Do you ever think about how childhood impacts your interests as an adult?
Many community builders grew up feeling like outsiders or moving around and always being the “new kid.” But seeing the world through a different lens can often make you more empathetic and lead to a passion for bringing people together.
Our guest today, Elisabeth Tuttass, is half Korean and half German. She moved to the US as a teenager, not speaking any English. Like Jillian, she credits her childhood for her interest in diversity, inclusion, and building communities. Elisabeth is now the Head of Community at Grid110, a startup accelerator and nonprofit organization that supports underrepresented entrepreneurs.
This is a fascinating interview. We get into everything from using feedback loops that guide community strategy to understanding engagement styles and connecting with your members on their terms. Elisabeth and Jillian also discuss Zoom alternatives, making online meetings more engaging, and transitioning from in-person communities to fully remote.
Listen in for a new perspective on community and stick around to the end to hear about Elisabeth’s search for the perfect cat. She’s still looking. (Hot tips in the LA area are encouraged and appreciated!)
Elisabeth Tuttass is the Head of Community at Grid110, an LA-based early stage startup accelerator and community development non-profit, where she actively builds an engaged community for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. She discovered how difficult it was to find resources in the startup community and sought to change that, connecting people with the information and opportunities they need to thrive. Since joining Grid110 in 2019, she has supported 235+ portfolio companies through collectively fundraising $75M+.
As Head of Community, Elisabeth assists founders in crafting their unique message for potential investors and mentors entrepreneurs 1:1 through pitching, team building, and fundraising. She promotes gender equity and diversity in the workplace, recognizing that diversity in the workplace leads to richer ideas from a broader range of life experiences. Elisabeth moved from Germany to the US at age sixteen and her unique perspective allows her to not only connect with and support founders from different backgrounds, but to see opportunities outside of the status quo. She is fluent in German, Korean, and English.
As the Managing Director of Girls in Tech LA, she advocates for a broader representation of women in tech, in addition to holding coaching sessions and frequently speaking at startup events at UCLA and USC outside of work. She is passionate about bringing people together to drive innovation. She is certified in California Employment Law, has spoken on the Women in Tech and WeAreLATech Startup podcasts, and has previously worked with the UN’s Women’s Committee, Lean In, and Elpha. Elisabeth has also been featured by Nasdaq and Thrive Global.
In This Episode
- How childhood impacts our interests as adults
- How Grid110 supports underrepresented entrepreneurs
- Using feedback loops to guide community strategy
- Tools that can help you get more data about your community
- More engaging Zoom alternatives and ways to have fun in online meetings
- The challenges and benefits of transitioning communities from in-person to fully remote
- Understanding engagement styles for a deeper connection with your members
- Elisabeth's search for a perfect cat
- Follow Elisabeth on Twitter
- If you need an alternative to Zoom, try Butter
- Get more insight into your community with Burb
- Or try Luma
- The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer [Amazon affiliate link]
The CX 051: Thoughtful Inclusion with Elisabeth Tuttass of Grid110
Elisabeth Tuttass: As an entrepreneur and also community leader, I think our jobs are not just to throw events or to be on partnership calls, it's also a lot of emotional work to be there for other people and be kind and be very empathetic.
And so if your cup is not full, you can't give to others. And I think the same thing for entrepreneurs as well, they have so much going on in a given day, but making sure that you stay calm and collected at all times is also super important to be successful.
Jillian Benbow: Hello, and welcome back to the Community Experience Podcast. Assuming you're coming back. If this is your first time, welcome, happy to have you. Very excited to talk to today's guest, Elisabeth Tuttass. I get so caught up in last names. It's just Tuttass, but then I have to pause and make sure I said it right. Today, I'm talking to Elisabeth. She is the head of community at Grid110 which is an organization, a nonprofit organization, that has a goal to make an equitable playing field for minorities in obtaining capital, giving early stage entrepreneurs the tools necessary to be successful. So obviously I'm obsessed. This is cool. It's a cool organization, they do accelerators and help underrepresented folks learn how to get capital, how to create a business, Usually tech based, but as we get into, not necessarily, but sort of that startup culture, trying to get more female founders and founders of color.
I'm all about it. This is my jam. I love talking to Elisabeth about the org, but also just her life story. She has a fascinating story that we will get into. Like me, she's a kid that lived in many places and through that sees the world through a different lens that I think a lot of community builders do. Not that you had to live in a lot of places, but I think a lot of us, at some point felt like we didn't belong. And so looked at things differently. And then whether we realized it or not, started working towards helping other people feel like they belong, and then evolved into what we are today, amazing community builders. So we'll get into it with Elisabeth, we talk about a lot of cool things.
Like so many orgs, they started very in person had to shift for the pandemic and now, I mean, obviously there's still a pandemic happening, but as people are kind of figuring out where they are and how they offer their programming and staying digital for a lot of things. So we get into that. We get a lot into just what you need to consider as a community leader as well as like how to expand your events and programming in ways that make sense for who you're trying to reach and making things more interactive and interesting especially as we're all on Zoom.
We talk about Zoom alternatives and just ways to make those digital events just more captivating, more interesting if you will. I think we all have Zoom fatigue to a point, even though it's here to stay, I guess it's just meeting fatigue now, maybe. So we talk about some platforms that help with that. We also just talk about strategies, things to do. It's a good episode. I think you'll have a lot of takeaways for your own community and just ways to be checking in with members and making sure things are going great. So here we go. This is the Community Experience, talking to Elisabeth Tuttass of Grid110.
