize your offers and create something creative, then you go onto our paid plan and you can package and price and sell your knowledge however you want and unlock as many offers as you want.
Jen Blandos 00:14:23
And do you find the sort of people who are listing as brands? Are they typically doing a lot of other things? And so maybe we'll do five or 10 hours. Or are there some people who have almost made this their own business just.
Maxine Cunningham 00:14:37
Being on there, both in all between? So, again, with Pick My Brain, you can limit this is really nice, too, is if you're someone that's super busy and get a number of Pick My Brain requests like you do, you can set a limit. You say, Dear community, I do ten Pick My Brain calls a month, and then once that's hit, it's gone. And you could say that that's how you use Pick My Brain. You just do your ten calls and that's it. And you get value from the platform that way or yeah, because Pick My Brain is a platform that is no code, allows you to package a price, gives you global access overnight, handles the bookings, the payments, the invoicing, the reviews, the reminders, the SEO, et cetera. You can build your whole business on it. And we do have people that bring in their revenue streams and link them directly to Pick My Brain.
Jen Blandos 00:15:25
I guess it's great for people who are solopreneurs, either ones who are just getting started and want to have that exposure, or ones who just hate the.
Maxine Cunningham 00:15:34
Admin, oh, yeah, that was me. I was like, I can't do invoicing. I don't do it. There's nothing I hate more than invoicing. I believe that all professionals should be paid upfront, not after. And I couldn't manage I didn't even know how to start selling my knowledge globally on the tax side and how to manage that. And so I said, I built this tool also for myself in that I just want this thing to run for me and handle all of that so I can be global. And it's a really great way to validate an offer before you put time and energy and effort into building that website. A website can typically cost like, $5,000 and three to 612 months of your time, and you're starting with a blank canvas.
Jen Blandos 00:16:20
And I think that's a really important point that you say as well, just validating your offer, right? Because so many people will go into the whole process of setting up a business and not validated the offer. And I hear this so often. I speak with entrepreneurs. I was speaking with someone yesterday, and they were telling me all about this plan of this business I wanted to set up, and I said, okay, great. But the first thing you need to do is you need to validate this, you need to test it. And the person said, Well, I'm my ideal paying customer. Okay, that's great. Let's find you, like, another 50 that you could talk to to make sure that that's exactly what they want. And so being able to have access to a platform like that must be amazing that it will save people that time and expose you to a different market, I guess, as well.
Maxine Cunningham 00:17:06
Yes. Sometimes I'll test offers. Like, I went to New York for a week, and I got really inspired by how New York dreams. They dream a lot. And I said, people in Canada don't dream as much as New York. I wonder why. And I wonder if it's because we just don't have a place to dream. We have therapy. Therapy has become, like, such a ubiquitous service. What if there was, like, dream out loud therapy? Would people dream more? And so I was like, I wonder. So I went on to pick my brain and I packaged an offer, and it was called a dream out loud Call. And it was 60 minutes for you and I to sit down and dream out loud about your business. And I said, dear community, I'm just trialing this offer. I just want to know if anyone wants to dream out loud. I charged, I think, $75 for an hour. I just wanted to see and all ten of them sold out. And people on the call were like, Can I do this quarterly? And I was like, Should I sell a pack of four?
Jen Blandos 00:18:04
But it's almost like vision setting, in a way.
Maxine Cunningham 00:18:07
It is vision. Yeah, it's very similar, but it allowed me to validate that, yes, people find value sitting down with me for an hour to think out loud about their business. Because as an entrepreneur, sometimes your friends aren't entrepreneurs. You got to find your network, and sometimes you just want to sit down with one and can be like, can I just throw a million things at you and just reframe back to me what I'm saying and layer your experience on top of what I'm saying? And it helps you as someone who's launching something new, start to build frameworks around it and yeah, validate it.
Jen Blandos 00:18:47
I love that. And I guess well, you talk about places where they think big and dream. I think you need to spend a bit of time in Dubai.
Maxine Cunningham 00:18:55
Well, yeah, dream, say, build this. I mean, the buildings and of itself show that. Yeah.
