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A Day with Investors

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist,Starting Your Business | Comments (1)

Posted on April 21, 2010 by admin

Today is the Central Texas Entreprenuer Funding Symposium here in Austin. This is an interesting event for up-and-coming ventures trying to figure out how to navigate the waters of funding in order to get their ideas off the ground.

It’s been an interesting day, and there are a couple of interesting and obvious observations that come to mind as we head towards the home stretch of today’s activities.

Estrogen-Free Zone

I have always been the only girl in a boy’s clubhouse in my career. I was a woman in tech. I was the only woman managing a team of network and system engineers (the software world has TONS of women compared to the hardware world!). As an entrepreneur, even though women own a large number of businesses, once you start getting into the more formal entrepreneurial community, there are very few of us. And, today, surrounded by Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, and the rest of this community, I can count the number of women here in my fingers.

There is a ton of speculation about why this is — ranging from theories on women’s prediliction for lifestyle businesses, to the idea that female-owned businesses tend to be more cash efficient than their male counterparts, to the idea that good old-fashioned sexism is still alive and well, even among the tech meritocratic communities of super progressive places like San Francisco, New York and Austin. Mostly, I just find it staggering to walk around a conference with more than 200 people, and only see about ten other women.

Web Is Not the Center of the Universe

Every once in a while, I get these strange pangs that I am making crazy assumptions about the people around me as a result of having lived in the web world for too long. I think that people know what FTP is (and how/why to do it), I think that people know what a VPN is (and what it’s for), and I think people understand what the software development lifecycle and have a methodology preferece (Waterfall vs. Agile).

I’ll get a random inkling that my assumptions are wrong, but since I seem to know very few people who don’t live in the same universe that I do, I rarely encounter evidence to confirm my nagging suspicions. Until today. Apparently web isn’t king. Biotech is. Even more interesting to note is that, for however hard I may think it is to raise money for a web startup, I am grateful that I am not facing the challenge of trying to raise money for a biotech startup in the pharma space.

Just listening to a handful of Fast Pitches about new ventures building biomedical devices for things like early cancer detection was simultaneously cool, confusing and optimistic about the future of medical science.

Having Your Back Against a Wall

During the morning’s keynote, entrepreneur, Angel investor and podcast radio host, Frank Peters made a comment that struck me for a number of reasons. When discussing the early stages of his software company formation with his brother, he commented that the appeal of being an entrepreneur was that he never fit into Corporate America. When people used to ask him why he wanted to start his own business, his response was: “Because then no one can fire me!”

As a result, Frank discussed how he had his back against a wall. While entrepreneurs — especially new, first-time ones — will often talk about their passion and drive, Frank identified the correllary to that being a sense of having no choice but to succeed. Not “fitting” into a traditional job was a huge motivator for him to make his business successful.

This makes me wonder: How many of us start our own business in order to create a place where we fit in?

Investors Are Nervous About the Dodd Bill

Investors like investing. Even when they lose money, they invest because they love it. And the idea that the Dodd Finance Reform Bill may radically change the qualifications of accredited investors — drastically reducing the number of investors who qualify — is something that is making many people anxious. A great many of the Angel Investors who are currently accredited investors are close to the borderline to meet the asset and/or income requirements. The inflation adjustments proposed by the Dodd Bill are going to have an enormous impact.

And entrepreneurs who are eager to find investors are just as nervous. (I wrote about this recently, if you are interested in a bit more details about this issue or finding out what you can do to help prevent it.)

All in all, it’s been an interesting day.  There is quite a bit of valuable information flying around, and I always enjoy seeing a group of excited entrepreneurs who are trying to make things happen.

But Frank Peters words are still ringing in my ears, and I’ll need to think about it some more.  Because the more I think about it, the more I think he’s not the only one whose business was a vehicle to find a professional home for himself while trying to earn a living.  And, truth be told, I think that’s probably a pretty damn good reason for many of us who can’t help marching to our own drummer.