Jillian Benbow: Okay. Welcome everybody. We are here and we're golden. I'm so excited because I get to talk to Elisabeth Tuttass today, who is the managing director of Girls in Tech LA, she's on the steering committee for All Raise, which is amazing organization to help female founders and female investors. And I can't wait to talk about it. And she's the head of community for Grid110. So in all the places, I'm so excited. Welcome to the show, Elisabeth.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Thank you for having me.
Jillian Benbow: Of course. You have such a interesting story and history, how you got into all of this. I think something that really stands out to me is that you grew up in Germany and then moved to the US as a teenager. And not only do you speak English, as we know, and German, you speak Korean. So you're just like... You have the superpower I want, which is actually being able to learn other languages. Tell me more about, what was it like? Just growing up in Germany and then moving here to the states as a teenager, I'm sure that was an interesting cultural change.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. I'm I think what they call a third culture kid. So I grew up in Germany and went to a German school and spoke German and I'm half German, but I'm also half Korean. So at home I would eat Korean and go to Korean church and learn Korean. So from a very early age on, I was exposed to different cultures and I also didn't quite feel... I didn't quite feel like I fit in anywhere because I wasn't ever Asian enough or I wasn't really German enough with my Lederhosen and my beer. I think from an early age, I had a lot of empathy for diversity and inclusion, even though back then, I had no idea that there was such a thing as diversity and inclusion, but it gave me a lot of empathy for other people who maybe look different or had different backgrounds or had just untraditional pathways.
Jillian Benbow: I love that. And I feel like that is like the siren song of community builders. I have a similar, growing up in different countries and just never really feeling like identified or fit in, and so same kind of thing. Just very aware of other people, potentially feeling that way. And going out of my way to include people that may be feeling that, because I know that lonely feeling, and also just moving a lot and being the new kid all the time. So yeah, I feel like that's a common thread for many of us that get into community. Tell me more about how you did get into community, obviously. We'll, flash forward from moving to the US at 16, but where did community find you in your life?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Where did community find me? I've been doing a lot of reflecting these days and... As you probably know, community as a profession is a rather new thing. I feel like it's popped up more the last couple of years and community roles didn't exist even five years ago or 10 years ago, at least when I was looking for jobs at the time. But in hindsight I feel like everything that I've done and every role that I've pursued both professionally and personally has had a hint of community. So for example, when I was in college, I was a resident assistant. So I was sort of the go to person, follow all of the new freshmen that were new to campus. They didn't know anyone, they didn't have any friends, and so it was my job to make them feel welcomed and make them feel included. To just make sure that they had someone to talk to.
And that is a skill set that just came very naturally to me and something that I really enjoyed. And so my guidance counselor back then suggested that I should go into psychology, human resources just because I was a natural people's person. So I pursued human resources as a first career path out of college. And that's where I started my career, worked in human resources for a couple of years, and did a very similar thing. I would be responsible for welcoming new employees into the company. I would be the first face that they see. It's also something that I really enjoyed, just building those relationships, learning about people, learning about their stories.
I remember in my first full-time job, working in human resources, this was totally outside of my job description, by the way, this was not required of me, but it's just what I wanted to do, I would take out new employees out to lunch. So we would get new employees every week or every two weeks and I would go and get coffee with them or go get lunch with them. This sounds kind of crazy, but I would pay out of pocket for their lunch because... And I was making pretty much minimum wage at the time. But I just really wanted them to feel like you're welcome here, and I genuinely want to get to know you, and I want you to know that you can come talk to me about anything. And so I was working in human resources, and really thought that was going to be my career path for the rest of my life.
And what ended up happening was, I was in this 9:00 to 5:00 job doing human resources, a lot of paperwork, a lot of onboarding, a lot of California employment law. And at the same time I discovered entrepreneurship. I explored and discovered these things that are called startups, apps, different products that are new and shiny that can change the world or at least can make your life easier. And at the time I feel like I was... I've always loved trying out new products. So for example, I've always ordered my groceries online before COVID ever hits. So anything that will make my life more efficient or easier or faster, like I love Uber or Lyfts, any of those products. And so I really became fascinated with all things startups, and I would read tech articles doing my lunch break and I would go to startup events right after work. And I just became engulfed in this startup community here in LA.
And for the longest time I viewed it as a really random hobby that I had. I was really like curious about it, fascinated with it, but at the same time, I also didn't necessarily see myself as a founder myself. So I figured it's just this random thing that I'm really passionate about. And I would go to every single event that was out there. At the same time, I had also just moved to Los Angeles. So I was new to the city and I didn't have much of a network, professional or personal network. I would go to an event pretty much every night just to make friends and talk about entrepreneurship and talk about startups. And I would sit in the front row. What ended up happening was that I started building my network that way. And I started getting to know a lot of founders and entrepreneurs and startup leaders in the space.
The thing that's really unique about LA is that the startup community here is very, very tight knit in the best way possible. It's very communal. So once you start going to events, you'll start seeing the same people over and over again. The woman who is now my boss, at the time wasn't, noticed me and said, "Hey, you're at every single event that I go to." And I so happened to be looking for someone who does the same thing, but for my company, someone who can go out and be the face of our organization and who can speak on events and talk on podcast. And so it seems like a match made in heaven. So I got to do what I loved, naturally, and what I was doing for free, but for an organization that does really amazing work. And I've been there ever since.
Jillian Benbow: That's amazing. I love that, what you were doing in your free time as a hobby, like someone actually came and basically offered you like, how about you get paid for this thing you love doing? So it's like amazing. This was Grid110?
Elisabeth Tuttass: This was Grid110. Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: Tell us more about Grid110, because it's a really amazing organization.
