Airbnb, Lyft, Redbull and Monster all have something in common. Kelli Jones has helped them all with experiential marketing. 

Experimental marketing and brand activations were just coming on to the scene in 2010 when Kelli started working in this space. Until then sponsorship looked like logos on a banner. On today’s show we dive into spotting trends and identifying opportunities that can catapult your company (and career) to new heights. 

Kelli Jones is the  Co-Founder and General partner at Sixty8 Capital. The first Indiana-based Venture Capital firm dedicated to investing in undercapitalized founders, including Black, Latinx, Women, LGBTQ+, and disabled founders. 

She is also the Founder and CEO of Be Nimble Foundation, a social enterprise with the goal of advancing diversity initiatives to create fully inclusive tech ecosystems.

On today’s show you’ll hear about how Kelli and her team are using capital, connections, and community to support scalable and investable tech and tech-enabled companies led by undercapitalized founders. 

Be sure to check out these great clips from the show:

  • [2:40] How physical location affects business strategy
  • [8:30] Kelli’s first entrepreneurial endeavor
  • [17:08] The characteristics that make a great show or creator
  • [23:09] Advice for leaders to be more nimble at work
  • [27:05] Why programs for underrepresented and undercapitalized groups are essential
  • [32:58] Kelli’s five-year outlook on the tech industry and the evolving inclusivity
  • [34:50] Kelli’s first investment and how she got her first check

Get IN. is the show focused on the unfolding stories and most extraordinary innovations happening in the heartland today. Get IN. is brought to you by Powderkeg and Elevate Ventures.

In our conversation with Kelli, you will learn about:

  • How brands can leverage experiential marketing
  • Spotting trends that are key differentiators in business
  • How to raise a fund and write your first check

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Episode Transcript

Matt: [00:00:00] From America’s Heartland in the Hoosier state of Indiana. This is Get IN the podcast focused on the unfolding stories and extraordinary innovations happening right now on the show today is Kelli Jones, co-founder and general partner at 68 Capital.

Kelli: My passions are things like music or beauty or commerce or products and, but how do I connect that back to, helping entrepreneurs like it’s just, Interesting how that journey turned into this.

Matt: Kelli Jones is the co-founder and general partner at 68 Capital, which is the first Indiana based venture capital firm dedicated to investing in under capitalized founders. Including black, Latinx women, lgbtq plus and disabled founders. She’s also the founder and CEO of B Nimble Foundation, a social enterprise with the goal of advancing diversity initiatives to [00:01:00] create fully inclusive tech ecosystems.

On today’s show, you’ll hear about how Kelli and her team are using capital connections and community to support scalable and investible tech and tech enabled companies led by under capitalized founders. Kelli, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. Thanks so much for being here. Just before the show you were talking about some of the travel you’ve been doing.

Tell us a little bit about where you’ve been lately and yeah, obviously you can’t divulge all details of what companies you’re investing in and what LPs are jumping into the fund, but yeah. 

Kelli: Yeah, I’m, I feel like I’m always on the road. I think essentially since everything has gotten started back with people doing things in person again and moving away from things being virtual, it’s just been a ton of travel.

So I think, man, I’ve been home maybe a total of one full week, maybe once this quarter or pa On the past quarter I’ve been to New York, I’ve been to San Francisco, I’ve been to Chicago, I’ve been to where else? Mexico, which is my like work. Vacation place. Ooh. To go there to work and get [00:02:00] deep.

Where? In Mexico? In Tulum. Ooh. So I spent a lot of time, I spent most of December, the latter half of December and most in a lot of January in Tumon. Sounds like you’re doing it right. We just start strategy and thinking about what we want to do more of and so I’ve been.

Deep in that but also like work stuff too. So last week with San Fran, tomorrow I’ll go to Cincinnati next week is Michigan. 

Nate: So when thinking about like strategic, you’re planning out what you wanna be working on, how do you find getting out of your daily routine, like going to, places like Tulum or wherever that might be, helps you focus on. Building the business versus working 

Kelli: in the business. Yeah it’s actually a decision I made for myself last year. I don’t do a great job at balance and a lot of times I’m really hard on myself in that. We do stuff, we try it, we keep going, we do something else, and I said I wanted to like.

Pause, right? We have great stuff going on. Let’s get really good at that. Let’s like expand the team. Let’s really, like now we’re doing like the next five years of strategy cuz we work in five year sprints. And so it was for me, [00:03:00] like quarterly, I’m gonna go somewhere, I’m gonna shut down the office after Thanksgiving and the entire team is gonna be, no nothing.

And we stuck to it and it’s because we work really hard. So we also deserve to have time off. But also that time can be, for me, I’m never not gonna work. But I need to be in places where I’m inspired to, and so I have to sometimes leave here. In order to get like, all right, what are we doing next?

What’s 2024 look like? I love that. And yeah, spending time in Mexico has had been that respite for me for the last couple years. And this is the first time I spent an extended period of time 

Nate: there. I was just gonna say five year sprint. That seems like so counterintuitive, right?

It’s yeah. 

Kelli: Just a five year sprint. Yeah. The love it. Same thing is I think the stuff that people see or things that we’ve talked about two and three years ago that we just put into a planning process. So a lot of things we actually hit. Sooner than we anticipated. Like we, like a fund was coming, but a fund wasn’t coming for me for another few years.

I, I didn’t know I was going to move as fast and start in 2019. So it’s things like that kind of just quicken the timeline. And so now it’s okay, we knocked all those [00:04:00] things off the list sooner than we anticipated, so what do we, where’s we, where are we going next? And so that’s been such a great journey.

And I think that’s come across on the Be Nimble side. Like we, we started with this really large fundraiser and we recently. Decided that was the last one we were gonna do because we have, new events that we wanna do. Like the goals have changed. The focus has shifted. So what are the new things we’re gonna bring?