Jen Blandos 00:19:00
But I think as well, one of the things that I love about the UAE that I would not want to have a business anywhere else. I just think that this is the perfect place to have a business is that this is a country where anything is possible. And when you speak with business owners, that they will say that the access to the contracts that they've had or the clients that they've had are ones that they could never have dreamed about having in their own home countries. And it's just a country where and this starts at the top with the leadership that the leadership in this country are like, try it. If you have a dream, no matter how crazy it is, go and do it. Like, who would have thought 50 years ago when they created this country, that Dubai would have the tallest skyscraper in the world? All of these crazy things. And this is one thing that I think, as an entrepreneur, it's a very special place that it almost breeds that creativity and the dreaming in a way that you don't see other places.
Maxine Cunningham 00:20:04
Well, you know how to speak to my soul. The idea of leadership being like, go for it. And the physical manifestation of being in the city, you do see the impossible around you. And so it does allow your brain to do different things.
Jen Blandos 00:20:22
Absolutely. And nice warm climate is really helpful as well. And being surrounded by the sea.
Maxine Cunningham 00:20:29
Yeah. It's just a bonus. This is a nice city.
Jen Blandos 00:20:31
Bonus. Yeah. But it's funny because I remember I've been in this country for 14 years, and when I first arrived, I would go to Canada to go visit my parents or other countries, and people would look at me and go, why do you live in Dubai? Why do you live in this country? And I say to them, because it's amazing. The possibilities are amazing. Like 1415 years ago, the possibilities were even crazier, like the things that you were able to try. But it's funny that back then, people would look and see it as like a real hardship place. And now you speak with people and you live in Dubai. Oh my God, I dream about going there. What's it like? It's so amazing. And so I think the country, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the other places in this country, the leadership has done a phenomenal job they have at transforming this country.
Maxine Cunningham 00:21:30
They have. And the brand really is is that more awe like, wow, look at this city, everyone knows about it. Dubai is on the map. It is on the global map. It has done an excellent job at showing off that in a wide variety of ways. And it's nice to hear from an entrepreneur that that extends beyond just the physical building and the construction. But of course it would.
Jen Blandos 00:21:51
Yeah, I mean, absolutely. From running your business. I was speaking with some students from Columbia University the other day, and they were asking about what it was like to run a business here. And one of the things I said to them, like, I did say, it's the best place to have a business. But even things like infrastructure is so good, right? Our Internet is like 800 Mbps.
Maxine Cunningham 00:22:21
Jen Blandos 00:22:21
You can only dream of that in like, Europe or North America. That that just doesn't happen.
Maxine Cunningham 00:22:27
Jen Blandos 00:22:27
That the buildings are new, that everything is twenty four seven I find frustrating sometimes when I go to Europe and I'm like, what do you mean? It's going to take me a week to get that. It would take me an hour to get it. You know, you just like, you go onto an app like the the things that people create here. There's an app that was created here called Insta Shop. An Insta Shop was created about five years ago now. And initially it was just grocery delivery in one tower in the marina in Dubai, and then they turned it into a whole app where you can order anything and it will be at your house in 1 hour, and it is 24/7. So if you need something from the pharmacy, you can order it. If something from the supermarket, the pet store, anything. And they only charge you like the equivalent of maybe one and a half dollars to deliver it to your house. So for me, I'm always like, why drive for half an hour when I can have it sent to my house?
Maxine Cunningham 00:23:29
Yeah. Oh my God.
Jen Blandos 00:23:31
But it's so cool as well that to see that they came up with that idea and really ran with it. And the business was sold to Delivery Hero from Germany. So they did really, really well. But they've launched it in Greece and they're launching it in other markets as well. So it's crazy. The innovation that you see, I love it as well.
Maxine Cunningham 00:23:54
You can think of their boardroom, hey guys, what if you could order anything and have it to your house in an hour from your city? Right. And that concept okay, well, there's Uber. Okay. There's Amazon, there's just in time we have food delivery, of course. Okay, so then how do we take that? And it just really starts. Like if you can be in a city that has that original, what if we could get anything to anyone in 1 hour? And that's what drove Pick My Brain, too, is like, what if I could talk to anyone in the world? Like, what if I wanted I'm coming to Dubai from Canada. Can I talk to someone from Dubai right now? Within a minute, can I look up on a directory and see if someone's available to sit down and talk with me about what it's like to start a business very easily? Yeah. What does that open up? And it really is you got to have that initial, that initial vision. And you can if you can see it in your mind, you could do it. And I just thought Airbnb allows essentially you to list this asset that you have in your house that's going unused on a global marketplace and say, hello world, do you want to stay in my house? And they can handle the pricing globally and the listings globally. Why can't I? And it's almost like the innovation of others allow you to validate that. Well, if Airbnb can exist and Uber eats can exist, surely Insta shop can exist and Pick My Brain can exist.