Elisabeth Tuttass: It is an amazing organization. So Grid110 is a startup accelerator and nonprofit organization that's based in Los Angeles. We've been around for seven years now and we support early stage entrepreneurs. And we've been doing it for the last seven years. We are industry agnostic, so you'll see anything from FinTech companies to beauty brands to vegan food trucks, everything across the board. But I think one thing that's pretty unique about Grid110 is that a large majority of our companies that we work with are underrepresented founders. So about 94% of our founders are either female founders or they're a black or Latinx founder, which is very different from the typical funding numbers that you might see in the venture landscape.
Jillian Benbow: That's amazing. How many founders are active at a time? Or how is that?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. So we have 250 founders in our Grid110 community, and we actively work with around 20 companies at a time. So we offer a three months long accelerator program that founders go through. And in those programs, I would say, anywhere from 15 to 20 companies who work with at a time. Once they're done with the three months accelerator educational program, we continue the relationship that we have with them. And I actually work a lot closer with what we call our portfolio companies. So the companies that have finished and completed their accelerator portion and I help them with anything ranging from hiring to fundraising, with their pitch decks, partnerships, marketing, things like that.
Jillian Benbow: I love that. So as a founder, you get into the next accelerator. You do the accelerator, but then you have this kind of soft landing into the community where they can continue working on everything from the accelerator with other founders. Do I understand that?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. One thing that we hear is that, we work with a lot of solo founders or first time founders, and entrepreneurship can be incredibly lonely when you're going through it by yourself or nobody in your family or nobody in your friend circle, like, is entrepreneur and knows what you're talking about and knows the challenges. So what we hear a lot is just, founders being so excited and grateful to find a community with other people who understand that struggles, even though they might be in a completely different industry. There is this common understanding of what it's like to be an entrepreneur.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. I love that so much. I mean, obviously we do... We support mostly solo entrepreneurs or very small company with the founders running the company. So it warms my heart because it is, it's hard and it's a lot. And so to have that support is just... It's the difference between success and failure, frankly, I think for a lot of people. Because you have people who get it that you can talk to safely and just say... Like, you can be vulnerable. You can be like, look, I did this pitch, it went horrible. I feel horrible. And you have a group of people who understand that, understand the stakes and are there too like, what happened?
Let's look at your deck, let's figure it out together. Without that, if you just walked home like the sad Charlie Brown's music and went home and like ate cake and binge Netflix, you might be like, I'm not cut out for this without that support. I love that. I have so many questions. So I'm curious, because you mentioned your industry agnostic, do you find any issues or challenges with that or any blocks? If there's maybe someone joins and there aren't many other people in that industry where they don't feel as a part of the accelerator community or the community afterwards, do you find that at all?
Elisabeth Tuttass: We haven't run into that thankfully, but what I would say is... And going back to how LA is just very, very unique in terms of the startup community. If we ever do run into a situation where we feel like we might not be the right person or we might not be the right resource for the founder. We refer a ton of founders to other organizations or other funds that maybe specialized in, like an air space startup or a green tech accelerator. So if it's super, super niche, we love sending referrals to people or sending them other resources.
Jillian Benbow: I really like that. Yeah. Because it can be hard. And I ask because we are also industry agnostic. And that is, sometimes someone has a business that's so niche and what we offer and support is too general and kind of same thing. If we can't provide what you need, we want you to invest your time and money in a community that can.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Exactly.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. So tell me more because I love that your focus is underrepresented founders. Do you have, as a company, a strategy or you just...? I know that, as you were saying, the tech scene in LA, like everyone knows each other after a point and whatnot, but do you have any sort of way you go about trying to find the right type of founder to apply to your programming?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Despite the numbers, we're not a diversity founder, we don't advertise ourselves as a diversity organization. And I think that's always been the case and... For us, I think we try to find the best companies that are out there and just... And for the longest time, we were only focused on supporting LA based companies. And we've actually just recently opened it up to supporting companies on a national level. But when we were working with just LA companies, at the time, we just wanted our founders to look the way that our community looks, like our neighbors look, and like what we look like. We have a super diverse team itself. At Grid110, I think that's also very important. The leadership and as the team diverse, so, are they in inclusive? Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: I like that a lot. Yeah. I can see that too, as a founder looking at different organizations, just being able to look at your organization and see yourself is powerful, which is fantastic. I didn't realize that you didn't... You didn't like, I don't want to say target, but it happens naturally.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. It has. And to answer your question, it kind of has happened naturally. We haven't tried aggressively target certain demographics. We do get a ton of founders and startups from word of mouth. So it's just our entrepreneurs having a really great and meaningful experience that they then want to share with their friends. And then, it happened this way. Also, I think another thing that makes Grid110 pretty unique is that, we don't take any equity with anything that we do. Our founders come into our programs, and depending on... We have multiple programs going on, but depending on which program they apply for, with certain programs, they do get a grant that is equity free, meaning you don't have to give any percentage up of your company and you don't have to pay that money back.
It is fully yours. It's a grant. But yeah, this whole time, this seven years that we've been around, we've never taken any equity from our companies. And so we're truly invested in the success of our companies. We want to see them succeed. We are also not a VC firm ourselves, so we don't... Not all of our founders fundraise, for example. A lot of them do in their own ways, but other companies decide to, they might decide to stay bootstrapped and that's totally fine with us as well. That's great. It's interesting that... I really like that, that the goal is not necessarily to then go raise VC capital, it's more just to find what... Sounds-
Elisabeth Tuttass: What works for you.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Exactly. On your terms, which I think is desperately needed in startup culture, I know the going after VC is amazing and you can get... You can do the thing with that backing, but at the expense of now pretty high expectations on how fast and to what level. I love that there are options for people because I know VC can be very scary.