So I’m excited about this next era cuz I’m like, if that was good, like this next stuff is gonna be great. 

Matt: So Yes. Yeah, we’re excited too. I’m, eager to jump into some of that and some of the things that you have planned. But I thought it might be fun to take things way, way back to some of your earliest entrepreneurial memories.

Were you always interested in entrepreneurship and innovation and 

Kelli: technology? You know what’s so funny? Yes. Yes and yes, but I never actually explored it, I think in the way I’m exploring it now. I think for me it was always like this very nascent thing that I didn’t understand. I remember being younger, like I’ve always been pretty smart.

My mom, although we didn’t grow up like. Rich or anything, but like my mom always made sure that we [00:05:00] were in programs and that we got to do things. And I remember I’m a Girls Inc. Girl. I went to Girls Inc. From the time I was like 12 until, I aged out and so did my sisters. And I remember like the summer camps that we go to for science and tech, and I remember like learning how to play golf at 11, like really interesting things that I got to do.

But I don’t know if I ever. Thought about entrepreneurship that young. Yeah, I think what I thought about is I just know, like I wanna be in a position to make money and I know I’m smart enough to make money and I don’t know what that means. And I remember Interesting story. I was calling one of those like homework hotlines that were like going on.

Yes. And they’re like, what do you wanna be, we can grow up. And I said, A taxi driver. And I said that cause I was like, because they drive people and they get paid. Like in my mind it was just like, this is commerce. Like I want to figure out how to do something where people hand me cash. Yep. Now that doesn’t sound like the most fancy job, but that’s how I was thinking about like me, like when I remember that it was funny.

When I think back on it, it’s interesting, right? Yeah. It’s like I’m thinking about how do I have something that is mine that I do, a service that I do. Where someone pays me for it and in the end they’re in a better [00:06:00] place. What does that mean? And I feel like that’s been like my focus in life.

So it’s not been naturally just, I wanna be an entrepreneur. It’s just been, I’m a problem solver by design. And if I see a problem I. And I, I can’t fix it in the current state. I gotta figure out how to make it happen. And I think that’s naturally turned into that. What I will say though is that I’ve always been a little bit of an overachiever.

So I’m the kid that like, Hey, do a book report in me. I was doing like a poster board with yes. All sorts of things. So I think those are, they’re the things that I nitpick on yeah, you’ve always just had this kind of big vision kind of thing. And why do you think that is? I’m un I’m just innately curious, like I’m always asking questions and I’m always thinking about, but what if? But what if it’s not like that? Or what if it went like this? Or what if we thought about it this way? And I think that curiosity is actually what keeps me going, but it also is what keeps me bored, which means that I’m always like, all right, what we gonna do?

What’s next? So I think it’s just that big thinking, but. Were 

Nate: there were Were there entrepreneurs or anyone that you like, looked up to in those [00:07:00] early days? Maybe you weren’t thinking about entrepreneurship but people you aspired and that 

Kelli: inspired you. Yeah. When I think about the people that I looked up to, funny enough, it was Dominique dos.

She was like a u s A gymnast, and she was like a black girl, killing it. Like doing those reverses. I was like, man, I wanna be like that’s crazy. Like those are things I remember being really attracted to. And then I’ve always loved music. Like I’ve loved music since I don’t, I don’t recall a time where music wasn’t in my life. And so What kind of music? Hip hop specifically? Yeah. Yeah. But all but like hip hop r and b for sure. That’s your top five. Oh, that’s easy. It’s Andre 3000, Jay-Z. Oh, I’ll go back and forth. Kendrick is up there now, Drake. Ooh, yes. And then I like to always throw in like a.

Allie and for me it’s sometimes Fontay right now is Fontay. From Little Brother. Sometimes it’s Naz, sometimes it’s, NAZ is in my F Kendrick. Yeah. As I get older, like it shifts because there’s new artists that I love and respect and I grow with music. I enjoy the active listening of music.

So I’ve always looked up to Wutang clan, like Method Man was always like, My first crush really? And then also [00:08:00] just as a group, like I love them. But yeah, what I love and I think why I gravitated towards it was especially like a Jay-Z, right? Listening to him from the beginning of his career and watching every single thing he did, like he is a entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, and I think that’s what I’ve looked at.

He’s a business man. Yeah. So it’s so interesting how I ended up in this. Space because I think when my passions are things like music or beauty or commerce or products and, but how do I connect that back to, helping entrepreneurs? It’s just interesting how that journey turned into this.

Nate: Yeah. Yeah. I love it. What was the, so fast forward to, what was your first entrepreneurial endeavor? Like, when did you first gosh, make that first dollar, whatever that might be. 

Kelli: Man, I was always hustling. Yes. I think I was doing hair. I was doing hair in college. I was really good at doing hair.

I was the roller set. I was the roller wrap queen. So wash people’s hair, roll it up, put ’em under the dryer, iron ’em out like that. I think that was probably the first time like I made money or I’ve done something making money. And then. I think it was always just like I would [00:09:00] get jobs and be entrepreneur.

I would always end up in these places where I was like on a team of six and we’re all trying to figure out this thing from scratch. So those experiences were really great. But I think my first like, where I’m like, dang, I might really be doing something is when. I chose to move to New York.

I started working in music and I launched my first company, which ended up being an experiential marketing company. And most of my clients were tech companies. And that was just by accident cause I was working in 

Matt: music. Quick break from our normal programming. I have Erica Scheyer, COO from Elevate Ventures here in the studio today.

Erica, thanks for being here. Yeah, thanks for having me. And you’re gonna tell us a little bit about this Rally innovation conference that’s coming 

Erica: up? Yep. So it’s the largest cross-sector innovation conference in the world. We’re gonna feature six innovation studios. So think hard tech software, sports tech, ag, and food, healthcare and entrepreneurship’s gonna kinda be our catchall.

