5 Questions with Dr. Roshawnna Novellus

Dr. Roshawnna Novellus is the Founder and CEO of EnrichHER, a financial technology platform with regulatory approval to help women secure funding to grow their ventures. EnrichHER is disrupting traditional and predatory lending terms through its credit model and lending environment. EnrichHER’s investment platform is fueling the growth of women business by enabling female founders to secure capital in an affordable and non-dilutive way. The company completed the Techstars Anywhere Accelerator in 2019.

Dr. Novellus is a gender equality advocate who believes in economic empowerment and inclusive economic growth. Roshawnna served on the Commission on Women for the City of Atlanta and was honored as one of the Women Who Means Business by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, one of the 40 Under 40 by Georgia Trend, and as a Halcyon Fellow for Social Impact.

01. What’s one lesson you would share with your younger self?

The negativity people face you with has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with them.

02. What exceptional person has made a difference in your life—and how?

Stacie Whisonant, Founder of PYT Funds, is one of the smartest people I have ever met. She continuously paves the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs and students and has personally offered me guidance in my FinTech endeavors. Her drive, capacity, and ability to stay positive amid ignorance and bias is inspiring to me. She knows her worth and is not easily influenced by anyone who doesn’t value her insight. She continuously excels at whatever she does yet still remains humble and compassionate.

03. What advice would you give to other founders who share your situation or background?

Don’t stop chasing success, but also don’t forget to balance your time between work and relaxation. It’s easy to lose yourself in the monotony of vicious work cycles. Find something that lights you back up. Not only will you benefit from it personally, but professionally as well. You can’t run your life or even your business on an empty tank.

04. What drives you?

I’m driven by the possibility of never hearing comments like “women don’t ever have any good ideas” or “women can’t run a business” again. I’m determined to put an end to racial and gender discrimination in the business world. I’m also motivated by female, minority entrepreneurs who are defying the odds and making it. Their success is ongoing inspiration for me.

05. What makes you YOU?

I believe that all decisions have greater clarity when made from a place of mindfulness, especially any decision involving finance. I am passionate about integrating this mindset into the wholeness of my own life journey.

5 Questions with Jasmine Crowe

Jasmine Crowe is an HBCU alumna who is working to make the world a better place one cause at a time. Jasmine’s goal is to foster change and create awareness about the leading socioeconomic issues and challenges of today, like poverty, education, and hunger. She has hosted activations in more than 20 U.S. cities as well as in the U.K. and Haiti. She has collected and donated over 2 million items to causes worldwide and fed over 80,000 people through the Sunday Soul Homeless feeding initiative.

Through her years of work feeding vulnerable populations, she saw a great opportunity for technology to solve a real problem: hunger. In January of 2017, she created Goodr, a tech enabled sustainable food waste management company with a goal to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste. Under Jasmine’s direction, Goodr has now diverted over one million pounds of food from landfill and serves clients including Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, NFL, The Georgia World Congress Center, MetLife, and more. The company completed the Techstars Anywhere Accelerator in 2018.

01. What’s one lesson you would share with your younger self?

Keep going. Too often bad days make us quit, but if we keep going good things and better days are coming.

02. What exceptional person has made a difference in your life—and how?

I would of course have to say my mom. I watched her work full time and put herself through her undergrad and master’s program while raising two daughters. She helped me to see the value of rigor and tenacity in the pursuit of your dreams.

03. What advice would you give to other founders who share your situation or background?

Pave the way. It’s hard being a founder of color, raising money as a woman of color, leading a company, selling you-name-it. But be driven by the fact that you can pave the way for others and that your success will open up more doors and shatter preconceived notions.

04. What drives you?

I want to end hunger. I am driven by the fact that 40 million people in the U.S. don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and I can change this.

05. What makes you YOU?

Proud Black Woman

5 Questions with Rachel McCrickard

Rachel McCrickard is the Founder & CEO of Motivo, the largest platform for therapist telesupervision. As a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), Rachel experienced firsthand just how difficult it is for a pre-licensed therapist to find the right clinical supervisor and collect the hours needed for licensure—a requirement for practicing in any state in the U.S. That’s why she founded Motivo, the first HIPAA-compliant live video platform connecting pre-licensed mental health professionals to clinical supervisors. The company completed the Techstars Atlanta program, in partnership with Cox Enterprises, in 2018.