Jen Blandos 00:25:20
For sure. Yeah, yeah. And it's yeah, it's just this whole idea of being so visionary and having those dreams and thinking big, which circles.
Maxine Cunningham 00:25:30
Back to my Dream out Loud session. I was like, this has got to be imagine if visioning was as popular as therapy. Well, what does that do?
Jen Blandos 00:25:38
And do you still offer those sessions? Because I bet you're going to have a lot of people requesting it afterwards.
Maxine Cunningham 00:25:43
I've shifted more into helping people build revenue streams. But yeah, you can book me for an hour. And part of that working session is vision amazing.
Jen Blandos 00:25:53
So I want to talk to you about another area, which is funding, because we talk about this a lot. Within Female Fusion Network, it's harder for women owned businesses to get access to finance, whether it's debt, whether it's equity. The stats show it's not the same. And even in this region, in the MENA region, last summer, women owned businesses got 0.1% of all of the funding. And you just think, how how is that possible? And, you know, there's so many different reasons. That one big one is that we don't have access to the same networks. We're not necessarily and we don't ask. And we don't ask.
Maxine Cunningham 00:26:35
Women don't ask.
Jen Blandos 00:26:36
And I think also as well, if women get rejected oftentimes, you just go, oh, okay, so you said my business sucks. Okay, I'm not going to ask again exactly where you might have to ask 100 times before you actually get the funding. So you had an initial round of funding. Maybe talk me through what that looked like so we can kind of pick your brain about how you got your funding.
Maxine Cunningham 00:27:02
Yeah, for sure. And as a background, I was an investment banker and did the finance background at university. And so I've got enough of the language that I feel a little bit more comfortable. I've bought and sold stocks for a number of years to make income. So I feel comfortable with financial language. And I feel there is a gap with women where they actually don't feel as comfortable with the verbiage, which right there holds you back from being part of the conversation and feeling like you can hold yourself in those rooms. And so I think we do need to fill that gap. All women should be able to confidently understand how money flows, how it works, the values. And I think a lot of those terms scare women just because there isn't as many women in it, it's growing. The education is there. But I have a bit of a comfortability and a background because I was in that world. So just want to preface that, because I do see one of my second biggest, the second offer I launched on Pick My Brain, actually, and it made me $7,000, was a class called Blockchain from a Woman's Perspective. And it was very similar. I saw again in my life when Blockchain was coming through and I had visited in Bitcoin because I was like, this is going to be a new asset class. This is really exciting. This is like five years ago now. And I noticed that all my really smart women friends weren't investing. And what I intuitized was that they were not attracted to the type of conversation that was happening around Bitcoin, which is very gamer friendly, very male dominated, and it wasn't resonating. And I was like, no, I know that if women understood the vision and the application of this technology and how it could transform digital. Passports, how it could impact musicians, how it could impact health care, they would be interested. And so I hosted, I launched on Pick my brain Blockchain from a woman's perspective for 3 hours. I'm going to teach you absolutely everything I know. And if you want to purchase a bitcoin after and you want to invest in this new asset class, I will help you do that. And I charged, I think, $150. And I did three groups, and I had all of my women friends in my community came and learned, and I should go back and see how much money I made those women because I got them all to buy a little bit of bitcoin back when it was probably $2,000. And I think today it's $30,000. And I'll loop back to the investment, but what I found is that once I gave them women, women we talked about this before we started the podcast. Women attached to the vision, the impact, how it applies, how it impacts, like, individuals and the world much more than what's the PE ratio, what's the dividend yield, what's the interest rate, what's the maturity, what's the clauses. I see women start to glaze.
Jen Blandos 00:29:50
Their eyes glaze.