I love 

Matt: that. So tell me what is, who’s it for? Yeah, it’s 

Erica: for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, honestly, anybody probably listening to 

Matt: this podcast. And it’s gonna be a multi-day thing that’s happening multi-day in downtown Indianapolis. [00:10:00] Yep. People coming in from all over the country and maybe even all over the world to be here.


Erica: our hope. Yep. And the dates are actually August 29th through the 31st. 

Matt: Perfect. And if people want to find out more information about speakers, tickets, things like that, where can they go? 

Erica: Yeah, so they just go to rally and sign up for communications and they can also get their 

Matt: tickets.

I love it. You heard of hear rally We’ll see you there. Kelli, 

Nate: can you talk to us about experiential marketing and what that 

Kelli: is? Yeah, so I think what we see is experiential marketing now is like when you go to an event and like a brand’s activation or you go to a trade show and like their trade show set up.

It’s what businesses use to sell directly to their end user. End consumer. I got started in that space working at a big music hiphop festival. I was over pr, marketing and sales and sponsorships, and so brought in like big brands and then came up with what they were gonna do at that time, experiential wasn’t as experiential as we know it now.

Like I think now people [00:11:00] recognize oh, this is activation, or, oh, this is this, but this was in a time where Sponsorships were literally just logos on a pan, on a banner. And for me, I was like, I wanna do something that’s like really engaging, cuz we’re in like the early precipice of like social media and like blogs are the way that people are learning about music and like getting the news.

And so how do we like create this? Take the offline online experience and turn into a real life experience. And got to just do some really interesting projects. I think my favorite one, my first real big one was like gutting a bus. Turning it into a studio, and then all the artists that performed on the stage recorded a verse and we turned it into a mixtape that people could walk away with from the concert of original songs.

So cool. And the brand was a music tech company that sold like product, like microphone, speakers DJ software, all that kind of stuff. So we got to outfit the bus with the stuff. And then created this kind of like really cool experience and they loved it so much that was my first like big contract.

Like I brought it to that event, but they were like, we want to take this everywhere. And [00:12:00] so that’s what got me to do a three C. And then I started doing South by Southwest and Coachella. And then I started picking up new clients and working with Red Bull and Monster and. Airbnb and lit, like I was doing crazy stuff.

And I was just like, what in the heck? But at the same time, these are all tech companies. Yeah. Yeah. And then when you think about the music industry, I always tell people it is built on the tech industry, right? Like the way that you record it, the way it’s consumed, the way it’s mixed and mastered the way it’s released.

Everything is through. Tech of some sort. And even the way that we were getting the news of the music at that point was that too. And so I found myself in this really interesting intersection. I feel like that’s been the theme of our work ever since, is like there’s things that are technically enhanced and I watch people like me and others like really.

Innovate in this space. But a lot of times they’re not the founders. Or those are the times where we, they were just starting to have hard conversations around diversity and inclusion in tech and we were learning about the lack of women and people of color. This is [00:13:00] when companies first started putting out diversity reports and people were like, what is going on?

We’re 2013, maybe 14, when that started happening. Yeah. Decade ago. And then it became and I think when that hit, I was like, this is what I’m doing for the rest of my life. And that’s where I ended up. And it’s been the journey. Ever since. 

Nate: Can you talk more about that moment right when you were like, Hey, I’m, you’re doing this, you’re working with Airbnb and like all these cool experiential marketing that this sounds amazing in terms of Yeah. And then you like find this passion 

Kelli: that you to see. 

Yeah. It actually happened the same way. So I was working with AKA Numark, which makes like beat machines. Yeah. And. The brand ambassador was young, guru Young was Jay-z cj engineer.

So I just told you guys like Jay-Z’s one of my favorite artists. So in my mind it’s this is the guy that recorded all of Jay-Z’s music. Like Jay-Z’s my favorite entrepreneur. Like clearly this is a person that I can’t, one, I can’t believe he wants to work with me. He offered me a job. He’s I’m trying to stand up this brand.

I think what people don’t know about Guru is he’s a tech guy. And so he wanted to really talk about engineering from a cultural perspective. So specifically he’s a music engineer. Yeah. People may not see that as [00:14:00] like engineering, so how do you have conversations around engineering that are connected to things that people enjoy?

And he called it Air of the Engineer and it was focused on seeing people that look like us get interested in tech and engineering. And that’s like once that was like what he wanted me to do, I said, I found my this is exactly where I want to be. Yeah. And so we built a platform called EarSketch.

It taught kids how to code using music production. It’s still available. It’s in partnership with Georgia Tech. Awesome. The National Science Foundation. We came up with some really cool. Tech ideas, try to pitch ’em. We started, we worked really closely with Techstars that got the music accelerator going.

Yeah. Like back in 2014, 15, like he was one of the first people to participate in that like really interesting thing. Like things that I didn’t even knew no existed at, like I didn’t know what an accelerator was and Right. 2014, like those, they were still fairly new like they were. Now we hear ’em all the time, but they’re everywhere.

I’m like, there’s a thing where you can like, Have a startup an idea, go to this place. They give you money and help you grow it. [00:15:00] This is incredible. Yeah. And like learning, like starting to learn about what was happening in San Francisco and other places was just really interesting. And I was still in New York at the time, but thank, got an opportunity to move to LA and take a, like a full-time job as director of sales and marketing for Hip Hop dx, which is.

A tech back media company. Yeah. A VC back media company. And they recently got acquired by Warner. And so I got to grow and run their social media capabilities, all their sales and a lot more of that same kind of experiential online, offline. Work, but at that point I was working at a tech startup one that was fully diverse which is something that you didn’t see the entire team was of every race and creed and color, and I knew it could exist, yeah. And then later went on to Blavity, which I think people know for Afro Tech and all of their focus on tech, and that was like, The place that I was supposed that was the drop for me. I was like, I’m gonna be here forever. 

