Fatima Dicko, founder of Jetpack, shares her journey from Mali to Stanford. Jetpack is the first on-demand service built specifically for university students.
What inspired Jetpack?
Jetpack was spun out of mybestbox, a health and wellness subscription company I founded. Although mybestbox was growing 20% each month, the subscription box space became crowded as more players emerged. We started looking to pivot to a business model with greater opportunity for accelerated growth.
Of the models tested, the one that stood out was delivering on-demand supplies on Columbia’s campus. During the time we were thinking about these models, I found myself forgetting chargers or needing coffee on-the-go. I realized the on-demand space had scope to target the specific needs of university students.
What excites you most about Jetpack?
Where it can go in the future. Jetpack is a model of decentralized distribution, and it excites me to think about how this type of model applies in different contexts. For example, we met with a Nigerian company that simplified the country’s medicine supply chain. Where the former system involved hospitals distributing medicines to rural village communities, the simplified version uses SMS to facilitate distribution. It’s empowering to see the decentralized distribution model in a context that literally saves lives.
Has being a female founder influenced your experience in the startup world?
The current conversation on equality in the startup space is timely and important. As a female founder, I’ve found that not all biases are overt. Take pattern-matching: investors might subconsciously match a certain business with a certain kind of founder. If that person doesn’t look like you, they become more critical. The issues raised may be very valid, however the big question is whether those same concerns would have surfaced for founders of different genders and races.
A powerful statistic speaks to this bias: the average VC investment in startups led by Black female founders is $36,000 compared to the overall average of $1.3 million invested. Without funding, far too many entrepreneurs miss the opportunity to grow their businesses.
As an on-demand company, what are the top three challenges you expect Jetpack to face?
Groupthink. One person’s opinions can funnel through to what other people think, especially in investor communities. In the on-demand space, margins are a prevalent concern among investors. Aware of this, we consciously addressed margins early on.
Margins. We tackle the margin challenge by bringing value to our consumers and B2B customers. Our focus is on urgency, so sample-size products are perfect. Initially, we received free samples. Now, we charge certain companies to promote their products.
Physical product promotions are high value to the companies we work with. They allow for a deeper emotional connection in comparison to digital ads. When Procter & Gamble pulled $100m from their digital advertising, their business was unaffected. That’s a sign that there are opportunities to create new ways of connecting with your audience, what I refer to as “discovery through necessity.”
Applying learnings to cities. We see scope to expand into cities after nailing the university market. A university is a microcosm of a city, so there’s an opportunity to collect insights that transfer to city markets.
Why equity crowdfunding?
Equity crowdfunding gives the opportunity to act. Anyone, regardless of whether they're a student or experienced investor, can invest in an idea they believe in.
At 2am, we put chewable coffee and a card explaining how to download Jetpack onto every bike around Stanford's campus. The next morning, thousands of students across campus woke up to Jetpack. This was our highest conversion event.