This founder was destined to build a company — Visible Hands helped her do it

Image from the Hearth Display website.

Hearth Display is the modern-day family operating system, combining beautiful hardware with smart software to lighten the load of organization for busy families.

Throughout her career, Mei Lin Ng has been a skilled problem solver with a passion for turning ideas into reality. After years in the startup world, Ng knew it was finally her turn to build her own company. The next step was finding the right problem to solve.

At the peak of her entrepreneurial exploration, the COVID-19 pandemic brought her to quarantine with her family. What may have initially looked like a setback was actually the beginnings of Hearth Display.

Hearth Display is on a mission to make parenting easier. They envision a world where parents don’t constantly have to be “superheroes” by carrying the mental burden of home organization; where kids are empowered to have ownership of their day-to-day activities, and where families can have the security that their loved ones are taken care of.

“I had so much fun building and problem solving [for previous startup-ups]. The feeling of being creative and willingness to do whatever it takes to get it done. I was hooked.”

- Mei Lin Ng, Co-Founder and CEO of Hearth Display

Problem

Prior to founding Hearth Display, Ng worked for tech startup OneFineStay and was exposed to the inner workings of a fast-growing, early-stage company. She tried everything from operations to business development, to managing their maintenance team.

“I’d kind of gotten a little taste of what it could feel like to own a product and own a vision,” Ng said. “I saw myself down the line wanting to have that [founder] experience.”

After working closely with entrepreneurs and helping build their visions, Ng realized that her next move was to start a project that aligned with her own passions.

“I really wanted to come back to a product that would matter to the people in my life,” Ng said. “Over the course of COVID-19, three of my siblings and I ended up quarantined together with my parents for a few months. That brought to top of mind the craziness of running a family and the logistics of having multiple people’s schedules and needs happening all in the same household.”

In 2019, the U.S. care industry was at $648 billion with $122 billion just for household management. According to a 2021 report from The Holding Co., American caregivers are spending even more time on chores and organization than they are directly caring for those under their supervision.

Investors report on the care economy from July 2021.

Solution

Ng had the technical skills to get started on an idea, and focusing it on her family’s pain points was just what she needed to get going.

She created a company that uses technology to manage a home, reflective of the everyday hurdles and struggles she was seeing among her own family.

Hearth display makes technology that replaces all of the things parents use to stay organized: scheduling apps, Post-It notes on the fridge, the school calendar taped to the wall, and all the text messages and emails that get lost. Their sleek digital touchscreen hangs on a wall in your home for easy access and can be portably managed through a companion app.

Image describing the Hearth Display functions from Instagram.

Why Visible Hands?

Ng now had her mission and it was time to execute. Her first step was raising funds to begin researching and working on a prototype. Ng had seen colleagues raise their rounds with relative ease, so she didn’t anticipate the response she got after the first round of conversations.

“We talked to 48 investors that first time around, and we got 48 nos,” Ng said. “Everybody just kept telling us that we were too early and that we didn’t have enough there.”

She soon realized that it wasn’t a lack of a MVP (minimum viable product) or traction that was causing her disappointment.

“I had multiple male founder friends who went out and within three to four weeks, were able to raise a million bucks on nothing more than a deck,” Ng said.

From there, she looked to friends and family, even widening her circle to co-workers and mutual contacts. She still found far less success than her male peers.

“My community is not coming from a place of generational wealth or anything like that,” Ng said.

With a lot of hustle, Ng was fortunate to scrape together $100 thousand across nine of her friends and family. While this funding was essential to Hearth Display’s growth, it was just the beginning. The startup would soon receive its first institutional supporter.

Ng was approached by the Visible Hands (VH) team. She had considered applying to other accelerators, but what resonated with her was the Visible Hands mission — not just the emphasis on underrepresented founders, but the belief in the individual and their vision, rather than stats and pitch decks.

“I knew from early in my career that I eventually wanted to go on this [entrepreneurial] journey,” Ng said. “Quite honestly, I would have started sooner had I had that opportunity, to join a program like Visible Hands.”

Building Hearth Display

Ng at the 2021 Visible Hands Accelerator orientation in Tulsa, OK.

After facing rejection and dismissal the first time around, Mei Lin was determined to use the Visible Hands resources and network to give her the push she needed to lock down investors and close the first institutional series of funding.

This time around, she had support and resources to encourage her through the process. Visible Hands Co-Founder and General Partner, Daniel Acheampong, was assigned to Ng to be her concierge: a go-to person for support throughout the program. A concierge is a member of the VH team in charge of the founders’ individualized engagement plan and their extra set of hands throughout the accelerator.