Maxine Cunningham 00:29:51
Yeah. And then they kind of freeze up and they back off. And that's what happened in blockchain two. People were talking about just, like, trading these coins. What are all these coins and what is this platform? And they would glaze. But again, like I said when I shared, how is this technology going to fundamentally change the future of education, the future of healthcare, the future of transportation, of data management? Then they saw and I related it to what they did, then they're like, I want to invest in this. I want to be at the table and I can be part of the conversation because I can speak to how it's going to be applied. And so the same thing I find happens with fundraising, right? Women glaze when the terms come. But really, if they just were able to share their vision and know their economics a bit, the numbers behind their business and we spoke about it, I noticed when I go to women networking events versus hybrid, we don't talk about our values. Like, what is your lifetime value of a customer? How much are you charging? How long do your membership stay? What is your churn? We're not sharing that information together. Men are all the time, so they have so much context of, right, they know, oh, how much did you raise? What terms did you raise it, who did you get it from? What was your valuation? Okay. And so these men are collecting this context of how much money everyone is making and what the terms were and how to scale your impact. Whereas women are talking about the vision and the mission and the colors, and.
Jen Blandos 00:31:20
Women is also important to worse. And I think that's what makes this special. But we need to understand that other side.
Maxine Cunningham 00:31:27
Jen Blandos 00:31:27
And what I find talking to a lot of female entrepreneurs as well is that they're scared to ask for funding because they're embarrassed because they don't understand it and they don't know. And that, I see is like a big gap right there that we need to address that even before we start looking for them to get funding if they don't know the basics.
Maxine Cunningham 00:31:49
Yeah, I think that'd be an incredible event for your community. Let's all pitch and talk about the vision of our companies, because women do that extraordinarily well. But let's add on this component and say, if I had access to a million dollars, this is where I would deploy it, and this is the return that I would expect to see based on. And really, that's the conversation that you need to get comfortable with, because an investor, that's what they're looking for.
Jen Blandos 00:32:16
Funny you should suggest that. We're doing that in Dubai on the 15 March.
Maxine Cunningham 00:32:21
Jen Blandos 00:32:23
So we pulled together 20 investors, like, a mixture of Angels and VCs, and 40 entrepreneurs, because these are all active businesses that are looking for funding or investment, but just, like, I just don't know how to get there. So that's really the aim. And we've had all of these investors are being so generous with their time, they're taking a whole day out where it is, like, very much talking about what that process looks like. And then they've brought in a number of companies who have had funding to also go and share those stories about what they did as well.
Maxine Cunningham 00:33:02
Jennifer I'm so excited to hear that because I feel that if women get comfortable, we stay small because we're scared to take on money. We're scared because we are more conscious investors. We're very much more risk averse. But imagine what I love to imagine is what does the world look like when women are not scared to take capital to scale their visions, when they are like, I need please give me $2 million, because the level of impact I can have with that capital right now is far super. This is the impact.
Jen Blandos 00:33:33
But do you notice I'm just curious about this that I noticed when I talk to entrepreneurs that they always ask for the minimum amount of money.
Maxine Cunningham 00:33:43
Jen Blandos 00:33:44
And I talked to some businesses, and they're like, well, maybe like 200, $300,000. Yeah, let's talk million.
Maxine Cunningham 00:33:53
Yes. And this is what we need to get comfortable with, and we need to be able to validate that we know exactly where to deploy that capital. And I in my business bootstrapped consciously for a number of years. So I knew the value of a dollar, and I knew how to stretch a dollar and make it work for me for a mile. And I knew when I invested here how that moved my business. And I did that for four years to gain that context so that I could have the conversation of being like, if someone gave me 2510 million dollars right now, I would know exactly where to deploy it and what to expect on the other side. So you have to be ready for it. But again, I do think a great exercise even, and I'm just workshopping this in my mind would be, okay, women, let's sit around the table. Okay, we're going to spend an hour thinking about what we do if we were given a million dollars.
Jen Blandos 00:34:44
Do you know what? I did that with their members last month.
Maxine Cunningham 00:34:47
Jen Blandos 00:34:50
You and I are just connected here the same way, because you need to think about this. And do you know what I was surprised by? And you've probably seen this as well, when you do this, the number of people like, I don't know.
