Month: March 2009
This is a guest post by Lucy Sanders, the CEO of the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Q: When evaluating a start-up by a mompreneur (or to go broader female first-timer) what do you typically see as the weakest link (in supporting roles, research, presentation, concept etc). With respect to this, if you could give mompreneurs or female first-timers advice on building their support system or fine-tuning their concept before asking for funding, what would it be?
A: (Lucy) In the course of my work at NCWIT and as a technology enthusiast, I speak to many people who have started and/or funded technology companies. The advice they offer would-be entrepreneurs is pretty consistent, and genderless. First, is your idea compelling? Does it address a current or future market need? You must be excited about the potential and that passion needs to be conveyed confidently, not just in formal funding presentations, but in the numerous conversations you have as you build your business. So, brush up your communication skills and ask others to critique your efforts. Your first pitch for funding should definitely not be your "first" pitch – practice makes perfect. Your business case will really come together the more times you tell others about it. You should also take the time to create a one page business brief that contains company details, the market need, market projections, revenue stream, potential products, management team and potential competition. Fitting all this information on one page will force you to hone your pitch, making it far more concise and easy to understand.
Next, be prepared to work hard. I love the excitement and risk taking involved with startup organizations, but it often requires long hours. Some entrepreneurs find that they let their personal lives slide when faced with such demands. But I am convinced from many years of experience that one can successfully integrate personal pursuits with demanding career endeavors. Since you asked explicitly about "mompreneurs", I assume you are wondering specifically about balancing family and entrepreneurial pursuits. Take heart – it is possible. You can hear successful women IT entrepreneurs talk about integrating work and family by listening to the NCWIT podcast series.
One final thing you asked about is building your support system. Heidi Roizen has achieved success as an entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a corporate director and venture capitalist. In this interview she talks about how networking is a key component of launching a company, and how people can build successful networks. Her secret? "Be a friend", "Get a friend" – in that order. If you look at networking as relationship building and nurture those ties like you would the others in your life, you’ll be on your way to building a strong entrepreneurial support system.
Jeremiah Owyang has today’s great post up titled Beyond the Money: Some VCs Provide Startups With A Competitive Edge. The bullet point summary is:
- Thought Leadership
- Strategic Guidance
- Being Part of The Family
- Ancillary Services
- Umbrella Branding
- Parties… eerr um Networking
- Recruiting and Fundraising
It’s a quick read but with some great thoughts in it.
Today’s best post of the day is from Josh Kopelman of First Round Capital. Most of Josh’s posts are winners and Nothing to Lose (or Risk Tolerance is a Competitive Weapon) provides some great insights into the impact of risk tolerance during the 2000 downturn and how PayPal used it as a competitive weapon against eBay.
I (Jason) will be visiting the University of Michigan in a couple of weeks to speak to different campus constituencies about entrepreneurship and venture capital.
As part of that, I’m going to plant my butt in a conference room on campus for a couple of hours and talk to anyone that wants to come by and chat, pitch me, talk about venture capital, etc.
Location: Lorch Hall (Economics Building) Room 171, 611 Tappan, Ann Arbor
Time: 3pm to 5pm
Date: Friday, April 3rd, 2009
Students, professors, members of the community all invited.
Q: With a number of great companies being born of ideas coming from a youthful group of entrepreneurs, how are investors reacting to twenty-somethings fresh out of college, with little to no professional experience, without a strong network of seasoned industry experience and with a inconceivable amount of life learning still ahead of them?
Assuming all else is favorable in an investors eyes, what are investors weary of and how can young entrepreneurs prepare for this? In addition, what advice to you have for the young person seeking to build a team of "time-tested, battle-hardened" professionals?
A: (Jason) We think young-entrepreneurs are great. In fact, we like spending time with the younger set so much that we are active mentors and investors with Techstars. And certainly with our fund, we wouldn’t hesitate to fund a first-time entrepreneur with a great idea.
I think the key to being a young entrepreneur is being self aware. Know what you know and also know what you don’t. If you can communicate to a prospective investor that you are smart, have a great idea AND are emotionally intelligent and realize what other skills sets you’ll need to surround yourself with, then I don’t think being young and / or inexperienced will hurt your chances. In fact, youthful exuberance is infectious and sometimes younger folks will think outside the box more often than older ones who are set in their ways.
What we are weary about would be the young / first-time team that thinks they "know everything." I’ve seen this from time-to-time and it’s an immediate turnoff. One can still be confident and driven and self aware. No good and experienced VC would expect a twenty-year old to know everything and be prepared for anything that can happen in a startup company, so don’t pretend that you do. Even after all of our years, we still haven’t seen "everything."
The key is putting a good team around you, or asking your funding partner for help and advice in building a team. Make sure that you have this discussion BEFORE you commit to an investor, as you don’t want an after-investment surprise.
Most VCs have great networks of executives and can help place particular skill sets into their companies. Otherwise, you can put together a team before taking on funding and to attract the "veteran" players, you’ll have to have a compelling idea and a mature set of twenty-somethings (in your case).
Good luck to you.
I give a 25 minute presentation and then hold an hour town-hall question and answer session. Great questions were asked, so if you are interested in what goes through a VC’s head, take a gander.
The video is really well done. The slides are integrated into the presentation. I’d highly recommend Craig Kendall if you need any video creation or editing work. Thanks Craig for putting all the time into the video. Here’s a bit about Craig:
Founded on 13 years web and video experience and a passion for top quality video, Craig Kendall is the founder of Kendall Media Group and eventon.tv. Currently partnering with many Boulder area technology programs including IgniteBoulder, the Boulder Denver New Tech Meetup, and Silicon Flatiron’s Crash Course for Entrepreneurs, eventon.tv is helping provide video recording and production for the web. Having recently returned to Colorado after 13 years in Tennessee, Craig is thrilled to be part of the technology community in Colorado."There’s some really amazing things happening in the Boulder/Denver area as far as technology and entrepreneurship and Kendall Media Group is excited to be a part of it," says Craig. Reach out to Craig at craig at kendallmediagroup dot com.