Sevetri Wilson founded her first company, a public relations firm catering to nonprofit organizations, as soon as she graduated from Louisiana State University back in 2009.
Eleven years later, and with a fresh $8 million round of funding in the bank, Wilson has taken the experience she amassed working in the nonprofit world and turned it into her new business, Resilia. From offices in New Orleans and New York, Wilson's company offers a suite of services for nonprofits to better manage and report their finances and for grant-making and philanthropic organizations to find the groups that are working in the areas they want to support.
"We are serving a two-sided market," Wilson said. "We are providing software solutions from nonprofits... Helping them come online… whether you’re a charter school or healthcare clinic, and from there we have helped nonprofits with their compliance and fundraising and built that into a subscription platform."
There are approximately 1.56 million nonprofits in the U.S., according to a 2019 report from the Urban Institute. And those organizations contributed roughly $985.4 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015, according to the last available data. That's roughly 5.4% of the U.S. gross domestic product.
Of those nonprofits, public charities accounted for three-quarters of revenue and expenses representing $1.98 trillion and just less than two-thirds of the total assets of the nonprofit sector, which amount to a whopping $3.67 trillion.
Those are huge numbers, and represent a massive opportunity for companies that can find better, lower-cost ways to service these organizations and help make the entire industry run more efficiently.
"For large funders, their job is to deploy capital," Wilson said. "They have to monitor them and pull reports and track data and do evaluations. If you are Oxfam America we are essentially covering their southern territories and the organizations they’re funding around workforce development."
Now, in the wake of the economic collapse that's accompanied the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., nonprofits are taking an even more central position in the U.S. economy.
With a market representing hundreds of billions of dollars, it's no wonder that the Louisiana-based investment firm Callais Capital chose to back the company. Notably, Resilia also managed to bring in Mucker Capital, the Los Angeles-based investment firm that's coming off one of the best years in its history.
Mucker, which raked in marquee returns last year off of its seed investment in Honey, the browser extension coupon service which PayPal acquired for $4 billion, is steadily expanding from its Los Angeles home and building up a presence in the Southeast.
"Entrepreneurs outside of LA look more like LA entrepreneurs than they do like Bay Area entrepreneurs," said Mucker co-founder and partner, William Hsu. "Working with them… we saw that skill set of working with LA could be replicated somewhere else."
That somewhere else was Nashville, where Mucker has a presence through Monique Villa, the firm's investor and scout for deals across the Southeast.
"We charged her with looking at every deal in the Southeast," said Hsu. In the year-and-a-half that Villa has been investing, Mucker has made three public investments: Go Check Kids, Blueprint Title and now, Resilia.
"One of the things that is interesting to us is how the rest of the U.S. looks at New York and San Francisco as an elitist enclave," said Hsu. "The populist part doesn’t connect or look up to the ethos of SF or NY. We want to be an accessible and populist VC brand."
It's hard to get more populist than investing in a company founded by an African American woman who went to a land-grant university in Baton Rouge, La.
There's already real revenue coming in for Wilson's startup. Large donor customers pay $199 per-seat per-month for access to the company's list of well-run nonprofits, and nonprofits pay $99.99 per month for access to the management tools, grant writing support and other features that they may need.
"We’re in such a good position because our product was created to capture innovation and [initiate] grants and connect to capital in organizations to have a better understanding of where that money is going and whether or not it’s being wasted," Wilson said.