Founded in Chattanooga, Rachel launched Motivo in The Company Lab (CO.LAB) where she won CHA’s Startup of the Year. Rachel was then accepted into Techstars Atlanta’s 2018 cohort, so she and her husband, Warren, sold their home and relocated to Atlanta. In 2019, Rachel was named to Atlanta Inno’s 50 on Fire list, and Forbes 50 Women-Led Startups That Are Crushing Tech. Following Motivo’s graduation from Techstars, the company relocated to the Atlanta Tech Village where Rachel is currently raising Motivo’s seed round of funding, led by Cox Enterprises. Follow her on social media @RachMcCrickard @WeAreMotivo.

01. What’s one lesson you would share with your younger self?

In the past, I’ve often been consumed with the fear of failure. I wanted so much to succeed at everything I did, and I would shy away from opportunities that I thought might lead to failure.

Recently, I came across the saying, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” and it was transformative for me. I began to visualize myself succeeding at Motivo. Before any big pitch or important phone call, I play it out going really well in my mind first, and then I step onto the stage believing that I will be successful.

This change in mindset is so powerful. It’s a lesson that I would love to share with my younger self.

02. What exceptional person has made a difference in your life—and how?

Julia Pimsleur, author of Million Dollar Women, has been instrumental in my entrepreneurial journey. When I started my company, I lived in a small Southern city where local women entrepreneurs were hard to come by. Julia, a successful entrepreneur herself as the Founder/CEO of LittlePim, provided me with a wealth of wisdom and guidance through her book. She helped me establish a foundational understanding of fundraising, gave me a crash course in business basics, and provided insight on how to build a solid team. In 2018, I attended her two-day Million Dollar Women Summit in New York where I met several women who became mentors and investors in Motivo. Her book is a constant reminder to me that learning and knowledge are always within my reach, no matter where I live.

03. What advice would you give to other founders who share your situation or background?

What I’ve learned about entrepreneurship is that there are two different ways that people create tech startups. The founders either have a technical background and the expertise needed to build an app or they have domain expertise and see a solution to a problem, but lack the technical knowledge.

I was the second type. I didn’t have any technical experience, but I knew that I had a solution to a really important problem that a lot of people face. So, I tried to figure it out on my own by cobbling together an MVP (minimum viable product) for Motivo’s first platform using Shopify and Zoom. I just wanted to see if anyone would actually use it. We started to get our first customers this way, and it gave us the confidence to begin building something of our own.

My advice? There are a lot of things not in your control, but there are many more things that are in your power. Pull from the grit and determination inside of you to figure out the next step. Whether that be creating an MVP from scratch, devouring books/podcasts to learn, or applying for an accelerator—do everything you can to push yourself and your business to the next level.

04. What drives you?

This is such an important question. It was certainly a pivotal question when I decided to start my company, but it is perhaps even more important today as I’m faced with difficult decisions about how to grow and scale Motivo. I’ve found that this is the question that I come back to when I’m uncertain about my next step. What drives me is the conviction that Motivo can have a direct impact on the accessibility of mental health providers in rural areas. The problem we solve reduces the bottleneck therapists experience when entering the field. So many therapists obtain their degree but never finish the supervision hours needed for licensure. Solving this problem, by making supervision hours more accessible and affordable to all, is what I believe I was born to do. My “why” helps crystalize the answer when I’m faced with hard decisions.

05. What makes you YOU?

People often ask me if I miss being a full-time therapist, now that I’m an entrepreneur. The truth is, I don’t. The reason? I still get to utilize all of my therapy skills every day in my role as Motivo’s CEO. I often tell new therapists that they will likely never regret having obtained a masters degree in counseling, as the skills that every therapist learns stays with them no matter where their journey goes. During my training, I developed emotional intelligence, empathic listening skills, and unconditional positive regard for others, and these are the very qualities that help me build and lead my team today. My take away? No matter who you are or what your journey has been, you have an opportunity to funnel your life learnings into the fabric of your company.

