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How Resilia is helping nonprofits to build capacity through SaaS
To celebrate Black History Month, AWS Startups is featuring posts throughout February highlighting the contributions of Black builders and leaders in tech. Above all, these individuals inspire, empower, and encourage others—especially those historically underrepresented in tech—to prove what’s possible.
The AWS Startups Blog is excited to introduce Sevetri Wilson. Sevetri is a serial entrepreneur whose most recent startup, Resilia, enables nonprofits to increase capacity and funders to go beyond the grant with technical assistance, coaching, and capacity-building support. In October of 2022, Resilia closed a Series B $35M funding round, the largest raise ever for a solo Black female founded tech company.
“Resilia is proving that technology can break through the perceived number of finite resources. When you’re a consultant, there’s a finite number of people you can help and a finite amount of time in which to do it. By delivering resources through technology, Resilia is using tech for good: To revolutionize the way leaders develop and grow their organizations and to remove limitations on the things they oftentimes have no say in.”
Can you please introduce yourself, as a person and as a professional?
As a person, I am—as I always say—a girl raised in the South. I’m from Louisiana and was born and raised in a small city about 45 minutes outside of New Orleans, called Hammond, where my mother was raised. I was raised by a very big family: my mother was one of nine and my father was one of seven, so you can imagine how many cousins and family members I was fortunate enough to grow up around. My grandfather was a farmer, so we had blackberry bushes and a sugar cane field and cows and chickens running around.
Professionally, I would consider myself a serial entrepreneur and business owner. I’ve bootstrapped one company. I’ve now raised close to $50 million for Resilia, a technology company that I founded in 2017. As a professional, I’ve grown into a space where I am known as a problem solver. People always ask, “What do you think has led to your success?” I say that as a professional I’ve always been able to solve people’s problems.
What is the founding story of Resilia and the company’s mission?
I founded my first company, Solid Ground Innovations, in 2009. We were a management and consultancy agency and we had a nonprofit arm called SGI Cares. We worked as consultants to drive strategic functions around community giving with large funders like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and family foundations, and large corporations like Aetna Better Health and Community Coffee. We would come in and work with them to deploy resources and capacity support to the initiatives that they were funding from a philanthropic standpoint.
Although we would come in and we would bring capacity, the likelihood of that work continuing once we left was very rare. I started thinking about ways that we could productize our services and deliver them through a software solution to create a continuum of service that didn’t stop once we left.
That’s what gave rise to Resilia. We are a two-sided platform: On one side, we support nonprofit organizations, helping them bring capacity to their day-to-day through our software platform. On the other side, we enable large funders such as private foundations, public charities, corporations, and government entities to deliver capacity-building resources at scale to the nonprofits they support.
A lot of Resilia’s journey was me taking something that was heavily based in consultancy and productizing it, to bring a more digitized presence to the work through software. Resilia digitizes the work and democratizes philanthropy to make what generally only a few nonprofits would receive—whether that’s resources or something else—more accessible to everyone.
Today, we’re at over 100 employees and primarily based in New Orleans, along with an office in New York, an engineering office in Mexico, and remote employees across the United States.
What are you most proud of accomplishing as the founder of Resilia?
My proudest achievement is growing a very diverse team around tech for good. We have people of color and women in every single rank of Resilia: From the CEO, of course, to our VPs, to our directors, managers, and our entry-level team members.
Resilia’s platform for non-profits is radically and successfully transforming how they do business. Can you share some of the opportunities and challenges for startups that are bringing technology to the non-profit industry?
Historically, I would say that technology has not been built with nonprofits in mind, and that’s probably why sometimes our space has been averse to adopting technology. That’s a challenge that we are faced with: How do we build the most user-friendly product that’s for nonprofits as a whole? We believe we’re building Resilia as the new age of technology to help nonprofits have the resources to keep going, so they can do their work.
Has AWS supported your goals for Resilia?
Yes. We build a lot of our products on AWS and AWS solutions are an important part of our stack.
Can you share the most important lesson you’ve learned as a founder?
Deliver solutions that increase efficiency and effectiveness at scale. For instance, with the Resilia platform, nonprofits can streamline their operations, reduce administrative burdens, and focus more on their mission-driven work.
In October 2022, Resilia closed a Series B $35M funding round. This is the largest raise ever for a solo Black female founded tech company. Do you have any advice for other founders about how to succeed at funding rounds?
Founders who are building right now—similarly to small businesses—are seeing market volatility. You have to be really scrappy and stay as lean as possible to survive what we are seeing as a drawback in funding from investor groups and funders alike.
Also, when you’re going out to fundraise, ensure that you have all of your i’s dotted and t’s crossed, meaning have all of what you need for due diligence: have the financials together, have reference calls and who’s going to do those reference calls. Have as much done as you can to limit the time you have to be out in the market raising. Ensure that you run a very tight and smooth process so that you aren’t putting yourself in a position where you are running out of capital. The most that you can do is just be prepared and have, as I would say, your house in order so that you save time.
What’s next for you and Resilia?
In 2023, Resilia will continue to scale our team in order to serve our growing client base. We’re also really excited to roll out donations and payments. That’s a new feature that we’ll be offering to non-profits and our existing customer base as a whole. We want to continue to expand our offerings so we can truly be a one-stop resource for nonprofits.
We’re also rolling out a robust online community to foster more peer-to-peer learning. We’re using this Resilia community to provide a guided course track to help nonprofit leaders not only build knowledge, but also upskill their teams. This year we’re also going to deliver more impactful features and products to funders and grant makers alike.
Sevetri Wilson is a serial entrepreneur, author, and founder and CEO of Resilia, a SaaS company that helps nonprofit organizations increase their capacity. She has been recognized in Inc Magazine's 100 Women Building America's Most Innovative Companies, Pitchbook's Top Black Tech Leaders, and Black Enterprise's 40 Under 40 list. In 2020, Sevetri became one of only 50 Black women in the U.S. to have raised over $15M in venture funding, and in 2022, she achieved the largest funding raise ever ($35M) for a solo Black female-founded company. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and Harvard University.
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