Elisabeth Tuttass: I've been in the field for a couple of years now and... I always think that, at the end of the day, the founders know the best. They know their business is way better than I could ever do. And so giving them that full autonomy and pathway and... For us, what we do is we just offer different options and different ways. So for example, we actually launched this super popular event series last year called funding pathways where each month we have a panel and we talk about all of the different funding options, because like you mentioned, I think a big misconception is that there's only one route and it's VC and you have to raise a million dollars.
And you can, but there are also other pathways that you can pursue that might be even better for your business or better for your equity. But yeah, as you mentioned, the VC landscape is looking a little grim, especially for female founders, especially for black and Latinx founders. The funding they receive is about 2%, the 3% at its best. So we definitely want to educate people about all of the different various ways that they can get money for their businesses because we do want to see them succeed.
Jillian Benbow: That's a depressing statistic, 2 to 3%. That annoys me. Tell me more about.... So this funding pathway series, that sounds like an excellent example of just... Like you as an organization identified, obviously, funding is a huge piece of the puzzle, a huge concern, there's mystery around it. So to create a series about that, to give people options, was that series something that was open up to the public or was that specific to your community? How did you go about that?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Funny that you asked that because it used to be a private series that was just open to our community. And I think one day our team just had the thought of, what if we just open it up to the public? Because we're all about creating access and making things accessible to all founders. So it kind of makes sense that we should just make this type of education accessible. So what we started doing is, we did publicize the event series and the really incredible thing is that our signup numbers went from, I think we would have maybe about 120, 25 founders show up for these monthly panels and now we're up to 150 each month.
So there's clearly a demand and people being interested in what the different funding options are. And then another thing that we also started doing as a team is, we created a YouTube channel for a Grid110 and we started recording these sessions and we will put them on our YouTube channel so people can actually watch them later on and other people can listen to them and watch them. And we can just spread the word.
Jillian Benbow: I love it. Be right back. Going to go subscribe.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Please do.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Since doing that since opening it up, do you find more people then start participating in your programming and join your community?
Elisabeth Tuttass: I like to think so. I mean, ultimately that's... One of the things that I always think about in my role is, what can I... Well, two things, when you're building community or when I'm building community at Grid110 it's kind of twofold, one side of it is internal. So how can I build a community for our entrepreneurs that are part of our portfolio? And then externally it's, how can I build sort of our brand that would attract potential entrepreneurs, that would attract partners and different organizations that maybe would want to partner with us? So it's an interesting way to think about building community for two different demographics.
Jillian Benbow: It's tricky. There's something to be said about providing a lot of value to people, like you said, picking the series and starting it in the community and then opening it up, I think that shows other people who may be familiar or not just what you're about and-
Elisabeth Tuttass: Exactly.
Jillian Benbow: ... Providing that value for free says a lot about you.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Another tip that I have for maybe other community leaders, community builders is to incorporate a lot of feedback loops in what you're doing.
Jillian Benbow: Tell me more.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. So after each event, we send out like one question feedback survey that's pretty much like, what did you think of the event? And can answer that question open endedly. We read through it all. We read through every single feedback that we receive, but it's super important for us to just check in with our community after every event, after everything that we host to see if it even landed, if it resonated. That actually is what made the funding pathway series so successful, because we would get these small or minor suggestions or edits or things that maybe we could change.
So I think it's super important to have those regular feedback loops to check in. I feel like I get a lot of credit for some of the events that I throw or initiatives that I come up with, but honestly the best ones are not even my idea, the best ones came directly from the community because it's something that they asked for or something that they wanted and we just created space for them to bring up those ideas.
Jillian Benbow: Yes. I'm super repetitive and annoying with like, ask your community what they want. Right?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Mm-hmm [affirmative]. They will tell you.
Jillian Benbow: Oh yeah. They will tell you. And providing a way to do that easily is so important. What's kind of the general... In your community to people just make... And I don't know what platform you're on or however it works, but are people emailing you DMing you? Are there posts where people start saying ideas about what they want for events or just feedback in general? Do you have a formal process?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. So you might already be familiar with this platform, but we love using Luma for all of our events. It's-
Jillian Benbow: I'm not.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. You should definitely check it out.
Jillian Benbow: Wait, yeah, I think I have been on Luma.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: It's hard to remember all of them.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. So Luma, it's pretty great. It's like a modern version of Eventbrite, and they will automatically send out event feedback forms after your event. So you don't manually need to send out any emails. I feel like I'm a walking advertisement for Luma because they have been just incredible with setting up events and collecting data on your attendees and on your entrepreneurs. It's been super fun. That would probably be my biggest tip, is just ask your community what they want and listen to it. I also think building and growing community has been a little, not tricky, but it's definitely been a unique challenge with COVID and remote work and everything transitioning to virtual.