Matt: What were some of your early lessons breaking into tech?

Yeah. When you first official, this is a tech company. Yeah. I don’t 

Kelli: think I [00:16:00] realized it. Yeah. It happened organically. I just, I think because every job I had up until this point, I was always this team of Five or six. So I didn’t like, I’m like going I understand how startups work just from always being on this team where we all gotta do everything right.

And that just continued to be the case. Different types of companies, but same connection points. I think the transition to what I say is true, like working in tech was obviously when I moved to California and was working for an online media company. Standing up sales during a time where Instagram was just becoming popular.

And. People were weirded out by putting full stories on social because people were trying to get click backs to websites. That was that transition of social media owning the news versus an outlet owning the news. Yeah. And so that was a really interesting time because that’s when lives were coming out and so I got to develop shows.

Like I’m really good at that stuff. Cool. That’s actually not. What I do anymore. And I think when I share, like the stuff that I u I’d done before choosing to make this transition, people are genuinely surprised. Cause it’s a lot, [00:17:00] I’m not surprised, but it’s directly informed.

Every single thing I’ve done to this point, it’s basically brought it all together for me. What makes a good show? Man. That’s a great question. A great personality. Like a great like face, right? Yeah. The person knowledgeable draws people in has really great conversation. Yeah, we’re screwed.

Honestly, no, honestly, that’s a big one. And then having entertaining content, I think like all of it comes down to the content just being genuine and real and not feeling manufactured. And because that’s where we are, the era we’re in now. Like at one point we were in an era, it was very highly produced.

It felt like newsy. And it’s no, we’re back to like it being a little off for things not being perfect because I think people connect with people. So I think that’s what I see now. But it’s interesting to see the shift from what we see now is normal. At one point was new. Yeah.

And I think. Just in watching how that grows is really fun. 

Nate: Like that big push into like native content. Yeah. Like 

Kelli: the rise of TikTok, right? Yeah. People were starting, That was a time where you could sell social and it [00:18:00] was weird to think that you could sell. So like y’all can sell a post.

Yeah. That was that time. Like now we talk about selling posts every day. Like it’s own industry now. It’s called influencer culture. It’s creator economy. Yeah. Like now that is a job. It, at one point it was like, I can get paid just to post something. Cuz people like it a lot. It’s why, it’s what ad engines like face what Facebook have been born.

That’s an interesting. Interesting time to be in to see that. So much 

Nate: opportunity. So yeah. So from a Midwest kind of raised, spent, mostly all of my life in Indiana I’d love to hear your differences and like your thoughts on you’re in California, but you’re in la in the tech community, in LA at that time versus The hub of San Francisco where this, these tech unicorns are growing. Or even from New York. Yeah. Yeah. But sometimes like from being from the Midwest, we think like California is California. And it’s this big tech ecosystem all out there.

When I don’t, I’d just love to hear about how LA 

Kelli: was at this time. Yeah. So LA at that time, so we’re talking for me, 20 14, [00:19:00] 15 16. So one, you’re right. I was working in music and entertainment, so that was my surrounding. So I wasn’t like around like the tech folks. However, YouTube, Instagram, everybody has offices there.

Like where I lived, Netflix was like the Netflix building was next to me. So we were always. Working with people. Yeah. That worked at those places because they had their offices there. Cause that’s where the movies are made and that’s where all the studios are. Snap was coming out about that time too, right?

Yeah. Snap, snap, everyone has an office in la Yeah, I’ll say that. So there’s a, there is an ecosystem, but I think because it’s so connected to the entertainment that’s happening in LA it just feels everything is together. It’s an extension. Yeah. Cuz all those things are colliding with each other.

Netflix is right here and they’re producing movies, but they’re also using this marketing agency, that’s a black led marketing agency that’s based here that does all of their rollouts. So that was the side of it I saw. Like I feel like if you go to San Francisco, obviously you’re gonna see the, like all the coders are up there and all the people that are beating code.

But I think. In LA it was like the people that needed to be there because of the industry that was [00:20:00] there a lot 

Matt: less Patagonia 

Kelli: vests too. Yes. Yeah. It was a lot more, like Jordan’s and not all Roots. Yeah. Like not a lot of, but but it’s there too though, right? Yeah, because at the time, like I was a member at Noia House and so house, so like those guys were there too, but they were also there with People that were presidents of like labels and like they were there to sell business more than they were there, like standing up a another company.

I would say that’s probably happening a lot more now cause people are just starting companies wherever they wanna be. That’s the difference. New York, I would say though, I probably saw more of, because I spent a lot of time in Dumbo. And one of my friends worked at Huge, which when they started was very small.

Digital marketing company, now one of the like largest biggest Sure. In that space. And she was like early, early there at product management. And so I saw a lot of it more in New York being in Dumbo all the time. Everybody was tech. Yeah. So that was interesting. Seems 

Matt: like being immersed at the, like epicenter of culture.

Both in New York and la and not just meaning the city, [00:21:00] but like the industry itself. Yes. Yes. Probably gave you your 10,000 plus hours in just understanding trends. What’s hot, what’s gonna be hot, how trends rise and fall. Absolutely. Anything that you use with your team that you’ve learned from those areas just as you, I’m even thinking like, Checklists or values or anything like that you learned. 

Kelli: It’s so funny you say that. I would say it’s the cornerstone of everything that we’ve ever created. Yeah. It’s been in the, in, in embedded into what Be Nimble is. Excuse me. It’s being embedded into what sixty8 is like. I don’t know if you can tell, like the tone, the way we speak regular, like normal speak.

It’s not like you need to understand the valuation of the, we don’t do that because that’s not who we’re talking to. Like we’re talking to people that need to understand what this means. So there’s always gonna be this little bit of, it’s gonna have a little attitude, it’s gonna have a little, it’s gonna.