Maxine Cunningham 00:35:04
Yes. And they need to know that, yes, we need to think about it. And this is it. This is I'm so happy. Keep having that session regularly because I want them to feel like a million dollars is not a lot of money. I know it feels like a lot when you're starting out. It did for me as well. And now I'm like, no, a million doesn't even cover right. You start to do the calculations of pain. You got to understand enough accounting to realize how much a million can get you versus ten versus 20, and start to get really comfortable with knowing, here's the equation that I did for my mind, and I don't know if this will help other women, because I was like, who am I to ask for 2.5 million? That's what I thought prior when I was younger and naive. But then I thought, okay, my friend was starting a restaurant business. Okay? Restaurant requires a certain amount of investment because you have to build the building, you have to get the decor, you have to get the plates, you have to pre order food, you have to hire your staff. And you need that money to launch a restaurant. And typically, you need about 2.5 million to start a restaurant in a fast growing city. And I was like, wow, $2.5 million. People are writing $2.5 million of checks to start a restaurant. That restaurant has a geographic limit. It has a limitation of how many people can come to that restaurant. And it has an earning cap because they can only serve at Maxineimum so many people in their restaurant, right? So they're only going to reach this level of growth. And as a startup founder with a tech company that picked my brain, I was like, okay, if someone gave me 2.5 million, my earnings potential is almost unlimited. It is globally scalable to any country as many people can be on my software, and my cost doesn't go up that much. Isn't pick my brain actually a better investment in terms of potential than a restaurant? And yet restaurants are always getting $2.5 million, no problem. And that actually helped me.
Jen Blandos 00:36:58
Maxine Cunningham 00:36:59
I was like, mine is a better investment if the investor is interested in unlimited earning potential. And if I can convey that and then valid and feel confident in myself, well, if restaurants can do it, well, certainly I can and I'm going to frame it that way. So I just started to think of all these other frames where I was like, no. 2.5 actually, this is a good investment. And so you have to just think of your business. What is a good investment, what on the other side? If I was to give you money, makes me be like, I see the scale, I see your vision. Yes, that's possible. That's a large opportunity. Let's talk. How does that help?
Jen Blandos 00:37:38
You have to think big, right?
Maxine Cunningham 00:37:40
Jen Blandos 00:37:40
Especially if you're going for funding because you're also giving away equity in your business. So if you're going to give somebody part of your business, better be a lot of money.
Maxine Cunningham 00:37:53
Scale, right. Think about taking a company global. It takes time and energy and effort and you need capital to deploy that. When you launch in another city that's conscious, that takes a number amount of energy to do that. And then what you're testing is if you're going global as a company, right, okay, I'm going to go launch in London. You said you're taking Female Fusion Network to London. That's going to take an amount of investment and you're building a playbook as you do it, right. You're like, how much does it cost for me to launch in London? What is the return? How long does it take to go to one member to 1000 in London? 1000 to ten. And you're going to start to understand the length. That doesn't happen overnight. You need capital investment to grow that. But once you get that playbook down, what you want to communicate to investors is, listen, I scaled in London, this is how much it costs me, this is the rate of my member growth. And now I have plans to do that in eight other cities. Would you like to support that?
Jen Blandos 00:38:48
Yes. And it is I guess it's also finding those investors, though, that have that same vision. And have you found that you're a woman owned business? Have you found that sometimes it's harder to pitch to male investors than female investors? There's fewer female investors, unfortunately, as well.
Maxine Cunningham 00:39:12
That is the catch is that there isn't as many female. There wasn't when I was starting, especially more. There's more now.
Jen Blandos 00:39:18
Maxine Cunningham 00:39:19
My cap table is male dominated. The women on my captain there is a CEO of a company. Her and her husband came in and invested 50,000 and picked my brain. And I was really excited to have her because she was a female tech founder. And then I have my mom and other than that, it is males and it is because I think on the investment side as well. Men are also more risk loving. They have a better risk appetite to cut a 25 $50,000 check. When they see something like that, they like and they move on it. Women will take three months to think about it and then the opportunity is maybe gone. So, yeah, I did find the first group that I raised from was Friends, family and angels. And I found that men, when they got it, they could go from I like it, to a $50,000 check in a week. And they don't go through that same process that I'd say a woman would super second guessing. Is this a good investment? I'm going to wait. I have to analyze everything. But those are angels, those are individuals. I'm learning right now, as I go for my larger seed round, what female ventures are like versus male ventures or open ventures, are they able to go as fast? And I actually enjoy in the small experience I have in pitching female funds because there's not that many, I still haven't found it. I'm looking for more is. I love the questions they ask. I really enjoy the conversation, but I equally love because I do find when I pitch men, they dial in really quickly. Kate, let's talk about the business model. How does the business model work? And that is as fundamentally as important as what is the impact?