Advice from a Scientific Entrepreneur to Her 25-Year-Old Self

Contributed by Ginger Rothrock, Senior Director at HG Ventures, The Heritage Group

On my drive to work today I was listening to my favorite podcast, 20minVC . [Sidenote –When I leapt into the venture world 15 months ago, the 20minVC and TheFullRatchet were my crash course in “how to be a VC”–true story]. Anyway, one question Harry Stebbings asked his guest: “what do you know now that you wish you knew when you were 25” really struck me. For context, I’m a serial entrepreneur in the materials science world, having operated on my own and in a large non-profit research institute, launching, leading and evaluating innovation programs and translational product incubators. I’m now an investor with HG Ventures, the corporate venture arm of the Heritage Group – a multi-billion dollar private conglomerate in the traditional industrial sectors of construction, environmental services and specialty chemicals. Our team of five is incredibly active (11 venture deals last year!) and constantly seeking innovation in our sectors. We invest $50 million per year in early-stage companies and also launched a Heritage-sponsored Techstars accelerator to support emerging entrepreneurs.

Back to age 25, I was in Chemistry graduate school, and we had just made the decision to launch Liquidia Technologies. I had spent a year (2000) in San Francisco at the height of the startup boom, was surrounded by a family of entrepreneurs, and was confident as I boarded the Liquidia start-up train. I jumped in the start-up world the same way I jumped into my graduate work – focused on “getting s#!t done.” I was (am) darn good at execution, but brutally honest reflection yields severe inefficiencies in time, money, and my mental health that could have been solved by stepping away from the science. As I look back on those days as a startup, here’s what experienced me would have shared:

    • Find, cultivate, and revere mentoring relationships. The entrepreneurship world is remarkably full of people willing to #givefirst in terms of time, expertise and their own networks. For a scientist entrepreneur like me, my network was (shockingly) other scientists. Find people with more/different experience and different knowledge than you. Startup communities, accelerators, and events exist for this purpose – engage and commit to listen. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in our jam-packed Techstars mentor weeks – thrilling, exhausting, and SO much learning from 90 mentors in 12 business days, not to mention the enduring connections.
    • Build your tribe. While mentors provide invaluable feedback based on their past success and failures, a “tribe” empathizes with your present. Find other founders at the same stage as you that are willing to connect, be vulnerable and honest about their current situation. They “get it” when your family, partner, friends don’t. They will love you, advocate for you and push you to be your best while lending a supportive ear when things go south. Just like mentors, these folks can be found through start-up communities, accelerators and incubators, investors and mentors.
    • Talk to and work with (potential) customers as early as possible. In the physical science world, the inclination is to “finish” a product, then go sell it. It’s not like software, where you can release and re-release, then improve as you go along. Lean Startup principles extend to #hardtech too. Test product attributes you are targeting and relentlessly iterate which resonate and which don’t. Find a way to create small samples and engage in pilots, preferably face-to-face with a willing customer. We have 42 operating companies across the Heritage Group – our HG Ventures portfolio companies and Techstars cohorts lean heavily on them at early product stages to test their concepts, equipment and materials when change is cheap!
    • The 3Fs: Focus, Financials, and Fundraising. In the academic world, people are valued for their proliferation of ideas. In many ways, the early stage entrepreneurial world is the opposite – the less others know, and the less distraction, the greater the value. There is no better way to force focus than to build a robust financial model. You can use that model to pressure test every choice that has an assumed price and a value. Interested in partnering with Fortune500 players? Check those lengthened timelines to revenue. Want to build 3 products at once? How do R&D expenses balance with the market opportunity? Don’t worry – if you’re a scientific entrepreneur like me, you’ve taken all the math you’ll need to make it happen. P.S. you’ll dig the financial modelling process and lean on your mentors for support. PPS. Good financial models = better fundraising

      After 15 months of life as a VC, and more than 15 years since my first startup struggles, I’m acutely aware (and jealous) of the myriad of options founders now have in terms of support networks and content. Further, I’m now a Techstars fangirl; this program takes every aspect that I struggled with as a founder and packages it up in a meaningful 13-week experience. Our classes get access to amazing mentors, an instant tribe within the class, connections to the Heritage group companies for pilot tests/close customer interactions and a suite of training that didn’t exist when I was 25 (what in the heck were you doing, Techstars founders David, David, Brad and Jared??!). I’m grateful for our partnership with Techstars, where I can build relationships, grow from the #givefirst experiences, and maximize the impact that I and our ventures team can have with founders and the broader hardtech ecosystem.