Feel cultural is gonna feel inclusive, and I think that’s what people like about the content. So I think that is something [00:22:00] that we definitely carried over. I’d say overall though, it fully informs my investment thesis, it fully informs how we’ve come up with the programs we’ve come up with. It fully informs how we’ve rolled out the things that we’ve rolled out with the model that we’ve chosen to use.

All of it’s informed. From the work and from the people that I was surrounded by. Through those years of work, understanding how to run a startup, but also understanding how to raise money and also understanding how to actually solve a problem in the end, and always focusing on the user first. I have gone by a quote for years from Richard Branson that, the best ideas are the ideas that are always solving a problem.

If it doesn’t solve a problem, I don’t go after it. And that’s how we choose what we don’t do. It’s why we can choose to say, We’re not doing that event anymore. We’re moving, like we’ve now shifted to this type of thing. So how do we roll that out? We can be nimble as a name. Yeah. On purpose.

Yeah. Like it means we can adapt, we make change based on what the market says, but most importantly, what our people say. So [00:23:00] I think that informed response is actually a direct reflection of how I, I matriculated through my career prior to coming back home. Do you have any 

Nate: advice for leaders that may maybe don’t work in the most nimble of industries, or maybe their company isn’t as quick to cut some things off and shift to other directions on how they can be like that catalyst for change within their organization?

Kelli: Yeah, honestly I feel like this is something else that I think we helped make. Feel real, right? I think. A lot of times it feels like you can’t go after and like just start something or you feel like, oh, it’s like somebody else’s, or, oh, it’s is like this. I think the things that we manage to, to do is.

Find a niche that we knew we could actually work through. Something that I don’t think got into anybody else’s lane, but that was an additive to whatever else was happening in the ecosystem. And choosing to focus. I think focus is so important. I think a lot of times we wanna do this and we wanna do that and we don’t wanna do this.

And if it doesn’t end in this x being the [00:24:00] outcome We try to figure out where else to put it. It’s really easy to say no and yes to things. So I would say one is like just knowing like what your focus is and if something comes to you that doesn’t fit that it’s okay to say no. It’s also okay to adapt to it if you think you want to make it your thing, but you have to go through your own process to do that.

Matt: I love it. I love it. I do too. I I’m curious to learn you mentioned some of the programs that you’ve launched. Do you have any favorites and do you have any stories from getting those programs off the ground? Yeah, 

Kelli: I think there’s a obvious shift and I don’t think we spent a lot of time like talking about how those shifts have occurred for us.

One, I shared like the entire precipice of being nimble. 68 is based in rooted. In my experience, in, in this intersection of commerce and culture and blackness and, all of these things that like, had me feeling like we, we could do a lot more. I understand venture capital, I understand how it works.

I understand how startups are funded. And[00:25:00] we started with the traditional like tech. Company, which we still do. And, but I, what’s, and this is a prime example of what I mean about this problem solving thing. We would get all these applications and then, so we would have to do the first round of vetting in, of a hundred, maybe only 30, actually apply.

Like actually make sense to move forward to the next. So it’s for me it’s but the 70. Is bothering me cuz are we not able to do something for them? Do we just leave them hanging? So one of the things that we pull on is industry. So we tell people to like, choose what industry you’re focused on.

And so I ran a query on the industries and just saw which ones were the top ones and I said, there’s a pattern. And I think there’s a need here. And so the ones that came out top were food restaurants. The second was like products, e-commerce, things like that. And then the last was like music and sports.

And so for me it was like, okay. I know in food there’s a lot of, ops,[00:26:00] opportunities to, to create venture backable sorts of businesses. Like how might we layer in helping a restaurant understand the tech enablement or the opportunity with building something that could be venture backable?

How do we put those things together? And so that’s the transition between Traditional, just like tech companies, what we know, like B2B SaaS enterprise to tech companies that also have this overlap of industry that is specific to black and brown people. And so food is where we started.

Melon was born of, that ghost kitchen model helped people build Essentially restaurants that can be repeatable without having overhead space license out, the actual recipes and all of that. You make money. It’s like you’re franchising without any overhead, right? Yeah. That’s how these virtual brands work.

That’s why cloud kitchens and other things, like I’ve been studying because I’m into food, like I’ve been studying. What’s happening with Ghost Kitchens For a long time, I’ve been studying, delivery. I’ve been like, cuz I see it happening in front of me. So this is how we can scale restaurants.

This is how we can [00:27:00] make restaurants make sense for black people. If we can help them like shift the way that they’re thinking about the business model for those 

Matt: that aren’t in the industry and haven’t been following, all the headlines, all of the research, all of the reports over the last couple years, why is it important to have.

Programs specifically for these under capitalized groups and even specific funds. For these under capitalized 

Kelli: groups, I think there’s, I think there’s two reasons, maybe three. I think one I think like people, so I think one is just like being able to understand a specific problem.

I always use Walle from Gify as a great example. Yeah. Of Brilliant. Like Bri, the most brilliant idea at the time, but it doesn’t connect with a traditional investor if you don’t understand the opportunity for having something that’s not subscription based. That’s all transaction based to help churches have an electronic way to capture their ties in offering.

It doesn’t make sense when you think about it unless you understand how the black church works. Which is always passing around envelopes and everything is paper and checks and no one’s doing that anymore. They don’t have ATMs. So [00:28:00] how do you help? Industries that have been, I won’t say behind, but just don’t innovate as quickly, create new solutions to help them keep up.

And I think if I, if that was pitched to me, I would’ve been like, this is the most brilliant thing ever. But I can only imagine when you pitch it and there’s no one that really understands it. It’s harder to get it across the line. So I think that’s one. I think the second is really around needing to, to de-risk sometimes, right?

