Today we have a guest post from one of our favorite entrepreneurs, Leslie Kimerling, co-founder and CEO of Double Helix LLC, a nano-optics company bringing 3D and super-resolution imaging technologies to the bioscience and advanced industries markets. Leslie attended a recent panel moderated by Elizabeth Kraus, the managing director of the Impact Angel Group, and has recounted her experience.
I recently found my way to the second annual WILD Summit. WILD is an initiative of the Women’s Council at CU’s Leeds School of Business. The WILD Summit is an annual event designed to provide a professional forum for women as they say in their mission statement “who want to learn and share; inspire and be inspired.”
WILD and the Women’s Council are doing an amazing service for the women entrepreneurs of the Front Range and I am so glad I attended this event. Besides offering some truly inspiring speakers who shared the message – “go forth and conquer” (my words not theirs!), the Summit offered a set of breakout sessions including one entitled “Funding Your Dream”. There is much written today about the challenges women led startups face in securing investment capital – the difficulty of getting funded, how we are not in the right networks for access to the resources necessary for entrepreneurial success, and other issues.
What made this session so terrific was its focus on making the possible probable. We know there are no guarantees for funding success, but this wonderful panel, led by Impact Angel co-founder Elizabeth Kraus, offered a real dialogue about how to develop an investment strategy that makes sense for your business. The entrepreneurs on the panel – Erika Trautman, CEO and Founder of Rapt Media and Zubaida Bai, Founder AYZH – were thoughtful, honest and encouraging, and Sara Rodriguez, Associate Director of the Rockies Venture Club, offered a great perspective on what angel investors are looking for. They reminded us that, first and foremost, investors must believe in your story: your idea, your team, your experience and your capacity to execute your plan. But the conversation did not stop there. They talked about the details of their respective paths: Erika through the accelerator TechStars; Zubaida through a mix of social venture fellowships.
What were my key takeaways?
- Build your network. Go broad and build strong – both your business network and investment network. Be persistent and make sure to keep those who do care / have shown interest in the loop on a regular basis.
- An accelerator or fellowship program can open doors that might otherwise be closed, but be ready to play according to their rules and structure. Excel in the program and the network it brings will be there to help; fail to deliver and you may find yourself one step back rather than two steps forward.
- Develop a strong peer group. If your peers believe in you, their network of investor and business contacts will be much more likely to give you a chance.
- Crowdfunding is a lot of work. A great marketing tool – and possibly a good funding source – but your brand is on the line. So prepare for your campaign. Plan ahead, way ahead: the CEO must lead (or at least be actively involved) and give the team at least six-nine, if not 12 months, to plan and prepare before launch.
- There is a tremendous network of women in our Front Range. . . explore, extend, ask and, of course, go WILD!
To all of you entrepreneurs, wishing you a successful journey!