Grid110 used to be fully in person. So we would have our accelerator sessions in person and see everyone and build relationships and grab dinner with everyone. And then in 2020, we transition to being fully remote. And that brings up a whole set of other unique challenges. And it definitely made me think about, what do I have to consider as a community leader when it comes to hosting events, so hosting workshops. For example, we have a lot of parent entrepreneurs that we work with,
If you're a parent entrepreneur, the ideal time to host a workshop might not be at 7:00 PM when you're putting your kid to bed or even something like things that, and maybe I've never thought about before like disabilities, if somebody has ADHD or they just cannot sit still for three hours for a Zoom workshop, how can you accommodate that? Or how can you make sure that your sessions are very engaging? And it's not just someone talking for three hours.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. I mean, obviously, we all lived through this transition period of everything going... Suddenly everyone had a Zoom account and... My mom is on Zoom. And now it's like, well, how do we continue this? Especially for... Our community has always been digital, but the Zoom fatigue is real, regardless, it's like, how can we make these things more dynamic and interesting and, oh, not another Zoom call? Did you have any good findings or feedback from your community to address say like the three hour workshop and how to make it fun?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. We've definitely incorporated more breakout groups than maybe we would've when we were in person. So breakout groups are really great over Zoom. Using polls is also good. Actively engaging your community. So making sure that you don't have just one speaker who come in who's sort of lectures a group, but it's also having open discussions and group discussions and small group discussions. I think those things are pretty helpful.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. I've been playing with a platform called Butter. Are you familiar with Butter?
Elisabeth Tuttass: No, but that sounds intriguing.
Jillian Benbow: I know. I mean, who doesn't know Butter? It's a platform that's intentionally made to have dynamic workshops and events. It's intentionally very fun. You can add in different segments to your agenda that they have built into the platform. So you can add a dance party, like a one minute dance party.
Elisabeth Tuttass: I love that.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. And everybody who's participating on screen at the... It actually sets up. So it'll show someone... It'll randomly show different people as the main, and then you're supposed to copy whatever they do. So I'm doing like the vogue and maybe everyone will... And then it would switch to you, and now it's your turn to do whatever dance move kind of thing. It's a good balance of like silly, but like fun, silly and getting things done and just making it fun. Yeah. They have a free-
Elisabeth Tuttass: I'll have to check it out.
Jillian Benbow: They have a free tier. Check it out. Yeah. We're going to use that for our community's two year anniversary party. So we'll see. I'll let you know, it could either be a total disaster because people are like, wait, I don't... My camera doesn't have the right permissions, or it'll be so much fun that we use it for everything, who knows. I'm curious now that...
I mean, COVID is still happening. There's still a pandemic. All of us have our own how much we accept that there's still a pandemic, but all that aside, especially in the summer when you can do things, I guess it's LA you can do things outside all year round, I forget. Are you as organization steering back to in person events and maybe in person workshops? Or you kind of just... You mentioned that you're not LA specific anymore for some programming. Does that hinder potentially doing some LA specific things? Where are you with that, I guess?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. So our team is fully remote as of two years ago. And all of our programming is fully remote. At this point, all of our workshops, all of our accelerator sessions, but we know that people want to get together and they missed that in person interaction. We threw a gathering this past weekend actually for our founders in LA, but that was like the first event that we've done since the pandemic. I think we're trying to be safe and trying to take it slow. But yeah, most of it has been fully virtual.
Jillian Benbow: How was seeing people in person? So like, oh.
Elisabeth Tuttass: A lot of people are not the height that you think they [inaudible] .
Jillian Benbow: That's my favorite part about meeting people in person. It's like, who's taller? Yeah. Our team is fully remote. I had worked I think a year before I met people in person at like a summit that we got together. And it was really fun to see who's tall, who's not, who has a silly walk or who walks crazy fast and who walks slower. There's something about it. It's just fun. It's fun to meet people in real life and get the height check. Because you'd never know, looking at me now, am I tall? I'm sure.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. I'm also told I'm a lot funnier in person. So I think Zoom maybe dulls my humor a bit it.
Jillian Benbow: I don't how I feel about that feedback. Yeah. I was like, thank you.
Elisabeth Tuttass: No, I'll take it as a compliment.
Jillian Benbow: That's funny. Yeah. It's got to be transitioning as a team from in person to remote, I assume most of your staff at least was there. When the pandemic hit, you're all still in like the LA area or maybe some people opted to take advantage of moving somewhere different, but... How has the transition been, I guess? And I realize it's been two years, but have you found that you're all able to keep that sense of work community, that dynamic over the inter webs?
Elisabeth Tuttass: We've doubled our team since-
Jillian Benbow: Oh wow.
Elisabeth Tuttass: ... The pandemic. And so we had a lot of new team members who joined us during the pandemic. So this past weekend is when some of our team members met for the very first time. I think at that point you don't know any different, like it's... But I think it's been good. I think it's been good. No hiccups yet. I mean, as we talked about it, it's definitely harder to build a community over Zoom or over a camera, but we try to make it work and we're a small team, so we're all very close to each other and we make it work.
Jillian Benbow: That's great. Ping ponging back to the community. I mean kind of same question, how has that transition been from having more... Just having people interact with each other online as the primary method?
Elisabeth Tuttass: You have the sort of downside where it's like, people can't meet as much in person as maybe you would like, but I think it also opens up a lot more opportunity. So for example, I don't know... With going remote, we're now able to serve more entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs outside of LA. I think that was always the vision, but I think it might have happened a lot later if it wasn't for COVID. So I think it's also about looking at the plus sides and looking at the upside of, okay, this might not be ideal right now, but it also comes with its own benefits of being able to actually serve more entrepreneurs across the board.
And in terms of how our founders engage, we have our sessions, we have our accelerator sessions that our founders attend, but then another popular thing is our Slack channel. So we have a super engaged and active Slack channel that all of our founders have access to. And every day we post anything from pitch competitions, grant opportunities, or any events that are going on, and they're super active on there and they really take advantage. I feel like they were already pretty active digitally before COVID hit.
Jillian Benbow: That's nice.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Mm-hmm [affirmative].