        LaunchPad Lift Spotlight: FenuHealth

        Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.

        How many 13 and 14 year olds found companies? Not many. But thankfully, that is just what sisters Kate and Annie Madden did in 2015 after winning an award at the largest science fair in Ireland, the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. The sisters came up with the idea of developing the only totally natural product for stomach problems in horses after noticing the gap in the market. FenuHealth provides a range of products for horses with stomach problems. 50% of foals are born with stomach problems and 90% of racehorses develop stomach problems over their lifespan, so it is a huge problem for the industry.

        Betting on the Right Horse

        FenuHealth is different from its competitors as all of the products are 100% natural and can be used on the day of the race. There are now nine FenuHealth products on the market that resolve stomach issues like gastric ulcers and encourage horses to eat their feed again. With nine employees on the team, and existing sales in 15 countries, these sibling co-founders are prepared to win.

        “Being a student entrepreneur can be really challenging at times,” said Kate. “Trying to balance college life and business life, giving both your best effort, is tough – it can take very different disciplines! Thankfully, the Blackstone LaunchPad on our campus atin University College Cork (UCC) provides a space for quiet calls, teamwork and meetings, and people always willing to lend a helping hand.”

        Focus and commitment are key to FenuHealth’s success: even as young, female entrepreneurs in a male-dominated industry, Kate and Annie quickly convey their seriousness and commitment to potential customers, investors, and business partners. (In true #givefirst spirit, Kate recently had the opportunity to share her entrepreneurial experiences and encourage the next generation of teenage girls at the IWish IE STEM Conference.) And determination and resilience are two more values foundational to their company: FenuHealth’s first product took 152 attempts to get the right formula for the results they sought.

        LaunchPad Experience

        According to Annie, she’s learned a lot from fellow student entrepreneurs about time management. 

        “Unlike most businesspeople, a lot of us have similar problems with trying to balance college work with business work and trying to prioritize one over the other at the right time,” said Annie. “Our mentor has also already taught us some important strategies on how to grow our business online. I think we will really benefit from this experience overall!”

        LaunchPad Lift Spotlight: ElecTrip

        Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.

        During the summer of 2017, ElecTrip co-founder and CEO, Mandeep Patel recognized an opportunity to more efficiently and effectively serve the city-to-city travel needs of large corporate employers. Executives at BP, his employer at the time, explained the issue: flights were too expensive and time-consuming, buses and trains were inconsistent and didn’t take people from the point of origin to the final destination, and driving themselves massively cut into potentially billable executive productivity.

        He decided that during the upcoming fall school semester, he would start a city-to-city transportation service using the most operationally efficient mode of transportation: electrically-powered Teslas. 

        Soon after starting the company, Mandeep brought on Eliott Lee (co-founder and current COO) and ElecTrip pivoted the business model from single-seat tickets to a full vehicle trip (more like Uber).

        The primary advantage ElecTrip has can be broken down to cost and service level,” said Mandeep. “Our ticketed price is on par in terms of cost ($250 for a one way from Houston to Austin), but we are the only service that is truly door to door – without loss of time and increased effort from additional modes of transportation.”

        A Road Less Traveled 

        Scheduling flexibility and safety are additional differentiators and benefits of ElecTrip: Flying and bus travel require passengers to adjust their schedules to their rigid departure times and after a long day of work, driving long distances back to an office or home can be dangerous. 

        New competitive entrants to the market (which include rideshare platforms, autonomous vehicles, auto companies, etc.) lack the operational advantages of ElecTrip – building and maintaining the service level of the company’s risk-averse customers have come to expect is a huge barrier. That work includes making sure vehicles contain all necessary amenities (WiFi, laptop chargers, snacks/drinks, etc), have sufficient charge to reach its destination, and have an experienced driver and ground support team to make repairs. In the past few months, ElecTrip has worked with a number of major corporate clients including oil and gas, law, and consulting firms.

        Long term, ElecTrip is developing the technology and infrastructure to support fully self-driving EV fleets in the regional travel space. 