That friends and family around that doesn’t exist in, in many black and brown communities. So having, the way we’ve done our programs is, and even our pitches is like they’ve always had money attached because we don’t give it to you regardless. We don’t care what you do with it. We know you’re probably gonna use it for your business.

That’s the interesting thing is like most of these people really do just want money for their businesses, right? I think we don’t trust them with that, but I think. That’s like the capital part had to be there and the support had to be there. Because we can support and mentor, but if they’re not getting the money they need to move forward.

You know that what’s happening there? But if we’re able to work early [00:29:00] with companies, help get them de-risked, surround them with support, when they do go raise that first institutional round, they have something that actually is packaged up well. And unfortunately there’s not a lot of people that have done that look like us.

So there’s a need. To share what that is and how that works. So I think a lot of times, I know when we first started this, like it was a lot of pushback, cause it’s like equity, you’re talking about giving people, giving up, when I’m talking to the black community. Because VC is not something that they have, not, I’m not saying everyone, but most people are like, vc, what is that?

You take equity. I don’t know how that works. We know loans, we know grants, and so you’re also talking about a capital stack that people aren’t familiar with. And I always say, VC doesn’t work for everybody, but you should all know your options. We all should know our options.

And so this first, like kind of two, three years of our work was just sharing what it was and ma how it makes sense and how it works and that you’re not actually giving up 80% of your company first times. Like just like the information getting out there. Which is why again, we speak [00:30:00] like normal people.

Yeah. Because we have to. Demystify the thing that’s a, in a, in, I don’t under, I don’t know. I’m, that’s refreshing the thing. No, I 

Nate: absolutely agree. Like it’s and it feels like a lot of times VC make it more complex 

Kelli: to make it seem like there’s, it’s very gatekeeping. Yeah. Yeah. I doesn’t have to be like that.

No. I think, I don’t mean to keep going on, but I will say the last thing, cause I do have a third, I think is just like showing how it can apply. In places that we don’t think it applies. That’s been my journey, or at least my emphasis I would say the last couple years. It’s why Melon made sense for me.

It’s why AB Dekar, which is probably gonna be my favorite. I’m not even, I thought Melon was gonna be my favorite program. I think it might be Ad Dekar. Te tell us about that program. AB Dekar is, Specifically for e-commerce businesses? Yeah. Ones that are looking to scale into retail, and so we do actual, like monetary capital.

But then there’s also technical capital. So building the Shopify store, making sure they have all of the bells and whistles on the back end, making sure they have all the tools they need, data, [00:31:00] analytics, the whole thing. Built a whole team around it. Branding, total brand refresh, packaging. But the most important is supply chain and logistics.

And so they all have, we rent, we have a space. Because we got fully funded, thank God, but we have a space where each of them have their own warehouse space and access to third party logistics partners. And so in like a content studio so they can shoot photos like the whole nine yards. Amazing. And that for me, I think is gonna be the most transformational.

Because of our focus on kind of this beauty health wellness space and the number of women that are building these businesses that are turning into billion dollar businesses. On 68 Capital, our first investment into a beauty company is a company called We the People black owned Body Care line.

She’s been selling direct to consumer. She’s going into Sephora. Next month. Wow. 260 stores. Hundred percent online show. That sounds awesome. She’ll be in town in June. Okay. So I’ll make sure like all of my founders are coming to town, hopefully. Love it. Love it. But like brilliant Excess Day Lauder started a company[00:32:00] and now is in stores and so amazing the, and we have a few companies like that in our portfolio.

But the thing that they all had the same issues with was logistics partners. Brokers to go between them and Target or them in Walmart or them and wherever they’re being sold. And then their three PL partner. And so that informed what the offering would be and I think. Where we are now with our programs is like for me, we’re solving problems that are on the further end of the growth spectrum because I think there’s a lot of support at the early, but as they start to grow, what’s next?

And so I think that’s the direction that we’re going. And also just providing, Something that actually is helpful that you can walk away from. Like when Melon, the kitchen space is like game changing. Burg Geese has been voted the best burger, vegan burger company in the state. Yeah. Two years in a row.

Like about to move into their own space. That’s what we deserve to have, so fast 

Matt: forward five years at [00:33:00] the end of your five year sprint what do you think will be different about the tech industry that you’re really excited 

Kelli: about? There’s things I’m actually excited about now.

Sure. I think, if speaking to Indiana, like it’s just so refreshing that like this conversation, I can have so much more like freely, like for a while it was like, what are you doing? What are you doing? Everyone’s what are you doing? Why is this so for like why are you doing this and this?

Like, how do these things connect? And I think people see how they connect and I think people see the importance. So I think that shift happening. Has been so exciting to see cause it feels okay, maybe we are on the right track, maybe we are doing the right things. What I’m most excited about or what I want to see is they’re not being aligned between like tech and entrepreneurship, but just like entrepreneurship.

And then like, how to make sure the entrepreneurship goes well. Like it’s really actually one like thing, right? Rather you’re, the, I always say, and I’ve said this for man, for years, murder. I don’t know if mur, he always talks about how I say, I don’t see tech as like an [00:34:00] industry. I see it as a business model.

Like I feel like tech sits on top of whatever it is that you’re thinking about, like tech or innovation or whatever you wanna call it, sits on top of whatever idea you have. It’s the difference between do you open a barbershop or do you figure out a platform that barbers can use to make transactions quicker?

Yeah. Like I think it’s just redefining how you think about what a business is. 

Nate: Yeah. It’s like people use the term tech enabled company. Yeah. And it’s Find me a company that’s 

Kelli: not Tech Enable. I don’t, I’m, I don’t know, one that’s not like I’m tech enabled. My whole body is Tech enable.

Absolutely. Yeah. But I think that merging of that, all of that, like not being so separate, I think is what I’m most excited about. Cause I think then we’re really gonna be able to see how capital can work in so many different ways, so should 

Nate: we do the lightning round? I have one, one story that I want to hear.

