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Top Advice for Startups from Techstars Mentors

Updated: Apr 19

After a triumphant return last fall, Techstars Startup Weekend is coming back to Boston on April 26-28, 2024. Brought to you by Boston New Technology, Prepare 4 VC, and a group of very committed volunteers, this event is more than just an introduction to startup life - it's a 54-hour deep dive where ideas meet execution. 

Techstars Startup Weekends attract over 400,000 participants globally across more than 7,000 events. It’s the place to start an entrepreneurial journey, build a dream team, and learn from top experts in the area. 

In advance of the event, we’ve enlisted three seasoned experts in pitching and fundraising who’ll guide our participants in all things funding throughout the weekend. With the help of our friends at Startup Boston, we’ve collected the most common questions startups have for fundraising experts and asked our three mentors to share their top insights.

Founder @ ANIMA and a Voice Skills Expert

What was the best advice you received in your career?

The best advice for your career is to understand that making mistakes is normal. It's okay to fail a few times; it simply shows that your belief in your idea outweighs any fear of failure. Another thing to remember is not to overvalue others' opinions. People often project their own fears and thoughts.

How can startups survive (and thrive) during challenging economic times? What have you seen work and not work?

During challenging economic times, it merely means that money has shifted to another channel or industry. The amount of money in the world does not decrease. You just need to be flexible and respond clearly to the trends happening around the globe.

What advice do you have for women seeking fundraising for businesses targeting the female market (femtech, women's healthcare, etc.)?

Become visible and be the voice of your project and idea! Speak up, network, and radiate with your mission. People are attracted to that energy, making it the best starting point for any fundraising.

Can you share a statistic about female entrepreneurship that our audience might find surprising?

I honestly don’t focus much on statistics. I believe we are at the heart of a new movement where women are increasingly empowered to start and run their businesses in creative, graceful, and beautiful ways. I’m very excited about what the future holds for us!

Serial entrepreneur

What tips can you share for founders looking to recruit for their first few employees?

Tap into their personal networks and professional networks to see if anyone knows someone they'd recommend. If they are VC or angel-funded, then ask their investors (who they know from prior portfolio companies) who would make a great addition to the team.

What soft skills are you seeing rise to the top in today's hiring market for small businesses and entrepreneurs?

The biggest soft skill that's needed for small businesses and entrepreneurs is writing. Because communications is fast and immediate over Slack, email, and other channels, the analysis and expectations must be laid out clearly. If a message isn't well-written, then the recipient may act on the message with a misunderstanding and not meet expectations. I try to use the MECE method - a message should be “Mutually Exclusive and Completely Exhaustive” to prevent misunderstandings.

What was the best advice you received in your career?

When I first started my career at First Interstate Bank in Arizona as an MBA intern, I joined the internal operations consulting team. I actually already had six years of experience in retail bank branch operations and my law concentration was in banking law. So I was definitely a bit of a know-it-all! In my first team meeting one of the team members was wrong about what they said about something with banking in branches. I corrected them during the meeting. 

I found out after the meeting from my boss that I angered the other employee when I corrected them. He agreed that I was actually correct in my opinion, but that as a new member of the team it's better to be more of a wallflower during meetings and listen more and to answer questions only if asked. So at every new job, I've been very careful to reduce my opinions and listen a lot more.

How can startups survive (and thrive) during challenging economic times? What have you seen work/not work?

The best method for startups to survive and thrive during challenging economic times is if the technology actually reduces cost of operations. Pegasystems, for example, thrived during the recession of 2008, doubling their revenues because their software really helped reduce operating costs for its clients.

Director of Partnerships & Community @ Scroobious

What do you advise as "step one" for founders looking to fundraise for the very first time? 

Take the time to ensure that each section of your pitch deck de-risks your company for potential investors, such as thoroughly understanding your market from the ground up. Communicating your company's story in a way that appeals to investors is not natural for most founders, but it's necessary for fundraising success.

What are some of the common mistakes people fall into when fundraising, and how can they avoid them?

Insufficient research on potential investors and generic cold outreach is way too common when it comes to fundraising. While it may take more effort, understanding why an investor is a good fit for your company beyond just their financial contribution and personalizing your outreach can make the difference in how many investors will spend their time on you.

A few tickets for the weekend may still be available! Visit Techstars Startup Weekend to learn more about the event, mentors, speakers and get your ticket.

1 Comment

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