How Botco.ai Co-Founder and CEO Rebecca Clyde Fought the Funding Battle as a Female, Latinx Tech Leader

July 29, 2021

The Crunchbase “Female Founder Series,” is a series of stories, Q&As, and thought-leadership pieces from glass-ceiling-smashers who overcame the odds and are now leading successful companies.


Rebecca Clyde is the co-founder and CEO of Botco.ai, a conversational marketing startup that enables businesses to engage customers with AI-enabled chatbots. With more than 20 years in digital marketing and the technology industry, she is passionate about advancing women in tech.

In this Q&A, Clyde shares why it’s important to trust your gut, prepare yourself for rejection, and lean on grit, scrappiness, and resilience when starting a company.

Rebecca Clyde, co-founder and CEO of Botco.ai
Rebecca Clyde, co-founder and CEO of Botco.ai

Q: Why did you choose to enter the conversational marketing and healthcare profession and start Botco.ai?

After meeting serial entrepreneur Anu Shukla in 2016 at the Girls in Tech Catalyst conference, we sparked a conversation about our professional similarities. I had spent the last 15 years working in marketing automation, and Anu had built one of the first marketing automation platforms, Rubric, along with our other co-founder and CTO, Chris Maeda. Together, we remarked that the world had evolved to become “on-demand everything,” yet the marketing automation platforms had not kept up. We asked ourselves: “Why can’t today’s marketing automation platforms communicate through text, chat, and messaging?” That was the beginning of our journey together as Botco.ai

As for healthcare, one of our earliest customers was Massage Envy — a billion-dollar wellness company with 1,100 locations in the US. In March of 2020, just as we were launching our commercially available platform, we started to receive inquiries from healthcare providers – urgent care, immunizations services — they were looking for an AI chat solution that could scale their ability to engage with the population. We adapted by becoming HIPAA compliant, connecting to healthcare systems of record, and automating their top-of-funnel workflows using Botco.ai. 

Q: In 2019, only 3% of venture capital was invested in female-only founded companies. Did/do you feel welcome and accepted as an underrepresented group in the VC space?

Fortunately being part of a great accelerator like Alchemist Accelerator really opened a lot of doors for us. Plus my co-founder, Anu Shukla, is a serial entrepreneur who knows the ropes just about better than anyone in the startup world. 

It’s impossible for me to know if I was ever discriminated against – but I certainly did pitch to mostly male VCs and felt at times when comparing notes with male founders in similar stages that more “credit” was being given for their traction. For example, it’s very unusual to find a female-founded startup that gets funded pre-revenue or pre-product, but there are plenty of male founders who get that privilege. 

I am aware that I will need to generate a lot more traction and have more “proof” than my counterparts. Being a female of color, the bar will simply be higher. But instead of resenting that, I use it to my advantage. I have to build more muscle because I have to push harder. In the end, that will make us a stronger, more resilient company. 

Q: What is your advice for other female founders at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journeys? 

First, you must believe in your vision and be so committed to it that you can overcome the overwhelming amount of obstacles that you will face. Then, just be prepared for a level of rejection you have probably never experienced. I certainly never had. I was a classic high-achiever from a young age that always excelled in everything I ever did. It’s different in entrepreneurship. The system is designed to reject us – so realize that going in and prepare accordingly. 

Q: What challenge are you most proud of overcoming in your career? 

Listening to my gut and taking the leap to leave the corporate world to start a company. I left the comfort of my corporate job at Intel to embark on my first business venture and grew that business to a double-digit million-dollar run rate in a few years. 

I then started my second venture, Botco.ai, with Chris Maeda and Anu Shukla; and created a product that real customers are buying and paying upwards of $50,000 a year to use. I’m happy about raising money in our recent seed round. But I am not counting my success based on capital raised. I consider success when real enterprises use my product, happily pay for it, and refer other customers because it truly helps their business. 

Q: How have you integrated your values and mission into your own company structure? 

Yes – I am a big fan of the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership, and one of those commitments that we have adopted as a core value is curiosity. I believe every interaction is an opportunity to learn. 

Our product at Botco.ai is essentially a curiosity-enabler. We give our customers the ability to finally allow their customers to ask all their questions and get instant answers – and with a view into all those questions, they can deliver better experiences. We talk about questions constantly, it is part of our DNA as a business. 

Q: How did you connect with VCs and raise your seed round?

Most of our VC interactions started with Alchemist Accelerator – they have a massive network that attends Demo Day and reaches out to startups. I also participated in a great event called UNMET through the encouragement of the Arizona Commerce Authority. This is a virtual platform for fundraising that ultimately connected us with Stout Street Capital that led our most recent round. I also did a lot of my own outreach asking for referrals and introductions. 

Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned from raising your seed round? 

The greatest lesson I learned didn’t have anything to do with business but is probably more about personal fortitude. As I mentioned before, fundraising requires a high level of mental toughness. 

2020 was a very tough year for me personally. Like many others, I was dealing with the social isolation of COVID, having 3 kids being homeschooled due to COVID, the mental stress of keeping a startup growing against all odds (and we did this with double-digit growth), and to top it off, dealing with 6 months of divorce deliberations the first half of the year. I didn’t raise from the position of personal strength I would have liked. What I learned is that next time, I will be better prepared by not raising during such a personally stressful time period. 

Q: How did you know you were choosing the right investors? 

The right investors “get it” — they see our vision and understand the goal without a lot of explanation. They also want to be valuable partners. I feel extremely lucky to have every investor on my cap table that is there – each of them has become an extension of my team.

They open doors, provide resources, share knowledge and experience, and most importantly, encouragement. I get multiple text messages a day from investors on my cap table asking how they can help and what they can do for me today. I don’t think every founder has this kind of relationship with their investors. 

Q: What qualities do you possess that you think have contributed most to your success? 

Grit, scrappiness, and resilience. Like many great entrepreneurs, I was raised in third-world countries — in my case, throughout Latin America — where we didn’t have the conveniences or stability available in the U.S. I am comfortable with uncertainty and can easily make do with few resources. 

Growing up my family moved around a lot, often to a new country every 4-5 years; and so I had to learn how to make new friends quickly and adapt to new customs on the fly. These qualities have served me well as a startup founder which requires me to constantly adapt to change and meet new people – customers, investors, partners. 

Q: What do you find most rewarding about your experience as a founder so far? 

It’s taking a moment to look back on what we have been able to achieve from that first conversation I had the day I met my co-founder, Anu Shukla; to our very first whiteboarding session with our CTO, Chris Maeda, through today where we have a real business with an amazing team, the best investors and customers anyone could want. It’s truly a privilege to behold.