Okay. Kelli, so you raised your fund, right? And. Talk to me about the first check you wrote and talk to me about that experience of one, you’re now a VC and two Yeah. You just helped 

Kelli: fund the business. Man, that’s, this story is [00:35:00] gonna sound so like it was manufactured.

Good. I love it. Perfect. My, my first check was in qualify and if qualify, Darienne he’s been on the show. I have known Darienne and qualify and Devin. Since Darienne was still working at the Tech, I was still at Givlify, if that’s a indication. Oh yeah. I was still at Gify.

I remember the first time we met, I was still at Gify. He was still at the tech company he was at. He rolled over, I think we met at a taco place. He rolled over on his like skateboard, motorized skateboard thing. And that was the first time we met. And and so obviously like he’s been in our pitch competitions, he’s won our pitch competitions.

Like we’ve I think I’ve. Tried, Qualifi for the first, like per one of, per first people to try when I was still at Gify and then took it to Techstars two and tried it out. And so to see now we’ve written three checks into Darien. Are we on check three? Maybe it’s three. Yeah, it’s three.

We’ve done three checks now. But he was my first and to have there’s a company that I’ve [00:36:00] known from the beginning, known him when we didn’t have anything. To like seeing where he’s gone now. He’s three, four years in, he’s about to raise a Series A. He’s, getting every customer as all the hospitals as a customer, like he’s, he and his team are killing the team is growing.

I’m so proud of him. But the fact that’s my first check is I think the story, it’s the meaning behind our work, right? Be nimble was like the engine, the thing, like we’re trying, we need to do more. 68 comes apart and then the first thing that we do is write our first check into the first company.

We wrote a pretty significant, 

Matt: so I actually have a follow up question, which is, how did you get the money to write that first check? How do you raise a fund? Oh my 

Kelli: gosh. No one’s ever a people have asked me that like when they wanna learn, learn about vc, but no one’s ever asked me that.

In this kind of, in a podcast. I don’t know. I still I don’t feel like it’s still a blur. Like I still have PTSD from most of it. You were hustling, I remember. Yeah. Yeah. It took me a long time. So the funny story is that so I had [00:37:00] started soft selling like in 2019.

I was still at Techstars and Wayne, Patrick was like the first person who was like, I’m down. Wayne’s amazing. I call him my fairy godfather, like 

Matt: he, he used to sponsor all of the pizzas at our pitch events when I was, in my early twenties making Orr fellow salary. Yeah, he’s amazing. And like always behind the scenes too, which is amazing.

Kelli: He was the first person that just said, I think you can do it. I’m down and I was like, he saw my first decks and my deck, my first decks were terrible. I’m great at decks, but tho like building that kind of deck was terrible. Sure. So the blessing though was like, I’m like, okay, I’m gonna do it.

I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. Paul, who was at AOS at the time, calls me, he’s I think we’re gonna, so also backtrack, Paul and I. Tried to do a fun together before. We, Paul’s last name is Elinger el, so he used to be at Allos and and now he was at 68. Now he’s got his own company, flak.

So we had tried this before. We didn’t get the grant. It was like a federal grant we didn’t get. I’m like, oh. And he’s at Allos. I’m like, still at Techstar trying to figure out what I’m gonna do. [00:38:00] And he’s are you still thinking about doing this fun? I’m like, yeah. I got a couple people that are interested.

I think Aaron would do something like Next level phone, whatever you wanna call it. I was like, I think he would like I know I’m gonna have to sell it, like I have to get it right, but I feel like we could get it done. And he’s I think Alice wants to start something. He’s but I think since you’re already working on something, like maybe we can just collaborate Alice.

I feel I call it, I call them my accelerator, like they supported they allowed me to like, Be able to raise full-time. Like I got to do like project work for them while like secretly raising this fund. And they helped me with the words and these are the things you need to use.

And being able to utilize like their C F O to do our fund admin was like very important. But, the act of raising was still something I had to do on my own. I had to sell it. And so my background is sales and marketing. I know how to do that, but like selling to people. For them to trust you with their money to put into other people is a totally different kind of sell.

Sure. And so the practice is in just repeating that I have 27 versions of the deck, like I’ve been through every iteration. And it was, I think it [00:39:00] came down to passion. Know how, even though like I’d not invested, like I’m very transparent. I’ve never invested before. I’ve only worked at Accelerators, but I know how to pick companies cuz I pick companies for accelerators.

Like I could tie that back. And I think they believed me. And then they said yes, and then a few people said yes. And I was like, wait, I think this might be happening. Like it was a, it was this click, this moment where I was like, I might actually do this. And like I was only thinking like a million, maybe two, and then it was like five.

And then I was like, maybe I’ll do 10. And it was like, I’m gonna do 20, let’s just see what happens. I didn’t get to 20. That’s okay. I’m settled. Got to 15. That’s amazing. The 15 is still good. Yeah, I’d stopped. I said I can’t really, I don’t wanna raise anymore. I’m tired of raising. So I stopped.

But then I like ended up with some really great partners too. I’m like, part of the next chapter of things is like, Talking about the process of starting a fund, like I’m still not through with it. Like I’m still doing, I’m like, I’m, everything I’m [00:40:00] doing right now is for the first time. It’s kinda being a founder.

Matt: You’re always raising. Yeah. 

Kelli: I’m really good at founder stuff though. Yeah. Like I’m really good at just like, all right, we gotta get it done. Gotta get it done, gotta get done. And now I feel like we’re in this place where we’re mostly deployed, we’re probably about 60, 70% deployed at this point, most of our deployment now is gonna be follow on. Every one of our companies are following on, which is a good thing. Awesome. Now I’m like, coasting and thinking about like, how do we bring more value to the portfolio? What other things can we be doing? Like how do we act on other strategies? Like how do we start prepping ourselves for what a fund two looks like?

