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Tech Founder Friday: Meet Anita Darden Gardyne of Onēva


In this week’s Tech Founder Friday, we sat down with Onēva founder, Anita Darden Gardyne , to learn about her company and the “two Jacksons,” both inspirations in her life

“Network is your net worth.” Anita Darden Gardyne had heard this expression her entire life. But this one-time finance and technology professional, who had spent a career at multiple corporations, came to truly understand the value of a network, partly due to chance meetings with two famous Jacksons, who inspired and helped her while starting her own business in 2014.

We sat down with the start up founder to learn about her company and the “two Jacksons,” both inspirations and unique stories in her life.

Tell me about Onēva and what motivated you to start the company.

Onēva is a care platform empowering enterprises and government agencies to connect employees and their families with caregivers and service providers. I learned firsthand how frustrating the process is to find trustworthy care for my children and mother. These experiences inspired me to create Onēva.

One of the unique aspects of Onēva is that it’s an employee benefits app. Employees download the OnēvaMe app to find, book, and pay for the in-home care services they need. The app helps employees to focus on work, knowing their home situation is handled. The app is built to create repeat and longer-term care matches. OnēvaPros, the caregivers and service providers must meet strict legal requirements and FBI background checks to perform their services.

With the help and mentoring from Fred Thiele, VP of Global Benefits & Mobility at Microsoft, my team and I piloted OnēvaMe with Microsoft employees, so the app is built with an enterprise customer in mind. This means company employees can easily find FBI background-checked caregivers in just a matter of clicks, which embodies Onēva’s core values of trust and safety. In fact, Onēva actually holds a U.S. Patent for Trust and Safety.

Tell us about your interactions with the famous Jacksons.

I’ll start with Michael. As a teenager, I wanted to be Mrs. Michael Jackson, so obviously, I jumped at the chance to see him in concert at Star Theater near San Francisco. The stage rotated during the concert but eventually stopped in the same place, allowing the performers and Michael to run into the dressing rooms. Knowing where to stand once the entertainers came off wasn’t too tricky. So I maneuvered into place and had the chance to be mere inches away from Michael before he ran off stage. The excitement and energy of that evening made a lasting impression on me. For me, Michael represented the idea that anything is possible. If you put in the hours to plan things through, you can do anything. Years later, I would channel this example into starting my own company.

The other Jackson, Reverend Jesse Jackson, actually helped me tremendously to get my business into the B2B market.

It all started about 90 days after I had founded Onēva. I googled a phone number and left a message that was responded to by the Reverend’s team. Reverend Jackson created an event for minority founders, where I and other event attendees were introduced to executives at Microsoft, HP, Intel, and other companies. As a direct result of his efforts, I was connected to Microsoft, which was willing to test my product to see if their employees would use it.

Reverend Jackson committed to all event attendees that he was there to change Silicon Valley and create opportunity and access and demonstrate that minority founders can be successful if given the opportunity. I got to benefit from that and am very grateful for it.

What, if anything, did these experiences teach you?

“Network is your net worth” is an expression I heard throughout my life. Access to benefits buyers from Microsoft, Intel, and our insurance partner, Filice Insurance, who distributes Onēva to companies with 1500 employees and below, all originate from the unprecedented access to large tech companies the Reverend Jackson gave me so early in Onēva’s journey.

Through that event, I learned the difference between building a foundation for the small business you have now versus pouring a foundation for what you want to grow into. This attracted Chris Yeh, father of Blitzscaling, who has become my closest adviser and repeat investor. Gaining access to an experienced network starts and stops with my finding mission-aligned partners who share my vision. As a group, those I talked about above all share a goal of bringing trusted care to families one employee at a time and while creating living rate jobs. At scale.

What advice would you give to others starting a business?

Do business with mission-aligned investors, customers, and suppliers from the very start. Doing business with mean people sucks, so no matter how badly you may be tempted to take what you know is a non-mission-aligned deal, DON’T. Find another way.

And if you can, certify your business as inclusively-owned.

We thank Anita Darden Gardyne for taking the time to share her fascinating tales of the two Jacksons and about her company, Onēva.

James, CEO Cavelo
recovery start up
Plant growing out of a pile of cash representing Start up Capital

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