        “Being a student entrepreneur is the best experience,” said Eliott. “Meeting mentors outside the classroom or student organizations is incredibly exciting and motivating. For the past two years we’ve attended conferences, pitch competitions (won the GSEA U.S. Nationals at Startup Grind), and met all kinds of entrepreneurs and investors.”

        LaunchPad Experience

        According to Mandeep and Eliott, the LaunchPad Lift program has been “incredibly valuable”. Before the cohort even began, the cofounders were introduced to industry leaders and mentors including both Techstars alumni and Techstars accelerator directors.

        “We’ve received advice and insight on some of our most pressing needs, including scaling and logistics, negotiating corporate partnerships, and managing the sales cycle,” said Mandeep. “With generous connections to exceptional mentors, I think Lift is helpful to student entrepreneurs, no matter what their industry!”

        LaunchPad Lift Spotlight: Hatch Credit

        Highlights of student-led ventures participating in LaunchPad Lift, a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship network.

        When Mike Broughton, a student at USC, was $10,000 short on tuition his freshman year, he learned that getting a loan usually requires a credit score. Unfortunately, getting that first credit card requires the healthy credit history of either the primary or a secondary (guarantor) account holder – something many low-income and nontraditional college students lack. His solution when faced with this hurdle? Start Hatch Credit to help students like him.

        “That catch-22 made me realize the difficulty of engaging in personal finance without the traditional pre-existing factors,” said Mike. “And this led to me learning that 71% of college students also have no viable way of building their credit score.”


        Getting the Credit He Deserved

        After working for the USC Credit Union on a number of initiatives, including student engagement and outreach, and helping the financial institution launch a credit card line for international and low-income students, Mike was asked to join the company’s board. 

        The rapid success of the new credit line proved a demand for some kind of solution in this space: students needed a financial product that they could access based on typical (if nontraditional) financial data points. Further complicating the situation, current financial regulations prevent banks from even marketing a credit-based product like this that many college students need.

        Hatch Credit helps students build a credit history on the kinds of regular and repeatable payments college students often make (rent, utilities, gym memberships, Hulu, Netflix, tuition, etc.) and helps build a pipeline of responsible, credit-worthy student customers for financial institutions.

        Opportunities and Challenges of Student Startups

        “Being a young entrepreneur provides the opportunity to think differently,” said Mike. “Being a student and bringing a new and fresh perspective to problems can result in outside-the-box thinking and ideas that may go against the status quo. We also have the energy to make the world a better place!”

        Mike recognizes, however, that a lack of business knowledge and time spent as a professional can be held against young founders. College students often have the ‘grit and the grind’ to achieve success, but need experienced mentors and advisors – and their connections – to start and build businesses earlier and faster than might be possible on their own.

        Additionally, through LaunchPad Lift, Mike has accessed and benefited from several other LaunchPad network opportunities. In 2019 he participated in the first LaunchPad Global Startup Weekend at UCLA and later in the year he won the LaunchPad Propel student pitch competition in New York city. He has also used many of the on-campus resources through the USC LaunchPad to learn and pivot his business – something claims to have done 13 times! Mike’s school has been so impressed with the idea, they’ve even decided to invest in it.

        LaunchPad Experience

        “The most impactful moment for our company so far was during a speed mentorship session at LaunchPad Propel,” said Mike. “I met with a Techstars founder there that discussed business metrics and the impact on our company’s value.”

        According to Mike, after understanding the business and model, this mentor responded, “your driver, your metric, is helping change students’ lives. The KPI is how many lives you change!” This inspiring and motivating conversation pushed Mike to believe even more in social entrepreneurship and his ability to change lives with Hatch.

        LaunchPad Success Story: Joshua Pierce, The Diversity Org Founder Gives First

        Joshua Pierce knows the impact one opportunity or one mentor can have on a young person’s trajectory. As a Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars alum, he is living the “give first” mantra by building a nonprofit organization to educate underserved students about how to acquire economic success. Learn more about his journey and where he hopes to take the Diversity Org in the future.

        A 2018 graduate of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and former participant in NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute (Leslie eLab) LaunchPad program, Joshua is the founder of The Diversity Org. The Diversity Org provides underserved high school students career education, college preparedness training, professional mentoring, and corporate internship opportunities. To achieve this, it partners with Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and other national nonprofit organizations.

