Blog: What I Learned at an Entrepreneur Programme for Startups

Monday morning,  I joined the first day of the inaugural Astia Global Entrepreneur Program’s 2012 Summer Cohort, held on June 25-29, 2012 in New York City.
Astia is a global non-profit accelerator with a mission to propel women-led high-growth ventures, and Astia’s tag line, “Where Women Innovators Succeed,” says it all.
Twelve exceptional women-led ventures, carefully selected by the Astia community, will attend this weeklong intensive boot camp. After the Summer Cohort, the startups will be mentored for three months. I am here as observer - I am a serial entrepreneur and doing my MBA and intern at Golden Seeds, an angel network that scouts and invests in women-led companies.
The day began with an introduction by Astia CEO Sharon Vosmek. Vosmek welcomed sponsor and keynote speaker Nicholas Donofrio, Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, who spoke eloquently about creating value in the 21st century. 
My takeway:  “Enablement” is much more important than “empowerment” in today’s world of equal opportunities.
Next, Simone Brummelhuis, Astia VP Europe and founder of business magazine The Next Women, walked through the week’s events;
My takeaway: Refining and reiterating one’s business idea is the most critical component for successful fundraising.
The first panel, “The State of Venture Capital Investment,” was moderated by SVB Accelerator Director Shai Goldman and featured “super angel” and serial entrepreneur David Rose, Jeanne Sullivan of StarVest Partners, and Victor Boyajian, partner at SNR Denton. The next panel, “Best Practices in Funding & Success Stories,” was moderated by ER Accelerator founder Charlie Kemper and included a discussion of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in raising capital and advice on how to strategically navigate through them.
In the day’s final panel, “Alternative Funding Strategies” SNR Denton Partner Maggie Kavalaris and Raine Group Managing Director Sherri Williams discussed the range of funding choices entrepreneurs face, including convertible debt, the trade-off of equity for services like office space and the increasing importance of angel investors and family foundations.
My takeaway: “Whoever you take your first check from, make sure they’re smart,” said Kavalaris, pointing out that venture capitalists often look to angels for a signal of a good investment. Williams added "investment is just like a marriage."
Pitch Workshop
The three panels were followed by a workshop, “Elements of an Effective Investor Presentation,” in which the twelve featured start-ups gave their elevator pitches and received suggestions. Moderator Macadory Lipscob, Partner at the Tipping Point Partners, discussed best practices of investor pitching; the very lively workshop panelists included New York Angels chairman Brian Cohen, ER Accelerator founder Murat Aktihanoglu and Dawn Barber, founder of NY Tech Meetup.
The panelists discussed in light humor what strikes them when they see a clear and focused pitch and how they judge a good investment opportunity in an unbiased manner.
The workshop was followed by a welcome reception at Citrin Cooperman, where the start-up founders were excited at the opportunity to network with the highly influential mentors who will guide them to refine their start-ups over the next three months.
I wish the very best for these start-ups and thank Luke (@lukehaseloff) for his inputs on this blog.

Ruchi Dana is a serial entrepreneur, who has developed five medical devices and started her manufacturing set-up in Dubai and is currently pursuing her MBA from the Stanford GSB. She is currently interning at Golden Seeds, which is one of the sponsors for Astia Global Entrepreneurship Forum. Follow Ruchi on twitter at @ruchidana

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