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  • Writer's pictureZach Servideo

075: Boston Speaks Up with Scroobious CEO Allison Byers

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

Boston Speaks Up (BSU) is a podcast owned and operated by Value Creation Labs. Listen to BSU on any podcast platform you choose: SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play.


Allison Byers is the founder and CEO of Scroobious, which is increasing diversity in the startup ecosystem by affordably helping founders create compelling pitch material and a platform to help investors easily find those founders.


Her earlier career includes over a decade of startup and tech operator roles. Prior to founding Scroobious, Byers launched and co-ran a medical device company spun out of MIT where she raised nearly $10 million and experienced first-hand the challenges that come with fundraising as a female founder.


Byers is also an angel investor, frequent startup mentor and advisor, speaker, and works with dozens of diversity-focused accelerators, non-profit organizations, and university programs. She received her MBA from Boston University, is a mom of two young children, and is a vocal proponent of parent entrepreneurs.


You can listen to our podcast discussion embedded below or on any podcast platform you prefer (SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play):

Pre-Podcast Q&A


Where did you grow up? And how would you describe your childhood?


I grew up in the suburbs of Boston in a bit of a modern brady bunch situation. My parents divorced when I was 10 and we moved towns when I was in the middle of high school. I was the oldest of 8 children including full, step, half, and adopted siblings, one of whom I’m 17 years older than, so I ended up being a blend of sister/parent figure much of the time.


What is the first career you remember wanting to pursue?


I was ALL IN on being a clinical psychologist throughout high school and undergrad.


To help out our younger listeners tuning into the show, can you speak on your internship experience(s)? In addition, can you share any insights you may have on the importance of internships/experiential learning (outside the textbook)?


I am a huge believer in experiential learning and have heavily utilized that throughout my educational and professional careers. In college I took every opportunity I could to replace traditional lectures with independent study credits where I worked directly with professors in their labs and on research projects and I spent my summers interning in hospital settings. These experiences gave me a much clearer understanding of both the profession and of my own interests and ambitions. They also opened opportunities by cultivating relationships beyond the classroom and demonstrating what I was capable of beyond exams and assignments.


When I went to business school I employed the same tactic and utilized internships for credits to broaden my experience and my network, which were pivotal to my career trajectory.


Speaking on the topic of education, many students (especially amidst COVID) are contemplating continuing their education post-grad. How has your MBA from BU helped your career? Would you recommend others follow the same route? Do you think it’s smart to get some real world experience before doing so?


Since I was so focused on becoming a clinical psychologist, my entire undergraduate education was scientifically focused. Before committing most of my life to pursuing advanced degrees and obtaining a clinical position, I wanted to try my hand at something else just to be sure. Again - I needed the experience to gather information about potential careers and about myself. I joined a boutique management consulting firm and absolutely loved it. The pace of business was far more thrilling and gratifying to me than the pace of academia but after three years I knew I was holding myself back without a business education, which is why I decided to get my MBA. I think everyone should really evaluate what they want to gain by pursuing an MBA. For me it was clear I needed to learn about finance, economics, marketing, and the skills I’d need for a career in business versus one in science and academia, which only came after gaining real world experience. I also made some friends and mentors who have become valued fixtures in my life. It’s always best to have a realistic end goal in mind before making the decision to spend two years and lots of money on a business education. Is this going to get you substantially further in a material way than a different career choice?


What’s your advice to young people breaking into the entrepreneurial world looking to start their own business?


I’d strongly recommend gaining some varied experience before starting your own business. This doesn’t necessarily mean years, it could mean interning and consulting if you’re a student entrepreneur, but there is no better way to learn than to do so by experience and observation. There is A LOT that goes into starting your own business, and it isn’t all fun. In fact, the super important stuff is tedious and confusing like incorporation documents, contract review, insurance, and the like. Get a realistic sense of what you’re jumping into beforehand.


Is there a particular person or event that helped shape the career path you took?


I don’t know that there is one particular person I’d call out. In each stage of my career I’ve had a partner or a mentor that has been very influential, and I’ve simultaneously had personal events that impacted how I considered my work in the context of my life. Mentors and peers are incredibly important as you’re building and growing your career and I’ve been very fortunate to have some fantastic ones along my path.


What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome getting to where you are today?


Many people don't know that I was forced out of my tech operator job when I returned from maternity leave after we had our first child. At that time there weren't really viable fractional or part-time options for my skillset unless I wanted to set up my own consulting practice.


I stayed home for four years with our son and subsequently when we had our daughter. I went through a major identity crisis. After spending the majority of my life aggressively pursuing my educational and professional careers, I was suddenly removed from that world.


Those years when you are raising a newborn are at a transformative time in your career. During those years many people advance to senior positions and grow companies with team members who will later become co-founders and/or investors. Employers who make it impossible for women to remain in their positions or companies are imposing a huge tax specific to mothers. The tax on us when it comes to entrepreneurship is a loss of signal. We don't have the "joined a startup as an early employee and helped grow it to exit" that men can claim because those were the years we had to stay home. We didn't "go through the trenches" of a startup with a team including engineers that can now say they've worked together before in their new venture.