        Early Academic Struggles

        “I actually really struggled during most of high school. My GPA was really low – like below 2.0.” said Joshua. “But then I got an opportunity that changed everything: an entry-level position with BET, turned into a job as a production assistant, and ultimately a media manager role. By the time I was 18, I was traveling around the country and making good money with the company.”

        Prompted by his mother’s and grandmother’s recognition of the long term impact college-level education can make for African American men in this country, Joshua enrolled in his local community college. Leveraging the professional experience and relationship-building lessons he gained at BET, Joshua committed to his studies, improving his academic performance, ultimately achieving a 3.5 GPA.

        Seeds of Future Success Cultivated by the NYU LaunchPad

        While at community college, Joshua had the original idea for the Diversity Org. In its earliest iteration, the organization hosted high school student assembly events on race relations. (At this time the Diversity Org operated under a for-profit, LLC business model.) By 2015-2016 when Joshua started at NYU, he had already grown the organization to serving schools in multiple north-east states, including, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

        “I met several key mentors at NYU, including John Sexton, the former university president, and professor and film director Spike Lee,” said Joshua. “These and other individuals gave me great insight into how to grow the business – particularly in the areas of performance measurement and impact. John also introduced me to the Leslie eLab and its director Frank Rimalovski, who told me about its 9-week summer LaunchPad program.”

        As a result of this experience, Joshua pivoted the Diversity Org’s business model to a more sustainable 501c3 entity, corporate partner and private foundation-driven revenue stream. With this new structure and strategy, Joshua secured partnerships with companies like Blackstone, Colgate, and Warner Media in less than one year.

        “I learned so much in the NYU LaunchPad. It really was transformative and helped me both as an entrepreneur and as a professional,” said Joshua. “And because of that incredible experience, now I want to pay back what I got through its insights, and experiences, and values.”

        Current Three-Step Strategy

        With a refined strategy and track record of success, Joshua keeps the Diversity Org laser-focused on a three-step approach today. First, it serves mainly low-income student populations with the greatest need: only 16% of these students typically graduate college, and of those, the majority choose low income-earning potential majors.

        Secondly, recognizing the vast need and his own limited capacity, Joshua has formed a strategic partnership with SEO: Seizing Every Opportunity. SEO has more than 50 years of experience helping underserved students gain admission to competitive colleges and universities. Though organizations like SEO have proven programs, Joshua understands that his young and diverse team at the Diversity Org is relatable and is able to influence more students to join programs like this.

        Thirdly, after connecting with and educating students at an assembly and helping them get into a partner organization’s college pipeline program, the Diversity Org connects students to mentors, professional development workshops with employees from Fortune 500 companies and internships in its network of corporate partners.

        Goals for 2020

        Joshua is excited about the outlook for the Diversity Organization and its participants. He and his executive team – including Maisha Kabir, managing director, and Claire Laugeois, operations officer – have some big goals this next year. First and foremost, he says, is to maintain and improve the organization’s three KPI’s: class college enrollment, class attendance (which is the basis for corporate network workshop opportunities), and demographic diversity in program participation.

        Another goal Joshua is focused on is deepening the organization’s impact by running 4-year corporation/school-based cohorts. This program would follow a student from their junior year of high school through their sophomore year of college. At that point, they would be guaranteed an internship opportunity at the sponsoring company. Broadly, Joshua is also (always) looking to grow his network of corporate partners, with a particular geographic focus in 2020 on the west coast.

        Joshua’s Advice for Other Student Entrepreneurs

        When asked what advice he might share with student entrepreneurs, Joshua offered an insightful response: “There are two types of student entrepreneurial experiences: minority and nonminority. And for each of these, I would offer different pieces of advice…”

        1. Minority student entrepreneurs have extra pressure on them, often feeling like representatives of their community and have no room for error. Joshua recommends that minority student entrepreneurs embrace their identity – but make a deliberate decision to shed this burden and instead simply focus on the opportunity. “Programs like LaunchPad,” said Joshua, “are too valuable to let pass by.”
        2. For all student entrepreneurs, Joshua’s advice is straightforward: It can be easy to shortcut and talk your way out of hard work, but don’t do it. If you do, you’re really only hurting yourself. Commit, give 120%, and focus on maximizing every opportunity you’re given to help grow your business.