Jen Blandos 00:41:11
Maxine Cunningham 00:41:11
And so I'm like, this is a combo play. Like men and women really need to come together. I feel like the world would be an entirely different place if investment bankers were 50% women and 50% men. Because we'd be like, what is the business model of this? What is the sustainability and the likelihood? But what is the impact this business is going to have? And right now, the reason I left investment banking was because the second question was not there at all.
Jen Blandos 00:41:35
And have you found that when you have met with male investors? Because I hear this from some female entrepreneurs that they get asked quite patronizing questions that maybe men wouldn't be asked. Or have you been quite fortunate to not experience that?
Maxine Cunningham 00:41:53
I've been in male dominated industries my whole life. Investment banking, economics, math, very male dominated. And so I've always felt like that's a competitive advantage. I'm so lucky to be one of the only women in this field. And because I can hold myself and I can talk business models and I can talk numbers and I can talk investments and I can show them my portfolio in the stock market and my real estate investments, that immediately they know that I can hold my ground. I think if I couldn't, I would get patronizing questions. And maybe it's not patronizing. Maybe we shouldn't frame it like that. Maybe it's just I haven't done my homework enough to be able to I'm not ready for investment. You have to be ready.
Jen Blandos 00:42:31
Well, this is the other thing as well, right? And I hear this from angel investors that I speak with in VCs because I'm always asking men and women, like, what are you looking for? What have been really good pitches? What hasn't? What do people need to look at? And a lot of times their feedback is that they're just not ready or they don't have the systems in place in their business. So, for example, their accounts haven't been audited, or they ask them questions about revenue or profit, and they're not able to fully understand that and answer that. And you need to be at that level to be able to get investment, because if they're going to give you a million dollars who are confident $50,000, they want to know that they're going to get that return on investment.
Maxine Cunningham 00:43:19
Absolutely. And so I think, again, coming back to these classes of teaching the women in your community, let's make sure that we know how to answer those questions. And if we don't, let's keep doing work until we do. I wouldn't if someone gave me $2.5 million a year ago, I would have wasted a lot of it. Okay? And the longer I wait, the less of that money that's going to waste. And I don't want to say waste, but of the $650,000 that we've raised, some of it is going to go towards experimentation and learnings. You're going to have a certain percent of that money that go towards learning. Just like when you go to university. You might go to a university for a year and spend $5,000 for a year of tuition in Canada or 10,000 or 50,000 in the States, but you might not have liked those courses. You're like, this isn't for me. That is learning money that's not wasted, but it's learning. And in entrepreneurship, you're going to have a lot of learning money. But the longer you can wait, the more you understand about yourself, your vision, and what the result of investing in something will gain you. So you got to kind of get there. And that's just time in.
Jen Blandos 00:44:34
Yeah. And that is the more time you have running your business, really, I guess, dialing into what your customers are looking for and what that service offering is, because I even look as well within Female Fusion Network that last year, last January, I started the year with 168 members.
Maxine Cunningham 00:44:54
Oh, my gosh.
Jen Blandos 00:44:56
Now we're at a thousand, Jennifer.
Maxine Cunningham 00:44:58
And that so as an investor, I'm lighting up and sitting here, and I'm like, you crack something, right? You crack something. Let's go further.
Jen Blandos 00:45:08
And I've been very meticulous at looking at what did I do? How did that work? What's working? How were we retaining members? And every single month gets tracked quite religiously.
Maxine Cunningham 00:45:21
Jen Blandos 00:45:22
And I say that as well to our businesses, that you really need to know everything what's working, what isn't working, and to be able to change it quickly if it's not working.
Maxine Cunningham 00:45:33
And in my body already over here, if I put my investor hat on. I'm already gaining confidence in you because you religiously track that because you went from 168 to 1000, because you probably have a good understanding of what happened. And there is a tipping point with your business model. And I know that on the other side, I'm like, okay, once you have a thousand, then it makes even more sense to join Female Fusion Network because of what I'm tapping into. So as an investor, I'm sitting over here too. I'm like, that's only going to speed up. Right? But last year at 160 and I'd be like, we'll go see. You got to put more time and energy into seeing if that'll take.
