Welcome to the Gust Launch Founder Spotlight! Gust Launch supports a variety of exciting founders doing amazing things. In this ongoing series we’ll highlight the experiences of Gust Launch founders, in their own words, as they navigate the challenges of early-stage entrepreneurship.

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The Founder, the company, and why we're excited

We believe deep non-technical experience is key to building great startups that have a net-positive impact on humanity. That’s why we’re excited to support Joshe Ordonez’s latest venture, Airpals. Joshe is a female and latinx founder combining technical chops with a background in fashion, visual art, and cultural advocacy to build same-day delivery solutions that put people–including couriers, drivers, and bike messengers–first.

What is Airpals?

Airpals is a B2B marketplace for courier services exclusive for in-house or work-related parcels (e.g., a brand that needs to move photo equipment for a shoot). Through automated workflows, parcel classification, and up-front pricing, we make local logistics easier by removing the friction and the loss of productivity usually involved in parcel coordination. With the features and technology we are developing we are more than a delivery platform we are a productivity tool. We unlocked the future of work, especially for remote workers. For example, with Airpals, an employee no longer has to be based in New York to move things across the city. They can submit an order or task from anywhere in the world and we will get it done for them. This has been a huge trend during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The workforce is moving out of the most dense areas to locations outside cities. This increases the need for B2B short-distance and same-day deliveries. It is not productive to spend two hours a day commuting from Long Island to Manhattan only to approve a sample.

How does your experience outside of tech influence you as the founder and CEO of a tech startup?

It allows me to find creative solutions to operational and technical challenges. I studied design, which I consider is the art of problem solving. When you are leading a company that is exactly what you do all the time, putting out fires and solving problems for customers.

I am now 28 years old but I started working at 18, for the past 10 years I’ve been working with creative individuals like creative directors, photographers, designers and more. Creatives speak a different language and I’ve learned how to effectively communicate with them to move projects forward. Software engineers are very creative as well and the skills that I acquired while working in design allows me to work collaboratively with development teams and come up with products and features that follow human-centered design and design-thinking principles.

How did you learn about Envision Accelerator and what has been your experience working with them? Have you worked with any other accelerators?

I came across Envision when I was looking for spaces designed specifically for founders with no traditional backgrounds and I found a very supportive community. Not a lot of people in tech understand but the Envision crew gets it. It may look like underserved founders take longer to get to the growth stage, IPO or to have exits. In reality, our journeys start much earlier and once we hit major milestones our growth could be exponential because we have to learn a lot of things in a shorter period of time to level up. We need to build networks, and learning environments around us before even starting a company or an MVP. Envision is that first stepping stone, they connect you with great mentors with influence in the industry and they stay with you along the way. Our time during their program definitely helped us to get ready for Launch, an accelerator founded by Jason Calacanis, who is known for his early investments in Uber, Robinhood and Calm. We are just a few weeks into Launch’s program and so far we are enjoying it a lot. Launch’s team is unbelievable, I don’t know how they have time for all the companies they work with but somehow they are all the time there like an extra set of hand working alongside you, specially in fundraising. What I appreciate the most, is their approach. They are focused on teaching founders to build strong business foundations and not hype.

You have a unique take on investor meetings and communicating an ask. Can you share a bit about your strategy and how that developed?

For me it is not about the ask, it can’t be. Not having credentials or previous exits under my belt allows me to focus on traction. This is my approach for investor meetings, I do not enter a meeting asking for funding but for advice, feedback and connections that will allow us to keep growing our traction. I focus on building relationships that will lead to investments down the road. It takes more time but it challenges us to build a business that can sustain itself and only see capital as fuel for a fire that is already started. When you schedule meetings only thinking you will get money out of them, it is more probable that you don’t get it. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time so that is why I enter meetings looking for other things that are easier to get, in this way we always win.

What advice do you have for other underrepresented/systematically excluded startup founders?

Focus on traction, that is the only thing you’ve got. If you are dealing with an egg-chicken dilemma, try to launch something in the market as soon as possible. It does not have to be a well designed app or website, just try to sell it and validate the market as soon as you can.

How has Gust helped along the way?

Gust’s platform has guided us through the first steps of launching our company and to make sure we complete the necessary steps to stay compliant. We started as a bootstrapped company and having Gust as an option to incorporate allowed us to reduce costs and invest in the traction we needed to raise our first financing round.

Where can we learn more about Airpals?

You can visit us at airpals.co or engage with use through twitter, our username is @airpals

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