        Applications are open for the Techstars Iowa Accelerator!

        Applications are open for the Techstars Iowa Accelerator! Techstars has partnered with Grinnell College and other top universities in Iowa to offer early stage startups coaching, mentoring, connecting, initial funding and further support with fundraising.  

        The Techstars Iowa Accelerator will accept startups from a broad array of industries that are looking to scale rapidly and make a big impact in the world.  The Techstars worldwide network includes mentors from global corporations, former and current founders of startups and investors. Experts from Grinnell College, University of Iowa, Iowa State University and other university networks, in addition to mentors based in Iowa and beyond, are looking forward to engaging with the first Techstars Iowa class.

        Iowa is home to multiple global corporations including Principal Financial Group, Vermeer Manufacturing, Corteva, John Deere, as well as successful ventures such as Workiva and Dwolla, many of who will provide mentors to startups participating in Techstars Iowa. In addition, over the last decade, cities in Iowa have surged to the top of National Best lists like “Best Cities to Work In Tech” – SmartAsset, “Up-and-Coming Tech Hotspots” – Liveability, and “America’s Top 5 Under-the-Radar Tech Hubs” – Squarefoot. 

        During the fall of 2020 ten startups will engage with experts who are industry leaders, researchers, and professors stretching multiple disciplines such as automation, general engineering, material science, augmented and virtual reality spanning multiple vertical markets including energy, sustainability, education, agriculture, finance and healthcare.

        Kerty Levy, Managing Director (MD) of Techstars Iowa, brings 30 years of experience working in leadership roles across both startups and global corporations in business development, product management, strategic marketing and general management (www.linkedin.com/in/kertylevy).  TJ Salyars, Program Manager of Techstars Iowa, is an Iowa native with a background in education. He’s worked in multiple venture backed startups scaling operations and teams across industries including healthtech and agtech (https://www.linkedin.com/in/tjsalyars/).  Both are ready to welcome a class of passionate founders who want to make a difference, work well with others, welcome diversity and are driven to take on the hard work required to scale their businesses and make an impact.

        The accelerator will stretch from early September to early December 2020 and will be held primarily in Des Moines with visits to networks and communities throughout Iowa.

        The application window will is open from February 17 until May 10.  Click here to apply! 

        Venture Deals Spring 2020 Course – Now Open for Registration!

        Raising capital can be one of the most difficult parts of the founder journey. The more you know about cap tables and term sheets, negotiating tactics and letters of intent, the better positioned you’ll be for investor meetings. Techstars cofounder Brad Feld and Techstars mentor Jason Mendelson—partners at the Foundry Group, and authors of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist—are excited to open enrollment for their Venture Deals, Spring 2020 online course.

        If you’re an entrepreneur who is looking for insight into the fundraising process and investor perspective, we invite you to join the 30,000+ participants who have benefitted from this FREE course. Classes begin March 8, 2020!

        Techstars and Kauffman Fellows are excited to bring you this Give First resource to help you build a better future. Venture Deals is a seven-week, team-oriented, “learn-by-doing” online course, hosted by NovoEdu, that includes educational videos from Brad and Jason, virtual team projects, worksheets, and case studies. The class takes about four to six hours a week to complete. Participants can also earn a Statement of Accomplishment certificate that can be shared on LinkedIn profiles. Additionally, as part of this course, enrolled participants can sign up for two exclusive live AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions with Brad Feld and ask him anything about fundraising.

        You can also learn more about Venture Deals directly from Jason Mendelson, as he explains why they set out to demystify the industry in this Give First podcast episode.

        What will you learn during the course? Here’s the syllabus:

        • Week 1 – Introduction of key players/Form or join a team
        • Week 2 – Fundraising/Finding the Right VC
        • Week 3 – Capitalization Tables/Convertible Debt
        • Week 4 – Term Sheets: Economics & Control
        • Week 5 – Term Sheets Part Two
        • Week 6 – Negotiations
        • Week 7 – Letter of Intent/Getting Acquired

        Enrollment opens today and the Spring class begins March 8, 2020. Secure your spot today!