We have just as much "signal" of a competent, skilled entrepreneur as anyone else. We have gained incredible experience both before we had a child and while raising that child that gives us insight into prioritization and strategy unique to us. Regardless, it was very challenging to re-enter the workforce, particularly as an entrepreneur, and it still has ramifications on my business today.


Seeing you’ve been incredibly successful in your entrepreneurial career thus far, let’s jump to the topic of leadership. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your experiences leading others thus far?

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that to effectively lead others you have to have a strong moral compass and walk your own talk. You can’t expect from others what you aren’t willing to do yourself, and you can’t command respect if you don’t show respect to those around you.


How would you describe your leadership style?


I lead with authenticity and compassion while having high expectations. I have always led with an authoritative style, which is not to be confused with authoritarian. Authoritative leaders are seen as reliable and trusted based on acting as they say and commanding respect through self-confidence and competence. I want people to trust me to get my work done without micromanagement, so I give others the same respect.


Being the founder of a company focused on helping the Black, Latinx, women, and LGBTQ+ communities. Can you speak on the challenges these groups are currently facing? And how Scroobious is helping them succeed?


When it comes to funding, women and minority entrepreneurs receive 2% or less of venture capital dollars. If you’re a Black woman, it’s fractional. There is no better evidence that the challenges overlooked founders face is systemic. It isn’t because only 2% of us have investable ideas. Quite the opposite, it has been proven time and time again that diverse founders outperform their homogenous counterparts.


For instance, Forbes reported that companies with a female founder performed 63% better than investments with all-male founding teams. Kauffman Fellows found that diverse founding teams earned a 3.3x median realized multiple on IPOs and acquisitions compared to 2.5x for White founding teams. This makes us an undervalued asset class, which is precisely where alpha is made possible.

We are helping by mobilizing founders to be more investable and by helping angel investors, which is cumulatively a larger asset class than venture capital but highly fragmented, discover them through hyper-curation. Entrepreneurs access online education, community, and personalized feedback from a human who understands their journey to create investor-compelling material in an approachable and affordable way. For investors, our platform clarifies overlooked opportunities highlighting both the founder’s human qualities and the business information with hyper-curation based on proprietary variables and their own behavior so they can intentionally invest in diverse entrepreneurs.


What sorts of challenges and opportunities have you found in the pivot to virtual business and networking during the COVID-19 pandemic?


Just two months after founding Scroobious we entered the age of COVID quarantine and restrictions. As with many startups, not only did we need to modify our product strategy, but the sudden quarantine and remote learning for our kids pushed back progress and timelines. At the same time, the need for Scroobious was heightened and interest intensified. There are market and cultural shifts happening in a way they never have before to find and fund diverse founders alongside the acute need for remote connection. We were originally going to film pitches in person and be a coach in the room for founders following a geographic roll-out. We had to quickly shift to remote-first while maintaining the guidance and support while building and validating our early prototype. This was a challenge, but also got us to a more scalable solution quicker than we would have otherwise.


What’s the overarching long-term goal/mission for Scroobious?


Our big vision is to be the platform that gets capital into the hands of diverse founders, no matter the source of funding, from ideation through exit.


By providing critical resources, or different PiP programs, for each stage of business, we will be present throughout the lifecycle of a company and we can match them with capital along the way. An example of a future PiP program is how to create and deliver board presentations. Inexperience running a board frequently leads to women and founders of color being kicked out of their own companies, which can often be solved with appropriate founder education.



What’s the overarching long-term personal goal/mission for you, Allison Byers?


Honestly, I want to continue feeling fulfilled in my professional career while bettering the lives of others and society in some way. It’s important to my self-identity and it’s important to model to my kids and other younger women that you can be a mother and you can contribute to the economy and social welfare without burning yourself out.

My passion now lies in helping diverse entrepreneurs understand the mindset of investors and how to approach fundraising so they can secure the capital they need to have a fighting chance. There are many ways to contribute to that goal. Our work at Scroobious can have an enormous impact, and I’ve become an angel investor as well to vote with my dollars for the innovations and founders I want to see succeed. I’d like to continue serving this mission long-term however the work or investing manifests.


FINAL QUESTION: We like the idea of ending our episodes with a challenge for the listeners/readers. Whether it be reaching out to an old friend, reading 5 pages a day from a book, creating a new healthy habit… what is one challenge you have for the listeners?


I challenge listeners to start each meeting by trying to make someone laugh. Laughter quite literally relieves stress, so it’s a great way to immediately make someone feel more relaxed and comfortable and it also lifts your own spirits and puts you at ease. It’s so important to keep life perspective and infuse humor and fun into your day.


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You can follow BSU on Twitter at @BostonSpeaksUp, and recommend BSU guests by contacting bostonspeaksup@gmail.com.


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