“My entire time at Visible Hands, I was going through the fundraising journey with Daniel right alongside me,” Ng said. “Having a support system to debrief on meetings and [help] me refine that pitch was such a game-changer compared to my experience the year prior.”

Refining the deck was essential for Ng’s fundraising journey, particularly nailing down the story she told through her pitch.

“A few weeks after launching, we noticed that a key part of the pitch needed to be elevated for investors to fully see the capabilities and potential of Hearth Display,” Acheampong said. “Mei Lin took that feedback and moved with speed to change her deck and pitch. The results of the improved storytelling were incredible. Investors saw the potential and Mei Lin closed her round shortly after.”

Making these shifts got Ng ready to finally get the yeses that she and Hearth Display deserved. At a VH event hosted by Charles Hudson, Partner at Precursor VC, Ng made one of her first big moves. Hudson had previously said no to investing in Hearth Display, but Ng made her voice known during the workshop.

“He answered one of my questions live in the Visible Hands event and remembered me from a few months back,” Ng recalled. “Afterwards, I followed up via email with him, and we chatted on the phone. I finally asked if he wanted to invest. He said, ‘I had more questions, but I really think I want to learn alongside you the answers to those questions as we go through this journey. So I’m in.’ I definitely feel like having this external touchpoint with Visible Hands locked him in.”

That wasn’t the last time Ng capitalized on a VH event and used the network to her advantage. During Investor Week, a time for VH cohort members to receive live feedback from investors, Ng found another key investor.

“These investors were just giving feedback on pitches, but I gave my four-minute pitch in the allotted time and an investor decided to join the round,” Ng said. “What was supposed to be a practice pitch, ended up with someone investing in the company both personally and out of their fund as well.”

How else was Visible Hands a catalyst for growth?

A key element of the VH accelerator program is what it unlocked for the Hearth Display team.

“I was the only one who was full-time on the business,” Ng said. “Part of why we decided to join Visible Hands was to enable us to bring my team over to full-time. It would have been difficult to keep the business going while trying to fundraise being the only full-time member. Having those resources set us up for success to close our raise.”

With the Hearth Display team in place and the fundraising well underway, Ng was also able to appreciate the talent and friendship of her fellow cohort members.

“I’ve done a ton of offline one-on-ones with other founders,” Ng said. “A great relationship-building opportunity was taking time every week to meet up with different founders, commiserate, and share best practices.”

In addition to seeking out advice and sharing stories with fellow founders, Ng also commented on the unique bond that underrepresented entrepreneurs share.

“I didn’t have a lot of diverse founder friends until Visible Hands, so to have people who like look like me [in the accelerator] was a lot more meaningful than I expected it to be,” Ng said. “They’re not just sympathizing; they genuinely understand how challenging this is.”

Like other founders in the cohort, Ng shared her wisdom and uplifted her peers, even making “Mei Lin’s Practical Guide to Fundraising” for her fellow accelerator members with advice such as how to design your narrative and how to structure the first pitch meeting, complete with videos and templates.

“I am so happy to have the opportunity to share my learnings about fundraising with the community,” Ng said. “I learned so much by failure on my own, and now if I can help other minority founders skip some of those mistakes — I’d absolutely love to!”

Ng with Acheampong (left) and GP and Co-Founder, Justin Kang (right).

Result

Ng came into the VH accelerator with humility and vulnerability; she was accepting of the growth process and her drive to be an entrepreneur was evident throughout her experience.

“Mei Lin is fearless and diligent,” Acheampong said. “She approached her fundraising journey with so much discipline. Before launching, she had done deep research and preparation. Her curiosity and openness to feedback impressed me most.”

Since the conclusion of the Visible Hands Accelerator in December 2021, Hearth Display closed their seed round this past January. They’re now a team of seven and growing.

They’ve just launched their first 50 beta units. Their waitlist is currently 10 thousand people — and growing!

Pre-orders for Hearth Display open in July - sign up for their waitlist here to be the first to know when they do.

We are incredibly proud of Hearth Display’s success. Ng was able to find fundraising support, grow her team, and build connections with fellow founders throughout the program. We encourage all founders who align with the Visible Hands mission to consider being a part of our accelerator. If you are an aspiring or early-stage startup founder from an underrepresented community, apply now to join our 2022 cohort.

- The Visible Hands Team

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Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups.

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Visible Hands

Visible Hands

Visible Hands is a VC fund with a 14-week, virtual-first fellowship program that supports overlooked talent in building technology startups.

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