Jillian Benbow: Are you finding there's any kind of slump this summer, especially now that people are traveling again?
Elisabeth Tuttass: I haven't noticed a slump per se. I feel like as an entrepreneur, your job is 24/7. You don't really get a break or holidays. But what I have seen though is, VC firms definitely do have kind of their down times or their holidays when they're less active or they might not make active investments in companies, but for us, since we don't financially invest in companies, we see the same level of engagement throughout the year.
Jillian Benbow: That's nice. I wish I can say the same, the people are on vacation.
Elisabeth Tuttass: They need a rest. I feel like that's also a good topic of taking care of yourself and investing. It's much needed.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. I imagine with the founders in your community and in your programs, that's probably challenging for them. They're a unique group because they have a lot riding on what they're doing. Do you ever force people on a break?
Elisabeth Tuttass: I don't ever force them to do anything, but I do gently nudge to them or we do definitely have those conversations about where they're at and where their head is at and to maybe take a break once in a while or to really practice self care as an entrepreneur. I think it goes both ways as an entrepreneur and also community leader. Our jobs are not just to throw events or to be on partnership calls, it's also a lot of emotional work to be there for other people and be present and be kind and be very empathetic.
And so if your cup is not full, you can't give to others. And I think the same thing for entrepreneurs as well, they have so much going on in a given day of that. I think practicing self care is super important. And I think there is a sense of urgency with founders where it's like... Especially when they're solo founders or first time founders, where they feel like they have to do all of these million and one things on a given day. But making sure that you stay calm and collected at all times is also super important to be successful.
Jillian Benbow: I'm so curious, without getting into details, but just in general, in your community, what are kind of the signals you see with, whether it's member activity behavior that makes you want to reach out to someone and check in and make sure they're taking care of themselves? For all the community builders listening, I guess, what tips do you have for like kind of identifying that so that you can reach out? Because I know a lot of, a lot of people struggle with that and just how to approach those sorts of conversations kindly, like you said, but also just make sure people know that we see them and want to make sure they're taking care of themselves.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. I think when you get to a point when someone, or in my case, a founder is coming to you and saying that they're going through a hard time, or you can clearly tell that they're going through a hard time, it's probably a little too late. They probably already crossed that line of burnout and overload. So there are a couple of ways, number one, you can be proactive about it. One of the reasons why I love Luma so much is because you can pull a lot of data and information on your attendees. So for example, something that I'll do is, I will go through our attendee data, particularly our founders. So our portfolio founders, and I can sort it by who's sort of the most active and least active in terms of event attendance. Now, this isn't...
Doesn't work all the time, just because a founder might not attend an event doesn't mean that they're not fully engaged in the community, but it can definitely help. So something that I'll do is, I'll take a look at sort of the founders that, maybe they've attended event, but it's been six months, or it's been a long time, and I'll just send them a message and check in on them. I saw a recent article that said just reaching out and letting someone know that you are thinking of them means a lot to people than we think. So I'll do that. And then another thing that I'll also do is sort of open office hours. So I send out an email about every two weeks to our portfolio company. So that comes personally from me.
So it's not a newsletter of any sorts of just email that I send and I'll include like my calendar link and I'll just say, this is kind of an open slot, if you want to talk about your pitch decks or fundraising, or if you just want to talk about anything at all, you can schedule time at any point. And then I also have founders who I built stronger relationship with over the last years and where I've been able to build trust. And they'll just give me a call or FaceTime and ring me up if they're going through something. And that's totally fine too. It's also about understanding where do your entrepreneurs live digitally, do they go to a lot of events and if so, meet them there. Do they FaceTime, then meet them there?
Jillian Benbow: I love that. Where do they live digitally, because it's so true. We have members that are at every live event they can possibly attend. They like this, they like the face-to-face, in person back and forth. And then we have other members who don't come to any of those, but they're in our forums with the asynchronous on their time like posting things they're trying, asking questions, that sort of stuff. We have some observers on the podcast, I've joked with many of our guests about how I don't like to say lurkers, because it implies like heavy breathing behind a... Like up to something weird. So I like to say observers, but people who are very quiet and you wouldn't know...
Like I'll reach out and be like, "Hey, are you having a good time? Can I help you?" And they're like, "Yeah, I'm great. Thanks." And they're perfectly happy. So that yeah, where do they live digitally. Also, just like, what's their style of engagement. I love that. I mean all of this. I like that idea of your office hours. We do topic based office hours, but just having that open ended like, Hey, for these two hours I have 30 minute blocks or whatever it is, like feel free to book one to talk. I've been thinking about doing that again. Something similar to that with just kind of coffee talks, like coffee chats, I guess, where it's just like, Hey, super casual.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Sometimes people just need a space to talk.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Because it is, it is lonely. so just having that break in the day to talk like we are now. All right. Well, it is time to shift gears entirely and move into our rapid fire questions. Are you ready, Elisabeth?
Elisabeth Tuttass: I am ready.
Jillian Benbow: All right. There are no wrong answers. Let's start with my favorite question. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Probably not what you're thinking of because when I was a kid or when I was younger, I just wanted to be a mom.
Jillian Benbow: Oh, that's sweet.
Elisabeth Tuttass: I'm not a mom right now, but I'm weirdly obsessed with products and startups in the parenting space. But yeah, it's a random thing. Professionally, I think the first thing I wanted to become is a flight attendant because of the multiple languages. I figured it might be useful.
Jillian Benbow: You'd be an amazing flight attendant. I feel like they're community managers in their own way.
Elisabeth Tuttass: In the air. I was a flight attendant for Halloween, I think were three years straight.
