2015 in Review: The 4 Most Important Lessons from the Entrepreneurial Education Series
In March of this year, we launched our Entrepreneurial Education Series, a series that takes entrepreneurs through the early-stage investment from start to finish. We explored every nearly relevant funding topic, including what makes a startup investable, how to find investors, how to fund your startup without taking venture capital, how to manage your board, and more. Read on for the key highlights from all four programs, and click the links to view full summaries and the original event recordings.
Program 1: Are You Ready to Raise?
· Troy Henikoff (TechStars, MATH Venture Partners)
· Genevieve Thiers (Sittercity)
· Kristopher Kubicki (Market Track)
· Shawn Carpenter (YCharts)
· Mathew Elenjickal (FourKites)
Key Takeaway: The number one determining factor in whether a business is investable or not is a strong, proven value proposition. Specifically, do you understand the pain in the market, and can you prove that your solution is already solving that significantly enough to change the behavior of key players in that market? If the answer is yes, then you’re ready to seek investment.
Program 2: Early-Stage Investment 101
· Sach Chitnis (Jump Capital)
· Aashish Dalal (ParkWhiz)
· Rishi Shah (ContextMedia)
· Ira Weiss (Hyde Park Venture Partners, Chicago Booth)
· Desiree Vargas Wrigely (GiveForward)
Key Takeaway: As an entrepreneurs, you shouldn’t wait until you’re raising money to reach out to investors and building relationships with them. Ultimately, finding a good match — investors who support your vision and can work with you productively to grow your businesses — is critical to your success. Before entering such an important commitment, you should know your partners as well as possible.
Program 3: Connecting Corporations and Startups
· Jacob Babcock (CEO & Co-Founder, NuCurrent)
· Hardik Bhatt (CIO, State of Illinois)
· Rob Diebold (Strategic Business Development Manager, Molex)
· Rumi Morales (Executive Director, Strategic Investment Group, CME Group)
· Julie Szudarek (SVP, Getaways, Live, and Things to Do, Groupon)
· David Weinstein (Founder and Managing Partner, Freshwater Advisors)
Key Takeaway: While corporate venturing and investment are valuable for a business, sales are key to its survival, and often times, whether it can even attract investment in the first place. Before you pursue venture capital, corporate investment, or strategic partnerships, spend time building out your sales strategy and customer base, specifically by focusing on your customers’ very real business pain and how you can solve it.
· Bruce Barron (Co-Founder & Partner, Origin Ventures)
· Corey Ferengul (CEO, Undertone)
· Constance Freedman (Founder & Managing Partner, Moderne Ventures)
· Jason Kunesh (Co-Founder/CEO, Public Good Software)
· Mark Tebbe (Chairman, ChicagoNEXT. Co-Founder, Vice-Chairman of the Board and Lead Director of Answers Corporation; Former Founder/Chairman of the Board, Lante Corporation)
Key Takeaway: Advisors, board members and investors all play different roles and have different stakes in your company, and you need to understand these differences to make the right decisions for your business. Namely, advisors provide guidance, advice, and mentorship, but don’t have legal responsibilities and can take on varying degrees of involvement in your company, so if the relationship isn’t working out, you can end it. Investors, on the other hand, have a legal stake in the company that they obtained by transferring funds to the company and will be working with you for years. Finally, board members have a fiduciary responsibility to all shareholders and work to provide oversight of a company, which means they act as your boss. That relationship is almost impossible to end; so, make sure you’re choosing the right people to guide your business.