Jen Blandos 00:46:08
Well, I don't know if you found this as well, but in the beginning one of the things that I got from people was, but how are you going to monetize that? I don't think people are going to pay for that. Always question, always. And you probably started as well where the price was a little bit lower because you were still learning. And I did that deliberately because I wanted to build the membership, to build the trust, the value. And then I knew that for me, my magic number was 300. I said when I hit 300, that's a critical mass, that they're going to tell all of their friends that I built up a trust, that I can retain these people, that they see the value and then it's just going to grow itself. But it takes time to work out what that is. But I found as well that pricing is really interesting. And I don't know if you found this with Pick My Brain as well, that I started out lower. And I said as well to everybody who joined, if you join and if you support me now, you will have that price forever. I will not change your price. You're with me in ten years, you still get that price.
Maxine Cunningham 00:47:14
Jen Blandos 00:47:15
So it builds in that loyalty and that support. But we've doubled the price, increase the price again and then we're doubling the price again. And when you have something which is of value and people are getting results same thing with Pick My Brain, that people are okay with paying that price because they get the value from it.
Maxine Cunningham 00:47:40
Beautiful opportunity to scale. We did very similar. Yeah. The first 100 people that we onboarded and Picked My Brain, we sat with them one on one. We built their profile, we helped them, we brought them business. We did it for free. And it was our ability to learn how to build our technology. And we said in exchange for you giving us feedback about the tech and how it's working, we're going to just support you. Because if our hundred are successful, which we give our heart and soul to, those hundred will invite the next thousand.
Jen Blandos 00:48:10
Of course they're like your ambassador. Exactly.
Maxine Cunningham 00:48:14
We did something very similar right? Yeah, totally free for those hundred users. Then we introduced our paid plan, and then we just keep adding value now. Right? As a member of Pick My Brain, not only do you get a platform and a tool that allows you to package in price and sell, but you get access to a global community. So everyone that's a brain, we host these global knowledge exchanges where we invite everyone in our network to this Zoom session once a month. We're just about to do it twice a month. And you come in and you have 1 hour, and we do three breakout sessions, and we say, okay, hello everyone. You're going to meet three people today really deeply from all around the world. And we're going to drop you into a Zoom session in a room, and we're going to give you a question, and we just want you to dive in with the person across from you. And the first question we usually ask is tell the person across from you who you are, what you're working on, and why you're working on it. So you get 15 minutes of someone from around the world that you don't have access to by yourself to convey that. And then the second question is usually like, yeah, something that gets them thinking out loud about what they want to do, how they're packaging what their offers are. And then third, we put them in a room with two to three people, and we solve a world problem so people can see how you think, because it's not always you don't always have to be selling. People just become in love with how you think and who you are and what you stand for. And then they ask you, listen, how do I work with you? What do you have for sale? I want to support support you. I love how you are. And that's what we're all about, is like, just be you sit in your values and your vision, and people will eventually the best is when someone asks you, and you don't have to share what it is you do and how you can help. So these networking events get you exposure again to pockets. And we've watched how businesses scale and people travel and collaborate on podcasts and books as a result of just being in a room with someone for 15 minutes.
Jen Blandos 00:50:02
Isn't that amazing? It's amazing to be able to foster those connections and collaborations. I love that.
Maxine Cunningham 00:50:07
It's so fun. And so, like you said before, that adds on the value. Why do you want to be on Pick My Brain? You get a platform, you get a new revenue stream, you get access to a global market. We share you, and you're going to meet people from all around the world, and it's going to open up your life. Like, you can't even articulate right now because you don't even know.
Jen Blandos 00:50:23
Maxine Cunningham 00:50:24
Jen Blandos 00:50:25
Gosh, we can go on for hours, but what what's next for you? Like, what's the the next big thing?