Jillian Benbow: I love it.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: That's amazing. Awesome. Didn't expect either of those. Those are great. Elisabeth, how do you define community?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Community for me is a group of people coming together for a similar purpose.
Jillian Benbow: What is something on your "bucket list" that you have done? Something you always wanted to do that you did do?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Honestly, I hate to be cheesy, but something like this pre pandemic-
Jillian Benbow: [inaudible] . You got to [inaudible] .
Elisabeth Tuttass: No. I'm serious, pre pandemic. There's a storyline, so... Pre pandemic, one of my goals or bucket list items was to speak on podcast, but maybe not because of why you think, it's actually, because, as I mentioned, I moved to the US when I was a teenager, when I was 16 years old and I actually couldn't speak any English. So I moved to the US without speaking English and I had a really, really bad European accent. And I just felt so shy, like even ordering food at a restaurant. So for me, being able to do this and conveying my ideas and share my story very openly is actually a big bucket list item because it's so far from where I've come 10 years ago. Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Oh my gosh. That makes me like tear up, like legitimately tear up a little bit. That's really sweet. I hope you get to be on some much cooler... I mean, this is obviously the biggest coolest podcast on the planet, but now that you [inaudible] .
Elisabeth Tuttass: It really is.
Jillian Benbow: Hope you get to be on some other ones. And yeah, that sounds terrifying. For what it's worth, I would not know that you weren't born speaking English if you hadn't told me. If that wasn't in the notes for this episode, I would have no idea. If I could speak English as well as you do, I'd be happy. And it's the only language I have. Okay. What is something on that bucket list that you haven't done yet, but is like on the list, want to do it?
Elisabeth Tuttass: I have a serious bucket list item and I have a silly bucket list item. The serious one-
Jillian Benbow: We'll take them both.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. The serious one is I really want to travel to Korea. Since I'm half Korean, I actually used to spend my summers in Korea and half of my family is there. I used to pretty much just... I have a ton of memories from there as a kid, but I just haven't been able to go in a really long time because of COVID and work and all the things, but I've been meaning to go back for the longest time. So that would be a huge bucket list item and just reconnecting with my family and my roots. And then the silly bucket list item, when my friends and team listens to this they're going to laugh, but it's to get a cat, I've been on the hunt to get the perfect cat for a long time now. So if I'm not hosting a startup event or going to startup events or talking to founders about their pitch decks, you'll probably see me at some sort of cat rescue place trying to find my perfect match.
Jillian Benbow: My gosh. What's your perfect cat? What's on the list?
Elisabeth Tuttass: I'm pretty open, but I'm looking for a tuxedo cat, maybe a little tuxedo kitten. Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: Freshest. Wow.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: Well, I hope that you get to fulfill that bucket list item like immediately and then hopefully get to Korea soon so you can see the fan.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. That'd be nice.
Jillian Benbow: All right. What is a book that you wish everybody would read or just a book that you love?
Elisabeth Tuttass: A book that I read recently that blew my mind and I feel like I should have read much sooner is The Untethered Soul. I feel like that's such a good one or... That's a good one. Yeah. I think that's maybe one of the best books I've read in a while The Untethered Soul.
Jillian Benbow: I haven't read this, I'm looking it up. It sounds...
Elisabeth Tuttass: I really loved it.
Jillian Benbow: This is right at my alley. Awesome. Yeah. Added to the list. This is the problem with this question is my like good reads, to read list-
Elisabeth Tuttass: Just keeps growing.
Jillian Benbow: Just keeps growing. I need the ability of download books into my brain. Fortunately audiobooks exist, that helps. Audiobook and then like reading an actual book... I try to always have two going, one audio, one real. It's a lot. Okay. Elisabeth, we know you're in the LA area. But if you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live? And there's no restrictions, this doesn't have to be based in logic.
Elisabeth Tuttass: No geographical restrictions. Probably Korea, to be honest. I think that's why I want to travel there or travel back there. It feels like a second home and I do have family there.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. Which part of Korea would you go to?
Elisabeth Tuttass: My family is based pretty close to Seoul.
Jillian Benbow: Yeah. That'd be nice.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. I can't wait to go back.
Jillian Benbow: I went to Korea. I think I've just been to the airport, that that sort of thing. So it's not the real [inaudible] that would love to. Okay. And final question, how do you want to be remembered?
Elisabeth Tuttass: As someone kind. It's pretty straightforward. Yeah. A lot of the people that I look up to, people who are my role models are very successful in what they do professionally, but they're also known as being incredibly kind people. And I think that's something that I really aspire to.
Jillian Benbow: Me too. That's kind of my like life goal.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: Like the camping motto, leave it better than you found it, but through kindness. Well, Elisabeth, it's been fantastic. Thank you for putting up with the ghosts in my house, slamming doors, probably a teenager and/or the wind and me stumbling over basic words. Before we end, where can everybody learn more about you online? Where can they find you? More about your work? What are your handles? All that.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. If you want to learn more about Grid110 you can check out our website, which is Grid110.org, you can find us on all of our socials with the same handle. We're on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. I would also suggest people sign up for a newsletter that my team puts together with a lot of love and care each month. And then myself, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn, which is just Elisabeth Tuttass, my full name. And then I'm also on Twitter and my username is MS Tuttass, which is like miss Tuttass. Yeah.
Jillian Benbow: That's, T-U-T-T-A-S-S?
Elisabeth Tuttass: Yeah. Double T double S.
Jillian Benbow: S, S perfect. Well, thank you so much for being here today, Elisabeth. This has been fantastic.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Well, thank you for having me.
