Twenty-nine-year-old Yasmin Moaven is making moves. As the young leader behind the fundraising efforts at Fair, an app that lets customers get a car entirely on their phone, she’s raised more than $500 million in equity capital alongside CEO Scott Painter in a little over a year for Fair…and shows no signs of slowing down.
Buying a car, as we all know, is complicated. Instead of taking out a multi-year auto loan and going into heaps of debt, the Fair app allows customers to shop by monthly payments they can afford, sign for the one they want with their finger, and drive it for as long as they want—with no long-term commitment or even physical paperwork. You just make a one-time start payment, pick up the keys, handle the car’s monthly payments for as long as you want to drive it, and turn it in any time with just five days’ notice.
Create & Cultivate recently sat down with Yasmin (aka Yas) to talk about her path to Fair, being a woman in the trifecta of male-dominance auto, finance and tech, and how “diversifying” doesn’t just apply to investment portfolios.
Describe your career journey. How did you get your foot in the door, and how did you get to where you are today?
I think the biggest factor in paving my career path is that self-discipline has always been at the center of my personality. I was on my way to becoming a collegiate athlete but was injured in an unfortunate accident. After going through a bit of an identity crisis, I set my sights on getting a job at a magazine. That turned into a full-time gig and ended up taking me to New York City.
When I entered the magazine world, it was going through an overhaul with the digital revolution and print was quickly losing value, and I realized that access to cool events - while getting free massacra and blow dryers - don’t really pay your bills. So I moved back to California and took a new job with the City of Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board where I ran Strategic Alliances and Strategic Partnerships. It was when I took on that role, that I crossed over to the tech world because I worked with lots of exciting brands, including a little startup called Uber 😉
Also, around this time, one of my friends started working at TrueCar and introduced me to them. So I applied for a job there and landed it, working in the marketing department for then-CEO, Scott Painter. Within 9 months of landing the job, Scott retired from the company. I left shortly after and joined Sotheby’s to run Marketing and Communications for North and South America. Less than six months into the new gig I got a call from Scott saying, “I started a new company, and I would love for you to join.”
That company was Fair. While other people might have taken some time to weigh out their options, I realized I just wasn’t done hustling yet. The opportunity and the challenge I’d find in a start-up like Fair was something I just couldn’t resist. So I came on as, like, employee number 20-ish back in 2016 and am happy to say it’s been every bit the rocket ride I hoped it would be 😊
Your job could be seen as a “Jane of all trades” position, with work in finance, marketing, and communications. Is this your first position in the finance sector, and how did you transition into the role?
I was the Director of Marketing and Communications for Fair when we launched in the app store in August of 2017. One of the events on our schedule that month was a banking conference that consisted of one-on-ones with a lot of big investors. We had 12 slots, so I started cold-calling all the big partners to set up meetings. Well, nobody told me that most people don’t fill up all the slots - but I did. So when we walked in to talk to one of our large institutional banking partners, the partner there was like, “By the way, this is an insane schedule. I have never seen a company at your stage with this many meetings.” I remember feeling a sense of relief and just nodded my head in pure excitement that I would keep my job another day. LOL.
So I think that got the attention of our CEO, Scott Painter and Chairman, Georg Bauer, and really earned their confidence with my knowledge of our product and my genuine belief that what we were building was a true disruptor. I’d be sitting in on pitch meeting and because I’d worked on the marketing side of things and I knew our messaging and product updates in real time. I was able to chime in a bit more than someone from investor relations normally might.
So after that conference, Scott asked me to head up our investor relations team (a whopping team of one – me). It was one of those situations where I was fortunate enough to have an amazing mentor who saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Since I took over investor relations, we've managed to raise a little over $500 million in equity capital in a year—all only possible because of Scott’s amazing drive and vision and not to mention our insanely talented team.
The world of investing could be seen as a “boys’ club.” What is it like being a woman in investing?
I always tell people that I live in the trifecta of male dominance: auto, finance and tech. That's definitely a real thing. It can be an intimidating place to live, but it also can be an amazing opportunity to establish something that doesn't exist, and to open their eyes to the idea that a woman can sit at that table, too, and have a real voice.