Those are like the spaces I’m in now. But also like, how do we bring these things closer together? Like I feel like sometimes be nimble and 68 feel very separate and I want them to be cause I think they lean on each other. How do we bring those things together even more? How much do we, when do we do more?

So much to think through. 

Nate: Kelli, I’m gonna ask you to brag about yourself for a little bit here. Yes, please. And it’s what do you think the three, five reasons that you convinced people to, to fund 15, a 15 million fund? And I know that model all this, but I think a lot of it has to do with you.

So[00:41:00] tell me what those qualities that you find in life. That makes you the person to lead 

Kelli: this charge board? My employee. This is man, I wish my employees were here in this moment. We did a very similar exercise at our retreat where we had to talk about ourselves or what we thought we were good at.

So I’ll say a few things. So one, I think there’s people that are really good at seeing, the big picture and there’s people that are really good at seeing all the details. I see both. And so I think that’s actually the strongest component I can, I don’t necessarily want to do the task stuff, but I can construct the whole thing.

I can say, this is what we’re gonna do. All parts of the machine, this is how we’re gonna get there. I’m trying to pull away, so this is I’m in the, I think we’re always in the process of becoming better leaders. For me, it’s always delegating and then hiring people that are smarter than me to do other things.

Cause I’m in a place where I’m just like, I really wanna focus on this stuff, the big stuff. And so I think that was like the, that’s the biggest part cuz I, at the end of the day, I could probably get it all done by myself. I might not sleep, but I can probably knock it all out if I [00:42:00] needed to.

But then also understood how to. Put plug people in where they need to plug. I think the other is actually seeing the whole, I call it, I and when I talk to founders, I call it the moat, right? It’s the competitive advantage. It’s what is the thing that you do that no one else can do, even if you guys were both doing the same thing.

I identify that in every single thing that we do. That’s my co-founder, Jeff and I. Naturally do that. And I don’t know, maybe it’s cuz we’re family, I don’t know, but we I see everything and it’s but this is missing. This is missing. And then I wanna focus on that because that is where the need is.

So I think that’s been the most important. I think the third is I steal this from Jeff. It’s translation. It’s like knowing how to talk. About things in a way that people understand that make it make sense, and don’t make them feel like you’re talking over them or talking above them. That’s a thing.

I think when it comes to the fund though, I think it was the track record of work that we had up until that point. The kind of companies that we had the opportunity to be close to. The [00:43:00] deal flow that we had access to, the relationships we had, just because of my experience being all over the place.

Like we knew a lot of people. And honestly, like it’s gonna probably be passion. Like I actually love this. This is, I don’t it’s frustrating as, and I’m a cuss as hell. It’s frustrating, it’s lonely. I’ve not had great days, I’ve had amazing days. But I love, I really do love this. And I’ll do it every day and I’ll try to win at it every day.

And I think people could see that even and often I don’t always feel like I’m doing the best job because, we’re, we’ve been limited and now we’re in a place where we can grow. But like we’ve been very constrained. We’ve been running a non-profit part-time, like it’s a full-time Right.

Organization. And no one has even noticed that part. We’ve all had, we all have full-time jobs, I don’t know anybody else that’s gonna go get it. 

Nate: Yes. That’s great. Heck yes. I’m gonna get, 

Matt: regardless. That’s a good 

Kelli: mic job moment. I’m pumped up, that I’m gonna get. So we like, I don’t know, maybe he just had a, [00:44:00] Jeff and I have these like pep up talks, like we go, we’re gonna get it regardless.


Nate: Yes. I love that. I love that. Okay. Do you have two minutes left? 

Kelli: I do. Let’s keep going. The lightning 

Nate: fun? Yeah. Yeah. Here we go. Lightning round So quick. First thing comes to your mind. Just let it go. All right. All right. So outside of the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem, what is Indiana known for?

Kelli: Michael Jackson. 

Nate: Yes, the first time. First time for that one. Okay. What is a hidden gem in 


Kelli: Naptown thrift. 

Nate: Ooh, okay. I have not been there. I don’t, I’m not familiar. I guess we 

Matt: know where we’re going 

Nate: Friday afternoon. Heck yeah. Okay. And final question for you. Who is someone that we need to keep on our radar?

Someone who is doing big things. 

Kelli: Aaron Murdoch. Tell what? What is Aaron doing about Aaron? Aaron Murdoch. Same as Murdoch. Okay. I’m always gonna give it to young people. Seven house. For sure. They do art shows. They’ve [00:45:00] partnered with us to do party way, I think now for three, four years. Like the Gen Z, the young kids are like, they got stuff bubbling that no one’s paying attention to that we need to pay attention to.

Nate: love that. 

Kelli: They were not on 

Matt: our radar, so we not on my radar. We 

Kelli: should make that 

Nate: happen. Yeah. Boom. Yeah. I love it. Kelli, this was an amazing conversation. 

Kelli: Thank you guys. This is so great. Thanks so much. Pre connect to collab, I’m gonna keep throwing names out there, final 

Nate: And I’ll say final thing we gotta say is, If people wanna get plugged in with 68 or be nimble, what 

Kelli: do they do?

So I’m Kelli Nicole on everything. So Kelli with an i, Nicole with a K if you wanna connect with me directly. Our emails are on our website, so you can always just go straight to the website. It’s 60 be nimble We’re active on social, we’re active on LinkedIn. We’re really not hard to find.

Oh, come see us. Then 

Matt: get up in the show notes. Yeah. I love it. Kelli, thanks for everything that you do for this ecosystem. Both thank you locally and nationally, globally. It’s amazing what you’re doing. I really appreciate you and thank you being part of this community. I’m glad 

Kelli: to be here. 

Matt: [00:46:00] This has been Get in a Powderkeg Production in partnership with Elevate Ventures, and we wanna hear from you.

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