Jillian Benbow: Let us know as soon as you get that cat.
Elisabeth Tuttass: Thank you. I will.
Jillian Benbow: All right. And that's the interview with Elisabeth. I hope you enjoyed listening as much as I enjoyed getting to know her, fantastic human. There were so many amazing things we talked about, but the things I really want to focus in on are just some of the things we talked about as far as making events more interesting, more interactive and getting that feedback loop from people. Specifically building in time for discussion and putting people in more breakout rooms if it's a big group. It's so hard to have a conversation when there's a bunch of people on the Zoom screen. I mean, some people will speak up, but it's not... It's just not the same as being in person. Is it? And even in person, sometimes you're in a big group and you just choose not to talk, because other people are talking, the conversation goes somewhere else before you had a chance to add your nuance to it.
So more frequent opportunities to break out into smaller groups and opportunities to interact, talk, discuss. I think it's kind of like a no brainer, but it's also, I think a good reminder to all of us. Like, how can I sprinkle that in a little more, even into bigger, more introductory events. I think it's great to get people in a smaller room together and give them the options. If like, Hey, if you're not into it, you can stay in the bigger room with me and we can just talk as a big group and you can do more anonymous. That's just me though. I think there's... Sometimes I'm not in the mood to go in a breakout room and so I will bail on the call, obviously if it's not me running it or work related, just because I don't have the energy. So giving people the option to not even, I think that's, increasingly, it's something I'm more mindful of anyways.
Just that whole idea of, what do you have to consider as a community leader? So even just the scheduling of like, Hey, this time of day, for the type of people who are a part of my community or a part of my greater circle, is it convenient? So as Elisabeth mentioned, as an example, like parents during that crabby bedtime time block of like 7:00 to 9:00, if you have small children, that's really hard to make work. We almost have to remind ourselves like, Hey, are these events as well attended as they could be? Is there a factor I'm not considering? So it's just that mindfulness. Just being considerate.
Don't even get me started on time zones. That's a huge part of my world, because we have a global community. So being considerate of how do we create more programming that accommodates people who might be asleep when we are in the midday when we do like to do events and vice versa that are working when technically it's late evening for me, like how do we make that work so everyone gets good experiences, but not at the cost of burnout and whatnot. I also love just some of the tools we talked about, I think can help with this kind of thing. Elisabeth mentioned Luma, which I realized I have actually do have experience with, but as a member, like on that other side, I've never used it as an organizer. And then I love Butter.
I think it's a really fun platform that you can build in very interactive agendas. If hosting an hour or longer on Zoom with a group of people is not your jam, go check out Butter, they have a free option. You can try it. It just kind of takes the pressure off because it's very... It's organized in a really fun way. I also like that they have dance parties and like music breaks, as an option, you don't have to do it, but... I'm not a big dance in front of people person, but it's fun. I've been in events, Butter events where that happened and it was actually fun.
The Funding Pathway Series. So many things I love about this and I hope you got some ideas from it, and just that thinking about... I mean obviously anybody starting a startup or a tech startup, especially, they're probably going to need to consider funding options. Like, this makes sense. This makes sense for the Grid110 group, that these would be hot topics. And to, frankly, look at things besides VC, because VC is cool, you can get a ton of money, but it's not free. There's a lot of expectations that go along with that money. And it's not for everybody. That can be a block for someone really pursuing their dreams because they're like, I don't want to deal with that. So one creating the series because they knew it would be really popular with their members because they know what their members talk about.
But also then looking at, Hey, maybe this isn't even just for members. Maybe we open this to the public, and maybe we add replays on YouTube for the public or for people who can't make it. And their sign ups going from 20 to 150 each month. I love it. So that's definitely got me thinking about how can I let people in to some programming that might not be full-fledged members, but are adjacent in some way and maybe, Hey, maybe it'll help them decide to become a member or maybe it'll just help them along their journey and they leave thinking positive things about our brand. There's nothing wrong with that. Those were kind of like my big ones. I really like how Elisabeth has leveraged Luma for data. Data, data, data. Looking at attendance, looking to see who is dropping off whatnot.
I think that's pretty cool. And for the type of community they have in events, it makes perfect sense. We use Burb for that, because most of our... Most everything we do is pretty much online, is digital. So we use that for advanced metrics. There's a lot to say about, go to a coffee shop without your laptop. I know the horror, and think about some of these things like, how could I do this? How could I create events and invite a larger group? What would that look like? How should I reach out to people to make sure they're all good? Because I haven't seen them at events for a while. Just all of it. Anyways, I will stop rambling on.
I would love to hear what you thought. Hit me up on Twitter. I'm @Jillian Benbow on Twitter. There's also of course @TeamSPI. Would love some feedback. I've been having a little fun. I go like very hot and cold on Twitter, but lately have been super hot and talking to so many community builders and just having a blast. So hopefully there will be an episode or two soon as a result of those conversations. So hop in the hot conversations. I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. Come hang out on Twitter it's fun. Until then, I hope you have a wonderful week. May the odds be ever in your favor. And I'll see you next week. See you next Tuesday.
Learn more about Grid110 at Grid110.org. On Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn and all the places it's Grid110, @Grid110. Definitely go sign up for their newsletter, you know I did. And then if you want to connect with Elisabeth specifically, she is on Twitter @mstuttass, M-S T-U-T-T-A-S-S.
Your lead host for the community experience is me, Jillian Benbow. Our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Our senior producer is David Grabowski. And our editor is Paul Grigoras. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Theme music by David Grabowski. See you next Tuesday.