I’m incredibly happy that both the leadership at Fair and I are really aligned to empower more women to be in the room. But of the 250+ pitches we’ve done as part of our fundraising efforts, easily 95 percent have been with men, so obviously there’s still a lot of work to do.
What is your go-to strategy when pitching an idea?
First, I am a firm believer in knowing your audience. I think a big part of why I've been able to succeed in my role is because I listen first and observe second. For me, it's really important to hear what the investor wants and go from there. Sometimes their goals don't align with ours, and that’s when you have to know when to walk away so you don’t waste anyone's time. It’s incredibly important to know when to cut your losses and move on. That’s why you take all those hundreds and thousands of calls and meetings—because finding the “yes” can be a tedious process and it’s definitely a two-way street.
How do you go about building strong relationships with investors?
It's about being responsive, understanding what they're asking for, and getting them what they need - fast. There are so many deals out there and the world is awash with capital. So the hard part is being an investor in the equation, because there are so many opportunities. Finding the Airbnb, Uber or Fair 😊 in the haystack can be a challenge.
Ultimately, the more receptive you are to that reality, the quicker you can cast the net, and the more likely investors will be willing to hear your vision and story. It really is all about relationship-building, trust and staying in touch. Never give up an opportunity for an update! Best email subject line: “(Insert Company Name) Update”
Fair has a unique business model. How do you pitch something so different to potential investors?
It's a little different depending on the investor audience. On the venture side, they’re looking for the big vision --the disruptive story that you’re going to change whatever category you’re in. On the private equity and growth side, it’s more about the unit economics penciling and adoption-- are you a real business and at scale? So a big part is being able to peel the onion for them slowly. I think it's just knowing your audience, and that goes back to just listening and understanding their investment goals. At the top of every call I have them give our team context, the size of their fund, typical check-size and investment thesis so that the team can focus on the parts of the pitch that are relevant to that investor.
For example, if the investor has funded companies in ridesharing or the gig economy before, they're going to ask questions in that context, and you have to be able to frame what you’re doing around that thesis. Your ultimate goal is to get to the next call and then to the data room so they can conduct due diligence, because once they’re in there that means you have their attention. It's all about connecting the dots, and no two pictures you draw are ever the same.
So what's your favorite part about your job?
The best part of my job is that I truly believe in what Fair is doing. I’m a huge believer in financial literacy, and unfortunately for most people their car is a high-friction investment. Unless you have great credit to access an auto loan or a big pile of cash on hand, you don’t have the luxury of owning a car without going into copious amounts of debt.
Fair is looking to change all that. We want people to look at the car as something they can access like everything else in modern day life—like their Spotify, Netflix or even their gym subscription. After all, most monthly payments for a basic car aren’t much more than what some people spend on their phones every month. And since that car is going to consistently depreciate while you pay it off, why would anyone want to own that thing?
So instead of consumers borrowing a ton of money to buy a depreciating asset, Fair is offering access to a car in a whole new way. And in some cases they wouldn’t be able to access a car through a traditional lease or loan.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
This is kind of a cheesy quote, but it's one of my favorites: “You're a nobody to everybody until you’re a somebody to yourself.” That is a huge one for me. I’m a pleaser by trade, and what I’ve had to learn very quickly, especially in this role and working in tech, was to believe in myself and find validation from within. Until I started to believe that I could do this myself, it didn't matter how many times my CEO or my mom or someone else in the room told me I was good at it. I had to believe it. And the moment I did was the moment I really felt like I hit my stride.
If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?
Diversify and invest in yourself by being intellectually curious.
I've been in media, I've worked in city government, I've worked in auto tech and now I'm in financial tech. I've had the opportunity to work in so many different roles, not because it felt natural, but because I wanted to learn.
Through those roles, I’ve also learned that some of the most successful individuals diversify how they invest their time and their money. Learning to quantify my financial goals and finding other forms of income outside of just my paycheck has been an important part of building my financial confidence as well.
Also, there’s this myth that if something didn’t work it’s because you didn’t work hard enough. But don’t for a minute think that if something didn't work out that it means it's not going to work out better in another way. It sounds very whimsical, but everything does happen for a reason. It's your choice to step up and hustle, it’s your choice to see the glass half full instead of empty and it’s your choice to diversify.