Maxine Cunningham 00:50:35
So so we so currently we have 1000 brains in 88 countries, and we're going to go from 1000 to 100,000 probably this year through partnerships. So we are partnering with anybody groups that have a curated pool of individuals that they want to bring onto the network. So we're calling it Marketplace as a service. So, for example, for your network, we want to build a world's women knowledge marketplace where women can exchange knowledge with women. We're building the marketplace for PhDs. So, Dear, we think that there's all these PhDs out there that are unemployed. We think it's only because it's hard to book them. So we're going to build a marketplace for PhDs so we can say, Dear world, did you know that you could book a PhD for an hour, learn what they've learned for seven years, or hire them for a month or for 10 hours of research? We're going to universities. This is one of my near and dear projects. I don't know about you guys in the audience, but when I went to university, I got my master's in economics, and I walked out of school with this paper, and the university never connected me to an economist. And I was like, okay, so I theoretically understand economics, but what does an economist actually do? I was like, I have no idea. But I went to your school because of your alum, and you didn't connect me. And now that I am an alumni, I'm even more upset because all my university asked me for is money, never to come back and talk to the students about how I use my economic knowledge. And so we're going to these universities and being like, dear university, can we build you an alumni mentor marketplace where we go and ask all of your alumni to gift 10 hours of their time to students in 30? Minutes sessions over the course of a year, which is nothing, and pool all of that into a marketplace and then go, Dear students, did you know that from year one to year four, you can talk to any of these alumni on demand on your phone for 30 minutes anytime?
Jen Blandos 00:52:36
That would be so helpful for them. Helpful.
Maxine Cunningham 00:52:38
And even more than that, we want to make it a requirement in order to graduate, you have to have 10 hours of global networking and conversations with alumni to prove that you can have a conversation that you built your network, that you've talked to industry, but you.
Jen Blandos 00:52:53
Know, your network is your net worth.
Maxine Cunningham 00:52:55
And as we know, as we get older more and more yeah, yeah, right. And students walk out with none. They don't connect these kids. You have your peer group, which is amazing, but can we extend it? Can this student walk out having had a conversation with someone from eight countries or eight people within their industry? Like, what kind of economist do I want to be? Where do I want to work? How much do I charge for my services? What is going to be expected to me if I walked out with that, I would feel so much more confident in myself. So that's another way we're focused right now, our energy and attention, because that really matches demand and supply. It solves this future of education problem that is currently in existence and yeah, it's just such a no brainer.
Jen Blandos 00:53:37
Yeah, absolutely. Wow. I love that. Gosh big thinking. I love connecting with fellow entrepreneurs. It just thinks so big and as you said, dream as well. Gosh, there's so many things I think that people can take away from this conversation and just the vision that you have behind this. And I think probably so many of our listeners as well are going to be curious to know about how they could get listed on Picmybrain. So they just need to go onto the website and they can apply, correct?
Maxine Cunningham 00:54:09
Yeah. Just go to www dot pickmybrain world, click, start a profile and that's the process. You'll be guided from there and you'll submit your profile for review. It'll take our team about five business days to review it. Your profile will go live and then our team will reach out to connect with you one on one through the platform so you can experience it and we'll make sure you're all set up synced. Welcome to the network. Understand how to get the most value from the tool and the community and you're up and running. And now you are globally available and accessible to sharing your time, knowledge and experience with others.
Jen Blandos 00:54:45
Wow. It sounds like it's going to transform the knowledge economy of our brains.
Maxine Cunningham 00:54:52
I think so, yeah.
Jen Blandos 00:54:53
So next time when we say pick your brain, it's not going to have such a negative connotation.
Maxine Cunningham 00:54:59
Exactly. I want you to think when you find someone at a conference that you want to pick their brain. To think you can go to Pick Mybraint World and be like, I wonder if they're listed, maybe I wonder if I could talk to them.
Jen Blandos 00:55:09
Wow, what a vision.
Maxine Cunningham 00:55:10
Jen Blandos 00:55:11
Well, thank you so much for your time today. What a wonderful conversation. Thank you so much.
Maxine Cunningham 00:55:17
I'm so grateful to be here.
Jen Blandos 00:55:21
Thanks for listening to this week's episode of the podcast. If you'd like to join our membership, the doors are currently open, but only until the 6 March, so hurry up and grab your spot. If you're a female entrepreneur, this is the best place for you to connect with other business owners and work on starting, building, growing or scaling your business. You can find out more information on Female Fusion Networknetwork.com, forward slash join, or you can find the link in the show notes. See you on the inside.